Politics & Government

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Today starts the Alabama Families of Prisoners Conference in Birmingham. The two-day event was established to help families who are in need of resources and encouragement now that a family member is incarcerated. Mary Kay Beard is coordinating the conference. She says inmate’s families serve time just as surely as the inmates do.

"But no one tells them what the rules are, and I don't mean specific rules but how to walk through this time of incarceration and we want to provide to them resources that will be helpful."

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Linda Wertheimer with the opposite of a jailbreak. Rodney Dwayne Valentine was released from jail. He asked police officers for a ride to a motel and the officers said no. They told him to call a cab. Instead, Valentine decided to stay put. He refused to leave the jail. The Greensboro News and Record reports that Valentine was then arrested for trespassing. He's back in the slammer. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

The economy grew at a sluggish 1.5 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported this morning, down from a 2 percent pace in the first quarter.

This is the bureau's first estimate of GDP growth in the spring months. It will revise the figure twice in coming months. It's now 8:33 a.m. ET. We'll have more about the report shortly.

Update at 10 a.m. ET. The White House Points To String Of Positive Quarters:

An occasional series, Fiscal Cliff Notes breaks down the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and deep automatic spending cuts set to hit around the first of year.


About 80 percent of Americans would see their taxes go up if all the tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush were to expire as scheduled at the end of this year. And nearly 100 percent of the highest income earners would have to pay more — including both the Obamas and the Romneys.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to shut down all of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. That's no easy task. There are more than 800 of them — more than the number of Starbucks coffee shops in Los Angeles. But after years of struggling to regulate pot shops, city officials have decided to prohibit them altogether.

Last of five parts

The most striking thing you see when you drive into the Syrian town of Derat Azza is that it's devoid of ordinary people. Shops are closed, shuttered.

The only people you see seem to be rebels.

It seems like the only difference between this town and others in the area is that the regime made up its mind to target it. And once the regime did, there was nothing the people could do.

For decades, the primary goal of those who would fix the U.S. health system has been to help people without insurance get coverage. Now, it seems, all that may be changing. At least some top Republicans are trying to steer the health debate away from the problem of the uninsured.

The shift in emphasis is a subtle one, but it's noticeable.

What people in New Jersey like about Gov. Chris Christie is his candor — the sense that he's speaking from his heart, instead of a script.

Last summer, as Hurricane Irene barreled toward the Jersey shore, the Republican governor offered a particularly memorable moment during a press conference: "Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out," he said. "You're done. It's 4:30. You've maximized your tan. Get off the beach."

Alabama Asks Court To Back Its Redistricting Plan

Jul 26, 2012
ryanjreilly / Flickr

Alabama is asking a federal court to rule that its redistricting plan for the state Legislature does not violate the Voting Rights Act.

The state filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking a declaratory judgment that the plan does not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race or color.

The first stop — Britain — in Mitt Romney's foreign tour certainly is starting out rockier than nearly anyone expected.

First there was the kerfuffle over remarks, attributed by a British newspaper to an anonymous campaign adviser, that Romney understood the shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the U.S. and Britain in a way President Obama didn't. Those comments were viewed as racist by some and were disowned by the Romney campaign.

Ala. Gambling Trial Judge Wants Bribery Clarity

Jul 26, 2012

The judge who presided over Alabama's two gambling corruption trials says the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clear up when a campaign contribution constitutes a bribe.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an opinion saying there is ``considerable confusion'' about how federal corruption laws apply to campaign contributions. He says a precise definition of bribery would help.

The two trials before Thompson involved legislators and lobbyists accused of promising campaign contributions in return for votes on pro-gambling legislation. No one was convicted.

The Obama administration is enlisting new allies to fight health care fraud: insurers.

Today the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice announced a partnership with more than a dozen health insurers and industry groups to nip fraudulent schemes in the bud, instead of tracking down bad guys after the fact.

It was likely something that the United States Department of Agricultural didn't put much thought into. In an internal newsletter detailing agency's "greening" efforts, there's information about new lightbulbs and locally bought fruits and vegetables.

But on page three of five, there's also a passage that encourages forgoing meat on Mondays.

Our colleague David Folkenflik reports for the Newscast Desk that:

"NPR has hired an outside lobbying firm to help make its case with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as some House Republicans seek to make deep funding cuts to public broadcasting.

"Recent disclosure forms show NPR has paid $10,000 to Navigators Global, a firm founded by Republican political figures including strategist and pundit Mike Murphy.

The Justice Department inspector general has uncovered what he calls illegal hiring practices at the federal agency. In a new report he cites eight employees for trying to find jobs for their children and other relatives.

The number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 35,000 last week, to 353,000, the Employment and Training Administration just reported.

