Saturday, December 8, 2012

10 Things to Know About What Happened in Michigan On Thursday

Photo by @PeterKlein77 on Twitter

1.) The Michigan House and Senate yesterday passed so-called “right to work” bills. “Right to work” laws effectively defund the ability of workers to have a voice at their workplace. In 23 other states, these laws have lowered wages, weakened benefits, raised the poverty rate, and led to increased workplace injuries and deaths. The House passed one such bill and the Senate passed two.

2.) Republican leaders in Michigan were not honest about their intent. The morning began with Governor Rick Snyder reversing his earlier position on the “right to work.” He had previously said that the bill was “not on his agenda,” and that it was a divisive issue – but then yesterday, he suddenly urged the House and Senate to pass the bill and said he would sign it when it reached his desk. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville previously opposed “right to work,” but expressed support for it on Thursday morning.

3.)  There were no committee hearings concerning the bills. With an issue this controversial, this is a highly unusual move. Republicans avoided the need for committee hearings by changing the intent of a previously passed bill.

4.) There was no floor debate concerning the bill. Another highly unusual move, considering the high profile “right to work” bill. But Republicans took advantage of their majority by ending debate on the bill before it started.

5.) 3,000 Michiganders showed up to express their opposition. Even though they only got word in the morning, there were 3,000 Michiganders at the Capitol in Lansing by 4:00pm when debate in the House was supposed to start.

6.) The public was not allowed inside the Capitol Building to observe the proceedings. Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger locked down the Capitol, locking approximately 3,000 Michiganders outside. It took a court order requested by Democrats to get the building opened again, but even then the Republican-controlled House did not pause their proceedings.

7.) Police arrested and in some cases used pepper spray on several individuals outside the building. These were Michiganders seeking to exercise their constitutional rights to assemble.

8.) The “right to work” bill is rigged so that it can’t be repealed. Republicans inserted a $1 million appropriation on the bill, which under Michigan law precludes it from being overturned by a citizen referendum. As blogger Chris Savage wrote, “not only was there no opportunity for public input before the bills were voted on, there will be none afterwards, as well.”

9.) Michigan Republicans are not unified around “right to work.” Six Republicans joined Democrats to oppose the bill in the House. It passed 58-52. In the Senate, four Republicans joined all 12 Democrats to oppose “right to work.” Furthermore, polling shows that a large majority of Michigan Republicans support collective bargaining.

10.) Time is short. Democrats put a “procedural speed bump” on moving the Senate bills to the House by one day, and there is a five-day mandatory waiting period before the House can take action.

Does all this undemocratic behavior make you mad? Us too. So here are 4 things you can do about this right now:
1.) Please join over
7,5008,500 advocates for working families by signing and sharing our petition to Gov. Snyder and the Michigan legislature.
2.) If you are in Michigan, you can call your State Senator now using our “click-to-call” system. Even if you don’t know who your Senator is, you can enter your address and get connected to the right person
3.) Join the #SaveMI Thunderclap by connecting your Facebook and Twitter accounts to spread the message about what’s happening in Michigan.
4.) Share, post, tweet, and email your friends and family about what’s going on. Follow @WorkingAmerica and @MIAFLCIO for updates, read Chris Savage’s excellent blog, and tweet with the hashtag #SaveMI.

Slam a spaceship into asteroid, save the Earth — it's that easy

This isn't stuff of movies — a physicist has proposed trying to deflect space rock in 2022       

This color image of Eros was acquired by NEAR's multispectral imager on Feb. 12, 2000, at a range of 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers). It is part of the final approach imaging sequence prior to orbit insertion and is intended to map the color properties of Eros across all of the illuminated surface.
By Tia Ghose

updated 12/7/2012 5:17:25 PM ET

It sounds like the plot of a bad Bruce Willis movie, but some experts are saying it should be a reality.

In order to prepare for massive asteroids that could aim for Earth in the future, researchers should ram a spaceship into a real asteroid to see if the space rock would shift course, scientists say.

The proposal, which was presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, would send two spaceships to deflect a small asteroid in a binary (double asteroid) system coming toward Earth in 2022. One spaceship would crash into the asteroid, hopefully deflecting it, while another would observe the collision.

"This is the biggest problem for planetary defense," said Andrew Cheng, a physicist at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins, who is proposing the space mission. "There is a risk if we saw an asteroid coming towards us, we wouldn't know if we could do anything about it." 

