Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Women's Health, talks with Rachel Maddow about on breaking news that the Supreme Court has put a hold on a portion of a federal appeals court ruling that had forced 13 Texas abortion clinics to close,... watch
* CDC: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's moved a team of experienced experts in to help a Dallas hospital where a nurse became infected with Ebola to improve 'every step in the process.' And they'll send in a special response team to help any hospital in the future that gets an Ebola patient."
* This just got more complicated: "Turkish fighter jets struck Kurdish insurgent positions in southeastern Turkey on Monday, shaking the country's fragile peace process with the Kurds and demonstrating the complexities surrounding the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, which Turkey is under heavy pressure to join."
* W.H.O.: "The World Health Organization reported sobering new figures Tuesday about the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa, saying the mortality rate had risen to 70 percent and that the number of new cases could reach 10,000 per week by December."
* Germany: "A United Nations medical worker who was infected with Ebola in Liberia has died despite 'intensive medical procedures,' a German hospital said Tuesday. The St. Georg hospital in Leipzig said the 56-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died overnight of the infection. It released no further details and did not answer telephone calls."
* Iran: "Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the nation's airwaves on Monday night to proclaim that a nuclear deal with the West will be signed ahead of a deadline in late November. 'We will find a solution to the nuclear subject and we believe that the two sides will certainly reach a win-win agreement,' said Rouhani, according to Iranian broadcaster Press TV."
* Hong Kong: "Police used chain saws and sledgehammers to clear away barricades around protest sites and reopen several major roads in Hong Kong on Tuesday, appearing to gain the upper hand for the first time since pro-democracy protests began late last month."
* North Korea: "After vanishing from the public eye for nearly six weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back, ending rumors that he was gravely ill, deposed or worse. Now, a new, albeit smaller, mystery has emerged: Why the cane?"
* Good: "Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife announced Tuesday they are donating $25 million to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control foundation to fight the Ebola crisis that has killed more than 4,440 people in west Africa."
* I was looking forward to the lame-duck fight. Oh well: "President Obama has decided to wait until after next month's midterm elections to nominate a replacement for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., White House officials said on Tuesday, effectively ensuring that the choice does not get mired in campaign politics."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) debated challenger Mary Burke (D) on Friday, and the issue of the minimum wage offered the candidates a chance to highlight their differences. The question posed summarized the situation nicely: can a full-time worker live on $7.25 an hour? And does the state have a responsibility to even set a minimum wage?
Burke "strongly" endorsed a higher legal minimum, but the Republican incumbent largely dodged the question, though he seemed to express opposition to the law itself. "I want jobs that pay two or three times the minimum wage," Walker said, adding, "The way that you do that is not by an arbitrary level of a state."
Daniel Bice at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel followed up on that point in an interview with the governor today, asking Walker whether he believes the law should exist. The governor replied:
"Well, I'm not going to repeal it but I don't think it's, I don't think it serves a purpose. Because we're debating then about what the lowest levels are at. I want people to make, like I said the other night, two or three times that."
It's a striking thing for a governor to say during a tough re-election campaign, especially given his economic record -- Walker promised Wisconsin voters four years ago that he'd create 250,000 jobs in his first term, and he's struggling to get to Election Day with roughly half that total.
Indeed, if the governor doesn't think the minimum wage "serves a purpose," it's not too late for Walker to ask someone to explain the law's rationale.
Traditionally, when it comes to members of Congress, practically no one has cared about which members show up for which hearings and floor votes. It's always been perceived a bit like elementary school -- the kid who wins the perfect-attendance award gets a nice certificate, but it's only mildly impressive, and most folks are unmoved.
But in 2014, more so than any cycle I can think of, there's enormous interest in congressional attendance -- and a member who missed a hearing on some issue of significance can expect a hard-hitting attack ad.
Though both parties have made use of the tactic this year, it looks like Republicans got this ball rolling, though they may regret that now.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts attended slightly more than one-third of Senate Agriculture Committee meetings during the past 15 years of his political career in Washington, D.C, federal records showed Monday.
The three-term Republican from Dodge City serves on the committee responsible for farm, nutrition and forestry issues, as well as Senate committees devoted to health, education, labor and finance topics.
