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This video debuted on the third season of Inside Amy Schumer on April 21. Now it's going viral on social media. And for good reason. Christine Nangle, one of the show's writers, told Cosmopolitan in an interview:

I had the idea [for the birth control sketch] in 2012. [...] I remember when [stories about birth control] died down a little bit I was like, "Oh man, I wish I could have done that idea," and then also being excited and super disappointed that birth control became topical again [with Hobby Lobby]. It was like, "How are we still fighting about this? ... Oh shit, I had a funny take on this!" Unfortunately it will be topical again in the future.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2004A View From Two Oceans:

Rice in TV plea over abuse photos
US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took to Arab airwaves to appeal for trust from a sceptical public after a scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody. "We have a democratic system that holds people accountable for their actions," Rice said on Al-Jazeera satellite television station, which is widely seen across the Arab world and by Arab and Muslim communities elsewhere. "The president guarantees that those who did that be held accountable," Rice said in remarks dubbed into Arabic by the station.   

US troops 'told to abuse prisoners'
Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers may be widespread and orchestrated by US intelligence agencies including the CIA, it has been claimed. A secret investigation by a US General into abuse allegations uncovered "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners to soften them up for interrogation. Meanwhile, lawyers for some of the soldiers shown humiliating Iraqi detainees in photographs claimed that the service men and women were following orders.

There's more in the extended text. But clearly the US is not being spared. The snips are from a Blair-friendly Brit paper (PA via the Times).

Tweet of the Day
In 1978, a student working minimum wage job could pay for 4 year of college with no debt. If only that were true today. #BraveNewEdu
@bravenewfilms


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Fiorina and Carson are in. Noted crazy person goads with a "Draw Muhammad" cartoon contest, curiously herding her flock into a "gun-free zone," though they all miraculously survive. Guns Everywhere Georgia GunFAIL roundup: Gwinnett Co. sheriff accidentally shoots a real estate agent at a home showing; 1 year-old kids accidentally shot three days in a row in Augusta, Macon and Alabama border town of Phenix City. Republicans resume reconciliation rumblings. Drone strikes. Baltimore. Where's Rand? Policing crisis and the Clinton crime bill. Can you run from the cops? Depends! 7th Circuit Court upholds assault weapons ban. Mutual funds and inequality. Are they the new trusts?




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In a weekend with a lot of entertainment distractions, including a boring "fight of the century," thoroughbred horses running around a Kentucky track, and possibly the first NFL Draft where Jets fans weren't booing or weeping afterward, Avengers: Age of Ultron scored the second-biggest domestic opening ever, taking in $191.3 million. It was a forgone conclusion this film would pull in money, but just how much was an open question. And if you were looking for the first signs the superhero trend among filmgoers is dissipating, this doesn't seem to be the "bomb" that's going to unravel the entire concept.

We're currently in an age of serialization with movies. Most of the big film properties over the past decade have been multi-installment franchises (e.g., The Hunger Games, Fast & Furious, Star Wars, Fifty Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, etc.). And the result is that television has become the medium for risks and experimentation, with big movie actors agreeing to do things like True Detective and House of Cards, while film has become the domain for action movies based largely on young adult literature and comic books. No other franchise exemplifies that change, or been as successful, as the Marvel Studios films.

Unlike the first Avengers film, reviews are not as glowing among critics this time around. Writer-director Joss Whedon's talent for constructing dialogue between the characters is still there, and the best parts of the movie are when the characters interact, joke and feel like real people trying to deal with stuff that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Things go boom and people fly around the screen in fun ways. But Age of Ultron suffers from some of the shifts from the source material, while throwing too many characters and too much unnecessary plot into the mix.

Continue below the fold for more.

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Real Time with Bill Maher was worth watching this week. Most of the sparks of consequence occurred in the Overtime segment. Bill Maher's main panel consisted of Fmr. Rep. Jane Harman, Republican neocon Dan Senor, and actor/political commentator/comedian D.L. Hughley.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz appeared to introduce his new book The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them. He described President Obama's inability to fulfill many of his promised middle-class centric policies while fulfilling many for the wealthy as cognitive capture. It is likely that the same phenomenon, cognitive capture, is the reason for his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Chess champion Garry Kasparov pretty much made a one dimensional fool of himself by his continued existence in a Cold War mentality. He may be a great chess player but he is not very smart or intuitive outside that realm.

The best part of Overtime, however, was when D.L. Hughley watched Republican neocon Dan Senor in a most assertive rant. Senor slammed President Obama's new Iran agreement. D.L. Hughley stayed quiet most of the time but was impatient to get something out.

