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Ahead on the 10/23/14 Maddow show

10/23/14 08:31PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University
  • Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University
  • Dr. Amesh Adalja, Infectious Disease Society
  • Katy Tur, NBC News correspondent
  • Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen, George Mason University

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo has a look at what everyone's working on...

ADDING: After we shot Cory's video there was a lot of breaking news, not the least of which is the positive test for Ebola in New York City, so the video is not quite up to date, but that's all the more reason to tune in!

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.23.14

10/23/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ottawa: "The gunman who terrorized Ottawa with a deadly ambush on a military guard and a shooting inside Parliament acted alone, the Canadian police said on Thursday, but there were new indications that he had hinted of his intentions and may have had collaborators."
* Kevin Vickers: "In Canada, they call the job of sergeant-at-arms 'ceremonial.' But as the Calgary Sun said this morning, anyone who thought it was an 'archaic novelty now understands the man holding the sceptre has a deadly serious job.'"
* ISIS: "Dizzy, vomiting and struggling to breathe, 11 Iraqi police officers were rushed to a government hospital 50 miles north of the capital last month. The diagnosis: poisoning by chlorine gas. The perpetrators, according to the officers: Islamic State extremists."
* More ISIS: "The American military campaign against the Islamic State has begun to cut into the Sunni militant group's substantial oil revenues, the top counterterrorism official at the Treasury Department said on Thursday, but starving its cash flow will be a slow process."
* Nigeria: The Islamist militant movement Boko Haram has once again kidnapped dozens of girls and young women in northeast Nigeria, U.S. counterterrorism officials told NBC News on Thursday. To great skepticism, the Nigerian government announced a truce last week with Boko Haram.... [O]fficials said the abduction Saturday of as many as 60 more girls and young women was believed to have been a direct response to the government's announcement."
* Kim Jong-un is puzzling everyone again: "A series of gestures by the North Korean leader, most dramatically the release this week of an imprisoned American tourist, Jeffrey E. Fowle, has raised hopes that after two and a half years of bellicose rhetoric, punctuated by periodic missile tests, Mr. Kim is groping for some kind of rapprochement with the United States and its allies."
* Good for him: "Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will contribute 'at least' $100 million to fight the spread of Ebola, he announced Thursday. In a tweet, Allen revealed the new donation amount and urged others to make their own contributions -- big or small."
* South Carolina: "Bobby Harrell, speaker of the S.C. House since 2005, pleaded guilty to six counts of use of campaign funds for personal expenses on Thursday morning and has agreed to resign immediately from his House seat. In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was given six one-year prison sentences but all were suspended by circuit court Judge Casey Manning after Harrell, 58, agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:"
* More on this on tonight's show: "Early voting starts Thursday in North Carolina, even as the state has pushed to move early voting sites farther away from college campuses."
* Welcome candor from Labor Secretary Tom Perez: "The U.S. federal wage floor ranks third-lowest -- as a percentage of median wage -- among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a status that Perez said was embarrassing. 'I mean, we suck,' Perez said. 'We really do.'"
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a press conference Aug. 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Holder puts things right on terrorist trials