Documents related to committee attendance available from the U.S. Government Printing Office showed Roberts was present for 35.5 percent, or 71 of 201, of the agriculture committee's sessions from 2000 to 2014.
And if Roberts showed up for 35.5% of the hearings, that necessarily means he missed 64.5% of the hearings.
The Topeka Capital-Journal's report added that Roberts missed a variety of key hearings in recent years, on everything from avian flu to draughts to disaster assistance.
This report comes on the heels of related news from Iowa, where right-wing Senate hopeful Joni Ernst (R) has made committee attendance an important part of her attacks against Rep. Bruce Braley (D) -- despite the fact that her own attendance in Iowa's state Senate has been rather abysmal.
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:
* In South Dakota, the latest poll from a Republican pollster shows former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) with just a four-point lead over Rick Weiland (D), 37% to 33%. Former Sen. Larry Pressler, running as an independent, is third in the poll with 23%.
* On a related note, the DSCC's ad going after Rounds is now online. Not surprisingly, Democrats are focusing attention on the former governor's EB-5 scandal.
* In Kansas' closely watched U.S. Senate race, PPP now shows Greg Orman (I) with a three-point advantage over incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), 44% to 41%. Libertarian Randall Batson is third in the poll with 5% support.
* The same PPP poll shows Kansas' gubernatorial race all tied up, with Paul Davis and incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) each generating 42% support. Libertarian Keen Umbehr is third with 6%.
* In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R) campaign released a new attack ad against Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) last night, featuring on-air commentary from NBC's Chuck Todd. In the commercial, viewers see Todd say it was "disqualifying" for Grimes to dodge a question about her 2012 presidential vote.
* In Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, the latest Boston Globepoll shows Martha Coakley (D) with a five-point lead over Charlie Baker (R), 39% to 34%. That's a big swing from the previous Globe poll, which showed Baker up by three.
The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.
The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic military planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.
"The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a group of contemporaries in Peru yesterday. "Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration."
The Pentagon's findings come on the heels of a related report from a leading government-funded military research organization, which found the "accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict."
Among the areas of concern are conflicts over natural resources, food scarcity, the effects of rising sea levels, and the potential for refugee crises.
Yesterday's report was, however, a little different. As the New York Times' report noted, "Before, the Pentagon's response to climate change focused chiefly on preparing military installations to adapt to its effects, like protecting coastal naval bases from rising sea levels. The new report, however, calls on the military to incorporate climate change into broader strategic thinking about high-risk regions -- for example, the ways in which drought and food shortages might set off political unrest in the Middle East and Africa."
In a political context, it's worth acknowledging that congressional Republicans not only oppose such "broader strategic thinking," they've also taken deliberate steps to prevent the Pentagon from even considering such concerns.
The Republican search for a legitimate Obama administration scandal has gone quite poorly. The right occasionally rolls out one new controversy or another, but in each instance, these stories fall apart rather quickly.
But for some conservatives, hope springs eternal. The Republicans' latest complaint even involves one of the federal agencies the GOP loves to hate, making it a two-fer -- the right gets to complain about the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency at the same time.
In June, President Obama announced an ambitious plan to address the climate crisis by reducing carbon pollution, and in July, the New York Timesreported that experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council helped provide a "blueprint" for the White House.
If that doesn't sound especially exciting to you, that's probably because you're not a congressional Republican. Coral Davenport reported over the weekend:
Congressional Republicans are investigating whether the Obama administration improperly colluded with a prominent environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, as the Environmental Protection Agency drafted major climate change regulations.
The investigation, begun by Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, comes as Republicans continue a long-running effort to block President Obama's climate change agenda.
To help bolster the allegations of "improper" ties between the agency and environmentalists, the far-right lawmakers have uncovered "friendly emails" between EPA chief Gina McCarthy and her allies at environmental groups.
The fact that impeachment proceedings haven't already begun is clearly evidence of Republicans showing great restraint.
North Carolina's state legislature considered a resolution in 2007 expressing formal regret for the state's previous support for slavery. Republican Thom Tillis, now the state House Speaker and a U.S. Senate candidate, supported the resolution.
But as Daniel Strauss reported, Tillis issued a statement at the time elaborating on his perspective, connecting the resolution to his concerns about "reparations."
