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The 2012 Vote

Democrats Accuse Romney of Lying during Debate with Obama

October 6th 2012

Democratic lawmakers say Mitt Romney "was lying" during Wednesday night’s debate, claiming those alleged fabrications will erase any advantage he received from his well-reviewed performance. The legislators argue that the silver lining in President Obama's underwhelming debate showing is that Romney gave Democrats plenty of ammunition to reinforce their case that he is a flip-flopper willing to say anything to get elected. "Romney’s performance featured a rather dramatic departure from his public record and campaign proposals," Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said Thursday in an email, "and he displayed a reckless disregard for bedrock American values of truth and honesty."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) accused Romney of simply "lying" to appear more centrist than he really is. "We saw a Romney that is clearly an etch-a-sketch," she said in a phone interview Thursday. "He likes bank regulations now? He wants more teachers? No tax cuts for the rich? … He was basically lying." Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, piled on, saying Romney "went off the charts [by] contradicting himself … changing positions and outright fabricating issues." Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Former Nevada Hospital Official Says She Was Fired For Questioning Medicare Bills

October 5th 2012

medicine and money

Paula Sellers suspected the small Nevada hospital where she worked was overcharging Medicare and other health insurers for some emergency room services. Sellers ran Boulder City Hospital’s health information department, which helped apply the complex series of Medicare billing codes doctors and hospitals must use to get paid for treating the sick. But Sellers alleges in a lawsuit that her bosses told her to “back off” when she doubted the accuracy of the coding –and fired her in May when she refused to sign off on it.

“When she tried to complain, she got terminated,” said her lawyer, Jesse Sbaih. The wrongful termination lawsuit, filed in July in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, has been moved to federal court, where it is pending. The hospital and its billing agent deny the allegations.

Every year, hospitals and doctors use the five-digit billing codes, developed by the American Medical Association, to bill Medicare for hundreds of millions of office visits and other services. Hospitals use these “Evaluation and Management” codes to bill for emergency room and outpatient physician charges and other fees. In past years, Medicare has for the most part paid medical bills with few questions asked, even though the coding process can be confusing and subjective.

But billing practices are facing new scrutiny as Medicare officials and other insurers seek ways to put the brakes on escalating health care costs. On Sept. 24, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder notified five groups representing hospitals and medical professionals that they could face criminal prosecutions for padding bills by choosing higher-paying codes even if the services delivered didn’t justify them —a process known as “upcoding.”

Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Texas Pollution Victims Seek Millions From Citgo

October 5th 2012

Citco Refinery

Fifteen residents of Corpus Christi, Texas — so sickened by pollution they have been deemed crime victims — are asking a federal judge to force Citgo Petroleum Corp. to set up multimillion-dollar trust funds to cover medical and relocation costs, in a case with national ramifications. A jury in 2007 convicted Citgo of criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, concluding that the company’s Corpus Christi refinery allowed toxic chemicals to drift from two large, uncovered storage tanks into a nearby neighborhood for a decade. The company was to have been sentenced last month; the Department of Justice has proposed a fine of slightly more than $2 million. Lawyers for the 15 residents, however, asked U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey to grant the residents crime-victim status so they could testify at the sentencing hearing and, perhaps, win compensation from Citgo. Rainey granted that status on Sept. 14 and postponed the hearing.

Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

U.S. Diplomats in Libya Asked for More Security to No Avail--Congress Demands Answers

October 5th 2012

libya-consulate

Prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens' request for additional security officials was turned down by the Obama administration in order to project a friendly atmosphere to the distrusting Islamic population, an anonymous security official in Washington, D.C., sources informed. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee leaders on Tuesday evening sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking why requests for more protection were denied to the U.S. mission in Libya by Washington officials prior to the violent and deadly terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.  The denials came after repeated attacks and security threats to U.S. personnel, according to Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-CA), the committee chairman, and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) the subcommittee chairman.

"While the written requests were unemotional and respectful, verbal requests were pleas from American foreign service personnel who were terrified of their surroundings and their vulnerability in a turbulent environment," said the source. “Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012. It was clearly never, As Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest,” wrote Issa and Chaffetz. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Khamenei Representative: Iran Can Destroy Israel in 24 Hours

October 4th 2012

Simurgh booster

In an interview with Iran’s Jahan News, Ali Shirazi, Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards’ naval force, said Wednesday that, were Israel to attack the Islamic Republic, it would take only 24 hours for Iran to destroy the country in retaliation.

