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Obama Not Involved in DOJ Zimmerman Probe, U.S. Propaganda Ban Repealed, and More

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Posted on Jul 15, 2013

Not His Call: In the wake of anger over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, some have asked the Justice Department to step in and pursue federal charges against the neighborhood watch captain. But President Obama won’t be a part of that decision, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “This is not something the president involves himself in,” Carney said, adding that the president thinks the decision to file charges should be based on the case’s legal merits. Obama weighed in on the verdict in a statement Sunday, calling the Florida teen’s death “a tragedy.” (Read more)

Setting Demands: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has given Republicans an ultimatum: Allow votes on seven of President Obama’s pending nominations or else he’s going to exercise the “nuclear option” this week. “Let them stop the filibuster on the seven that I filed cloture on and we would have up-or-down votes on those people and we go on to the business of the day,” he said Monday. “That seems pretty simple to me.” Republicans have threatened that if Reid uses the nuclear option, no legislation will pass through the Senate until the next election. The Senate is supposed to begin voting on nominations Tuesday. First up: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director nominee Richard Cordray. (Read more)

Senate Forecast: We’re still more than a year off from the 2014 midterm elections, but FiveThirtyEight vote predictor Nate Silver is doing some early number crunching that shows that Republicans could emerge with roughly 50-51 seats. That’s slightly above the 49-50 figure he gave in his last Senate analysis back in February. Silver’s latest forecast comes after former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, decided not to run for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. According to Silver, Schweitzer’s announcement “represents the latest in a series of favorable developments for Republicans as they seek control of the chamber.” Republicans currently hold 46 Senate seats, but that number will likely be trimmed to 45 once New Jersey holds its special election later this year. (Read more)

Skews News: Thanks to a new law that went into effect this month, Americans have access to U.S. government-made propaganda within the country for the first time in decades. The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was implemented July 2, effectively lifted the ban on U.S. government-funded radio and television news, paving the way for news outlets such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks to air thousands of hours of programming in the U.S. Previously, such shows could be listened to only abroad because of the so-called anti-propaganda measure. As the Atlantic Wire reported, “In a remarkably creative spin, the supporters of this law say that allowing Americans to see American propaganda is actually a victory for transparency.” (Read more)

Wendy’s Win: Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ high-profile filibuster last month against the controversial GOP-backed anti-abortion bill (which ended up passing late last week during the state’s second special legislative session) is paying dividends for her campaign. In the last half of June, the Democrat raised nearly $1 million, most of it from small donors after her more than 11-hour filibuster of the restrictive abortion legislation. Davis is weighing a run for governor, and she says one “key question” for her is whether she can raise enough funds to compete successfully. “I think my chances of doing that have definitely improved, especially because we are seeing such a broad base of supporters,” she said. Davis will need a massive war chest to mount a serious run in red Texas, where a Democrat hasn’t been elected to a statewide office in nearly two decades. (Read more)

Video of the Day: New York City comptroller candidate Eliot Spitzer, whose prostitution scandal in 2008 provided no shortage of material for late night television hosts, ventured onto one such program Friday. In Spitzer’s first appearance on “The Tonight Show,” host Jay Leno asked the former governor the question that was probably on the minds of many people after the scandal broke: “How could you be this stupid?” The question elicited some laughs, but Spitzer nevertheless delivered a serious response. “When I used to speak about corporate governance, back when I was the attorney general and stuff, there was a phrase that I used that was ‘Hubris is terminal.’ People who fall prey to hubris, end up falling themselves, and that I think is something to which people in government are susceptible to, those who feel that they are somehow increasingly important or powerful. And this is something that I think infected me.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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