10/23/14 05:01PM

Attorney General Eric Holder's legacy on progressive policy is often under-appreciated. As we talked about last month, the A.G. has shown real, consequential leadership, for example, on the issue of LGBT rights. He’s challenged Republican restrictions on voting rights. He’s fought for sentencing reforms. He’s condemned “Stand Your Ground” laws and showed effective leadership during the crisis in Ferguson. He cleared the way for Colorado and the state of Washington to pursue marijuana legalization. He’s worked to reverse the disenfranchisement of the formerly incarcerated.
But Matt Apuzzo this week highlighted an aspect of Holder's work that's every bit as important: shifting terrorism trials back to American courts.
The news peg, of course, is Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected terrorist accused of launching the 2012 Benghazi attack. The right demanded that the Obama administration deny Khattala a civilian trial and ship him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Holder ignored the Republicans' demands, and this week, Khattala was arraigned -- in open court, in a routine legal proceeding, just as the American justice system is supposed to operate.
Five years ago, the debate over whether terrorists should be prosecuted in criminal courts was so contentious that it made its chief advocate, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., a political liability. Republicans argued that F.B.I. interrogation was not suited to wartime intelligence-gathering. By extension, civilian courtrooms were no place for terrorists, who did not deserve the same rights as common criminals.
But as Mr. Holder prepares to leave office, his success in reversing the Bush administration's emphasis on trying terrorism suspects in secret prisons or at offshore military tribunals may be one of his most significant achievements. While he did not end the debate -- each new arrest brings fresh statements of disapproval from critics -- the Justice Department can now point to a string of courtroom victories that his liberal supporters, as well as many law enforcement officials, believe has reshaped the government's approach to prosecuting terrorism.
"History will remember these years as the time when we resolved one of the most contentious debates in the post-9/11 era: about whether our legal system was equipped to handle national security cases," Mr. Holder said recently in a written response to questions about the issue.
This is one of the A.G.'s most important successes, and it's also one of the areas in which Republicans were completely wrong -- whether they're prepared to admit that or not.

On the theme of bravery…

10/23/14 04:49PM

This is a picture of an acid attack victim and her young daughter protesting the spate of recent acid attacks in Esfahan, Iran.

The woman in the glasses standing to her left and holding a sign is a prominent human rights lawyer named Nasrin Sotoudeh. She was released last year from prison after serving 3 years for, among other charges, spreading propaganda.

The guy to the right of the acid attack victim is a journalist and filmmaker named Mohamad Nourizad who used to be a pro-government conservative until the crackdown on the protests in Iran in 2009. He then wrote an open letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran urging the Supreme Leader to apologize to the nation for the government crackdown, after which, he too was promptly arrested.

The guy behind the victim, slightly to the left, holding a sign up in the air, is a student activist who was arrested during those 2009 protests. He spent a year in prison and received 74 lashes right before his release…for taking part in protests.

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Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 8, 2014.

Ernst's new game in Iowa: run out the clock

10/23/14 03:58PM

Like many candidates this time of year, Joni Ernst, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa, scheduled a series of sit-down interviews with the editorial boards of local newspapers. It's a rite of passage, of sorts -- candidates are expected to endure questions, murder-board style, in the hopes of impressing editors and earning a newspaper's endorsement.
Today, however, she decided to scrap those meetings.
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst snubbed The Des Moines Register, Iowa's biggest and most influential newspaper, by canceling her scheduled Thursday endorsement interview with the editorial board.
Ernst was scheduled to sit down with the Register for one hour on Thursday in advance of the paper's endorsement, which could come Sunday. Her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley, met with the board earlier this month.
According to one editor at the paper, the right-wing state senator also scrapped upcoming meetings with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. At this point, it appears none of the interviews, which Ernst had already agreed to, will be rescheduled. In other words, these were cancellations, not postponements.
In a press statement, an Ernst aide said the candidate is "barnstorming the state" and "time is precious." Perhaps. But the Republican Senate hopeful agreed to participate in these interviews with editors, well aware of her schedule.
So what changed her mind? Ernst's spokesperson also suggested that the Des Moines Register's editorial board has already made its position "perfectly clear," but (a) that doesn't explain why the far-right candidate scrapped meeting with the other papers; and (b) the DMR has occasionally gone out of its way to give Ernst extraordinarily favorable coverage.
With this in mind, there's probably something else going on here.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton speaks during a televised debate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 14, 2014.

