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Zoe Schlanger

Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Zoe

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will host a fundraiser in his home for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on July 22, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.

Manchin, backed by Bloomberg's group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was at the helm of the Senate’s failed attempt to expand background checks this year. 

The National Rifle Association recently released a 30-second ad blasting Manchin for co-authoring the background checks bill. Manchin, who is an NRA member, responded with his own ad buy, in which he defended his record on gun rights.

"West Virginia, you know me. I haven't changed. And you know I've always fought for our gun rights," Manchin said in the ad.

Tickets for the Bloomberg event start at $1,000, according to the invitation obtained by BuzzFeed.

A Texas lawmaker who represents a district on the border with Mexico announced his resignation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Tuesday. Rep. Filemon Vela (D) said his move was in protest of statements made by several members of the caucus supporting the Senate immigration bill, which contains provisions for drones, fences, and new border agents, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“Erecting more border fence drives a wedge between border communities which are culturally united,” Vela said on the House floor last week.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), an author of the Senate immigration bill, is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s brother James "Randy" Udall went missing last Wednesday in Wyoming, Politico reported.

The Colorado native is an experienced hiker, and was hiking alone in the Wind River Range. He was expected to emerge last Wednesday. Searches for the 61-year-old have so far been unsuccessful. 

“Mark is concerned about his brother’s whereabouts and he continues to closely monitor the situation. He and his family hope for the best,” the senator's office told Politico.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) is recovering from successful heart surgery Monday, his office announced in a statement.

Horsford's surgery addressed a hereditary condition. He is 40 years old.

"Representative Horsford’s doctors expect a full recovery and indicate, that after a few weeks of medically mandated recovery, he will be back to 100%," the statement read.

Bipartisan group seeks answers from intelligence chief James Clapper over scale of and justification for NSA surveillance. Read this story on the Guardian here.

A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a "secret body of law" to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.

The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it.

In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data revealed by the Guardian.

"We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law," they say.

"This and misleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly."

This is the strongest attack yet from Congress since the disclosures began, and comes after Clapper admitted he had given "the least untruthful answer possible" when pushed on these issues by Senators at a hearing before the latest revelations by the Guardian and the Washington Post.

In a press statement, the group of senators added: "The recent public disclosures of secret government surveillance programs have exposed how secret interpretations of the USA Patriot Act have allowed for the bulk collection of massive amounts of data on the communications of ordinary Americans with no connection to wrongdoing."

"Reliance on secret law to conduct domestic surveillance activities raises serious civil liberty concerns and all but removes the public from an informed national security and civil liberty debate," they added.

The letter was organised by Oregan Democrat Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, but includes four Republican senators: Mark Kirk, Mike Lee, Lisa Murkowski and Dean Heller.

They ask Clapper to publicly provide information about the duration and scope of the program and provide examples of its effectiveness in providing unique intelligence, if such examples exist.

The senators also expressed their concern that the program itself has a significant impact on the privacy of law-abiding Americans and that the Patriot Act could be used for the bulk collection of records beyond phone metadata.

"The Patriot Act's 'business records' authority can be used to give the government access to private financial, medical, consumer and firearm sales records, among others," said a press statement.

In addition to raising concerns about the law's scope, the senators noted that keeping the official interpretation of the law secret and the instances of misleading public statements from executive branch officials prevented the American people from having an informed public debate about national security and domestic surveillance.

The senators said they were seeking public answers to the following questions in order to give the American people the information they need to conduct an informed public debate:

• How long has the NSA used Patriot Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans' records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?

• Has the NSA used USA Patriot Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?

• Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans' cell-site location data in bulk?

• Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.

Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.

Please provide specific examples of instances in which useful intelligence was gained by reviewing phone records that could not have been obtained without the bulk collection authority, if such examples exist.

Please describe the employment status of all persons with conceivable access to this data, including IT professionals, and detail whether they are federal employees, civilian or military, or contractors.

The Senators signing the letter are: Ron Wyden (D-Or), Mark Udall (D-Co), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), Mark Kirk (R-Il), Dick Durbin (D-Il), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mt), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R- Nev),Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Al Franken (D-Minn), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chris Coons (D-Del), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Max Baucus (D-Mont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).



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The type of sneakers worn by Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) during her 13-hour filibuster on the state Senate floor Tuesday are being graced by one of the Internet's most amusing responses: the Amazon.com review-bomb

Satirical reviews of the shoe include voices from both sides of the abortion debate.

"The next time you have to spend 13 hours on your feet without food, water or bathroom breaks, this is the shoe for you. Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy on race day," reads one review that currently has 3,044 'likes' on Amazon.com. 

