Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunset Home Video of the week is 'Antonia'

Determined to escape their poverty-stricken lives, four talented young women living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, form an all-female rap group but find their road to success is riddled with sexism, racism and violence. One by one, they succumb to their grim realities...until they discover that out of struggle comes strength, and out of strength, the courage to continue on. "Hyldon" Music Video; "Making Of Antonia" behind-the-scenes featurette, Behind The Scenes Featurette, Music Videos, Original Theatrical Trailer.


" authentic and impressive piece of filmmaking." --The L.A. Times

"...Loaded with Irrepressible Energy..." --The New York Times

"...Intimately crafted..." --Variety

"...Loaded with Irrepressible Energy..." --The New York Times

"...Intimately crafted..." --Variety

Sunset Daily News and Sports

Top U.S. and World News Headlines for Wednesday, September 30
Remy: Straight Outta Homeroom

Tech News Today 1356: Tesla's Bio Defense Mode
Tech News Today

Espn First Take, Wednesday 30th September 2015
Max - ESPN First Take
Donald Trump is NOT Happy With Forbes
Donald Trump is NOT Happy With Forbes
wochit Business

'Satellite moon' is the Sunset Music Video of The Week!

Demand Action at the Sustainable Action Network (SAN)

Progressive Breakfast: Warning: Another Attack On Our Postal Service


There are some conservative ideologues who just can’t stand that the USPS demonstrates government doing its job of helping make our lives better. As with Social Security, they attack it relentlessly and endlessly. The latest push to privatize the USPS came from the Elaine Kamarck at Brookings, in “Delaying the Inevitable: Political Stalemate and the U.S. Postal Service.” ... If the USPS is partially or completely privatized, employees will be moved into low-wage positions with little or no benefits, working longer hours. Their communities would suffer as they cut back from spending and paying taxes, homes are foreclosed, public assistance is needed and problems of poverty start to appear.

Warren Embraces Black Lives Matter

Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivers powerful speech supporting Black Lives Matter: “Fifty years later, we have made real progress toward creating the conditions of freedom. But we have not made enough progress … violence against African Americans has not disappeared … black voters are still deliberately cut out of the political process … Housing discrimination alive and well in 2015. Violence, voting, economic justice.”

Bipartisan Budget Talks

White House, Republicans aim for long-term budget deal. Politico: “…McConnell detailed the talks, which are focused on top-line budget numbers for fiscal 2016 and 2017 … A major budget deal could be elusive … Democrats and many Republicans are eager for a broader agreement that would lift federal spending for domestic [and] defense programs. But many conservatives want to keep strict spending caps … In exchange for increasing some key spending levels, McConnell will insist on offsetting those costs and will take a hard line against any tax hikes.”
House conservatives angry at inclusion of Boehner in talks. The Hill: “‘Why the president would look to John as being able to speak on behalf of the House is, I think, a legitimate question. The man just quit. I’m not sure how much weight he continues to carry in the body,’ said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.).”
Right-wing scrambles to elect one of their own for House Majority Leader. W. Post: “[There are] doubts among some members about whether the two declared candidates … — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) — possess the necessary backbone and messaging savvy.”

Clinton Opposes Health Plan Tax

Hillary Clinton comes out against Obamacare tax on high benefit plans. W. Post quotes: “I encourage Congress to repeal the so-called Cadillac Tax, which applies to some employer-based health plans, and to fully pay for the cost of repeal … My proposed reforms to our health care system would more than cover the cost of repealing the Cadillac tax.”
Hillary signals interest in bipartisanship. The Hill: “Team Clinton is hoping the message of reaching out to Republicans will resonate with voters frustrated by Washington’s inaction and dysfunction, even if it goes against the grain in a year in which anti-establishment candidates have had success in both parties. Even Republican lawmakers say it’s not just a Clinton talking point. They say she won’t emulate the Obama model of conducting business with Congress. For one thing, they say, she knows the players and isn’t afraid to reach out.”

Progressive Breakfast is a daily morning email highlighting news stories of interest to activists. Progressive Breakfast is a project of the Campaign for America's Future. more »

Morning Joe Recap: Good morning everyone! Happy Wednesday to you!

Joining today's show are Mike Barnicle, Nicolle Wallace, Steve Rattner, Jonathan Capehart, David Ignatius, Amy Holmes, Kelly O’Donnell, John Della Volpe, Rep. Diane Black, Pres. Khaled Khoja, Vali Nasr, Gov. Chris Christie, Jake Harriman, Ayman Mohyeldin, Amb. Chris Hill, Dominic Chu, Peter Diamandis and Mike O’Malley

Joe and Mika are out for one more day. They will return tomorrow. 

Planned Parenthood is under intense scrutiny on Tuesday as the head of the nonprofit is called to testify on Capitol Hill. Planned Parenthood is under intense scrutiny on Tuesday as the head of the nonprofit is called to testify on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are blasting the organization for allegedly selling fetal tissue for profit, which is prohibited by law.

The partisan attacks came at full force. "If they're going to accept tax payer dollars, they're going to have to withstand the scrutiny of Congress asking tough questions about how they spend that money," House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said.

House Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood for alleged illegal practices.

In the hot seat is Cecile Richards, head of the organization. "It's a shame to think that there are people in this country who are so committed to ending women's access to both birth control and safe and legal abortions that they'll really resort to any means," Richards said.

The controversy stems from a series of video recordings released by Center for Medical Progress that suggests Planned Parenthood employees were negotiating, selling fetal issue.

Now four different congressional committees are investigating the matter.

Richards fired back, saying her organization has nothing to hide. "The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue," she said. "Using fetal tissue in life-saving medical research is legal."

Richards explained they donate, not sell, fetal tissue. She says less than one percent of their 700 clinics participate in this program.

Democrats say this is not about the videos, rather Conservative philosophy aimed at opposing a woman's right to choose.

"The facts are on our side. We're proud of the healthcare we deliver," Richards said.

There is $500 million at stake for Planned Parenthood. The House is expected to vote on a bill later Tuesday that could stop federal funding for the organization, which was set to expire Wednesday.

A new poll finds the majority of Americans approve of government support for Planned Parenthood. Two-thirds of those surveyed in the USA Today Suffolk University poll say funding should continue.

Planned Parenthood is fighting back against the harsh criticism with a new campaign underway Tuesday called National Pink Out Day.

It's offering free testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

It points out it provides a variety of health services, including providing birth control and cancer screenings.

They serve more than two million clients.

Planned Parenthood Fights Back.
For weeks, Planned Parenthood has been embroiled in a high-profile political controversy that’s triggered congressional hearings and a potential government shutdown. Now, the national women’s health organization is fighting back with a grassroots day of action that relies on some creative means — including free testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in two dozen cities.

The organization has declared Tuesday to be “Pink Out Day” and says that million of Americans are set to rally at more than 200 volunteer-led events across the country. Supporters of Planned Parenthood’s reproductive health services are also being encouraged to participate by wearing pink clothing, turning their social media profiles pink, or using the #PinkOut hashtag.

On Tuesday afternoon, several members of Congress — including Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Nita Lowey (D-NY) — plan to deliver more than 2 million petition signatures urging their fellow lawmakers to refrain from defunding Planned Parenthood. Those petitions will be in bright pink boxes, according to a spokesperson from the organization.

And perhaps in an effort to emphasize the fact that Planned Parenthood provides other health services in addition to abortion, the organization is also offering free STI testing in 28 cities that have disproportionately high rates of infections as part of Pink Out Day.
pink out day 2
Planned Parenthood, which is one of the largest family planning providers in the country, is sometimes the only available provider of low-cost reproductive health care. One of the biggest chunks of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from providing basic health services — like birth control consultations, STI testing, and cancer screenings — to people enrolled in Medicaid.

The Pink Out campaign coincides with a congressional committee hearing focused on the recent allegations surrounding Planned Parenthood stemming from a video campaign that accuses the organization of profiting from the sale of aborted baby parts. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, is set to testify on Tuesday before the lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

According to Richards, her testimony will emphasize the fact that “one in five women in America has relied on Planned Parenthood for care in her lifetime,” which is the central message that advocates hope to convey with the national day of action as well.

“Denying people the ability to go to Planned Parenthood would harm millions of people. These baseless, political attacks are about one thing — interfering with women’s personal medical decisions,” Richards said in a press statement released this week.

There are several moving pieces in the ongoing Planned Parenthood controversy. In addition to the congressional committees investigating the group — despite no evidence that Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation programs break any state or federal laws — national lawmakers have also threatened to provoke a government shutdown by including a measure to defund Planned Parenthood in the funding bill necessary to keep the government operating.

Now that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will step down at the end of October after facing mounting pressure from right-wing members of his party dissatisfied with his approach to those negotiations, it’s become more likely that Congress will pass a bill to keep the government open that doesn’t seek to defund the national women’s health organization.

However, that doesn’t mean the group is out of the woods. Republicans appear to be pursuing new strategies that will allow them to both avert a shutdown and target Planned Parenthood. On Tuesday, both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee will consider measures to allow Congress to defund Planned Parenthood without being blocked by Senate Democrats, who have so far been able to filibuster bills seeking to strip funding from the organization.
The loss of the major city of Kunduz to the Taliban is a stunning reversal for the Afghan government, deepening worries about the ability of its security forces to take the fight to the Islamic militants.

Afghan officials vowed to quickly drive the Taliban back out again from the northern provincial capital where the insurgents freed hundreds of inmates from a prison and raised their white flag at points around town.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry reported some areas had already been reclaimed and promised "a big military operation" to come. The United States also appeared to join the fray, carrying out an airstrike in Kunduz province.

As the world watches, the embattled Afghan government can't afford to let the Taliban hang on to a key population center.

Here are the main reasons why the fall of Kunduz is a big deal:

It's the biggest Taliban victory since 2001
A U.S.-led coalition helped local Afghan forces drive the Taliban out of Kabul, the capital, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. But stamping out the Taliban across the rest of the country proved to be an elusive goal.

