What’s Up: October 12, 2012?

To read the entire article click on the title or Story Continued. Enjoy as the world turns.

· Evidence of Armstrong doping ‘overwhelming,’ agency saysCyclist Lance Armstrong was part of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday in preparing to release more than 1,000 pages of evidence in the case.

The evidence involving the U.S. Postal Service-sponsored cycling team encompasses “direct documentary evidence including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong,” the agency said.

Armstrong lawyer Tim Herman dismissed what he called a “one-sided hatchet job” and a “government-funded witch hunt” against the seven-time Tour de France winner, who has consistently denied doping accusations.

But the USADA said 11 riders had come forward to acknowledge their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs while on the team. Among them are George Hincapie, Armstrong’s teammate during his winning Tour de France runs.

What’s behind the Armstrong headlines

Sport’s era of shame?

“Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them,” Hincapie said in a written statement. “I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans.”

Three members of the Postal Service team will contest the accusations, the agency said. They are team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya and Jose “Pepe” Marti, the team trainer. Each will get a hearing before an independent judge, according to the agency.

The agency compiled the evidence as part of its investigation into doping allegations that have dogged Armstrong and the Postal Service team for years. The organization is not a governmental agency but is designated by Congress as the country’s official anti-doping organization for Olympic sports.

In August, four days after a federal judge dismissed Armstrong’s lawsuit seeking to block the agency’s investigation, Armstrong announced he would no longer fight the accusations. The agency then announced it would ban Armstrong from the sport for life and strip him of his titles dating back to 1998.

Armstrong: It’s time to move forward

The agency praised the 11 riders who came forward to document the widespread use of banned substances by the team. But in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, attorney Herman called the expected USAA report “a taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations, based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories.”

In addition to Hincapie, the agency identified the cyclists who came forward as Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

“It took tremendous courage for the riders on the USPS Team and others to come forward and speak truthfully. It is not easy to admit your mistakes and accept your punishment,” the agency said.

The agency said those riders would receive various punishments, including suspensions and disqualifications.

The scope of evidence against the team is “overwhelming,” according to the agency. Story Continued:

– This story is a continuation of two people and their personal agenda to make Lance look poorly. Greg LeMond has been jealous once Lance started wining and has gone to great lengths to see that Lance has been pulled down to his level. It is sad that USADA joined the bandwagon. Lance never failed a drug test. The government chose not to prosecute Lance because they could not put convincing evidence to convict. There is no doubt that doping has existed in professional biking circles. Since Greg LeMond turned in the fastest ever time trial why don’t we go back and say his drug test was suspicious and pull his first ever Tour title. Greg had to have doped as well.

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· ABC News scrambles to downplay Obama’s attendance at VP debate moderator’s wedding

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President Barack Obama was a guest at the 1991 wedding of ABC senior foreign correspondent and vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz, The Daily Caller has learned. Obama and groom Julius Genachowski, whom Obama would later tap to head the Federal Communications Commission, were Harvard Law School classmates at the time and members of the Harvard Law Review.

After TheDC made preliminary inquiries Monday to confirm Obama’s attendance at the wedding, ABC leaked a pre-emptive statement to news outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast Tuesday, revealing what may have been internal network pressure felt just days before Raddatz was scheduled to moderate the one and only vice-presidential debate Thursday night.

Both Politico and The Daily Beast jumped to ABC and Raddatz’s defense. The Huffington Post, a liberal news outlet, joined them shortly thereafter, while calling “unusual” ABC’s attempt to kill the story before it gained wide circulation.

Genachowski — called “Jay” at the time of his wedding, sources told TheDC — and Raddatz would go on to have a son together before their divorce in 1997. They have both since remarried to other people.

A source who attended the 1991 wedding told TheDC that Obama was also a guest there, and remembered that a man by the name of “Barry Obama” was among the guests dancing at the reception. (RELATED: Marital, personal ties link Obama administration to Commission on Presidential Debates)

In August, The Daily Caller first connected Genachowski, an Obama appointee, to Raddatz following her selection as the vice presidential debate moderator by the left-leaning Commission on Presidential Debates. That debate, between Congressman Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden, will take place Thursday night at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Carol Platt Liebau, a political commentator who was a Harvard Law Review colleague of Genachowski and Obama, wrote that “despite being a year below both men on the Review and not close personal friends with either of them,” she remembered Genachowski and Raddatz’s relationship as “quite public” during those days, and that “Raddatz visited Boston frequently.”

