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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

The National Security Agency goes beyond intercepting direct communications between Americans and foreign persons of interest, as government officials have previously acknowledged, by also collecting e-mail and text communications from Americans who may mention a foreign surveillance target, the New York Times reported Thursday.

A senior intelligence official told the Times the NSA is casting a net for Americans' communications that may cite information connected to foreign targets, like an e-mail address. 

A rule for carrying out Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law, listed among documents leaked by former security contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian on June 20, mentioned that the NSA "seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target." That rule hinted at the wider scope of NSA surveillance but has been largely overlooked, according to the Times.

Prompted by the news that the legendary Graham family had sold the Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, the chairman and vice chairman of its competitor The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Michael Golden, sent a memo to staff Wednesday to assure them that the newspaper is "not for sale."

From the memo, obtained by Politico:

Colleagues –

 

We were all taken by surprise on Monday afternoon with the announcement of the Graham family’s decision to sell The Washington Post.  Surprise probably doesn’t cover it; we were stunned. 

...

This leads us to the Ochs-Sulzberger family and this great institution, The New York Times.  There has been much speculation and understandable concern about what this could mean for us.  Will our family seek to sell The Times?  The answer to that is no.  The Times is not for sale, and the Trustees of the Ochs-Sulzberger Trust and the rest of the family are united in our commitment to work together with the Company’s Board, senior management and employees to lead The New York Times forward into our global and digital future. 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) met with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register Wednesday, praising the Senate's progress on legislation like a farm bill and the the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while acknowledging that the chamber is experiencing a "rough period" of partisanship that undermines other issues.

Harkin recounted one stinging example to the newspaper's editorial board, dating back to a July 15 closed-door meeting about filibuster rules, in which one unnamed senator said his constituents simply couldn't relate to the president. 

“I’m not naming any names, but one senator got up from a southern state and said, ‘Well, you’ve got to understand that to my people down here, Obama seems like he’s exotic,’” Harkin told the newspaper. “That he’s just exotic, he doesn’t share our values.”

Asked if he could name another American era as polarizing as today, Harkin said "Sure -- the Civil War."

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that passing immigration reform would produce a spike in home ownership, echoing one of the steps to revitalizing the housing market that he outlined in a speech in Arizona a day earlier.

"If we get immigration reform done, suddenly you've got all kinds of families coming out of the shadows, paying taxes, paying penalties, and they're also going to be really likely to buy homes," the president said at a Los Angeles roundtable with housing website Zillow.com. "They add value to a community."

Those families would be likely to buy homes in areas with high rates of foreclosure, Obama said, leading to increasing property values that could inject $1 trillion to the economy.

 

The intercept that led the State Department to announce it would close several embassies across the Middle East and Northern Africa last week was a conference call between al-Qaida leaders and their affiliates in the region, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday. 

One U.S. intelligence officer told the Daily Beast that the conference call was "like a meeting of the Legion of Doom," referring to a group of cartoon villains.  

Over 20 al-Qaida operatives were on the call discussing a pending attack with leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen, according to the Daily Beast's sources. 

"All you need to do is look at that list of places we shut down to get a sense of who was on the phone call," the intelligence officer said.

Kentucky senate challenger Matt Bevin (R) launched an attack ad Wednesday, calling Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) own attacks towards Bevin hypocritical in light of McConnell's support of taxpayer bailouts for Wall Street.

McConnell had released an ad at the end of July branding his challenger "Bailout Bevin," claiming that the candidate's Connecticut-based businesses failed to pay their taxes.

The 30-second TV spot will run statewide, according to Bevin's campaign. The amount of the ad buy was not disclosed. The ad's narrator says that after voting for bailouts over his 30 years in the Senate, "slinging mud is all Sen. McConnell has left."

Watch: 

In a rare political appearance after losing the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney made a strong statement Tuesday against a movement in the Republican Party that would allow a government shutdown as a means of defunding Obamacare.

"I badly want Obamacare to go away, and stripping it of funds has appeal," Romney said at a private GOP fundraiser in Wolfeboro, N.H., in remarks quoted by the Washington Post. "But we need to exercise great care about any talk of shutting down government. What would come next?”

Romney said a shutdown could have serious consequences, including soldiers going unpaid, seniors missing out on Medicare and Social Security checks, and FBI agents being forced off duty, according to the Post.

"I’m afraid that in the final analysis, Obamacare would get its funding, our party would suffer in the next elections, and the people of the nation would not be happy,” he added.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who were in Egypt attempting to ease tensions between the country's interim leaders and their opposition, said Tuesday that the situation in that country was worse than they had thought.

"These folks are just days or weeks away from all-out bloodshed," Graham told "CBS Evening News."

The senators said that the only solution to avoid further conflict is for all of the political factions involved to reconcile, and for the Egyptian military to release Muslim Brotherhood leaders from prison for negotiations.

"I think I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that it might [fail]," McCain said. "I think the events in the next two weeks will determine that."

"I would go one step farther. I think it's going to fail if something doesn't change," Graham added.

Watch the interview below, courtesy of CBS News: 

Two military veterans who said they had been victims of past sexual assault told CNN Wednesday that they experienced uncomfortable advances from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner at a veterans' event.

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Eldonna Fernandez told CNN she met Filner in August 2012 while speaking at an event for National Women's Veterans Association of America (NWVAA), an organization that supports victims of military sexual assault. Fernandez said Filner asked her out to dinner after learning that she was divorced, then immediately left a "creepy" voicemail for her saying "'I don't want to wait 'til you come back to have dinner with you.'"

Army veteran Gerri Tindley told CNN that she gave a speech on rape at that same NWVAA event, where Filner was also slated to speak. Tindley said Filner asked her about her rape during her time in the service and felt uncomfortable when he tried to move close to her.

"He got as close as he could to me. His jacket was touching my jacket," Tindley said. "I was bent down. He was bent down with me, rubbing like he cared, like he was consoling me."

After allegations of sexual harassment against Filner emerged in the public sphere in July, NWVAA President Tara Jones revoked an invitation for Filner to speak and receive an award at an event this August.

The anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) launched an attack ad on Monday against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his home state over his support of comprehensive immigration reform.

The group said it would spend $200,000 in Wisconsin markets on the 30-second spot that accuses the former vice presidential nominee of ignoring local unemployment while advocating for "amnesty."

The ad prominently features the unemployment numbers of major Wisconsin cities, claiming "Ryan wants to grant amnesty to illegal aliens and bring in millions more foreign workers to take our jobs."

"Congressman Ryan needs to explain to thousands of Wisconsin workers, who are struggling to find jobs to support their families, why he wants to increase immigration in order to avert a labor shortage that clearly does not exist," FAIR President Dan Stein stated in a press release. "Wisconsin has 210,000 unemployed workers. Does Congressman Ryan think they're not good enough to get the job done?"

While FAIR is widely cited by immigration hardliners, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the organization as a hate group. FAIR advocates for the reduction of both legal and illegal immigration to the United States, and the SPLC has noted that some of the group's past ads have been rejected over racist content.

[via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

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