Meteor impacts are rare, but they have devastated Earth several times in the planet's history. For instance, many scientists think a giant meteorite impact caused the massive extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

But while powerful space probes and telescopes can now see asteroids barreling toward Earth from far away, there's no real plan for stopping a giant one from wiping out humanity. While some have suggested bombarding asteroids with giant paintballs, or nuking an asteroid, Armageddon-style, very few of these schemes have been tested. NASA recently announced funding for a potential manned mission to an asteroid, slated for 2025.

In 2005, the European Space Agency floated a half-baked "Don Quijote" plan to aim a spacecraft into an asteroid to deflect it. But the plan targeted a very large asteroid that was pretty far away, making it both expensive and unlikely that scientists on the ground could actually measure the asteroid's deflection.
Instead, Cheng and his colleagues are betting that aiming at a small and close asteroid may be more feasible. Their goal is to crash into the smaller rock in a binary asteroid system called Didymos that is projected to travel past Earth in 2022. 

"We are targeting the smaller member of the binary," Cheng told LiveScience. "That will change the orbit of the system and that can be measured."

Because the asteroid is relatively modest-sized, about 500 feet (150 meters) wide, the spacecraft would be able to move it noticeably from its regular orbit, allowing the scientists to measure how much the spacecraft shifted the space rocks from their course. Since it will be just 6.5 million miles (10.5 million kilometers) from Earth, scientists can measure the deflection from the ground using telescopes, he added.

How it would work 

Cheng's team is proposing that NASA use a 600-pound (300 kg) spaceship to ram into Didymos, while another spacecraft funded by the European Space Agency, called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) would monitor the collision. Cheng's team has already applied to NASA for money to develop the idea, while a concept study for the ESA project is already funded, he said.

Testing the asteroid deflection on a binary system is smart, said Franck Marchis, an astronomer at the SETI Institute, who is not involved in the proposal.

"It's a perfect idea because the perturbations are more easily measured," Marchis told

Even if successful, the deflection may not tell scientists whether a spacecraft could deflect a larger or different type of asteroid.

But this is just a first step, Cheng said.

"You've got to start somewhere."

Pearl Harbor (Never forget) 
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese forces would initiate the eventual downfall of their own empire by conducting a surprise attack on the U.S.

World War II in Color: Pearl Harbor Attacked!
On December 7th, 1941 Japanese aircraft swooped down over Hawaii to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor prompting the U.S. to enter World War II. See it in color.

Pearl Harbor News: Live from Pearl Harbor
Watch this original video made from Pearl Harbor newsreels and radio broadcasts.

World War II in Color: Battle of the Coral Sea
May 4th-8th, 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy plans to engage the U.S. Navy aircraft carries, but this time the U.S. and its allied forces are ready creating of the first naval battles in history.

World War II in Color: Japanese Navy's Gamble Fails
On June 3, 1942 Japan takes a gamble while attempting to attack U.S. Naval carriers, but a surprise awaits them.

Egypt arrests suspect in US ambassador's killing

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Egyptian authorities have reportedly arrested a man suspected of being part of the deadly terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
By Ayman Mohyeldin and Charlene Gubash, NBC News

A suspect accused of involvement in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya has been arrested in Egypt, two intelligence sources in Cairo told NBC News Saturday.

Mohammed Abu Jamal Ahmed, allegedly a member of a militant group, was detained in Cairo where he lives, the sources said.

In addition to the allegations that he was involved in the attack in Benghazi, he is also accused of transporting weapons from Libya to Egypt, the sources added.

Ahmed, in his late 30s, was in prison prior to the uprising that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak, but managed to escape in one of several prison breaks in the aftermath of the revolution, one of the sources said.
Ahmed has been known to Egyptian intelligence officials for several years and had "active relations" with radical militant groups involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, the source said.

The attack on the Libyan consulate, as it happened

Intelligence officials believe he was involved in trading arms in Egypt, many of which came from Libya.

Ahmed was being interrogated for a possible connection with the Benghazi attack because of his arms-trading connections with extremist groups both in Libya and Egypt, the source added.

Libya arrests four suspected in deadly US Consulate attack in Benghazi

The second source said Ahmed had fought in Libya during the uprising against ousted President Moammar Gadhafi.