Genachowski’s friendship with Obama would continue through the campaign trail in 2008 and into the White House: He aggressively fundraised for Obama in 2008 as a campaign bundler, and served on the presidential transition team before winning his appointment to chair the FCC. Story Continued:

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· Jack Welch: I Was Right About That Strange Jobs Report – The economy would need to be growing at breakneck speed for unemployment to drop to 7.8% from 8.3% in the course of two months. By JACK WELCH

Imagine a country where challenging the ruling authorities—questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters—would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel “embarrassed” and labeling you a fool, or worse.

Editorial board member Steve Moore on the good and bad of the jobs report and whether it will help President Obama’s campaign.

Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China? Nope, that would be the United States right now, when a person (like me, for instance) suggests that a certain government datum (like the September unemployment rate of 7.8%) doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately for those who would like me to pipe down, the 7.8% unemployment figure released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last week is downright implausible. And that’s why I made a stink about it.

Before I explain why the number is questionable, though, a few words about where I’m coming from. Contrary to some of the sound-and-fury last week, I do not work for the Mitt Romney campaign. I am definitely not a surrogate. My wife, Suzy, is not associated with the campaign, either. She worked at Bain Consulting (not Bain Capital) right after business school, in 1988 and 1989, and had no contact with Mr. Romney.

The Obama campaign and its supporters, including bigwigs like David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, along with several cable TV anchors, would like you to believe that BLS data are handled like the gold in Fort Knox, with gun-carrying guards watching their every move, and highly trained, white-gloved super-agents counting and recounting hourly.

Let’s get real. The unemployment data reported each month are gathered over a one-week period by census workers, by phone in 70% of the cases, and the rest through home visits. In sum, they try to contact 60,000 households, asking a list of questions and recording the responses.

Some questions allow for unambiguous answers, but others less so. For instance, the range for part-time work falls between one hour and 34 hours a week. So, if an out-of-work accountant tells a census worker, “I got one baby-sitting job this week just to cover my kid’s bus fare, but I haven’t been able to find anything else,” that could be recorded as being employed part-time.

The possibility of subjectivity creeping into the process is so pervasive that the BLS’s own “Handbook of Methods” has a full page explaining the limitations of its data, including how non-sampling errors get made, from “misinterpretation of the questions” to “errors made in the estimations of missing data.”

Bottom line: To suggest that the input to the BLS data-collection system is precise and bias-free is—well, let’s just say, overstated.

Even if the BLS had a perfect process, the context surrounding the 7.8% figure still bears serious skepticism. Consider the following:

In August, the labor-force participation rate in the U.S. dropped to 63.5%, the lowest since September 1981. By definition, fewer people in the workforce leads to better unemployment numbers. That’s why the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1% in August from 8.3% in July.

Meanwhile, we’re told in the BLS report that in the months of August and September, federal, state and local governments added 602,000 workers to their payrolls, the largest two-month increase in more than 20 years. And the BLS tells us that, overall, 873,000 workers were added in September, the largest one-month increase since 1983, during the booming Reagan recovery. Story Continued:

· Ryan’s world: Fears for future in VP candidate’s hometown – BBC World Service, Janesville, Wisconsin

Ryan contrasted his vision for the US with “the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners”

The Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan wants to transform the size and role of the US government by making individuals more responsible for themselves. What do residents in his hometown think of his vision?

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The Kutter Harley Davidson store in Janesville, Wisconsin, is a Harley fanatic’s fantasy. Lined up along one side of the car park is a row of lovingly maintained examples of the iconic motorcycle.

At the end of the line is a smaller, ivory-coloured model. It has a low seat and a saddlebag bedecked with tiny rhinestones, which also circle its speedometer.

“I had to bling it out,” chuckles the bike’s owner, Loreen MacDonald, a 51-year-old mother of two, who doesn’t fit the biker stereotype.

As passers-by glance admiringly at her Harley Fat Boy, she tells me she only started riding motorcycles at 45, inspired by her bike-loving husband and two sons.

“This is a new, much lower version,” she explains, giving me a guided tour of the newest addition to her family.

“They’ve put in what they call a reach seat, so your legs have more room to hit the ground.”

What’s affordable?

Like many of the people at the Fall Open House event, a typically low-key small-town gathering, with a local band and a catering van advertising “dang fine ribs”, Ms MacDonald is thinking about her future and when she retires.