"Isn’t hearing somebody who was so wrong about a war lecture you about what is going on now like Kim Kardashian telling how to be a wife," said D.L. Hughley. "It's kinda like that. I just know that so many mistakes were made, and they were argued just like this, so many points and facts and figures. And it was so wrongheaded that we will suffer for that for decades. And how you all speak with such certainty and if you were right we wouldn't be in the situation we are in right now."

It was obvious that Dan Senor felt deflated at that moment as Hughley broke his rhythm. Bill Maher piled on. "I could ask you the same question I asked Professor Stiglitz out there. I mean, 60 billion was the estimate from Rumsfeld and George Bush and ended up costing over 4 trillion dollars. What else can you be so wrong about? Where else could you even be close to that wrong?"

Dan Senor came back with a lame response. "You could say we won the war against Al Qaeda when we haven't." It was an attack on President Obama's statement that Al Qaeda was on the run. Bill Maher asked if that is really comparable. Dan Senor conceded that he did not know if it was comparable but that it was a big deal. What was Bill Maher's response?  "WOW."

There was a learning moment here. Neocons and those on the right are loud and are good at talking points. When they are challenged with irrefutable realities they crater and where able, they run. It is imperative that one engages them and not allow their fallacies to cauterize.

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces a newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, January 9, 2013. Arpaio plans to start deploying a volunteer posse to Phoenix-area schools as part of a new program to boo
The $10 million man
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has cost the people of his county nearly $45 million in lawsuits that were filed by victims whose civil rights were violated—people who were unfairly harassed, illegally detained or arrested, tortured or even killed. Arpaio was charged by the Department of Justice with abuse of powers, and a federal judge ruled that his office engages in racial profiling. The former county attorney and most of the sheriff's senior staff have been disbarred or fired for their role in helping to build Arpaio's police state.

Currently Sheriff Arpaio is in the middle of a civil contempt hearing for ignoring federal court orders to cease his immigration patrols and turn over evidence. Previous to the hearing, Arpaio admitted his guilt and tried to block the contempt hearing by offering to donate $100,000 to a civil rights organization. The judge declined that offer and the hearing began last month. During the first phase of the proceedings, which continue next month, Arpaio revealed that his attorney had hired a private detective to investigate the judge's wife. You can't make this shit up.

Here's something else that's hard to swallow: Sheriff Arpaio will run for re-election again in 2016, when he'll be 84, and unless he's jailed or otherwise prevented from running due to his legal battles, he will likely win. No strong candidates have registered to oppose him next year, and the few who have haven't raised a dime. Meanwhile, Arpaio's campaign has pulled in $5.5 million over the past two years, and more dollars are flowing in as a result of the federal charges, which nativists are spotlighting nationally.

"We have seen an uptick in fundraising. Whether it's related to this case, I don't know," said Chad Willems, Arpaio's campaign manager. "A flurry of calls have come into the office, with people saying they want to contribute, whether it's with a credit card or check."
Arpaio's professional fundraisers have been paid millions to wring every dollar possible from an active donor list of 250,000 people in all 50 states—suckers who love the sheriff's get-tough attitude, his anti-immigration yap, the birther investigation BS and the giant middle finger he constantly shoves in the Fed's face.

The current contempt charge provides the perfect fundraising tool: an "us-against-them" victimization scheme that turns a negative situation into a positive money-maker, and it appears to be working. The Arizona Republic reports that Arpaio currently has $2 million in his war chest and he hopes to raise at least $5 million more, with the possibility of reaching $10 million for a county sheriff's race! Heck, most Arizona congressional candidates in 2014 didn't even spend $1 million.

People often ask: How and why do voters in Maricopa County keep electing this blowhard? He costs you money and he's not a good lawman. But it matters little to his base that, in addition to the millions in lawsuits, his office misspent nearly $100 million on tanks and other toys. Nor does it matter that he mishandled hundreds of child sex abuse cases. The wingers don't care, they really don't.

Truth is, if it were up to longtime residents Joe Arpaio would not win—it's generally newer voters, often retirees in places like Sun City, who form his base. Also, if it were up to voters in Phoenix, Tempe and other urban areas, he would not win as his support lies mostly in outlying regions, which this 2012 election map illustrates. What's even worse is that most of the $10 million Arpaio's fundraisers hope to raise will come from people who don't even live in Arizona. The Maricopa County Democratic Party website says "we need to stand strong and united, determined to defeat Arpaio." And the plan is?

