Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Daily Show: March 29, 2012

Hot Docket - Animating the Health Care Hearing

Since the Supreme Court doesn't allow cameras, The Daily Show imagines the day's proceedings with the help of a Taiwanese animation studio.

The Daily Show: March 29, 2012

Rachel Maddow

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow details what changes the government can make to help citizens feel connected to the men and women in uniform.

The Colbert Nation: April, 11. 2012

The Colbert Report
Wednesday April 11, 2012

Amped Up for Michelle Obama

Flooded with Secret Service, Stephen's studio gears up for First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Colbert Report
Wednesday April 11, 2012

Michelle Obama Pt. 1

Michelle Obama discusses her national initiative for helping military families, Joining Forces, and the importance of lowering veterans' unemployment rates.

The Colbert Report 
Wednesday April 11, 2012

Michelle Obama Pt. 2

First Lady Michelle Obama announces her endorsement of Barack Obama in the 2012 election, and pundit Sergeant Bryan Escobedo adds some gravitas.

Diplomats surprised as nuclear talks with Iran 'constructive and useful'

Leaders from around the world have gathered in Turkey with representatives from Iran, hoping to resolve an ongoing nuclear controversy that is threatening relations in the Middle East. NBC's Ali Arouzi reports.

Updated 3:42 p.m. ET: ISTANBUL -- Iran and world powers discussed Tehran's controversial nuclear program for the first time in over a year on Saturday and, in what Western diplomats called a constructive development given their low expectations, agreed to meet again.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief who has headed negotiations for the six international powers, told a news conference they had arranged to meet the Iranian delegation again in Baghdad on May 23.
The West accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Israel – believed to be the only Middle East state with an atomic arsenal – sees Iran's atomic plans as a threat to its existence and has threatened military action.
Amid Iran tensions, neighbor becomes den of spies
Iran has said its program is peaceful and has threatened to retaliate for any attack by closing a major oil shipping route.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action to destroy Iran's nuclear sites.
Saeed Jalili, the chief Iranian negotiator, told a news conference there had been differences of opinion but that some important points had been agreed and that the next talks should focus on arranging measures to build mutual confidence. Iran has been hit by new waves of Western economic sanctions this year.
Western participants had said previously that agreeing to meet for a second round of talks would constitute a successful day. It may remove some heat from a crisis in which warnings from Israel of a possible strike against Iranian facilities have stoked fears of a major war in an already unsettled Middle East.
One non-Iranian diplomat called the atmosphere "completely different" from that of previous meetings, as Western delegates watched out for signs that Iran was ready to engage after more than a year of threats in defense of its right to pursue nuclear energy and denials it wants to be able to build an atom bomb.
After a day in which diplomats had spoken of a more engaged tone from Iranian officials compared to the 15 months of angry rhetoric on either side that has filled the hiatus since the last meetings, Ashton called the talks useful and constructive.
"We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue, where we can take urgent, practical steps to build confidence," she said.
The six world powers present were the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, the United States, France, Britain and Germany.
The talks were never expected to yield any major breakthrough but diplomats believed a serious commitment from Iran would be enough to schedule another round of talks for next month and start discussing issues at the heart of the dispute.
During the day's meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is leading the Russian delegation, told Interfax news agency: "The atmosphere is constructive, the conversation is businesslike. As of the moment, things are going well."

MSNBC's Richard Lui speaks with former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg about North Korea's suspected plans for a new nuclear test, and the deployment of a second U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf ahead of nuclear talks with Iran.

An Oklahoman Apologizes for Oklahoma's Politicians

Author image
by Sarah Burris, Future Majority
April 13, 2012 - 11:19am

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


Al Madrigal reports on location from Oklahoma, where a proposed amendment to its "personhood" bill would effectively outlaw male masturbation.

Dear Americans,

On behalf of the great state of Oklahoma I want to take this opportunity to apologize. Wednesday evening, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewed our Senator Ralph Shorty, the architect of the Oklahoma Personhood bill intended to declare a fertilized egg a person. Shorty explained that he couldn't add Senator Constance Johnson's "Every Sperm is Sacred" Amendment to his bill controlling women's bodies, because her amendment was an effort to control men's bodies. Senator Shorty will control women's bodies, but control of men's bodies Is. Not. Allowed. I promise you not all of our elected officials are this hypocritical, and most Oklahomans absolutely are not.

While I'm at it, I also want to apologize for all those oil companies encouraging Sen. Inhofe to declare global climate change is fake. You see, Oklahoma is where the oil comes from. We horde it like dominated squirrels so when we suck the Middle East dry everyone at home becomes a billionaire. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I'm so, so sorry about Senator Sally Kern. I really don't know what her problem is. She just seems to hate it when people are happy. I would psychoanalyze her, but she's blocked me from asking these questions on Twitter. To be fair, though, she's originally from Arkansas, so maybe that's what it is.
I apologize to Arkansas for that last remark. You're not any better or worse.
Governor Mary Fallin really just can't help herself and I'm profoundly sorry for her. It isn't that she's a super religious, pro-family values person; I mean… obviously, it's just that she'll say anything to get elected, even if it's a lie or it's hurtful. It's just politics, you know?
And finally I want to apologize for the most conservative Democrat in the US Congress, Dan Boren who really only votes with Republicans a majority of the time. I don't know what to say. His district isn't that conservative, his father wasn't that conservative, he's just …. I don't know. I'm really, really sorry for Dan Boren, and want to apologize especially to Leader Pelosi. At least he voted for her for Speaker in 2006. At least I think he did.
Oklahoma isn't a bad place. We're the home of Will Rogers, Garth Brooks, and Kane (from Project Runway). Of the wild and crazy weather that spun off the cult classic Twister! We bring you juicy steaks and when there isn't a drought, we bring you the stuff to make bread. We're so beautifully culturally diverse - despite our resistance to diversity. And, while some might exhibit CGB-like ways, bless their hearts, they're not evil people; they sometimes just don't understand. Some just don't know any better.
So it's our responsibility as progressives, as women, as LGBT persons, as environmentalists, as "rest-of-the-week" people of faith, to explain that what Oklahoma conservatives are actually doing has lasting cultural, economic, and quite honestly emotional impacts on all of us. Plus, it makes the state look like crazy town, and if there's one thing Oklahomans can all agree on, we don't want to end up looking like Texas.
I do not apologize to Texas for that remark, because I'm an Oklahoman, damnit.
So, I'm sorry. On behalf of all thinking and non-thinking Oklahomans. On behalf of moderate Republicans who are disgusted by their party and Democrats who've just thrown up their hands. On behalf of women who just roll they're eyes and assume the courts will protect them. On behalf of the young gay teens who somehow make it through high school while just trying to live their lives. I apologize. I'm so, so, so very sorry. Please, forgive us.
Sarah Burris
On Behalf of Oklahoma