Janesville’s highest profile citizen, the US Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan, has been thinking about America’s future too – and particularly what the country can afford in the years ahead.

Like many Americans approaching retirement, Loreen MacDonald is worried about her pension

His idea of radically overhauling what are known as America’s entitlement programmes began life as an unheralded deficit reduction plan on the fringes of Republican Party thinking.

Over time and with modifications, it has become a very popular Republican view, largely embraced by the party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

A key part of the Romney-Ryan plan is to change the government-administered Medicare programme, which provides healthcare to Americans over 65.

Instead of paying into a purely state-run scheme that covers all health costs, people would use vouchers to choose between a private insurance plan or a plan similar to traditional Medicare.

The changes would apply to anyone under 55 now.

The implications of this are not merely economic. By giving individuals a greater role in managing their care as they grow old, the plan would bring a fundamental shift in their relationship with government.

Depending on your point of view, that is either a triumph for personal freedom or a worrying abdication of governmental responsibilities.

Mr Ryan got a rousing reception at the Republican Convention in Tampa when he said his vision for smaller government was better than the alternative, which relied on the “supervision and sanctimony of the central planners”. Story Continued:

· Attack on Benghazi Consulate ‘Unprecedented,’ State Department Official Says – The size and “lethality” of the attack on the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead was “unprecedented,” a senior State Department official said today.

Senior State Department officials today gave the most detailed account to-date of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats. One official said the nature of the assault was unparalleled in recent history.

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“The lethality and number of armed people is unprecedented,” one of the officials said. “There was no attack anywhere in Libya — Tripoli or Benghazi — like this, So it is unprecedented and would be very, very hard to find a precedent like that in recent diplomatic history.”

Though the timeline of events outlined on the call was similar to the last official account of the incident, which was given on Sept. 12, some stark differences and new details were revealed.

The biggest difference was a clear statement that there were no protests before the attack. Also it was revealed that former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died from a mortar attack and that officials still do not know how Stevens, who was suffering from severe smoke inhalation, made it from the compound to the hospital.

The officials gave a vivid narrative of the events of the night, painting a picture of exactly what the compound looked like.

Anti-Islam Film Producer Guilty on Drug, Fraud Charges Watch Video

There were four buildings in the main compound, according to the State Department’s narrative: The barracks where the local guards were housed; Building C, which is the main building that contained Stevens residence; Building B, a building on the compound; and the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) that served as the main security and communications center for the compound.

The area of the compound was about the size of a football field, with a nine-foot-high wall, topped by three feet of barbed wire.

On Sept. 11, Stevens did not leave the compound because of security fears due to the 9/11 anniversary. He had arrived in Benghazi the day before with five guards in total. Two additional Diplomatic Security agents from Tripoli were with him in addition to the three agents normally detailed to the compound.

Though some administration officials had initially said that the attack grew out of protests over an anti-Muslim film, the senior State Department official told reporters today that “nothing was out of the ordinary” on the night of the attack.

At 8:30 p.m., the ambassador said goodnight to a visiting Turkish diplomat outside the compound and the streets were empty. But at 9:40 p.m., noises, gunfire and an explosion were heard by the agents located in the TOC and Building B.

The agent in the TOC looked at one of the camera feeds monitoring the perimeter and saw a large group of armed men entering the compound. Asked about the initial reports of the protests, the official said that while “others” in the administration may have said there were protests, the State Department did not.

“That was not our conclusion,” the official said. “I’m not saying that we had a conclusion.”

This starts a series of events during which Stevens, Information Specialist Sean Smith and the agent locked themselves in a safe area in Building C. The area is set aside from the rest of the building by a metal grille with several locks and contained a small room with water and medical supplies. Story Continued:

· Got racism?

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Liberal racism sightings have become like a lunatic’s version of “Where’s Waldo?” Kevin Baker of Harper’s magazine says Romney’s referring to his “five boys” in last week’s debate was how he “slyly found a way” to call Obama a “boy.” Says Baker: “How the right’s hard-core racists must have howled at that!”MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says the word “apartment” is racist because black people live in apartments. He also says the word “Chicago” is racist because — despite its well-known reputation as the home of Al Capone and the Daley machine — a lot of black people live there, too. (And don’t get him started on “Chicago apartments”!)As we go to press, Matthews is working on an exciting new hypothesis that peanut butter is racist.Meanwhile, my new favorite actress, Stacey Dash, sends an inoffensive little tweet supporting Mitt Romney and is buried in tweets calling her “an indoor slave” and a “jiggaboo,” who was “slutting (herself) to the white man.” (And those were just the tweets from the Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign!)