Taliban takes over Afghan city
The militants no longer held sway in the main cities but remained a deadly foe, clashing with foreign troops over Afghanistan's rugged terrain and launching frequent suicide attacks in population centers. After 13 years and the deaths of thousands of its service members, the international coalition ended its combat mission last year, leaving Afghan forces at the forefront of the fight.

The loss of Kunduz, even if the Afghan government manages to take it back soon, is an ominous sign. It's Afghanistan's fifth largest city and the capital of the province of the same name.

"This is the biggest town they've been able to take since 2001," said Nic Robertson, CNN's international diplomatic editor. "This is a significant target and prize for the Taliban."

It highlights the weakness of Afghanistan's NATO-trained forces
The U.S. government has tried to portray the handover of combat duties to Afghan troops as a step forward.

NATO setting goals for Afghan progress

NATO setting goals for Afghan progress 02:35
"Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we've trained their security forces, who've now taken the lead," President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address in January.

But analysts have expressed concern about issues like corruption, poor recruitment and problematic coordination among the different branches of the Afghan security forces: the army, police and local militias.

The Taliban's intent to try to take Kunduz was well flagged, and yet Afghan forces were unable to hold the city despite outnumbering the attackers. "Since about April this year, the Taliban increased their strength in the countryside to the north of Kunduz and have essentially had it in their sights since then," Robertson said.

It complicates the next move for the U.S.
The fall of Kunduz comes at an awkward time for U.S. officials as they debate what kind of military presence they want to have in Afghanistan in the coming years. Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is due to testify before a U.S. Senate committee about the situation in Afghanistan next week.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Campbell had sent five different proposals to the Pentagon and NATO officials on what to do with the roughly 10,000 U.S. troops currently in the country, most of whom are there to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The recommendations range from keeping U.S. troops at their current level or sticking to the current plan to cut them dramatically to a small force by the end of next year, the report said. In a fresh indication of the Afghans' continued reliance on American backup, the U.S. military said it carried out an airstrike in Kunduz province on Tuesday.

It shows the Taliban remain a force to be reckoned with
The militant group hasn't had the easiest year. ISIS has been reported to be eating into its recruitment efforts in Afghanistan, and internal divisions in the Taliban were laid bare after the admission that longtime leader Mullah Omar had died more than two years ago.

Leader of the Taliban is dead
But despite initial questions over whether the group would fall apart, new leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour appears to have overcome the bumpy start and can now point to big blow against the Afghan government in Kunduz.

The Taliban appear to have made the most of the first summer fighting season since NATO troops took a step back. But there are still doubts about the militant group's ability to hold onto large areas of territory.

"It can destabilize far more than it can control," said a report in May by the Brookings Institution.

It's a fresh blow for the Afghan government
The Kunduz defeat is an embarrassing setback for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who's had a troubled first year in office. He took power after a lengthy political standoff with his main rival that paralyzed government. Problems have continued since then, including the inability to find a nominee for the key role of defense minister whom lawmakers will approve.

"The country's deep and broad political divisions and wounds, exacerbated by the presidential election, have not begun to heal," the Brookings report said.

The Taliban resurgence and the increasingly apparent shortcomings of the Afghan security forces are likely to do further damage to Ghani's leadership credentials.

"The army by its retreat yesterday, and the police by their retreat as well, have really shown that there are question marks over the government's ability to impose its writ in Kunduz, at least in the short term," Robertson said. CNN's Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.

The President Speaks at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism

The Vice President Addresses the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism

Fighting Rages as Afghan Forces Try to Retake Kunduz.
Afghanistan's security forces patrol of Kunduz city, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 29, 2015.
Heavy fighting continued Wednesday in northern Afghanistan as the country's security forces tried to recapture the city of Kunduz from Taliban fighters who seized it earlier this week in a major victory for the militant group.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the clashes in Kunduz have killed or injured more than 100 civilians and forced 6,000 people to flee the city.

"The reports of extrajudicial executions, including of healthcare workers, abductions, denial of medical care and restrictions on movement out of the city are particularly disturbing," UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom said.

The Afghan army has been trying to send more troops from the south up into Kunduz, but Taliban roadblocks and landmines have blocked them from advancing in Baghlan province. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Wednesday there were intense clashes going on in northern Baghlan.
Afghan special forces arrive at the airport as they launch a counteroffensive to retake the city from Taliban insurgents, in Kunduz, Sept. 29, 2015.
U.S. warplanes carried out a pair of airstrikes on Tuesday in support of the Afghan troops.  A spokesman for the U.S.-led NATO alliance said the first strike was done to "eliminate a threat to coalition and Afghan forces."

A second strike overnight hit the area around the Kunduz City Airport, which was the site of heavy clashes late Tuesday after Taliban fighters staged a major attack on the complex.  Afghanistan's intelligence agency said the airstrike killed the Taliban's shadow governor for Kunduz province along with 15 other people.  There was no official confirmation.

President Ashraf Ghani told reporters Tuesday in Kabul that national forces have made quick advances and retook control of several buildings. He said that airstrikes have inflicted heavy casualties on the opposition, insisting Taliban insurgents are using residents in Kunduz as “human shields.”