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Hospital with closed sign.
Rural communities are facing a heightened healthcare crisis as hospitals are closing at an alarming rate around the country, with the highest numbers in the south and midwest, where states refused Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
A total of 50 hospitals in the rural U.S. have closed since 2010, and the pace has been accelerating, with more closures in the past two years than in the previous 10 years combined, according to the National Rural Health Association. That could be just the beginning of what some health care analysts fear will be a crisis.

An additional 283 rural hospitals in 39 states are vulnerable to shutting down, and 35 percent of rural hospitals are operating at a loss, according to iVantage Health Analytics, a firm based in Portland, Maine, that works with hospitals.

Most of the rural hospital closures so far have occurred in the South and Midwest. Of those at risk, nearly 70 percent are in states that have declined to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, although some experts are hesitant to draw a cause-and-effect correlation.

Other factors in Obamacare could be contributing, including a reduction in reimbursements for charity care and lining Medicare payments to quality standards and readmission rates. The populations in these communities also tend to be older and poorer, so the hospitals were already disproportionately treating patients through Medicaid and Medicare, which reimburse at lower levels than private insurance. The Medicaid expansion in Obamacare, however, was intended to help offset those cuts. Beyond a lack of Medicaid expansion, though, is the double whammy of fiscal austerity—federal assistance has been cut across the board—and the effects of the recession. High unemployment and higher rates of uninsurance mean rural hospitals are closing in states like California, too.

What all this means is unnecessary deaths like this:

In rural North Carolina last summer, 48-year-old Portia Gibbs died from cardiac arrest after waiting 90 minutes for a medical helicopter to arrive. She could have been at a hospital in less than half that time, had not the Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven closed just six days earlier.
Or this one:
When 18-month-old Edith Gonzalez choked on a grape in August 2013, her parents rushed to Shelby Regional Medical Center in their hometown of Center, Texas, unaware that the hospital had closed several weeks earlier. Their daughter was dead by the time an ambulance brought her to the next nearest hospital, more than 45 minutes later.
The last thing Congress should be doing is precisely what House Republicans are: trying to make even deeper cuts to Medicaid and to other safety net programs. It's not just the poor who are going to be suffering if this continues. Every shuttered hospital means lost jobs, which means lost revenue for localities and states which means economies that can't recover. And it means a lot more people dying.
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Republican leaders Senator Mitch McConnell (R) and John Boehner speak after a bipartisan meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Congress has a little under a month to reauthorize expiring provisions of the Patriot Act—including Section 215, the provision that is being used to allow bulk collection of cell phone data. But conflicts both within and between the two chambers put that reauthorization into question. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved the USA Freedom Act, legislation that it worked out with the Intelligence Committee, but a bipartisan group of members wants more reform than that bill includes, and they've met to plot how they can strengthen the bill.
Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.

“The collection of data is still way too wide and can still be too easily abused,” Pocan said of the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.

Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.

They haven't yet determined whether to introduce their own, stronger legislation or to rally behind amendments to the USA Freedom Act. Among the changes they want to see: making sure restrictions included in the legislation are broad enough to encompass all current and future technologies, and ending the "backdoor" warrantless searches the government requires companies to allow by creating holes in their hardware and software products the NSA uses to snoop. House Speaker John Boehner has signed off on the legislation as passed by Judiciary, and it's going to be a challenge for the reform group to derail it, unless they can get enough bipartisan members to force amendments, or to defeat the bill entirely.

Then there's the Senate side, where the reform legislation has been introduced, but where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is so far insisting that he will only allow a straight reauthorization of the Patriot Act—no reforms, no changes. Thus far, he's got Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley with him, but is likely to encounter pretty significant opposition from both Republicans and Democrats who want to see real reform. Boehner can probably pass his version of the reform bill, but he'd face a real problem getting McConnell's clean reauthorization through, if McConnell can even get it through the Senate.

Right now the House is slated to take the last week of May off, as is the Senate. Between long weekends off and planned recess, there's around a dozen working days for them to figure this out. Which is likely what McConnell is planning on exploiting. He'll likely push this out as long as he can, then create panic over the fact that the provisions are about to expire, allowing for a least a shorter-term clean extension.

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Officer Justin Craven after being charged with misconduct in the death of Ernest Satterwhite
Officer Justin Craven after being charged with misconduct in the shooting death of Ernest Satterwhite
On April 7, two white police officers in South Carolina were arrested for shooting and killing unarmed black men. One case was told around the world and the other is being quietly swept under the rug. When Officer Michael Slager unjustly shot Walter Scott in the back over and over again in North Charleston, South Carolina, it's highly likely we would've never really known about it if the disturbing cell phone video of the shooting wasn't released. It was that video that rocked the nation and reverberated around the world. Before the video was released, the local news stories about the shooting were pretty much dismissive of Scott and painted Slager as someone who did what he had to do. The video changed everything.