The War on Women: Back to the Future?

Author image
by Patti Miller
April 10, 2012 - 10:25pm

Republican strategists and political prognosticators are quick to assure us that Romney’s gender gap—which at 19 points is now more like a gender chasm—will evaporate as general election campaigning gears up and the attention of voters returns to bread-and-butter issues like the economy. Even Romney seems to think it’s just a blip—assuring reporters that women are talking about “the debt that we're leaving the next generation” and “the failure of this economy to put people back to work,” not access to reproductive health care.

The Republicans seem to think they can erase the past four months and their “war on women,” but if history is any guide, this is wishful thinking. In fact, the historical record suggests we may be witnessing a re-awakening of the reproductive rights movement, especially among groups where concern about access to contraception and abortion has languished: young women and independent women. There is an eerie parallel between the awakening that is currently happening and the beginning of the reproductive rights revolution that resulted in the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s.

It all comes back to a scene that was unimaginably galling to women: a group of men sitting solemnly before microphones at a committee table testifying about whether women should have access to reproductive health care that they could never need. This may sound like the already infamous Issa congressional hearing that was ostensibly about “religious freedom,” but it wasn’t. This hearing happened more than 40 years ago and helped to light a revolution.
The late 1960s were still the dark ages for reproductive health. The Supreme Court had only just given married couples the right to use contraception; states could still ban unmarried people from buying birth control. Abortion was illegal in every state except to save a woman’s life. There was a small reform movement underway, run mostly by men, to make abortion more available under limited conditions:  in cases of rape or incest, if a fetus was severely deformed, or if a woman’s health was at risk. However, even under these reforms doctors would still control access to abortion — a woman would have to get the permission of two doctors, who in those days were usually men, to have an abortion.

These reformers were interested in making abortion more “humane” because of the extraordinary high toll of the one million illegal abortions that were performed every year. In 1967 alone, 10,000 women were admitted to New York City municipal hospitals suffering from botched abortions. Some were left infertile from their run-ins with back alley butchers; others died. Nearly half of all maternal deaths in the city were caused by illegal abortions. Other big cities also had whole hospital wards full of women recovering from botched illegal abortions.

By 1969, a dozen states had passed bills making abortion more available in limited circumstances with a doctor’s permission. That year New York State began considering a reform bill. On February 13, the joint Public Health Committee held an hearing on the legislation in New York City. The panel consisted of 14 men and one woman—a Catholic nun, who represented her religion’s position that all abortions should be illegal. The panelists dutifully presented their positions—some against any liberalization of abortion law and some in favor of limited reforms. Women sat mutely in the audience watching men discuss their reproductive lives. But then, just as a white-haired former judge finished speaking, a woman named Kathy Amatniek stood up in audience and shouted: “All right, now let’s hear from some real experts — the women.”

The men on the panel “stared over their microphones in amazement,” according to the New York Times, apparently like Congressman Issa, astonished that women actually wanted to have a say about what happened to their bodies. Then Amatniek made a demand that was just gaining currently among feminists: “Repeal the abortion law, instead of wasting more time talking about these stupid reforms.” A handful of women were demanding the end of abortion laws that left doctors as gatekeepers to the procedure.

Amatniek’s outburst ensured that the otherwise staid hearing got media coverage. Women were so incensed over their exclusion from the hearing that the feminist group Redstockings organized an all-women abortion “speak-out” at the Washington Square Methodist Church. 

There women on the panel did something that no women had done before: they went public about their abortions. They told of the fear, pain, and humiliation they endured. Then a really extraordinary thing happened. Women in the audience stood up and, unprompted, began talking about their abortions. Irene Peslikis, who was at the hearing, told historian Ninia Baehr that it was like a “bomb” went off in the audience. “All of the sudden they realized that this was something that had been bothering them for the longest time,” she said.

The publicity from the speak-out galvanized women across the country. They held abortion speak-outs in their living rooms. They questioned why they disproportionately suffered the consequences of sexual activity, why they had to risk their lives or health to get an illegal abortion or beg a man for a legal abortion. The result of this consciousness-raising was a sea change in how women perceived the politics of abortion. They started to see access to abortion as a right, an expression of their full personhood, not a favor to be granted by men. 

Members of New York’s feminist movement found a Republican woman legislator, Connie Cook, who was on their side and she introduced a bill in the New York Assembly to completely remove abortion from the state’s criminal code, making it an entirely personal decision. It failed, but it moved the debate from just broadening the circumstances under which doctors could dole out abortions to making women the center of the abortion decision. A compromise measure was proposed that would allow women to make the decision about abortion up through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy but banned it thereafter except to save a woman’s life. This law passed and became the model for Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally three years later.