Ghani called for calm and appealed to the nation to trust Afghan security forces, saying they are determined to retake Kunduz very soon and restore peace to the region.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid rejected as government propaganda that Taliban fighters have indulged in looting banks, shops, government and non-government offices.

Multi-pronged offensive
Taliban insurgents overran the Afghan city of Kunduz on Monday in a surprise multi-pronged offensive. This was the first time the insurgent group captured a major city since being ousted from power in 2001.

The Pentagon said the situation in Kunduz remained "fluid," but expressed confidence in Afghan security forces Tuesday. "We've seen them respond in recent weeks and months to the challenges they've faced. And they're doing the same thing in Kunduz right now," said spokesman Peter Cook. He called the Taliban advance Monday "clearly a setback" for Afghan security forces.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in a statement Tuesday said that its hospital in Kunduz has treated around 50 children.

It said that the majority of patients it has treated so far "had sustained gunshot wounds and surgeons have been treating severe abdominal, limb and head injuries."

Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai, while speaking in Kabul, confirmed the deaths of 17 security forces. He urged the Taliban to cease the bloodshed and try to resolve differences through peaceful means.
Taliban prisoners walk on a street after their comrades released them from the main jail in Kunduz, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015.
The battlefield setback came as President Ghani’s government completed its first year in power. The Afghan leader has already been under fire for failing to improve governance and security around the country, and counter widespread corruption in state institutions.

Angry lawmakers in Afghanistan's lower house of parliament called Wednesday for an investigation and accuse the government of failing to prevent the attack on Kunduz despite knowing the Taliban was nearby.

Afghan spy agency chief Rahmatullah Nabil apologized to the chamber and the nation for what has taken place in Kunduz.  He was summoned to appear along with Interior Minister Noorulhaq Olomi to explain the fall of the city.

Nabil told reporters Tuesday that there were 600 inmates in the detention center, including more than 100 "low-level" Taliban fighters.

The United Nations and international rights groups have called on all sides to safeguard civilians.

The United Nations and international rights groups have called on all sides to safeguard civilians.

The Taliban had come close to capturing Kunduz when it launched a spring offensive in April but Afghan security forces repelled the assault.  President Ghani and other top officials had promised at the time they would not allow the insurgents to come closer again. VOA's (Voice Of America) Chris Hannas contributed to this report.

Only woman on Georgia's death row is executed.
Protesters sing outside of Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, Ga., Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, before the scheduled execution of Kelly Renee...
The only woman on Georgia's death row was executed early Wednesday morning, making her the first woman put to death by the state in seven decades.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was pronounced dead by injection of pentobarbital at 12:21 a.m. at the state prison in Jackson. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband after she conspired with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death.

Kelly Gissendaner, 47, sobbed as she said she loved her children and apologized to Douglas Gissendaner's family, saying she hopes they can find some peace and happiness. She also addressed her lawyer, Susan Casey, who was among the witnesses.

"I just want to say God bless you all and I love you, Susan. You let my kids know I went out singing 'Amazing Grace,'" Gissendaner said.

Prison Warden Bruce Chatman left the execution chamber at 12:11 a.m. Records from previous executions indicate that the lethal drug is administered within about a minute of the warden leaving the room.

Gissendaner sang "Amazing Grace" and also appeared to sing another song before taking several deep breaths and then becoming still.

More than 100 people gathered in rainy conditions outside the prison to support Gissendaner. Among them was Rev. Della Bacote, who said she is a chaplain at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville and who spent several hours with Gissendaner on Tuesday afternoon, talking and praying.

"She was at peace with whatever was to come," Bacote said.

Gissendaner's three children visited with her Monday but weren't able to see her Tuesday because they were testifying before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, Bacote said. The parole board is the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence in Georgia.

"Kelly embraced that the children were going to talk to the Board of Pardons and Paroles," Bacote said, adding that Gissendaner was able to speak to her children by phone Tuesday.

Two of Gissendaner's three children had previously addressed the board and also put out a video earlier this month pleading for their mother's life and talking about their own difficult path to forgiveness. Her oldest son had not previously addressed the board.

Various courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court denied multiple last-ditch efforts to stop her execution Tuesday, and the parole board stood by its February decision to deny clemency. The board didn't give a reason for the denial, but said it had carefully considered her request for reconsideration.

Gissendaner was previously scheduled for execution Feb. 25, but that was delayed because of a threat of winter weather. Her execution was reset for March 2, but corrections officials postponed that execution "out of an abundance of caution" because the execution drug appeared "cloudy."

Pope Francis' diplomatic representative in the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, on Tuesday sent a letter to the parole board on behalf of the pontiff asking for a commutation of Gissendaner's sentence "to one that would better express both justice and mercy." He cited an address the pope made to a joint session of Congress last week in which he called for the abolition of the death penalty.

Gissendaner's lawyers submitted a statement from former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher to the parole board. Fletcher argued Gissendaner's death sentence was not proportionate to her role in the crime. Her lover, Gregory Owen, who did the killing, is serving a life prison sentence and will become eligible for parole in 2022. He also noted that Georgia hadn't executed a person who didn't actually carry out a killing since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Gissendaner's lawyers also said she was a seriously damaged woman who has undergone a spiritual transformation in prison and has been a model prisoner who has shown remorse and provided hope to other inmates in their personal struggles. They gave the parole board testimonials from several women who were locked up as teens and who said Gissendaner counseled them through moments when they felt scared, lost or on the verge of giving up hope.

