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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Reid Says Vulnerable Democrats Should Not Run Away From Obama

Washington (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid embraced President Barack Obama's standing in an exclusive interview with CNN on Tuesday, stating that he encourages vulnerable Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2014 to invite the President to campaign with them even in states where he is unpopular.

Reid's exclusive comments to CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash come just hours ahead of the President's State of the Union address on Tuesday night and months ahead the 2014 midterm elections, where Democrats will fight to keep the majority in the Senate.

"Barack Obama is personally a very popular guy. And people love this man. They love his family," Reid told Bash. "Of course, with what the Republicans have been doing, trying to denigrate him with what's happened with the rollout of Obamacare, but things, even this week, his numbers are going up again."

"So you would encourage some of your most vulnerable Senate Democratic candidates to invite President Obama to appear with them," Bash asked.

"Yes, and they will," Reid said.

Reid also revealed to Bash that he will travel to the White House next week to meet with the President and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado – the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – about how to best use the President in 2014.



State of the Union: No More Mr. Nice President

Obama needs to go beyond doubling down on his progressive agenda and take a stab at boldly defining the nation's political narrative.

—By David Corn

A year ago, President Barack Obama delivered two speeches that sent a clear signal: His second term would be much devoted to a progressive agenda. In his second inaugural speech, he reaffirmed the progressive tradition of the nation, celebrating the value of "collective action," defending the social safety net, and challenging the tea party's core message. (Government programs, he said, "do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.") The policy matters he raised were left-of-center priorities: protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, addressing climate change, ensuring equal pay for women, promoting marriage equality, ending the wars he inherited, securing immigration reform, opposing restrictive voter identification programs, and building infrastructure. Three weeks later, in a State of the Union address, Obama reiterated that he would pursue a distinctly progressive to-do list that included universal preschool, boosting the minimum wage, and passing gun safety legislation in the wake of the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Yet the fifth year of his presidency turned out not to be a grand time of progressive achievement, and in the State of the Union speech he will deliver Tuesday night, Obama faces a challenge: how to advance this progressive agenda in a way that it doesn't seem doomed.

The past year certainly wasn't a total bust for the president—and the lack of progress wasn't always his fault. Senate Republicans thwarted modest gun safety measures, despite high levels of approval for the legislation in opinion polls. An immigration reform bill with a path for citizenship for millions living in the shadows passed in the Senate before the House threw up a roadblock. The president forced the House GOPers to back down during the fall's government shutdown duel, once again positioning the tea partiers as disruptive extremists. Yet the Obamacare website fiasco obliterated any political gains for the White House. With the site now mostly de-glitched and millions signing up for plans, it remains possible that Obamacare will be a net positive for the president and his Democratic comrades by the time of the midterm elections—or, at least, not an albatross around their necks. Meanwhile, the NSA leaks and Syria posed knotty dilemmas for the president that no matter what he did would likely yield no clear political gains.

So after that tough year, Obama has a hard task when it comes to defining the game plan for what's ahead. As often happens prior to a State of the Union speech, White House operatives leak much of what the president will say. And the word is that he will focus on what he can do via executive action—that is, without the obstructionist Republicans on Capitol Hill—to deal with income inequality, climate change, and other matters of concern to progressives. But at this stage in his presidency—and after a year of disappointments—can he inspire citizens with this we-can't-wait-for-Congress approach, which he first introduced in 2011? Can he demonstrate that his presidency transcends the often disheartening tussles with GOP obstructionists? And can he stir the Democratic base in preparation for the coming election, in which the Rs have a better chance of going from minority to majority in the Senate than the Ds have in the House?



Court Rejects Secrecy For Food Stamp Numbers

JOSH GERSTEIN | 1/28/14 12:30 PM EST

A federal appeals court has rejected the Obama Administration's attempt to keep secret the government's data on how much individual retailers take in from the food stamp program.

In a ruling Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit turned down the U.S. Department of Agriculture's arguments that a provision in federal law protecting retailers' application information from disclosure also barred disclosure of how much the feds pay out to specific businesses.

"Because the retailer spending information is not 'submit' by 'an applicant retail food store or wholesale food concern...' the information is not exempt from disclosure. The department, not any retailer, generates the information, and the underlying data is 'obtained' from third-party payment processors, not from individual retailers," Chief Judge William Jay Riley wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Steven Colloton and Jane Kelly.

The judges acted on an appeal filed by South Dakota's Argus Leader newspaper after the USDA turned down the paper's Freedom of Information Act request for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments to individual retailers on an annual basis from 2005 to 2010. A district court judge agreed with the federal government's argument that part of the food stamp program statute barred such disclosure, making the data exempt from FOIA.

Riley's nine-page opinion (posted here) reads the statute differently and also makes references to the public interest in disclosure of the information given both growth and fraud in the food stamp program.



Iraq And Iran Plot Oil Revolution In Challenge To Saudi Arabia

Iraq's goal of pumping 9m barrels a day of crude could be a game changer for oil prices and British companies

By Andrew Critchlow1:32PM GMT 28 Jan 2014

Iraq is poised to flood the oil market by tripling its capacity to pump crude by 2020 and is collaborating with Iran on strategy in a move that will challenge Saudi Arabia's grip on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

"We feel the world needs to be assured of fuel for economic growth," Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy in Iraq told oil industry delegates attending a Chatham House Middle East energy conference.

Al Shahristani said on Tuesday that Iraq plans to boost its capacity to produce oil to 9m barrels a day (bpd) by the end of the decade as Baghdad rushes to bolster its economy, which is still shattered by war and internal conflict. Iraq was producing 3m bpd in December, according to the International Energy Agency.

