“Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced Wednesday that she will support the Iran nuclear agreement, giving the White House the final vote needed to protect the accord from a Republican-led effort to defeat the measure,” writes NPR’s Brakkton Booker.

With her endorsement, Mikulski became the crucial 34th vote needed to sustain President Obama’s expected veto should Congress pass a measure to block the agreement.

“Ever since the U.S. and its partners finalized the nuclear deal with Iran in July, Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to downplay what diplomats call the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program,” reports NPR’s Michele Kellemen.

“We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did,” Kerry said this summer. “We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward.”

Even supporters of the deal, though, say Kerry was overselling that point. The U.S. believes that Iran experimented with nuclear weapons components in the past. But Iran has stonewalled international inspectors in the past and the U.S. does not have “absolute knowledge,” according to a former Obama administration official, Robert Einhorn.

Today’s Question: Do you think the Iran deal is in the best interest of the U.S.?

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“I think Donald Trump’s lack of civility is hurting the political process,” California state assembly Republican Rocky Chavez, a 2016 US Senate candidate, told AFP.

“We have serious issues that need to be discussed,” he added. “To lower the bar to calling people names is not beneficial.”

The amount of smack talk has surprised some observers.

“What’s interesting about this election: there’s never been somebody like Donald Trump who is so flagrantly uncaring about civility,” said Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University.

It is politics as reality TV, Kirk said, fueled by Trump’s “swashbuckling, my-way-or-the-highway persona” that he cultivated on the wildly successful NBC show “The Apprentice.”

The Republican National Committee, worried about how trashing fellow GOP candidates and popular female and Hispanic TV personalities might hurt efforts to broaden party appeal, warned in July that the name-calling “needs to stop.”

“It only worsened,” writes

Today’s Question: Is this campaign season less civil than previous ones?

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“The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cybertheft of valuable U.S. trade secrets,” writes Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima.

The U.S. government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon — perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Issuing sanctions would represent a significant expansion in the administration’s public response to the rising wave of ­cyber-economic espionage initiated by Chinese hackers, who officials say have stolen everything from nuclear power plant designs to search engine source code to confidential negotiating positions of energy companies.

Today’s Question: Are sanctions a good way to fight cybercrime?

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“Minnesota’s lobbying disclosure laws have earned a middle-of-the pack grade of “C” from a national, nonprofit government watchdog group,” writes MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire. The Sunlight Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., released an update today of its state lobbying disclosure report card. The group evaluates the disclosure of lobbyist activity and compensation, expenditure transparency, Read more