Douglas Gissendaner's family said in a statement Monday that he is the victim and that Kelly Gissendaner received an appropriate sentence.

"As the murderer, she's been given more rights and opportunity over the last 18 years than she ever afforded to Doug who, again, is the victim here," the statement says. "She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life."

Kelly Gissendaner repeatedly pushed Owen in late 1996 to kill her husband rather than just divorcing him as Owen suggested, prosecutors have said. Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed Douglas Gissendaner at Gissendaner's home, forced him to drive to a remote area and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said.

Investigators looking into the killing zeroed in on Owen once they learned of his affair with Kelly Gissendaner. He initially denied involvement but eventually confessed and implicated Kelly Gissendaner.

US city sees most violent month of the year. September was the most violent month of the year yet for the city -- and its most violent September since 2002, according to the Chicago Tribune. On a single night alone, 14 people were shot in a 15 hour period.

Kim Davis' lawyer says she met with pope. The Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples met with Pope Francis last Thursday during his U.S. visit, a meeting kept secret from the media, her lawyer says.

Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk of court, and her husband, Joe Davis, met the pope at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, lawyer Mat Staver told USA TODAY in a telephone call. Davis made national news after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because, she said, it conflicted with her Christian beliefs. She spent five nights in jail and was allowed to return to work as long as she did not interfere with the issuance of licenses.

The Vatican has not confirmed that the meeting between Davis and Pope Francis took place.

The Vatican reached out to Davis through other parties who then put the Vatican in touch with Staver, the lawyer said.

Staver said he was there when a car picked up the Davises to take them to the embassy. The couple was at the embassy for two hours but the actual visit with the pope lasted 15 minutes, Staver said.

"He held out his hands and he asked Kim to pray," Staver said. "He thanked her for her courage. He said these words, 'Stay strong,' and they embraced and hugged."

The pope spoke in English during the meeting, Staver said.

The pontiff also gave Davis two rosaries that he personally blessed, according to Staver. "Kim's mother and father are both lifelong Catholics so Kim will present those rosaries to them," he said.

Afterward, Davis was "overwhelmed," Staver said.

"She was amazed that she was able to meet with Pope Francis," the lawyer said. "She never imagined in her life that she would meet with the pope and that itself was just an experience that she will never forget."

Davis described the pope as someone with a very "kind and gentle" demeanor, Staver said.

The meeting "sends a worldwide message that the pope stands on the side of religious freedom," Staver said.

On Monday, Staver's firm, Liberty Counsel, said that a slide shown at an event that it initially said was of a prayer rally in Peru in support of Davis was actually a photo of an unrelated event.

"It was provided to me by an upstanding member of the Peruvian Congress who provided the wrong picture," Staver said in an e-mail. "When I learned of the mistake, I immediately made that known."

Snowden joins Twitter, follows NSA. ‘Can you hear me now?’ Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has been living in asylum in Russia after blowing the lid on the U.S. spy agency’s controversial domestic surveillance program, has joined Twitter.

The 32-year-old fugitive published his first tweet from his verified Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

“I used to work for the government,” his Twitter bio reads. “Now I work for the public.”

Snowden — who has appeared in online interviews conducted using video links since fleeing the United States in 2013 — was encouraged to join Twitter during a recent interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“You kind of need a Twitter handle,” Tyson told Snowden during the interview, which was posted Friday. “So like @Snowden, maybe? Is this something you might do?”

“That sounds good; I think we’ve got to make it happen,” Snowden replied. “You and I will be Twitter buddies. Your followers will be the Internet, me and the NSA.”

On Tuesday, Snowden engaged in a Twitter interview with Tyson. According to Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, the exiled ex-spy is tweeting from the account himself.

Within an hour of joining Twitter, Snowden had already accumulated more than 100,000 Twitter followers. Snowden, though, is only following one Twitter account: @NSAGov.

The NSA doesn’t appear to be following Snowden yet — at not least on Twitter. The agency is, however, encouraging its followers to send NSA-branded “love notes.” Seriously.

Something tells me Snowden won’t be sharing one anytime soon.

Ralph Lauren Hires Old Navy Executive to Replace Him as CEO

Trump’s Tax Plan Is A Big Giveaway To The Wealthiest.
On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will unveil a detailed tax reform plan — and he is already positioning it as a populist proposal. In a press alert about the plan, the campaign states, “Essentially, the plan is a major tax reduction for almost all citizens and corporations, in particular, those in the middle and lower income classes.”

And already, the portion of the plan that affects low-income Americans, which would impose a zero percent tax rate on individuals who make less than $25,000 and married couples who make less than $50,000, is generating headlines. “Trump promises a ZERO per cent tax rate for millions: He plans to cut tax for the poor, middle classes and corporations, soak the rich,” the Daily Mail headline reads. “Mr. Trump’s plan appears designed to help him, as the GOP front-runner, cement his standing as a populist,” the Wall Street Journal article previewing the details states.

