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2013 In Review
News Flash: Latest in NSA Spying - Healthcare Extension - Utah
Track Santa's Trip-Tick around The World
Federal Judge Declared NSA Spying Program Unconstitutional
Budget Passed US House - Republicans Started World War III
NEWS FLASH: Budget Deal - Healthcare Update - Mandela
Nelson Mandela: A Unique View of This Legacy
Pope Francis on Trickle-down Economy - God & the Poor
Groundbreaking First Step in Diplomatic Negotiations w/Iran
US Senate Changed Rule to Curtail Republicans' Filibusters
Health Care Law Enrollment Nearly Doubled - New Progress
JP Morgan Settled/Avoid Criminal Charges for 13 Billions
Filipino 175 mph Typhoon- The Rescue & Humanitarian Effort
Hose Votes to Waive Health Care Law Consumer Protection
European Foreign Ministers: Iran's Nuclear Talks Failed
News Flash - Anti-Gay Ban Bill Passed Senate - Economy Grew
Election Results - Roundup around The Country
Toronto Mayor Admitted to Using Crack Cocaine
November 5, 2013 - Election Day around the Country
Breaking News Flash: Abortion - Stop-&-Frisk- Gay Marriage
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January 6, 2014
January 1, 2014
2013 Year in Review
January: President Barack Obama got sworn in for a historic second term after a brutal 2 billion dollar campaign against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate and Tea Party House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.
February: It was the deadliest storm in modern Philippine history, and one of the strongest ever recorded. Typhoon Haiyan plowed through the country's midsection on Nov. 8, with winds of more than 150 miles an hour. The storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than three million. President Benigno Aquino III estimated the cost of the damage—including 550,000 homes—at nearly $13 billion. The worst-hit area is mainly agricultural. Government economic managers have said the damage could lower growth, although reconstruction spending should temper the storm's effects on the economy.
Also in February: Christopher Dorner, an ex-police officer, is named a suspect wanted in connection with shootings that occurred throughout Southern California within a week period. In those shootings, three people died, including a police officer and an assistant women's basketball coach at California State University, Fullerton, and several others were wounded. Dorner was later killed after taking refuge in a house in the mountains and taking the homeowners hostage.
March: 76-year old Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires became Pope Francis, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI who stepped down two weeks earlier, citing declining health—the first pontiff in more than six centuries to resign from a position traditionally held until death. Pope Francis of the Jesuit Order has amazed the world and brought back a billion Catholics to the Catholic Church through his return to the basic and fundamental principal of Christianity: caring for the poor and the less fortunate, and “love your neighbor as you love yourself for the love of God.”
April: 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his 19 year brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, bombed the Boston Marathon killing 3 people and wounding 260. Day later, the brother killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and started a standoff with Watertown police in a chase that started in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The hunt for the surviving 19 year old Tuft University student shut down and paralyzed Metropolitan Boston for over 24 hours.
May: Under the leadership of the bipartisan so-called “gang of eight,” led by Tea Party Cuban-American Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary approves immigration reform legislation that would give citizenship to millions living in the country illegally. At the time, Rubio was regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party – the man likely to fix Republicans’ electoral deficit among Latinos. However, within days, Rubio was forced to distance himself from his own plan when he came under attack from conservative groups and Tea Party faithful. Rubio who was considered a sure bet to run as a candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries quickly fell from grace and was side swept by Tea Party hardliners the Junior Senators from Texas and Kentucky, respectively Ted Cruz who led the government shutdown with the help of 80 Tea Party House Republicans and Senate Libertarian Rand Paul.
June: 29-year old former NSA contractor and data analysts released top-secret documents to the UK newspaper, The Guardian and the Washington Post, unleashing outrage and disbelief in the massive National Security Agency data-swooping program on American citizens and foreigners. The leak revealed the government’s reach into private telephone, internet, and financial records access by internet into the systems of major service providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others. Snowden later released thousand more pages of classified documents, some showing illegal practices by the NSA and the monitoring of telephone activities of at least 19 foreign Heads of States, including France and Germany.
Also in June the Republican majority legislature in Texas passed one of the most restrictive laws banning most abortions and passing regulations which would have made impossible for doctors and clinics to provide abortion services in the State. When the legislature attempted to pass the law in just before midnight at the end of the legislative period, Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis mounted an 13- hour filibuster. The filibuster rules in the Texas legislature are strict and forbid members to get off topics, lean on the podium, and even from drinking water. When a Senate colleague tried to provide Mss. Davis with a back support, the Senate Republican Chair declared that she had violated the rules and ordered her to terminate the filibuster By that time, words had gotten out on social media and thousands of people spontaneously showed up and filled the galleries of the capitol, chairing and chanting for her to be allowed to continue. When she was finally forced off the floor just 1 minute before midnight, the Republicans tried to rush the bill through and passed it. However, the record later showed that they had voted for the bill 2 minutes after midnight when the legislative session had already expired, which would have made the bill illegal. That forced the Republicans to pull out the bill. but in July, Texas governor Rick Perry called a special session of the legislature and the bill was passed. Democrats are a small minority in the Texas legislature.
July: A Seminole County Florida Jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Reactions around the country was swift as people marched in several cities around the country to protest the verdict from coast to coast.
August: The Islamic politics and cultural website, Islamic Invitation Turkey released a video, they said, showed that the Syrian government had launched a chemical attack near Damascus, the capital of Syria. The international press reported stories about the attack, but the evidence began to indicate that the chemical attack, which killed 1500 civilians, including 400 children, was ordered and carried out by the military forces of Syrian’s President Bashar Al Assad. President Obama threatened military action against Syria. However, several days later, news broke that Secretary of State John Kerry, brand new on the job, had reached a diplomatic agreement with the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin to monitor the destruction of Syria’s entire chemical weapon under the close supervision of the United Nations’ Weapons Inspectors.
Also in August: Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin struck down New York’s stop-and-frisk “policy” ruling that the New York Police Department tactics of violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city. The ruling effectively killed the program, following the election of New York’s new Mayor Bill De Blasio. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin effectively rejected New York Mayor’s Michael Bloomberg and his administration’s argument that the tactics plays a major element in fighting crime in the city. In her ruling, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the Police Department resorted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling” as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” The judge found that patrol officers have used the policy in the past 9 years “to stop innocent people without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.” Bloomberg tries angrily and desperately to hang onto his racist policy under the pretense of safety, and he woe to pursue this bloody odious legacy through the courts. Ultimately, this scheme will be found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme; for it cannot survive any serious scrutiny by any person of conscience under the IV and the XIV Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Declared a “Day of Rage.” The country descended into chaos and violence, and appeared to be on the verge of a civil war after the military intervened in Egyptians’ second uprising against President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim PM Hazem Beblawi. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to rise against what they considered a military coup and took to the streets by the thousands in protest. Egypt has been under military rule since, and in a state of turmoil since President Morsi was democratically elected by a majority of Egyptians a year ago in the wake of the Arab Spring, which resulted in the ouster of 30-year military dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The military promised new elections, but has since banned the Muslim Brotherhood from political participation, declaring the party a terrorist organization.
September 1: North Carolina passed the most extreme voter ID laws with other measures all aimed at preventing targeted groups of voters from casting ballots in the general elections. Those laws targeted Blacks and Hispanics, younger voters, low income and elderly voters by making it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to obtain newly required State ID that the State made almost impossible to obtain based on the very requirements that were put in place to obtain such ID. In addition, many states reduced the number of days for voting, cut down on voting hours, and reduced voting precincts by moving them out of populated areas and increasing them in more rural areas with lower populations. Civil rights groups successfully sued over those voting restrictions and by Election Day, most of those laws were struck down and found unconstitutional by the Courts. In addition, the Justice Department blocked several of those states from putting those laws into effect by using Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to challenge the new laws and protect the voting rights of millions of Americans.
September 5: After her fifth attempt, Diana Nyad did something truly historic, when she completed a swim from Havana, Cuba to the Key West, a voyage she started 35 years ago. The 64-year-old left Havana Saturday and reached the shores of Florida’s Key West on Labor Day, Monday, September 2, 2013 just before 2 PM local time after about 53 hours of swimming in shark-infested water. Although looking a bit dazed, with a swollen lip, and covered with sunburn, Nyad swam within feet of the beach before walking onto dry land. She was received by clapping spectators who cheered her on and wanted to take pictures with her. She was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. CBS reported that she was released from the hospital Monday evening after receiving IV treatment. The record-book swimmer told reporters, "I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team," she said on the beach. "I have to say, I'm a little bit out of it right now," she was reporting saying.
September 28: President Obama announced that he spoke on the telephone with the President of Iran, Hassan Ruhani,
before the Iranian President left New York after he attended and delivered a speech at the United Nations this week. The conversation was said to have lasted 10 to 15 minutes, after which President Obama made the announcement to the White House press without taking questions. The President acknowledged the barriers that exists on the road to forging a diplomatic solution over Iran's nuclear program. However, given that the Iranian Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini gave his green light for President Ruhani to engage in serious diplomatic negotiations with the U.S. to reach a negotiated settlement that would benefit all parties, including the middle East as a whole, by bringing about more stability, and satisfy the United State government, while allowing Iran to continue to pursue a peace civilian nuclear program. This was a breakthrough announcement, considering that the two countries have been in a virtual Cold War and open hostility since 1979, when Iranians revolted and overthrew the American puppet government of the Shah of Iran, took American hostages and returned the Supreme Leader, who was in exile in France, The Ayatollah Khomeini.
October 1: When the clock struck 12:00 last night, the extreme right wing Tea Party Republicans in Congress shut down the federal government. The demand in this hostage-taking: House Republicans want the President of the United State to scrap his own Health Care Law, which was duly passed in both Houses of Congress, upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ratified voters in two elections. At this time, a small but the most radical faction in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has managed to hold the country hostage and shut down the government. Their leader in name only in the US House, Speaker John Boehner, stumbles and bumbles in front of cameras as if gagged and bound. After two weeks of holding funding for the federal government hostage in an attempt to dismantle the President’s Health Care law, through unworkable legislative maneuver, at midnight last, the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives succeeded in shutting down the federal government.
Also on October 1: The last component of the President’s healthcare law, the open insurance marketplace, was launched and the media, the Republicans, and a small fraction of people who had been covered under sub-standard health insurance plans went into a frenzy over the utter failure of the roll-out due to the abject dysfunction of the website that was built to handle enrollment, healthcare.gov.
October 17, The United States Government re-opened for business after 3 weeks (16 days) of Republican shut down over a failed effort to defund the President’s healthcare law. After resisting putting the Senate bill on the floor of the House without the support of the majority of his Republican Caucus, House Speaker John Boehner (Rep.-Ohio) finally agreed to allow the Senate clean continuing resolution to fund the government to go to the floor of the House for an open democratic vote. The bill was passed with the support of all 200 Democrats in the House; 87 Republicans voted yes, including Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
November: Historic Typhoon Haiyan stormed through the Philippine at winds of q50 miles an hour. It was the deadliest storm in modern in the history of the country. The storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than three million. A month later, about 101,000 people were still living in government shelters. President Benigno Aquino III estimated the cost of the damage, including 550,000 homes, at about $13 billion.
December: Tea Party House Republican Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray reached a budget agreement passed by both the House and the Senate. The first federal budget to have been enacted in 3 and a half years, paving the way for possible future compromises between the 2 governing parties and signaling a winding down of Republican obstructionism. The passage of the 2013 two-year budget also makes it less likely that Republicans will attempt to shut down the government over the raising of the country’s debt ceiling comes the deadline to do so on February 15, 2014. The budget deal also replaced the sequester cuts that caused the layoff of thousands of government employees and reduced benefits for food stamps recipients and meals on wheels for seniors. Although the Republicans succeeded in cutting $23 billion dollars out of the SNAP program that helps low-income families feed their children, they were unsuccessful in cutting the $40 billion they were looking to cut or eliminate the program altogether. The Democrats also held the line and prevented the Republicans from cutting Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. However, House Republican Speaker John Boehner adjourned Congress without passing the Senate passed Farm Bill or extending unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million unemployed Americans whose unemployment insurance ended 2 days after Christmas on December 27. Many of the new cuts have been placed squarely on veteran and federal employee pensions.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
The Stock Market rose to all-time highs, breaking all records going back 50 years.