Could we get an expert opinion from Chris Matthews or Kevin Baker about whether any of that is racist?

It’s a strange thing with liberals. They spend so much time fawning over black nonentities — like Maya Angelou, Eugene Robinson, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Rachel Maddow’s very, very, very special black guest Melissa Harris-Perry — that, every once in awhile, they seem to erupt in racist bile to restore their mental equilibrium.

After President George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice the first black female secretary of state, she was maligned in racist cartoons portraying her as Aunt Jemima, Butterfly McQueen from “Gone With the Wind,” a fat-lipped Bush parrot and other racist cliches.

Kevin Baker didn’t notice any of that because he was working on his theory that referring to your sons is racist.

When Michael Steele ran for senator from Maryland, he was depicted in blackface and with huge red lips by liberal blogger Steve Gilliard. Sen. Charles Schumer’s Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dug up a copy of Steele’s credit report — something done to no other Republican candidate.

Is that more or less racist than Romney mentioning his sons? More or less racist than the word “apartment”? Story Continued:

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· The joke’s on us: how Joe Biden became America’s favorite punch line

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Among the four candidates on the top ballot line for the two major parties this year, only one man has never shifted roles, through five decades in politics: Joe Biden. The vice president has always been a punch line.

It’s the joke that keeps changing.

These days, on “Saturday Night Live,” in “The Onion,” and as @VeepJoeBiden on Twitter, Biden is represented as boneheaded and vain. A Vinny Barbarino figure. A dimwit with an eye on the mirror, squaring his jaw and checking his hairline. And nonsensically orating.

This version of Biden—let’s call him New Parody Biden—is also charming. That’s what’s most striking about it. He’s emotional and vain and likes attention, but he’s childish and thus not very scheming. He seems to be trivial and light and silly, which makes him decidedly unscary. He’s basically Dick Cheney’s opposite.

The idea that Biden is cool and dumb has occasioned a whole new set of jokes about him, ones that are actually better for the vice president’s image than previous parodies were.

Once, long ago, Parody Biden was a plagiarist. The Biden jokes of 25 years ago portrayed the presidential also-ran as a parrot.

“And so the rabbi says, ‘Goodbye, Bupkis!’ and Joe Biden says, ‘Goodbye, Bupkis!’”* (*Not a real Biden joke.)

In law school in the’60s, where he graduated near the bottom of his class, Biden indeed plagiarized a law review article for a class paper. In the ’80s, he stole other politicians’ work for political speeches. When he was caught, he played dumb about the mechanics of citation—classic plagiarist move.

Decades later, the plagiarism scandals forgotten, Biden was instead lampooned as a gaffe machine—a Tourettesy type short on self-control. Jimmy Fallon riffed on this iteration of Old Parody Biden: “Joe Biden accidentally revealed the location of the Vice President’s top secret bunker. The guy can’t help it. But he did apologize. He said: ‘I am so sorry for the mistake. The launch code is 85334. It will never happen again. It will never happen again. My Gmail password is robot23. What am I doing? The house key is under the plant near the doorstep.'”

This line of jokes came after Biden, during the beginning of his presidential campaign in 2007, unselfconsciously called Barack Obama “the first mainstream African American”—presidential candidate, presumably—“who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Calling a black person “articulate” was memorably identified as weird and racist by Chris Rock in 1996. The “bright and clean” stuff was even more disturbing. And Biden—not Parody Biden—once told an Indian American, with a straight face, “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” He added, “I’m not joking.”

This version of Biden recently re-emerged when he told supporters in Virginia, some of them black, that Mitt Romney “is going to put y’all back in chains.” The “y’all” was disgraceful, as far as this listener is concerned. After this tweaked-out racism, Matt Latimer wrote in The Daily Beast that Biden should step down as vice president—and that he absolutely would be forced to, were he a Republican. Story Continued:

· Swing state polls echo national trend: Mitt Romney on the rise – In one set of polls, conducted by The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, and Marist College, President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat among likely voters in Florida and Virginia. But in Ohio, Obama is leading.