But the plan has a number of provisions that will overwhelmingly help the already well off.

Lower taxes for corporations
Trump proposes the lowest corporate tax rate of the entire Republican presidential field so far. He would reduce the rate to just 15 percent; by contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) would reduce it to 25 percent, while Jeb Bush would impose a top 20 percent corporate rate. That would be the on-paper tax rate; American companies already pay relatively low tax rates in reality, however. Thanks to their ability to take advantage of loopholes, tax breaks, and aggressive accounting schemes, the effective rate they pay is already under 20 percent. Meanwhile, although Trump says his tax reform plan will “create jobs and incentives of all kinds while simultaneously growing the economy,” lower corporate taxes don’t tend to go hand in hand with higher growth. There is no evidence that high rates hurt the economy; rather, those that pay the highest effective rates actually create more jobs than those that find ways to pay less.

And he would also impose a one-time, mandatory 10 percent tax on the profits American corporations hold overseas, which could be paid over a few years, to entice them to bring them back here and in theory create more jobs. A similar although slightly different plan, called a “repatriation holiday,” has been tried before, where corporations were offered a low, temporary tax rate on offshore profits to bring them home. When it was imposed in 2004, companies largely used the profits they brought back to give money to shareholders, rather than invest it in hiring or equipment, and many laid off large number of workers at the same time.

Lower taxes for the rich
It’s not just the poorest who would get a tax cut under Trump’s plan. The wealthy would get a hefty reduction too. The highest individual tax bracket, which would apply to married couples who make more than $300,000, would be lowered from the current 39.6 percent rate to 25 percent. That’s an even lower top tax rate than under Bush’s plan, which proposes a top 28 percent on income; yet analysis of Bush’s plan found that the top 1 percent of earners would get the overwhelming benefit of his tax cuts, with an 11.6 percent increase in after-tax income compared to 1.8 percent more for the poorest and between 2.3 and 3.1 percent for the middle class. As with lowering the top corporate tax rate, there’s little evidence that lower income taxes help spur job growth, as it’s historically been stronger under higher rates. Some economists have found that the optimal tax rate for the wealthiest is closer to 90 percent.

Giveaways to the wealthiest
Trump’s plan would also get rid of the estate tax, which only affects the wealthiest 0.14 percent of Americans. Thanks to reductions in the rate over the years and creative methods of getting around it, those who owe it only pay an effective 16.6 percent rate, and less than 10 percent of the $60 trillion that will get passed down to wealthy heirs and charities over the next half century will be paid in estate tax. Nevertheless, it is a significant and progressive source of government revenue, since it only impacts those most able to pay yet will generate $246 billion over the next decade.

And while Trump would follow through with his rhetoric calling out the lower tax rate hedge fund managers pay on the income they earn from doing their jobs by ending the carried interest loophole, he would also cut the top capital gains tax rate to 20 percent. The current code already means that income made from investments enjoys a much lower 23.8 percent rate than income made from work, which is taxed at a top 39.6 rate. And those who enjoy the benefits of a lower capital gains rate are mostly the rich: 70 percent of the money saved through a lower rate goes to the top 1 percent of earners, while just 7 percent goes to the bottom 80 percent. The lower capital gains tax rate is one of the biggest contributors to growing income inequality.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Jeb Bush's Tax Plan.
Jeb Bush is getting specific about how he plans to grow the economy as president.
Jeb Bush's tax plan tries to do a lot. The plan aims to lower the highest tax rate, offer some relief to low earners, reform corporate taxes, stick it to hedge-fund managers and also, by the way, "unleash 4 percent growth" in the economy, as the former Florida governor puts it.

In a Wednesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Bush outlined his plan. It contains a lot of Republican tax-reform standbys — fewer brackets, fewer loopholes, lower corporate rates — along with a couple of surprises, like closing a loophole that allows some Wall Street fund managers to pay lower taxes. And all of it comes packaged in Bush's campaign-trail promise that he can grow the economy by 4 percent.

Here's a look at the plan, as well as a dive into what it will cost and how it could affect the economy.

What's in the plan?
Before we dive into the plan's effects, here's a quick rundown of the big things Bush's tax plan would do.
  • Reduce number of individual income tax brackets from the current seven, ranging from 10 to 39.6 percent, to three — 10, 25, and 28 percent
  • Cut the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent, from 35 percent, and also change it to a territorial tax system
  • Cap the total value of tax deductions (like the mortgage interest or medical deduction, for example) at 2 percent of a filer's adjusted gross income
  • Nearly double the size of the standard deduction
  • Double the earned income tax credit for childless workers
  • Eliminate the carried-interest loophole, a provision that allows some fund managers to claim their income as capital gains, giving them a lower rate

How Tax Brackets Would Change Under Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush's tax proposal would reduce the number of tax brackets from the current seven to three. Here's how his plan compares to this year's tax rates.

