April 4th, 2012
WASHINGTON Reuters WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - The White House was forced on the defensive on Wednesday as it sought to explain controversial remarks President Barack Obama made earlier in the week about the Supreme Court's review of his signature healthcare reform law. "What he did was make an unremarkable observation about 80 years of Supreme Court history," Carney told reporters during a White House briefing dominated by the topic. Obama expressed confidence on Monday that the Court would not take an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" by overturning the law, provoking a storm of protest that he had been inaccurate and was challenging the nation's top judges in an election year. The Supreme Court could decide to reject his Affordable Care Act to expand health insurance to millions of Americans, striking down a key achievement of his presidency and potentially harming Obama's bid for re-election on Nov. 6. The president, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, qualified the remark a day later by stressing he meant action by the Court on a matter of commerce, a legal distinction that cut little ice with his critics. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who backs Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination to confront Obama, told Fox News the president was "bullying the Supreme Court," and the White House was grilled on whether he had gone too far. During robust questioning when Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact. "Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress's authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years," Carney said. "He did not mean and did not suggest that ... it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That's what the Supreme Court is there to do," Carney said. Arguments in the case were heard over three days last week. A decision by the Supreme Court is expected by late June. (Reporting By Alister Bull) Popular Stories at Reuters
WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - The White House was forced on the defensive on Wednesday as it sought to explain controversial remarks President Barack Obama made earlier in the week about the Supreme Court's review of his signature healthcare reform law.
"What he did was make an unremarkable observation about 80 years of Supreme Court history," Carney told reporters during a White House briefing dominated by the topic.
Obama expressed confidence on Monday that the Court would not take an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" by overturning the law, provoking a storm of protest that he had been inaccurate and was challenging the nation's top judges in an election year.
The Supreme Court could decide to reject his Affordable Care Act to expand health insurance to millions of Americans, striking down a key achievement of his presidency and potentially harming Obama's bid for re-election on Nov. 6.
The president, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, qualified the remark a day later by stressing he meant action by the Court on a matter of commerce, a legal distinction that cut little ice with his critics.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who backs Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination to confront Obama, told Fox News the president was "bullying the Supreme Court," and the White House was grilled on whether he had gone too far.
During robust questioning when Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact.
"Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress's authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years," Carney said.
"He did not mean and did not suggest that ... it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That's what the Supreme Court is there to do," Carney said.
Arguments in the case were heard over three days last week. A decision by the Supreme Court is expected by late June. (Reporting By Alister Bull)
Popular Stories at Reuters
April 4th, 2012
NY Daily News / By Nina Mandell
A strong twister in Texas proved to be no match for one grandmother when it came to protecting her grandson.
Sherry Enochs was babysitting three children on Tuesday when the tornado ripped through her town of Forney.
The twister struck with little warning, and she piled the children into the bathtub and held on as the storm roared overhead, Enochs told “Good Morning America.”
"I was looking out my bedroom window and I saw it coming across the fields and I was on the phone with my daughter and she told me, 'Mom, you probably need to take cover,'" Enochs said.
At one point while she was cowering in the tub with the children, she said, she felt the tornado sucking her 18-month-old grandson, Lane, out of her arms.
"There was a gush of wind come through and I just feel like it was taking him and I just grabbed him harder just to keep him there with me. It was really hard," Enochs said.
When the storm was over, Enochs and the children were surrounded by debris — but alive.
Enochs' daughter, Lindsey, told ‘GMA’ she rushed home to see her house completely destroyed. She feared the worst.
"There was nothing there, just wood and debris piled up," she said. "I don't see how they made it out at all."
The children, the Enochses say, were muddy and a little shaken but unharmed.
“The little girl was covered in mud and Lane had the mud up his nose and in his face,” Sherry Enochs said.
Almost on cue, Lane, who was in his grandmother’s arms, began playing with his nose and giggling.
Miraculously, despite the strong storms, no one was killed on Tuesday.
But the damage quickly piled up.
The Associated Press reports that 110 planes were damaged at the Dallas Fort Worth airport and hundreds of homes were damaged.
Accuweather.com reports that between eight and 13 twisters touched down in North Texas on Wednesday.
