TPM Cafe: Opinion

Hello again from the New Jersey Corruption Desk. Today we’re working on a new story about a story, first broken on CNN, that the Department of Justice’s public integrity section has gotten approval from Attorney General Eric Holder to prepare indictments against Sen. Bob Menendez, the senior senator from New Jersey.

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The United States is facing a public health crisis. No, not some new measles epidemic or another new or resurgent infectious disease. A more fundamental crisis is unfolding because of declining trust in our public health system.

The federal government's lead public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for protecting people from international and interstate health threats. The CDC also collects public health data, does research, and provides technical support and guidance to state and local governments. To succeed in its many vital tasks, the CDC must be trusted as a rigorous, nonpartisan resource by the American people. But, unfortunately, over the past year, the agency has experienced a sharp decline in public trust.

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Reasonable people can disagree on whether there’s a 21st century “war on women,” and if so what roles forces such as the GOP, the Christian Right and mass media have played in it. But if we take the historical view, there’s no denying that mainstream American society has consistently attacked activist women, those who dared to push beyond the traditional views or definitions of their era and work for something alternative and better.

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Stop me when this sounds familiar, but there’s a new story brewing in Trenton involving the governor’s office and allegations of improper influence.

This time, it involves an eleven-year-long case against ExxonMobil that Chris Christie’s administration is trying to settle for $255 million. That sum, announced today by acting attorney general John Hoffman, is less than 3% of the $8.9 billion New Jersey officials had long sought from the petroleum giant after the company was accused and found guilty of polluting two wetlands sites in Bayonne and Linden, New Jersey. News of a much-reduced negotiated settlement figure of $250 million, brokered between state lawyers and attorneys representing Exxon, broke on Friday. Today, the number was adjusted to $255 million and lauded by Hoffman as evidence that the Christie administration had “aggressively pushed the case to trial.” It was, he said, “the result of long fought settlement negotiations that pre-dated and post-dated the trial.”

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In this era of movie remakes, reboots, sequels and franchises, it is hardly shocking to hear that Hollywood is adapting a property into a film for the sixth time. The only surprise is that it’s not a superhero. Last week, Variety reported that Brewster’s Millions would once again be coming to a theater near you. Based on a 1902 book by George Barr McCutcheon, Brewster’s Millions was adapted into an American film in 1914, 1921, 1926, 1945 and, most recently, 1985. It has also been a Broadway play, as well as a foreign film; two English movies have been made from the premise, and India got into the act with a 1988 version called Maalamaal.

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In case the situation with the latest Obamacare lawsuit, King v. Burwell, wasn’t surreal enough, along comes the anti-Obamacare lawyer Michael Carvin, and some of his, um, more colorful ideas about why the Affordable Care Act is bad law. Trying to contrast the ACA with the constitution, Carvin characterized the ACA as “a statute that was written three years ago, not by dead white men but by living white women and minorities.”

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There’s a new Mathematica study out today about the effectiveness of Teach For America elementary school teachers, and it says exactly what you expect. That’s because the sharper a controversy gets, the more polarized a debate becomes, the easier it gets to filter new information into weapons that suit your team’s trench. And since TFA occupies some of the most sharply contested turf in education politics, this new study probably won’t shock you, no matter what your prior beliefs about TFA happen to be.

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On Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of the United States Congress. Netanyahu was invited to speak not through standard diplomatic procedures—the kind of procedures, say, that the President of the United States might go through to speak to Israel’s Knesset. Instead, Netanyahu got a special invitation from Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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