A slew of battleground-state polls out Thursday shows a presidential race that has tightened in several key states, echoing national polls that show a bounce for Republican Mitt Romney after his strong debate performance Oct. 3.

In one set of polls, conducted by The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, and Marist College, President Obama and Mr. Romney are in a dead heat among likely voters in Florida (Obama 48 percent, Romney 47 percent) and in Virginia (Romney 48, Obama 47). In Ohio, Obama leads 51 percent to 45 percent.

Earlier this month, before the debate, Romney trailed in Ohio by eight percentage points, 51-43, according to the same poll. In Virginia, he trailed 48-46, and in Florida, it was Obama 47, Romney 46.

The other set of polls, by The New York Times, CBS News, and Quinnipiac University, showed slight gains for Romney among likely voters in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Colorado since September. In Wisconsin, Obama now leads 50-47, compared with 51-45 a month ago. In Colorado, the race is still in a statistical dead heat, but with Romney now up 1 percentage point, 48-47, instead of down a point, where he was a month ago.

And in Virginia, Obama still has a clear lead over Romney, 50-46, but down a point from September, when he led 51-46. Virginia is the only state that both polls surveyed, and if the results are averaged, Virginia is also in a dead heat.

The last new swing-state poll out Thursday, by Suffolk University in Boston, shows Nevada likely voters going for Obama, but by only 2 percentage points, 47 percent to 45 percent – within the poll’s margin of error of 4 percent.

All of these states went for Obama four years ago, and if Romney is to unseat the incumbent, he has to win most of them. So, he still has his work cut out for him. The debate Thursday night between Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, and Vice President Joe Biden is a critical step along the way. Typically, vice presidential debates don’t matter, but in this case, Congressman Ryan has an opportunity to keep his ticket’s momentum going. Mr. Biden’s task is to halt that narrative of an incumbent administration on the ropes.

Voters in the swing state polls concluded by a wide margin that Romney had won the Oct. 3 debate, though that didn’t shake most voters off their pre-debate choice. One mitigating factor, evident in the NYT/CBS/Quinnipiac poll, is the perception that the economy is improving, as seen in last week’s news that September unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent, down from 8.1 percent the month before.

The biggest prize among swing states is Florida, with 29 electoral votes. If Romney loses there, he almost certainly cannot win the election. But if Florida goes for Romney, he still most likely has to win Ohio, the nation’s reining presidential bellwether state. Ohio has the longest record of voting for the winner, every election since 1964. No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio.

The key to winning Ohio this cycle is early voting, says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

According to the poll, almost 1 in 5 Ohio voters has already cast a ballot, and among them, Obama is ahead 63 percent to 37 percent. Story Continued:

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· IRS says ‘tax avoidance’ at heart of Solyndra bankruptcy plan – The Internal Revenue Service urged a bankruptcy judge to reject solar panel maker Solyndra LLC’s bankruptcy plan Wednesday, saying it amounts to little more than an avenue for owners of an empty corporate shell to avoid paying taxes.

“The undeniable conclusion is that tax benefits drive this plan,” attorneys for the IRS wrote in a bankruptcy pleading.

Arguing that the bankruptcy court ought not confirm a plan “whose principal purpose is tax avoidance,” attorneys said in filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that the tax breaks would be worth more money than funds set aside for creditors.

Taxpayers are on the hook for more than a half-billion dollars after the company filed for bankruptcy last year, just two years after winning a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.

What’s more, government attorneys said that as far back as 2010, Solyndra owners had “planned meticulously” to be able to use Solyndra’s net operating losses to offset future tax liabilities.

“The only reason for the shell corporation to exist post-confirmation is to enable its owners to exploit these tax attributes, which would be lost in liquidation,” the IRS argued in court papers.

One owner valued the so-called tax attributes at $150 million, dwarfing the $7 million to $8 million set aside by the reorganization plan for unsecured creditors, according to the government’s objection, which was filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the IRS.

Under Solyndra’s reorganization plan, two big investors in the company, Madrone Partners LP and Argonaut Ventures, together would own nearly all of a shell company formed in the wake of Solyndra’s bankruptcy reorganization.

But the IRS said in court papers that there was little reason for the shell company to exist other than to help the owners avoid taxes. Argonaut is the investment arm of a family foundation headed by Oklahoma businessman George Kaiser, a fundraiser for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Madrone has ties to the family that owns Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Even as company officials negotiated a restructuring deal with the Energy Department to keep Solyndra afloat, the company’s owners were “intently focused” on how to preserve their ability to use net operating losses as they privately prepared for the possibility that Solyndra would go broke, according to the government attorneys.