It was the anger of women excluded from the abortion hearing that created the impetus for the widespread decriminalization of abortion. Forty-three years later, a similar outrage has woken women up to the implication of men who want to make reproductive decisions for them. From the furor over Virginia’s vaginal ultrasound bill, which is reverberating in states like Idaho that just killed a similar measure, to the continuing fallout from the Komen Foundation’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, it’s a good bet that this issue isn’t going away any time soon.
. . . . . . . . . .

Romney's women jobs-loss claim paints incomplete picture


In an effort to bolster his sagging poll numbers with female voters, Mitt Romney and his campaign have made this new charge: that women have accounted for 92 percent of the job losses since President Obama took office.
Here’s what Romney said yesterday while campaigning in Delaware:
"There's been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know what percentage of job losses during the Obama years of have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men? Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who've lost those jobs."
The Romney campaign also held a conference call making this same point. "The number of unemployed women has increased by nearly a million under Barack Obama," surrogate Bay Buchanan said. "Ninety-two percent of the jobs lost since he took office are women."
But First Read contacted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get to the bottom of this 92 percent charge. The conclusion: The Romney campaign’s figures don’t tell the whole story.
The campaign, in a research document circulated yesterday and on its website, said the numbers come from the “Current Employment Statistics” database at BLS. The document notes that there was a net change of -740,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2009 to March 2012 -- and that women accounted for 683,000 of those jobs.
That is accurate, according to BLS. But Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: “The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong.”
Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.
In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.
“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the ‘net-change’? Yes we do,” Davidson said.
He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”
Independent fact-checkers like Politifact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker also took on the claim.
Giving the claim a “Mostly False,” Politifact called it “misleading”: “We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t.”
“One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring,” Politifact wrote. “We reached out to Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the BLS, for his take on the claim. He pointed out that women’s job losses are high for that period of time because millions of men had already lost their jobs. Women were next. … [I]f you count all those jobs lost beginning in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total. … There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”
The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, begins this way: “[W]e frown on the somewhat arbitrary dividing line of measuring jobs statistics by presidential terms. It is a common journalistic — and political — metric. But restarting the employment clock from the moment the president takes the oath of office doesn’t tell you much about a his performance, especially since it takes time for the new president’s policies to take effect.”
In fact, he writes, “[T]here is less to this stat than meets the eye. … If you start the data in February, then the overall job loss is just 16,000 jobs—while women lost 484,000 jobs. … How could women lose more jobs than the overall total? It’s a function of the dates one picks.”
And notably: “[T]he picture becomes clearer if you start running the data from the date the recession began — December 2007. With that starting point, the total decline in jobs was just over 5 million, with women accounting for nearly 1.8 million of those jobs. Now look what happens when we just look at the past year, March 2011 to March 2012. Men gained nearly 1.9 million jobs while women gained 635,000 jobs.”

*** CORRECTION *** An earlier version of this post noted that the Romney campaign used numbers from January 2009. The campaign has reached out to First Read and notes that it used January 2009 as a "baseline."
"We use January 2009 as the baseline, which means the first month of losses charged to Obama is the decline in February vs. January," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

*** UPDATE *** Saul also passes along a letter written by its policy director, Lanhee Chen, to dispute the Politifact story (and "Mostly False" rating) that attempted a fact check on a Tweet by Saul referencing the numbers. Chen accuses Politifact of a "failure to focus on the appropriate context."
"First, why should it matter that men had already lost millions of jobs?" Chen wrote. "Was it now women’s 'turn'? Is this part of the President’s conception of “fairness” that he talks about so frequently? If the data showed the opposite (i.e. that women had been disproportionately hurt prior to the President taking office), we imagine you would have used that as an indictment of Ms. Saul by arguing that the trend was inherent to the recession and predated the President."
Chen concluded, "In summary, your piece confirms Ms. Saul’s claim as accurate, and then relies on a direct contradiction with a prior Politifact piece and incorrect claims from two publicly acknowledged Obama supporters (including one Administration official!) as the basis for rating it “Mostly False.”  I hope you will agree that this rating was inappropriate and that the piece does not reflect the journalistic standards to which your organization intends to hold itself.  Please retract the piece and issue a correction as soon as possible."

Obama’s ‘War on Women’?

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has been hammering a statistic that “over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women,” evidence, he says, that President Obama’s policies amount to a “war on women.” Romney’s statistic is accurate, as far as it goes. But it’s not the whole story.
Looking back at the whole recession, men have lost many more jobs than women. But the biggest job losses for men came earlier in the recession, and recovery for men has come faster than it has for women.
With Romney under attack from the Obama campaign for policies it says are anti-woman (such as Romney’s opposition to abortion rights and support for federal de-funding of Planned Parenthood), Romney has tried to turn the tables, pointing to a statistic that shows the unemployment rate for women is recovering more slowly from the recession.
Here’s what Romney said in a Fox News interview on April 11 (at about the 5:45 mark):
Romney, April 11: He [Obama] has lost 800,000 jobs during his presidency. And by the way, do you know what percentage of those jobs lost were lost by women? Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women. His policies have been, really, a war on women.
Romney’s statistic is accurate. It’s true, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that between January 2009, when Obama took office, and March 2012, there has been a net decline of 740,000 jobs for both men and women, and that among women there has been a net loss of 683,000 jobs. The Romney campaign did the math and calculated that 92.3 percent of the jobs lost under Obama were lost by women.
But is that a result of Obama’s policies, as Romney says? A look at this chart — which we created based on official Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly figures for seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment (the standard measure for jobs) — tells another story.