Cotton helps disseminate ISIS propaganda

10/23/14 01:25PM

It's been alarming to see so many Republicans use ISIS propaganda in their campaign ads. But Rep. Tom Cotton (R), the frontrunner in Arkansas' U.S. Senate race, appears to have taken the tactic to a whole new level.
In recent months, most of the Republicans incorporating ISIS propaganda into their commercials have relied on the ISIS video in which James Foley was murdered. Foley's family has pleaded not to even watch the footage, but in a few cases, politicians on the right have ignored those wishes.
But Andrew Kaczynski has uncovered an even more outrageous example.
An ad from Republican Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton about his military experience and national security issues uses footage from an ISIS propaganda video as B-roll.
Cotton's ad, "Decisions," which came out on Oct. 13, highlights the "tough decisions" Cotton would have to make as a senator about ISIS, the militant group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq, and cites Cotton's work as an Army Ranger.
The ad about ISIS uses footage directly from the group -- a 55-minute long ISIS video, "Flames of War," which was professionally made and features graphic content that includes a mass execution of a group of men who fall into a ditch.
The right-wing congressman claims in the ad that he'll "make America safer" -- and apparently he'll do so by paying money to help disseminate footage from a terror video that ISIS is desperate to disseminate.
I honestly never thought I'd see the day. Far-right politicians, eager to seem "tough" on terror, are deliberately putting terrorists' propaganda on the air, on purpose, to advance their personal ambitions.

GOP lawmaker pushes Ebola 'czar' to take a day off

10/23/14 01:20PM

Ron Klain was introduced last week as the White House's policy coordinator for the federal response to the Ebola virus -- he's the so-called "czar" Republicans have been clamoring for -- and he met in the Oval Office yesterday with President Obama and top aides. It was the first of many, many discussions Klain will have in his oversight role.
Congressional Republicans are already complaining in unintentionally amusing ways.
The White House's Ebola czar is "off to a bad start" after declining an invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Wednesday.
"He's on the job as of today -- why not come talk to the American people in the Congress, answer questions from both Republicans and Democrats on Friday?" Chaffetz said during an interview with Fox News. "I don't know. We're off to a bad start."
Chaffetz probably didn't intend for this to be funny, but it's hard not to laugh. Klain meets with the president on Wednesday; he has his first full day on the job on Thursday; and according to the Utah Republican, Klain should stop working on Friday.
Why? So he can come to Congress and hear questions he couldn't possibly be prepared to answer after a day and a half on the job.
Chaffetz added that lawmakers "have questions as to whether or not he should be in that spot." That sounds like it would set the stage for a fascinating exchange, doesn't it? "Mr. Klain, I don't think you're the best person for this job." "Well, congressman, it's not up to you. Can I go back to actually working now?"

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.23.14

10/23/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* Depending on which poll you believe, the U.S. Senate race in Colorado is either a nail-biter or it's practically over. The new Suffolk poll shows Rep. Cory Gardner (R) with a sizable, seven-point lead over Sen. Mark Udall (D), while the new Reuters poll shows Gardner's lead at just two points.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac now has Joni Ernst (D) leading Bruce Braley (D) by two, 48% to 46%. Last month, Quinnipiac showed Ernst leading by six.
* In New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, the new CNN poll shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) leading former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 49% to 47%. Though the CNN report on the results inexplicably failed to mention this, the last survey from this pollster showed the two tied.
* In his campaign-finance filings, Brown still describes himself as a Massachusetts lawmaker.
* In Wisconsin's gubernatorial race, the latest Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College poll shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) with the narrowest of leads over Mary Burke (D), 47% to 46%.
* Interesting tidbit: the recent improvement in the nation's unemployment rate "the largest ever registered by this point in a midterm election cycle, since the Labor Department started keeping records in 1948."
* Illinois' gubernatorial race continues to look close, with a new Chicago Tribune poll showing Bruce Rauner (R) with a narrow lead over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D), 45% to 43%.
* Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) generally hasn't been considered vulnerable, but Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is investing $1 million in new attack ads to go after the freshman lawmaker.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., participates in a news conference.

Duncan Hunter, ready for another round

10/23/14 10:57AM

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) recently generated national headlines with a bizarre tale: the far-right congressman said he had secret information about ISIS militants entering the United States through the Southern border. The more the claims were subjected to scrutiny, the more Hunter's claims looked dubious.
Alas, he hasn't given up.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) says the Obama administration must beef up security on the southern border of the U.S. because of the threat posed by terrorists and the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
"You simply have to secure the border and make sure that people we don't want coming in the country whether they have Ebola or they're terrorists, name your terrorist organization, they're coming in through the southern border. This isn't that complicated," he said on Sean Hannity's radio show Wednesday.
Well, complicated or not, when the congressman says, in reference to terrorists, "they're coming in through the southern border," this is still highly suspect.
Indeed, though Hunter and his aides insisted that his original claims were accurate, the California Republican is no longer sticking to his initial argument. He told Sean Hannity, "Mark that as one score against me, I should've said al Qaeda terrorists."
But that's wrong, too -- there's literally no reason to believe "al Qaeda terrorists" have snuck into the United States through the nation's southern border. Such fearmongering, by all appearances, is entirely baseless. "Mark that as one score against me"? I think Hunter means two against him -- he's not even correcting himself accurately.
Sam Brownback