Another popular 'review' reads: "I tried on a pair at the local mall and suddenly Texas Republicans started telling me what to do with my genitals. They started explaining reproduction to me like I was a seventh grader. Unfortunately, being male, I had no way to shut the whole thing down. I'm so confused..."

Anti-abortion Amazon 'reviewer' M. Angeli wrote: "I only have one concern about these shoes. The soles are made of rubber and will undoubtedly melt in the fires of hell, which is where people who murder babies will go."

Davis wore a pair of pink and green Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 16s while she successfully killed an omnibus anti-abortion bill by talking until the special legislative session ended Wednesday morning. Pro-choice advocates filled the Senate gallery, erupting in screams as the filibuster drew to a close.

If passed, the omnibus bill would have imposed criteria that would eliminate all but five abortion facilities in Texas, and would ban all abortions in the state after 20 weeks, down from the 25-week limit already in place.

President Obama believes a report released by the IRS Monday afternoon is an "important step in ensuring accountability," according to a statement from the White House. 

Obama has been briefed on the report, which reveals that the IRS screened applications for tax-exempt status using the terms "Progressive," "Occupy" and "Israel" in addition to "tea party."

"The President appreciates the effort put into reviewing operations within the IRS, and most importantly, making sure that agency moves quickly to restore the public’s trust," the statement reads.

The President believes Principal Deputy Commissioner Werfel’s report is an important step in ensuring accountability for any staff that acted inappropriately, identifies the failures in their systems that allowed the misconduct to happen, and takes a forward-looking systemic view at the agency’s management.  The Administration is committed to making sure the IRS continues to reform itself with the goals of providing the highest quality service and reflecting the principles of fairness and neutrality.

One Texas GOP state representative is apparently confused about what "rape kits" are used for.

While the Texas House debated an anti-abortion omnibus bill for 15 hours Sunday night, Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) called for an exemption for victims of rape and incest, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) objected, saying "rape kits" make that exemption unneccessary:

"In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," [Laubenberg] said, comparing the procedure to an abortion. "The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development."

Her apparent confusion about "rape kits" — a phrase generally used to describe the equipment used by medical personnel during forensic examinations to gather physical evidence following allegations of rape or sexual assault — sparked widespread ridicule on social media sites. Laubenberg then simply rejected all proposed changes to her bill without speaking until the end of the debate.

Republicans in the Texas House passed the bill this morning, after hundreds flooded the state legislature to oppose the measure which would place new restrictions on how, when and where a woman could obtain an abortion in the state.

Rep. Thompson made her case for a rape and incest exemption while a wire hanger hung from her podium's microphone, a symbol of pro-choice protests like the one recently held in Wisconsin.

Texas Democrats have threatened to filibuster the bill to keep it from reaching Governor Rick Perry's desk before the end of the special legislative session which ends Tuesday. Abortion-rights advocates say the bill would eliminate all but five abortion facilities in the state.

Texas state Rep. Byron Cook (R) announced on Friday a second hearing for an omnibus anti-abortion bill two hours and sixteen minutes prior to the time when it was set to begin, in a room that holds only 30 people, the Associated Press reported. The bill, which already passed the state Senate, is likely to be approved in this meeting, according to the AP. 

Hundreds of women from accross Texas packed the state legislature in Austin on Thursday to give hours of testimony against the new restrictions on abortion. Their testimony lasted until 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, at which point Cook, the chair of the committee that would vote on the bill, decided not to hold the vote as planned.

[h/t Maddowblog]

 

The Texas House planned to consider an omnibus bill Thursday that would set new restrictions on where, when and how women would be able to obtain abortions. Time was running out on the special legislative session that ends Tuesday. But more than 300 women from across state showed up to the Texas legislature in Austin to testify against the bill, leading to hours of testimony through the night and into early Friday morning, effectively stalling the vote, the Associated Press reported.

House Bill 60 would ban all abortions in the state after 20 weeks, down from the 25-week limit already in place, with the exception of those “necessary to avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” or if the fetus would not survive outside the womb.

The bill would also require all abortion-providing doctors to have admitting priveleges at a local hospital, and be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, which abortion-rights advocates say would eliminate all but five abortion facilities in the state.

By early Friday morning, Rep. Byron Cook, the Republican chairman of a House committee considering the bill, told the crowd of women they would not be allowed to testify against it because the testimony "has been impassioned, but it has become repetitive," he said.

This sparked outrage among the women, the AP reported, causing Cook to agree to three more hours of testimony from 50 more women, after which he left the bills without a vote.

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