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The Left Column

Omaha Steve

Senate bill would end NSA phone records collection

(AP) Sen. Patrick Leahy on Tuesday introduced a bill to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records, a proposal that goes further than a similar House measure and has drawn support from civil liberties groups, the White House and Republicans.

The bill represents the latest step in fulfilling a January promise by President Barack Obama to end the NSA's collection of domestic calling records. If enacted, it would represent the most significant change to come in the wake of the leaks of once-secret surveillance programs by former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden.


Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy

(Reality Check) When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.


The GOP’s impeachment dilemma will only get worse

(WaPo) Today John Boehner declared that any talk of Republicans impeaching President Obama is a sinister plot originating in the White House, from which so many other sinister plots have come. “It’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House,” he said. “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they’re trying to rally their own people to give money and show up in this year’s elections.” Which is partially true. Democrats do want to talk about impeachment, and it does help them raise money (though while an actual impeachment would certainly get Democratic voters to the polls in November, it’s much less likely that just talking about it will do so). But that’s only part of the story.

Boehner and other Republican leaders are now trying to walk an impossible tightrope. On one hand, they’re arguing that they have no interest in impeaching the president — they know that it would be a political catastrophe if they did — and any suggestion to the contrary is nothing but Democratic calumny. On the other hand, they’re arguing that Obama is a lawless tyrant who is trampling on the Constitution. If that contradiction has put them in a difficult situation, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Roy Serohz

Alabama state officials: We won’t comply with the EPA because God gave us coal

(Salon) On Tuesday, Alabama state officials said they refused to comply with the EPA’s new carbon pollution measures because God gave them coal. Alabama.com reports:

At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.

Capt. Obvious

Conservatives Launch ReaganBook: 'Facebook For Patriots'

(TPM) The president of conservative pro-family group Faith2Action last weekend announced the pre-launch of ReaganBook, a social networking site described as "the Facebook for patriots," according to Right Wing Watch.

Faith2Action President Janet Porter told attendees at the Ohio Liberty Coalition's "Reload 4 Liberty" event that Facebook has been censoring people like anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera.


Court: Florida Can Block Doctors From Asking Patients About Guns

(TPM) A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that a Florida law that discourages physicians from asking patients about guns is constitutional, despite doctor warnings that such questions are vital to their work.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that invalidated the 2011 law, advocated by guns rights groups. The law says that "unless information is relevant to patient's medical care or safety or safety of others, inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession should not be made." It allows for disciplinary action against doctors who violate it.


White House To Boehner: We Did NOT Start Impeachment 'Scam'

(TPM) The White House fired back at Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday after the Republican told reporters that talk of impeachment is a "scam" by Democrats to raise money and gin up their base.

"Well if that's the case then I suspect that there may be members of the Republican conference that didn't receive the memo," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily briefing, proceeding to rattle off a list of Republicans who have floated impeachment.


"How Harry Reid Might End Up Saving Obamacare"

(Business Insider) Last November, Reid pushed the button on the so-called "nuclear option," dramatically changing Senate filibuster rules to get more of President Barack Obama's judicial and executive nominees approved. Reid's rule change allowed Obama's nominees to be approved by a simple majority vote rather than with the support of 60% of senators, which prevented the Republican minority from blocking the president's picks.

And it turns out, Reid's maneuvering might become the White House's most effective weapon as it faces the most serious legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act in more than two years.


The amazing news buried inside a 283-page Medicare report

(Vox) This is arguably the most unexpected piece of news in the new Medicare Trustees report: the government's hospital insurance program might be spending less money to cover more beneficiaries than it did a year ago.

Medicare's hospital insurance program — known to wonks as Medicare Part A — spent $266.8 billion covering 50.3 million people in 2012. In 2013, the the same program spent $266.2 billion to cover 51.9 million people. These figures come from Table II B.1 in the 2012 and 2013 reports.


MS Gov Blames Obama For Jump In Uninsured After Refusing To Expand Medicaid

(TPM) Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississipians. The problem is, Bryant didn't acknowledge that he's been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov.

Bryant directed his blame at Obama in response to a question about a WalletHub study that showed an increase in the percentage of uninsured Mississippians. The study found that the uninsured rate increased by 3.34 percentage points to 21.46 percent of Mississippi's population, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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