In one email, dated Dec. 7, 2010, Steve Mitchell, a managing director at Argonaut who served on Solyndra’s board, told attorneys that there was a “decent likelihood” that Solyndra would go bankrupt within 10 days.

Mr. Mitchell devoted much of the rest of the email to “the need to preserve an estimated $750 million of NOLs in Solyndra,” referring to net operating losses, according to the court filing.

“We need to discuss appropriate course of action in the event of filing and trustee appointment,” Mr. Mitchell told the attorneys. “The company has a significant NOL, potentially as high [as] $750 million, and George [Kaiser] has a high interest in understanding any manner in which we can preserve the NOLs.”

A spokesman for Mr. Kaiser was not immediately available Wednesday.

The government attorneys said that while the reorganization plan had “some marginal benefits,” there was no doubt that the most important priority was to “preserve a shell corporation to be able to reduce future tax liabilities by hundreds of millions of dollars.” Story Continued:

· Cutter: Benghazi Is Only an Issue ‘Because of Romney and Ryan’ – Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said Thursday that the “entire reason” the terrorist attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans has “become the political topic it is” is because Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about the attack.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: In terms of the politicization of this — you know, we are here at a debate, and I hope we get to talk about the debate — but the entire reason this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech. And it’s reckless and irresponsible what they’re doing.

BROOKE BALDWIN: But, Stephanie, this is national security. As we witnessed this revolution last year, we covered it–

CUTTER: It is absolutely national security–

BALDWIN: –it is absolutely pertinent. People in the American public absolutely have a right to get answers.

Cutter’s remarks drew immediate criticism from across the political spectrum. But the Obama spox quickly doubled down on Twitter, replying to a Buzzfeed researcher, “Romney has politicized Libya w/no plans of his own. POTUS’ priorities are getting facts & bringing terrorists to justice.” Story Continued and to watch the video:

· Democrats frustrated by Obama’s “Big Bird” campaign turn – In 2008, singer will.i.am provided Barack Obama’s presidential campaign with music for its signature anthem, “Yes We Can.” On Tuesday, at a rally for Obama in Columbus, Ohio, the performer chose to play something new: the theme song for “Sesame Street.”

For Obama’s supporters, already dismayed by the president’s halting performance in last week’s debate with Republican Mitt Romney, that change in tune is a new source for concern as they fret that a children’s TV show has become a new backdrop for their candidate’s campaign.

In a moment of tightening polls and climbing anxiety for Obama’s supporters, the president’s decision to grant Big Bird a starring role in his campaign this week has presented another reason to reach for the Alka-Seltzer.

After Romney named Big Bird as part of a promise to pull government funding for public television, Obama’s campaign released a caustic new ad mocking Romney for thinking the character was a “big, yellow menace to our economy.”

Since the debate, Obama has been piling on, joking about Romney’s designs for the TV show at every campaign stop.

Conservatives have been crowing that the silly turn in the campaign diminishes the president.

“President Obama tried to give the bird to Mitt Romney—but wound up laying an egg,” the New York Post wrote Wednesday.

Liberals point out that it was Romney who started the Big Bird mess. Still, the tactic may have led to a kind of role reversal for Obama and Romney. Throughout the summer, the Republican was criticized for lurching from one news cycle to the next, introducing attack lines that seemed to detract from his central message that Obama had stunted economic growth.

Now Obama, some Democrats fear, is seeking to revive his campaign with too light a jolt. They worry the president looks small by enlisting the eight-foot costume bird in his defense.

Romney’s presidency would endanger more than a television character – if a beloved one – they say, and Obama’s “Sesame Street” jabs belittle that peril.

“I’m not sure I understand why he is doing it,” said Bill Galston, a former Bill Clinton adviser.

It got worse for the Democrats on Tuesday when the makers of Sesame Street asked them to pull the ad because they did not want Big Bird associated with politics.

SEEKING THE AVIAN VOTE?

The more conspiratorial campaign watchers reckon maybe the president’s team must know something Washington does not.

Perhaps, promising to save Big Bird is a winner among moms. A Pew Research Center survey released this week observed an 18-point swing in Romney’s favor among likely women voters over the course of the last month.

