Israel's Bid to Ban the N-Word: New York Times: "N as in Nazi, that is. Parliament gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill that would make it a crime to call someone a Nazi — or any other slur associated with the Third Reich — or to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way. The penalty would be a fine of as much as $29,000 and up to six months in jail. Backers of the law say it is a response to what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world as well as an increasing, casual invocation of such terms and totems in Israeli politics and even teenage trash talk. ... But critics, including some with deep connections to the Holocaust, say the proposed law is a dangerous infringement on free speech and an overreach impossible to enforce."
Uncertain Prospects: AFP: "The bill was passed at a preliminary reading on Wednesday but it must still be debated in a parliamentary committee, then go through a series of votes in the Knesset before it can become law. ... An official close to the legislation process told AFP on Thursday the bill would 'most likely be killed' in the committee, adding that attorney general Yehuda Weinstein has deemed the bill unnecessary. Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum, said that legislation was not the correct venue for dealing with inappropriate use of Nazi symbolism."
Christie's Big Test: Reuters: "The first real test of the damage to Chris Christie's chances of being the Republican nominee for president in 2016 from the 'Bridgegate' scandal could come during the next few days. Christie is scheduled to attend a $1,000-per-ticket reception for New Jersey Republican House candidate Steve Lonegan on Thursday. He then will head to Florida for a series of weekend events aimed at raising money for Republican Governor Rick Scott's re-election campaign, plus a meeting with wealthy Republican donors from all over the United States. Interviews with a half-dozen Republican strategists, donors and operatives indicate that if Christie is interested in a bid for the White House, as many suspect, he has some work to do. He needs to reassure big-money donors—even those who have seen him as the party's best hope of winning the race to be Democratic President Barack Obama's successor—that the scandal in which his aides apparently created massive traffic jams to get back at a Democratic politician in New Jersey will not grow enough to destroy his prospects."
Lawyering Up: Washington Post: "The administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has hired outside legal counsel to help it deal with a U.S. attorney inquiry into its role in crafting a politically motivated traffic jam, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Christie's office is bringing in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Leading the team will be former assistant U.S. attorney Randy Mastro, who co-chairs the law firm's litigation group. 'Their presence will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation, and they will be a valuable asset as we move forward,' Christie's office said in a statement. 'This Administration is committed to ensuring that what happened here never happens again. That’s what the people of New Jersey deserve.'"
Saletan: How the NSA Captured Obama
Snowden's Latest: Guardian: "The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents. The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of 'untargeted and unwarranted' communications belonging to people in the UK. The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects 'pretty much everything it can', according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets."
Keeping Count: Associated Press: "The House on Thursday backed a bill that would require the Obama administration to report weekly on how many Americans have signed up for health care coverage as Republicans maintain an election-year spotlight on the troubled law. The vote was 259-154, with 33 Democrats breaking ranks and joining the GOP majority in supporting the legislation. It marked the second time in a week—and certainly not the last—that the House has targeted President Barack Obama's law, with Republicans confident that Americans' unease with the overhaul will produce major GOP wins in the November elections. Some of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election this fall from Arizona, Georgia, New York and Florida voted for the bill. Last week, 67 Democrats bucked the administration and backed a bill to bolt new security requirements on the law."
SoCal Wildfire: CBS/AP: "Nearly 2,000 residents were evacuated and two homes burned in a wildfire that started early Thursday when three people tossed paper into a campfire in the dangerously dry and windy foothills of Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains, authorities said. Embers from the fire fanned by gusty Santa Ana winds quickly spread into neighborhoods below where residents were awakened in the pre-dawn darkness and ordered to leave. The three suspects, all men in their 20s, were arrested on charges of recklessly starting the fire that spread smoke across the Los Angeles basin and cast an eerie cloud all the way to the coast."
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