What the graph shows clearly, and the numbers back up, is that men took a bigger hit than women, and the decline in jobs for men began much earlier. The downturn in male employment began in May 2007 — a full seven months before the official start (in December 2007) of what became the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Female employment continued to rise for 10 months after the downturn in male employment, and it peaked in March 2008.
By the time Obama took office in January 2009, both male and female employment were in a steep decline that continued for over a year. Male employment hit bottom in February 2010, and female employment continued to slump for another seven months, bottoming out in September 2010. And as the chart clearly shows, the job recovery for women not only started later, the rate of recovery has been slower.
Why is that? “If you look back to the start of the recession, many of the industries (construction and manufacturing) that were very hard hit initially were male-dominated,” said Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with
It wasn’t until later that jobs like retail and government jobs, particularly teaching jobs, began to take a hit, affecting women more, Dorfman said. Those jobs have been slower to recover.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor under George W. Bush, says Romney’s statistic isn’t properly focused. She notes that the unemployment rate for women has been about one full percentage point below the unemployment rate for men for much of the recession. It is only fairly recently that the gender gap has begun to close. The unemployment rate is now 8.3 percent for men, 8.1 percent for women.
“That’s why many people have called this a man-cession,” said Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Men have fared worse in the recession, she said, mainly because industries such as construction and manufacturing – male-dominated industries – have been harder hit than education and health care – female-dominated sectors.
Furchtgott-Roth said she couldn’t think of any Obama policies that have led to a slower recovery for women.
“Obama’s policies have been anti-growth,” she said. “But if anything, they have been anti-male jobs.”
For example, she said, his policies have hurt coal mining and oil drilling, which are typically male-dominated jobs, whereas the health care law will expand the health care industry, which should disproportionately help women.
“There’s an argument that some of the recent job losses have been from state and local governments,” said Dan Mitchell, an expert on fiscal policy issues at the libertarian Cato Institute. He said “women are disproportionately affected” now that federal stimulus funds no longer support state and local payrolls.
“At the same time, as the private sector slowly but surely gets back on its feet, men are benefiting since they suffered a disproportionate share of the jobs losses in recent years,” Mitchell said. “In other words, people are making too much out of short-term factors.”
Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist for the Department of Labor under Obama, said that while men have fared somewhat better than women in the private sector, most of the phenomenon cited by Romney can be tied to a loss of government jobs.
About 78 percent of the decline in people on payrolls has been a decline in government employment, said Stevenson, now an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. And, she said, women have absorbed 76 percent of the net decline in government jobs.
“The recovery has not been particularly good for women, but a primary reason is the unprecedented decline in government jobs, particularly the loss of workers in education,” Stevenson wrote to us in an email. “It’s also the case that men bore the brunt of the job losses in the depths of the recession and are now yielding more of the benefits of jobs being added back in manufacturing and other areas where they experienced massive job loss.”
In addition, she said, men are also starting to compete with women in traditionally female jobs, “a transition that is necessary for our economy, but may cause some short run changes in employment.”
We asked the Romney campaign which policies Romney was specifically referring to when he said Obama’s policies amounted to a “war on women.” We got this response from campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul:
Saul, April 12: While women were losing their jobs by the hundreds of thousands, President Obama chose to focus on an agenda of more taxes, more regulations, and more expensive energy that only made our economy weaker. When Obamacare discourages employers from hiring and raises taxes on innovative medical companies, women are hurt. When Dodd-Frank prevents banks from making loans to small businesses, women are hurt. When EPA regulations drive up electricity prices and the Department of Interior prevents oil drilling, women are hurt. Of course, all Americans want a strong, prosperous economy and opportunity for themselves and their families, and men have been hurt by the President’s agenda as well. The reality is, on the issues that matter to the American people, President Obama has been a total failure.
We’ll let readers judge the extent to which Obama’s tax policy, energy policy, financial services regulation and health care legislation have affected the economic recovery. In none of that, however, could we discern an explanation for why women would be affected more than men.
– Robert Farley

Romney spins 'war on women' to close GOP gender gap

Steven Senne / AP

Ann Romney and Mitt Romney address an audience during a victory rally in Schaumburg, Ill., on March 20.

The gender gap has returned to presidential politics with a vengeance as the general election begins to take shape and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney finds his campaign struggling with the pivotal bloc of women voters.
The Romney campaign is waging an aggressive counter-offensive in response to weeks of Democratic assertions that the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican Party are waging a “war on women.”
“They're working desperately to change the subject, and that's why they've created this whole 'war on women' campaign,” Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top-ranking Republican woman in the House, on a conference call organized by the Romney campaign. “There's no war on women by Republicans. What's really going on is a ‘war on reality’ by Democrats.”
Republicans are now working to re-frame issues of importance to women after eager messaging efforts by Democrats to advance the “war on women” narrative, which has contributed to a Republican disadvantage with female voters in 2012. It's a deficit aided by a hard-charging fight over access to contraception led by some Republicans earlier this year.
When Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus asserted in an interview last week that the media would just as quickly report a “war on caterpillars” if Democrats insisted it were the case, the Democratic National Committee pounced, and hyper-actively accused Priebus of trivializing women’s rights by drawing such a comparison.

That Democratic argument reached a fever pitch on Wednesday when a Romney surrogate, speaking on a conference call, hesitated to say whether Romney supported a law making it easier for women to file lawsuits challenging pay disparities.
A spokesperson for Romney said later in the day that the former governor wouldn't do anything to change current law, but Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman, nonetheless called the Romney campaign's momentary failure to provide an answer "utterly shocking."

