Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Four years ago, when budget deficits topped $1 trillion, congressional Republicans turned their midterm election triumph into a spending-cut crusade. After forcing an initial springtime deal with Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner negotiated with President Obama on a "grand bargain" resembling recommendations from a bipartisan deficit reduction commission.
Those talks failed, leading to the first credit rating downgrade for the United States. Yet now, after another Republican sweep, the sense of budgetary crisis has vanished.
Luck, design and political bungling all helped make that happen. Whatever the cause, the effect is renewed bipartisan pressure for spending increases — on defense, education, infrastructure and benefits for America's beleaguered middle class...
To look at the government's bottom line now, you'd think the plan he recommended with Mr. Simpson had been enacted. Total spending for 2014 came in about $300 billion less than their plan called for.
The actual 2014 deficit, $483 billion, was slightly larger than the $455 billion Simpson-Bowles would have been expected to produce. That's because Congress didn't raise taxes nearly as much as the commission called for. Had lawmakers done so, Washington would have ended the year only $117 billion in the red — less than 1 percent of the economy...
The "fiscal cliff" tax-rate deal to increase rates on family incomes above $450,000 also played a role. So did the sequester cuts in defense and domestic spending.
Some leading Republicans consider those cuts unwise because they crimp investments in future economic growth. That's been clear since the House two years ago couldn't pass a housing and transportation bill because it spent too little — at which point Hal Rogers, appropriations committee chairman, called for abolishing the sequester. Though Congress didn't do that, Republicans and Democrats did agree to ease those cuts for 2014 and 2015.
He was speaking after reports that the rebels had extended the area they control, violating a ceasefire plan.
Ukraine says Russia has more than 9,000 soldiers fighting alongside the rebels, a claim it denies.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany issued a joint call to end the fighting, following talks in Berlin.
Speaking after the meeting, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was not a breakthrough "but I think we saw tangible progress".
He also said they had agreed on a procedure for pulling back heavy weapons 15km (nine miles) from a demarcation line defined in last year's Minsk agreement.
Mr Kerry said the recent upsurge in fighting was "an alarming situation" adding that the US was "particularly concerned" by rebel moves to "attempt to gain control of a very significant rail juncture" in eastern Ukraine.
He said there had been a large extension of the line of control that separates rebel-held territory from the rest of Ukraine.
"This is a blatant land grab and is in direct contravention to the Minsk [ceasefire] agreements which they signed up to," he added.
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, accused Russia of escalating the violence.'
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Meanwhile, an army major was shot dead at a checkpoint in Rafah near the Gaza Strip, medical and security sources said'
Sajida al-Rishawi, 44, was placed on death row in Jordan for her role in terrorist attacks on three hotels that killed 57 others and injured 90 on Nov. 9, 2005.
Al-Rishawi, from Ramadi in central Iraq, strapped an explosive device to her body and entered the Radisson SAS Hotel in Jordan's capital city of Amman.
"My husband and I went inside the hotel. He went to one corner and I went to another," she said in a confession on state-run Jordan TV. "There was a wedding at the hotel, with children, women and men inside. My husband detonated (his bomb). I tried to explode (my belt), but it wouldn't."
The failed suicide bomber survived because she forgot a vital part of the explosive belt in the car. She blended in with the panicked guests fleeing the scene but was captured later at a safe house.'
Republicans who control both the House and the Senate say they too want to eliminate the sequester, but the Obama budget includes too many tax hikes and too much spending.
"Republicans believe there are smarter ways to cut spending than the sequester and have passed legislation to replace it multiple times, only to see the president continue to demand tax hikes," said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem it's hard to take him seriously."
GOP members note that the White House signed off on the 2011 budget plan that called for automatic across-the-board budget cuts if the parties couldn't agree on a separate package of cuts.'
In response to Obama's "free" community college idea, Republicans should say: We're not giving you anything, and, in fact, we're demanding answers from the entire "higher ed" establishment. You'll be surprised how liberating and fun it is to go on offense, Republicans.
The GOP needs to hold tobacco company-style hearings, hauling in the presidents of various universities and asking them to justify their multimillion-dollar salaries.
Germany, he believes, is trying to build a Europe in defiance of the facts–and Germany lacks both the resources and the will to push this project indefinitely as its difficulties grow. Germany will not, Putin may well believe, find a way to turn the euro disaster around. The south will continue to fester and stew under an increasingly hateful and damaging system. Germany will also not be able to turn the Balkans into an orderly and quiet garden of Nordic and Teutonic virtues.