10%$0 to $9,225$0 to $18,450
15%$9,226 to $37,450$18,451 to $74,900
25%$37,451 to $90,750$74,901 to $151,200
28%$90,751 to $189,300$151,201 to $230,450
33%$189,301 to $411,500$230,451 to $411,500
35%$411,501 to $413,200$411,501 to $464,850
39.6%$413,201 or more$464,851 or more
10%$0 to $43,750$0 to $87,500
25%$43,751 to $97,750$87,501 to $163,800
28%$97,751 or more$163,801 or more
Who would benefit?
Several of the provisions are clearly intended to entice lower- and middle-income Americans, who have taken center stage in an election focused on the plight of the middle class. The Bush campaign estimates that 15 million more families would pay zero income taxes. On top of the current roughly 66 million, that would bring the share of filers paying zero taxes from around 40 to nearly 50 percent, based on figures from the Tax Policy Center.

The plan would either lower or hold the marginal rates at every income level compared with where they are now, and substantially lower the top rate from 39.6 to 28 percent.

But then, the plan would also eliminate some deductions and cap the amount that people can deduct, which would offset some of those lower rates. For example, Bush would eliminate the state and local income tax deduction, which overwhelmingly benefits higher earners, and cap the amount of deductions a filer can take, which also would affect higher earners more.

So the question of whether a high-income household would see a higher or lower tax burden in part depends on the amount of deductions they take.

Interestingly, that could mean more pain for blue states. The highest-tax states in the nation include Democrat strongholds like New York, New Jersey and California. Meanwhile, several red states, like Wyoming, Texas, and South Dakota, have no state income tax. Eliminating the deduction would mean a higher bill for some big earners in those higher-tax states.

There's also plenty for businesses to like. The plan would cut the corporate rate from 35 to 20 percent and change the U.S. system from a worldwide to a territorial system — that is, it would start taxing businesses only on earnings they make in the U.S. Business groups like the Chamber of Commerce have long pushed for this kind of system, claiming it would make the U.S. more competitive.

But how expensive is it?
This is one of the most important questions about the plan. One early estimate indicates that the plan won't pay for itself. In a paper from the New York-based Center for Global Enterprise (flagged on Wednesday afternoon by the Post's Jim Tankersley), economists including Bush advisor Glenn Hubbard say the plan will cost $1.2 trillion over the next decade, even taking economic growth into account. That's a 3-percent reduction from current projections. Without growth, the plan would cost an estimated $3.4 trillion.

Therefore, the plan will have to come alongside "strong fiscal discipline," the authors write. However, this is just one estimate, and other organizations may have their own in the coming weeks.

It's true that the plan has a few routes for raising revenue: eliminating the carried interest loophole and limiting deductions, for example.

That said, the plan also cuts tax revenue in several ways — cutting the top marginal rate from 35 to 28 percent, for example, and cutting rates for a lot of people below that as well.

Not only that, but it would lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. And, perhaps most notably, it could create millions more earners who pay zero in income taxes. Bush writes that "roughly 15 million Americans will no longer bear any income-tax liability," though it's not entirely clear that that's 15 million in addition to the roughly 66 million who have zero or negative income taxes right now.

To the degree that the plan can inspire growth, it would considerably diminish the reduction in revenue it would create. But spending cuts may also be in order if Bush wanted to make sure he isn't growing the deficit.

But can his plan grow the economy?
This is the big question, given the potential effects on revenue. A few provisions in the plan do look good for economic growth. Bush plans to expand the earned income tax credit, for example, and there's good evidence that the EITC incentivizes work, boosting labor force participation.

Nudging more people into the workforce could be great at a time when the labor force participation rate (that is, the share of working-age adults working or looking for work) has stagnated. (However, economists differ on exactly how much the recent decline in the rate is due to an aging workforce entering retirement, as opposed to a persistently weak job market.)

In addition, Bush would allow businesses to "fully and immediately deduct new capital investments," an idea that Republican tax plans have pushed for years.

"Immediate expensing is a big deal," says Michael Strain, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. And the effects of it could go well beyond simple business investment. "The idea is that incentivizing investment will lead to more investment, which will make workers more productive, which in turn will increase their wages."

In other words, your bosses invest in better machinery, and you can get more done, meaning you're more valuable and worth a raise. Wages have been troublingly stagnant for years now.

But even if you believe a president can create sustained 4 percent growth (which is already a huge assumption), it's not at all clear that overhauling the income tax code itself can grow the economy much.

"The record on tax cuts and growth is just weak," says William Gale, an expert on tax policy at the Brookings Institution. He says economic growth has remained remarkably stable over the years, when you consider the massive changes in the tax code that have also happened. Some tax increases have been associated with faster growth, and some tax cuts have likewise come alongside slower growth.

"It's not that taxes have no effect, it's that other things affect the economy," he says. "We tend to focus on taxes because it's something we can control. But the evidence that we can flip the switch on tax policy and it creates growth is not there."

A 2012 Congressional Research Service paper, for example, found that the top tax rate doesn't seem to have much of an effect on economic growth. Likewise, in a fall 2014 paper, Gale and former George W. Bush economic adviser Andrew Samwick found that tax cuts themselves don't seem to create higher growth.