Ann Romney, the wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, took to Twitter and the airwaves to defend her decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

Now with the primary campaign mostly behind him, Romney has begun working to address the issue on the trail. His rhetoric at a pair of campaign stops – at each of which there were plenty of women sharing the stage – on Wednesday marked a preliminary effort by the Romney campaign to push back against the Democratic storyline.
“The real war upon women has been waged by his economic policies,” Romney said Wednesday in Connecticut. “Let’s hammer day in and day out what has happened under his policies, and recognize those policies, those things he believes, do not work.”
But the Romney campaign’s struggles in their attempts to reach women voters were on equal display as the candidate and his campaign repeated a dubious statistic about women accounting for nine of 10 jobs lost during Obama’s time in office.
It wasn’t until a consultant outside of the Obama campaign suggested that the GOP candidate’s wife, Ann Romney, had “never worked a day in her life” that the Romney campaign was able to stanch Democratic momentum.
That gaffe, at least temporarily, gave Republicans an opening.
The Romney campaign quickly organized a conference call and Ann Romney hit the airwaves for an interview to combat the charges. (Senior Obama officials also quickly disavowed the comments by consultant Hilary Rosen).

But the back-and-forth bickering obscured a larger battle Romney must fight to make up ground with women. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week found Romney trailing Obama by 19 percent among registered women voters. (By contrast, Romney leads by eight percent among registered male voters.)
“It should definitely be a concern,” said Dan Judy, a Republican pollster for North Star Opinion Research. “I don't think they need to hit the panic button at this point, but that's something that you're going to see them work hard on.”

In the Daily Fix, NBC's Andrea Mitchell talks to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and the Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg about the widening gender gap in the general election and Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney.

Romney’s strategy to address his deficit among women has been virtually indistinguishable from his work to court other demographics – like Latinos – or, for that matter, the general electorate as a whole. That is, Romney argues that improving the overall economy is just as paramount to women as anybody else and that the president’s record has fallen far short on that score.
Republicans argue that the former Massachusetts governor’s struggles are partly attributable to collateral damage from a divisive Republican primary season and a persistent focus in Congress and on the state level about access to contraception.
A prime example came in Virginia, where Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell had to back off supporting a controversial proposal to require women to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure before terminating a pregnancy.  And Rick Santorum, who suspended his presidential campaign this week, spent weeks answering questions about his personal opposition to birth control.
Romney is likely to make up some of that ground just by virtue of campaigning in a general election environment. ("People haven't had a chance to listen to us or hear us," his wife said in an interview on FOX News.)

But the million-dollar question involves whether much of that collateral damage will linger with Romney, and how he might go about addressing his gender gap.
“They need to drive the conversation away from women’s bodies to the economy," said Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, adding Romney should "come up with some tangible examples of how they can help women on things like employment, health care, education and other issues.”
Schaeffer argued that Romney might package together squarely conservative proposals on entitlements, education and health care in a way that’s appealing to women. She also warned the campaign against being caught flat-footed on issues like the fair pay law a surrogate had declined to speak about on Wednesday.

RealClearPolitic's Erin McPike and The Atlantic's Molly Ball talk about Ann Romney's response to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments.

“They need to think carefully about how to respond to issues like Lilly Ledbetter,” she said.
Cheri Jacobus, the founder of Capitol Strategies, a Republican consulting firm, also encouraged the Romney campaign to employ more women surrogates.
“I think that it’s always helpful to have effective surrogates from all walks of life,” she said.
For their part, Democrats argue that Romney’s deficit with women is about far more than messaging.
“When it comes to connecting with women, it’s not just an optics problem – it’s a substance problem,” said Jess McIntosh, the deputy communications director for the Democratic women’s group, EMILY’s List. “Even if Romney could put a really great spin on his anti-woman regressive policies, they would still be anti-woman regressive policies. And despite what the GOP may think, women notice that.”

But for Romney, making inroads with women might also depend on the kind of women he targets.
The Republican pollster, Judy, suggested that young, unmarried women might be a taller order for Romney to win than, say, suburban, middle-aged mothers. These voters are the ones the Romney campaign is targeting when it rolls out Ann Romney, one of its most effective surrogates for the campaign due to her biography as a mother of five who’s suffered from breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Republican thinking suggests that if Romney steers clear of hot-button social issues like contraception and keeps his focus on the economy, he could be more competitive with Obama in winning the female vote.
“Women voters, especially the more independent-minded female voters in the swing states are critical to either party if they want to win,” Judy said. “Mitt Romney has an opportunity to get some of those women back."

Secret Service suspends 11 employees; night with 'presumed prostitutes' detailed

After a Colombian prostitute complained to police that members of the Secret Service hadn't paid her, a unit was replaced and flown home. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.
The U.S. Secret Service put 11 employees on administrative leave Saturday as a congressman briefed on the situation gave details of the personnels' night with "presumed prostitutes" ahead of President Barack Obama's trip to a Colombia summit.
Agency Assistant Director Paul Morrissey also apologized for the distraction the incident caused.
Morrissey said the employees were both special agents and Uniformed Division officers. None were assigned to directly protect Obama.
The agency did not disclose the nature of the allegations but others confirmed that the behavior in question involved prostitutes.
Morrissey said the Secret Service replaced the agents after allegations were made on Thursday, in line with the Secret Service's "zero tolerance" policy on personal misconduct.
"This is standard procedure and allows us the opportunity to conduct a full, thorough and fair investigation into the allegations," he said, adding: "These actions have had no impact on the Secret Service's ability to execute a comprehensive security plan for the president's visit to Cartagena."
Obama arrived in Cartagena for the conference on Friday and was scheduled to stay until Sunday.
Five military service members involved in the same incident were confined to quarters, officials said.
Secret Service agents, military personnel accused of hiring prostitutes in Colombia
U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, who was briefed Saturday on the investigation, told NBC in an interview, that the women who stayed overnight in Colombia with the 11 Secret Service personnel were "presumed to be prostitutes."
King said two of the Secret Service personnel were supervisors and the 11 involved comprised both agents and uniformed officers.
"Eleven Secret Service personnel, 11 of them brought women back with them to their hotel rooms on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning," King said.
"As the women came to the hotel they had put their IDs at the front desk and you have to be out of the room by 7 o'clock in the morning next day," King said briefers told him. "A guest of a guest has to leave the hotel by 7 o'clock; one of the women did not leave. Hotel management went up to the room and agents would not open the door so police came up."
King said the issue was money.
"It was resolved quickly, the woman said she wanted to get paid, the agent said he didn't have to pay her but he paid. There was no crime, no one was arrested."
But the police, according to King, filed an incident report with the U.S. Embassy. When the Secret Service agents at the embassy saw the report they immediately started an investigation with the special agent in charge in the Miami field office.
King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee said, "Obviously conduct like this cannot be allowed it compromised the agents themselves, it compromised America's national security and it can put the President at risk so this was wrong from the beginning to end."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker helps save neighbor from fire: 'I felt terror'

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Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker gave new meaning to the term "public servant" when he rescued a neighbor from a burning building. NBC's Mara Schiavocampo reports.

Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET Friday: Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker suffered second-degree burns and smoke inhalation as he helped rescue one of his next-door neighbors from a burning building Thursday.
“There was a time when I didn’t think we’d make it out of there,” Booker told media at a news conference Friday morning, describing the rescue as his "proverbial 'come to Jesus' moment."
“I didn’t feel bravery; I felt terror," he said, adding: "There was a moment I felt very religious."
Booker returned home to his home in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood of Newark Thursday evening to find the building next door was on fire, the The Star-Ledger newspaper said.
"We got everybody out of the house, but their daughter’s screaming, ‘I’m upstairs!’" he told the paper.
He went in, followed by his security detail, and heard cries for help from upstairs. When he got to the second floor, he was engulfed in flames and smoke.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker holds a press conference to answer questions about Thursday's fire rescue, where he helped save a neighbor from a burning building. Booker said he "did what most neighbors would do."

"I suddenly had the realization that I can't find this woman," Booker told The Star-Ledger newspaper. "I look behind me and see the flames and I think, 'I'm not going to get out of here.' Suddenly I was at peace with the fact that I was going to jump out the window."
Twitter on fire with #CoryBooker stories
Then he heard the woman's voice again from another bedroom.
"I just grabbed her and whipped her out of the bed," Booker said.
They got downstairs, but then collapsed, Booker said.
The paper reported a total of five people went the hospital: the mayor, three members of his security detail, and the woman from the house.
Rescued woman has back, neck burns
The woman was listed in stable condition in the hospital, the Star-Ledger said. She had burns to her back and neck.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker suffered second-degree burns and smoke inhalation after rushing into his neighbor's burning building and carrying her down from the engulfed second floor. WNBC-TV reports.

Fire Chief John Centanni told The Star-Ledger that the mayor may have saved the woman's life.
On Friday, Booker said he used to think he had problems. "Now everything seems so small in my life."
Booker was treated for burns on his hand and for breathing in smoke, the paper added.

"Thanks 2 all who are concerned. Just suffering smoke inhalation. We got the woman out of the house. We are both off to hospital. I will b ok," Booker said in a message on his Twitter account.
"Thanks everyone, my injuries were relatively minor. Thanks to Det. Alex Rodriguez who helped get all of the people out of the house," he added on Twitter.
Another Twitter user, Alethea Felton, said in a message responding to Booker's tweet, "@CoryBooker Wow...I can't wait until you're PRESIDENT oneday-YOU ROCK! God bless you for your devotion & humility to those you serve."

Baseball-sized hail, 40 tornadoes reported as dangerous storms slam Midwest

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The National Weather Service warns that fast-moving, life-threatening tornadoes will potentially touch down after dark. The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore, Mike Seidel and Eric Fisher report.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET: Baseball-sized hail shattered windows and tore the siding off homes in northeast Nebraska and at least three possible tornadoes hit central Oklahoma on Saturday in what forecasters warned could be a day of "life-threatening" storms in the nation's midsection. No serious injuries from Saturday were immediately reported.
A tornado was spotted in Langley, Kan., Saturday evening, as National Weather Service tornado warnings were in effect in parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The Weather Channel reported that 40 tornadoes were reported before 7:30 p.m. EDT.
“What is now under way is potentially a very serious situation,” Bill Bunting, chief of operations for the Storm Prediction Center said. Officials warned that other areas at risk were parts of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Texas were at risk.
The last time the National Weather Service issued such a high-risk warning was last April, Bunting said.
Comments from the targeted region started to stream onto’s Facebook page Saturday evening. Their comments and their Facebook IDs:
"Oklahoma is get'n shaken up jus a bit. If they weren't ALL Around. I woulda left state! But gonna pray & ride it out here in Okie.” -- Kimberly Dawn.

“Partly cloudy and very windy in S.E. Kansas with potential for severe storms after 10 pm. You pray and keep your eyes on the weather reports.” -- Valori Richardson
“I'm east of Wichita, KS. Very muggy here. Very windy. Waiting for the storms to pop here. The local weather people are warning everyone to be prepared to take shelter even into the overnight hours. This is the real deal.” -- Diane Lowery.
Nebraska canceled its spring scrimmage football game as heavy rain, hail and lightning moved through the area an hour and a half before kickoff, The Associated Press reported. Records show the spring game has been played every year since at least 1950. In northeast Nebraska, baseball-sized hail rained down, Bunting said.

The Weather Channel's Dr. Greg Forbes takes a look at the night's forecast. 

He advised the nearly 5 million residents who live in the high-risk area to listen to their NOAA weather radio, a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast from the National Weather Service.
He expects fast-moving tornadoes to touch down after dark, a dangerous time as people may not be able to see the warning signs. The storm threat continues Sunday, he said, as storms move east through Texas, Arkansas and into the Great Lakes region and Wisconsin.
Local officials should notify residents via outdoor sirens, phone calls and social media, Bunting said.
Tornado sirens already sounded across Oklahoma City hours before dawn on Saturday. Department of Emergency Management official Michelann Ooten said one of the possible tornadoes was spotted near Piedmont, a small town near Oklahoma City where a twister killed several people last May.
Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Brown told The Associated Press that the storms Saturday morning were fairly weak but still damaged some homes.
A tornado that touched down Friday afternoon sent 10 people to the hospital with "bumps and bruises" and ripped through southwest Norman, ripping up telephone poles, shredding trees and ripping off rooftops, according to the Oklahoman. The AP reported that 100 people were staying at a Red Cross shelter that had been established.