The key to Putin's thinking is that he is betting less on Russian strength than on German and therefore Western weakness. In opposing the consolidation of a German Europe, he is betting on German failure more than he is betting on Russian success. The goal of Russian policy in Ukraine, for example, is not to create a new Ukraine in Russia's image. It is not to conquer Ukraine–but to demonstrate that the East is indigestible. Germany cannot save Ukraine
Though the Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition is new and untested, there are already signs the answer may be yes. One clear indication was when Tsipras chose to meet Russia's ambassador to Greece - it was the prime minister's very first meeting with a foreign envoy. The ambassador personally delivered Russian President Vladimir Putin's congratulatory message to Tsipras on Monday, mere hours after the prime minister was sworn in.
The second sign came the following day, when Tsipras abruptly announced that Greece would not support new EU sanctions against Russia. New sanctions are on the table because Russia and its proxies in Eastern Ukraine have renewed their offensive in the Donbas.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The approach has President Obama taking criticism from both sides of the aisle, and both sides of the country.
Alaska Republican lawmakers are furious at the administration's multi-pronged push to restrict drilling in their vast state. Over the weekend, the administration announced it would pursue a wilderness designation for 12.28 million acres, barring drilling in most of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The plan unveiled Tuesday also would put off limits huge swaths of Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
"This administration is determined to shut down oil and gas production in Alaska's federal areas," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The aircraft sparked panic in the ranks of ISIS after bombing its elements and flying in spaces close to the ground," Iraqi News reported last week after a sortie took out several terrorists in ISIS-controlled territory near Mosul. "Elements of the terrorist organization targeted the aircraft with 4 Strela missiles, but that did not cause it any damage, prompting the remaining elements of the organization to leave the bodies of their dead and carry the wounded to escape …"
"The aircraft sparked panic in the ranks of ISIS after bombing its elements and flying in spaces close to the ground."
The plane is not as fast and lacks the graceful lines of other fighter jets. But the Warthog, as pilots call it due to the snout-like nose, is extremely low maintenance, flies low, can practically hover over a battlefield, land almost anywhere and packs a 20-foot-long, 2.5-ton, seven-barrel Gatling gun that can fire more than 1,100 rounds of 30-mm. bullets. And a titanium shell that wraps around the bottom of its cockpit makes it difficult to shoot down.
In Iraq, the A-10 has flown 11 percent of the sorties against ISIS, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said on Jan. 15. But that figure is deceptive, because the A-10 was not deployed until mid-November, some three months after strikes against ISIS began…
The Air Force has been itching to junk the plane for years, with some speculating that top brass believes the A-10 bucks the embraced strategy of high-altitude strategic bombing. The Pentagon believes it can save $4.2 billion in operation and maintenance costs over five years by retiring all 283 of the Air Force's A-10s, the last of which rolled off Fairchild Republic's assembly line in 1984…
For example: If Franklin Roosevelt had died a year earlier, or if he hadn't decided to change running mates in 1944, we would have had his woolly-headed, soft-on-communism vice president, Henry Wallace, as commander in chief. Who knows how World War II would then have ended, how many more countries Stalin would then have gobbled up, and even whether we would ultimately have won the Cold War? The whole second half of the century could have unfolded in a very different and far more ominous way.
Now we have an admirer of Henry Wallace as president. In December 2007, Barack Obama, campaigning in Iowa, was informed he was in Wallace's home county. He responded, "We've got some progressives here in Adair. I'm feeling really good now. That's quite a lineage there. . . . It's a blessing."
However blessed those Iowans may have been to live in the proximity of so illustrious a predecessor, having a president in the lineage of Henry Wallace has not been a blessing. We (and the world) are now living with the consequences of our having twice chosen Barack Obama as president.'
Shaffer's key point is that the charges will embarrass the White House all over again for coughing up five big fish for one deserter:'
OK, I know it's not quite that simple — debt as a number has political and psychological importance. But I think it helps clear things up to put all of that aside for a bit and focus on the aspect of the situation that isn't a matter of definitions: Greece's primary surplus, the difference between what it takes in via taxes and what it spends on things other than interest. This surplus — which is a flow, not a stock — represents the amount Greece is actually paying, in the form of real resources, to its creditors, as opposed to borrowing funds to pay interest.
