Obamacare Sermons From The TMZ Set

Get ready to see rappers and a desperate housewife hawking President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Already in talks with the NBA and NFL, the White House is now recruiting the TMZ set to serve as ambassadors for Obamacare.

A Clinton-era White House adviser who now works as a “celebrity political adviser” told The Hill Tuesday he has a number of famous clients who are ready to help the President advertise the virtues of his health care mandate to uninformed Americans.

“I think the White House is very wise to identify partners to help market the Affordable Care Act. Just like any good product, when people are aware of the many benefits it provides, there will be increased demand,” said Trevor Neilson.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said the goal of slathering Obamacare in celebrity cool is to reach people in front of their TV sets.

“We’re going to be going wherever people are,” she explained. “We’re having discussions – active discussions – right now with a variety of sports affiliates, both in terms of what will end up being paid advertising but hopefully some partnership efforts. The NFL, for instance, in the conversations I’ve had, has been very actively and enthusiastically engaged because they see health promotion as one of the things that is good for them and good for the country.”

On the celebrity side, expect to see Eva Longoria, Oprah, Jay-Z, Sarah Jessica Parker and more making a play for the hearts and minds – and wallets – of Americans in the market for a government-mandated, government-subsidized health care plan.

NSA Can’t Say Anything About Anything, It Would Help ‘Adversaries’

Shortly after the National Security Agency spy scandal broke, ProPublica journalist Jeff Larson filed a freedom of information request with the agency seeking any personal data it had collected on him.

While he didn’t expect a response, he received a Glomar response—neither a confirmation nor denial that the information he was seeking existed. The reasoning explained for the Glomar response is simply baffling.

In a letter to Larson, Chief NSA FOIA Officer Pamela Phillips wrote:

Any positive or negative response on a request-by-request basis would allow our adversaries to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the NSA’s technical capabilities, sources, and methods.

Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs.

Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries’ compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.

The letter goes on to offer boilerplate justifications for its data collection efforts.

But the question remains for many Americans: Who does the NSA classify as an “adversary”?

San Diego City Attorneys Attempt To Give A Man 13 Years For Criticizing Bank Of America

How much time do you think you could get for writing anti-bank messages on a sidewalk? Jeff Olson, a 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for just that, is facing 13 years in jail and a $13,000 fine.

Over the course of about two years the man protested outside of a local Bank of America branch, sometimes using sidewalk chalk to leave behind scribbled slogans such as “Stop big banks” and “Stop Bank Blight.com.”

According to a damning report via the San Diego Reader:

Jan Goldsmith’s job as City Attorney is to represent the City of San Diego. In addition, it appears as if his office is also fully prepared to stand up for the little…rather, the big banks.

On Tuesday, the City Attorney’s Office will make their case for prosecution of a 40-year-old man for writing anti-bank slogans in water soluble chalk on the sidewalk outside of three Bank of America branches in Mid-City.

This week, North Park resident Jeff Olson will appear in court to fight a charge of 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism charges for writing protest slogans in chalk from February to August 2012. The charges could send Olson to jail for 13 years and put him on the hook for $13,000 in restitution to the City and to Bank of America.

Olson, a former staffer for a U.S. Senator from Washington, began to get involved in political activism around the time that Occupy Wall Street was in full swing. But for him, sleeping in a tent downtown or singing along to protest songs was not the right strategy.

Furthermore, because Olson is being tried for vandalism for using the water soluble chalk to criticize the bank, Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, prohibited Olson’s attorney from mentioning the United States’ fundamental First Amendment rights in his client’s defense.

“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge Shore on Tuesday.

“I’ve never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights,” Olson’s attorney Tom Tosdal later said of the judge’s decision.

Bank of America received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the U.S. government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after it made bad investments.

Rubio On The Defensive After Conservative Outcry On Immigration 180˚

Tea Party conservatives have been hammering Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) this week as the Senate hammers out its own version of the immigration bill he helped craft.

Amnesty and a path to citizenship have been points of outrage among conservatives who believe only immigrants who’ve legally entered the U.S. should have a shot at attaining to the rights and privileges of American citizenship. Rubio, after demonstrating he agreed with that view in 2010, has shifted his stance so dramatically that many conservatives lament he’s not the same candidate they voted for.

So, on Wednesday, Rubio stood before the Senate and directly addressed his critics, appealing to them to see his amity with the Senate’s Gang of Eight as the lesser of two evils. The Daily Caller summarized the pith of his remarks:

“I have received numerous emails and calls from conservatives and Tea Party activists. Their opinions and concerns really matter to me because they stood with me during my election. To hear the worry, anxiety and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial for me,” he said.

But he said he told them that he would go to Washington to “fight to stop what is bad for America,” and that what we have now is, in fact, hurting America. ”I simply wasn’t going to leave it to Democrats alone to try to figure out how to fix it.”

“I got involved because I knew that if conservatives didn’t get involved in shaping this legislation, it would not have any border security reforms our nation desperately needs,” Rubio said.

Rubio asked tea party conservatives who are upset to understand that he honestly believes “it is the right thing for our country.”

And he assured them he would continue to fight alongside them for “real tax reform, lowering the debt, balancing our budget, reducing regulations, rolling back job-killing environmental policies and repealing the disaster of Obamacare,” and to defend “the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.”

If you’re interested in knowing how that played with nonplussed conservatives, head on over to the Daily Caller’s original story and browse the reader comments.