“If a war with Israel does happen, it wouldn’t be a long one, and it would benefit the entire Muslim world,” Ali Shirazi said. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, told a group of  “young gifted talents” Wednesday that “The Iranian nation has never bowed to pressure and never will, and this is the cause of enemy’s fury,” according to the Fars News Agency. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Turkish Retaliation for Cross-Border Attack by Syria

October 4th 2012

Turkish Military

Turkish artillery units struck targets near the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad on October 4, killing several Syrian soldiers with a mortar blast in a second day of conflict. Turkey’s government, a NATO ally of the United States, claimed that Syria had engaged in “aggressive action” against its territory and thus explaining the retaliation. The Turkish government has requested parliamentary authorization to deploy its troops beyond its national borders.

“Turkey has not interest in a war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary,” said Ibrahim Kalin, an advisor to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in a Twitter statement. “Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue,” he added. This was the most serious spill-over from the 18-month long civil war in Syria, which Turkey called "the last straw" when a mortar round struck a residential neighborhood of the southern border town of Akcakale on October 3. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Plunging Currency Adds to Iran's Woes

October 3rd 2012

Iran Money Changers

The long, steady decline of the Iranian rial took a precipitous turn Monday, with the currency falling more than 17 percent in trading. At one of the lowest points, it took 35,000 rials to buy one U.S. dollar. Less than a year ago, it took only 13,000 rials.

The drop was so steep that popular Iranian currency data websites were no longer providing information about the dollar exchange rate. On Mazanex.com, the dollar rate for the rial was blanked out, and Mesghal.ir was replaced with a message reading, “Account Suspended.”

Alex Vatanka, a scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said the rial’s fall was due to a combination of economic sanctions imposed by Western countries and internal attempts at economic reform. “It has resulted in an interesting and painful cocktail that Iranians are seeing when they go out and buy groceries,” he said. Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

U.S. Consulate in Libya was Attacked 13 Times before Fatal Incident

October 3rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Two House Republicans say they have been informed by whistleblowers that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and threatened 13 times before the incident last month that killed four Americans.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday that detailed the whistleblowers’ allegations. “Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” Issa and Chaffetz wrote. “It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Incumbent Senator Kerrey trails Republican Challenger in Nebraska

October 3rd 2012

Sen Bob Kerrey D
Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) of Nebraska

A recent poll from the Omaha World-Herald had Kerrey trailing state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) by 16 points among likely voters. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) spent $1 million in coordinated expenditures with the Nebraska Democratic Party since Kerrey announced he would run, but hasn’t spent a dime there since early August — and has no reservations in the state for this fall.

In contrast, the DSCC recently reserved a half-million dollars in Arizona and has already been on the air in North Dakota and Indiana. Kerrey, who last held elected office in 2001, always faced an uphill battle to hold onto retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) seat in the heavily Republican state. And while other Democrats in tough Senate races have had things break their way, a few events hurt his chances. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Ahead of Crucial Debate, Romney Proposes $17K Limit for Tax Deductions

October 3rd 2012

romney buttons

Mitt Romney went on offense Tuesday ahead of his crucial first debate against President Obama, adding fresh details to his policies while capitalizing on a blunder by Vice President Biden.

The GOP nominee proposed limiting individual tax deductions to $17,000, a move that could help rebuff arguments from the Obama campaign that his fiscal policies are both vague and aimed at helping the rich.

He also said he would not revoke waivers issued by the Obama administration allowing certain illegal immigrants to stay in the United States — putting more meat on the bones of his proposed immigration policies. Separately, Romney’s campaign seized on a gaffe by Biden Tuesday that forced Team Obama to engage in damage control on the debate’s eve. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Systematic Slaughter by Islamists Claims Lives of 25 Students in Northern Nigeria

October 2nd 2012

Nigeria Adamawa State college

At least 25 people were killed late Monday in what appears to be a systematic slaughter in Adamawa State in northern Nigeria. Locals say the victims, mostly college students, were individually questioned before being attacked. The day after the killing spree, this student at the Federal Polytechnic College in the town of Mubi, who doesn’t want to be named, says students are fleeing the area, at least those that can find a car or a bus.