Maybe, the Obama folks think the only way to bandage the hurt caused by Obama’s weak debate performance is with laughter.

The winking ad with its knowing use of irony could be a play for young voters, a nudge that says Obama is still the hip politician they knocked on doors for in 2008.

In a cloudy week where Democrats have formed a search party for silver linings, some hope the Big Bird ad is an attack line that merely hasn’t reached its proper conclusion.

Before the campaign retires it, they hope Obama will link Romney’s enthusiasm for canning the “Sesame Street” characters with a much larger statement about the former private equity executive’s character.

Obama should talk about how Romney suggested PBS news host Jim Lehrer would lose his job too — and grinning while doing it, said Dick Harpootlian, Democratic party chair in South Carolina.

“There’s nothing funny about firing anybody,” said Harpootlian. “Why do you smile when you say you are going to fire somebody?”

The Obama campaign has said Big Bird was added to the campaign cast to shed doubt on Romney’s seriousness as a candidate.

“When Mitt Romney was given the opportunity to lay out his plans for bringing down the deficit, he gave the same answer he has given dozens of times on the campaign trail, which was to cut funding for Big Bird,” said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“If that doesn’t point out the lack of seriousness with his deficit reduction plan, I am not sure what does. The ad is an opportunity to highlight that.”

Befitting a campaign that has turned toward toddler television, Romney’s response has been, in effect, to say he is rubber and Obama glue.

“These are tough times with real serious issues,” Romney said in Iowa Tuesday. “So you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird.” Story Continued:

· Oblivious Obama Not Behind Osama bin Laden Raid – Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely reveals name of leader who authorized operation. The decision to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and kill him was made without President Obama – and actually was kept from him until after the helicopters already were in Pakistani airspace – according to a new report from a retired major general who cites a senior intelligence source.

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The raid was handled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta and others in this way because Obama had vetoed multiple earlier opportunities to attack the man behind the 9/11 terror attacks, the report said.

The report comes from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, who retired in 1993 as deputy commanding general, Pacific Command, and has served as a senior military analyst for Fox News. He is now chairman of Stand Up America, which calls itself the standard bearer for the conservancy of the U.S. Constitution.

The group has briefed the FBI, Congress, law enforcement and other agencies on terrorism and “anything that affects the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of our citizenry and way of life.”

In a column published today by WND, Vallely said a “senior and sensitive intelligence community source” affirmed to a Stand Up America research team that Obama “did not know of the raid in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011, until after the helicopters with SEAL Team 6 had crossed into Pakistani airspace.”

The source said Obama was notified “at the golf course … which is why he was sitting in the strange sitting position in the picture that documented the White House operations room event.”

The source told Stand Up America that Panetta “was the key player who organized and supported this daring raid.”

“He signed the ‘execute orders’ with only a few people aware: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Adm. Bill Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus.”

The source explained the White House “was closed out of the decision because the president, through Valerie Jarrett, had turned down two or three other earlier proposals.”

Panetta, Vallely’s source reported, “and his covert planning team were extremely frustrated at all the denials, so saw the opportunity slipping away, as implausible as it seems.”

The report said Panetta convinced his other principals to make the decision and received their full-fledged support but the president, according to the official, “remained clueless on the mission.”

“This tremendously serious and sensitive information was relayed by a source who has been very frustrated with the continued dishonesty within the White House,” Vallely reported.

Vallely, who served in Vietnam and retired in 1991 from the U.S. Army as deputy commanding general for the Pacific, previously has called for “We the People” to stop the nation’s “progressive socialist, treasonous death march.”

He graduated from West Point and was commissioned in the Army in 1961. He served in theaters in Europe and the Pacific Rim and saw two tours of combat duty in Vietnam.

CBS has reported that “Obama’s decision to send operatives after Osama bin Laden” was described by White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as “one of the gutsiest calls of any president.”

However, the Mail Online in London reported a book by Richared Miniter documented that three “kill” missions were canceled by Obama in January, February and March of 2011.

The SEAL mission was in May 2011.

Miniter reported it was Jarrett who kept urging Obama to cancel plans to get bin Laden.

The Ulsterman Report blog earlier said Obama did not make the attack decision.

That blog said, “He can say he did and the people who really know what happened are inside the Pentagon, are in the military and the military isn’t allowed to speak out against the commander-in-chief so his secret is safe.”

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