The Weather Channel's Eric Fisher reports on the latest in Oklahoma City.

'Have an action plan'
Tim Ballisty, meteorologist, said in a posting on the website at 6 a.m. ET that the greatest threat for tornadoes was in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, including the cities of Lincoln, Omaha, Wichita and Oklahoma City, citing severe weather expert Greg Forbes.
"Dr. Forbes is forecasting at least a small tornado outbreak in the outlined region with the potential of some strong ... tornadoes. Remember, 92 percent of all tornado deaths occur due to these stronger tornadoes!" Ballisty wrote.
"This is a life-threatening situation!" he wrote. "When a warning is issued, take shelter immediately!"
On Friday, Norman, Okla., home to the University of Oklahoma campus, got a preview of the potential destruction when a twister whizzed by the nation's tornado forecasting headquarters but caused little damage.

Tornado hits Norman, Okla.

The Storm Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service, gave the sobering warning that the outbreak could be a "high-end, life-threatening event." 

Historic warning

Director Russ Schneider said it was just the second time in U.S. history that the center issued a high-risk warning more than 24 hours in advance. The first was in April 2006, when nearly 100 tornadoes tore across the southeastern U.S., killing a dozen people and damaging more than 1,000 homes in Tennessee.
It's possible to issue earlier warnings because improvements in storm modeling and technology are letting forecasters predict storms earlier and with greater confidence, said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. In the past, people often have had only minutes of warning when a siren went off.
"We're quite sure (Saturday) will be a very busy and dangerous day in terms of large tornadoes in parts of the central and southern plains," Vaccaro said. "The ingredients are coming together."
The strongly worded message came after the National Weather Service announced last month that it would start using terms like "mass devastation," "unsurvivable" and "catastrophic" in warnings in an effort to get more people to take heed.
In Norman, video from television helicopters showed several buildings damaged in the city of about 100,000 about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. The Oklahoman newspaper reported that among the businesses damaged was a custom cake shop, which lost a roof, windows and thousands of dollars' worth of wedding and birthday cakes.

Egypt's election committee bars 10 candidates from president's race

Asmaa Waguih / Reuters

Former Egypt spy chief and presidential candidate Omar Suleiman, reflects Saturday on his disqualification.

CAIRO -- In the most shocking twist yet in Egypt's Decision 2012, the High Presidential Election Committee changed the political landscape in one fell swoop. The committee announced a decision Saturday night to ban 10 candidates, including some frontrunners who faced challenges to their eligibility.

Gone is the ultraconservative Salafist, Hazem Abu Ismail, who just Friday drew tens of thousands to Tahrir Square to protest the candidacy of another now banned candidate, Omar Suleiman. Suleiman was the former intelligence chief of the old regime. Many opposed him because they felt he would reverse the gainsof the revolution while thousands of others looked toward him to restore security.

Gone also is financier and enforcer of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al Shater. While al Shater had little charisma, he did have the well-oiled machine of the Muslim Brotherhood in his corner and could have proved an unstoppable force.

Two frontrunners remain: Former Foreign Minister and Dean of the Arab League, the secular Amr Moussa, rated as the leader of the pack in a recent poll; moderate Islamist reformer and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership Abdel Menim Abol Fotuh, who has gotten high marks from voters looking for a progressive religious candidate with vision. In an abundance of caution, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist group have both fielded second, less-problematic candidates who are less popular but still in the running.

Upon our arrival to Cairo airport Saturday night, nonplussed  passengers and airport workers had just heard the news. They huddled in small groups debating the ramifications. Most were confused but were inclined to now give their vote to Islamist reformer, Abol Fotuh.

"We need a man of religion,” baggage handler Ossama Fatouh said. “The old regime supported oppression, that's all. I will support Abol Fotuh. There is a slogan in the demonstrations, the people want the application of God's law."

Tarek Bahairy, project manager, lamented the banning of his personal favorite, Salafist Abu Ismail. "It’s bad news because we believed in this man.” His vote will also go to Abol Fotuh, he said.

"What is the law that allowed them to stop (Muslim Brotherhood candidate) al Shater," demanded baggage handler Kareem Mahmoud. "It’s understood if they want to eliminate people from the old regime. I think I will vote for Abol Fotuh."

"I am totally confused", agreed Mahmoud Ezz, mechanical engineer. "There are some legal issues for Suleiman but why did they eliminate al Shater? They must state their reasons."
He's waiting until the dust settles to make a decision.

People have come to realize that in Egypt's fast-paced election season, it’s not over till the fat lady sings. Would-be candidates have 48 hours to petition the decision to the election committee, whose binding decision will be made by April 26.

Italian player dies after cardiac arrest during game.

