Excuse me, but we shouldn't be moving on from West Virginia's chemical spill

Authorities in West Virginia declared the water of 300,000 residents affected by last month's chemical spill safe to drink on 14 January, just five days after the incident. Since then, a few things have happened. Stop me if you've heard them before (but I doubt you have).

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In 2013, the U.S. lost 30 people a day to gun violence. Obama shouldn't let us forget

The president should be talking about guns (and gun control) a lot more. This goes way beyond horrific school shootings

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Obama plans to talk about 'ladders of opportunity' in State of the Union, but vanishing middle class wants action

The good news is that President Obama has already partially succeeded in making income inequality the focus of his second term, and definitely his state of the union address. The bad news is that it may not make much of a difference to the people who have it the worst.

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President Obama should talk about race in America more often

The most surprising thing about President Obama asserting in a recent New Yorker interview, "there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president" is that he said it. Surely, the assertion itself is almost mundane. The pool of Americans who don't like the idea of a black president is large enough to have its own t-shirt market. And that market is larger than you'd think: about 1.5 million Americans openly admit to pollsters that they will not vote for a black president.

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A man was shot for texting at a movie. This isn't an anomaly in America

The spontaneous shooting of a father over some texting and tossed popcorn had barely grabbed our attention when the headlines came about the even more horrific crime in New Mexico. Both were senseless, both all the more riveting for their quotidian settings. The antsy atmosphere of a pre-screening theater, the casual boredom of a student assembly – these are the universally-identifiable situations of stand-up comedy routines. To have them turned inside-out by unspeakable violence provokes primal outrage and fear.

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Go ahead and talk about 2016 -- but here's how to sound like you actually know something

It's a bit of a slow period for political news: Congress is going into recess, the Affordable Care Act is in a kind of procedural limbo, most people are turning their attention to the holidays – and, perhaps most disheartening, the economy just continues to trudge along, offering neither much hope nor much political urgency. That there should be more political urgency regarding jobs and the economy is a topic of eloquently-expressed frustration by my friend Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post. But economic numbers are hard, while idle speculation about the 2016 presidential candidates is super-easy! And, to be fair, it's a subject that will be on the minds of regular folks soon enough. With that in mind, some thoughts on how to discuss – and perhaps even report on – the candidates and their chances.

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All is not lost: Three reasons not to count President Obama out

The roll-out of the Affordable Care Act has hatched a spasm of obituaries for Obama's second term, and more than a few for Liberalism as We Know It. That's right, Error 404: Ideology Not Found. At best, pundits have surmised that Obama's popularity will never recover. Comparisons between the implementation of insurance exchanges and the Iraq War or Katrina, as infuriating as they are (how many times do we have to say it: Bush lied, people died; website crashed, people complained on Twitter) do suggest that a mid-term catastrophic failure can derail an entire presidential agenda. Charlie Cook, writing in The National Journal, had the most concise rebuttal of this theory: it's way too early to tell. Or, put as a critique of the logic behind the death notices: pundits tend to think that any given political situation is static, but the truth is that a variety of circumstances can change either voters' perspective or the real impact of presidential actions. Here's a few things that could lift Obama out of his slump.

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Ten GOP senators voted for LGBT rights. The culture war as we know it is over

After the ENDA vote and Tuesday's election, it's clear conservatives must face the inevitable and support equality

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The false outrage over Obama's 'healthcare lie' is absurd

There's something verging on unseemly in the glee so many journalists have taken in the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act and in the incontrovertible fact that the Obama administration knowingly misled the American people about "keeping your plan". Magazine covers! Feuds! Late night comedians! Pursed-lipped statements of disappointment! The "breakdown" of the ACA has made analysts bold: "The Collapse of the Obama Presidency","Why Obama's 'iPod Presidency' Was Doomed", "the entire presidency is riding" on the exchanges, the promise that "you can keep your plan" is (quoting Rush Limbaugh here) "the biggest lie ever told by a siting president." Most people do not understand the ins and outs of the ACA. Most journalists don't understand it, either – and the clearest proof of that is that Obama shouldn't have been able to get away with the blanket language that he did. He was called on it, by Politifact, Factcheck.org and ABC in particular. Instructively, the fact-checking organizations found that the statement was at least "half true", and ABC allowed that the line "isn't literally true" and that Obama acknowledged in a press conference that it would be impossible for the government to entirely prevent changes to everyone's plan. It has never been a secret that there would be Americans whose coverage would change under the ACA, that some would face higher prices or, as they correctly surmise, "better" coverage is in the lead of the Washington Post story about the bill's passage.

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Ted Cruz isn't the only Tea Party nut. There's plenty more of them

It's instructive to remember that when the Tea Party first began to gather steam, the name referred to a "party" in the celebration sense – the Boston Tea Party, specifically: an event of planned chaos, a protest that masqueraded as an Indian attack. Over time, the name has lost its punny puckishness much as the movement has steadily shifted from a proudly anarchical – even populist – response and rebellion within the GOP to a smoothly functioning alternative to it. The government shutdown proved that attempts by the GOP establishment to co-opt the Tea Party as a source of energy just created a network of political sleeper agents. With its own mechanism for drafting (and supporting) candidates, its own agenda, and its own media eco-system, the Tea Party is a third party by almost any criteria but ballot affiliation – and leadership. The absence of any official organizational structure might be one reason the Tea Party has remained so lively despite a terrible national reputation and negligible policy achievements. When something goes wrong, those identified with the failure fade for a time and the attention of Tea Party-identified voters shifts smoothly to someone else. There's also no demand for positive policy victories or signature legislation: no one has to win a debate, just spoil the outcome. Thus it's no surprise that Ted Cruz is the current face of the Tea Party: All his achievements are proudly in the negative, all his goals are set resolutely in the past. But the Tea Party's fickle and hive-like nature virtually demands that Cruz cycle out of the spotlight eventually. He will either fail to stop something from happening or, perhaps worse, accidentally cause something to get done. For when that happens: here's a look at some of the Tea Party's once and perhaps future leaders. The don't-call-them comebacks: politicians and activists who've tasted Tea Party's adoration and haven't given up on a second sip. These are primarily hacks who clawed their way on stage at some point and are now biding their time in minor-media purgatory with the hope that they'll be able to fake-controversy themselves into relevance once more. Herman Cain: the one-time front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination sputtered into the national conversation just this week, asserting the accusations of sexual harassment that sealed the end of his campaign were the work of "a force bigger than right": the Devil. He is an aggressive and peppy Twitter user and turns up on Fox Business to predict disaster on a regular basis.

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The only thing crazier than the shutdown is Fox News' coverage of it

Government shutdown theater has given us some surreal moments. Heard of the "trillion-dollar coin"? Obama actually mentioned it on Monday. It's a half-serious solution that some wonks have floated to solve the debt ceiling crisis, if "floated" is the right word for a coin that figures into most people's imagination as a giant, sweepstakes-style money cartoon.

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Choice, for women, is not about biology. It's about basic equality

The battle over abortion rights is simply a flashpoint in women's pervasive experience of being deprived of control of our destinies

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Dear NRA: Are you really going to tell me that 'guns don't kill children; children kill children'?

The cover of the recent Children's Defense Fund report (pdf) on gun violence in the United States carries a single statistic:

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Why Republican lawmakers are dodging the town halls' 'Days of Rage'

In 2010, GOP politicians were keen to channel Tea Party fervor. Now, backed into a corner by the base, they're looking for an exit

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