On a crackly line from Mubi he says gunshots could be heard around 10 o'clock Monday night and continued for three hours until it started to rain. He says the assailants went from house to house, in a student residential area, asking questions and killing those who gave the wrong answer. Students were asked about their religion, he says. However, not everyone agrees with that account. Another student said that the killers were asking about politics, the day after student elections. Read more ..


The Edge of Climate Change

Climate Change and Technological Innovation Requires a U.S. Weather Commission

October 2nd 2012

Click to select Image

With the U.S. economy vulnerable to weather events costing billions of dollars, an expert panel today asked Congress to create the first U.S. Weather Commission. The commission would provide guidance to policymakers on leveraging weather expertise across government and the private sector to better protect lives and businesses.

"The nation must focus its weather resources on the areas of greatest need in order to keep our economy competitive and provide maximum protection of lives and property," says Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "Emerging technologies are providing an opportunity to create forecasts that are more accurate and detailed than ever, and to communicate them instantly to key communities and businesses. We need a U.S. Weather Commission to ensure that our entire weather research and technology enterprise provides maximum benefit to the nation." Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Hindus Charge Muslims with Blasphemy

October 2nd 2012

HIndu temple in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Hindu minority is using the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws against a group of Muslims that attacked a Hindu temple. Anti-blasphemy laws here have typically been used against religious minorities. Now, police are applying the same regulations to charge nine Muslims, including a cleric, of rampaging through a temple and destroying Hindu religious items. Some laws carry the death penalty.

Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Muslim Pakistan Ulema Council, welcomed the decision. “I think this is a good gesture from Pakistan, and a good gesture of Muslim people from Pakistan,” he said. Read more ..


China on Edge

Hong Kong Ferry Disaster Reaps More than 36 Lives

October 2nd 2012

Hong Kong ferry disaster

Rescuers continue to search in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor for survivors of a ferry boat collision that killed at least 36 people who were headed to watch a holiday fireworks show. Over 100 survivors have been rescued from the sea. The ferry, belonging to the Hong Kong Electric Company, sank within minutes of colliding with another passenger boat late on October 1, leaving little time for passengers to put on life jackets. Distraught family members and friends searched hospitals and morgues on October 2, seeking missing family members who were aboard the ferry, which was carrying around 120 of the company's staff and relatives. The disaster occurred at approximately 8:30 PM local time.

The other vessels involved in the disaster is owned by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry Holdings and suffered a damaged hull but made it safely to shore, with several of its crew and passengers taken to hospital for minor injuries. Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

State and Defense Consider Sending Marines to Libya

October 1st 2012

USMC FAST batallion

Pentagon and State Department officials are considering using the Marine Corps counterterrorism units currently in Libya to provide security for the FBI team investigating the U.S. Consulate attack there. The notion of the Marines units, which are part of the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security (FAST) teams, running security for FBI investigators "is being discussed" within both departments, DOD spokesman Maj. Robert Firman said Monday.

The final call on whether the FAST units will accompany the FBI team into Benghazi will fall to the State Department, he added. The Marine Corps teams have been on the ground in Libya since the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Shortly after the attack, the Department of Justice sent the FBI team to Libya to investigate the circumstances that lead up to the strike, which administration officials now admit was a coordinated, terrorist attack against the American diplomatic post. However, the FBI team has been stranded in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, unable to visit the site of the attack due to the dangerous security situation in Benghazi. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Following New Obama Guidance, Lockheed Stands Down on Layoffs

October 1st 2012

Robert Stevens CEO Lockheed
Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens

Lockheed Martin said Monday it will not issue employee layoff notices this year, ending an election-year showdown with the Obama administration. The company said it based its decision on new guidance issued Friday by the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon.

The guidance said the Pentagon did not anticipate killing any contracts on Jan. 2, the day automatic spending cuts are set to begin hitting defense spending. The guidance also said the federal government would cover severance costs that are mandated under a federal layoff notices law. The decision by Lockheed means tens of thousands won't get layoff notices days before Election Day, which might have cast a crucial blow against President Obama's reelection chances. Republicans argue that last week's guidance was a politically motivated effort by the administration to protect Obama ahead of the election. Read more ..


