‘At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert’

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, writing for The Washington Post:

This coffee shop looks pretty much like any other Starbucks, with blond wooden chairs and tables, blueberry and raspberry scones lining the bakery cases, and progressive folk rock floating from the speakers. (There are plans to redecorate, possibly including spy paraphernalia from over the decades.)

But the manager said this shop “has a special mission,” to help humanize the environment for employees, who work under high pressure often in windowless offices and can’t fiddle with their smartphones during downtime. For security, they have to leave them in their cars.

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‘Happy Days Are Here Again — for the Superwealthy’

Dave Gibson, writing for Mother Jones:

The Great Recession officially ended five years ago, but that’s news for millions of Americans: A stunning 95 percent of income growth since the recovery started has gone to the superwealthy. The top 1 percent has captured almost all post-recession income growth.

Capitalism! U-S-A! U-S-A! (That was sarcasm.)

Be sure to read the comments; good stuff. My favorite:

Economies don’t DO anything. Policies, wealth distribution, education and health care direct the economy. When policies keep the masses stupid, sick and poor the wealthy make billions.

Republicans Will Stop At Nothing to Say Obamacare Sucks

Ezra Klein for Vox, “In Conservative Media, Obamacare Is a Disaster. In the Real World, It’s Working”:

It’s easy to give people a skewed impression of Obamacare without ever running a false story. The Affordable Care Act is a huge law, and at any given moment, there are some good things happening in it and some bad things happening in it. If you run multiple articles every day on the problems and nothing on the broader trends, it’s easy to mislead your audience.

If it weren’t for Covered California, I wouldn’t have health insurance right now.

‘How ISIS Works’

The New York Times published an interesting breakdown of the terrorist organization:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has a detailed structure that encompasses many functions and jurisdictions, according to ISIS documents seized by Iraqi forces and seen by American officials and Hashim Alhashimi, an Iraqi researcher. Many of its leaders are former officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army who augmented their military training with terrorist techniques during years of fighting American troops.

(via @fmanjoo)

‘The Real Solution to Wealth Inequality’

Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert, writing for The Nation:

Bringing wealth under democratic accountability—rather than making everyone a tiny capitalist—has to be an essential part of any equality agenda. America’s biggest declines in poverty often follow from this approach (expanding Social Security and Medicare, for example). Otherwise, we’ll be left with a dystopic Lake Wobegon, where almost all of the men, women and children are below average, even as they hope to join the 1 percent.

Yep. Well said.

Introducing the Sarah Palin Channel

Ashley Alman, writing for The Huffington Post:

The site will feature political commentary, interviews, user-contributed content and updates from the Palin household.

“Together, we’ll go beyond the sound bites and cut through the media’s politically correct filter and things like Washington, D.C.’s crony capitalism,” Palin promises in the launch video. “We’ll talk about the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about and we’ll look at the ideas that I think Washington doesn’t want you to hear.”

The channel’s home page features a national debt ticker, and a countdown clock to President Barack Obama’s last day in office.

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‘Executions Should Be By Firing Squad, Federal Appeals Court Judge Says’

Maura Dolan, reporting for the Los Angeles Times:

“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a dissent in the Arizona death penalty case of Joseph Rudolph Wood III.

“But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

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On Economic Inequality in America

Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing for The Nation:

By implying that there is a disconnect between inequality and opportunity, (many, not all) Democrats ignore the fact that opportunity cannot be provided as long as the economic and financial system is so unequal. Some, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, intuitively understand this. After all, she first came to Washington to battle a system that has long been rigged against the middle class, where working families’ voices get overpowered by well-funded lobbyists who hold elected officials by the pocket. By creating an artificial division between inequality and opportunity, we turn a blind eye to this rampant unfairness that helped the 1 percent ascend to their economic perches in the first place.

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Missouri Schools to Offer Concealed Weapons Trainings

Michele Richinick, reporting for MSNBC:

A fee of $17,500 gets a district a 40-hour firearms training that lasts for five days for two staff members who spend time both inside a classroom and outside at the range firing pistols. Instructors at Shield Solutions in West Plains, Mo., teach participants how to handle firearms and tactical movement, as well as the history of modern, active shooters and how to apply a tourniquet, said Don Crowley, lead instructor and training supervisor. On the range, they position “innocent” targets in front of the “bad guys” for discretionary shooting lessons, he added.

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‘The Second Amendment Doesn’t Say What You Think It Does’

Hannah Levintova, writing for Mother Jones:

As America grapples with a relentless tide of gun violence, pro-gun activists have come to rely on the Second Amendment as their trusty shield when faced with mass-shooting-induced criticism. In their interpretation, the amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms—a reading that was upheld by the Supreme Court in its 2008 ruling in District of Columbia. v. Heller. Yet most judges and scholars who debated the clause’s awkwardly worded and oddly punctuated 27 words in the decades before Heller almost always arrived at the opposite conclusion, finding that the amendment protects gun ownership for purposes of military duty and collective security. It was drafted, after all, in the first years of post-colonial America, an era of scrappy citizen militias where the idea of a standing army—like that of the just-expelled British—evoked deep mistrust.

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