Greece has been running a primary surplus since 2013, and according to its agreements with the troika it's supposed to run a surplus of 4.5 percent of GDP for many years to come. What would it mean to relax that target?
For some reason, the Russians never got the memo. Russia opened Obama's second term by banning Americans from adopting Russian children. Moscow responded to Obama's decision to repair relations with Havana by sending a Russian military vessel to dock in the Cuban capital's port. Today alone, NATO has implicated Russia for complicity if not involvement in a new rocket attack on a Ukrainian city. This cheery development was compounded by the news that the FBI broke up a Russian spy ring in Manhattan that was seeking to infiltrate the American banking system. But it's not a new Cold War.
According to the FBI, Buraykov was an active participant in the spy ring that was charged with both collecting information and recruiting New York City residents to betray their country.'
It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.
The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization's new ten-year budget outlook.
Monday, January 26, 2015
Riyadh convened a meeting of Gulf countries on Wednesday to threaten unspecified measures to "protect their interests" in Yemen where the Shi'ite Muslim rebels, allies of its enemy Iran, are holding the president a virtual prisoner.
Let us begin with a look at the free-falling oil market. Oil-producing countries would of course like to reverse the current trend. Some would curtail production to push prices up, but the rest have learned from experience that collective restrictions only benefit the countries that do not comply. Like it or not, intergovernmental decisions won't alter the factors underlying the fall in the price of oil. One key element is the global deceleration of economic growth, particularly in China, a large energy consumer. Add to this the entry of fracking into the oil game, notably in the United States - just one factor expanding the global supply of energy.
These joint developments substantially push down the demand for, and consequently the price of, oil - so much so that financial economist Anatole Kaletsky asserts that $50 for a barrel may well become a price ceiling rather than a floor...
The same inability to bypass market laws is at work in China. There, the problem stemmed from a centralized frenzy to promote investment without due consideration of expected returns. Thus, Chinese economists estimate that "ineffective investment" reached the astronomical figure of $6.8 trillion between 2009 and 2013.
On Thursday the European Central Bank is likely to announce a bond-buying binge that could reach €50 billion ($58 billion) a month, yet many bond yields in Europe are already negative. Buying low-yielding bonds is a dead end for growth. The Bank of Japan has already bought bonds worth more than 50% of its gross domestic product with no growth impact. And ECB bond-buying will be a major new political negative if it gives European governments a further excuse to avoid economic reforms.
Central bankers should be forcefully urging their governments to pursue practical growth-oriented solutions that encourage private investment and hiring. Instead, they've allowed the focus to be on them and their decisions to prolong quantitative easing—even though QE hasn't worked.
Central-bank liabilities have grown by an extraordinary $7 trillion since the 2008 crisis, yet many parts of the world are in or near recession, including Japan, Latin America, Eastern Europe and most of the eurozone. http://www.wsj.com/articles/david-malpass-the-worlds-monetary-dead-end-1421885831
It was suspected at the time that Iran and its subsidiary terrorist organization Hezbollah were behind the carnage. Time bore that out
Solid economic growth over the next few years should help keep the federal deficit at a very modest level until 2018. But after that, the nation's deficit will start growing again.'
While 94 percent of California kindergarteners were fully inoculated against the virus last school year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are clusters where vaccination is much lower. In some pockets of California, as much as a quarter of children are undervaccinated -- putting them at risk of both contracting the disease and becoming a nexus of future spread.
"Children die as a result of this disease," said Greg Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group. "In 1990, 3 of every 1,000 children who got measles died from it. That wasn't the dark ages. We don't have an effective treatment for measles. The only thing we have is prevention."
"Now the prices are around $45-$55, and I think maybe they reached the bottom and will see some rebound very soon," OPEC Secretary-General Abdulla al-Badri said on Monday, according to Reuters.
If that wasn't enough to put oil bears on the back foot, at least temporarily, Badri also said it would be possible to see crude climb to $200 a barrel or higher "if you don't invest in oil and gas," Bloomberg reported.
That is an interesting scenario, since shale production is seen as relatively resilient, with firms able to ramp production up in relatively short order as prices rise.
It also stands in contrast to remarks by Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, the billionaire Saudi businessman, who earlier this month predicted oil would never again trade north of $100 a barrel'
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Believing that little girls deserve a role model who keeps her clothes on and doesn't build a career predicated on sex is not a right-wing or conservative position. I dare say that most Americans, including Stewart if given a choice, would probably rather their daughters aspire to a career that involves keeping their clothes on and relying on their minds as opposed to their bodies and sexuality. (It's worth noting that white children have far more role models in the public eye than black children do, meaning it's possible Stewart can't fully appreciate the role model issue in the black community.) I am someone, however, who believes strippers can be proud feminists and prostitution should be legal.