The failures of Brownback's experiment grow more serious

10/23/14 10:21AM

Just two weeks ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) insisted his "real-live experiment" in cutting taxes far beyond what his state could afford was "working." There's new evidence that says otherwise.
The failures of Brownback's radical experiment have been evident for a while: the governor's economic plan has fallen short on every possible metric. The state's finances are in such shambles, Kansas' bond rating was downgraded, and then downgraded again.
Josh Barro reported yesterday on the state missing its tax revenue targets once again, leaving Kansas' fiscal health in even worse shape than previously believed.
You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated.... In June, state lawmakers debated whether the revenue shortfall was temporary. [...]
Revenue numbers for July through September, the first three months of fiscal year 2015, suggest Kansas' revenue gap is permanent, not temporary.... Kansas' wide miss was probably a result of wading into uncharted territory with its tax reforms.
State officials are now suggesting revenue might increase next year, making the fiscal mess a little less drastic, but let's not forget that part of the Brownback experiment includes another income tax rate cut scheduled to take effect in January.
And while these developments seem likely to affect Kansas' very competitive gubernatorial race, let's not forget that this isn't just about Kansas.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, confronts an aide who tried to stop him from entering the side door of a House Republican meeting in the Capitol, July 31, 2014.

Don Young digs deeper, blames suicide on public benefits

10/23/14 09:46AM

As we discussed yesterday, Rep. Don Young (R) recently spoke at an Alaska high school, less than a week after a student had committed suicide, and managed to offend nearly everyone. Yesterday, he managed to make matters much worse.
In his high school appearance, the Republican congressman used "salty language," told a story "that involved flying to Paris to get drunk," compared marriage equality to "bull sex," and said the boy who committed suicide must have lacked support from his friends and family. The school's principal later said, "We really spend a lot of time at our school talking about how we treat each other. We just don't talk to people that way."
But Don Young does. In fact, the Alaska Dispatch News reports today that the GOP lawmaker actually added insult to injury yesterday, expanding on his offensive remarks about suicide.
Young on Wednesday was back in the Valley, this time talking with about 100 people at the Palmer senior center run by Mat-Su Senior Services.
Asked about the "lack of support" comment, Young expanded on it and added that suicide in Alaska didn't exist before "government largesse" gave residents an entitlement mentality, according to an audio recording of his senior center appearance.
According to the audio recording made available to the Alaska Dispatch News, the state's largest newspaper, the congressman told voters yesterday, "When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn't have the suicide problem."
Suicide comes from federal government largesse "saying you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing," he added.
Emile Durkheim, he isn't.
Forrest Dunbar, Young's Democratic challenger, said the Republican lawmaker has "gone past the point of bizarre," which seems quite fair under the circumstances.
Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 8, 2014.

Second Amendment remedies, 2014 style

10/23/14 09:04AM

In the 2010 midterms, Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle used a chilling phrase as part of her political vision: "Second Amendment remedies." In context, Angle argued that if U.S. policymakers pursued an agenda the far-right disapproved of, Americans may have to turn to armed violence against their own country.
The Republican candidate lost her Senate bid, and most of this talk receded to the fringes of right-wing politics.
It did not, however, disappear entirely from the Republicans' rhetorical quiver. Sam Levine had this report overnight.
Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.
"I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere," Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. "But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
In the United States, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to the courts. In Joni Ernst's world, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to guns.
This comes on the heels of a report showing Ernst expressing support for arresting federal officials who try to implement federal laws the far-right doesn't like. Noting the two radical positions, Jamison Foser joked, "First Joni Ernst wants to arrest government employees, now she wants to shoot them?"