The Winter of Arab Rage

Kenyan Islamists Bomb a Church and Kill a Child

September 30th 2012

Somali Militants2

Kenyan police say a grenade attack at a church in the capital, Nairobi, on September 30 killed a nine-year-old boy and wounded three other children.

Police chief Moses Ombati says he believes sympathizers of al-Shabab Islamic militants were responsible.

Police say the children were at a Sunday school service at Saint Polycarp Church in Nairobi when someone threw a grenade into the building. Authorities also believe al-Shabab supporters shot and killed two officers on patrol in the city of Garissa, near the border with Somalia Sunday. The attackers stole the officers' rifles. Al-Shabab militants are struggling to hold on to the few remaining areas they control in Somalia, where Somali and African Union forces stymied their efforts to set up a conservative Islamic state. Read more ..


Islam and Free Religious Expression

Rioting Bengali Muslims Burn 40 Buddhist Temples over Facebook Photo of Quran

September 30th 2012

Burned temples

Thousands of Muslims in Bangladesh furious over a claim about an unflattering photo of the Quran on Facebook went wild and torched at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar. The arson riot began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said police authorities in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar. The polie said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon only after the government banned public gatherings in the riot area. At least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. Muslim rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though who actually posted the photo was uncertain.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that the accused boy claimed innocence and protested that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile without his knowledge.

Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Defense Contractor's Worker Stole Military Technology for China

September 29th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

A jury on Thursday convicted an employee of a defense contractor for exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), stealing military secrets, and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Sixing Liu, a/k/a “Steve Liu,” a Chinese citizen who lived in Flanders, New Jersey, and in Deerfield, Illinois, was immediately taken into federal custody after the jury announced their verdict. U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler based his decision for Liu to remain in custody after agreeing with the prosecutor that Liu was a flight risk. Sentencing before Judge Chesler is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013.

The jury convicted 49-year-old Liu of nine of the 11 counts with which he was charged, including six counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, one count of possessing stolen trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, one count of transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, and one count of lying to federal agents. The jury acquitted Liu on two counts of lying to federal agents. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa Mining Strikes Spread following Lethal Confrontation with Police

September 29th 2012

Striking mine workers Sep 2012

More strikes have hit South Africa's mining industry, a week after striking workers at a platinum mine won a 22 percent pay raise. Workers walked off their jobs this week at mines run by AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world's largest gold producers. The workers are reportedly demanding a pay raise in line with the workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana township.

Meanwhile, gold producer Village Main Reef says 1,700 of its workers failed to report to work for September 27 night shift as well as September 28 day shifts. Also, mining firm Petmin said on September 28 that 345 of its workers at a coal mining subsidiary walked off their jobs. Both companies said they are talking with workers and hoping to end the strikes peacefully. The Lonmin deal followed a clash between police and miners in which police shot dead 46 striking workers. Earlier this month, union leaders said the Lomnin deal set a precedent for other miners. Striking miners have armed themselves with homemade traditional spears and machetes, defying the mineowners to dismiss or dislodge them.

On September 27, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the top producer of platinum, declared that it would begin disciplinary action against strikers and could dismiss them. So far, the strike is considered illegal. Four of Amplats's Rustenburg mines have been idled for over two weeks, thereby costing the company at least 20,000 ounces in lost output to date, or $33 million at current spot prices. Spot prices for platinum were up 1.4 percent, at $1,665.74 an ounce. Read more ..


Somalia on Edge

Kenya has al-Shabab Terrorists on the Run in Somalia

September 29th 2012

al-Shabbab

Somalia’s militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, says it has withdrawn from its last bastion in the country. On September 29, al-Shabab said that it abandoned the port city of Kismayo following an attack by Kenyan military forces. Al-Shabab has vowed revenge. On September 28, the Kenyan military said the attack involved land, sea and air forces and was coordinated forces of the African Union and the Somali government.

