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What is it with Pittsburgh and hotel rooms?

The city was back in the news yesterday in criticism from Republican John McCain over Obama administration national security leaks. From a floor speech quoted by Politico, regarding stories by the NYT's David Sanger:

"According to ... Sanger, 'a senior official in the National Security Council' tapped him on the shoulder and brought him to the presidential suite in the Pittsburgh hotel where President Obama was staying, and where 'most of the rest of the national security staff was present.' There, the journalist was apparently allowed to review satellite images and other 'evidence' that confirmed the existence of a secret nuclear site in Iran," McCain said. "I wonder how many people have the key to the presidential suite in a Pittsburgh, Pa. hotel. You might want to start there."

The meetup happened during the G-20 in September 2009 and was pretty well-noted at the time (Politico did a story about the episode) and Sanger has more in an email to Politico:

Sanger e-mails: "As I described in 'Confront and Conceal,'' during the summits in New York and Pittsburgh in 2009, I received a call from a diplomat in Europe who told me that the Iranians had gotten wind of the fact that their secret new facility near Qum had been discovered and rushed a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency. While vaguely worded, the letter admitted they were building a previously-undisclosed enrichment plant. I began to make calls to administration officials, who initially told me they would not discuss the subject. When it became clear to them that I was writing the story anyway, and that it would pre-empt the President's planned announcement, they decided to brief me. I posted the news on the Times website, because the last editions of the paper had already completed their run.

President Obama, of course, announced the discovery of the faciility the next morning, and several administration officials held a large briefing for the traveling press corps. Clearly, whatever they announced so publicly that day had been declassified somewhere along the line.''

Closing arguments are due this morning in the legal challenge of the state's Voter ID law. The ACLU's Vic Walczak previews his argument that the state should suspend the law -- partially there was no evidence presented of election day fraud, and therefore the state would not be harmed by an injunction -- above.

Karen Langley gets into more of those arguments in her story on the last day of evidence in the Commonwealth Court trial. In Philly, they're expecting "a mess on election day," a city official testified.

And if you haven't already check out the stuff Dave Weigel at Slate has been doing on the trial. Sample on the testimony of that official, Jorge Santana:

"Wouldn't you agree with me," asked state attorney Kevin Schmidt, "that this is really just speculative, about what will happen on election day. Is that correct?"

"No," said Santana. "It's not correct. We have a basis of experience from our elections, and we have evidence of concern from judges of elections and participants in elections currently, questions that are being raised now."

Schmidt's question had backfired, so he asked it again. "So... you're saying that this is a new experience," he started.

"No," said Santana. "I'm actually basing my testimony not on speculation, but on concerns that have already been made, and on issues that came up during the soft roll-out."

The ACLU's deputy director for Pa, Barb Feige, sent us a letter yesterday on our story on prominent Pittsburghers on the no-ID rolls and the interactive feature allowing Allegheny County residents to see if they're on the no-ID list. Even if that feature tells voters they're in the clear, they may not be. She writes:

To be absolutely certain that one has acceptable ID, voters should do the following:

  •       Check the list of IDs that will be accepted and make sure you have one
  • Make sure that the ID has an expiration date ( PennDOT IDs can be expired up to one year.)
  • Make sure that the name on your ID closely matches the name on your registration (a problem for many women who changed their names when they got married)
  •      Make sure that the photo on that ID matches your current appearance (mainly a concern for transgender voters).

And Chris Potter at Pittsburgh City Paper continues to do his great work on the issue. Check out the diagram below for more discussion on the state's stipulation on fraud evidence (click to go directly to CP site, and go to the last page):


Following up on this morning's Q poll results, the NYT is moving its rating on the presidential race in Pa to the Democratic column. Reporter Jeff Zeleny explains:

Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes have long been among the most closely watched in the race for the White House, is now rated as Leaning Democratic, according to the latest New York Times ranking of presidential battlegrounds.

The state had previously been ranked as a Tossup. But so far, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has invested considerable money on television advertising in the state and a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania found that Mr. Obama has an advantage of 11 percentage points.

The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, affirms what both campaigns have already discovered: Pennsylvania – for now, at least – is not among the top tier of battlegrounds.

The state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the last five elections. Mr. Romney is still waging an aggressive fight, but the terrain is likely more difficult than in the eight other remaining Tossup states in the Times' rankings: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Even voters who are aware of the state's new Voter ID rules get confused when the state tries to explain them.

Just ask House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

Apparently because the Oakmont Democrat is registered as "Francis" he was one of Allegheny County's nearly 100,000 voters (and 758K statewide) alerted by letter recently that his information doesn't match up exactly with PennDOT license records. Except the form letter from the state doesn't exactly say that, and Dermody (a vocal critic of the new GOP-approved requirements) wasn't sure what to make of it. From a statement he issued yesterday:

"The problem is this letter does not do what the state claims it does. There is no explicit warning that the recipient of the letter may lack the proper ID. People who have voted for years without problems know little about the new law and will assume they are fine," Dermody said.

"Nothing in this letter will make them think otherwise or get them to check their ID. My guess is many people threw away the letter without giving it another thought.

"If this letter was truly the first step in a statewide educational campaign, then I have to question the planning that went into it and the overall effectiveness at reaching voters, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost to mail this letter," Dermody said.

Others in Dermody's predicament interviewed by the P-G yesterday shared his confusion with the letters. Read for yourself (click for larger version):


Never one to shun the spotlight, US Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, is back in the headlines today.

From NBC:

A House Republican lawmaker likened the implementation of a new mandate that insurers offer coverage for contraceptive services to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.

Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R), an ardent opponent of abortion rights, said that today's date would live in infamy alongside those two other historic occasions. Wednesday marked the day on which a controversial new requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services for women, goes into effect.

"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day.  The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack," Kelly said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

UPDATE: Kelly's Democratic challenger Missa Eaton says Kelly owes 9/11 and Pearl Harbor survivors an apology. Her statement:

"First and foremost, Mike Kelly must absolutely apologize to the victims and families affected by the horrible attacks on Pearl Harbor and on 9/11. The comparison is ludicrous and compares foreign acts of aggression upon our nation to a piece of domestic legislation that sincerely tries to provide women with access to quality, affordable healthcare."

UPDATE 2. Kelly's official statement is after the jump:


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