But I also wouldn't advocate inviting a stripper, porn star, or paid escort to speak at an elementary school for career day. Not because I consider them bad people but because I would think we want our children to aspire to something greater. Don't we all?...
I do expect more from the President. He should not have called her a role model, and Huckabee was right to call him out on it. (President Kennedy hung with the Rat Pack but I doubt he ever called Sinatra a role model.)'
'Huckabee targets celebrity culture and Jay Z and Beyonce in particular. He wrote of their performance if "Drunk in Love" at the 2013 Grammys: "My reaction: Why? Beyonce is incredibly talented -- gifted, in fact. She has an exceptional set of pipes and can actually sing. She is a terrific dancer -- without the explicit moves best left for the privacy of her bedroom. Jay Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?"'
Friday, January 23, 2015
In Sanaa, which Houthis seized during their offensive in September, thousands of supporters converged on the capital's airport road. They raised green flags and banners proclaiming their slogan — "Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam"'
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Shoigu is the most senior Russian military official to visit Tehran since 2002, according to Iranian media, and the agreement comes with both countries facing Western sanctions.
The deal provides for joint exercises and military training, as well as "cooperation in peacekeeping, maintaining regional and international security and stability, and fighting against separatism and extremism," the Iranian defense ministry website said.
Defence Minister Hossein Dehqan told state television that Iran and Russia had a "shared analysis of US global strategy, its interference in regional and international affairs and the need to cooperate in the struggle against the interference of foreign forces in the region."
Russia has long been Iran's principal foreign arms supplier but their ties took a major hit in 2010 when Moscow cancelled a contract to deliver advanced
On the other hand, governments often choose not to impose their will on Muslim-majority areas, allowing them considerable autonomy, including in some cases the sharia courts that Emerson mentioned. Alcohol and pork are effectively banned in these districts, polygamy and burqas are commonplace, police enter only warily and in force, and Muslims get away with offenses illegal for the rest of population.
The Rotherham, England, child sex scandal offers a powerful example. An official inquiry found that for 16 years, 1997–2013, a ring of Muslim men sexually exploited — through abduction, rape, gang rape, trafficking, prostitution, torture — at least 1,400 non-Muslim girls as young as 11. The police received voluminous complaints from the girls' parents but did nothing; they could have acted but chose not to.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
FW: deficit down to 483 billion for 2014, but debt owed because of interest, and theft from SS is up 1,086 billion for same year
On Twitter, police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld identified the suspect as a 23-year-old from the West Bank city of Tul Karem. Local media reported that a gag order barred additional information on the man, who they said did not have a permit to enter Israel….
Authorities said the assailant fled the bus on foot when the injured driver succeeded in opening the vehicle's back doors to let passengers escape. According to eyewitnesses, bus driver Herzel Biton fought the attacker and tried to block his way to the other passengers. He was taken to a hospital and was reportedly listed in serious condition.
Witnessing the commotion from a vehicle behind the bus were armed personnel from a special security unit of the Israel Prison Service, who were escorting prisoners to a nearby court. Authorities said they stopped and chased the suspect, who was shot and injured'
Monday, January 19, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
But he added that this should be done without giving offense, because human dignity should be respected.
If a friend "says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him," Francis said.
"It's normal, it's normal," he said of such a response. "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith." '
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
During the Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1961, 30 million people or more starved to death in a Mao-created famine. The West had little clue.
During the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, millions of people were tortured, internally exiled, unjustly imprisoned and otherwise abused in what Paul Hollander, in his invaluable book "Political Pilgrims," called "a destructive and bloody rampage." But at the time, most visitors to China had no understanding of what was taking place.
Might we be wrong again? Could President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption crusade, for instance, be primarily a Stalinist purge of opposing factions in the Communist Party intended to strengthen his own hand?...
First, repression has increased markedly since Xi came to power two years ago.
Second, a prominent feature of the clampdown is a return to Maoist methods of intimidation, indoctrination and thought control...