Wall Street ended its best year since the 1990’s.
The S&P 500 closed the year at record highs_ 29.6%.
The Dow Jones Industrial climbed to 26.5% ending its best year since 1995.
The Nasdaq climbed to 38.3% - its best year since 2009.
Wall Street and big banks settled with the government in a multi-layer investigation into the fraudulent financial practices that led to the economic crash of 2008, and paid billions of dollars in fines and penalties, but nobody went to prison for defrauding ordinary citizens and causing untold miseries to homeowners and pensioners.
Worker marched and protested low wages
Hispanics marched to demand immigration reform and a stop to deportation and the break up of families
December 28, 2013
Judge Rule N.S.A Phone Hacking Is Lawful
The New York Times has reported that in a case filed by the A.C.L.U. of America, a federal judge in New York on Friday ruled that the National Security Agency’s program that is systematically keeping phone records of all Americans is lawful. This ruling is in sharp contradiction to a lower court ruling last week finding the program to be likely unconstitutional. That case was brought by two American citizens, and the District Court judge who issued the ruling stayed his own ruling to give the government time to appeal. the federal court ruling Friday increased the likelihood that the privacy issues involved in the government surveillance program will be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Healthcare.gov Received 2 Million Visits Monday
President Obama Extended Deadline
for People Who Started Applications
The Obama administration said Tuesday that it would provide more time for people to sign up for health insurance if they could show that they missed the Tuesday deadline for applications because of problems with the federal health care website.In effect, the administration was stretching the deadline once again, after a last-minute surge of interest among people seeking coverage. The administration hailed what it described as “amazing interest” in new health insurance options and said the federal website alone received “two million site visits” on Monday.
Utah Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down
Federal court Rejected Utah's Request for a Stay Pending Appeal
the Associated Press reported that a federal appeals court has refused yet again to stop gay marriage in Utah, making it more likely that same-sex weddings will continue to take place after hundreds lined up to get married, following Judge Robert J. Shelby‘s decision last week to strike down a 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban in the state. It has been reported that so far about 1000 couples have obtained licenses since Friday, with most of the activity centered in Salt Lake City. The State has made several attempts to stay the marriages, right up to the 10th Circuit, but 4 attempts have been denied.The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals‘ rejection of Utah’s request for an emergency order to put gay marriage on hold marked the latest and probably last legal setback before the state will have to appeal directly to the United States Supreme Court. Utah's attorney general’s office said the state is prepared to do, and a statement on the their website indicated that the state was consulting with outside council.
December 24, 2013
How To Follow Santa's Movement around The World
Follow with Google:
Google is giving real-time up to the second satellite location, distance, departure and arrival times, number of presents delivered, as well as Santa's health status and well-being.
As of 3:42 PM, Google had Santa departing Istanbul headed toward Ankara. Number of presents were 9.9 billion and distance traveled were 154,000 plus Kilometers.
NORAD Tracks Santa (under the auspices of the North American Aerospace Defense Command [The US Army) had Santa in Turkey headed toward Lebanon at 3:50 PM.
NASA REPORT (Reprinted from NASA Official site)
December 19, 2002
Johnson Space Center, Houston
Report #H02-254 -- NASA Tracks Santa as Space Station Crew Sends Holiday Greetings
Santa Claus and his reindeer will have some expert help this Christmas Eve, as they streak around the world to deliver joy and gifts to children everywhere. NASA flight controllers in Houston's Mission Control Center will watch over Santa throughout the night, just as they watch over the International Space Station and its crew every day.
NASA's Santa Tracker will be available beginning at 4 p.m. EST Dec. 24 on the Internet at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/tracking/index.html
Updates on Santa's progress will be posted on NASA's spaceflight website every two hours as Mission Control Houston monitors his rounds: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov
From on board the Space Station, the Expedition Six crew -- Commander Ken Bowersox, NASA Science Officer Don Pettit and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin -- will send a special holiday message to the world. They will also talk about NASA's plans to track Santa Claus.
The crew's holiday message will air on NASA Television beginning Friday, Dec. 20, as part of the daily Videofile program. Air times on Dec. 20 are noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m.,
9 p.m., midnight; and Dec. 21, 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. EST.
NASA TV programming is available through AMC2 (formerly referred to as GE2), transponder 9C. The frequency is 3880 MHz with an orbital position of 85 degrees west longitude, with audio at 6.8 MHz.
Last report: 11:57 PM - Santa is in North America, and is reported to have left Berlin, New Hampshire heading toward jay, Maine - United States.
December 16, 2013
Federal Judge Rebuked NSA Mass Surveillance
One Small Step for Edward Snowden
One Giant Step Back for Surveillance State Gone A mock
The New York Times has reported that federal Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia ordered the government to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the two plaintiffs in the case and to destroy the records of their calling history. Judge Leon was appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush. He stayed his own injunction as he wrote, “in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues,” allowing the government time to appeal it, a matter that he said could take at least six months. The case is the first in which a federal judge who is not on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has examined the bulk data collection on behalf of someone who is not a criminal defendant. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was in charge of authorizing the government's-secret program after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. According to the the Justice Department, and reported by the Times, "15 separate judges on the surveillance court have held on 35 occasions that the calling data program is legal." This was the first successful legal challenge brought against the program since it was revealed in June in leaked documents to the Washington Post and the UK Guardian's journalist, Glenn Greenwald by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden. “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote in a 68-page ruling. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment,” which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.Andrew Ames, a Justice Department spokesman, said government lawyers were studying the decision, but he added: “We believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found.”In a statement from Moscow, where he has obtained temporary asylum, Mr. Snowden praised the ruling.“ I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” Snowden said in a statement from Russia where he has been living under a temporary political assylum. “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights,” the statement said. “It is the first of many.”
The case was brought by several plaintiffs led by Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist. Mr. Klayman, who represented himself and the other plaintiffs, said in an interview on Monday that he was seeking to turn the case into a class action on behalf of all Americans. “I’m extremely gratified that Judge Leon had the courage to make this ruling,” he said. “He is an American hero.”Mr. Klayman argued that he had legal standing to challenge the program in part because, he contended, the government had sent inexplicable text messages to his clients on his behalf; at a court hearing, he told the judge, “I think they are messing with me.”The judge portrayed that claim as “unusual” but looked past it, saying Mr. Klayman and his co-plaintiff instead had standing because it was highly likely, based on the government’s own description of the program as a “comprehensive metadata database,” that the N.S.A. collected data about their phone calls along with everyone else’s.Similar legal challenges to the N.S.A. program, including by the American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, are at earlier stages in the courts. Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear an unusual challenge to the program by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which had sought to bypass lower courts.The ruling on Monday comes as several government panels are developing recommendations on whether to keep, restructure or scrap the bulk data collection program, and as Congress debates competing bills over the program’s future. Though long and detailed, Judge Leon’s ruling is not a final judgment on the program, but rather a preliminary injunction to stop the collection of data about the plaintiffs while they pursued their case. He also wrote that he had “serious doubts about the efficacy” of the program, saying that the government had failed to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive."
It is worth noting that Judge Leon rejected the Obama administration’s argument that a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, had established there are no Fourth Amendment protections for call metadata — information like the numbers dialed and the date, time and duration of calls, but not their content. The 1979 case, which involved collecting information about a criminal defendant’s calls over several days, helped establish the principle that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for information they have exposed to a third party, like the phone company, which knows about their calls.The surveillance court, which issues secret rulings after hearing arguments from only the Justice Department and without opposing lawyers, has maintained that the 1979 decision is a controlling precedent that shields the N.S.A. call data program from Fourth Amendment review. But Judge Leon, citing the scope of the program and the evolving role of phones and technology, distinguished the bulk collection from the 34-year-old case.Last month, a federal judge declined to grant a new trial to several San Diego men convicted of sending money to a terrorist group in Somalia. Government officials have since acknowledged that investigators became interested in them because of the call records program. Citing Smith v. Maryland, the judge said the defendants had “no legitimate expectation of privacy” over their call data.David Rivkin, a former White House lawyer in the George H.W. Bush administration, criticized Judge Leon’s reasoning.“Smith v. Maryland is the law of the land,” Mr. Rivkin said. “It is not for a District Court judge to question the continuing validity of a Supreme Court precedent that is exactly on point.”Judge Leon also pointed to a landmark privacy case decided by the Supreme Court in 2012 that held it was unconstitutional for the police to use a G.P.S. tracking device to monitor a suspect’s public movements without a warrant.Although the court decided the case on narrow grounds, five of the nine justices separately called into question whether the 1979 precedent was still valid in an era of modern technology, which enables long-term, automated collection of information
December 13, 2013
House Passes Budget Pact and Military Abuse Protections
Failed To Address Farm Bill
& Extend Expired Unemployment Insurance
US House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
John Boehner Unleash on the Tea Party 'This is Ridiculous!'
Boehner Lashes out at Conservative Groups
Lashes out at Big Money Conservative Conservative Groups
Boehner: Conservative groups have "lost all credibility"
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, again blasts outside conservative groups mobilizing in opposition to the recent budget proposal and says they previously pushed Republicans into a political corner ...
WASHINGTON — Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan budget bill, which includes a policy to strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault at the level of the Pentagon. The sexual assault provisions are aimed at halting the growing number of sexual assault cases in the military are the most expansive in years. They include new rules to prevent commanding officers from overturning sexual assault verdicts. Aside from the provisions for dealing with the 26,000 reported sexual assaults in the military, the House left open the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, over President Obama’s objections. The House wrapped up its business for the year after passing the bill with 169 Republican votes and a majority of Democratic Congressional, 164, voted yes. 94 members, including Democrats and Republicans voted no. The House did not take up the Senate farm bill, meaning that the farm will linger through the beginning of January 2014 when the House returns in session. Negotiations on the budget deal will continue the appropriation committees, and based on the two-year term of the deal, analysts and commentators are ruling out future government shutdowns and near-death federal debt default such as the one the country suffered this past September through October. The budget agreement did not include cuts in Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. It rolled back the sequester cuts by 62 billion dollars, which will prevent further layoffs among federal government employees, and restored some funding to the Defense Department. However, newly hired federal employees will pay more into their pensions and airline passengers will see higher fees. The budget negotiators, House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray did not negotiate any tax revenues from business or corporations or close any loopholes on multinationals that continue to keep most of their profits and earnings in foreign banks.
It is not at all clear what will be of the farm bill, which present several points for both sides of the isle. Among other issues, disagreements remain between Republicans and Democrats over spending for food stamps and expanding crop insurance for farmers. The House did take on a one-month extension of the current law, which Senate Democrats oppose because they think it will distract from the completion of a new bill. The new bill also left out the extension of unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans who are scheduled to exhaust their benefits on December 28, just 3 days after Christmas, and about 2 million more who will run out of benefits by January. Economists projects that this loss of unemployment insurance benefits will cost the economy over 200,000 jobs and about 42 billion dollars, given that people who receive unemployment benefits, like people who receive food stamp benefits, are likely to go out and spend what they have on necessities, such as food, rent or mortgage, clothing, and the likes. The contraction in consumer spending will in turn contract the economy and hinder the creation of jobs and keep the economy growing.
The Budget has been cut by 50 percent and stands at its lowest since the 1990's under President Bil Clinton. The unemployment rate went down from 8.6 percent the end of George Bush' s administration to 7% earlier this month, and is estimated to be at 6.7 percent for White women, 6.5 percent for White males, but is much higher at between 8 and 10 percent among youths, Blacks, and Hispanics. After 3 years of complete paralysis and gridlock in Washington, brought about Republican obstruction and opposition to everything the President has proposed, many observers view this deal as a call for a cease-fire by Republicans and the beginning of a possible truce between the two parties: a possible turning point where conservatives in Congress might begin to look upon compromise as a means to an end in favor of the Greater Good rather than a speed bump in their unyielding opposition to the President’s agenda. It was clear by statements made by House Speaker John Boehner a strategy was developed by the Republican House leadership, which includes the speaker, House Minority Leader, Eric Cantor, and Budget Chairman and 2012 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to give cover to Paul Ryan by marginalizing hardliners from the dozens of powerful conservative groups that have been fueling the divisive atmosphere in Washington. Those groups include the Club for Growth, the Heritage Action, the Senate Conservative Fund, and American for Prosperity.