According to VOA News, Kenyan and Somali government troops controlled some northern neighborhoods of Kismayo, but that the airport and most of the town are still under the control of al-Shabab hands. Two witnesses said the militants had mounted machine guns on the town's tallest buildings. Kenyan infantry landed a few kilometres away from Kismayo and then advanced in three columns towards the city. Logistical and other support was provided from the air and sea. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Reuters and AP Rapped for Netanyahu Photo

September 28th 2012

Netanyahu at UN

Photos of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu from his speech at the United Nations on Thursday published by two of the world’s largest newswires show him making a gesture eerily similar to the infamous Nazi salute.

The photos capture Netanyahu extending his left arm with his hand in the same formation that was used during the Third Reich to “Heil Hitler”. In Nazi Germany, the right arm was generally used for Nazi salutes, however the left arm was accepted if there was a physical disability.

“Of the hundreds of professional photos taken at this speech, the AP and Reuters decided to push these onto the wire,” wrote Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard. Reuters photo of Netanyahu from his UN speech. Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, called the the decision by both Reuters and AP “ugly” and “disgusting”. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Police and Russian Muslims Clash

September 28th 2012

Muslims Russian police

Shermamat Suyarov says he will think twice before returning to pray at Moscow's largest mosque. Suyarov, a 52-year-old Russian citizen of Kyrgyz origin, says he was sitting in a parked car waiting to attend prayers on September 17 when police ordered him out and detained him.

He was hauled into a police bus with scores of other would-be worshippers. Later, at a police station he claims he was beaten so severely after he complained about the rough treatment that he had to be hospitalized: "They beat me with their fists, batons and feet," he says. "There were five or six of them beating me and there were some others there too. I wasn't counting. I lost consciousness. I was in shock and broke a rib." Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad and Syrian Opposition at a Stalemate at Aleppo

September 28th 2012

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian government forces captured several rebel-held districts in the capital Damascus Friday, as the rebels went on the offensive against government troops in the northern city of Aleppo. Rebel fighters clashed with government forces in at least a half dozen districts of Aleppo, on the second day of a rebel offensive. Witnesses say the rebels have been unable to gain much ground, and state TV claims heavy rebel casualties.

Rami Abd al-Rahman of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that clashes in Aleppo have engulfed much of the city and that government forces are shelling the rebels to prevent them from advancing. Al-Rahman said that parts of Aleppo are being shelled, amid clashes on front lines between rebel-held territory and districts held by the government. He said that especially heavy fighting is reported in a Kurdish district under government control.

In Damascus, government troops stormed three rebel held districts amid heavy exchange of gunfire. Tanks and armored vehicles pushed into the areas as government troops searched houses, making arrests. Heavy street fighting was also reported inside the eastern oasis town of Deir Ezzor for a second straight day. Amateur video showed rebel fighters trading fire with government troops along streets strewn with rubble and burned-out vehicles Read more ..


China on Edge

Chinese Rising Star Bo Xilai Expelled from Chinese Communist Party

September 28th 2012

Bo Xilai

Chinese state media say disgraced politician Bo Xilai, who is at the center of China's biggest political scandal in decades, has been kicked out of the country's Communist Party and will "face justice." The official Xinhua news agency said Bo, once considered a rising star in Chinese politics, will face charges including corruption, abuse of power, bribe taking, and "improper" relations with a number of women. It said Bo's actions "created grave repercussions, and massively damaged the reputation of the party and the state." Bo, who has not been seen or heard from in months, was stripped of his party posts earlier this year when authorities became aware of allegations that his wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in the murder of a British businessman.

In a separate report on 28 September, Xinhua said the 18th Party Congress, which will begin the sensitive process of transferring power to a new generation of Chinese leaders, will convene on November 8. The scandal surrounding Bo has complicated the tightly scripted Communist Party power transfer, since Bo had widely been expected to attain a top position in the new leadership. Read more ..


The Edge of Safety

Enterprise Supports Bill to Get Unsafe Rental Cars Off the Road

September 28th 2012

Enterprise car logo

In a press conference today, Cally Houck joined Senators Barbara Boxer and Charles Schumer and safety advocates, to announce an exciting development in her battle to get dangerous rental cars off the road. Earlier this year, Cally Houck started a popular petition on Change.org calling on Enterprise Rent-A-Car to drop opposition to proposed legislation that would prohibit rental car companies from renting cars that have been recalled due to safety risks. She has worked tirelessly with safety advocates and members of Congress to secure industry support for the legislation.

