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Supreme Court Struggles With Westboro Baptist 1st Amendment Case

“There’s almost universal agreement that the tactics and message used by parishioners of the small, fringe Westboro Baptist Church are despicable. But does that make their provocative protests near the funerals of dead U.S. soldiers — under the theory that God is punishing the country because it tolerates gay and lesbian Americans — unconstitutional?

When Supreme Court justices took up that issue in court on Wednesday, the usually highly divided court agreed on one thing: these Westboro Baptist Church people are jerks. Their tactics are “very obnoxious,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, usually a member of the court’s liberal bloc. They used “nasty signs,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, who’s been described as the intellectual anchor of the conservative wing of the court.

But where they’d ultimately fall on the Snyder v. Phelps case — a test of the constitutional balance between privacy and free speech — was much tougher to discern.”

Unemployment Figures Show Economy Continues To Falter

“New employment statistics released by the federal government this morning continue to show anemic job growth, with 64,000 new private sector jobs unable to offset the loss of 159,000 state government and Census jobs.

The figures show the unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent and 14.8 million Americans remain unemployed.

The numbers track closely with the estimates of independent experts, who predicted this week that the economy would continue to limp along.”

Following ThinkProgress Report, Chamber Runs Ads For Democrats Who Opposed Health Care Overhaul

“Earlier this week, a ThinkProgress investigation found that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been raising funds from foreign-based corporations to solicit funding their general 501(c)(6) entity, and that entity runs approximately $75 million worth of partisan attack ads. This week alone, the Chamber ran nearly $10.5 million in attack ads in many of the most competitive elections in America. Republican candidates in the nine Senate and 22 House districts are benefiting from the Chamber’s support.

Now, Politico reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — perhaps in an attempt to distance itself from the fact that it operates as a wing of the Republican Party — will start airing aids backing conservative Democrats who voted against the recent health care overhaul.”

Joe Miller Received Medicaid Benefits He Thinks Are Unconstitutional

“Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller has repeatedly claimed that federal health care benefits violate the Constitution. It turns out, however, that “Mr. Noun, Verb, and Unconstitutional” doesn’t actually think that the Constitution applies to himself. Yesterday, Miller acknowledged that the received the very same kind of federally funded health care benefits that he believes to be unconstitutional:

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller acknowledged Thursday that in the past his family received assistance from federal Medicaid and Denali KidCare, the state low income health care program. His opponents in the race responded that he’s a hypocrite for taking assistance while now saying federal entitlement programs are unconstitutional.”

First Ever Decision On Constitutionality Of Health Reform Upholds The Law

“Today was a victory for the Affordable Care Act. The first court decision to render a verdict on the constitutionality of the landmark health reform package upheld a key portion of law. Earlier today, Judge George Caram Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan handed down a twenty page order dismissing a challenge to the Act’s minimum coverage provision on the merits:

“In assessing the scope of Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause,” the court’s task “is a modest one.” The court need not itself determine whether the regulated activities, “taken in the aggregate, substantially affect interstate commerce in fact, but only whether a ‘rational basis’ exists for so concluding.”

There is a rational basis to conclude that, in the aggregate, decisions to forego insurance coverage in preference to attempting to pay for health care out of pocket drive up the cost of insurance. The costs of caring for the uninsured who prove unable to pay are shifted to health care providers, to the insured population in the form of higher premiums, to governments, and to taxpayers. The decision whether to purchase insurance or to attempt to pay for health care out of pocket, is plainly economic. These decisions, viewed in the aggregate, have clear and direct impacts on health care providers, taxpayers, and the insured population who ultimately pay for the care provided to those who go without insurance. These are the economic effects addressed by Congress in enacting the Act and the minimum coverage provision.”

Referencing TP Report, Obama Warns ‘Groups That Receive Foreign Money’ Are A ‘Threat To Our Democracy’

“Pressure has been mounting on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since a ThinkProgress investigation published Tuesday revealed that the right-wing business group may be using donations from foreign corporations to bankroll its general account — the same account that is being used to launch an unprecedented $75 million attack ad campaign against progressive candidates. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and others have called for an FEC investigation into the Chamber, and numerous media outlets have pressed the group for answers. Meanwhile, the Chamber continues to stonewall. Today, while stumping for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), President Obama referenced the investigation, warning that “groups that receive foreign money” are a “threat to our democracy”:

OBAMA: Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ad regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won’t tell you where the money for the ads come from.”

Jones to step down as National Security Adviser

“President Barack Obama will announce today that retired Gen. James Jones will step down as the president’s National Security Adviser and will be replaced by his deputy, Thomas Donilon, according to two officials with knowledge of the decision who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because it hadn’t been made public.”

One Democrat’s strategy to win: Run against Obama and Pelosi

“Rep. Bobby Bright was all smiles as he swapped stories with John Whitener, who's watched Bright grow from humble beginnings to become the first Democrat since 1964 to represent Alabama's heavily conservative 2nd congressional district. However, when the talk turned to who'd have Whitener's vote on Nov. 2, the 81-year-old asked Bright, "If you win, are you going to fire Nancy Pelosi?"”

Santorum Broadcasts His 2012 Ambitions to Iowans

“Some GOP figures are being coy about their 2012 presidential ambitions; others, like former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), are broadcasting them loud and clear. Yesterday Santorum announced the creation of an Iowa Keystone Political Action Committee, the sole purpose of which seems to be helping conservatives win office in the crucial presidential primary battleground state.”

Little Progress in Tianjin Climate Talks

“The New York Times gives United Nations climate negotiations this year a reality check:

There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend, and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda. Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancún is suffering from the opposite.

Not only that, but talks in Tianjin, China this week may actually be moving backward. The Times reports that a number of issues that negotiators thought they’d settled in Copenhagen last year are being looked at again.”

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident

“In awarding the prize to the imprisoned pro-democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Committee delivered a stinging rebuke of China’s growing intolerance for domestic dissent.”

Siemens Wins Battle of Fast Trains

“Eurostar said it had chosen Siemens over Alstom as the winner of a contract to upgrade its aging fleet of high-speed trains”

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