Livorno's Morosini collapsed in first half; all league games called off for weekend

Image: MorosiniAFP - Getty Images
Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini is carried on a stretcher after he suffered a heart attack Saturday.
PESCARA, Italy - Former Italy Under-21 midfielder Piermario Morosini died Saturday after suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing on the pitch during his team Livorno's Serie B match at Pescara. He was 25.
Edoardo De Blasio, a cardiologist at Pescara's Santo Spirito hospital, confirmed Morosini's death, saying "unfortunately he was already dead when he arrived at hospital. He didn't regain consciousness."
Morosini, who was on loan from Serie A side Udinese, fell to the ground in the 31st minute of the match and tried unsuccessfully to get up several times before receiving urgent medical attention on the pitch. A defibrillator was used on the player, who also had his heart massaged, before an ambulance arrived on the pitch to take him to hospital where doctors tried to revive him for around an hour and a half.
A consultant in the hemodynamics department at the hospital, who was watching the game and rushed to help before the ambulance arrived, said Morosini never regained consciousness.
"Morosini never had a single heartbeat again," Leonardo Paloscia said. "From when I arrived he never gave a sign of revival, not in his respiration nor his heartbeat. When I arrived everything (his heart, respiration) was stopped.
"No one can say what the cause was, I think nothing will come out until after the autopsy."
The autopsy will likely be held on Monday. All Italian matches this weekend were immediately called off after the death was announced.
"We are living through a drama," Pescara's general manager, Danilo Iannascoli, told Sky Italia.
It was the latest high-profile case of a football player collapsing from heart failure on the pitch, coming less than a month after Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered cardiac arrest during a game in England. Muamba survived, but remains in intensive care.
It also comes days after AC Milan and Italy striker Antonio Cassano was given the all clear by a 10-man committee of experts to resume playing again following minor heart surgery after he fell ill with stroke-like symptoms on a flight back from a game six months ago.
An inquiry into Morosini's death will be opened and will focus particularly on the car belonging to traffic police which blocked the ambulance's way into the stadium, creating a delay. A window had to be broken so the car could be moved, while players and officials were frantically gesturing for the ambulance to get there as quickly as possible.
"At the beginning we didn't really understand the seriousness of the situation," Pescara goalkeeper Luca Anania said. "I immediately ran to Livorno's half, where Morosini had fallen.
"There was great confusion and I seemed to understand that there was also a bit of delay in help arriving, because they said the ambulance couldn't get on the pitch because the entrance was blocked by another car. Some of my teammates helped carry the stretcher by hand to the ambulance."
The match was abandoned with Livorno leading 2-0, and several players left the field in tears. Livorno players and officials rushed to hospital, where they were told their teammate had passed away.
"Only tears. There are no words to express what I tried to when I found out about Piermario Morosini's death," FIFA President Sepp Blatter tweeted in Italian. "The tragedy which hit everyone who wished him well, is a source of great pain for football fans.
"Since I am not able to be physically close to his family, I want to emphasize how much my feelings are with them at this time."
Morosini was orphaned in his teens. His mother died when he was just 15 and was followed by his father two years later. His brother died shortly afterward too, leaving the young Morosini with just an older sister.
"They are things which mark you and change your life," Morosini said in 2005 following the death of his parents. "But at the same time they instill in your body so much anger and help you to always give everything to realize what was also my parents' dream."
Morosini came through the youth system at Atalanta before moving on to Udinese.
"He was golden, always trying to help his family," Atalanta youth team director Mino Favini said. "He was a fantastic lad who always rushed to help everyone. He lived for his family, yet he was such an unlucky man."
Morosini made six appearances for Udinese before he was loaned to Bologna in 2006 and then Vicenza for two seasons. Morosini made 18 appearances for the Italy Under-21 side and was a member of the 2009 European Under-21 Championship squad, which reached the semifinals.
He had two other loan spells at Reggina and Padova before returning to Vicenza and then moving to Livorno in January.
"Goodbye Piermario, you will always remain in our hearts and in the hearts of everyone who had the fortune to know you and to have you in their lives," a Vicenza statement said.
Last month, Muamba collapsed during an English FA Cup match against Tottenham after suffering cardiac arrest. Bolton has said he is making "strong and steady improvements" in his recovery.
Days after Muamba was hospitalized, Indian football player D. Venkatesh died after collapsing on the field during a local league game in the southern city of Bangalore.
There have been several deaths in top-level football over the past decade. Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed and died during Cameroon's Confederations Cup match against Colombia in 2003, while Sevilla's Antonio Puerta passed away in 2007, three days after collapsing with a heart attack during a league match against Getafe.
Motherwell midfielder Phil O'Donnell died in a similar incident and Espanyol's Dani Jarque also died of a heart attack in the team hotel on a pre-season trip to Italy.

Komen quietly resumes Planned Parenthood funding

updated 4/13/2012 5:08:52 PM ET
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has quietly resumed funding for Planned Parenthood, two months after the leading U.S. breast cancer charity set off an angry and debilitating debate about abortion rights by cutting off funds to the prominent women's health network.
The Dallas-based Komen foundation said on Friday that its local chapters have awarded grants to at least 17 Planned Parenthood affiliates for breast-cancer screenings and breast-health services for the fiscal year that began on April 1.
The grants are comparable in number and dollar value to what Planned Parenthood received last year, when $680,000 in Komen funds helped about 170,000 women, many of them living on low incomes in areas with few healthcare options.
The resumption of grant funding represented a milestone for efforts by the two well-known women's organizations to rebuild their relationship, at a time when Komen faces new financial challenges after angering donors by first cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and then reversing its decision.
Komen fundraisers have struggled to hit donation targets this year in several states including Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and New York.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a lightning rod for the anti-abortion movement. Activists on both sides of the issue say efforts to cut off public and private funding for the organization have intensified since the 2010 elections, which elevated hundreds of Republican social conservatives to state and federal offices across the United States.
Komen's original decision to eliminate most of its funding for Planned Parenthood came after months of pressure from anti-abortion activists, including Roman Catholic bishops.
The move, disclosed in January, unleashed a wave of angry protest from Komen supporters and others, which forced the charity to reverse its decision days later. The abrupt position change, in turn, disappointed anti-abortion activists who had declared the cut-off of Planned Parenthood funds a victory.
"Planned Parenthood affiliates are grateful for the grants that provide important funding for breast health care," Planned Parenthood's communications vice president Eric Ferrero said in a statement.