Enterprise now supports the legislation, named after Cally's daughters Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, who died in 2004 while driving a recalled rental Enterprise car. The legislation would ensure the safety of America’s rental car fleet by preventing rental car companies from renting or selling recalled cars or trucks. The legislation is supported by Senators Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Claire McCaskill and Representatives Roy Blunt and Lois Capps. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Israeli Prime Minister Draws 'Red Line' on Iran's Nuclear Weaponization

September 27th 2012

Netanyahu's redline

Speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resorted to graphics to indicate where Iran may reach by the middle of 2013 in its quest for nuclear weapons. He literally drew a red line where he said that Iran must be halted on a placard that he brought with him to the dais at the assembly hall.

See the video of complete Netanyahu address here

He laid out Israel’s case for stronger international action against Iran and to what he said were “libelous” accusations about the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians. His speech came just minutes after the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, had spoken to the international assembly. Netanyahu tackled statements made by Abbas in which the Palestinian leader accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians, while also saying that peace will only come if Israelis and Palestinians can “sit together, negotiate together and reach a mutual compromise.” The Israeli Prime Minister said that there must be “a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the one and only Jewish state." Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Gallup Polls Give Obama the Edge over Romney

September 27th 2012

Obama

President Obama has stretched his lead over Mitt Romney to 6 percentage points nationally, according to the Gallup daily tracking poll released Wednesday.

Obama takes 50 percent support over Romney's 44 percent.

The president has hit the 50 percent mark only twice before in the poll, most recently after the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month. Obama's approval rating has also jumped in recent weeks, and sits at 51 positive and 43 negative, according to Gallup. Obama now leads the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls by 4 percent. Romney led the Gallup daily tracking poll on Aug. 27, 47 to 46 percent over Obama, but that’s the last time any major poll has shown him in the lead.

A string of polls in September has shown Obama pulling away, in some cases by as many as 8 percentage points, and the daily tracking polls have scarcely fluctuated over that time. Gallup has been almost completely static, with each candidate averaging near 45 percent support throughout most of the cycle. The latest survey from conservative-leaning Rasmussen still shows the race tied at 46 percent. Read more ..


Broken Government

U.S. Postal Service to Default on Treasury Payment - Again

September 27th 2012

Click to select Image

The Postal Service announced Wednesday that it would not make a scheduled $5.6 billion payment to the Treasury Department by the end of the month, officially throwing in the towel on a second large payment in as many months.

The agency, which lost more than $5 billion in the most recently completed quarter, had been widely expected to default on the prepayment for future retiree benefits, and rushed on Wednesday to assure customers that business would continue as usual.

“Customers can be confident in the continued regular operations of the Postal Service,” USPS said in a statement. “We will continue to deliver the mail and pay our employees and suppliers. Postal Service retirees and employees will also continue to receive their health benefits.” The second default — USPS also failed to make a $5.5 billion prepayment due on Aug. 1 — comes as postal officials plead with Congress to reach a final agreement on a broad overhaul of postal operations. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Candidates Criss-Cross Ohio as Obama Leads the Way

September 27th 2012

Obama

Mitt Romney and President Obama crisscrossed Ohio on Wednesday as the GOP nominee brought in some celebrity friends to boost his bid and the president sought to solidify his double-digit lead in the battleground state.

The candidates held a total of five public events throughout the day, trading barbs on trade with China and detailing their plans to reduce the unemployment rate in the traditionally blue-collar state. Ohio's 18 electoral votes are crucial in the race for the White House — no Republican has ever won the presidency without the state — and both candidates acknowledged its importance from the stump.

For Romney, who a New York Times poll released Wednesday showed trailing 53 to percent 43, that meant attempting to project confidence — and leaning on some famous friends. The Republican presidential candidate was joined on the stump by homegrown golf legend Jack Nicklaus early the day and later by "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe at a jobs roundtable outside Cleveland. He also deployed some of his top political allies, bringing Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to his campaign stops and on Tuesday afternoon appearing alongside running mate Paul Ryan and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Ahmadinejad Denounces the West's 'Intimidation' and Calls for New World Order

September 26th 2012

Ahmadinejad The Man

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad accused the West of nuclear "intimidation" in his speech to the UN General Assembly that was boycotted by the United States and Israel. The speech was Ahmadinejad's last at the United Nations before he stands down next year.

