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Answers for Morning Political Trivia for July 12

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 5:06 PM EDT

Commenter Al did better on our inaugural morning political trivia question than all of the journalists here, going four-for-four. The four state capitals that begin with the same letter as the state they're in are Dover, DE; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; and Oklahoma City, OK.

Here at MoJo DC, only Reporter Jonathan Stein and Associate Editor Dan Schulman came close — both quickly guessed three of the four and then got stuck. Dan was missing Dover, DE, while Jonathan spent most of the day trying to get Indianapolis (he eventually guessed it). Points to Jonathan and commenter Al, and consolation prizes for Dan and commenters Frank (1/4), Bradley T Hughes (3/4), and Stephen Jackson, who was the first to get Oklahoma City. Come back for another question tomorrow morning.

—Nick Baumann

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John McCain, Florida, Gay Prostitution, $20 - Just Read the Post

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:21 PM EDT

Can John McCain get a break? Hot on the heels of the loss of his top campaign management, the resignation of key Iowa team members, and news that the campaign will actually report a debt in the next few days, we've got.... a gay prostitution scandal. What's next? Locusts in campaign HQ?

Florida State Represenative Bob Allen, co-chair of McCain's Florida campaign, has been arrested for offering an undercover male police officer $20 in exchange for a blowjob in a public bathroom.

The detail you're dying to know (I'm sure) isn't clear. This Orlando Sentinel story says Allen was arrested for "offering to perform a sex act". But TV reports out of Florida say Allen was to have the sex act performed on him. It was to sort out details like this that I got into journalism.

And is there an element of hypocrisy here? Of course, there's more than enough to go around these days. Allen recently introduced HB 1475 into the Florida state legislature, a bill called "Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition" that lays a mightier smackdown on offenders of Allen's stripe. (Question: Was he doing research?) And the Rainbow Democratic Club, a central Florida gay rights group, recently identified Allen as one of the region's most hostile legislators towards gays. (Opposition research, then?)

We all know what's at the bottom of this scandal. Gay sweaters.

Update: Big question answered.

Intel Committees Weigh in on Security Report

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 4:11 PM EDT

Today, intelligence officials briefed the White House on a new threat assessment that says Al-Qaida has regained strength, and is able to train, communicate and raise money while operating from safe havens in Pakistan.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) blames the Bush White House's decision to go into Iraq before finishing off Al Qaida in Afghanistan:

One of the greatest tragedies of Iraq is that it has distracted us from fighting the real threat we face, al Qaida.

More Charles Barkley Blogging

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 2:58 PM EDT

We bring you the all-important Charles Barkley endorsement: America's favorite rebounding champ (and walking quote machine) is supporting Barack Obama.

I just want to make sure you stay up-to-date on all the Charles Barkley-related political news (my first report on this is here). I would say that this endorsement is easily as important as the Oprah endorsement that Obama got earlier. Probably more.

The Webpage at the End of the Internet

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

I recently discovered the life-changing invention that is Google Reader and its "Next" bookmark. (Google Reader is a feed reader that allows you to aggregate blogs and news feeds using Really Simple Syndication (RSS). (Including this blog, by the way). But the real revolution is the "Next" bookmark, which you slide onto your bookmarks toolbar and use to jump around the internet from blog to blog, reading every unread item on the blogs whose feeds you subscribe to. That means I can jump from reading the newest post on the Blue Marble to reading the newest MoJo Blog post with unprecedented ease.

There's only one problem, as far as I can see. If you run out of new items on the blogs you've subscribed to, you get to the end of the internet. Then what are you going to do? I guess when that happens, it's time to pick up your print copy of the magazine and start reading the old-fashioned way.

—Nick Baumann

Morning Political Trivia for July 12

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 12:24 PM EDT

To swing it in Swampland (Washington, that is), you have to know your stuff. With that in mind, Mother Jones' DC Bureau is launching a new daily feature on MoJo Blog: morning political trivia. We'll compete every morning in the office, and we'll give you a chance to try your hand at answering the question in the comments section (no Googling!). Then, every afternoon (Pacific time), we'll post the answer and heap praise on the commenters who guess correctly.