Just hours after Slager was charged with the murder of Walter Scott, another South Carolina officer, Justin Craven, was arrested for shooting an unarmed black man over and over and over again. Sixty-eight-year-old great grandfather Ernest Satterwhite was shot and killed in the driveway of his home near North Augusta. The dashboard camera of Officer Craven filmed the entire shooting.

Craven's dashcam video has been shown to a few people outside of law enforcement. Several who saw say say it's horrible and offensive, and Satterwhite had no time to respond to Craven. They won't speak on the record because they have been threatened with legal action since the video hasn't been publicly released.

The State Law Enforcement Division's decision to withhold the video contrasts with its handling of another police shooting. Earlier this year the agency quickly released a dashcam video of a case in which a white officer shot an unarmed black man in North Charleston.

The shooting was so egregious that the family of Ernest Satterwhite received a $1.2 million settlement for his wrongful death. Officer Craven is using the same old tired excuse that Satterwhite tried to go for his gun, but the dashcam video apparently shows that Satterwhite never even got out of his car when Craven fired five times into the car and shot Satterwhite four times at close range.

Instead of being charged with any serious crime in the shooting, Craven was charged with the misdemeanor charge of "misconduct by an officer" and posted a $20,000 bail two hours later.

This much is clear—the early public release of videos of shootings by police has a real impact on how serious the subsequent charges are. If this video is as "horrible and offensive" as public officials privately claim it to be, the public pressure to charge Justin Craven with a serious crime would have been substantial. Instead, his case flew under the national radar and he was charged with a crime in which he could literally just receive a $1,000 fine. While a 10-year sentence for police misconduct is the maximum, police officers are almost never given maximum sentences, even when charged with murder.

We must have credible national standards on police dashcam videos that require them to be released immediately. They are paid for by public funds and are public record. Officers cannot and should not be able to hide under the protection of them being hidden by their colleagues.

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U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gestures as he confirms his candidacy for the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech at Liberty College in Lynchburg, Virginia March 23, 2015. Cruz, a conservative firebrand who frequently clashes with leaders of
He might just make the cut with primary voters.
People who still self-identify as Republican live in a totally different world than the rest of us, one made up primarily of fear. At least that's the findings of the the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. When asked to rank what issues were most important to them:
Republican primary voters' leading response was national security and terrorism (27 percent said it was their first choice).

That's followed by the deficit and government spending (24 percent), job creation and economic growth (21 percent) and religious and moral values (12 percent).

By comparison, the top priority for Democrats in the poll was job creation and economic growth (37 percent)—followed by health care (17 percent), climate change (15 percent) and national security and terrorism (13 percent).

As if Republican primary candidates needed more incentive to base their campaigns on fear and God and—never forget!—all the money the federal government spends on the poors.
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New hashtag started by the Baltimore Police Union
New hashtag promoted by the Baltimore Police Union
What in the world?

After six Baltimore police officers were arrested on felony charges in the death of Freddie Gray, the tone-deaf Baltimore Police Union decided to start a new online campaign called #MyLifeMatters.

Mind you, not one of the officers who played a role in killing Freddie Gray was harmed in any way whatsoever by Gray or anyone else. Why even start such a campaign?

Of the 10 most dangerous jobs in America, being a police officer is not even on the list. Yet they'd have us believe that their job is as dangerous as it gets.

Yeah, your life matters, but we'd like for you to start acting like black lives matter, too.

Discuss
Coal power plant
Curbing coal plant emissions would save lots of lives. Not that this matters to EPA haters.
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan proposed rules curbing CO2 emissions at electricity-generating plants will have a powerful side benefit: saving thousands of people from death as a result of respiratory ailments from emissions of soot, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutants. The rules are a major element in the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan to be finalized in mid-summer. They are under serious attack from industry, Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress, and some state governments.

Charles Driscoll, a professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse who is the lead author of the study, said: “The bottom line is, the more the standards promote cleaner fuels and energy efficiency, the greater the added health benefits.” Although the number of lives saved varies depending on the scenario, the authors concluded that the strongest version would save 3,500 lives annually. The study also said more than a thousand heart attacks would be prevented. The benefits would be immediate.

David Doniger, a lawyer who is the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air Program, writes:

We can likely save even more than 3,500 lives if the EPA strengthens the final Clean Power Plan rule, expected out this summer. NRDC's analysis shows that we can economically cut power plants' carbon pollution by 50 percent more than the EPA proposed, and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. "There's definitely room for additional benefits," says lead researcher Dr. Charles Driscoll, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Syracuse University. "You can push further."