But it’s not yet clear what exact role, if any, he may have played in the Benghazi attack.

Timeline: Political fallout from the attack on diplomats in Libya

He has not been charged in Egypt’s State Security Court, the judicial body that handles security cases.

There were conflicting reports as to when Ahmed was arrested with one source saying Friday and another saying he was detained a "few weeks ago.”

US Supreme Court to take up same-sex marriage issue

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Just a day after Washington became the latest state to allow gay couples to marry, the U.S. Supreme Court will take a serious look at same-sex marriage for the first time ever. NBC's Pete Williams reports. (The playlist here shows all videos pertaining to equality of marriage and the high court)

By Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to take its first serious look at the issue of gay marriage, granting review of California's ban on same-sex marriage and of a federal law that defines marriage as only the legal union of a man and a woman.

At the very least, the court will look at this question: When states choose to permit the marriages of same-sex couples, can the federal government refuse to recognize their validity? But by also taking up the California case, the court could get to the more fundamental question of whether the states must permit marriages by gay people in the first place.

The California case involves a challenge to Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment approved by 52 percent of voters in 2008. It banned same-sex marriages in the state and went into effect after 18,000 couples were legally married earlier that year.
A federal judge declared the ban unconstitutional, and a federal appeals court upheld that ruling, though on narrower grounds that apply only to California. Now that the Supreme Court is wading into the battle, the justices could decide the more basic issue of whether any state can ban same-sex marriage under the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law. Or they could limit their ruling to apply only to the ban in California.

Recommended: O'Malley touts same-sex marriage - with signing photo and 'contribute' button

Nine states and the District of Columbia have moved to permit same-sex marriage or soon will — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington. 

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file
Same-sex marriage proponent Kat McGuckin of Oaklyn, New Jersey, holds a gay marriage pride flag while standing in front of the Supreme Court Nov. 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. 

The Supreme Court also agreed Friday to hear a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress in 1996 and signed by President Clinton. A provision of the law specifies that, for federal purposes, "the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

Congress acted out of concern that a 1993 state court decision in Hawaii, which held that the state could not deny marriage licenses to same sex couples, might force other states to recognize gay marriage. As it turned out, Hawaii did not adopt same-sex marriage.

Because of DOMA, gay couples who wed in the nine states where same-sex marriage is permitted are considered legally married only under state law. The federal government is barred from recognizing their marriages. As a result, they are denied over 1,000 federal benefits that are available to traditional couples.

After first supporting DOMA in court, the Obama administration concluded last year that it violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

"We cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples," President Obama said in explaining the change.

Recommended: In lame duck session, positioning begins for immigration debate in 2013

Gay married couples in five states filed lawsuits challenging DOMA as an unconstitutional denial of their right to equal protection. After the Obama Justice Department declined to defend the law, House Republicans stepped in to carry on the legal fight.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
NBC's Pete Williams reports on the Supreme Court's decision to take up two cases dealing with DOMA and California's Prop 8.

Defenders of DOMA argue that the law helps preserve traditional marriage.

"Unions of two men or two women are not the same thing as a marriage between a man and a woman. And only marriage between a man and a woman can connect children to their mother and father and their parents to the children," says Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage.

A Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act would not, by itself, require states to allow same-sex marriages. But the federal government would be required to recognize those marriages in the states where they are legal.

The cases will be argued before the justices in March, with a decision expected by late June.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rice under fire from left as Kerry's name won't go away
By Domenico Montanaro, 

NBC News Deputy Political Editor

It’s not just Benghazi anymore.

Image: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Nov. 29.
One of the most controversial energy projects in the nation also has become a flash point in the drama surrounding who may become the next secretary of state – and it’s coming from the left instead of the right.

Back on Nov. 28, “OnEarth,” published by the Natural Resources Defense Council, dug into U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s financial disclosures and found that she and her husband have a stake in TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built.

NRDC officials say it's an important issue that must be discussed during the nomination process. But the timing of the report raises questions, as it is being surfaced by an environmental activist community that has previously given support to another potential secretary of state candidate – Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
NBC News' Mark Murray explains why the partisan divide over the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is intensifying. 

The decision on whether to approve the pipeline goes through the State Department.

“If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project,” Scott Dodd at “OnEarth” wrote. “Rice's financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker.”

Dodd noted that “Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.”

