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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican

Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican


Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 09:20 AM PDT

The decisive issue in the contested NY-22 primary that concluded Tuesday was the one hardly anyone talked about: gay marriage.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the race between challenger Claudia Tenney and incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna had taken on the nationwide Tea Party vs. establishment narrative, with Tenney trying to claim she was following in the footsteps of David Brat, the professor who slew House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in this month's stunner. But the race had been won months before, thanks to Hanna's support for gay marriage.

American Unity PAC, a super PAC devoted to defending Republican candidates who support gay marriage founded by hedge fund executive Paul Singer, had long ago decided on backing the two-term incumbent, a member of the LGBT equality caucus and a backer of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Recognizing that Hanna was vulnerable, the group spent over $500,000 on paid television and radio ads, more than everyone else in the race combined, part of a more than $700,000 overall investment. But not a single ad mentioned gay marriage.

Defending one of four Republican lawmakers supportive of gave marriage was the toughest test yet for the group, which was founded in 2012, but also an example of how super PACs work to influence races. A strategist for American Unity PAC discussed the group's long-term plans to defeat Tenney, centering on driving up her negatives by casting her as soft on jobs and tax issues, ignoring her more conservative stances on social issues including gay marriage and abortion because it wouldn't have helped them in the district.

"We needed to understand her vulnerabilities and also Richard's vulnerabilities," Jeff Cook-McCormac, the group's senior advisor told TIME. "We found that her votes on tax policy weren't in line with a majority of Republicans in Albany," he continued. "She had refused to support the budget, which had included tax relief for the middle class."

That formed the first attack, beginning on television and radio, backed by robocalls and five separate direct mail pieces.

The group then moved to attack Tenney for voting against a $1.5 billion Nano Tech project that was projected to bring in 1,500 jobs. A television ad was backed by radio, robocalls, and direct mail.

The suggestion that Tenney wasn't conservative enough for the district struck Tenney supports as rich. She was endorsed by the Conservative Party, and objected to the legislation on spending groups. But for American Unity PAC, that was besides the point. They had found her weakness. "We knew we had to drive up her negatives and give people a reason why she wasn't a good candidate before she could catch on," Cook-McCormac said.

Cantor's defeat was exactly the type of catalyzing event the group feared. Tenney now had a chance to nationalize the race, bringing the type of attention they knew would tighten the race."The narrative that every candidate was trying to build after Brat was that they were the next thing, Cook-McCormac said. "She was saying I'm catching up. We knew we needed to undercut her narrative. That not only is she not catching up, she's falling farther behind." The group commissioned another poll showing Tenney falling further behind, and released it to a local reporter.

The super PAC is convinced that it kept national attention off the race for a crucial few days, and that by the time Tea Party groups started investing, it was already too late.

When Tenney became a cause célèbre for the conservative grassroots two weeks ago and Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity and Tea Party groups rushed to back her after the Brat race, American Unity PAC was ready. It had recruited Rudy Giuliani, who polls showed was popular in the district, to endorse Hanna in an ad, ending their spending campaign on a positive note.

Even with all of that, the race was still closer than they would have liked. An internal poll the weekend before the election showed Hanna up 8 points. By election day it was down to six.

“If we hadn't done the initial investment earlier on, it would have been a different outcome," Cook-McCormac said. The final margin was just 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent—just 1,632 votes.

Now the pro-gay marriage Republican group is moving on to the next races. It is already preparing to back incumbents like Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Ileanna Ros Lehtinen, as well as candidates in favor of gay marriage such as Bob Dold in Illinois, Richard Tissei in Massachusetts, and Carl DeMaio in California. "The ability for anti-gay politicians to use this as a wedge issue has evaporated over the last couple of years," Cook-McCormac said. “What candidates now know is that there's a network of donors who have their back and are willing to go to bat for them.

Soccer Star Says Biting Italian Player Was an Accident

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 09:11 AM PDT

Those deep teethmarks in Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini’s gnawed shoulder? Those were an accident, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez said in a letter to international soccer officials this week.

Suarez has succeeded in bringing international excuse-making to a whole new level of wild implausibility with his brilliant explanation for Chiellini’s nibbled skin. Suarez’s excuse is more elegant than the proverbial “dog-ate-my-homework” excuse and it’s more sophisticated than the Mike Tyson excuse after he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off: “He kept [head]butting me … What am I supposed to do? I’ve got children to raise.”

Suarez, in a letter to FIFA appealing the ban he was handed down after the incident, said: “I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent.”

“I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth,” Suarez added. (Ah yes, the absent-minded jaw chomp into a vice-like clench around your opponent’s exposed shoulder.)