Meanwhile, thousands of people filled a plaza near the United Nations in a protest against the Iranian regime who spoke to the international body on September 26. The Iranian leader said that he sees hope of a new world order based on "cooperation and harmony" as opposed to a "hegemony of arrogance." Known for his fiery denunciations of the United States and Israel, Ahmadinejad cited what he termed the "continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality." Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

Republican Senators Demand Cables Penned by Slain American Ambassador

September 26th 2012

Ambassador J Christopher Stevens
Slain American ambassador Chris Stevens

Two Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday demanding to see diplomatic cables sent from Libya prior to the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“While we appreciate your participation in the briefing to the U.S. Senate last week, we are extremely concerned about conflicting reports over the events leading up to the attacks,” wrote Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “Specifically, we are concerned over the apparent lack of security preparations made despite a demonstrable increase in risks to U.S. officials and facilities in Benghazi in the period leading up to the attacks.”

The letter goes on to request “all communications between the U.S. Mission to Libya and the State Department relevant to the security situation in Benghazi in the period leading up to the attacks, including, but not limited to, cables sent from Ambassador Stevens.” Read more ..


The Edge of the Universe

First Two Webb Telescope Flight Mirrors Delivered to NASA

September 25th 2012

Webb telescope flight mirror

The first two of the 18 primary mirrors destined for installation aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have arrived at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The mirrors are going through receiving and inspection and will then be stored in the Goddard cleanroom until engineers are ready to assemble them onto the telescope’s backplane—the structure that will support them.

Ball Aerospace, Boulder, Colo., under contract to Northrop Grumman, is responsible for the Webb’s optical technology and lightweight mirror system. On September 17, 2012, Ball Aerospace shipped the first two mirrors in custom containers designed specifically for the multiple trips. The mirrors trave through eight U.S. states while completing their manufacturing. The remaining 16 mirrors will make their way from Ball Aerospace to Goddard over the next 12 months as they await telescope integration in 2015. Read more ..


Energy Policy

Senate Energy Efficiency Bill is Toned Down to Suit House Republicans

September 25th 2012

Better Place EV charging

Backers of a Senate energy efficiency bill passed early Saturday said that removing authorizations and new standards were necessary to gain traction in the Republican-controlled House. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) got their energy efficiency legislation (S. 1000) through as an amendment to a previously passed House bill, but had to shed much of its weight in the process.

“Our amendment, while not everything we wanted, takes some reasonable and commonsense steps to ensure the federal government is coordinating with industrial manufacturers in developing and deploying industrial efficiency technologies, and places additional energy efficiency requirements on the federal government that will ultimately save money for the U.S. taxpayer,” Portman said in a statement Monday. The amendment was tacked onto H.R. 4850, which would update energy efficiency standards for products ranging from walk-in freezers to covered water heaters. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, which could set it up for either a House floor vote or a conference committee. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Cabinet Officials Signal Crackdown on Medicare Billing Abuse

September 25th 2012

StethoscopeAndKeyboard

Top federal officials are stepping up scrutiny  for doctors and hospitals that may be cheating Medicare by using electronic health records to improperly bill the health plan for more complex and costly services than they deliver. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder notified five medical groups of their intention to ramp up investigative oversight, including possible criminal prosecutions, by letter on Monday.

The government action follows a year-long investigation found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees. A probe uncovered a broad range of costly billing errors and abuses that have plagued Medicare for years—from confusion over how to pick proper payment codes to outright overcharges. The findings indicated that Medicare billing problems are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch to electronic health records.

Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Romney Slams Obama's 'Bumps on the Road' in the Mideast

September 24th 2012

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney launched an aggressive new attack on President Obama's comments Sunday in an interview with "60 Minutes," during which Obama described recent events in the Middle East as "bumps in the road."

"These are not bumps in the road, these are human lives," Romney told a crowd in Pueblo, Colo. "These are developments we don't want to see."

Romney's comments at a rally on an airplane tarmac echoed similar remarks he made in a pair of television interviews conducted shortly before he spoke. In an interview with ABC News, Romney called the president's remarks "quite revealing."