In a barrage of criticism toward those outside conservative groups, and also in what appears to have been building frustration, Speaker Boehner took to the microphone on Capitol and blasted what he called outside groups pushing the American people and his caucus members “in places where they don’t want to go.” “Are you kidding me?” the speaker shouted, denouncing opposition to the budget accord. “There comes a point where some people step over the line. When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.”
The Budget deal seems to have open a new front in the Republican civil, not only between Congressional leaders and the groups and lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party, it also pits the House Republican leadership against the Tea Party wing, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, and Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, all three have indicated their likelihood to vote against the House when it goes to the Senate next week, where House Majority Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will keep the Senate in session and will need 60 votes to pass the bill. The Senate Democratic Caucus is made up of 52 Democrats and 2 Independents who usually caucus with the Democrats to bring the democratic majority to 54. This week, Senate Republicans_ all 48 of them _ held a 4 day and night filibuster in the Senate to protest the rule change that prevents them to continue to block the President’s nominees for all offices. The strategy went largely unnoticed and is ineffectual, as the Republicans can no longer block all the nominees on no basis, since the Senate can now approve nominees by a majority vote rather than the previous arbitrary 60 vote rules.
December 11, 2013
A World Memorial Service for A Son of The World
Former South African President
President Obama's Full Speech
One of the 5 World Leaders who Eulogized Mandela,
Including President Raoul Castro of Cuba - The Brother and Successor of Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, among the nearly 100 World Leaders attendance
President Obama was applauded by the crowd of tens of thousands of mourners from South Africa and from around the world, while the South African President, Jacob Zuma, was booed during his speech.
Video_White House via YouTube
President Obama Speaks at a Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela
President Obama delivers remarks at a national memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela. December 10, 2013.
27-year Political Prisoner under Apartheid
& Nobel Peace Prize Winner - Nelson Mandela
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — U.S. President Barack Obama implored thousands gathered in a cold, rainy stadium and millions watching around the world on Tuesday to carry forward Nelson Mandela's mission of erasing injustice and inequality.
In a speech that received thunderous applause at FNB stadium and a standing ovation, Obama called on people to apply the lessons of Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison under a racist regime, embraced his enemies when he finally walked to freedom and ushered in a new era of forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa.
"We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace," said Obama, who like Mandela became the first black president of his country. Obama said that when he was a student, Mandela "woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today."
Addressing the memorial service for Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, Obama pointed out that "around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love."
The News of the Demise of Healthcare.gov Was Premature
White House Briefing
~ Report card ~
& Department of Health and Human Services
Update on the Affordable Healthcare Act and Healthcare.gov
Huffington Post Daily Briefing News Alert: Nearly 1.2 million people are on track to have health coverage in place next year from the law's health insurance exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday. From Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, almost 365,000 people enrolled into private health insurance via the federal and state marketplaces and more than 803,000 were deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, according to the department. The federally run exchanges in more than 30 states accounted for 137,000 of the enrollments in private coverage, and the remaining states signed up 227,000. About 1.9 million more people had been determined eligible for coverage through the marketplaces, but hadn't yet chosen a health plan.
Congressional Federal Budget Negotiators Announced Deal
Democratic Senator Patty Murray & House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin)
Emerged yesterday after several weeks of budget negotiation to announce the framework of a possible 2-year budget agreement that would bring some stability into the federal budget process, and avoid further fiscal crisis, which will most likely include avoiding a breach in the country's debt ceiling
Federal workers will be expected to subsidize this deal with an increase in their out-of-pocket pension costs.
There will be cuts to Medicare. Airline passengers will pay a new tax. Military retirees
Military retirees will see their cut in their benefits
The New York Times is reporting that House and Senate negotiators reached a budget deal that would raise military and domestic spending over the next two years, shifting the pain of across-the-board cuts to other programs over the coming decade. The agreement reached by lawmakers on Tuesday includes about $65 billion in across-the-board domestic and defense cuts while adding an additional $25 billion in deficit reduction by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare through 2022 and 2023, two years beyond the cuts set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. House and Senate Negotiators Reach Budget Deal
December 7, 2013
South Africa’s Son - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - Passed Away
at the Age of 95
South African Nelson Mandela who is known for his smile, after spending 27 years in prison for fighting to end the White South African minority Apartheid regime, died today at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela lived a long, complex, and fulfilling life. Before he died he worked with the White minority to put an end to the hideous laws that banned the Black majority from travelling and circulating in most areas of the country. Under the Apartheid system, Black women were only allowed to have babies in “black-only” hospitals; Black South Africans were restricted to living in only a small part of the country, hold “black-only” jobs, and even buried in “black-only” cemetery. Black South Africans, including women and children were brutally beaten by police and opponents of the regimes were regularly poisoned or dropped out of airplanes. Black South Africans were required to walk around with passports prove to the White authority that they did belong were they were at any given time. Being unable to produce a passport when stop and ask by White South African police was made a felony offense by law in South Africa and was punishable by imprisonment. As a result, 30,000 Black South Africans gathered in front of a police station one day and told the White police force that they were there to voluntarily turn themselves in for arrest, because they did not have a passport and therefore were considered to be in the country illegally. 1,000 of them were arrested, as the police did not have enough space to process and imprison more people on that one day. But under the Apartheid regime, more than 30,000 Black South Africans were killed, as the White police force routinely used live ammunition to shoot into large crowds of protesters.
Nelson Mandela’s “freeing South African” and anti-Apartheid movement started in the late 1940. He was brought to trial twice, and as the first Black South African lawyer, he defended himself in court. He was convicted after his second trial and sentence to life and hard labor. His time in prison gave rise to the “free Nelson Mandela” movement with students leading the charge. Upon his release from prison after nearly 3 decades of living in a small cell with no bed or plumbing, being allowed one phone call every six months and 1 visitor for a half an hour per year, Nelson Mandela walked out a whole man. His jailers adored him and were inspired by him. One of them attended his presidential inauguration. His message to South Africans, Black and White, and the rest of the world, was that there was no room for bitterness or resentment in what he was working to achieve, and only room for ending the pernicious discrimination against the Black majority in South Africa. In 1994, he was inaugurated as the president of South Africa and accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the second South African, following Bishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. After spending most of his adult life in prison for his fight to end a system that had been compared to the holocaust, Mandela worked with the same people who had imprisoned him to bring about changes to South Africa. He is without a doubt one of the most admired men to have ever lived. He has inspired millions of young and old people around the world, some of whom have become engaged in politics, social activism, and charity, including our very own President Obama.
For the 50 years Nelson Mandela fought to end Apartheid and for which he was charged with treason and spent the 27 years in 3 separate prisons, Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison. the United States government under President Ronal Reagan and Republican Congressmen referred to him as a terrorist. During those years, Republicans in the U.S Congress voted to affirm support for the Apartheid Regime. In 1986, Ronald Regan vetoed a bill that called for sanctions and divestment against South Africa as a way to discourage the country from staying on the Apartheid course. At the same time, Student on college campuses in the United States and people around the world were protesting against the hideous regime. One of those student protesters happened to be a young Barack Obama. The President has recounted how Nelson Mandela’s life inspired him to get involved in politics, which led to his first candidacy for the State Senate in Illinois. Nelson Mandela is by all account a very humble man, but he was born in an African Royal family. He gave up his royal life in his youth in order to rid his country of the plague that was Apartheid. At the end, it took the effort of the entire world, including civil and human rights organization globally, through a combination of protests, activism, and boycotts of South African businesses, partners, and investors, to force the collapse of the brutal South African Apartheid regime.
The Free Nelson Mandela Movement_CC
Nelson Mandela will be Lying in State for the next 10 days though December 15. The South African government has declared a week of mourning, but South Africans, Black and White, have taken to dancing in streets in celebration of his life and his transition to the next realm, since the news of his passing. People from all over the world are travelling to South Africa to attend his viewing or funerals. The President of South Africa has made plans for 2 funeral services between now and next Sunday. It is being reported that the White House is making plans for President Obama to travel to South Africa. President Obama has had one personal meeting with the great leader and visited the Robben Island, one of the 3 prisons where Nelson Mandela was held, on his recent trip to South Africa. It may be impossible to envision what a funeral for Mandela will be like, considering the millions of people who love and admire him around the world. This was evident when more than 10,000 people showed up during his visit in New York City. When he visited Oakland California, Hollywood came out in a show of support in an atmosphere of awe. Nelson Mandela will live in history through the millions of people across generations that he has inspired on the issues of leadership, fairness and justice, peace, grace, courage, human rights, and conviction and perseverance. He has been described by many who have interacted with him as gentlemen and a remarkable leader and an exceptional human being. South Africa is, today, called a rainbow nation, and South Africans have been singing the country’s national anthem in all 12 languages that are spoken in South Africa in a twenty-four seven celebration of the extraordinary life of one of the world’s greatest emancipators.
November 27, 2013
Pope Francis' New Evangelism
Decried Capitalism – Spoke for Economic Justice
Yesterday, Reuters reported Pope Francis’s statements on capitalism, economic fairness, greed, and the need for Christians and the world’s governments to focus on the common good. The Pope’s Statements came on Tuesday in the form of a written document, the Pope’s fist-long document, likely in a series to come; this document is known in Vatican literature as the “Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel.” This document is used to exhort the world to Catholic values and to remind Catholics and others of the fundamentals of Christian values. Yesterday, the pope used the Evangelii Guadium to denounce capitalism, and used the 84-page document to focus on what the pontiff referred to as “ the evils of unfettered capitalism” and underline the church’s need to minister to the poor and care for the most vulnerable in society. The pope
During a November 2013 address, Pope Francis not only admonished capitalism, he also focus on the most insidious trickle-down economics concept championed by Republicans and conservatives who believe that the poor will eventually get something as the rich get richer. Following his election in March 2013, just eight months ago, Pope Francis called for global financial reform to include the poor in global economic planning, to help change the decades-long economic inequality that has increased poverty in many sectors of the world’s population, and at best kept it stagnant in others. It is apparent that the Pontiff will continue to use his papacy to advocate for change in the economic system that has kept the poor excluded and marginalized to the benefit of the rich.
Since the beginning of his young papacy, Pope Francis has been viewed as a revolutionary. The very fact that he chose the name Francis was a clear indication that he intended to lead the church in the tradition of Jesus’s teachings and care for the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, and by St. Francis of Assisi’s vow of poverty and humility. He has refused to live in the luxurious papal apartment and has forgotten the papal mobile in favor of walking among people of all kinds.
Homelessness in America
According the papal statement:
· Capitalism Kills
· Capitalism Is Idolatry
· Catholic Church Bureaucracy is too autocratic and hierarchic
· Economies that prey on the poor are tantamount to murder.
· The Catholic Church Is for the Poor
The Pope is quoted as stating in the 84-page written document:
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion."
On Trickle-Down Economics
"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron on the eve of the G-8 Summit, Pope Francis called capitalism a new form of idolatry, saying the money should “serve” humanity, not lead it. "The goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers' wombs. Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential. We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."
On The Church
In an interview with Italian journalist (and atheist) Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis indicated that the Catholic Church must be focused on the poor, not on itself or divisive issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. “Heads of the Church [he said] have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. The Church is or should go back to being a community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God. I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, and spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”
Pope Francis reminded the world that God says to focus on Poor. He spoke about his life as Jesuit with American Magazine; the Pope explained that his decisions to steer clear of material wealth and minister to the poor “come directly from God.” "Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing," the Pope is quoted as saying.