That brings the level about back to where it was three weeks ago and down near a four-year low — but also keeps claims in the range where they've been trending for about the last year.

Outrage in China about the dozens of deaths last weekend when Beijing's drainage system couldn't cope with heavy rains and much of the city was flooded has been followed by more frustration and anger today.

Disgraced Former Health Care Chief Scrushy Freed

Jul 25, 2012
HealthSouth Corporation

Disgraced former health care executive Richard Scrushy has been released from federal custody after nearly six years.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke says the former multimillionaire HealthSouth Corp. founder and CEO was freed Wednesday from home confinement in Houston, the final step as he begins three years of supervised release.

Atty. General Raids Dothan's Center Stage Casino

Jul 25, 2012

State and local law enforcement have raided Center Stage casino near Dothan and seized several hundred machines.

State Attorney General Luther Strange announced that his office worked with the Houston County sheriff and district attorney to serve a search warrant Wednesday morning that resulted from an ongoing investigation of illegal gambling.

Weekly Standard: Rules For Romney

Jul 25, 2012

Lisa Spiller, a professor in the business school at Christopher Newport University, and Jeff Bergner are authors of Branding the Candidate.

The two of us recently published a book about the highly successful Obama presidential campaign of 2008. From our research we distilled 10 lessons for 2012 Republican primary candidates called (with apologies to Saul Alinsky) "Rules for Republicans" (The Weekly Standard, January 2-9, 2012). With the Republican primary now behind us, it is fair to ask: How is the Romney campaign doing?

Update at 5:36 p.m. ET. U.S. Attorney Will Investigate:

During a press conference today, Mayor Tom Tait asked for calm. He also said that the Office of the U.S. Attorney had agreed to investigate the shootings.

"The first step is to get to the truth," Tait said according to the Orange County Register. "That takes some time and patience, and that's what I'm asking for."

Our Original Post Continues:

"Senate leaders have reversed course and decided to stage showdown votes later today on rival Democratic and Republican plans for extending broad tax cuts next year that will otherwise expire in January," The Associated Press writes.

So, Democrats will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts only for those earning less than $250,000 a year. Republicans will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the tax cuts for everyone.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, influential conservative and pugilistic dissenter, is challenging everything from a recent leak about Supreme Court deliberations, to conventional wisdom about the court and its history.

In a new book co-authored with Bryan Garner, Scalia spells out his judicial philosophy, and on Tuesday, the always voluble, charming and combative justice sat for a wide-ranging interview — about the book, his relationships on the court, and the recent leak alleging anger among the justices over the recent health care decision.

Grantham Says Controversy Could Lead To APT Demise

Jul 24, 2012
Alabama Public Television / Wikipedia

The chief operating officer of Alabama Public Television has written a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley expressing concern that the controversy surrounding the firing of two top officials at Alabama Public Television could lead to the demise of the network in Alabama.

Alabama Public Television Network chief operating officer Charles Grantham said in an interview about the letter that the controversy could lead to the demise in Alabama of popular programs like ``Sesame Street'' and ``Antique Roadshow.''

Board Says BP Missed The Big Hazard Issues In Spill

Jul 24, 2012
ideum / Flickr

A government investigative committee says BP and the drilling contractor it hired to operate the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded two years ago focused too closely on personal safety at the expense of preventing major hazards.

The conclusions are contained in the preliminary findings of an investigation into the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Eleven workers were killed in April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, causing 200 million gallons of oil to gush into Gulf waters.

Preliminary Hearing Set For Bar Shootings Suspect

Jul 24, 2012

The man accused of shooting 18 people in Tuscaloosa and Northport last week is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing in Tuscaloosa County District Court at 9 a.m. on Sept. 7.

44-year-old Nathan Wilkins is scheduled for the preliminary hearing on charges including 18 counts of attempted murder and two counts of shooting into an occupied building. He was charged in shootings at a Northport home and at the Copper Top, a downtown Tuscaloosa bar.

Jefferson County To Create Public Defender System

Jul 23, 2012

Jefferson County courts are switching to a public defender system in a move meant to control costs.

Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said the new public defender's office will have a dedicated staff of attorneys to represent defendants who cannot afford their own attorney. Right now, judges appoint private lawyers to represent indigent defendants.

AIDS 2012

More than 25,000 people are gathering in Washington, D.C. this week for the 19thAnnual International AIDS Conference. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that the U.S. will host the conference.

“The reason that the U.S. could not have the conference is because we had a ban on allowing people who are HIV-positive into the United States,” says Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama. “And we were one of the few countries that had that ban.”

We are all used to judicial nomination fights, but what has been remarkable in the Obama administration has been the molasses-like confirmation process for noncontroversial nominees, especially federal district court nominees.

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