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March 8, 2014
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Yesterday's jobs numbers revealed a shocking truth, at least for those who believe that President Obama is a socialist/communist/Marxist/Alinskyite.

As Floyd Norris at the New York Times points out, government now employs 15.9 percent of all Americans who have jobs. That is the lowest proportion since 2001, and almost a million less people than five years ago. Hardly what you'd expect from a pinko determined to turn the U.S. into a European-style socialist republic.

But the more serious point is that this slide in government employment has come at a time when there remain millions of unemployed people who could use a job.

Fortunately, as Norris points out, the layoffs may finally be coming to an end:

The good news (if you want people to be working) or bad news (if you hate the government) is that this string may finally be nearing an end. The number of government workers rose 13,000 in February. The current figure is only 9,000 under the number for March 2013, so a comparable increase this month would produce a year-over-year increase. [New York Times] John Aziz

10:46 a.m. ET
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A whistleblower has accused the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital in Illinois of leaving veterans' bodies "to decompose in the morgue for months on end," Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Fox News this week. "Some veterans' remains have been left in our hospital morgue for 45 days or more until they are stacked to capacity at times," the whistleblower claimed, and Kirk's office reports that on at least one occasion "a body had liquefied and the bag burst when staff had attempted to move it." Internal VA emails show a frustrated hospital employee threatening to file a police report if delayed approval for a burial is not promptly received.

The Hines hospital is no stranger to allegations of mismanagement, much like the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs more generally. In May, Kirk introduced legislation requiring VA hospitals to undergo regular kitchen inspections after the Hines facility was found to be infested with cockroaches. The roaches "routinely crawl across kitchen countertops and have ended up in veterans' food," a whistleblower said, adding that VA exterminators announced the hospital should continue as-is because the infestation was "not very severe."

On a national level, the VA has been caught using outdated technology, going wildly over budget, providing slow service to veterans, using faulty medical equipment, engaging in corrupt activities with minimal consequences, and fudging numbers on veteran suicides.

The Hines hospital administration denied all accusations of keeping veterans' bodies in the morgue too long. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
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Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson might lag far behind Donald Trump in the polls, but when it comes to major newspaper endorsements, Johnson has a leg up. On Friday, Johnson landed the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune, which dubbed him "agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments." The editorial called Hillary Clinton "undeniably capable," but expressed concern about her "intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Trump, on the other hand, the newspaper deemed "not fit to be president."

While the Tribune's decision to endorse a third-party candidate is alone notable, what makes it even more noteworthy is that it puts Johnson yet another newspaper endorsement ahead of Trump. Johnson has also secured the support of The Detroit News, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record.

Trump, meanwhile, has yet to land a single newspaper endorsement in the general election. During the primaries, however, he got the support of the Santa Barbara News-Press, the New York Observer, the New York Post, and the National Enquirer. Becca Stanek

10:35 a.m. ET

First lady Michelle Obama warned students "a high school diploma just doesn’t cut it anymore" in an essay for The Fader's America issue, published Friday. "Yes, once in a while, a uniquely talented — and lucky — person catches their big break without finishing their education," Obama wrote. "But they're the exception. Here's the rule: Going to college is your best path to a big break — as a musician or in any other career you might want to pursue."

Obama explained that her own parents didn't go to college or have the money to send her, "but I knew that college was the single most important investment I could make in my future":

So I worked as hard as I could to get good grades, sent in my applications, and got accepted to Princeton University. I applied for as much financial aid as I could. That assistance allowed me to get my degree — and that degree changed my life. It allowed me to go on to law school (which I paid for with more financial aid) and become a lawyer. And with that education, I was able to do so many jobs that I loved — working in the Mayor's Office in Chicago, running a non-profit organization called Public Allies to help young people in underserved communities, being an Associate Dean at the University of Chicago. This all happened because I got into college and filled out my financial aid forms. So can you. [The Fader]

Read her full essay at The Fader, here. Jeva Lange

10:30 a.m. ET
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Republican Donald Trump explained to a reporter in New Hampshire on Thursday he isn't worried about Democrat Hillary Clinton bringing up his marital history at the next presidential debate because — unlike the Clintons — he has no reason to be embarrassed.