Iraq's intention to challenge Saudi Arabia's status as the "swing producer" in the OPEC cartel could see a dramatic fall in oil prices if Baghdad decides to break the group's quotas and sell more of its crude on the open market.



Rand Paul To File NSA Suit Within Days

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will file his class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) “hopefully within the next week," he said.

The vocal critic of the NSA told the State of the Net conference on Tuesday that the complaint has already been written, and predicted that the challenge would likely reach to the Supreme Court.

Paul has been working for months on the suit against the NSA over its surveillance of Americans' phone and Internet records, which he plans to file as a private citizen. On Tuesday, he asked for the public to back the effort.

“I would like people on the Internet to go out and really support our lawsuit,” he said on Tuesday.

Paul said that the suit could replicate the success of the Internet campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Online outcries against those pieces of legislation effectively killed them in Congress in 2012.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/196688-paul-to-file-nsa-suit-within-days#ixzz2rjXnUfa6

North Dakota Cow Thief Is First American Arrested, Jailed With Drone’s Help

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s a Predator drone finding you because you wouldn’t give your neighbor his cows back after they wandered onto your property.

Rodney Brossart, the farmer from North Dakota, was arrested after being located by Predator drone, Forbes reports. Sentenced yesterday, he is the first American to be sent to the clink thanks to drone assistance.

In June 2011, Forbes reports, police attempted to arrest him because he wouldn’t return the three cows that had grazed onto his property. This resulted in “an armed standoff between Brossart, his three sons and a SWAT team” on his property. It ended only after the family of perps was located by a Predator drone borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol.

Mr. Brossart tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that there was no warrant for the drone surveillance, but a federal judge rejected his motion.

Forbes points out that it’s disconcerting that drones created to protect American borders are now being used to apprehend American citizens, although a manned helicopter could have done the same thing. The danger, though, is that widespread drone use could be easier to achieve than buying a helicopter for every local precinct in the country.

Read more at http://betabeat.com/2014/01/north-dakota-cow-thief-is-first-american-arrested-jailed-with-drones-help/#ixzz2rjXBUVrY

The Deep South Faces A Deep Freeze

(CNN) -- A winter storm is slinging snow and ice on a broad swath of the South, where snow plows and salt trucks are nearly as rare as bikinis in a Minnesota winter.

Drivers in major metropolitan areas including Atlanta sat unable to move on gridlocked streets as schools and offices shut down early Tuesday, unleashing hordes of vehicles onto slushy roadways.

And while Northerners may laugh at their Southern friends' panic over a dusting of snow, the threat is real: With few resources to battle snow and ice, public works crews may have a difficult time keeping up with any significant accumulation.

Add to that the fact that millions of Southern drivers aren't used to driving on snow or ice, and things were getting tricky fast.

"This is a very dangerous situation," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Tuesday afternoon. "People need to stay at home. They need to stay there until conditions improve."



California's 'Wall Of Debt' Is Only A Slice Of Its Liability Problem

Source: San Jose Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown's image as a responsible, penny-pinching steward of California's finances has been cemented in recent weeks because of his renewed call to pay off California's "wall of debt.

That's a term Brown coined when he took office to describe the tens of billions of dollars California owed to public schools and special funds whose coffers were raided to help balance budgets in the past.

But look behind that $24.9 billion wall and you'll see a $330 billion skyline of other liabilities threatening the state's financial health. It includes $80 billion needed to cover teachers' pensions and $64 billion to pay for state workers' health care in retirement -- two particularly troublesome liabilities because the state isn't even making the minimum payments on them.

As a result -- similar to the debt of a homeowner who fails to make regular mortgage payments -- California's liabilities keep growing. For example, the money needed to fully fund the California State Teachers' Retirement System balloons by $22 million a day, or about $8 billion a year, financial analysts estimate.

Read more: http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_24998205/californias-wall-debt-is-only-slice-its-liability

Reposting from the 'locked' LBN thread. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014710843

Poll: Most Americans Oppose Obama, Support Israel

ZOA poll reveals that most Americans - even those outside Jewish communities - oppose Washington's anti-Israel policies.

By Tova Dvorin

The White House's recent policies against Israel do not reflect the will of the American people, according to a recent poll.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) released the results of a nationwide survey this month revealing that the vast majority of Americans support Israel on nearly every major issue addressed in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The survey recorded the responses of over 1000 American citizens from various populations - not just the Jewish community - and was conducted by McLaughlin Associates, a well-known polling organization.

Among those polled in the representative sample, 46% of respondents were Protestant, 30% were Catholic, and 3.6% were Jewish; by ethnicity, 13% were African Americans, 12% were Hispanics, 3% were Asian, and 70% were Caucasian, according to the organization. The religious and ethnic breakdown reflects the American population as a whole.

The survey also attempted to cover the political spectrum; 42% of respondents identified themselves as Republican, and 41% as Democrats.



Well, that settles it then...

Iran Sanctions Push Stalls, US Lawmakers Mull Weaker Measure


WASHINGTON- An attempt to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program has stalled in the US Congress and lawmakers are discussing whether to introduce a much weaker measure, congressional aides said on Monday.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are considering a non-binding resolution that expresses concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and calls for negotiators to set strict conditions in talks between Tehran and world powers.

That would fall short of tightening sanctions on Iran, as envisioned in a bill that senators have been discussing for months.

"We don't think it is going to come to a vote," said a Senate aide who requested anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak to the media. "There are discussions about a resolution."

Read more: http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Iran-sanctions-push-stalls-US-lawmakers-mull-weaker-measure-339559
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