Good morning! On this date in 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Act — arguably the most infamous censorship law in American history. Among other things, it prohibited sending information about birth control through the mail. Parts of the law would withstand judicial scrutiny until 1972. In 1952, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 split, upheld a New York State law barring anyone who belonged to a “subversive” organization from teaching in the public school system. And in 1991, a man named George Holliday videotaped a group of Los Angeles police officers viciously beating an unarmed Rodney King.
Stat of the day: 272 percent — that’s Ukraine’s “unofficial” inflation rate, according to WaPo’s Matt O’Brien.
The speech –> Ahead of his speech to a joint session of Congress this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited AIPAC yesterday, where he attacked the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran while trying to play down the historic rift his election campaign has created with the US government. Akbar Shahid Ahmed has more at HuffPo. AND: In an interview with Reuters on Monday, President Obama agreed that there would be no lasting fallout from the current conflict. But Obama also hit Netanyahu hard, saying that the prime minster’s statements can’t be trusted. “Netanyahu made all sorts of claims,” the president said. “This was going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting 50 billion dollars worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true.” AND: At The Week, Peter Weber considers the possible outcomes if Netanyahu is successful in his quest to scuttle negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. ALSO: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken have joined the “growing list” of Democrats who plan to skip the speech, The Huffington Post reports.
Will corporate Dems strike back? –> “Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the ‘Elizabeth Warren wing’ of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections,” writes Kevin Cirilli in The Hill.
Trouble for Hillary –> Last week, a State Department spokesperson told reporters that the agency had vetted all foreign gifts to the Clinton family’s charitable foundation for potential conflicts of interest. Now Josh Gerstein reports for Politico that State is “stepping back” from the claim, and that they only reviewed Bill Clinton’s proposed speaking engagements and business deals. AND: Michael Schmidt writes for the NYT that Hillary Clinton may have violated federal records requirements by using a personal email address to conduct official State Department business.
Is American democracy doomed? –> Vox’s Matt Yglesias thinks so, although he doesn’t predict it crashing and burning anytime soon.
“Where are the actual good cops in all of this?” –> Slate’s Jamelle Bouie acknowledges that most American police officers are “decent people doing the best they can to uphold the law and protect their communities,” and wonders why they tolerate the unfit officers who bring so much controversy to their profession.
Behind the latest attack –> The NYT’s Adam Liptak profiles Thomas Christina, the employment benefits lawyer who discovered the poorly-drafted phrase that could cost six million Americans their health coverage if the Supreme Court rules against the government in King v. Burwell. AND: At The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel looks at the network of Koch-backed groups that financed and helped promote the litigation.
“China’s Inconvenient Truth” –>You may have heard about the success of “Under the Dome,” the documentary film that went viral in recent weeks depicting China’s toxic pollution problem. Elaine Teng reports for TNR that the Chinese government is cracking down on media outlets that cover the film in an effort to prevent it from creating “widespread dissent.”
The next battle –> Iraqi forces launched a renewed effort to displace Islamic State fighters from Tikrit, according to CNN. Last week, Iraqi government officials said that their military would not be ready for an offensive against IS’ stronghold in Mosul this spring, frustrating American officials who were pushing for a ground offensive. ALSO: Kyle Mizokami writes for The Week that China may soon be facing a problem with IS after several Chinese nationals were arrested in Turkey allegedly trying to enter Syria to join the extremist group. AND: National Intelligence Director James Clapper said on Monday that about 180 Americans have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State. While 40 are believed to have since returned to the US, Reuters reports that Clapper is “not aware of any plots in which returning fighters had been involved.”
Thank the nuns –> At The New Yorker, Eric Schlosser explains how a group of nuns, pacifists and anti-nuclear arms activists exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear weapons facilities by breaching their security to commit acts of civil disobedience.
Congress is really good at something –> And that something is manufacturing phony crises. MSNBC’s Steve Benen recounts all of the budgetary standoffs of the Obama era.
Rabbit reefer madness –> Last week, a DEA agent warned Utah lawmakers who are considering a medical marijuana bill that if it should pass, “the state’s wildlife may ‘cultivate a taste’ for the plant, lose their fear of humans, and basically be high all the time,” according to WaPo’s Christopher Ingraham. The agent recounted to the panel his experience seeing “rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana,” thus giving birth to what may become an enduring Internet meme.
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