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E.g., 7/5/2015

Week in Geek: The atomic science of fireworks

07/05/15 11:29AM

Every wonder how they make all those gorgeous explosions we all enjoyed yesterday? You guessed it -- SCIENCE.

The color you see is a result of the atoms in the fireworks reaching hot enough temperatures that the electrons inside get so excited they give off energy. This energy is emitted as light, or photons, as a result of the electron "falling" from a higher energy level to a lower one in its orbit around the atomic nucleus. The color of the light we see as a result depends on how far that electron "fell." Scientists characterize this distance using wavelength or frequency.

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A tablet of the Ten Commandments, which is located on the grounds of the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas, is seen in a Tuesday Oct. 12, 2004 photo.

This Week in God, 7.4.15

07/04/15 08:30AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a major court ruling in Oklahoma, where state officials have been told to stop promoting one religion's scared tenets on the Capitol grounds. The Tulsa World reported this week:
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol must be removed.
 
The plaintiffs said its placement at the Capitol constituted the use of public property for the benefit of a system of religion, which is banned by the Oklahoma Constitution.
State law isn't especially ambiguous. Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution says public property can't be used to benefit or support any "sect, church, denomination, or system of religion," either directly or indirectly. When state lawmakers approved a monument to the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, it was hard to even imagine how this could be legally permissible.
 
The state Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling against the government-endorsed religious display, siding in support of a suit brought by the ACLU of Oklahoma.
 
The Republican-led state legislature has been a little hysterical since the decision was handed down, and state House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R) said impeachment proceedings against the Supreme Court's majority "will be seriously considered."
 
Other state lawmakers are calling for repealing the relevant portion of the state Constitution, so that religion and government can be more easily merged together.
 
Legal controversies surrounding Oklahoma's official endorsement of the Ten Commandments have been percolating for a while, with a variety of other groups -- including Satanists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- seeking equal treatment for their proposed monuments on the Capitol grounds. The argument has long been that Oklahoma can't play favorites -- if Christians can ignore the state Constitution and have a monument for their sacred text, so can everyone else. Either the door is open to everyone or no one.
 
At least for now, according to the state Supreme Court, the law requires the latter.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
MaddowBlog World Cup Corner: Episode 7

MaddowBlog World Cup Corner: Episode 7

07/03/15 10:18AM

Lucas Vazquez and Kasey O'Brien TRMS World Cup correspondents (and intrepid interns) look at England's own-goal semi-final loss to Japan, sending Japan to meet the U.S. Women's National Team in a finals face-off Sunday. (Image credits: Ryan Remiorz/The... watch

Fireworks light up the sky over the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Independence Day Weekend 2015

07/03/15 08:44AM

MaddowBlog will probably be pretty quiet today in honor of the 4th of July holiday weekend.

That said, I'll be around and may jump back in if there's a major, unexpected news development.
 
Looking ahead, readers should check back on Saturday morning -- there will be a new installment of "This Week in God" -- and we'll return to a normal schedule on Monday morning.
History made in bright, bold, personal color

History made in bright, bold, personal color

07/02/15 09:52PM

Rachel Maddow looks at the personal arc of Barbara Dunn, the clerk in Hinds County, Mississippi who was forced by law to turn down same-sex couples seeking a license to marry, and who this week had her photo taken a couple finally able to wed. watch

Fascinating 2016 race hints at deeper trends

Fascinating 2016 race hints at deeper trends

07/02/15 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reviews the latest developments in the race for the presidency in 2016, from newly declared candidates, to web site challenges to newly released fundraising numbers, to signs of a surprising, unexplained, under-reported liberal movement. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 7.2.15

07/02/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Eurozone: "Greece will need more help from eurozone countries to manage its debt because the country's finances and economic performance have deteriorated since a new government took office, the International Monetary Fund said in a report on Thursday that is likely to further heighten tensions between Athens and its creditors."
 
* ISIS: "A U.S. coalition jet killed a senior leader who was one of the first terrorists to join ISIS in an attack in Syria last month, the Defense Department said Thursday. Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-Awni al-Harzi, a top fundraiser for the radical Islamist group, was killed June 16 in an airstrike over Shaddadi, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for U.S. Northern Command."
 
* Measles? "Health officials on Thursday confirmed the country's first measles death since 2003, and they believe the victim was most likely exposed to the virus in a health facility in Washington state during an outbreak there."
 
* Immigration: "The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of the nation's immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials."
 
* Philippines: "A ferry carrying 189 passengers and crew capsized Thursday minutes after it left a central Philippine port in choppy waters, leaving at least 36 dead and 26 others missing, coast guard officials said."
 
* This ought to be the basis for some interesting litigation: "The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that homeowners who have sustained injuries or property damage from rampant earthquakes they say are caused by oil and gas operations can sue for damages in state trial courts, rejecting efforts by the industry to block such lawsuits from being decided by juries and judges."
 