FIFA objected, saying the bite was "deliberate, intentional and without provocation,” Bloomberg reports.

After the game, Suarez was banned for nine official games and given a four-month suspension from all soccer activity, meaning that his Uruguay squad enters into the World Cup’s Round of 16 knockout round without its star player.

[Bloomberg]

Singapore Gays Rally to Counter Opposition

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 08:19 AM PDT

(SINGAPORE) — Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for an annual rally that came under unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.

Previous Pink Dot rallies have been held without much opposition. But as they grew in numbers from less than 3,000 people when the first event was held in 2009 to more than 20,000 last year, so did their disapproval. Organizers said a record 26,000 people showed up Saturday.

On paper, gay sex remains a criminal offense in the wealthy, multi-cultural city-state of 5.4 million, although authorities rarely enforce the British colonial-era legislation, known as Section 377A.

Lawrence Khong, founder and pastor of the 10,000-member Faith Community Baptist Church, has been the most vocal critic of homosexuality and the Pink Dot rally.

In a statement, he said he could not understand why authorities were allowing the rally to take place.

“I find it even more disconcerting that the event is being used as a platform of public persuasion to push their alternative lifestyle,” he said. “I would like to see our government leaders draw a clear line on where they now stand with regard to this moral issue.”

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he believed Singaporean society should be one “where you don’t go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone else keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict.”

Former lawmaker Siew Kum Hong, who tried to get Parliament to repeal Section 377A unsuccessfully, said he believed that the legislation will be overturned eventually.

“I’ve always maintained that the government’s position is untenable. When presented with a chance to repeal 377A, it decided to avoid making a principled decision and instead opted to kick the can down the road.”

Other opposition came from an Islamic teacher who encouraged Muslims to wear white Saturday on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which was interpreted as a response to a Pink Dot video showing a Singaporean Muslim declaring his support for the LGBT community.

The LGBT supporters wore pink in the rally, whose highlights include large crowds standing together with pink torchlights at night, creating a spectacular aerial view.

Millennial-Driven Housing Boom Could Be On The Way

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 08:06 AM PDT

Young adults, so-called “millennials,” have been pushed by the recession to live with their parents into adulthood–but they really want to move out, according to a study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. That study found that millennials could form 24 million new households by 2025.

Three main factors have been holding millennials back from moving out, said the Harvard study: A weak job market for recent graduates, high debt from student loans and tightened lending standards.

The report also found that the number of young people who buy homes increases as their incomes grow. As and the economy improves, millennials–which the study defined as those born between the years of 1985 and 2004–will make decisions about their living arrangements that will, by extension, affect the economy.

But don’t foresee a mass exodus from parents’ homes, the authors said. Millennials will probably just trickle out of their parents’ nest in what would look like a steady, slow recovery.

 

 

Aereo Just Disappeared for Good

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:35 AM PDT

Chet Kanojia, CEO of the streaming television service Aereo, told his customers the bad news in an email Saturday morning: After the Supreme Court decided this week his company’s business methods violate copyright law, Aereo has decided to shut down. Kanojia insists that Aereo’s pressing “pause,” not “off,” but it’s unlikely the service will return in any recognizable form.

That Aereo is unlikely to come back from the grave is a simple matter of math. The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo, which streamed broadcast television to subscribers for about $8/month, was operating illegally because it didn’t pay so-called retransmission fees to broadcasters–something cable and satellite companies are required by law to do.

Aereo could return to the straight and narrow by working out a deal and ponying out the fees that the broadcasters–who originally brought the suit against Aereo in 2012–demand from cable and satellite companies. Those fees, however, are incredibly expensive. Cable companies can afford to pay them because they’re charging viewers plenty for their service–the average cable bill is now over $64 a month, per the Federal Communications Commission. Aereo can’t swing those fees by charging customers only a few dollars a month.

The most obvious survival path for Aereo would be to pass those fees onto its customers by increasing its subscription rates. But here’s the thing: The broadcast content that Aereo provides is free to anyone who wants to set up their own (cheap!) antenna on their TV or home.

Why? A big part of the government’s job in tech policy is regulating the invisible spectrum on which our wireless gadgets rely–cellphones, radios, broadcast television, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, they all rely on spectrum to work. Back in the day, the government licensed broadcasters their spectrum–a limited and thus valuable resource–on the cheap, provided they meet certain conditions. Among those requirements was that the broadcasters’ over-the-air signals remain free for anyone within range to access with an antenna.

While most of Aereo’s customers might have seen $8/month as a reasonable fee to pay for the convenience of watching broadcast content on their laptop, smartphone or tablet, it’s unlikely they’ll pay much more for content that’s really free for them anyway.