November 24, 2013
Historic Breakthrough Agreement between the US and Iran
Over Nuclear Deal after More Than 30 Years of Hostility
Iran's Agreement Negotiators
Iran Diplomic Negotiation:Photo_rt.com
After 34 years of hostility between the United States and Iran and the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, news broke overnight that Secretary of States John Kerry and leaders in Europe and Russia have reached a mid-term diplomatic agreement with the Persian Gulf country. The foreign policy chiefs from the nations involved in this diplomatic lift traveled to Geneva from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany on Saturday to work out the key points of this temporary six-month agreement. Americans have regarded Iran as an enemy since the Iranian revolution of 1979 that brought about the overthrow of the corrupt American-backed government of the Shah of Iran and the return of the Iranians’ Supreme Leader from exile in France, the Ayatollah Khomeini. This temporary agreement is clearly not the end of the delicate and sensitive public and private negotiations, but is intended to budget some time to negotiate more comprehensive and longer lasting agreement between the negotiators and leaders of the leading negotiation nations. It should not be very difficult for Americans and policy makers to understand the difference between opportunity and guarantee. President Barack Obama announced the breakthrough on live television and lauded the deal as a success that includes "substantial limitations that will help prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon."
But for the first time in the history of this county, groups of policy makers have aligned themselves with foreign forces that are working to actively undermine U.S. foreign policy during active diplomatic negotiations, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a vested interest in continuous sanctions on Iran, since the international sanctions on Iran’s oil export have shrank Iran’s export and opened up more market for the Saudis. Furthermore, the negative response by the Saudi to this unprecedented breakthrough in the negotiations may reflect the thousand year-old tension and conflicts between the Sunni population o Saudi Arabia and the Shia population of Iran whose unemployment rate, particularly among young Iranian, stands at 24 percent under the international sanctions. While many Americans may believe that these diplomatic negotiations only started after the Syrian’s chemical weapons stand-off with the President Obama’s administration, the Associated Press broke a story that talks between Iran and the United States were initiated almost a year ago by President Obama. During this year’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York, President Obama devoted part of his speech to the issues relating to Iran, sounding tough on the political front, but offering Iran a public opening by announcing that he has commissioned Secretary of State John Kerry to begin diplomatic negotiations with Iran. A lasting diplomatic agreement with Iran would be economically advantageous for the world market, by opening up trade and commerce between more countries. This would also represent a giant step toward world peace. Diplomacy is a process that requires time.
News of the agreement was received with great relief and approval by Iranians who have, by all accounts, suffered under the unprecedented and crippling economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. The sanctions imposed on Iran by the Obama administration have brought the sales of oil by Iran to an all-time low, in addition to preventing Iran to access his funds from banks around the world. The Iranian currency has dropped nearly all of its value in the five years of the Obama presidency.
The agreement that was announced is on a 6-month timeline. Under the deal, Iran will retain the right to enrich uranium but not above nuclear fuel level. The deal includes limitations to prevent the creation of nuclear weapons, and provides for daily inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. In return, the United States has agreed to release 7 billion dollars of Iranian fund, a small amount compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars of the country’s money that have been frozen under the sanction regime.
Although this agreement can hardly be seen as nothing but a historic breakthrough and a vindication for diplomatic processes, several hardliners and opponents of the president have taken to the media and social media to criticize the agreement. Israel Primer Minister, Benjamin Nathanyahu immediate made a statement calling the agreement “a historic mistake.” Nathanyahu who is a part of the hardliners in the Israeli government have been trying to derail the talks from the beginning, calling on the U.S. Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran in the middle of the diplomatic negotiations. Several Republicans Senators and Congressmen took to Twitter to claim that the announcement of the agreement was the President’s way of turning attention away from the healthcare law implementation discussions, which makes no sense at all.
Secretary of State John Kerry to CNN, "There are lots of things, regrettably, that we still have to work on. Our hope is that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif want to build this different relationship, want to show in clear ways as we go forward that the program is peaceful." "None of this is based on trust. It's not a question of trust," Kerry continued, "It's a question of having the verification and the intrusive inspections and the insights into the program and the commitments that can be held accountable, so that you are in fact creating a fail-safe mechanism by which you are making your judgments." “Middle East diplomatic expert Aaron David Miller said, "It's a little too early to break open Champagne bottles and put on the party hats on this one. Its success hinges on whether or not it leads to a bigger agreement to "put Iran's nuclear weapons program to rest."
Media reports indicate that the announcement of the agreement was well received by regular Iranians, who view the deal as a breakthrough that can bring direct improvement to their personal lives. Iranians have been hopeful and have voted for a moderate president who would work to improve relations with the West. "Everyone in Iran is very happy," Ali, a factory manager, told CNN international reporter in an interview. "Iranian people want to cooperate with all countries so we can make a best life. ... Iranian people are not dangerous," Ali added. He also said that life with sanctions has been difficult for young people like him. Iran President Rouhani said, “In the end, Iran's insistence that it has never sought nuclear weapons will be vindicated, and that notion will go down as a "historical joke." Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his approval of the agreement, despite his well-known distrust of Western powers. The distrust between Iran and the West has been mutual. “This could be the basis of intelligent actions of the future, the Ayatollah,” said.
November 23, 2013
U.S. Senate Changed Filibuster Rule
President Obama speaks on Senate filibuster reform
President Barack Obama spoke Thursday on the Senate's vote on the "nuclear option," which approved a new standard of simply needed a majority vote instead of a supermajority to approve of presidential...
to Curtail Republican Senate
Minority’s Abuse and Boycott of President Obama’s Nominees
During President’s Obama’s first inauguration, Republicans held a secret meeting to plot their strategy for blocking all of the new president’s agenda. One of the key features of the Republicans’ plan to annul the results of the 2008 elections was to use the filibuster in the Senate to deny the new president passage of legislations and the right to appoint his nominees, even from his own executive offices and to appoint judges from empty seats on the federal bench. This was unequivocally stated on the Senate floor by Republican Senate Minority leader Jim McConnell who said, “Our top priority in this term is to make President Obama a one-term president.” Republicans made good on the promise. Based on these Senate graphs, half of the filibusters that have been mounted in the 100 year history of the filibuster in the Senate have been against President Obama’s nominees. Republicans have used the filibuster to derail the President’s nominations for offices and agencies that they do not like and have promised to do away with, such as the Environment Protection Agency, the Labor Relations Board, the Department of Urban and Housing Development, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm. Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the nomination of Most of those departments have been forced to operate without a top executive and those who remain have been forced to stay, even though the President might need to replace them because it would have been impossible to get new nominees approved due to the Republicans’ absolute abuse of the filibuster rules. Republicans have mounted an unprecedented campaign to prevent the president from filling the 3 vacancies at the Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The importance of this court in this debate and in the Majority Leader’s decision to resort to extreme majors to put an end to Republicans’ abuse of the rule cannot be overstated. The D.C. Circuit Court has been called the second-most powerful court in the country, with broad jurisdiction over federal regulations. Republican-appointed judges often toss out federal regulations as too broad, while Democratic-oriented judges often uphold them, making the Republican’s fight one over the balance of power. With Republicans obstructing all of President Obama’s agenda, perhaps the surest way for the president to advance at least some of his agenda is through regulation. Republicans’ filibuster of all of President Obama’s nominees to the DC Court and extended the blocking of regulations to Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) earlier in the month to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency -- the first sitting member of Congress to be filibustered since the 1840s, Reid noted at the time. Mr. Watt is seen as more of an advocate for borrower-friendly policies. In addition, Republicans squashed the President’s nomination of Peter Diamond, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to head the agency. Those and other blocked nominations earlier this year seemed to have brought the Democratic Senate majority to a breaking point. The three nominees to fill the vacancies on the court will now be on track to be confirmed. The first judge to get a vote under the new filibuster rules is Patricia Millett, who Democrats voted to advance moments after revamping the rules. Following her nomination, Democrats are likely to immediately confirm Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins to fill the 3 vacancies on the court. Reform of the filibuster will open the door for the President to fill the anticipated three openings on the Federal Reserve’s seven member Board of Governors, which serves as the central bank’s policy-making body. This will also free the President to nominate governors who are will be willing to make unemployment and jobs top priorities in his administration.
Filibuster & Cloture in the US Senate
After months of debating a change in the rule of filibuster while dozens of empty federal judgeship remain open, Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada set in motion what is being referred to as the nuclear option. This so-called “nuclear option” is a simple parliamentary procedure that allows a simple majority of Senators – 51 out 100 to vote to change the rules of the filibuster, not all the rules of the Senate – to allow for a simple majority to vote to approve the President’s nominees for fill executive and legislative branch positions. Ironically, it was Senator McConnell who said while defending President Bush’s nominees that “the president has a right to appoint people he wants to executive and legislative posts.’ Since Republicans’ wish to make President Obama a one-term president did not materialize in the 2012 elections, the Republican minority in the Senate doubled their effort under the rule of the filibuster by refusing to allow nominees to even go up for a vote under ridiculous pretense and demands completely unrelated to the nominations. For examples, Senator Graham of North Carolina has promised to block all nominations if he did not get every piece of document and get answers to all of his questions, known or known, answerable or not, relating to the incident in Benghazi, which took the lives of 4 Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Several Democratic Senators have been advocating for this change for months, but were unable to gather the 51 percent simple majority votes in the democratic caucus to achieve that goal. The situation came to a head when Senate Republicans block three of the President’s nominees to the Washington D.C. Circuit Court. The D.C. court is the highest or second in the nation next to the Supreme Court, and is made of 11 members. However, the court has been operating with 3 vacancies since President Obama took office and Republicans have refused to allow any nominations to go through. Republicans have so abused the filibuster rule that they had threatened to block Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination, the first time a Defense Secretary would have been filibustered ever, and during wartime. Chuck Hagel was a Republican Senator prior to being named Defense Secretary by President Obama. This explains why Senator Harry Reid received a standing ovation by a crowd waiting outside the Senate floor after he successfully led the change to reform Senate rules to limit the Republicans’ ability to abuse the filibuster.
Many in the progressive circle and among the media did not see this coming. Some have even considered Senator Reid weak for being unwilling to pull the trigger on the reform of the filibuster rules. Senators Harkin has been pushing for filibuster reform for nearly two decades, and Merkley and Udall renewed the effort in 2010. But the reason this reform has not come until now can be traced to the fact that Senator Reid has been known as a traditionalist who was concerned about changing the rules. Twice this year, he threatened the reform, but each time he worked with Senator Mitch McConnell on agreements that would solve the problem on McConnell’s word that he would get his Republican caucus to work with Democrats to confirm the President’s nominees, and both times the Minority Leader broke his promise and went back to the old habit of blocking all of President Obama’s nominees. When all was said and done, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned that “Democrats they "will regret" changing the rules once they're in the minority.”
Senate Votes For Nuclear Option 'Nuclear option' for filibusters OK'd
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled the trigger Thursday, deploying a parliamentary procedure dubbed the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules to pass most executive and judicial nomin...
Senator Harry Reid told a cheering crowd gathered in the Mansfield Room that he always knew the reformers had been right in pushing for a rules change, but he did not want to admit it to himself. He also said that until now he did not have the 52 votes that he needed to affect the change. This change will allow the Senate to confirm the President’s nominees for executive branch positions and judgeship on a 52-48 votes. The change does not affect the Supreme Court whose nominees will continue to face a super majority vote of 60 Senators. From all indications, it appears that Senator Reid had been conflicted on making the change and used great deliberation to arrive to his decision. This would explain why he was able to move with swiftness and conviction on Thursday to narrow the grown of the Republican obstructionism against the Obama administration. Since President Obama was elected to Office in 2008 by 8 percentage point against Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona and his vice presidential running mate and self-identified Tea Party Sarah Palin of Alaska, 40 or some Republican Senators have abused the rules to ground the Senate and grind the President’s agenda to a halt. Thursday’s rules change will have immediate consequences for executive-level appointments. Watt’s confirmation, along with Janet Yellen for the Federal Reserve vice chairman and the chairwoman for the Federal Reserve to replace current chairman Ben Bernanke are now guaranteed to go through. Republican Senator Phil Graham has vowed to block the Federal Reserve chair nominee if he did not get every world, notes, and thought he is looking for relative to Benghazi.
"I feel great," said Merkley, who has been a champion of both Yellen and filibuster reform. "Since I came here in 2009 I've been absolutely appalled by the dysfunction of this body," Merkley said, arguing the reform is "about clearing the decks of the Senate so we can actually spend time on legislation, we can actually address the cost of college, actually have job-creation bills on the floor, that we can address issues related to retirement security." Despite the filibuster reform, Republicans are plotting new ways to obstruct and keep the Senate dysfunctional, and thereby continue to impede the President’s agenda. According to Vermont Senator, Patrick, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the "blue slip rule," a tradition in the committee that allows senators to advance or block judicial nominees from their home state is now being promised by Republicans to use as a new weapon of choice to continue to block President Obama’s nominees, as Republicans are currently refusing to submit blue slips for four nominees pending in the committee. Republicans can use this rule to stall the confirmation process, and could use the same rule to block any nominee in committee.
