“Over 1400 people were gassed, over 400 of them were children ….. I was elected to end wars, not start them, but there are times we have to make hard choices if we’re going to stand up for the things we care about.”
President Obama announced on Friday that he plans to institute new reforms to include greater oversight of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, just over two months after former NSA consultant Edward Snowden leaked secret documents detailing their scope and reach. First, Obama said he would work with Congress to reform the authorities authorizing NSA surveillance so that they include more safeguards and oversight to further protect from abuse.
Obama said he would also push to give greater assurances to the American people that the secret court authorizing surveillance that privacy is being protected, including having government arguments “challenged by an adversary.” Third, Obama said he wants to declassify more information about the programs, including the legal rationals behind them, and create a website to learn more about U.S. surveillance activities. Finally, Obama said he would assemble a team of outside independent experts to review communications and surveillance technologies and issue a report on findings and recommendations by the end of the year.
ThinkProgress: Politico Revives Junk Science Suggesting Hispanics Are Dumber Than Whites
Earlier this year, Jason Richwine lost his job writing about immigration policy for the conservative Heritage Foundation after it came to light that he suggested Hispanics and blacks were genetically less intelligent than whites and Asians in his graduate dissertation. I conducted a lengthy review of Richwine’s research, finding that it was grounded in poor conceptual analysis and wildly outdated research.
Friday morning, Politico published an op-ed by Richwine misrepresenting his research, the controversy surrounding it, and the facts about race and intelligence in some really basic ways….
Sahil Kapur: Obama Torches GOP For ‘Ideological Fixation’ With Repealing ObamaCare
“Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail,” he said. “Their number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care. And presumably repealing all those benefits I just mentioned. Kids staying on their parents’ plan, seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs, a return to limits on lifetime limits, continuing to get blocked from health care insurance.”
“That’s hard to understand as an agenda that’s going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, well, we’re going to replace it with something better. There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better. The notion is simply that those 30 million people or the 150 million who are benefitting from the other aspects of affordable care, will be better off without it. That’s their assertion. Not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence. It’s just become an ideological fixation.”
Reuters: U.S. To Reopen 18 Of 19 Embassies Closed Amid Security Concerns
Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies closed this month due to worries about potential terrorist attacks will reopen on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.
“Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The United States will also keep its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, shuttered, Psaki said, adding it closed on Thursday due to a “separate credible threat.”
Going into this morning, expectations for economic growth in the second quarter — April, May, and June of this year — were quite poor, making the actual GDP report a little more encouraging.
The U.S. economy grew at a 1.7% annual rate in the second quarter, buoyed by a solid gain in consumer spending and a sharp increase in business investment, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected growth to total 1.0%.
To be sure, 1.7% GDP growth is not, by any fair measure, good news. It tells us the economy is growing, but the recovery is at best sluggish. But given the news we were expecting, 1.7% is a relatively pleasant surprise, especially since the previous quarter’s growth was revised down to 1.1%.
Bloomberg: Economy in U.S. Expands More Than Forecast on Inventories
The economy in the U.S. grew more than projected in the second quarter, reflecting an unexpected pickup in inventory building as consumer spending cooled. Growth in the previous three months was revised down.
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.7 percent annualized rate, after a 1.1 percent gain the prior quarter, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1 percent advance for last quarter. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, climbed 1.8 percent after increasing 2.3 percent.
Job gains and rising home prices are shoring up Americans’ confidence and lifting automobile sales and production, making it likely the U.S. will pick up once government spending cuts and tax increases pose less of a restraint. The report also showed inflation is falling further below the Federal Reserve’s goal….
Steve Benen: Reality gets in the way of far-right shutdown scheme
As a large group of Republicans push for a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, Norm Ornstein offered some compelling context. “You could say it’s a do-nothing Congress but that doesn’t do justice to it,” he said. “These guys are doing something, which is to destroy the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare.”
That’s plainly true, though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), arguably the main ringleader of the scheme, apparently believes destroying the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare is a fine idea. As Sarah Kliff reported, however, there is a flaw in the right-wing premise…..
Steve Benen: ATF finally poised to move forward with real leadership
Ask conservative opponents of gun reforms what they’d like to see from law enforcement, and you’ll probably get a predictable answer: we should enforce the gun laws we already have, not approve new ones. For the last several years, however, that’s been easier said than done.
Enforcement of existing gun laws generally falls under the purview of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which has lacked a permanent, Senate-confirmed leader for the last seven years, thanks to opposition from Republicans and the National Rifle Association, both of which have reflexively balked at the very idea of an ATF chief.
With this in mind, we may be poised for a breakthrough this week….
ThinkProgress: Texas Lawmakers Are Too Busy Focusing On Abortion Restrictions To Get Anything Else Done
Just over an hour after Texas legislators concluded their second special session — an extra lawmaking session they used to enact sweeping abortion restrictions — Gov. Rick Perry (R) called them back for a third one. An outstanding highway funding bill is the only item on the agenda. “When it comes to transportation, the stakes facing our state could not be higher,” the governor noted in a statement.
Perry cited that same transportation measure as one of the reasons he believed it was necessary to call the first special legislative session at the beginning of June. But instead of focusing on getting that done, the governor demonstrated a different set of priorities — adding a slew of anti-abortion provisions that were unable to advance during the state’s regular session to the docket.
Bob Cesca: Bradley Manning Lives in a Nation of Laws, and, Hero or Not, He Broke 16 of Those Laws
While fleeing from the law in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden encouraged a return to “the rule of law rather than men.” In spite of his politically incorrect usage of “men” instead of “men and women,” he’s right. Generally speaking, individual citizens shouldn’t be held above the law — least of all a soldier named Pfc. Bradley Manning who stole 720,000 classified documents and handed them over to be be indiscriminately posted for public consumption by Julian Assange’s Wikileaks.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden shake hands in the Oval Office following a phone call with House Speaker John Boehner securing a bipartisan deal to reduce the nation’s deficit and avoid default, Sunday, July 31, 2011. (Photo by Pete Souza)