* $18.7 billion: "The Justice Department announced Thursday an $18.7 billion agreement with BP to settle civil claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The comprehensive agreement, the largest environmental settlement ever, includes the largest Clean Water Act fine in history as well as addressing other federal and state claims."
Republican Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Jindal runs out of options on marriage rights

07/02/15 05:05PM

No one seriously expected Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. On the contrary, the far-right governor, eager to impress conservatives as he hits the presidential campaign trail, was expected to complain bitterly about the civil-rights breakthrough.
 
But watching the lengths Jindal has gone to while resisting the ruling has been pretty remarkable.
 
As of late last week, Jindal said he understood what the high court had ruled, but he wasn't prepared to allow Louisiana to officially recognize same-sex marriages. As recently as yesterday afternoon, the Republican governor still didn't want to honor the law.
 
It took a while, but it seems the Jindal administration has officially, literally run out of options. TPM reported this afternoon:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said he would wait for a third and final federal court ruling declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional before recognizing gay marriages in the state, and Thursday morning a district judge gave him just that.
 
Thursday, federal District Judge Martin Feldman reversed his previous ruling upholding the state's gay marriage ban, as reported by The Times-Picuyane.... The order was a procedural motion to address the litigation specific to Louisiana in light of the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide Friday.
So, looking back over the last couple of weeks, Jindal effectively said, "Let's wait to see what the Supreme Court says." Once the justices endorsed marriage equality, the governor effectively responded, "Well, let's wait to see what the 5th Circuit says."
 
And once the appeals court agreed with the Supreme Court, Jindal was left with, "Well, let's wait to see what the district court says."
 
There are no other courts. There are no more appeals. Jindal will be able to boast to GOP primary voters and caucus goers about resisting as long as he could, but marriage equality now applies to the whole country, including Louisiana, whether the governor likes it or not.
Former US Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., speaks at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 3, 2014. (Photo by Steve Helber/AP)

Jim Webb becomes fifth Dem 2016 candidate

07/02/15 04:42PM

In 2006, Jim Webb launched a Democratic U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia -- his first bid for elected office -- and was universally seen as an underdog. He was taking on then-Sen. George Allen (R), a popular former governor who was eyeing the 2008 presidential race, and Webb, who entered the race late, seemed like a longshot.
 
But Allen's "macaca" video, coupled with public disgust with the war in Iraq, actually propelled Webb to a narrow victory -- he won by just 0.4%.
 
The Virginian never really seemed to like the job much, and after one term, Webb decided not to bother running for re-election. His career in politics appeared to be over. That is, until today, when Webb launched a presidential campaign. From his announcement:
"[O]ur country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us.  We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process. Our elected officials need to get back to the basics of good governance and to remember that their principal obligations are to protect our national interests abroad and to ensure a level playing field here at home, especially for those who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power. And at the same time our fellow Americans need proven, experienced leadership that can be trusted to move us forward from a new President's first days in office.
 
"I believe I can offer both."
On paper, Webb brings quite a resume to the table. As Joy Y. Wang reported for msnbc, "The 69-year-old is a veteran of the Vietnam war, where he earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts. He later spent four years in the Pentagon working as an assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy." That, of course, was followed by six years in the Senate.
 
Not too shabby.
 
But looking past the resume, we see a candidate who's likely to fare quite poorly in the presidential race.
US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker after arriving on Air Force One at La Crosse Regional Airport in La Crosse, Wis. on July 2, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Scott Walker picks a fight he can't win

07/02/15 02:52PM

Neither President Obama nor anyone on his team have spoken publicly about who they think might win the Republican presidential nomination. It's not, however, unreasonable to think they have one candidate on their minds.
 
In March, for example, Obama raised eyebrows by taking a not-so-subtle shot at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) far-right agenda, and a month later, the president did it again, calling out Walker -- by name -- as a candidate who needs to "bone up on foreign policy."
 
Today, the president will be in Wisconsin, where Walker will greet him at the airport, before Obama fleshes out his new overtime policy at a University of Wisconsin campus. Politico reported that Walker has "become the White House's bete noire" -- the conservative governor is the one Republican "the president's aides always hold up as an example of exactly what's wrong with politics."
 
And it's equally clear the president is on Walker's mind, too. Today, the Wisconsin Republican has a new piece, published by Real Clear Politics, suggesting Obama could learn a few things from GOP policymakers in the Badger State.
Bright spots in the Obama economy are few and far between, as opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs are often quashed by a federal government that has grown too large, powerful and pervasive. That's why it's telling that the president is scheduled to be in La Crosse, Wis., this week for an event focusing on the economy.
 
To be sure, Wisconsin's economy has enjoyed a dramatic recovery over the last few years. But our fortunes have improved in spite of – not because of – the president's big-government policies.
Walker's piece added that he intends to tell the president how great far-right governance is, and "for the sake of hard-working taxpayers across the country, I hope he will listen."
 
Whether he realizes it or not, the governor is picking a fight he's unprepared to win.

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