In Arlington, one project coordinator working to clear the debris at an apartment complex likened the destruction to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“There was metal debris everywhere,” Justin Perry told the Dallas Morning News. “Cars on top of cars, complete sections of roofing torn off, internal flooding in the buildings. Just massive damage.”
April 4th, 2012
BLS Note: In States where these ID laws are being required to vote, most precincts, if not all, are making free ID cards available. Isn't it fascinating that the Democratic officials do not seem at all concerned about people who don't have valid ID Cards? Rather, it's almost as if they don't want them to have them. No concern appears to be forthcoming about the lack of an ID for these voters.
laws requiring identification before voting, the highlight being a call
to boycott Coke, Walmart and others that back a leading organization
pushing for voter ID laws.
Coke was quick to react to the political boycott threat, pulling support from the targeted group just five hours after it was called. Walmart said that support for a group does not mean it backs every decision by those groups.
At issue: Liberal claims that some states are trying to keep minority voters from the polls via voter ID laws, a suggestion conservatives call silly.
“We are organizing. We are not agonizing,” said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.,
who is leading a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee effort
to get government identification into the hands of the estimated 2-3
million Democrats who don’t have one. “We have staffed up,” he said.
Officials from another party-backed group, Color of Change,
kicked off a boycott of Coke and other financial backers of the
American Legislative Exchange Council which supports new voter ID laws.
Other supporters include Walmart and Koch Industries. The boycott call
started with a tweet (@CocaCola is helping undermine voting rights. Tell them to stop) In caving into the economic threats, Coke told Secrets: "The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry."
Walmart didn't go as far as withdrawing support, but told Secrets: "Our membership in any organization does not affirm our agreement with each policy created by the broader group. Walmart has a long history of supporting voter rights, and we continue to be a strong proponent of this issue. In fact, Walmart was an active supporter in 2006 of the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We believe every American should exercise their right to vote, and we have developed nonpartisan websites that provided thousands of our associates and customers with the tools they need to register to vote. One of Walmart’s basic beliefs is respect for the individual, and Walmart will continue to stand with all Americans in ensuring our right to vote."
Those efforts came on the heels of a new report released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress condemning new voter identification laws in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Kansas and Wisconsin.
The group complained that some states want to limit the time allotted for
early voting, bar ex-felons from voting and require government
identification to vote. Polls show that most Americans back the laws.
But Clyburn compared them to segregation era "Jim Crow" laws and he said
that he is “very, very anxious” that the conservative Supreme Court “as
it is presently constituted” will support the new anti-voter fraud
Despite the complaints, several states attorneys claim that voter fraud is a
growing concern, adding that requiring voters to show identification is
not overly burdensome.
Most Read at Examiner
April 4th, 2012
National Geographic / Ker Than
Paleontologists already knew that some members of the group of dinosaurs to which T. rex belonged, called theropods, were feathered. But most of the known feathered dinos were relatively small.
"It was a question mark whether larger relatives of these small theropods were also feathered," said study team member Corwin Sullivan, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. "We simply didn't have data either way, because soft-tissue preservation of any kind is so rare."
Now three tyrannosauroid fossils—one adult and two juveniles—offer clear proof that giant theropods could also be feathered. Their feathers were simple filaments, more like the fuzzy down of a modern baby chick than the stiff plumes of an adult bird.
The new dinosaur species, detailed in this week's issue of the journal Nature, has been named Yutyrannus huali—a Latin-Mandarin mash-up that means "beautiful feathered tyrant."
The three 125-million-year-old specimens were collected from a single quarry in Cretaceous-era rocks in northeastern China's Liaoning Province. The region is where other famed feathered dinosaurs, such as the flashy Sinosauropteryx (picture), were discovered (prehistoric time line).
The researchers estimate that the adult Yutyrannus would have measured about 30 feet (9 meters) long and weighed about 1.5 tons (1,400 kilograms).
That makes it only about a fifth to a sixth the weight of its infamous cousin Tyrannosaurus rex—but some 40 times heavier than the largest previously known feathered dinosaur.
The fossilized feathers—which range from about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) long—were preserved in patches on different parts of the three fossils, leading the scientists to speculate that Yutyrannus's entire body was probably covered in feathers.
The creature's large size and the primitive state of its feathers rule out the possibility of flight, Sullivan said. Instead, the downy covering may have helped keep Yutyrannus warm.