So, for Aereo, it’s lights-off for now while they figure out what to do next — perhaps shift into cloud storage, or sell itself to a broadcaster, even. If it ever returns, though, it’s not likely it’ll look anything like what it does now.

Watch the above video for more on Aereo and the Supreme Court.

One Year Later: The DOMA Supreme Court Ruling

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:31 AM PDT

In June of 2013, the Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act, giving married gay couples the federal benefits and rights to which straight married couples were previously entitled.

The landmark decision produced one of the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation's history. As a consequence of the ruling, the gay marriage movement was able to build unprecedented momentum that allowed gay advocates to win cases in more than a dozen jurisdictions.

Watch the video above for more on where the country stands one year after the historic ruling paved the way for more marriage equality.

 

 

 

Benghazi Suspect Arrives in D.C. Court

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:26 AM PDT

Updated 1:50 p.m. ET Saturday

The man accused of leading an attack on an American mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 arrived at a federal court in Washington D.C Saturday. Four Americans, including United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the assault.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah was interrogated aboard the USS New York after his capture earlier this month. He’s now in federal court facing criminal charges. The FBI said in a post on Twitter that Khatallah would be arraigned Saturday afternoon.

Khatallah is said to be the among the senior leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, a militia whose members joined the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission. To capture Khatallah, U.S. intelligence lured him into a trap and spirited him away in a nighttime raid.

Authorities say phone eavesdropping and surveillance video and witness statements are strong enough evidence to charge Khatallah, who has previously denied any involvement in the plot.

Khatallah had been interviewed by several reporters before his capture.

Libyan Militant in Federal Law Enforcement Custody

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:55 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington says a Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks is in federal law enforcement custody and there is heightened security at the city’s federal courthouse.

Spokesman William Miller declined further comment regarding Ahmed Abu Khattala (Kah-TALL-ah) at this time.

Khattala faces criminal charges in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

U.S. special forces captured him in Libya two weeks ago, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks.

A criminal complaint filed last year was unsealed after his capture.

U.S. officials had been questioning Abu Khattala aboard a Navy amphibious transport dock ship that brought him to the United States.

Aereo’s Turning Off After Big Loss at Supreme Court

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:31 AM PDT

Controversial TV streaming startup Aereo said Saturday it’s shutting off its services after a Supreme Court ruling against the company’s methods dealt it a major setback from which it may not recover.

Aereo’s cloud-based antenna services will be inaccessible after 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday. CEO Chet Kanojia told customers in an email that the shutdown would be temporary while the company determines how to proceed.

“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps,” Kanojia said.

A Supreme Court ruling Wednesday found that Aereo should be subject to the same rules as cable and satellite companies, which pay broadcasters expensive fees to retransmit broadcasters’ content — something Aereo does not do. Because Aereo doesn’t pay those fees, the Court found its service, which provides $8-per-month streaming of broadcast television, violates copyright law. Aereo could theoretically return if it begins paying the broadcasters, but it’s not likely it can afford to do so without shifting that cost to its customers, who may be unlikely to pay more for a service that’s theoretically free.

Aereo argued before the Court that it was simply providing a remotely located antenna, making it easier for people within range of broadcasters to access the signals they could already get for free by placing their own antenna on their television or atop their house.

“The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud,” Kanoja said Saturday.

Aereo Email to Customers

The New York City-based startup said it will refund its customers for a month’s worth of subscription fees following its loss at the Court. Kanojia’s full letter is embedded above.

UK Facing ‘Major’ Sperm Shortage

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:00 AM PDT

British fertility doctors are warning of a serious sperm shortage in the UK that may prompt risky insemination practices.

Sperm donations appear to have fallen after donors’ right to anonymity was removed in 2005. The rules surrounding donation now mandate that children be allowed to know the identity of their genetic parents when they reach 18, the BBC reports.

In order to make up for a shortfall, clinics are relying on imported sperm, and may be lowering standards for sperm donors.

In addition, doctors say, the decreased sperm supply may lead people to conduct risky insemination practices like do-it-yourself insemination with a friend’s sperm, or seek fertility treatments in countries with less regulation than the UK.

“We do still have a major sperm shortage in the UK,” said British Fertility Society chairman Dr. Allan Pacey. “The worry is clinics might decide to change the quality of sperm they are willing to accept in order to get donors through the door and I think that’s a very dangerous road to go down.”

In 2010, one quarter of the UK’s sperm samples were imported from abroad, much of it from Denmark and the United States.

[BBC]

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