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HUFFPOST HILL - G20 Leaders Nervously Listening For Clicks During Phone Calls

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A congressional panel heard testimony from drone strike victims, making it the first time Republicans couldn't assemble a group of white men to appear before a committee. The D.C. Council is about to decriminalize marijuana, allowing us to market our half sativa, half indica pot blend -- it's called "Half Smoke." And Tom Coburn called Harry Reid an "absolute asshole." If he really wanted to get under the majority leader's skin, he should have claimed someone told him Reid's been an absolute asshole for ten years. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

WHITE HOUSE OKAYED ALLY SPYING - Look, judge all you want, but don't pretend like you never wanted to know what the prime minister of Sweden thought of his breakfast. LA Times: "The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping. Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies. The resistance emerged as the White House said it would curtail foreign intelligence collection in some cases and two senior U.S. senators called for investigations of the practice. France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Sweden have all publicly complained about the NSA surveillance operations, which reportedly captured private cellphone conversations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among other foreign leaders." [LA Times]

Remember back in June when the President, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate with Angela Merkel present, said this? "James Madison is right -- which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war. And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo. (Applause.) It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones. It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy. (Applause.) And I'm confident that that balance can be struck. I'm confident of that, and I'm confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for." [White House]

YOU WON'T BELIEVE THE INCREDIBLE THING THE SENATE DID TODAY - Its job! Dave Jamieson: "The Senate confirmed President Barack Obama's choice for general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, writing the last chapter in a Capitol Hill spat that nearly shut down the federal agency earlier this year. Richard Griffin, who was nominated by the president in August, passed by a vote of 55 to 44, along party lines. Once Griffin assumes his post at the board, which is tasked with enforcing labor law on companies and unions, it will mark the first time in more than three years that the agency's general counsel was acting with Senate approval." Functioning government! Thanks, Senate! [HuffPost]

BOOKER TO PUSH FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM IN SENATE - We already figuring out how best to light our apartments on fire so he can save us from the conflagration. Amanda Terkel: "Criminal justice reform will be at the top of Sen.-elect Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) agenda when he is sworn in on Thursday, and he has already spoken with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) about the role he will be able to play. 'It was the first issue I brought up with the leader,' said Booker in an interview with The Huffington Post on Tuesday, referring to an earlier conversation he had with Reid...Reid told The Huffington Post that he put Booker in touch with former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who also advocated for criminal justice reform before retiring from the chamber last year. Booker said he has not yet been able to connect personally with Webb...In August, Attorney General Eric Holder called for "sweeping, systemic changes" to the criminal justice system...At an event in D.C. with mayors from around the country later in August, Holder's staff approached him and talked about working together, Booker said." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - A group of nine Democratic members of the House of Representatives held a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday to demand Congress avert an automatic food stamp cut scheduled to take effect on Friday. "The average family of four will see a $36 cut in their monthly benefits, bringing an accurate per-person benefit from $1.50 a meal to $1.40 a meal," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. "Shame on this Congress for allowing this to happen." But the cut, which will reduce monthly benefits for all 47 million Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by roughly 7 percent, is happening thanks mainly to Democratic votes that hastened the demise of a benefit increase from the 2009 stimulus bill. Each of the representatives at Tuesday's presser voted with their party for a pair of 2010 spending bills that set the cuts in motion. [HuffPost]

DOUBLE DOWNER - Canceling the enhanced benefits this November means the government will spend $5 billion less on nutrition assistance next year -- an annual SNAP spending cut 25 percent larger than what House Republicans are seeking in farm bill negotiations starting this week. [HuffPost]

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HOW THE $13 BILLION JPMORGAN SETTLEMENT COULD SCREW HOMEOWNERS - David Dayen: "While JPMorgan could be allowed to write off the penalty as a tax deduction, ordinary people who receive mortgage relief as part of the settlement could get hit with a giant tax bill, making the debt relief benefit irrelevant, if not actively harmful. This is because Congress, through their sheer inaction, will soon allow this type of mortgage relief to be taxed as income." [New Republic]