"His indication that developments in the Middle East represent bumps in the road is a very different view than I have," Romney said. "The president — I can’t imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors is a bump in the road, when you look at the entire context, the assassination, the Muslim Brotherhood president being elected in Egypt, 20,000 people killed in Syria, Iran close to becoming a nuclear nation — these are far from being bumps in the road." Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Holocaust Survivors Rebuke Obama at State Department Commemoration for Being "At War with Survivors"

September 24th 2012

Hilary Clinton

On Monday, September 24, the U.S. State Department held a program commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the voyage of the SS St. Louis attended by numerous Department officials and foreign dignitaries. According to the program, the purpose of the event was to “acknowledge the courage and patriotism of the Passengers as well as their exceptional contributions to American society,” it presents the play The Trial of Franklin D Roosevelt, and concludes with a “panel discussion chaired by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat that explores the lessons of the saga of the SS St Louis including issues related to immigration, human rights, racism and America’s proper role in a refugee crisis.”

Herbert Karliner, one of the few remaining survivors of the SS St. Louis, was one of the honored guests, and one of the panelists. Mr. Karliner, who currently lives in Miami Beach, is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA. At the proceedings, he gave Department officials a letter addressed to Secretary of State Clinton exposing the hypocrisy of the Administration’s use of the St. Louis as a metaphor for past injustice at the same time it is currently opposing Holocaust survivors’ rights to go to American courts to recover insurance policies sold by Allianz, Generali, and other companies to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.             

Mr. Karliner’s letter also attached previous correspondence from Holocaust survivor leaders to Secretary Clinton urging that she dismiss Mr. Eizenstat as “Special Advisor” to the State Department for Holocaust Issues, because he has a conflict of interest from his simultaneous position as “Chief Negotiator” for  the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (“Claims Conference”), a non-survivor NGO that has consistently opposed Holocaust survivors’ rights to control their claims against the insurance companies that defrauded their families. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Jewish Democrats Warn Netanyahu Away from U.S. Politics

September 24th 2012

Obama and Netanyau

Top Jewish Democrats are squarely standing by President Obama's decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warning Israel to butt out of the U.S. presidential race.

The White House has been on the defensive ever since Israeli officials publicly complained last week after Obama refused to adjust his schedule to meet with Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week. Republicans quickly pounced, urging Obama to reconsider and inviting Netanyahu to meet with them at his convenience. ''I don't think it's necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,'' Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated. ''I didn't think it was appropriate for the prime minister to publicly get into a dispute with the president of the United States, since we're both very closely working together to impose sanctions and to force Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.'' Read more ..


Religious Hatred

Vandals Trash Upper West Side Deli

September 23rd 2012

Lansky's Deli

Lansky’s Old World Deli on Manhattan’s Upper West Side will reopen on Saturday morning after thieves broke into the restaurant earlier this week,vandalized the inside and wrote anti-Semitic slurs on the walls. “We’ll be open tomorrow morning,” an employee told The Algemeiner, adding that the deli is still in the process of cleaning up the mess. “We’re fixing things up now,” she said.

David Ruggerio, the delis owner, said the extent of the damage inside was severe. “They smashed all the computers, smashed phones, broke every plate in the place, sliced every banquette,” he told The New York Post.  “It was like someone came in and went wilding. Vandalism is one thing, but it was a total defacement. They urinated everywhere.” Ruggerio, who isn’t Jewish himself, says he covered up the anti-Semitic words and symbols in order to keep the situation from becoming “inflamed”. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Clashes Continue Across Syria

September 23rd 2012

Free Syrian Army

Syrian activists say government and rebel forces continue to clash across the country, a day after the rebel Free Syrian Army announced it was moving its command center from Turkey to Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that most of the casualties from fighting Sunday occurred in the northern part of Syria. The Britain-based group also said the government was using aerial support to target rebel forces in central Homs province.

A day earlier, the Free Syrian Army - formed mostly of military defectors - released a video saying it is moving its command to what it called "liberated areas" of Syria. FSA chief, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, said the group hopes to launch an offensive on the capital, Damascus. On Sunday, a group of 16 Syrian opposition parties met in Damascus and called for an end to what it described as Syria's "authoritarian regime."  Ambassadors from Iran and Russia - two countries that support President Bashar al-Assad - also attended the meeting. Read more ..



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