Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

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Meet the conservative group that Scott Walker takes his cues from

Bloomberg Politics profiles The Bradley Foundation, which has been helping Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker launch attack after attack on the Badger State’s unions.


Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity. And RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building. Discrimination is wrong. And I hope that message is being heard loud and clear at our Statehouse.

— Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, calling on Indiana’s legislature to repeal or amend the recently passed law allowing discrimination against LGBT individuals.


Large earthquake strikes near Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands

A large earthquake has just shaken eastern Papua New Guinea and nearby islands, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting.

The magnitude 7.5 quake – which is pretty severe as far as earthquakes go – struck around 4:48 PM Pacific Time (2015-03-29 23:48:31).

Not many details are known as this time.

The closet major human settlement is Kokopo. Here’s a list of major cities and their distances from the quake epicenter:

  1. 55km (34mi) SE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea
  2. 281km (175mi) ENE of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea
  3. 310km (193mi) SE of Kavieng, Papua New Guinea
  4. 367km (228mi) WNW of Arawa, Papua New Guinea
  5. 787km (489mi) NE of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Chat Transcript

George Stephanopoulos challenges Indiana’s Mike Pence: Isn’t your new law really about enabling discrimination?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?

MIKE PENCE: George, this is — this is where this debate has gone, with — with misinformation and frankly…

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s just a question, sir. Yes or no?

MIKE PENCE: Well — well, this — there’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. People are trying to make it about one particular issue. And now you’re doing that, as well. The issue here — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been on the books for more than 20 years. It does not apply, George, to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved. And in point of fact, in more than two decades, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in this country.



MIKE PENCE: Look, the…

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: — I’m just bringing up a…

MIKE PENCE:  – the question…

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: — (INAUDIBLE) from one of your supporters.

MIKE PENCE:  – I think the real question here…

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That was one of our supporters who was talking about the bill right there. It said it would protect a Christian florist who — against any kind of punishment. Is that true or not?

Excerpt from George Stephanopoulos’ conversation with Indiana Governor Mike Pence (Transcript courtesy of This Week/ABC News).

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Future Shop shutters Canadian stores, will re-brand as Best Buy

Canada’s Future Shop electronics chain is no more, owner Best Buy has announced. The company plans to phase out the Future Shop brand in favor of its own identity.

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Elizabeth Warren fires back after Wall Street banks threaten Democrats

Several major Wall Street banks are openly threatening to withhold campaign contributions from the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) and individual Democratic senators, hoping to stop senators from talking about breaking them up. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, their chief critic, is having none of it. She says she will not be intimidated and has no intention of letting the banks off the hook.


The measure codifies hatred under the smoke screen of freedom and jeopardizes all that has been recently accomplished,… It legalizes discrimination against LGBT individuals and will cause significant harm to many people.

— Sports agent Arn Tellem, blasting Indiana Senate Bill 101, which legalizes discrimination against LGBT individuals (via The New York Times).


Congratulations, Gonzaga!

Big congratulations are in order to tonight Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team, which defeated UCLA 74-62 to reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament for just the second time in school history.

Zags Unite!

The Zags will take on the winner of the Utah-Duke game on Sunday for the chance to earn a Final Four berth, something the team has never done before.

If Gonzaga wins just two more games, it will be playing for the national championship on Monday, April 6th. That would be a pretty big deal.

Gonzaga has only lost two games this season. Its 2015 squad is considered among the best in school history and certainly has a decent shot at making the Final Four.

Top-seeded Duke, which is predicted to win over Utah, would be a tough opponent, but hardly an unbeatable one.

In defeating UCLA, the Zags avenged a painful loss inflicted by the Bruins in 2006, which cost the team an Elite Eight berth that year.

Other Elite Eight matchups include Wisconsin vs. Arizona and Kentucky vs. Notre Dame. Louisville will be taking on either Oklahoma or Michigan State.

President Barack Obama had picked Davidson to beat Gonzaga in the second round of the tournament. That didn’t happen, of course, and it cost the President points.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had Gonzaga beating Davidson in his bracket, but picked Iowa State to win in the matchup to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Gonzaga was able to knock out Iowa State as well.

