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Jobless claims climb, but beat expectations

09/25/14 08:38AM

The figures on initial unemployment claims have reached such an encouraging point that new Labor Department reports can show an increase, but the overall level can remain below a key threshold.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by 12,000 to 293,000, but initial claims continue to hover near an eight-year bottom amid a very low rate of layoffs, new government data showed. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 in the week ended Sept. 20.
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 1,250 to 298,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The monthly figure offers a better look at underlying trends in the jobs market.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 330,000 in 25 of the last 28 weeks. (We've also been below 300,000 in 6 of the last 10 weeks.)
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Fitchburg, Wis.

Court clears way for investigation into Wisconsin's Walker

09/25/14 08:00AM

If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) economic record doesn't undermine his political future, his scandals might.
To briefly recap his most notable controversy, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. There is, however, reason to believe Walker and his team were directly involved in overseeing how outside groups -- including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits -- spent their campaign resources during the governor's recall campaign.
For his part, the governor has dismissed the controversy, repeatedly pointing to a court ruling that "didn't buy into the argument that has been presented" by prosecutors. Yesterday, a federal appeals court overruled that lower court.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday removed an injunction halting an investigation into whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker illegally coordinated with conservative groups on fund-raising and spending as he sought to overcome a recall effort two years ago.
The decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit raised the prospect that prosecutors could eventually resume the investigation even as Mr. Walker, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is engaged in a tight battle for re-election.
Note, this does not necessarily mean that the investigation will be renewed, only that it can continue. A district court put a halt to the entire inquiry, effectively closing the door on the probe. Now, that door is open again, though what happens next remains to be seen.
What strikes me as especially important about this, though, is the degree to which it represents a rebuke to a bizarre legal theory about campaign-finance laws.

Lame-duck and other headlines

09/25/14 07:59AM

Boehner says Congress should debate military action, but not in the lame-duck session. (NY Times)

What we know about the Khorasan Group. (NY Times)

France considers expanding airstrikes into Syria. (NBC News)

Deal with Saudis paved way for Syrian airstrikes. (Wall Street Journal)

House GOP leaders rebuffed calls for anti-Obamacare vote from right. (The Hill)

Out-of-state abortion providers ready to treat more Missouri women. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

U.S. man's North Korean prison life: digging, isolation. (AP)

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ISIS fight also a war on radicalization

ISIS fight also a war on radicalization

09/24/14 10:45PM

Mia Bloom, professor at the U. Mass. Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, talks with Rachel Maddow about addressing the threat of lone wolf terrorists and whether the call by ISIS for worldwide attacks is a sign of desperation. watch

Ahead on the 9/24/14 Maddow show

09/24/14 06:53PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Mia Bloom, terrorism and security expert, professor at the University of Massachusetts Center for Terrorism and Security Studies
  • Dexter Filkins, New Yorker contributor, author of "The Forever War"

Here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with a preview of what's coming:

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 9.24.14

09/24/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Unanimous support from the 15-member council: "An anti-terrorism resolution introduced by President Obama was approved by the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday afternoon, part of the president's ongoing effort to rally global support behind the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other terrorist groups."
* The vote followed forceful remarks: "President Obama laid out a forceful new blueprint on Wednesday for deeper American engagement in the Middle East, telling the United Nations General Assembly that the Islamic State understood only 'the language of force' and that the United States would 'work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.'"
* ISIS: "A newly released video shows an al Qaeda splinter group in Algeria beheading a French citizen, days after giving French President Francois Hollande a 24-hour deadline to stop airstrikes against ISIS. Hollande confirmed the killing in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday."
* Don't expect these strikes to end soon: "Airstrikes hit Islamic State military sites early Wednesday, targeting eight Kurdish villages that the militants had seized in recent days in northern Syria near the Turkish border, residents reported."
* Ferguson: "After weeks of calm, protests and allegedly some looting resumed on the streets of Ferguson late on Tuesday, in the aftermath of the destruction of a makeshift memorial for the late Michael Brown."
* ALEC losing friends fast: "Facebook will likely end its relationship with a controversial conservative policy organization, The Chronicle learned Tuesday. The social media giant in Menlo Park would be the second Silicon Valley giant in recent days to sever ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. On Monday, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told a radio show that the company would end its membership with the group over its stance on global warming."
* Ohio: "The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to investigate possible civil rights violations in the fatal police shooting of a man holding an air rifle at a Wal-Mart store, the state's attorney general said Wednesday."
* The search continues in Pennsylvania: "As the sprawling manhunt for a man suspected of killing a Pennsylvania state trooper entered its 12th day, police officials said Wednesday that they believe they have spotted Eric Frein several times as they continue to scour a densely wooded area near his family's home."
It's On Us: "Student government leaders from a dozen New York-area colleges and universities met with Presidential Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls Tina Tchen on Tuesday morning to share how the White House's new campaign against sexual assault will fit with efforts already underway on campus."
Republican Scott Brown talks to the media after announcing his bid for the United States Senate primary election in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, April 10, 2014.

A faulty memory trips up Scott Brown again

09/24/14 04:45PM

A New Hampshire Public Radio reporter asked former Sen. Scott Brown (R) this week about a controversial bill he co-sponsored while serving in his other home state of Massachusetts: it would have imposed a 24-hour abortion waiting period. What's more, Brown's bill would have required women to review information about fetal development before terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
The Republican candidate apparently can't remember the proposal he used to support.
"I'm not familiar with the specific bill that you're referring to," Brown said in response to a question from Knoy about the Women's Right To Know Act. "I'm not sure if it's wrong, but I've voted on probably 8,000 bills give or take in my lifetime."
That may be true, though the question wasn't about a bill he voted on; it was in reference to a bill he co-sponsored. This requires a very different level of commitment, beyond casting a vote on an unfamiliar piece of legislation. Asked if he thought his bill sounds like "a good idea," Brown dodged and said, "I'm not familiar with what you're referring to."
Benjy Sarlin added that the Massachusetts bill, which did not pass, shouldn't be too obscure to the Republican candidate -- Brown's support for the so-called "Women's Right To Know" bill was used against him repeatedly during his 2010 and 2012 U.S. Senate campaigns in a nearby state.
Of course, it's certainly possible that Brown's just forgetful. Maybe he doesn't remember endorsing the legislation. Perhaps he no longer recalls being asked about the legislation during two of his statewide campaigns over the last four years.
But if so, is it safe to say Brown's memory is just really bad? Consider recent history.
President Obama arrives in East Granby, Conn., to talk about increasing the federal minimum wage, March 5, 2014.

The political world falls for dumb 'controversies,' Part XXXVII

09/24/14 03:41PM

When the right start hyperventilating about President Obama's awkward salute yesterday, it seemed like the kind of mindless story that would shine bright but burn out quickly. Apparently, however, it's not quite done.
A backlash is brewing after a video emerged showing President Barack Obama holding a coffee cup while saluting Marines. The White House Instagram account posted footage of Obama offering the informal salute as he climbed down from Marine One after landing in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Criticism soon spilled over on Twitter.
Naturally, because the right considers The Most Important Story On Earth, a wide variety of news organizations are treating it as a legitimate "controversy." Even by the low standards of our 2014 political discourse, this is pretty depressing.
But it's not just a media problem. Beltway Republicans have suggested the "Latte Salute Election" may be a worthwhile 2014 theme, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has even launched a fundraising campaign, urging donors to hand over money because the president saluted Marines while holding a coffee cup.
Yep, this is what contemporary politics has come to.
And while the debate -- if we use the word loosely -- about this nonsense serves no real purpose except giving Republicans an excuse to question the president's patriotism, there are two related angles to that are actually somewhat interesting.