Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - Sharks!

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Two dying sharks were found in the Potomac, making them the second-most unhealthy things in the river after the water itself. Al Gore may not have invented the internet but he definitely invented the "Category 6" hurricane. And a group of vegetarians on the Hill failed to generate enough energy behind their agenda but not, as we originally assumed, because of their iron-poor diet. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, August 21st, 2013:

NSA DECLASSIFIES SURVEILLANCE COURT OPINIONS - "The National Security Agency declassified three secret U.S. court opinions Wednesday showing how it scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism annually over three years, how it revealed the error to the court and changed how it gathered Internet communications. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized the release (as he rushed out the door for his one-way to Hong Kong, presumably). The opinions show that when the NSA reported its inadvertent gathering of American-based Internet traffic to the court in 2011, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered the agency to find ways to limit what it collects and how long it keeps it... In the opinion by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court denouncing the practice, the judge wrote that the NSA had advised the court that 'the volume and nature of the information it had been collecting is fundamentally different than what the court had been led to believe,' and went on to say the court must consider 'whether targeting and minimization procedures comport with the 4th Amendment.'" [HuffPost]

I Con The Record: "The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the highest intelligence agency in the country, just unveiled its "IC On the Record" Tumblr, promising to post newly unclassified documents about various government surveillance programs. The ODNI is the organization in charge of all the other big US spy organizations, including the NSA and CIA." [The Verge]

Called it: "Howard Dean today became the latest Democrat to head to Iowa while skillfully dodging questions about whether he's interested in running for president in 2016...Dean is known to be outspoken, so he didn't dodge either his presidential ambitions or that infamous Iowa moment in which he screamed out all the states he was going to win. 'It's great to be back,' Dean reportedly told the crowd. 'I promise not to list any states.'" [ABC News]

PARANOID SELF-LOATHING GOP LOBBYIST URGES SENSATIONALISM - If HuffPost Hill's Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist were actually MSNBC's VP in charge of programming, the network would only air "In Treatment" reruns and hour-long blocks of Joe Scarborough reading "Millie's Book," Barbara Bush's dog's memoir. "If Hayes, Matthews and Maddow want to fix their ratings, they'll treat this as if it came out of Dick Cheney's mouth (even though the officials said the problem was technological and not malicious)," PSLGOPL writes, surprisingly un-paranoidily. "I can't bare to watch another segment on GOP redistricting in North Carolina." Thanks, PSLGOPL!

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Detroit has almost as many stray dogs as abandoned buildings. "As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city's ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths. Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. One officer in the Police Department's skeleton animal-control unit recalled a pack splashing away in a basement that flooded when thieves ripped out water pipes." [Bloomberg]

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BRADLEY MANNING SENTENCED TO 35 YEARS WITH TIME SERVED - Matt Sledge: "Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday for handing WikiLeaks a massive cache of sensitive government documents detailing the inner workings of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning, 25, was not allowed to make a statement when his sentence was handed down by military judge Col. Denise Lind. Guards quickly hustled him out of the courtroom, while at least half a dozen spectators shouted their support. 'We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley,' one exclaimed. Manning was also dishonorably discharged and demoted from the rank of private first class to private. He was ordered to forfeit all pay and benefits...He will most likely serve out his sentence in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. The 1,182 days he has spent in confinement since he was arrested in May 2010 will be applied toward his term. Added to the military's extensive credits for good behavior, Manning could be eligible for parole in about 8 years, when he is 33." [HuffPost]

Here are some people who haven't gone to jail. And here are eight spies who sold secrets to foreign governments with the intent of harming the United States, and got shorter sentences than Manning.

Today in sure things: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) lead over Democrat Barbara Buono in his bid for reelection has dropped by 10 points, according a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Wednesday. Christie still leads Buono 56 to 36 percent, but that's his smallest lead in some time." [HuffPost]

Other sure thing news: "President Barack Obama waded into New Jersey's special U.S. Senate election Wednesday, delivering a formal endorsement for Democratic nominee Cory Booker. Obama praised Booker's efforts as Newark mayor and said that he 'has dedicated his life to the work of building hope and opportunity in communities where too little of either existed.' In a statement released by Booker's campaign, the president said that Booker has been building coalitions and helping the middle class since his college days at Stanford University." [HuffPost's John Celock]

SEQUESTRATION IS BREAKING OUR HEARTS... LITERALLY - And not in the "omg, Schuyler, this reduction is federal spending is literally the worst." kind of way. It's literally harming the misshapen hollow muscle that pumps your blood. Sam Stein: "The Framingham Heart Study in Framingham, Mass. -- the longest running cardiovascular research project in the country -- saw a major funding stream slashed by $4 million this year after lawmakers couldn't agree on a sequester replacement. Some of the effects have already been felt. Last month, the organization announced that this fall it would let go 19 staffers out of a staff of about 90, in addition to eliminating certain ancillary studies... 'You're going to lose a major investment that we've been making over the last 65 years," said Dr. Karen Antman, dean of Boston University School of Medicine, which co-runs the Framingham Heart Study. 'This is an iconic trial that has more than proven its value from a public health point of view ... It's made an enormous difference by identifying diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and other risk factors. We've really decreased deaths from cardiovascular disease.'" [HuffPost]

President Obama doesn't support legalizing medical marijuana "at this point," meaning you'll soon be able to treat your "arthritis" with impunity. Sabrina Siddiqui: "President Barack Obama does not support changes to the legal classification of marijuana, the White House said Wednesday, despite growing evidence of its medical benefits. White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked for the second day in a row if CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta's recent reversal on medical marijuana use and apology for misleading the public had had any bearing on Obama's position on the issue. Whereas Earnest declined to answer the question on Tuesday, he confirmed Wednesday that the president does not believe any changes should be made to medical marijuana laws 'at this point.'" [HuffPost]