Hell no you can't (surveil Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta)! "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) added his voice to the growing clamor by lawmakers disturbed about the United States' spying practices, saying Tuesday that the government's intelligence gathering had become ' imbalanced.'... [Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein] is calling for a "total review" of U.S. intelligence gathering, a call that Boehner echoed. 'I don't think there's any question that there needs to be a review,' Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill." [HuffPost's Mike McAuliff]

SUPPORT FOR DEATH PENALTY AT 40-YEAR LOW - That said, it's still tremendously popular by political standards. Gallup: "Sixty percent of Americans say they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, the lowest level of support Gallup has measured since November 1972, when 57% were in favor. Death penalty support peaked at 80% in 1994, but it has gradually declined since then. Gallup first asked Americans their views on the death penalty using this question in 1936, and has updated it periodically since then, including annual updates since 1999...Politics is a major dividing line in Americans' death penalty views -- 81% of Republicans currently favor it, compared with 47% of Democrats. Independents' 60% support matches the national average. Support among all three party groups has declined in the last 25 years, with the largest drop among Democrats. Democrats' level of support is currently down 28 percentage points from its 1994 peak and has fluctuated around the 50% mark for the last several years. Independents' support has generally been in the 60% range since 2000, but was consistently above 70% from the late 1980s through 1999. Republicans' support has averaged 80% since 2000, but averaged a higher 85% from 1988-1999." [Gallup]

TOM COBURN CALLS HARRY REID AN 'ASSHOLE' - Surly men from undesirable states showdown, round one, FIGHT!!! The Hill: "Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he plans to meet privately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss their differences after Coburn reportedly referred to Reid as an 'a--hole.' The meeting could be contentious. Reid's office on Tuesday swiped back at Coburn, accusing him of 'childish playground name-calling.' A spokesman for Reid said Coburn has not yet requested a one-on-one meeting or conversation. The leader also took a shot at Coburn's legislative portfolio, saying the GOP senator had not written a piece of bipartisan legislation that became law during his decade in office. "Nothing says 'comity' like childish playground name-calling, especially from a senator who has not sponsored a single piece of successful bipartisan legislation during his entire Senate career," Reid's spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement to The Hill....Coburn called Reid an 'absolute a--hole' Monday evening at a fundraising gala for the New York Republican Club, according to the New York Daily News. 'There's no comity with Harry Reid,' he told the audience, according to the report." [The Hill]

DRONE VICTIMS TESTIFIES BEFORE CONGRESS - Matt Sledge: "Three victims of a drone strike in Pakistan spoke Tuesday at a Congressional briefing to call for an explanation of why a grandmother was killed last year. The briefing, organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), was the first of its kind. Faced with more than a dozen television cameras and scores of spectators, Rafiq ur-Rehman and his two children recounted the day last year that ur-Rehman's mother was killed, in a drone strike that spurred Amnesty International to call for a U.S. investigation. 'Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,' ur-Rehman said. 'Only one person was killed that day: Mamana Bibi, a grandmother, a midwife who was preparing to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid. Not a militant. My mother.' The administration has refused to comment on the circumstances of ur-Rehman's mother's death. But Tuesday's briefing may mark a significant first step toward unveiling the secrecy that surrounds the U.S. drone program in Pakistan and Yemen. The Central Intelligence Agency has never acknowledged the covert drone program that it runs over Pakistan's skies, and the Obama administration has only just begun to take tentative steps toward explaining more about how, and under what legal authorities, drones are employed." [HuffPost]

BREAKING: POPULISM A WINNING STRATEGY IN OHIO - Behold John Kasich, holding on for dear life. Times: "In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington. 'I'm concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor,' he said, sitting at the head of a burnished table as members of his cabinet lingered after a meeting. 'That if you're poor, somehow you're shiftless and lazy.' 'You know what?' he said. 'The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.'...But few have gone further than Mr. Kasich in critiquing his party's views on poverty programs, and last week he circumvented his own Republican legislature and its Tea Party wing by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid to 275,000 poor Ohioans under President Obama's health care law. Once a leader of the conservative firebrands in Congress under Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, Mr. Kasich has surprised and disarmed some former critics on the left with his championing of Ohio's disadvantaged, which he frames as a matter of Christian compassion. He embodies conventional Republican fiscal priorities -- balancing the budget by cutting aid to local governments and education -- but he defies many conservatives in believing government should ensure a strong social safety net. In his three years as governor, he has expanded programs for the mentally ill, fought the nursing home lobby to bring down Medicaid costs and backed Cleveland's Democratic mayor, Frank Jackson, in raising local taxes to improve schools." [NYT]

