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Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaks during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting Leadership Forum on April 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indiana's Pence readies state-run media

01/27/15 08:01AM

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), a far-right former congressman who's rumored to be eyeing the 2016 presidential race, is hardly the only conservative Republican policymaker who's sometimes at odds with the press.
 
Pence appears to be, however, the only conservative Republican policymaker who hopes to circumvent -- and compete with -- independent news organizations with his own state-run media entity.
Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.
 
Pence is planning in late February to launch "Just IN," a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.
According to the materials obtained by The Indianapolis Star, state agencies' communications directors were informed last week, "At times, Just IN will break news -- publishing information ahead of any other news outlet. Strategies for determining how and when to give priority to such 'exclusive' coverage remain under discussion."
 
It's hard to say exactly what this will look like in practice -- I suppose we'll see soon enough -- but state officials will apparently publish "news stories" they've written about their own administration's work, effectively erasing the line between press releases and actual reporting.
 
It'll be especially interesting to hear about the news-gathering process for "Just IN." Will press secretaries chase down quotes from their bosses? When agency chiefs host press conferences, will state officials sit among actual reporters? Will those officials scoop real news organizations before the press conferences even begin?

Coastal drilling proposal and other headlines

01/27/15 08:01AM

White House to propose allowing oil drilling off Atlantic coast. (New York Times)

Pres. Obama defends U.S. cooperation with Saudi Arabia. (AP)

The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million. (Politico)

The blizzard may be a bust in NYC, but New England is still getting hammered. (New York Times, The Weather Channel)

Sen. Harry Reid is recovering at home after eye surgery. (The Hill)

Alabama lawmaker threatens to reveal colleagues' affairs over marriage hypocrisy. (TimesDaily)

Gunmen at luxury Libyan hotel take hostages, kill three guards. (NBC News via AP)

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Iowa Governor Branstad sent to hospital

Iowa Governor Branstad sent to hospital

01/26/15 09:51PM

Rachel Maddow reports that Iowa governor Terry Branstad, who is about to become the longest serving governor in U.S. history, became ill during a speech at a ribbon-cutting event today and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. watch

Storm threatens US economic engines

Storm threatens US economic engines

01/26/15 09:43PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the national economic impact of storms like Blizzard of 2015, particularly when they cripple major metropolitan areas. Rahema Ellis, NBC News correspondent updates with road conditions in Framingham, Massachusetts. watch

Northeast girds for powerful winter blast

Northeast girds for powerful winter blast

01/26/15 09:00PM

Bill Karins, MSNBC meteorologist, Lt. J Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police, and Frank McCarton, New York City OEM's Deputy Commissioner of Operations report the latest developments in conditions and preparations for the Blizzard of 2015. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 1.26.15

01/26/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Greece: "Alexis Tsipras, the leftist political maverick who swept to power on Sunday in Greece in a popular rebellion, formed a new coalition government on Monday with a right-wing fringe party that will charge immediately into the task of reversing wrenching austerity policies and negotiating with European leaders to reduce Greece's debt burden."
 
* Yemen: "A C.I.A. drone strike on Monday on a car in eastern Yemen, the first since the resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, killed three suspected Qaeda fighters, American officials said, in a signal that the United States will continue its targeted killing operations in the country despite the apparent takeover by Houthi fighters."
 
* A new thing for the Secret Service to worry about: "The owner of a drone that landed on the White House grounds early Monday told authorities that he was testing how it would perform in bad weather but lost track of it, law enforcement sources told NBC News. The drone's owner, who is cooperating with a Secret Service investigation, said that he did not realize it had landed in a tree on the lawn of the White House until he saw news reports describing the incident, the sources said."
 
* Espionage: "A banker and two diplomats were charged Monday with spying for the Russian government in the New York area, using coded messages and secret handoffs to gather intelligence and send it back home."
 
* Leak case: "Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage charges Monday, for telling a journalist for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran's nuclear program."
 
* Marriage news from late Friday: "A federal judge in Mobile, Alabama, today struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, bringing the number of gay marriage states to 37.... The judge did not put a hold on the effect of her ruling, but the state's attorney general, Luther Strange, said he would seek one."
Barack Obama, Edna Pemberton

Making room for morality in the health care debate

01/26/15 04:53PM

One of the things that makes the debate over health care policy so interesting is that it has such sweeping implications. We can look at the issue, for example, and ask economic questions, such as, "How much is the Affordable Care Act helping the economy?" We can look at the same issue and ask fiscal questions, such as, "How important is it that 'Obamacare' is reducing the national deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars?"
 
We can look at the issue from a political perspective. And an ideological perspective. And a sociological perspective. And given extreme circumstances, maybe even a national security perspective.
 
But at its root, for many involved in the debate, the angle that matters is a moral one. Policies like the ACA tend to do extremely well on substantive questions, and quite poorly on political ones, but when we strip away the layers, we're often left with the morality of either providing or denying families access to basic medical care. Confronted with the question, either the dial on your moral compass spins or it doesn't.
 
This came up in a big way over the weekend, when the American Enterprise Institute's Michael R. Strain made a curious argument about mortality rates in the Washington Post. The headline on the piece read, "End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay."
In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals -- including more cash for other programs, such as those that help the poor; less government coercion and more individual liberty; more health-care choice for consumers, allowing them to find plans that better fit their needs; more money for taxpayers to spend themselves; and less federal health-care spending. This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time.
In fairness to Strain, he almost certainly did not write the jarringly callous headline, but he did write this quoted excerpt. In fact, his piece went on to say that if Republican policymakers successfully repealed the federal health care reform law, it "could" result in more American deaths, "but it clearly would not be immoral."
 
I can appreciate why Strain feels the need to make this case. For proponents of reform, there's considerable focus on consequences: if Republicans -- either on the Supreme Court or in Congress -- destroy the law, the potential for catastrophic shockwaves are quite real. As a practical reality, if millions of families are stripped of the benefits, an untold number of Americans will die unnecessarily. Their crime? They got sick.

'Even if it worked, I would oppose it'

01/26/15 03:51PM

As hard as it may be to perceive right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson as a credible presidential candidate, he received a very warm welcome at Steve King's "Iowa Freedom Summit" over the weekend, and Carson arguably delivered one of the more polished presentations of the gathering.
 
But on the substance of Carson's remarks, one thing jumped out at me.
On the Affordable Care Act -- which Carson has on several occasions compared to slavery -- the famous former surgeon said he opposed any government intrusion in health care. "Even if it worked, I would oppose it," Carson said of Obamacare. "It doesn't."
 
"I don't believe in taking the most important thing a person has, which is their health and their health care, and putting it in the hands of the government," he later added....
For a brief argument in a speech, there's quite a bit to this. We know, for example, that Carson's mistaken when he says the Affordable Care Act isn't working; the evidence to the contrary is simply overwhelming. We also know that when it comes to his preferred model, Carson used to believe largely the opposite of what he's arguing now.
 
What's more, when Carson argues that government shouldn't have a hand in matters related to health care, it would seem to suggest the Republican candidate is against the VA health care system for active-duty and retired military personnel, Medicare, and Medicaid. That's not too surprising -- a guy who draws a parallel between modern American life and Nazis isn't going to be a moderate -- but it's a pretty extreme position for even today's GOP.
 
But the true gem is, in reference to the ACA, "Even if it worked, I would oppose it."

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