As your official quizmaster, I'll be finding the questions and keeping score. If you have a good one, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. I'll credit you if we use your question (please let us know if you got it from another source).

But you won't be the only ones pondering each morning's question. Back in the capital, Mother Jones' DC correspondents will be struggling mightily to best each other in a never-ending battle royale of trivia. And there will be accountability in this administration. I'll let you know who got the question right and who got it wrong, be they intern or editor. So you won't just be getting the answers every afternoon, you'll be getting a chance to heap scorn on political reporters who don't know their political trivia. So, with that in mind, we'll start you out with a doozie (remember, no Googling!):

Name the four state capitals that begin with the same letter as the states they're in.

—Nick Baumann

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Another Day, Another Heist in Baghdad

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 12:05 PM EDT

Hours before the White House released its tepid assessment of Iraq's progress on 18 congressional benchmarks, Baghdad's Dar Es Salaam bank was burgled of some $282 million. Apparently the heist was an inside job carried out by bank guards, who, Iraqi officials are speculating, have ties to the militias. If true, that certainly doesn't bode well for the security situation, raising the possibility that some rather unsavory militants are about to get a large cash infusion.

Believe it or not, but this massive heist is only the second largest in the country's history (not counting the hundreds of millions of dollars that vanished under the watchful eye of Iraq's defense ministry) . The first, which is the world's largest, happened shortly before the U.S. invasion commenced in March 2003, when Saddam Hussein and his family pilfered $1 billion from Iraq's Central Bank.

"Eerily Similar": In 1999-2000, It was Afghanistan. Today, Pakistan

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 9:56 AM EDT

A Hill staffer correspondent comments, in response to this:

Read your post. It strikes me that we are in an eerily similar situation to 1999 and 2000.
-- The United States is fully aware of Al Qaeda training camps operating openly, with links to cells and operatives in Western Europe elsewhere;
-- Our government is picking up increasing signs of communications, movements of money, and other signals indicative of planning for future attacks;

Miers Won't Even Show Up to "Not Recall" Who Fired Those Attorneys

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 7:00 AM EDT

President Bush has instructed former White House counsel Harriet Miers to defy a congressional subpoena [PDF] requiring her to testify at tomorrow's hearing on the controversial firings of eight United States attorneys. A letter from Miers' lawyer to House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) confirmed that the onetime Supreme Court nominee will definitely be a no-show.

Bush's instructions could prove troublesome for both Miers and the White House. Miers, as a private citizen, could easily find herself slapped with contempt charges (and thrown in jail for up to a year) for defying the subpoena. The president could face even greater problems: One Talking Points Memo reader has dug up a law that seems to say that the president's order to defy the subpoena was itself illegal.

The bigger problem for Miers, as Conyers explains in a letter posted to Nancy Pelosi's blog, is that the subpoena represents a legal obligation to at least appear in front of Congress, while the president's instruction carries no such legal weight. Miers would have some more wiggle room if she followed the example of former White House political director Sara Taylor. Taylor, whom Wonkette called the love child of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, showed up to testify yesterday but refused to answer many of the committee's questions. There's a very convoluted scenario under which this latest debate over executive privilege could wind up before the Supremes, whose ranks Miers once hoped to join. It's fun to ponder: Would Sam Alito have to recuse himself?

—Nick Baumann

Weird Weather Watch: Heat Wave Killed Nearly 500 Californians

| Wed Jul. 11, 2007 9:36 PM EDT

Last July was a scorcher in California. The state has officially reported that the record temperatures killed about 150 people. But an AP analysis of death counts by county reveals that nearly 500 more people died that month than normally do in July. The study did not find evidence of a cover-up, but that's not good news. States don't yet have the tools to determine what constitutes a weather-related death, meaning that many more will have to die before climate change is recognized as an urgent public health problem.