According to constitutional scholars, the Constitution requires only a simple majority of 51 senators to confirm a judicial nomination, and any Senate rule or procedure, including the filibuster that allows the minority of the body to prevent the majority from consenting to a judicial nomination is in conflict with the Constitution. Finally, scholars of the constitution agree that any Senate rule that contradicts the Constitution by denying the majority its right to consent to a judicial appointment is in collision with the Constitution. While the Senate has “a legitimate role in filling judicial vacancies,” the Appointments Clause of Article II, section 2 of the Constitution provides that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.”
November 20, 2013
JP Morgan Latest 13 Billion Dollars Settlement with AG
US Attorney General Eric Holder
Compared to the 22 Trillion Dollars in Loss to the Economy
Caused by the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis
The New York Times reported Monday that the Justice Department had reached a settlement with JP Morgan to compensate homeowners for mortgage fraud in regions where the devastating and widespread mortgage foreclosures that preceded the 2008 financial crisis hit particularly hard. Attorneys General across the country, including New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts, the Boston Globe is reporting, will receive $7 billion in compensation fund. At the end of the negotiations, which have been on-going for months between executives at JP Morgan and the Justice Department, JP Morgan executives were forced to “admit to the statement of fact.” This would amount to a guilty plea deal on the charges alleged in the government complaint. The company did not obtain concessions from the Justice Department to agree to rule out prosecution in related criminal investigations into the bank’s activities. JP Morgan also agreed to forfeit any right to recover any part of the $13 billion from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
This year the Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report that reads, "The 2007-2009 financial crisis, like past financial crises, was associated with not only a steep decline in output but also the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s." The agency noted that the financial crisis that was brought onto the country by the actions of some of the biggest financial institutions may have cost the U.S. economy upward of $13 trillion, in addition to a loss of $9.1 billion dollars by American homeowners. JP Morgan’s Chief Financial Officer, Marianne Lake, bragged that $7 billion of the settlement is tax-deductible, the paper reported. This has prompted many analysts to note that if those companies’ executives are not held directly responsible for the fraudulent financial policies and misconduct, they will continue to view these settlements as the “the cost of doing business.” As part of the settlement, people who lost their homes to foreclosure would be eligible for a meager $500 to $2,000 within 3 year.
Jamie Dimon - JP Morgan CEO
Jamie Dimon, CEO for JP MorganBetween 2012 and 2013, the country’s five largest banks reached a deal with 49 states to settle charges of abusive and negligent foreclosure practices dating back to 2008.The deal provided for the banks to pay $26 billion in compensations to underwater homeowners and those who were caused to lose their homes due to those improper foreclosure practices. In those series of settlements, the banks agreed to change their foreclosure practices. State attorneys general point to the fraudulent practices to include: The loss of important mortgage paperwork and the use of robo-signers to attest to facts no one had any direct knowledge of.
According to the State Attorneys General, these practices were repeated hundreds of times a day.
In addition to 9 unnamed mortgage lenders, these settlements included the following Fortune 500 companies: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Ally Financial. The unnamed 9 companies would bring the total settlement to $30 billion dollars.
The Progress of the Health Care Law Implementation
& Technical Changes Aimed at
Putting the Program Back on Track
The positive report that was released by the Los Angeles Times this past Tuesday points to the substance of the policy behind President Obama’s health care reform act. Unfortunately, the general media reporting on the implementation of the last stage of the law has been shallow, narrow-minded, and tilted toward the Republicans’ obsession with demonizing the law to justify their 45 votes to repeal the law and their last ditch effort to derail the law by shutting down the federal government September. The reality is that nearly 50 million Americans have been without health insurance or have been unable to enroll in health insurance plans for a variety of reasons. Beyond the noise and smoke and mirrors, Americans are now making decisions that best suit their needs and those of their families. They understand that they can obtain income-based subsidies to help them afford coverage. They also understand that thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to drop them off their plans in the middle of treatment, increase their plans to prohibitive costs, or deny them coverage due to so-called “pre-existing conditions,” such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases. Most of all, young adults will no longer be thrown off their parents’ polities as soon as they turn 18 years old. Americans understand all of this and they are not being deterred by the other side whose motive has been clear from the beginning: only rich people deserve good health care. The evidence shows that Americans are enrolling now and they are doing so in large numbers.
Following the unbelievably disastrous rollout of the federal government's enrollment website, healthcare.gov on October 1, the Lost Angeles Times reported yesterday that the program’s enrollment has increased considerably in several states where thousands of uninsured Americans are signing up for health care in States where officials have cooperated and working with the federal government to make the program work. The LA Times report also follows the weeklong frenzy by GOP and Tea Party members and the Washington press relative to a simple miscalculation by the President that, “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” This statement by the President would have stood on its own had the website not been so dysfunctional, as those who have received cancellation notices from insurance companies would have been able to go on the site and purchase better plans at lower costs. The up war was also fueled by frustrated insurance companies that counted on the website being functional in order to begin to enroll people under the new health care law. And when the website did not function, they used the cancellation letters to blame the healthcare law, even though, given the nature of the open insurance market, those cancellation letters have gone out every year, as a general matter and routine insurance business practices. 26 States in the South with Republican governors and legislatures have refused to allow uninsured people to obtain health insurance through the law, even though the expansion of Medicaid, which is subsidized for poor and low-income Americans and does not require any state expenditure. On the contrary, States that are refusing to implement the program are factually turning their backs on funds that could go to create jobs within those states. This is a factor of the Republicans’ opposition to every item on President Obama’s agenda and the GOP and Tea Party obsession with derailing, boycotting, or dismantling the law.
In states where governors have embraced the program and work to make it successful, as opposed to undermining it, those states have used their own website systems to enroll applicants. As a result, this week, several states have reported impressive increases in the number of enrollment. California is reporting being on track to hit enrollment targets based on a sharp increase in November enrollment, officials reported. "What we are seeing is incredible momentum," said Peter Lee, director of Covered California, the nation's largest state insurance marketplace, which accounted for a third of all enrollments nationally in October. California nearly doubled its October enrollment by signing up an average of 60,000 people from 31,000 people in health plans in October when the program opened. The largest State in the country also launched a campaign to inform residents that California new website serves Californians and is separate from healthcare.gov. Based on this report, enrollment in California continues to rise.
Connecticut and Kentucky are outperforming their enrollment targets, while states that depend on the federal website continue to lag behind, as the website is reported to have been brought to function at a 60 percent capacity this week. Officials in Minnesota reported 3 times its enrollment in the second half of October. In Washington State, officials predict that they will exceed their October enrollment. Similar things are happening in other states across the country. In this article, the Los Angeles Times also cited Washington and New York as being on target, as nearly 50 thousand New Yorkers have signed up for health insurance through the New York health care exchange. It is reported that half of the new enrollees have signed up for private insurance plans and the other half qualified for Medicaid. That’s hardly surprising. Prior to the reform, close to fifty million Americans didn’t have any health-care coverage, and many others were stuck with policies that had large gaps. The online insurance exchanges and the effort to make more people eligible for Medicaid were designed to remedy this situation, and in some places that strategy is working more or less as planned.
As of today, the administration has announced that it is making plans to allow people interested in buying health insurance through the health exchanges to soon have the ability to skip the HealthCare.gov website and apply for coverage and subsidy directly with private insurance companies and online brokers. This is what insurers and brokers have expected and that has been most frustrating to them since the main portal for conducting these transactions failed to work at the beginning. Now these insurance issuers and brokers will begin to have the ability to take application for subsidy directly and sell plans to customers, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid and Insurance spokeswoman Julie Bataille who confirmed this in a press conference on Tuesday.
November 17, 2013 [12:00]
The Filipino 175 mph Typhoon - The Aftermath
The Humanitarian & The Recovery Effort
A week after super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines leaving the region devastated, the search and rescue effort has intensified and become better coordinated, as the United States has taken the lead in bringing aid to the region. The UN is reporting the number of death at over 3,000 and the number of people displaced by the storm at 4 million. Days after the Typhoon hit, the USS Washington arrived in the Philippines with 300 hundreds U.S. marines and 23 helicopters to drop relief over the ravaged region. United State military rescuers brought medical supplies, food, and enough clean water to drop over 400,000 gallons of water per day to survivors. However, given the massive damage, frustration among survivors continues to run high. The first report out of the country were horrendous with accounts of thousands of Filipino residents left dead and hundreds of thousands more left homeless without food and water. Many still were not accounted for. Doctors without Borders were on the scene within days treating patients and performing surgeries in most rudimentary conditions and with limited supplies, such as antibiotics and gauze. More medical volunteers have since arrived in the region. In the Philippines the storm is named “Yolanda,” the perfect storm. A typhoon is another name for a hurricane in certain parts of the world. In some countries, these storms are called cyclones. the UN, the Red Cross, President Obama, and many other Aid organizations are encouraging Americans and people all over the world to make donations. Those who wish to donate can log on to UN.org or research other reliable and credible aid agencies they make their donations through, such as care.org and other reputable aid and relief organizations, including doctors without borders.
Last week, the USS Mercy headed to the region with an additional 3000 U.S. marines and food aid and medicines and other supplies and materials to boost the rescue effort, NBC’s Pentagon correspondence, Jim Miklaszewski reported last week. Nonetheless, the blame game has already begun, and aside from the reported 175 mph winds, many people are placing the blame for the widespread destruction on “flimsy construction of homes and buildings in the Philippines, resulting from years of government corruption. Due to the frequency of high intensity storms in the region, some agree that at the very least more could have been done to prevent the degree of devastation from super storm Haiyan. Roberto Lilles, an architect in the region, agrees that “much of the wreckage from dozens of typhoons that strike each year could be greatly reduced if low-cost, brick-and-mortar housing replaced the traditional flimsy wood and tin-roof homes.” "There is low-cost housing that can resist the storms. But most people in those rural areas are so poor, they still can't afford them," he added.
Photo_link_Global Humanitarian Assistance
On November 11, Sandra Bulling, Emergency Communication Officer for CARE International reported directed from the Philippines on the after effects of the storm:
“We arrived by boat at the port in Ormoc City. As soon as we stepped onto the port, we were in the middle of a disaster zone. Everything was destroyed. Tin roofing sheets were hanging off trees like wet blankets. All the houses along the coast are completely flattened. Everything is destroyed. Further inland, about 80 percent of the houses are roofless. About five percent of the houses are completely collapsed – these are mainly wooden houses. It seems like everyone we’ve seen has a hammer or tools in their hands, trying to repair their houses and their roofs. People are picking up poles and pieces of wood from the street. There are long queues at hardware stores, pharmacies. We waited in line for two hours to get fuel. So far the roads are okay, but it’s taking a long time to get anywhere. In a smaller town called Jaro, she reported, “It’s dark now, so we can’t go any further. We’re staying in the police station tonight – not sure where we’ll sleep, maybe in the car, or outside. There’s an electricity pole that’s leaning dangerously over the police station, so everyone is trying to steer clear of that.”
NBC News’ correspondence, Jim Maceda, reported that as the Philippines struggles to recover from the aftermath of the storm, questions are being asked as to why the country was not better prepared to handle a storm of this magnitude. The government of the Philippines announced that officials began broadcasting warnings on the upcoming storm and its intensity with the potential for storm surge to reach 20 feet high on the hours 2 days prior to the arrival of the storm. There are also accusations that the Mayor failed to order the evacuation of area residents.
Reuters reported that the Vice-Mayor of Tacloban, Jerry Yaokasin, stated that "some people just didn't believe us because it was so sunny. Some were even laughing." As a result, the Reuter report indicates that many men stayed in their homes to protect their belongings from looters. The Vice-Mayor’s statement was supported by a Manilla economics university professor, Toby Monsod, who told NBC News, "People were warned about the storm surge, though, many probably thought that it would be one meter high, not five. This storm was off the scales."