Along with traditional methods, including imprisonment and torture, the regime has embraced public confessions, indoctrination and the kind of intense peer pressure that had fallen out of favor after the Cultural Revolution. "Peace managers" keep track of every household in some villages, and people suspected of wayward views have to file weekly "thought reports" and take part in "legal education" sessions, "often a euphemism for political indoctrination or forced conversion," Freedom House notes. Journalists face "a new ideological exam . . . based on a minimum 18-hour training course on topics like 'Marxist-news values,' with a 700-page manual…
Ironically, censorship — including about the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 — has left many young people unaware of the party's record of brutality and so less afraid than they might be.'
Friday, January 9, 2015
'Anwar al-Awlaki was the first United States citizen to be killed in a United States drone strike. His son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the second. Anwar was known as an American and Yemeni imam and Islamic militant. US government officials said that he was a senior talent-recruiter and motivator who was involved in planning terrorist operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda. With a blog, a Facebook page, the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, and many YouTube videos, the Saudi news station Al Arabiya described him as the "bin Laden of the Internet."
Calling the crimes of Abu Hamza al-Masri, 56, "barbaric" and "immoral," U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan today rejected his plea for a shorter term. She said the cleric needed to be "incapacitated."
"I don't believe that the world will be safe in 10 years or 15 years," the judge told Hamza. "I have every reason to believe that if you were free, you'd do it again."
Abu Hamza, whose forearms were amputated after an accident handling explosives, sought leniency because of his disability. He also has diabetes, high blood pressure and psoriasis.
The judge said the loss of his hands hadn't stopped him from inciting followers to carry out a deadly hostage taking in Yemen in 1998, providing captors with a satellite phone they used to communicate with him during the attack.
"You had those disabilities at the time you committed the crimes and it's important for the court to understand that you knew the risks," she said. "I do not think of a time when you would not inspire others to do the things that you yourself could not do."
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The new rules mostly focus on clean energy and vehicle regulations, said the American Action Forum, which issued the report Monday. The state that was hit the hardest by new regulations was California, which was slapped with $7.9 billion in new rules, followed by Texas ($6.5 billion) and Ohio ($3.4 billion).
"What do these huge sums mean for individuals? Higher energy prices, pricier household goods, a more expensive mortgage, and the promise of yet another year of unrelenting regulatory growth," concludes the report, which was authored by Sam Batkins, the group's director of regulatory policy. "No one can accuse the president of abandoning his promises on regulation in 2014."
The report also found that the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory act and ObamaCare contributed, adding $16.7 billion and $1.9 billion in total costs, respectively. That brings the total cost of ObamaCare, which was passed into law in 2010, to $41.3 billion, according to the report.
In a similar report issued last week, the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute found that the Federal Register, which, among other records, publishes rules and regulations of federal agencies, stood at 78,978 pages at the end of 2014, the fifth-highest count ever.
The American Action Forum was founded in 2009 by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.'
The bombing took place in a police station near the famed Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia museum in Istanbul's Sultanahmet tourist area, parts of which were cordoned off for an investigation, Turkish media reported.
The woman was attempting to enter the police station near Sultanahmet Square on the pretext of having left her wallet inside when guards stopped her at the entrance, Istanbul Gov. Vasif Sahin told reporters Tuesday. She spoke heavily accented English, Sahin said.
Two officers were hurt in the bombing, and one of them later died of his injuries, authorities said.
Authorities secured the blast area and halted public transportation into the neighborhood, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.'
The 50-year-old, who has previously been sentenced to nine months in jail after handing out a flyer that "vilified Muslims and disparages their religion", claimed the outburst had been part of a social experiment and that he wanted to promote debate amongst commuters.
He was refused bail and has since been behind bars for more than seven months until judge Gerald Lapkin convicted Brazau of the three charges: breach of the peace (by interfering with Toronto Transit Commission service), causing a disturbance (by using insulting language) and breaching his probation on the earlier hate-mongering conviction.
Handing Brazau a 20 month sentence, minus eight months for the time he has spent in custody before his trial'
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
On Jan 7, 2015, at 10:07 AM:
A jaw-dropping photo reveals the handwritten $974.8 million divorce settlement check rejected as too skimpy by the ex-wife of a billionaire oil tycoon.
Sue Ann Arnall, 56, scoffed at the jackpot-size payout from former hubby Harold Hamm — CEO of the energy company Continental Resources — demanding more money because he was allowed to keep the bulk of his $13.5 billion fortune.
The check, penned in bubbly handwriting, was made out for a mind-numbing $974,790,317.77 on Monday. The couple was married for 26 years.'