"These are among the simplest types of feathers that we find in the fossil record ... and they show up in animals of small body size, where insulation would be really important," said paleontologist Tom Holtz of the University of Maryland, who was not involved in the study.
What Were Yutyrannus Feathers For?
That Yutyrannus might have needed feathers for insulation is somewhat surprising, because large-bodied animals typically retain heat quite easily.
Still, Yutyrannus lived during the middle part of the Early Cretaceous, when temperatures worldwide are thought to have been somewhat cooler than when T. rex lived, during the Late Cretaceous.
"Maybe a tyrannosauroid of comparable size [to Yutyrannus] in the Late Cretaceous wouldn't have needed feathers, whereas this animal did, just because of the climatic conditions," study co-author Sullivan said.
The University of Maryland's Holtz pointed out, however, that T. rex and its close relatives living during the Late Cretaceous wouldn't have limited them to warm environments.
"T. rex covered a huge range ... and there's no reason to think it wasn't in the Arctic Circle," Holtz said. "A lot of these animals had really big ranges north-to-south in North America, so they could easily have benefited from having some sort of plumage for insulation."
As a modern example of this, consider tigers, Holtz said. "Tigers live in the forests of Siberia down to the jungles of southeast Asia. It's true that Siberian tigers have thicker fur, but they're still furry down in the south."
It's possible that Yutyrannus's "protofeathers" served other functions besides keeping adult animals warm, the scientists say.
For example, the dinosaur may have used its feathers to keep its nest eggs warm. Additionally, the feathers may have been used for sexual display or as camouflage.
"None of these ideas are mutually exclusive," Holtz said.
Researchers next might examine tiny pigment-containing structures called melanosomes, which are possibly still preserved in the feathers, to get a sense of what Yutyrannus looked like, Holtz said.
This technique has been used recently to successfully determine the color of other feathered dinosaurs. (See "Dinosaur True Colors Revealed for First Time by Feather Study.")
"It should be able to work here" as long as the microscopic details are preserved, Holtz said. "Which means we may finally be able to know how at least one tyrannosaur was colored."
T. Rex Was Also Fiercely Fuzzy?
The latest finding increases the likelihood that the "tyrant lizard king," T. rex, was also feathered.
Scientists have speculated that T. rex juveniles were feathered, because they would have been small enough to require insulation. But it was thought the feathers might have disappeared as the animal grew older and larger.
"Well, here we have a large tyrannosaur that is fuzzy over much of its body ... and that greatly increases the chances that even [a dinosaur] that's six times larger may have retained feathers over most of its body," Holtz said.
And even covered in chicklike feathers, the giant T. rex would have been "just as fearsome as ever," Holtz added.
"Underneath the fluff, it's still the same gigantic crushing teeth and powerful jaws and softball-sized eyes staring at you," he said.
The downy feathers "might make it a little more amusing, but only until the point right before it tears you to shreds."
April 4th, 2012
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
CR Note: Hmmm...will be interesting to see how the Obama Adminstration and DOJ define "appropriately."
Washington (CNN) -- The Justice Department is scrambling to meet a federal court's Thursday deadline to answer fundamental constitutional questions dealing with the health care law championed by President Barack Obama, an escalating political battle that has embroiled all three branches of government.
Administration officials said Wednesday they were deciding how to respond to an order from a three-judge appeals panel hearing a separate challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Department lawyers were told to explain whether federal courts could intervene and strike down congressional laws as unconstitutional. Such a power has been guaranteed since the Supreme Court's landmark 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison.
This came after a federal judge appeared to be deeply concerned by the president's comments this week, in which he challenged the high court not to take what he called an "unprecedented" step of overturning the law.
The White House tried to defuse the ideological firestorm, saying President Obama's words were misunderstood.
The three judges are Republican appointees from the 5th Circuit U-S Court of Appeals, meeting in Houston. They were hearing a challenge to the health care law from physician-owned hospitals, despite the fact the Supreme Court is deciding the constitutional questions. The high court's rulings expected in June would take precedence over any other courts hearing similar appeals.
The latest dispute surfaced Monday when the president said, "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress and I just remind conservative commentators that for years, what we've heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law."
Some conservative commentators accused the president of trying to "bully" the federal courts into backing the law, or risk attacks on their credibility.