November 15, 2013 [12:00]
Obama Moves to Avert Cancellation of Insurance
“To Allow People to Keep Health Insurance Plans”
Republicans Try to Kill the Affordable Health Care Law
The Republican led US House of Representatives voted on Friday to allow health insurance companies to renew individual insurance policies and sell similar policies to new customers next year even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits and consumer protections required by the new health care law. The vote was 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats voting for the bill. This legislation named the Upton Amendment goes further than the fix announced on Thursday by President Obama who announced that he would temporarily waive some requirements of the law and allow insurers to renew “current policies for current enrollees.” Representative Fred Upton (R-MC) who sponsored the bill said his legislation would fulfill a “broken” promise that the President had made to the American people. President Obama promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but in all likelihood the legislation will not be taken up by the Senate and will be allowed to die in the House.
After a week of noise and groaning in the media and Washington about Americans who got cancellation letters from their health insurance companies due to minimum standards required by the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), Democrats joined the chorus of Republicans who sought to pass legislative fixes to the law in order to allow insurance companies to renew the substandard insurance packages that created a political firestorm around the Presidents’ promise, “if you like your health insurance plan – you can keep it.” On the heel of the government shutdown debacle, Republicans promptly grabbed onto the problem with the health care website and used those insurance cancellation letters to further undermine and try to unravel the AHCA. House Republicans have voted to repeal, defund, or delay, the law 45 times so far. At the end of September, Tea Party Republicans in the House shut down the government and threatened to default on the country’s debt in an effort to derail the law.
Key provisions of the law have been in implementation for the past 2 years, including provisions to (1) allow young people to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26; (2) allow people with pre-existing conditions to obtain coverage; (3) extend insurance coverage to people eligible under Medicaid; and (4) provide comprehensive coverage to all Americans by extending coverage in the open insurance marketplace to people who have been covered under substandard insurance plans. Except for the fourth and final aspect of the law, the other 3 provisions are independent of the website and have been in implementation, providing coverage to millions of Americans. Under the consumer protection standards of the AHCA, insurance companies would no longer be allowed to sell plans containing clauses to drop people off their coverage when they get sick or deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. These standards also include conditions that would prevent insurance companies from covering women at a higher cost than men, and charging the old more than the young. The importance of the open market enrollment is to broaden the insurance pool in order to lower costs and make insurance affordable to everyone.
The execution of this final step in the implementation process has been thrown into chaos by the dysfunction of the website, healthcare.gov, that the federal government commissioned for the sole purpose of lunching the open market enrollment on October 1. The health care law was passed in 2009 to extend coverage to over 40 million Americans who have been without health insurance and others who had been deemed ineligible for coverage by health insurance companies, due to what the industry considers to be “pre-existing” conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, lupus, and hundreds of other chronic illnesses and newly acquired diseases. Only an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the people who now get their insurance on the open market are receiving those cancellation letters, because the health care law would end the practice of selling catastrophic health insurance policies to people. Those catastrophic health insurance plans do not cover regular or routine medical visits, have high deductibles and premium, are renewable every six months or half a year, and are not guaranteed. Many people covered by this type of insurance often find themselves stranded with thousands of dollars in medical bills that health insurance companies refuse to cover when they get sick.
November 9, 2013
French Foreign Minister Says Iran 's Nuclear Talks Failed
European Foreign Ministers Joined in Agreement
The New York Times reported that after a "last-ditch" negotiaiton effort that started Saturday until past midnight Friday , the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said they had failed to overcome differences. They insisted they had made progress, however, and pledged to return to the table in 10 days to try again, albeit at a lower level.“A lot of concrete progress has been made, but some differences remain,” Ms. Ashton said at a news conference early Sunday. She appeared alongside Mr. Zarif, who added, “I think it was natural that when we started dealing with the details, there would be differences.”In the end, though, it was not only divisions between Iran and the major powers that prevented a deal, but fissures within the negotiating group.
France objected strenuously that the proposed deal would do too little to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment or to stop the development of a nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium.“The Geneva meeting allowed us to advance, but we were not able to conclude because there are still some questions to be addressed,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told reporters after the talks ended.Neither Ms. Ashton nor Mr. Zarif criticized France, saying that it had played a constructive role. But the disappointment was palpable, and the decision to hold the next meeting at the level of political director, not foreign minister, suggested that the two sides were less confident of their ability to bridge the gaps in the next round.For all that, Mr. Zarif tried to put a brave face on the three days of talks, saying that the atmosphere had been good, even if the parties disagreed on the details of a potential agreement.“What I was looking for was the political determination, willingness and good faith in order to end this,” he said. “I think we’re all on the same wavelength, and that’s important.”Iranian officials had promoted the possibility of a deal for days, generating an expectant atmosphere that swelled when Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a tour of the Middle East on Friday to join the talks.
France, Great Britan and Germany, and Russia, as well as the vice foreign minister for China coalesced the the group .“There’s no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than when we came,” Mr. Kerry said. “It takes time to build confidence between countries that have really been at odds with each other for a long time now.”The proposal under consideration in Geneva was to have been the first stage of a multipart agreement. It called for Iran to freeze its nuclear program for up to six months to allow negotiations on a long-term agreement without the worry that Iran was racing ahead to build a bomb. In exchange, the West was to have provided some easing of the international sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.After years of off-again, on-again talks, the deal would have been the first to brake Iran’s nuclear program.Despite the diplomats’ insistence on progress, the failure to clinch an agreement raised questions about the future of the nuclear talks, given the fierce criticism that the mere prospect of a deal whipped up in Israel and among Republicans and some Democrats in Congress.The announcement was a deflating end to a long day of diplomatic twists and turns, after Mr. Kerry huddled for hours with Mr. Zarif and Mr. Fabius to try to close gaps on issues like curbing Iran’s enrichment program and what to do about the heavy-water reactor Iran is building near the city of Arak, which will produce plutonium.
November 8, 203
New York Times Breaking News Flash
European Central Bank Cuts Interest Rate to Spur Economy
The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low Thursday, moving more quickly than expected to stimulate the euro zone economy in the face of falling inflation.The E.C.B. cut its main rate to 0.25 percent from 0.5 percent, which was already a record low.Inflation in the euro zone unexpectedly declined to an annual rate of 0.7 percent in October, well below the E.C.B.’s official target of about 2 percent, raising the specter of deflation — a sustained fall in prices that can destroy the profits of companies and the jobs they provide. Read more here: European Central Bank Cuts Interest Rate to Spur Economy
US Economy Grew at 2.8% This Quarter
The American economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the third quarter, significantly better than economists had expected and the fastest pace this year.The Commerce Department report had originally been scheduled to come out on Oct. 30, but was delayed by the government shutdown last month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had estimated an annual growth rate of 2 percent in the third quarter, but that forecast had been drifting lower recently.At 2.8 percent, the government’s first estimate of economic expansion over the course of July, August and September followed growth rates of 1.1 percent in the first quarter of the year and 2.5 percent in the second quarter. U.S. Economy Grew at 2.8% Rate in Third Quarter
Senate Approves Bill Banning on Antigay Bias in the Worksplace
The Senate on Thursday approved a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity, voting 64 to 32 in a bipartisan show of support that is rare for any social issue. It was the first time in the institution’s history that it had voted to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the country’s nondiscrimination law.Despite initial wariness among many Republicans about the bill, 10 of them voted with 54 members of the Democratic majority to approve the measure. Senate Approves Ban on Antigay Bias in Workplace
November 6, 2013
Elections Results Roundup around The County
New York City Mayor-Elect: Bill DeBlasio & His Family
In Boston, Massachusetts, Martin Walsh won the mayoral race over City Councilor, John Connnolly. Walsh will replace 4 tem 20 year Boston Mayor, Tom Menino. The casino proposal passed in Revere, but was defeated in East Boston, which means it can not proceed. This leaves only 2 sites still in the running for the lone Greater Boston resort casino license: a Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett and a Foxwoods proposal in Milford. In June, Everett voted to back the casino proposal, and Milford residents are slated to vote on the proposal Nov. 19.
In New York City– Populist Democrat Bill DeBlasio won the mayoral race in a blow out against Republican Joe Lhota. DeBlasio who has a mix racial family, including his teenage son who appeared in campaign advertisements for his father, has steadfastly stood against Mayor Micheal Bloomberg's Stop-and-Frisk police program against Blacks and Hispanics. DeBlasio promised to do away with the vile policy.
In Syracuse NY - Mayor Stephanie won a second four-year term in office.
In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the governorship over radical Tea Party candidate Ken Cuccinelli. Mcauliffe will replace current Governor "ultrasound" Bob McDonnell who tried to pass a bill in 2012 to force pregnant women to undergo unnecessary transvaginal probe as part of Tea Party Republicans' campaign to ban abortion at all costs. Governor Bob McDonnell has been under federal investigation for bribery and campaign finance violations.
In New Jersey, current Republican Chris Christie easy won his race against Democratic candidate and New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono. Christie was a favorite to win and he easily won by a 20 point margin over Buono who raised very little campaign fund and received almost no support from the national Democratic Campaign Committee. Christie raised and maintained a high profile since Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and the Jersey Shore last November changed the elections date to push his re-election after the special elections that sent New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker to the Senate to replace the late Senator Frank Lautenberg who passed away suddenly this past summer.
Other Mayoral elections are taking place in Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburg.
Atlantavoted Mayor Kasim Reed to a second term, defeating three little-known challengers as he continues to raise his profile overseeing a key city in the South.
Miami Beach voters Mayor: Tomas P. Regalado (incumbent)
Miami: Philip Levine is the winner
Detroit: Mike Duggan is projected to win as of this morning
Houston: Mayor Annise Parket won re-election
Cleavand: Bryan Jensen is the winner of that mayoral race
Cincinati: John Cranley easily won this mayoral race with 58% of the votes
Pittsburg: Voters elected Democrat Bill Peduto
State Ballot Initiatives: Six states have 31 ballot initiatives: In Washington State, voters will decide whether to require the labeling of foods made with “genetically modified organisms.”
In New Jersey voters approved a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage by $1-per-hour, bringing it from $7.25 to 8.25 dollars an hour.
In New York voters approved the expansion of casino gambling making the way of a 7 Vegas-style casinos in the State.
In Colorado, voters in Colorado rejected radical Tea Party candidate Dean Young in favor of mainstream Republican and former State Senator and gubernatorial candidate, Bradley Byrne. Byrne had the backing of the NRA, the Chamber of commerce, and the Republican National Committee.
November 5, 2013
Election Day Today around the Country
Polls Close at 800 PM
All Election Results Will Be Posted Tonight in an Update
Roundup and what to watch for:
In Boston, Massachusetts, the city is elected his firs Mayor in 20 years. Mayoral candidates John Connolly, a Boston City Councilor faced Sate Representative Marty Walsh to replace longtime Mayor Thomas Menino. East Boston Resident will also decide on whether or not they want a proposed mega casino build in Suffolk Downs. Voters in Boston are casting ballot in the first open mayoral election in a generation. Both Connolly and Walsh are Democrats and one of these two Irish men will replace the first Boston Mayor of Italian descent in Boston. Polls close at 8:00 PM EDT in Boston.
In New York – After 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reign and Stop-and-Frisk and the banning of 12 ounce soda cups, the race tonight is between Republican Joe Lhota, a onetime deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani who is viewed as likely to continue Bloomberg's policies, including the income gaps and Bill de Blasio, a populist who is favored to win and become the next Mayor of New York City.
In Virginia, the race for the next governor of the State is between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Right Wing Tea Party Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli who tried to pass several laws banning homosexuality, abortion, birth control, and even tried to pass a bill requiring women to report any miscarriage to the police within 24 hours has been trailing McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton former staff and friend by as much as 20 in the polls among women. Cuccinelli is closely associated with the administration of Virginia’s current governor Bob McDonnell, also known as governor “ultrasound” for his attempt to pass a law last year to force pregnant women to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasounder probe against their doctors’ advice.
In New Jersey, current Republican Chris Christie is expected to win over Democratic candidate and New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono. While Buono’s campaign never seemed to have taken off or picked steam, and it is unclear how much money she was able to raise in campaign contribution, Christie who maintained a high profile since Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and the Jersey Shore last November changed the elections date to push his re-election after the special elections that sent New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker to the Senate to replace the late Senator
Frank Lautenberg who passed away suddenly this past summer.