The lives saved will come from cutting the hundreds of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen that pour out of our nation's power-plant smokestacks along with carbon dioxide. These pollutants form dangerous soot and smog as they float downwind and cook in the atmosphere. These pollutants increase our risk of heart attacks, asthma attacks, respiratory diseases like emphysema, and even lung cancer.

The rules' biggest beneficiaries live in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio. The latter two are home to some of the loudest foes of the rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents coal-rich Kentucky, has urged states not to go along with the EPA's call for each of them to come up with its own plans to comply with the rules.

The study comes on the heels of a report that said the Clean Power Plan would generate up to 273,000 jobs. That is a five times more than the EPA had forecast, writes John H. Cushman Jr., "because the agency had looked only at the direct impact of its proposal while the new analysis calculated the ripple effect across the whole economy." That's also more than five times as many jobs as are expected to be lost in the coal and utility industries because of the rules.

Cleaner environment? Better health? More jobs? Not something the fossil fuelists and their marionettes in Congress have the slightest interest in.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand meets members of the 106th Rescue Wing, Westhampton Beach, NY.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Monday that sexual assaults committed by members of the military continue to be "vastly underreported" even as the military claims to be making progress on reducing such crimes. Gillibrand, who has thus far lost her bid to change the way sex crimes are prosecuted in the military, said the military had declined to hand over much of the material she sought for a report she was compiling. But the material she did receive revealed disturbing patterns in the way the cases were handled, reports Richard Lardner.
The senator said her analysis of 107 sexual assault cases found punishments that were too lenient and the word of the alleged assailant was more likely to be believed than the victim. Less than a quarter of the cases went to trial and just 11 resulted in conviction for a sex crime.
Gillibrand said more than 50 percent of the victims were female civilians, but the military doesn't survey civilians in its reports on sexual assault.
In one of the cases Gillibrand reviewed, an airman allegedly pinned his ex-girlfriend down and then raped her. During the investigation, two other civilian victims stepped forward to accuse the same airman of sexual assault. One of them, the wife of another service member, awoke in the night to find the airman in bed with her. Two of his fingers were inside her vagina. The investigating officer recommended the airman be court-martialed. If convicted, he faced a lengthy prison term.

But the investigator's superiors decided against a trial and used administrative procedures to discharge the airman under "other than honorable conditions." The Air Force said the victims preferred this course of action. Two of them had decided they "wanted no part in the case," according to the Air Force, while the third said she did not want to testify.
To Gillibrand, the outcome was suspicious and suggested the victims may have been intimidated.

"It's frustrating because you look at the facts in these cases and you see witnesses willing to come forward, getting the medical exam and either eventually withdrawing their case or the investigators deciding that her testimony wasn't valid or believable," she said.

Looks like it may be time to revisit Gillibrand's legislative overhaul of the system, which would take military commanders out of the business of deciding which crimes gets prosecuted.
That judgment would rest with seasoned military attorneys who have prosecutorial experience. The Pentagon is opposed to the change.
Of course.
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U.S. former Secretary of State, and now a Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, attends a Georgetown University luncheon to deliver remarks and present awards for the Advancement of Women in Peace and Security in Washington April 22,
Hillary Clinton will be making her biggest policy pronouncements to date on immigration Tuesday and the big question hanging in the air is, how far will she lean in? What Clinton says during a roundtable at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, will indicate just how much she is breaking away from the old Rahm-inspired conventional wisdom that immigration is the third-rail of politics.

Her campaign has been reaching out to a wide array of immigration advocacy groups and activists in advance of the speech, reports Adrian Carrasquillo.

While most advocates expect to hear her endorse immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship, they also want to know how invested she is in the issue and whether she will commit to taking executive actions that may even go further than those that President Obama has already taken.

“I want to hear, ‘In my first year, immigration reform is getting done and it’s getting done well,’” said Angelica Salas, from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), who often visited with the White House during the 2014 run up to the executive actions.

Janet Murguia, president of National Council of La Raza (NCLR), who made waves last year after calling Obama the “deporter-in-chief,” said that until Congress acts, the Latino community expects the next president to not only commit to making immigration legislation a priority, but to “expending political capital to achieve immigration reform.”

“For us, it means placing it at the top of her legislative agenda, working with Congress to broaden pathways for people to work and providing an accessible path to citizenship for longterm residents,” she said...

“What would get me to put a Hillary sticker on my car is if she said the president’s executive actions didn’t go far enough and didn’t exercise the totality of discretion,” said one activist whose organization has hit Clinton for her public comments on immigration.

For more on Clinton's roundtable event, head below the fold.
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