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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her seven-nation Africa trip in Kenya, where she met with state leaders to discuss economic and agricultural development. Here, a costumed man greets Sec. Clinton at her hotel.

Sec. Clinton helps plant a tree.

The secretary of state meets with women from AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development).

Kenyan Minister of Agriculture William Ruto, Sec. Clinton, and Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai tour the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula poses wtih Sec. Clinton.

Sec. Clinton speaks at a trial corn field with William Ruto, Kenya's minister of agriculture, and Tom Vilsack, U.S secretary of agriculture, standing by her side.

Sec. Clinton and Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula speak at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Nairobi.


Looking through recent polls, it's become clear that the Republicans have two advantages that can make up for their numerical doldrums in the health care debate: The age gap, and the intensity gap.

First, the age gap. A CNN poll finds the public closely split on health care, with 50% supporting Obama's plans and 45% opposing it. But voters over 50 are more likely to oppose it, and those under 50 are more likely to favor it. Remember that older people typically vote in greater percentages than the young -- thus giving them something of an edge in political debates.

As for the intensity gap, this is something we're seeing in measurements like Scott Rasmussen's controversial approval index, which compares only those people who strongly approve to those who strongly disapprove. This in turn is finding its way into the likely voter polling models we see in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, where the Republican base voters are currently far more motivated and likely to go to the polls.

Prof. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told me that the age gap is in part an extension of the 2008 election results -- the young voted for Obama and are invested in his policies, while more older people voted against him and thus the opposite feelings apply. As for the intensity gap, this is a mirror image of the liberal activism we saw during the Bush years, an element of life in opposition: "There's just something about the negativity motive that seems to result in action. People are willing to spend some time and some effort to oppose something. But rarely are they willing to put out the same effort to support something."

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A CNN anchor today tore down Rick Scott, the founder of an organization that's been funding anti-health care reform protests and the former CEO of a hospital company that, as Sanchez pointed out, paid $1.7 billion to settle charges of overcharging Medicare and Medicaid.

It was brutal.

Sanchez started simply, asking Scott, the founder of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, if he takes credit for the recent disruptions at health care reform events. Scott responded, "It'd be nice to, right?" before saying he thought everyone should go to meetings, but "oughta be nicer about it."

Then Sanchez started in on him, describing the charges and fines against Scott's company, the Columbia Hospital Corporation.

"Some would argue, and it would be hard to say they're wrong, that you would be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the greed that has hurt our current health care system," Sanchez said.

Scott tried to defend himself, saying other companies were fined in the big health care fraud scandals of the 1990s. Sanchez stopped him.

"How much more wrong can you be than what you just said? Not only is your company screwed up, and you just admitted to it, but you said look at all the other companies, they did the same thing," Sanchez said. "It doesn't sound like a sterling system we have here, does it?"

And when Scott tried to shirk responsibility for the fines, saying they were leveled after he left the company, Sanchez put his foot down.

"No, no, no, no! You're playing with the facts, sir!" he said.

"Some people are gonna look at your record ... and say, 'This is the guy leading this charge? Is he the one we should be listening to?' Not exactly a perfect past when it comes to what's right for taxpayers and patients," Sanchez said.

"Absolutely," Scott said.

Sanchez also tore into Scott for buying up all the hospitals in an area and shutting down all but one. "Is that good for patients?" he asked.

"Absolutely. Now, first of, that didn't happen," Scott responded. He went on, saying it's good for patients to go to the hospital with the best equipment. Sanchez also reminded Scott of charges of poor, dirty conditions at his hospitals.

A series of shocking and lurid charges have been made against Erik Prince and Blackwater, the defense contracting behemoth he founded, in sworn statements filed in federal court Monday. Prince and or his company are variously accused of being motivated by an apocalyptic Christian worldview which glorified killing Muslims; of "encourag[ing] and reward[ing] the destruction of Iraqi life;" of illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq; of destroying incriminating evidence; of using child prostitutes; and even of murdering government informants.

The charges -- which come from a former Blackwater employee, and a former US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company -- appear to be largely unsubstantiated. Their existence was first reported by The Nation, and has since been covered by numerous blogs and a few mainstream outlets.

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Judge Sotomayor will become the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice when the Court convenes in October - a historic milestone in our history, to be sure - but many Americans still are uncertain about her legal views, especially regarding the Second Amendment. The president nominated Judge Sotomayor because she shared his belief in judicial 'empathy.' Many have questioned how such a justice would decide cases that come before the Supreme Court. Now we will find out, and the American people will be able to decide if that is the standard they want in future Supreme Court nominees.

Rep. Brad Miller isn't holding any town hall meetings -- but that's not stopping the Tea Party crowd from protesting him.

As we reported yesterday, Miller is meeting one-on-one with constituents at his Raleigh district office. He wants to avoid the big, organized crowds of hostile people that have plagued other members. This decision was made especially easy after he received a death threat over the health care bill.

As it turns out, however, Miller agreed several days ago to hold a meeting with some conservative activists back home. So now a local Tea Party has been promoting it as a town hall -- which it is not -- and urging people to show up outside:

"A large demonstration is going to be staged outside of his office during the meeting! We want an ENORMOUS turn out! With our "representatives" on recess, we have a golden opportunity to show them what we think!"

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Nine Republicans voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, giving her that 68-31 margin.

Here's who they are: Lamar Alexander (TN), Kit Bond (MO), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Judd Gregg (NH), Richard Lugar (IN), Mel Martinez (FL), Olympia Snowe (ME) and George Voinovich (OH).

All 31 other Republicans voted no. All 59 Democrats present voted yes, with Ted Kennedy missing the vote.

The Senate has confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in a vote of 68 to 31.

If you had any doubt about where conservative cable news hosts were getting their information on health care, and the health care opposition movement, listen to this fulsome shout outs they get from their buddies in the tea party movement.

It's a strategy and organizing call set up by the Recess Rally campaign, to get activists on the same page for a nationwide, August 22 rally. And at about minute 37, call organizer Michael Patrick Leahy (of #tcot fame) pulls the cat out of the bag and holds it up for everybody to see. "Lou Dobbs is very much in the health care protest corner. In the tea party corner," Leahy says.

Look to Lou Dobbs. Also our friends at Fox News will cover this. So follow up with the Glenn Becks and the Neal Cavutos and the Sean Hannitys and Greta van Sustern. Just keep giving them information.

Coincidentally on those hosts' programs, you can hear all about the grass roots anger about Democrats' health care plans.

These calls occur biweekly and enjoy the participation of hundreds of organizers. As you'd expect, the hosts warn of the "craziness of the socialism in the health care bill"--a message which gets filtered down to the people who protest health care reform in the field.

As we reported previously, the administration is stepping up a program to counter health care misinformation before falsehoods become conventional wisdom. As part of that effort, the White House's new media director, Macon Phillips, has asked supporters to let him know if they " or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy." That way, the White House can explain, publicly, why this or that incorrect allegation is in fact incorrect.

For Sen. John Cornyn, though, this is all straight out of 1984. "I write to express my concern about a new White House program to monitor American citizens' speech opposing your health care policies," writes Cornyn (who, cough, supported President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program) in a letter to President Obama.

By requesting that citizens send "fishy" emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.

You can read the letter here. Presumably, the White House is interested in the misinformation itself, and not the names and email addresses of the people propagating it. But, of course, in politics, clumsy phrasing can cause a major head ache, and I smell a new conservative meme brewing.