Other Mayoral elections are taking place in Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
State Ballot Initiatives: Six states have 31 ballot initiatives: In Washington State, voters will decide whether to require the labeling of foods made with “genetically modified organisms.”
In New Jersey voters have a $1-per-hour minimum wage hike on the ballot.
In New York voters will decide on whether to expand casino gambling.
In Colorado, voters will decide on whether to impose two new taxes on recreational marijuana sales.
Down Ballot: Voters in Alabama will decide a runoff for the Republican nomination in a House special election. This is an early test of the GOP establishment’s efforts to stave off tea party challenges. Bradley Byrne, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate, has the backing of the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the previous occupant of the House seat. His opponent is Dean Young, a tea party favorite with strong socially conservative views.
November 1, 2013 [5:30 PM]
MAJOR HEADLINES & DEVELOPMENTS
NSA Spied on the Vatican - Pope Francis Said "It's OK"
News that the NSA has been sweeping users' information and data directly from the sites and the core systems of the major search engines and telephone Service providers prompted Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AT&T and other to write a joint letter to the government demanding explanation and asking that the practice be stopped. Following more leaks last week by former NSA analyst and classified document leaker, Edward Snowden, that the US had monitored the phone of as many as 35 world leaders, Snowden released information Wednesday that the NSA has also monitored the telephone activities of the Cardinals in the Vatican during the Conclave to select the new Pope - Francis, the First. While European leaders in France and Germany expressed outrage and demanded answers, Pope Francis has been reported saying that he was OK with the reported surveillance.
Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Reinstated Abortion Law
The Texas 4:00 AM Abortion Bill Is Back
Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Reinstated Abortion Law
Late last night, a single emergency appeal judge at the Texas fifth circuit court set aside a federal judge's ruling blocking Texas' restrictive abortion law from going into effect next Tuesday. The law is set to shut down the few remaining health clinic providers that will not be able to meet the stringent and prohibitive standards that law requires from doctors and health centers, such as Planned Parenthood that perform abortions. The bill was passed in a special legislative session last July after Texas Democratic Stat Senator Wendy Davis mounted a successful filibuster to prevent the Republican - dominated Texas legislature to pass the bill into law earlier in June before the end of the regular legislative session. The latest ruling, which follows the appeals court ruling late on Monday afternoon will certainly be appealed to the full panel of the fifth circuit is most likely to reach the Texas State Supreme Court, if not the U.S. Supreme court. The federal judge on Monday struck down key provisions of the law and declared it unconstitutional. Texas, along with dozens of Southern States have passed restrictive abortion laws through health-based regulations as a way to ban abortions while getting around the 40-year landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court precedent, declaring abortion constitutional.
US Department of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Takes Confrontational Stand
Against States that Refuse to Implement
US Supreme court Ruling on Gay Marriage
Sec. Chuck Hagel_Photo_csmonitor.com
This week, Secretary of Defense, Chulk Hagel, set the stage for a confrontation between the US military and 9 Southern States that are refusing to uphold the US Supreme court ruling last June, finding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The law was passed by Republicans under President Bill Clinton and defended in court by the House Republican congress under the leadership of Speaker John Boener. In a speech before the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Defense Secretary called out all 9 States for refusing to issue military IDs to homosexual members of the military. The ruling cleared the way for homosexuals individuals living in a marriage or legal partnership arrangement to receive benefits under their partners' plans, such as health insurance and death benefits. After the ruling, Secretary Hagel took immediate steps to implement provisions to allow for the ruling to take effect. Members of the military are particularly affected since they are federal government employees. This week, Secretary Hagel sent memos to governors of all 9 resistant States, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. In his letter, the Secretary of Defense warned those States that he will see the implementation of the court ruling throughout the military. The refusal of those State to follow the court ruling affects National Guard Members living on 144 bases in those 9 States. Although the governor of State is the Commander in Chief of the National Guard in that State, as a part of the US military, the National Guard falls under the command of the President who is the Commander in Chief of the US military. In addition to his memo, Secretary Hagel also ordered his military generals and the head of the National Guard to see that the 9 States implement the ruling so that all eligible military personnel can receive their benefits under the court ruling. This sets up a situation similar to what happened in 1964 after the US Supreme court struck down "separate but equal" (the segregation laws) and Alabama's governor George Wallace declared to a cheering crowd in the State capital, "segregation now - segregation tomorrow - segregation forever." Given that marchers, led by the Rev. Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. were brutally beat up by Alabama local and State police on their way to Selma, the protesters retreated, but promised to finish their march. Concerned about a repeat of the batons and water hoses being unleashed again on peaceful marchers on national television, President Linden Johnson held a 3 hour-meeting followed by phone calls with Governor Wallace to convince him to deploy the National Guard to protect the marchers. Wallace refused, and the President sent the National Guard to Alabama under his own order to protect the marchers who were able to complete the march without incident. Current Congressman Jerry Lewis, and member of the Black Congressional Caucus whose scull was cracked and was beat within an inch of his life is the only surviving members of that march on Selma.
House Republican Budget Taking from The Poor
The Foodstamp (or EBT) Program
Faces a 5 Billion Dollars Cut Today
The Face of Abject Poverty: Homelessness_homeless in Paris
CC_Wikimedia_Photo of the Year
Some Republicans Have Called for The Poor To Be "Punished"
While House Republicans continue to defend billions of dollars in subsidies for major oil companies, corporation, and mega industrial farmers, the sequester they had forced upon this country will trigger a 4 billion dollars across the board cut in the federal nutritional support program know as foodstamp. It is generally agreed that since the crash of the economy in August 2008, program has seen an increase in enrollment, reaching as many as 40 million Americans. Those include mostly children, veterans, the elderly, and the working poor. Many people who are now on food stamps have worked all their lives or are working in low-wage jobs that prevent them from adequately supporting and feeding their families. Although the unemployment rate is now at 7.6 percent, it remains a lot higher among certain segments of the population, especially students who graduated in the summer of the economic disaster at the end of President George Bush's presidency. Republicans have blamed President Obama for the increase in numbers of people who need aid from the program and have called for the program to be discontinued altogether, stringent restrictions and demands on recipients - such as drug testing and volunteer work requirements even though many recipients are senior citizens or disabled - or that "people who don't work should not work." It is estimated that this additional reduction in benefit will cost families several meals per week and leave millions of children hungry.
Federal Court Granted Stay
Michael Bloomberg's Heinous New York Sop-and-Frisk Policy
While Appeal Continues
The New York Times reported yesterday that a federal appellate court granted a stay in the landmark police stop-and-frisk ruling in New York City, and removed the trial judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, from the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Judge Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.The ruling effectively cleared the way for the New York City police department to continue the policy, which has allowed for police to stop over 700,000 New York City residents, mostly Black and Hispanics men without probable cause and search them on the spot for weapons and other contrebands. It has been documents and widely reported that about 98 percent of those stopped over the 9 years that this program has been in effect were found carrying no weapon or drug. A great number of those victimized were handcuffed and brought to police stations for questioning and the n released without charge because they committed no crimes. Court Halts New York Stop-and-Frisk Ruling, Taking Judge Off Case
Do we want HealthCare.gov To Work
OR Should We Keep Going for Its Utter Failure?
Tea Party Republicans
House Energy & Commerce Committee: Healthcare.gov (AHCA) Hearing
At 4:00 PM today, President Obama gave a speech on the Affordable Health Care Act in Boston’s Faneuil Hall where former Massachusetts Republican governor, and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney signed a similar health care law in 2006. The President was sharp and upbeat and even had a good laugh with a heckler who was yelling in the back about climate change. This happened before he started his speech and President Obama stopped and told the protester that it was the wrong protest because the climate change protest was last week.” “Wrong place – wrong time,” the President said before he started his speech without any further disturbance. As if to remind the country, the president outlined the reasons why we needed this health care law to rescue the millions of Americans who were shut out the health insurance market for multiple reasons, including affordability. He also focused on the benefits of the law, and refuted Republicans’ claims that people have been sent cancellation letters from their insurance companies unlike what the President had promised. The President’s speech was short and well-received in the historic Boston Faneuil Hall.
GOP Rep. Mike Rogers Grills Kathleen Sebelius on Security Risks: Exposed Millions of Americans!
10/30/13 - During testimony in the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday morning, Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) strongly lectured Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius abou...
At 9:00 this morning, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Katheline Sebelius, testified before the Republican chaired U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee about the technical trouble that has plagued healthcare.gov, the site where people are supposed to go in order to enroll in President Obama’s new Affordable Health Care Law. The website was launched on October 1, and within hours millions of users who tried to access the site encountered error problems and were unable to complete their enrollment. The launch of the enrollment period came on the heel of the Tea Party House Republican government shutdown, which brought Republicans’ popularity and approval ratings among Americans to an all-time low. But with the website problems, Republicans began to pounce. After spending the past 3 and a half year demonizing the law, calling it a train wreck, a disaster, socialism, government takeover, and last September trying to dismantle it, defund, or delay its implementation, the Republicans have found new issues and quickly set up committee hearings to demand answers to the website problems for a law they hated from day 1.
Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing with the private contractors who worked on the website. Today, it was Secretary Sebelius’ turn. The Republicans have been consistent, using the committee hearing to make long speeches to continue to decry the law, minimizing and dismissing its benefits, and disregarding any improvement that has been made in fixing the website. At the same time, they have used these hearing to hype up and embellish rumors and press accounts adverse to the law – making up horror stories about insurance companies dropping people from plans they had and sending out letters that they were doing that because of “Obamacare.”
Secretary Sebelius opened with a prepared statement, in which she said,
“I want to apologize to you that the website is not working as well as it should,” she said, offering the most direct apology yet from such a high level administration official. “I want to assure you that HealthCare.gov can be fixed, and we are working around the clock to give you the experience that you deserve. Today, more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans,” both statements say. “We are pleased with these quick improvements, but we know there is still significant, additional work to be done. We continue to conduct regular maintenance nearly every night to improve the consumer experience. While we are working around the clock to address problems with HealthCare.gov, it is important to remember that the Affordable Care Act is much more than purchasing insurance through HealthCare.gov,” the statements say.
For most of her testimony, the Republicans vented their grievances with the law, particularly those letters they said they received from their constituents to show that the President misled the country when he said, “if you like your old insurance, you can keep it.” The problem is, the Affordable Health Care Law set up some basic criteria for the health insurance marketplace, and requires insurance companies to meet certain basic market standards, such justifying rate hike, and providing basic coverage for preventative care and women’s health. These letters complaining about people being dropped from their health insurance appear to all be coming from Republican districts where the Tea Party has been well financed, extremely organized, and have been fighting this law from the beginning. Under the AHCA, nothing will change for people who receive health insurance coverage through their employers. This makes up 95 percent of the people in this country who need insurance. Only a fraction of 5 percent of people will be dropped by their previous insurance companies because they were being defrauded in the first place. Before the AHCA, the health insurance market was largely unregulated and left consumers unprotected. As a result, insurance companies regularly dropped coverage for consumers – sometimes in the middle of the year, denied treatment, dropped people off their coverage in the middle of treatment on the basis of annual cap, and millions of Americans could not obtain health insurance coverage at all for what the insurance industry considered “pre-existing condition.” In addition, Children who turned 18 years old were immediately dropped off their parents’ health insurance plans. The Affordable Health Care Act was passed after 70 years of various Presidents and Congress trying to address the issue of the 43 millions of Americans who could not afford to buy insurance because the benefit was not provided through their employers. This group of people includes the self-employed and small business owners.