However, ESPN’s Jay Williams, himself a Duke alum, has Gonzaga as one of his picks all the way through to the Final Four. He predicts a Top Two matchup between Arizona and Gonzaga, with Arizona winning. Williams’ bracket is outperforming Obama’s, Nadella’s, and the Bing Official bracket by a substantial margin.


It’s a fair verdict. It’s a victory of justice. This was a mistake from the beginning.

— Carlo Dalla Vedova, Amanda Knox’s lawyer, speaking to the press after his client was cleared of murder by Italy’s highest court (The Guardian).

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Italy’s highest court acquits Amanda Knox of murder; case closed

The highest court in Italy has acquitted Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of murdering British student Meredith Kercher. The decision ends a criminal prosecution that has stretched on for more than half a decade. Knox was initially found guilty in 2009, then cleared in 2011, then convicted again in 2014. Unlike the United States, Italy does not have a prohibition against double jeopardy, which prevents the state from continuing to prosecute after losing a case.


We are horrified that something of this nature could have been taken place… It is the worst nightmare that anyone can have in our company.

— Carsten Spohr, the chief executive of Lufthansa, speaking at a news conference in Cologne, Germany (via The New York Times).

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Republican priorities: Cripple Medicare, spend more money waging war

Budgets are moral documents that speak to a nation’s priorities, and it’s pretty clear what Republicans want our priorities to be. They’ve enacted a budget that makes deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid while spending money to buy jets, guns, and bombs.

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The world’s best teacher lives in rural Maine and doesn’t care about test scores

The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino: “Nancie Atwell opened the Center for Teaching and Learning 25 years ago to make the classroom a place for ‘wisdom and happiness’. Last month her emphasis on student choice and self-expression earned her the Global Teaching Prize, dubbed the Nobel Prize of teaching.”

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Could higher salaries for Washington and Oregon lawmakers encourage more populist policies?

New research conducted by Renee Bowen and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo (who teach economics and political science at Stanford and Vanderbilt Universities, respectively) has identified a link between higher salaries for elected officials and more populist policies. It may sound counterintuitive, but it makes sense: The more someone values public service, the more he or she will care about the public interest, as opposed to special interests.


Picking the perfect campaign slogan for newly declared presidential candidate Ted Cruz

Over the past thirty-six hours, progressives all over the United States have been cooperating on possibilities for Ted Cruz’s campaign slogan. AlterNet has a pretty solid roundup of some of the best ones. Our favorites:

  • Ted Cruz: Like Sarah Palin’s annoying younger brother
  • Ted Cruz: Because Joseph McCarthy deserves a second chance
  • Ted Cruz: RIP Science (1601-2017)
  • Ted Cruz: An ocean in every house and a probe in every woman
  • Ted Cruz: The wisdom of Bush, the fearmongering of Cheney, the ideology of Rand Paul, and the face of the drama mask

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet… is worth a visit!

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Pope Francis calls death penalty ‘unacceptable,’ urges abolition

The Holy Father released a statement emphatically calling for an end to the barbaric practice of executions following a meeting with the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.

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T-Mobile illegally blocked union organizing efforts, NLRB rules

AFL-CIO Now covers the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling finding T-Mobile USA guilty of several violations of American labor laws. The wireless carrier has sought to dissuade its employees from joining a union.

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Mitch McConnell teams up with dirty energy companies to fight EPA

Not content with opposing a clean energy future for America from the Senate floor, Mitch McConnell and his operatives are working closely with dirty energy companies like Peabody Energy to urge governors and state legislators to challenge or sabotage the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to clean up America’s air at every turn.



I’ve made my decision — I’m out of the Republican Party. I am not a Republican. I will not give a dime to the Republican Party. I’m out.

— Rabid right wing commentator Glenn Beck: “I’m out of the Republican Party


Most of what political pundits focus on day-to-day is meaningless. Obama can’t get Republican cooperation by calling Boehner on the phone more often, or playing golf with him, or socializing more with Congress, or moderating his rhetoric, or making small-bore policy concessions.

— David Roberts, writing for Grist (Barack Oama finally understands political polarization. Does Hillary Clinton?)

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The right wing is wrong: $15/hour minimum wage isn’t causing restaurants to close in Seattle

The Seattle Times‘ Bethany Jean Clement busts a myth being promulgated by the right wing Washington Policy Center that Seattle’s planned minimum wage increase is causing Emerald City restaurants to close.