IRS SUED OVER DARK MONEY GROUPS - Because "Americans For A Less Intrusive Estate Tax" is not a charity. Paul Blumenthal: "Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced on Wednesday a lawsuit challenging the Internal Revenue Service's rules for certain tax-exempt nonprofit groups that have become major vehicles for political spending in the last few years. Van Hollen, a leading advocate for campaign finance reform and the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is bringing the case with the help of watchdog groups Democracy 21, Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen. Van Hollen v. IRS is being filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit challenges one specific IRS regulation covering tax-exempt nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. Tax Code. The tax code requires that these nonprofits be "exclusively" engaged in social welfare activity. But the IRS' 1959 interpretation states that 501(c)(4) nonprofits need only be 'primarily' engaged in their stated social welfare activity -- a looser rule that has opened the door to significant political activity by some of these groups." [HuffPost]

VEGETARIAN HILL STAFFERS ARE FAILURES - New Republic: "The Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association hoped their caucus would be educational in mission and bipartisan in membership.... the group wrote a letter to Restaurant Associates, the New York-based company that runs at least 18 of the Hill's eateries. They asked for a meeting to discuss adding better vegetarian food to the cafeteria menus...not long after, a sign appeared in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria advertising MEATLESS MONDAY...Back in Longworth, a farm-industry lobbyist spotted the MEATLESS MONDAY sign and called Steve Kopperud, a balding, bespectacled former newspaper reporter...Kopperud is himself a lobbyist who represents the Farm AnimalWelfare Coalition (FAWC), which combats the 'animal rights community and their attacks on agriculture.' Kopperud and the FAWC wrote a letter to the House Administration Committee... decrying the Meatless Monday concept as 'an acknowledged tool of animal rights and environmental organizations who seek to publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production.' Not long after the FAWC sent the letter, Restaurant Associates discontinued the program." [TNR]

Here's something Al Gore said that is just plain false: "Would there be hurricanes and floods and droughts without man-made global warming? Of course. But they're stronger now. The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they're adding a 6 [Editor's note: BUZZZZZZZZZZ]. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events." [WaPo]

NRA HAS ITS OWN NATIONAL GUN REGISTRY - BuzzFeed: "The National Rifle Association has rallied gun owners -- and raised tens of millions of dollars -- campaigning against the threat of a national database of firearms or their owners. But in fact, the sort of vast, secret database the NRA often warns of already exists, despite having been assembled largely without the knowledge or consent of gun owners. It is housed in the Virginia offices of the NRA itself. The country's largest privately held database of current, former, and prospective gun owners is one of the powerful lobby's secret weapons, expanding its influence well beyond its estimated 3 million members and bolstering its political supremacy. That database has been built through years of acquiring gun permit registration lists from state and county offices, gathering names of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by NRA-certified instructors and by buying lists of attendees of gun shows, subscribers to gun magazines, and more, BuzzFeed has learned." [BuzzFeed]

Historical porn: "Forty years after President Richard M. Nixon turned off his secret tape recorder, the federal government on Wednesday finally released the last of the historic recordings that have provided an unparalleled insight into the workings of one of the nation's most dramatic presidencies. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, now part of the National Archives system, posted online the final 340 hours of tapes as well as 140,000 pages of memos and other documents. Among the topics covered by the tapes are Watergate, Vietnam and a summit meeting with the Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev." [NYT]

SOME LOUISIANA REPUBLICANS BLAME OBAMA FOR HURRICANE KATRINA RESPONSE - To be fair, can you blame them, what with the Bilderberg Conference and the government hoarding gold and everything? TPM: "A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office. The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders. Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans -- 44 percent -- said they aren't sure who to blame." [TPM]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a rabbit and a puppy sharing a carrot.

SHARKS!!!!....... IN THE POTOMAC!!! - WTOP: "What started out as a routine trip to measure fish caught in pound nets turned out to be a shark event for several Southern Maryland watermen. John 'Willy' Dean, his son Greg Dean and Rich Richie, along with a Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist, found two male bull sharks that weighed about 220 pounds each in nets off Cornfield Harbor, not far from Point Lookout State Park Monday, Southern Maryland News reports. One of the sharks was dead, and the other dying. Experts say bull sharks are considered aggressive, but National Geographic says people are not on their menus, but can inadvertently get attacked...Cornfield Harbor is on the lower Potomac River at southern tip of St. Mary's County, near the mouth to the Chesapeake Bay." [WTOP]

COMFORT FOOD

- Seven sites you should be wasting time on right now. [http://huff.to/13RqIdT]

- An overview of foods named after people. Video will have to be updated in 500 years for the Amanda Bynes surprise. [http://bit.ly/1745A8c]

- Steve Martin and Kermit the Frog playing "Dueling Banjos" will make you smile. [http://vult.re/1d1Kblv]

- Cronut update: There are now cronut burgers. They are hurting people. [http://grb.st/173ELz9]

- Watch as the fourth wall is broken punched through as Mike Tyson plays "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" for the first time. [http://bit.ly/18JUnJl]

- The 1977 advertisement for Tickle Me antiperspirant is tremendously unnerving. [http://huff.to/16cDXp6]

- Stop-motion video of facial hair tricks. [http://bit.ly/14j3LnE]

TWITTERAMA

@jbendery: Glad I, uh, got my question in during today's WH briefing. pic.twitter.com/aunkoRiDvV

@LOLGOP: REMINDER: The people who think it's dangerous to unionize teachers also think teachers should be armed.

@OKnox Office of National Intelligence conference call for reporters. Hold music right now? "You Are Not Alone."

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