In the first debate, Trump boasted, he considered mentioning former President Bill Clinton's very public record of marital infidelity, but then he decided to refrain because he saw Chelsea Clinton in the audience and "it's a hard thing to say in front of somebody's daughter." But next time? "We'll see what happens," he said.

When pressed by the reporter about whether his own background would then become fair game, Trump said, "I guess. They can do it. But it's a lot different than his. That I can tell you. We have a situation where we have a president who was a disaster and was ultimately impeached over it, in a sense, for lying. We'll see whether or not we discuss it." Asked again, he added, "I have a very good history" with marriage.

Donald Trump has been married three times and, if elected, would be the only American president to have multiple failed marriages. In 2001, he said what Bill Clinton "should have done is fought for years not to answer" the question of whether he had sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Trump added, "I mean, isn’t it amazing and terrible that a guy — a president — is put in that position?” Bonnie Kristian

10:02 a.m. ET

As technology steadily marches toward doing all decision-making and thinking for us, there have been plenty of awkward algorithmic fails along the way — Facebook's "On This Day" feature has famously reminded users of their dead relatives, exes, and house fires.

But perhaps no one understands the woes of well-meaning technology quite like Rosie O'Donnell does this week:

Attention Twitter developers: You might want to work on removing people's archvillains from their follow recommendations pronto. Jeva Lange

9:45 a.m. ET
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After 14 long years, authorities have cracked the case of the missing Vincent van Gogh paintings. Two paintings by the famous Dutch artist were stolen during a heist at an Amsterdam museum in 2002, and they were finally found by Italian authorities "wrapped in cloth in a safe in a house in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Pompeii," BBC reported. Italian authorities uncovered the paintings' location after an extensive investigation into the Amato Pagano clan of the Camorra Mafia family, a clan Italian prosecutors described as "one of the most dangerous and active crime groups among the Camorra gangs of the territory."

The paintings, "Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen" (1884/85) and "Seascape at Scheveningen" (1882), were given a combined estimated value of $30 million when they were listed on the FBI's "top ten art crimes" list in 2005, CNN reported. The burglars managed to swipe the paintings after climbing onto the museum's roof with a ladder, breaking a window, and then using a rope to escape the building once they'd snagged the Van Goghs.

Both paintings were found without their frames, but were in "relatively good condition." Because the two paintings are being used as evidence in a criminal trial in Italy, it is not yet clear when they will finally head home to the Netherlands. Becca Stanek

9:30 a.m. ET

The Republican nominee to be the president of the United States of America had a long night. Donald Trump, by all appearances, spent the 5 a.m. hour of Friday morning tweeting about a former Miss Universe's so-called "sex tape" and "past," and the 3 a.m. hour tweeting about "made up lies." The timeline (which affords Trump no more than a maximum of five hours of sleep, assuming he tweeted as soon as he went to bed and woke up) is as follows:

Thursday, 10:16 p.m.:

Friday, 3:20 a.m.:

Friday, 5:14 a.m.:

Friday, 5:19 a.m.:

Friday, 5:30 a.m.:

Friday, 8:50 a.m.:

Naturally the tweetstorm raises some questions:

  • Were these early morning tweets or late night tweets?
  • Alternatively, did Trump wake up at 3:20 a.m. with a jolt of inspiration and get on Twitter because he couldn't wait?
  • Seriously, why was he awake?
  • Who was the intended audience for these public service announcements? (Possible options: New Delhi, Nairobi, Jakarta, Moscow, Reykjavik)
  • Is Trump the first presidential nominee to tell America to "check out sex tape"?
  • Will he ever learn to spell "judgment" correctly?
  • Is he okay???

The conclusion, regardless: Sleeping is clearly for losers. Jeva Lange

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