Secretary Sebelius reminded the Committee that millions of people have already been benefiting from the law. The October 1 launch was the start-up date for the open enrollment, the last component of the law to be implemented. This open enrollment period will continue until March 31, 2014. Otherwise, millions of people with pre-existing conditions who could never get insurance and young people under the age of 26 have already been enrolled in the program. These two components were deployed over the past 2 years and have already been in effect. Further, part of the law strengthened Medicare to make it possible for seniors to receive wellness and preventative care, as well as discounts on prescription drugs. The Affordable Healthcare also offers preventative care and maternity coverage for women. It offers consumers more options, lowers cost, and curtail fraud and unethical practices in the insurance market. Finally, many people who may now worry about being dropped from the current health insurance because they had bought into sub-standard plans and may see the cost of their premium rise may be eligible for get their premium subsidized un the Affordable Health Care Law. The new law will cover millions of Medicaid eligible people, even though Republican governors in 26 States worked to sabotage the program by keeping their States from participating in the program. These are States with the highest numbers of uninsured Americans. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees that want to voluntary join the program will receive tax credit. The Health Care Law was designed after Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts Health Care Law and President Obama adopted the individual mandate from a plan that was first developed and promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a strong and influential Republican think-tank.
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Views & Analysis
In this section, we will analyze important news and offer our own views and opinion on the issues of the day. We will approach those issues from angles that may not be covered by the larger news media. We encourage and appreciate your feedback.
September 7, 2013
Syria – Is America an Imperial Power or Not?
If the Answer is no
We Have no Business Bombing Anyone
Except in Self-Defense
Or to Protect U.S. & ally-Nations' security Interest
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who demonstrated the war, made a stunningly bold and powerful statement, indicating that not only did the United States obtain conclusive evidence that the Syrian army use chemical gas to kill over 1500 people, including 400 children, but the administration was also in the process of planning a retaliatory attack on Syria for the alleged act. The civil war between Syrian rebels and Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad has been raging for over two years, with over 100,000 casualties, including civilians and children. The destruction in Syria has been massive. In the United States, some lawmakers, such as former Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, Republican Senator John McCain and War Hock Senator Lindsey Graham, had been calling for the United States to provide weapons and other military equipment to the rebels. However, no one knows for sure who these rebels are. There are reports that the rebel groups are divided among Syrian revolutionaries who want to get rid of the thirty-year regime of President Assad and various Jihad and Al Qaeda groups.
Meanwhile, on one side of the war, have been the United States and its friend and ally in the Middle East, Israel, and most European countries--the same coalition that took the rebel side in Libya and ended the reign of President Muammar Gaddafi who died in the conflict. On the other hand, standing with Syria, are Russia, China, Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and some other countries, including Hamas in the West Bank. Syria has received heavy weaponry from Russia, and perhaps from other countries, such as China, Iran, and North Korea. In addition, the Syrian army is much better trained and prepared than was the Iraqi army when both President George H. Walker Bush declared his Golf War (Desert Storm) on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1989, and when George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 ”Shock and Awe,” with a bombing campaign followed by a full ground invasion that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, imprisoned, or fleeing the country, as well as over 4,000 American soldiers dead and over 32,000 severely injured by improvised explosive devices or IED . Eventually, that war went on for 10 years unti President Obama, who ascended to office by running against the Iraq war, began withdrawing American troops from the country last year. The war in Afghanistan, which started after 9-11-2001, is still on-going with plans to withdraw the last American troops out of that country by 2015.
The American President’s rational for retaliating against Syria is the international agreement that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons after World War. That agreement was reiterated in 1972, and then again in 1993, and was signed by all but a handful of the countries in the world. Syria was not a party to that agreement. The real issues are that the United States has no real business either telling other countries what to do, or to act as the policeman of the world. In addition, the argument that the U.S. action is necessary to take a stand against a perceived egregious act by Syria is eviscerated, given that the international community that signed the chemical ban treaty is now retreating, with many of the signatory countries now refusing to participate in any U.S. military initiative. If this was not enough to invalidate a U.S. military action, the chemical ban treaty was signed under a United Nation Charter, and therefore would require a U.N. resolution to trigger a call to action. More importantly, this idea that somehow 15 hundreds people being killed by chemical weapons is an atrocity, when we watched pictures of dead and injured people, including children, day after day, all killed by machine guns, bombs, and missiles while we did nothing to intervening, is ludicrous. The fact in the matter is: The time has come for Western powers, including the United States, to stop waging war in that part of the world.
First, it was all about oil; America has to defend “its interests” in the region, used to be the pretense given to the country for invading Arab countries. Then somehow, it became all about Iran. Neocons from the failed Bush years have been itching for a war from day one of the first four years of the Obama administration. America, somehow felt endowed with some great power to order the Iranian government to stop working on nuclear activities. They have been fixing for a war with Iran. And now many view this alleged chemical weapon attack as their chance to start a war in Syria, which they hope will spill over into Iran. In fact, the United States has had an issue with Iran since the Iranians overthrew the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the Iranian revolution in 1979. Similar to every corrupt hand-picked dictator the United States has installed around the world, such as in Cuba, Haiti, and other countries, the Shah was a puppet of the U.S. The people of Iran revolted against America puppetry and exploitation, and brought back the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini who had been in exile in France. This chain of events created a rift between the United States and Iran since 1979. But in every case, after each of those revolutions, the U.S. government would start a propaganda war against the government that the people elect to install. And without failing, government officials would begin to refer to the new governments as “regimes,” “brutal dictators” who kill their own people, terrorist states, and on and on the propaganda machine would squeak on. This is of course classic demonization. It is a Machiavellian principle that you demonize your enemy in order to free yourself from the burdens of public opinion and morality, even the rule of international law, when you decide to attack them or even assassinate them.
We now find ourselves a junction where President Obama has painted itself into a corner. This is sad for a president who ran on opening up dialogues, even engaging with all world leaders anew, including previous enemies, without pre-condition; a position for which he was roundly criticized by his opponents during the 2008 campaign. War is an action of last resort; It is meant for self-defense when a country is attacked, or to protect a nation’s internal or international security interests when such are threatened. Neither is the case here. America has no business drawing up lines, red or otherwise, within which other countries should walk, act, or fall. Even worse, this policy has no credibility, considering all of the countries that now have nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, including Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Russia, and China. Worst, still, The United States stood by idly on the side of Iraq when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to put down a civil war against Shia Arabs in Iraq, the Kurds, and against Iran during the Iran Iraq war. The U.S. never intervened when Israel bombs the life out of the Palestinians for over forty years. The bottom line is that not only is the time of imperial power at an end, the nature of warfare has changed forever. Therefore, Obama and Congress should refrain from getting involved in what will surely become one more war in the Middle East, a land that is going through all this turmoil due to the way America and Europeans have damaged and broken up that ancient civilization, which now they consider backwards. There can be no winners in any type of intervention in Syria by the United State or by any western powers at this time. The division we now witness, both internationally and here in the U.S., over what course of action to follow, is not only a sign of a war-weary nation, but also the consequence of the insane foreign policy and unnecessary wars that were forced onto this country by the administration of George W. Bush. The chicken-hocks and Neocons from that Era took the country into war on fabricated intelligence; It was a war at all cost and no diplomacy, and never mind peace type of ideology. Obama must take the country off that course, and put an end to the Neocons once and for all. That is the only way this president will regain any credibility for his foreign policy and the country, and remove himself from the corner in which he is being painted and dragging us all along into.
July 23, 2013
The George Zimmerman Murder Trial
Under Florida Stand-your-ground law, Zimmerman was entitled to a hearing before a judge to invoke the law and possibly receive immunity from prosecution. Zimmerman waived his rights to that hearing and instead decided to go on trial based on as a straight self-defense. Nonetheless, even though stand-your-ground was never a part of the trial, and neither party brought it up at any point, Judge Debra Nelson included the law in the jury instructions. This was surely a judicial error on her part. Judge Nelson has other responsibilities in allowing Zimmerman to get off scot-free on Second Degree Murder charges and manslaughter. For example, the judge allowed a motion by the defense forbidding the prosecution from using the term “racial profiling.” The ludicrousness of this is that the entire case was based on race. There can be no doubt that had Trayvon Martin been of White skin he would have been alive today, and anyone who claims otherwise ought to join the vacuum-thinker society and immediately moves to the great state of denial. But, even worst, when Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara started to stink up the courtroom with racial innuendos, scapegoating, and even calling a witness to suggest that Martin got exactly what he deserves because he is a Black youth, the judge allowed that to come in, a testimony that was highly prejudicial and inflammatory and had zero probative value.
The self-defense law has been on the books in jurisprudence since the beginning of time and is recognized in all 50 states and in every country. It is used in justifiable homicide. Self-defense is a sacred right. The idea behind it is that if you are attacked by someone and feels that your life is in danger, you have a God-given right to defense yourself in any manner available to you, including the use of deadly force. Self-defense, however, does not protect anyone who goes out looking for a fight, provokes a confrontation, and then kills another because they are losing the fight (especially in the case of Zimmerman where he knew that the police was on their way), or to kill someone because you want to, or perhaps it is what you had intended to do from the beginning. Sanford Police Detective Soreno who virtually testified for the defense, even though he was a prosecution witness, said that based on the consistency with which Zimmerman told his version of what happened on the night of February 26 when he killed Tryavon, Zimmerman “would have to be a pathological liar or telling the true.” Zimmer seems to fall into the first category, and like the dead teenager told his friend Rachel Jeantel on the phone minutes before Zimmerman shot him in the heart, Zimmerman is a “creep.” In the word of George Kastanza of the Seinfeld, “It is not a lie if you believe it.” In that episode, Kastanza was portraying a pathological liar. What would any of us do if we were to shoot someone dead? The answer is, we would come up with a story quickly to justify our action before the police arrive. And Zimmerman who was schooled in self-defense law, and the new Florida stand-your-ground law in his criminal justice classes, had plenty of time to make up a story to justify the killing while he waited on the scene of the murder for the police to arrive.
Ordinarily, self-defense is both an easy and hard defense to win on. In most cases where a defendant claims self-defense, the other party in the conflict in dead and therefore only the surviving party can take the stand to tell the jury what happened from their perspectives. Given this, even in the presence of good forensic evidence, self-defense remains largely a circumstantial legal quagmire, and unless prosecutors have sufficient direct evidence and witnesses to disprove a defendant’s version of the occurrence, a defendant is likely to be acquitted of murder charges. This being said, most defendants who plead self-defense get convicted, except for those with unlimited resources to hire dream team defense attorneys who will do whatever it takes, including assassinating the character of the dead victim and using inflammatory racial tactics in court to help their clients get away with murder, as was seen in the George Zimmerman’s defense strategy. Needless to say that self-defense is not typically used successfully when the defendant is Black. The reasons for this are 1) Many Black defendants do not have the financial resources to hire competent private attorneys and are routinely pushed by public defenders to plead guilty under threat that they might end up spending life in prison if they chose a trial by jury and are found guilty, which is always a risk. This is a practical strategy considering that White jurors tend to perceive Black defendants as capable of the worst making the testimony and any statement by a Black defendant more likely to be dismissed and disbelieved by jurors. With this backdrop, Zimmerman’s defense lawyers shamelessly used Trayvon’s race to appeal to the White Jurors’ basal instincts of bias, prejudice, and bigotry toward the dead teenager. This was not the first time defense lawyers had turned a murder victim into a monster who deserved to be killed, but defense attorneys for Zimmerman allowed themselves to get carried away and jumped over the boundaries of all decency into the territory of disgrace.
What makes this case unique is that any thinking observer, who watched the trial in its entirety and listened to Zimmerman’s multiple statements to police after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, could see through the well-fabricated story that Zimmerman told police and stuck to throughout. The same police that was more than willing to swallow his story whole the very night of the shooting. Zimmerman knew that the police was on his side right from the start, so the question is, why then would he not have stuck to his story? After all, it was working for him with those who counted. Finally, the idea that George Zimmerman has some sort of Hispanic blood or background in him is so irrelevant to this case, and apparently seems to provide some intrigue only to those who do not understand race relations in this country, are ignorant of the pervasive nature of racism, and are clueless relatives to the underlying animosity that exists among some Hispanics and Black Americans. This case is an all-around failure of racial cohesiveness in American society and a total exposure of the unequal and racist nature of American jurisprudence. If there was any doubt that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has brought the American civil war into our court system to continue the dismantling of the Black community, the Trayvon Martin case has obliterated all remain doubt.
the life out of a teenager. And he said in an interview with Shawn Hannity of Fox News that if he had to do it all over, he would not change a thing. He has been sitting in Court showing absolutely no remorse or concerns, just waiting for his lawyers to get him off. Every human being of good will, Black or White, should be outraged by the circumstances of this case.
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