A day after the president's remarks, the federal appeals court held its open hearing. Judge Jerry Smith, a Reagan appointee, was especially tough on a Justice Department lawyer defending the law, specifically mentioning the Obama quotes.
"I'm referring to statements by the president in the past few days to the effect, and I'm sure you've heard about them, that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed 'unelected' judges to strike acts of Congress that have enjoyed -- he was referring to, of course, Obamacare -- to what he termed broad consensus in majorities in both houses of Congress," said Smith.
"That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority or to the appropriateness of the concept of judicial review," he continued. "And that's not a small matter. So I want to be sure that you're telling us that the attorney general and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases.
Government lawyer Dana Lydia Kaersvang appeared initially taken aback, but replied such authority has existed for centuries.
Nevertheless, Smith and Judges Emilio Garza and Leslie Southwick then ordered the Justice Department to submit by noon Thursday a three-page, single-spaced letter addressing whether the Obama administration believes courts do indeed enjoy that power. Smith's phrasing in open court of the law as "Obamacare" mirrors a term used by many opponents of the law.
The specific issue before the appeals court was a provision in the law restricting doctor-owned hospitals from expanding their facilities. The challenge was brought by an East Texas spine-and-joint hospital in East Texas.
Just hours after the appeals court hearing, Obama on Tuesday clarified his earlier statements, saying, "The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws, and all of us have to respect it, but it's precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly elected legislature, our Congress. And so the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, facing a flurry of reporter questions, said the president was articulating the view the high court has for 80 years generally deferred to congressional authority, specifically on economic legislation based on the Constitution's Commerce Clause, and was not challenging the Supreme Court.
"It's the reverse of intimidation, he's simply making an observation about the fact that he expects the court to adhere to that precedent," he said. "It's obviously, as he made clear yesterday, up to the court to make its determination, and we will wait and see that the court does."
Attorney General Eric Holder defended the president. "I think that you know what the president said a couple of days ago was appropriate," said Holder, speaking at a health care fraud prevention event in Chicago. "I don't think he broke any new ground in the comments that he made."
There was criticism aimed at both Obama and the federal courts over the divisive political issue.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the administration of trying to "browbeat" and "intimidate" the justices.
"The president, more than anyone else, has an obligation to uphold the legitimacy of our judicial system," said the Kentucky Republican. "But his remarks on the [Supreme] Court reflect not only an attempt to influence the outcome, but a preview of Democrat attacks to come if they don't get their way."
Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, said President Obama was out of bounds.
"The president is tying to bully the court here, threatening them that if they don't come down his way, they're going to have the same thing that happened in the State of the Union address 2010. He's going to be calling them activists, he's going to be saying they're political."
The president two years ago attacked the conservative majority for striking down a campaign finance reform law, giving corporations greater power to spend in federal elections.
But some conservative legal sources privately expressed disappointment in the appeals court's order, saying it appeared punitive and petty to demand the Justice Department defend a position it had never disputed in court.
"It was like he [the judge] was giving a homework assignment to an unprepared student," said one right-leaning lawyer, who opposed the law. "It has the effect of putting the judiciary on the defensive, and could give rise to concerns the courts will look at the law from a political, not constitutional perspective."
The high court held three days of oral arguments last week, dealing with four major questions surrounding the health care law. The justices have not, and by custom will not, comment on pending appeals. Their written opinions due in the next three months will be the final word on the Affordable Care Act's constitutionality, particularly the "individual mandate" provision that requires most Americans to have health insurance by 2014, or face a financial penalty.
The outcome of the cases have raised the stakes in a presidential year, and could have a lasting effect on the credibility of the federal courts, which are supposed to be beyond policies.
"I think what we are seeing here is the courts, and the confrontation between the administration and the courts, being drawn in to overall polarization that defines so much of modern political life. Every aspect of this has been extraordinary," said Ron Brownstein, a CNN political analyst. "Obama's comments Monday were more pointed and sharp than a president usually directs toward the Supreme Court; the response by a Reagan-appointed judge, more pointed and sharp than you might have expected from a lifetime-tenured member of the judiciary. And you really see here how even the idea of the court as something of an island apart from the intensity of political conflict is really breaking down."
CNN's Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.