Calgary Zoo Flooding Lets Hippos Out Of Enclosure

CALGARY, Alberta (UPI) — Workers at Canada’s Calgary Zoo said the flooding during the weekend allowed two hippos to escape from their enclosure into a pedestrian area.

Dr. Jake Veasey said more than 160 animals were relocated Thursday night while several animals thought to be better prepared to handle the flooding, including the hippos, were left behind, the Calgary Herald reported Wednesday.

Veasey said the floodwaters, which reached as high as 13 feet in some areas, allowed the hippos to break out of their indoor pool and wander around the pedestrian area of the African Savannah area of the zoo.

“We could have had hippos god knows where. They could have been 20 or 30 miles downstream,” Veasey said.

He said zookeepers moved concrete blocks into the area to keep the hippos from leaving the zoo.

Veasey said it will be at least two weeks until the zoo is ready to reopen.

Scottish Woman Finds Scorpion In Her Bed

ABERDEEN, Scotland (UPI) — A Scottish woman who discovered an Asian forest scorpion in her bed said the animal may have stowed away during her recent trip to Borneo.

Vicky Raitt, 23, an Aberdeen zoology student, told the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals she was in bed Friday night when she discovered the 3-inch-long scorpion crawling just inches from her head.

Raitt was able to capture the scorpion in a plastic tub and contact the SPCA.

The student said the scorpion may have hitched a ride in her suitcase during a recent trip to Borneo.

“My suitcase was damaged on the way home from Borneo so I think it crawled inside through the hole. I’d been back for five days before I found the scorpion so it must have been living with me all that time,” she told the SPCA. “Once I got over the initial shock of finding it I was OK, but it’s still quite scary to think what could have happened if I hadn’t woke up and it had stung me.”

The Scottish SPCA said the scorpion was taken to the Animal Rescue and Rehoming Center in Drumoak and will soon be transferred to Nick Martin’s exotic animal rescue charity in Inverness.

The SPCA said Asian forest scorpions aren’t deadly, but their stings can cause discomfort to humans.

Couple Have Starbucks Customers Vote On Baby Names

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (UPI) — A Connecticut couple said they decided to let Starbucks customers vote on names for their expected son when they were unable to settle on a moniker.

Jennifer James, 25, and Mark Dixon, 24, both of West Haven, said they decided to put the question to customers at the Starbucks they frequent in New Haven when they were unable to decide whether to name the boy, who is due to be born in September, Jackson or Logan, the New Haven Register reported Wednesday.

The couple said a winner was declared Tuesday.

“Logan — by far. At least by 400 or 500,” Dixon said.

They said Jackson will be the boy’s middle name.

James and Dixon said they also received several write-in votes during the contest, including Obama, Lincoln, Jebediah and Webster.

The couple said they are keeping the scraps of paper used in the voting to present to Logan Jackson Dixon when he gets older.

Shark Bites Kayak, Occupant Unharmed

PACIFICA, Calif. (UPI) — Police in California said a shark took a bite out of a kayak but its male occupant, who was fishing, was not harmed during the encounter.

Pacifica police Capt. Joe Spanheimer said the man was fishing off Pacifica State Beach around 4:55 p.m. when a shark approached, “bit the kayak, then briefly circled around the craft before swimming away,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Spanheimer said authorities are not sure what kind of shark it was, possibly a great white, which are more common along the Bay Area’s ocean coast when the water is warm during the summer and fall.

The captain said signs were being posted at the beach to inform people of the encounter.

San Antonio Zoo Dubs Two-Headed Turtle Thelma And Louise

SAN ANTONIO (UPI) — The San Antonio Zoo announced the birth of a two-headed turtle dubbed Thelma and Louise at the facility.

The zoo said the turtle, part of a litter of Texas cooters born June 18, will be revealed to the public at the zoo’s Friedrich Aquarium at 10 a.m. Thursday, KENS-TV, San Antonio, reported Wednesday.

“Everyone is abuzz with the announcement of our newest arrival! A two-headed turtle named ‘Thelma & Louise!'” the zoo said on its Twitter page.

Survey: Negative Online Evidence Ruins Job Chances For Many Applicants

CHICAGO (UPI) — An increasing number of U.S. employers say they are finding photos or statements online that ruin an applicant’s chance at getting a job, a survey indicated.

In a Feb. 11-to-March  6 survey of 2,100 hiring managers, Harris Interactive, which conducted the survey on behalf of CareerBuilder, found that 43 percent or respondents who used social websites in researching a candidate indicated they had found content online that had ended the person’s chances of being hired.

In a survey a year earlier, the 34 percent of hiring managers who used social websites to research candidates indicated they had found negative content online that stopped them from hiring someone.

In addition, a larger percentage of respondents this year indicated they used social websites to do research on job candidates than the previous year — 39 percent to 37 percent.

What was so revealing on social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that might derail a job applicant’s chances of landing a job?

Fifty percent of hiring managers who browsed social websites indicated they found inappropriate photos. That was followed by evidence of drug use or drinking (48 percent), negative comments about former employers (33 percent) and the discovery that the candidate had poor communication skills (30 percent).

Those discoveries were followed by indications of racism or another form of discrimination and evidence the candidate had lied about job qualifications.

One the flip side, 19 percent of hiring managers indicated they had found evidence online that helped a candidate’s chances of landing a job.

Job applicants were helped by evidence of their professional image, a better understanding of their personality and even better qualifications than the hiring managers had believed.

There was also evidence online that indicted candidates were creative or generated favorable comments from others about themselves.

Harris Interactive said the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.