"This measure does not obligate legislative members to provide reparations. A subset of the democrat [sic] majority has never ceased to propose legislation that is de facto reparations and they will continue to do so as long as they are in the majority," Tillis said. "Federal and State [sic] governments have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth over the years by funding programs that are at least in part driven by their belief that we should provide additional reparations."
"I believe there are several conservative democrats [sic] who are prepared join Republican [sic] in OPPOSITION to measures that propose new entitlements and reparations," Tillis added. "However, a vote against the resolution would most likely eliminate any chance that we would get support from more conservative members of the democrat party [sic] members to oppose such measures."
To be sure, this is plainly dumb. Indeed, it's arguably another "macaca" moment for the far-right candidate. Tillis' argument seemed to be that Republicans need not fear the slavery resolution creating the basis for reparations because, as Tillis argued, African Americans already receive "de facto reparations" in the form of public assistance.
In other words, while trying to defend his vote in support of a Democratic resolution, Tillis ended up making a racially charged argument about the social safety net. The Republican effectively said welfare and reparations are the same thing, which is clearly an ugly and ignorant charge for anyone, especially a U.S. Senate candidate, to make.
But there's a larger context that arguably makes Tillis' remarks slightly worse.
In recent weeks, the right's efforts to politicize the Ebola virus have focused on blaming President Obama for ... something. It's not entirely clear what Republicans disapprove of, though the party clearly hopes voters are terrified and that the politics of fear produce GOP gains in the midterms.
But as it turns out, there's another side to this coin, and suddenly, it's the left that's focusing on a way to connect Ebola to the political debate in a more direct way. Sam Stein had this report yesterday:
As the federal government frantically works to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and as it responds to a second diagnosis of the disease at home, one of the country's top health officials says a vaccine likely would have already been discovered were it not for budget cuts.
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has "slowed down" research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.
"NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready."
That "10-year slide" is not an exaggeration. We learned this week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's emergency preparedness budget really has been cut roughly in half since 2006. Stein added that the budget for the National Institutes of Health hasn't fared much better, with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases facing particular budget heat over the last decade.
When politicians, usually on the right, talk about the importance of "cutting spending," they rarely say where, why, or to what effect. It's simply supposed to be an a priori good -- to cut spending, according to the rules of the game, is to have succeeded in an obvious way.
But we're occasionally reminded that budget cuts have consequences, and while emergency preparedness may seem like an easy cut for politicians when there is no emergency, those budgetary decisions sometimes look unwise as circumstances change.
And this week, it's given Democrats an excuse to try to turn the tables on Republicans who've been convinced that Ebola is a political winner for the GOP.
The political world's rules are coming into sharper focus. When a candidate flubs a process question -- issues related to electoral considerations that have little to do with actual substance -- the media is supposed to take that very seriously, possibly even characterizing it as disqualifying. When a candidate flubs a policy question -- dealing with issues that will make a material difference in people's lives -- the media is supposed to back off, occasionally even applauding his or her savviness.
With the rules in mind, the big story out of last night's Senate debate in Kentucky is probably supposed to be Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes' (D) reluctance to say which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 -- an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one.
There was, however, arguably a far more important development last night: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R) total incoherence on health care policy. Benjy Sarlin reported overnight:
Turning to health care, McConnell struggled to explain how he squared his promise to repeal Obamacare with his claim that Kentucky could also keep its popular state health care exchange, which runs on subsidies provided by the law, and the state's Medicaid expansion, which was financed by federal dollars under the health care law as well. [...]
Pressed as to whether he personally supported maintaining the exchange if Obamacare were repealed, he responded that "it's fine to have a website, yeah."
No, actually, it's not. As we've discussed before, for most Kentuckians who visit the state-based exchange marketplace, there's a federal subsidy that makes insurance more affordable. For that matter, the coverage plans included in these exchanges are regulated heavily to guarantee consumer protections.
In other words, if McConnell succeeds in destroying the federal health care system, he'd leave his constituents with a "fine" website that would offer worse and more expensive insurance plans. Complicating matters, many Kentuckians learn they're eligible for Medicaid coverage through Kentucky's Kynect exchange. Destroy the law and Medicaid expansion disappears, leaving these families with nothing.
It's why McConnell's rhetoric last night can charitably be described as gibberish. With the health security of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians on the line, this seems a tad more significant than whether Grimes voted for the president two years ago.