SENATE CONSERVATIVES GO AFTER MCCONNELL IN NEW AD - And you just know all McConnell wants to do right now is brag about that water project. "Senate Conservatives Action, a super PAC founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), announced Tuesday that it will spend $330,000 to air an ad criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to reopen the government. 'Conservatives asked Mitch McConnell to lead the fight against Obamacare,' says a male narrator. 'He didn't listen. Instead, McConnell helped Barack Obama and Harry Reid fund Obamacare.' 'When Kentucky needed Mitch McConnell the most, he let us down,' says the narrator. 'Now he's asking us to give him six more years in Washington?' That the group is attacking McConnell is no surprise -- its affiliated PAC endorsed his Republican primary opponent, Matt Bevin. However, the size of the ad buy is significant for an election that is a year away. It will run throughout Kentucky on broadcast and cable from Wednesday until Nov. 12, according to the group." [HuffPost]

Guess we should stop texting them "you up?" @McConnellPress: Please delete me from your text list. Thanks.

MORMON CHURCH GETTING BACK IN THE ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE GAME - This undoubtedly involved the church's president going around to his lobbyists' homes and blowing in a duck call, "Mighty Ducks 2"-style. Mother Jones: "Now that the 2012 election is over, and Mitt Romney, the nation's most famous Mormon, is no longer running for president, it seems the church is back in the ring. This week, the Hawaii state legislature began a special session to consider a bill that would legalize gay marriage in the state. The church is actively working to kill that measure. One Sunday in September, local Mormon bishops read a letter from top Hawaii Mormon leadership instructing churchgoers to contact public officials about the same-sex marriage bill...it urged members to 'review' the church's 'proclamation to the world,' a 1995 speech given by church president Gordon Hinckley that spelled out the church's belief that marriage can only be between a man and woman." [MoJo]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some guilty cats.

DC COUNCIL GEARING UP FOR WEED DECRIMINALIZATION - Roll Call: "The District appears ready to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, with supporters confident that Capitol Hill would not stand in the way of their effort, despite the prolonged pot-related policy fights of the past. 'It seems like the mood in Congress is less government intervention into people's lives," said Councilmember Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill. 'I don't see them trying to stop this, I really don't.' Wells, who is running for mayor, wants to reduce the charge for being caught with small amounts of marijuana deemed for personal use from criminal to civil...If the law is passed by the council and signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, it would head to Congress, where it would undergo a 60-day review period during which anti-marijuana members could vote to prevent decriminalization in the nation's capital...Decriminalization could pose an interesting legal dilemma on the Capitol campus, where the Capitol Police have the authority to enforce both D.C. Code and U.S. Code. The department declined to comment on pending legislation." [Roll Call]

COMFORT FOOD

- Photos from New York City's annual Halloween Dog Parade. [http://huff.to/Hrhb8c]

- "Selfies at Funerals" is proof that we don't deserve to exist. [http://bit.ly/1g9uqtn]

- Baby gets emotional when her mother sings. Probably reminded of an ex. [http://bit.ly/16i62jB]

- A drunk history of Al Capone. [http://bit.ly/13kbEIf]

- British grandmother really gets into Grand Theft Auto. [http://bit.ly/16j7u5g]

- Woody Allen's 1982 commercials for a Japanese department store. [http://bit.ly/16HxSYO]

- Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle may have set the world record for highest wave ever ridden. Bodhi would be jealous. [http://bit.ly/196xMZA]

TWITTERAMA

@delrayser: del c:\users\McConnell\list.txt

@indecision: In honor of the drone strike victims who testified today, Congress will now have a moment of gridlock.

@mollyesque: "Friends do not spy on each other," oh really, EU? Guess you've never been to one of my hidden-camera dinner parties.

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