Rather, they concluded, growth comes from carefully calibrated fiscal policy — in particular, tax cuts can't be paid for with more government borrowing (which can lower long-term growth). Instead, they need to come alongside spending cuts — and even then, only "unproductive" spending should be cut. Cutting productive programs, like those that help people get educated or get basic needs like food, says Gale, could do more harm than good.

How does it compare to other tax plans?
Bush's tax plan is a very Republican tax plan, with a lot of the standard Republican ideas. Indeed, it looks a lot like Mitt Romney's 2012 tax plan, as Tankersley points out.

It has some similarities to his GOP opponents' plans as well — it reduces the number of brackets, for example. Chris Christie, like Bush, would create three brackets, and Marco Rubio would create two. It expands deductions and credits to help lower- and middle-income earners, like Rubio's plan. It lowers the corporate rate and shifts the corporate system to a territorial system — a longtime GOP talking point.

But it also contains one notable populist touch: an end to the carried-interest loophole, which allows some fund managers to pay lower taxes on their income by claiming it as capital gains. Donald Trump has likewise talked about doing this to raise taxes on "hedge fund guys," and both Hillary Clinton and President Obama have pushed for it in the past.

Perhaps most surprising in the plan is the idea of growing the number of people who owe zero in taxes. If indeed Bush's plan adds 15 million tax filers to that group, it would clearly distance him from one of Romney's biggest mistakes in the 2012 campaign.

A video of Romney decrying the "47 percent" of Americans who pay zero income taxes proved damaging to his run, making him look callous by implying that nearly half of the U.S. doesn't contribute to society. Bush clearly wants to avoid being painted with the same brush.

Could Chris Christie's Iowa Endorsements Be His Breakout Moment? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has had a tough run so far. He has consistently polled towards the bottom of the pack, unable to break through the crowded field and live up to the star power his name once elicited, especially four years ago.

But on Tuesday, Christie received a shot of momentum.

After months of sitting on the sidelines, he received the endorsement of six wealthy Iowans. It's significant because this group of donors tried really hard to convince Christie to jump in the presidential race in 2012, even chartering a jet to New Jersey for an intervention. But through the spring and the summer they were unwilling to back Christie - until now.

"We've known the governor five years plus so he's not a new (entity) with us. We know the origin of the guy; we've been around him enough with his family, at the end of the day, he's our best choice basically," Dennis Elwell, one of the six who endorsed Christie, said.

Christie held a news conference in Des Moines to announce the endorsements. It's not common to hold news conferences to announce when wealthy men get behind a candidate, but Christie is in a position where he needs to highlight any good news that comes his way.

Christie supporters say that the endorsements will help him both in the Hawkeye State, where he is polling in the low single digits, as well as nationally.

"The fact that those individuals are heavy weights in Iowa their support will certainly make a difference in Iowa," Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and a Christie bundler, said. "And it sends an important signal to donors elsewhere in the country."

Christie's finance chairman, Ray Washburne, said that his job is to provide donors and potential donors with good news. He says this is a nugget.

"It's a signal to people that he's serious," Washburne said. "It's a long-term run and people wouldn't be endorsing him now if they didn't feel like he is in it to win it."

But Iowans doubt that Christie's latest support will have much of an impact in the caucuses.

David Oman, a former chief of staff to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad who is tied to Jeb Bush's campaign, said the endorsement "will be marginally helpful."

"If you could ask five or six people to your campaign, would you do that? Of course," he said. "They will probably scare up a little money."

Craig Robinson, Editor of The Iowa Republican, was even less optimistic. He pointed to Iowa's primary election process, which chooses its candidate in a caucus. He notes caucuses take a lot more to win than big checks.

"These guys don't have any track record, they're unproven when it comes to caucus campaign," Robinson said. "The people who have the most influence in a caucus are those people who can get the most people to participate, not write checks. It's all about how many people turn out for your candidate."

But Matt Strawn, Republican strategist and former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said that Christie, who doesn't spend a lot of time in the state, has now proclaimed that he will compete in the caucuses, shows that the race among the establishment candidates is still open wide.

"It signals the ground has shifted in Iowa following Governor Walker's exit from the race," Strawn said.

Christie's supporters would agree. They said the endorsement is the latest in a recent string of good news for Christie.

Washburne said Christie saw his biggest fundraising week yet last week and that this week is likely to be just as good.

"We're going to show very good numbers this quarter," Washburne said, declining to give specifics.

Kilberg is co-hosting a fundraiser for Christie in Northern Virginia Tuesday evening, which is also on the eve of the last day of this quarter's fundraising period. She said she's not allowed to give specific numbers but that the fundraiser will "exceed our goal, and our goal was very ambitious."

What's changed? Washburne attributes the uptick in support to the good week to Christie's "strong" debate performance two weeks ago and the fact that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the race.

Washburne said that while Walker's bundlers haven't committed to go all in for Christie yet, he has received small donations - the $2,700 limit - from them.

Everyone talks about "who's going to be the next guy to drop out," he added.

And Christie supporters say it's not going to be him. They say he's run a frugal campaign and is raising what he needs to get through the first caucuses and primaries.

Regardless of it all today, please stay in touch.