Bill McKibben, an anti-pipeline activist, told the publication: “It’s really amazing that they’re considering someone for Secretary of State who has millions invested in these companies. The State Department has been rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline builders, and it’s really distressing to have any sense that that might continue to go on.”

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the NRDC's director of international programs, sounded a less strident tone a day later: "What's most important is that she rid herself of her holdings in TransCanada and other tar sands-related companies, and we're confident she will do that ... What's most important is that we have a good, thorough review done.”

Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney for the NRDC and director of the Canada Project, told First Read: “We think Ambassador Rice has the credentials to be secretary of state, but if she were nominated, and then appointed, these holdings would have to be addressed.”

She added that “high-level officials dealing with Keystone should not have any conflicts of interest.”

The likelihood is that, if nominated, Rice will have to divest herself of her TransCanada investment to avoid a conflict of interest.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Will new Obama appointments come this week? Is there a way to get both John Kerry and Susan Rice into the Obama cabinet? NBC News' Chuck Todd and Time's Joe Klein join the discussion.

The environmental group’s effort to shed light on Rice’s financial interest in TransCanada could be just an attempt, if Rice is nominated, to get a “thorough review” and make sure it has a staunch ally in trying to thwart the project, as Casey-Lefkowitz said.

But could it also be a signal that the NRDC prefers another candidate for the job – Sen. John Kerry, the other of the final two candidates reportedly being considered for the post?

After all, environmental groups have strongly supported Kerry in the past and have a long working relationship with him. Like they would for most Democrats in a presidential election, for example, the NRDC and the League of Conservation Voters, among others, ran ads in the 2004 election boosting Kerry.
LCV even endorsed Kerry before the New Hampshire Democratic primary that year, although it has notably not spoken out about Rice.

Droitsch, however, would not address whom the NRDC prefers for the job.

“We’re trying to signal that the pipeline decision has to be conflict-free,” Droitsch said. “That would pertain to any potential nominee. The president has the prerogative to nominate the person he believes is best for the position.”

The Senate will then raise questions, however, she said. And “now is important to raise the issue ... We want to make sure that anyone who’s being considered would be free of those conflicts. That’s our primary interest right now.”

The NRDC, which has been very involved in efforts to block Keystone, is the environmental interest group most pressing the issue of Rice’s financials.

But others might not be as keen to see Kerry leave Capitol Hill. After all, consider that green groups already spent a lot of money trying to oust Republican Scott Brown from the Senate – and were successful.

But if Kerry becomes secretary of state (or even defense secretary), his seat would become vacant, raising the potential for a costly and competitive special election.

“Who cares if the U.N. ambassador has a TransCanada stock. Who cares if the head of the FDA has TransCanada stock,” said a Democratic strategist and ally of the administration who is a veteran of confirmation battles.

“If she [Rice] were to be nominated, she would go through a process by which we look for financials conflicts. Maybe this stock would be identified as something that posed a conflict, and she would sell," the strategist said. "But she hasn't gone through that process, because she's not a nominee to anything. If they want to say that if she is the nominee, she should sell the stock, that's fine. But you can't legitimately hit her for having it now. And that is likely why NRDC backed off and no other environmental groups have piled-on.”

What really is going on here likely has less to do with Rice and whether she should ascend to secretary of state, and more with the NRDC leveraging pressure on the president and the administration to make sure the pipeline is rejected again once it comes up for approval. And that could be soon.

The next step in that approval phase, in fact, could come as early as next week, Droitsch said. TransCanada has applied for a shortened pipeline in hopes of having that approved – something the NRDC strongly opposes. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement could be released by the State Department as early as next week, Droitsch said.

“It is critically important for there to be independent decision-makers, free of conflict of interest, who can take an independent view,” she said.

She then tied the administration’s decision on the pipeline to climate change, an issue that has regained prominence as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In the days following Sandy’s landfall, in fact, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama for his leadership on climate change.

How Obama decides on the pipeline “signals where the U.S. is headed in terms of importing dirty fuels, inconsistent with an administration that is committed to fighting climate change,” Droitsch said.

“We’re confident President Obama understands the seriousness around the issues surrounding this pipeline. Approving it sends the wrong signal about our country’s commitment to climate change. Yes, he’s under a lot of pressure, but the public is very concerned about this. It’s not a decision I know he’ll view lightly.”