Monthly Archives: November 2012

What’s Up: November 30, 2012?

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

· Republicans to Democrats: ‘We’ve done our part’ in fiscal crisis negotiations

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House Republican leaders said Wednesday they’ve done their job in negotiations to solve the looming fiscal crisis, while President Obama is returning to the campaign trail to sell tax hikes that studies show won’t have much, if any, effect on solving the problem.

“We have done our part by putting revenue on the table,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Cantor and fellow House leaders have agreed to close tax loopholes to generate revenue to reduce the $1.1 trillion annual deficit. But they argue the president has yet to say publicly what cuts he will make to the federal budget — specifically to costly entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — to reduce the deficit.

They also say the president’s plan to extend tax cuts only to middle-class Americans will not generate enough revenue to significantly reduce the deficit.

The leaders made their argument the same day Gene Sperling, director of the president’s National Economic Council, laid out the general math facing the country should Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement, which some economists say would force the country off the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Sperling told House Democrats that failing to extend Bush-era tax cuts to the top 2 percent of income earners could trickle down to hit the middle class, sources tell Fox News.

On Wednesday, the president will ramp up his public pitch amid a backdrop of hand-picked, middle-class voters at the White House.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn joined the chorus of Republican leaders appealing to the president to instead get engaged in negotiations, noting Obama has no public plan for cuts while continuing to blast Republicans’ demand to extend tax cuts for all Americans.

“All that Republicans are asking is to maintain the current rates until we adopt real bipartisan tax reform,” Cornyn said in an editorial Wednesday in the Dallas Morning News.

The president’s public plan so far is to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who earn less than $250,000 per year. The plan would result in tax increases for the country’s highest earners, who Republicans say have the ability to create jobs.

“We cannot tax our way back to budget surpluses and economic prosperity,” Cornyn also said. “Without major spending cuts and entitlement reforms, we will continue running huge deficits, regardless of what we do on the revenue side.”

The White House and Congress are trying to reach a deal before Jan. 1 – when all of the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and huge reductions to the federal budget kick in automatically. Those spending cuts are part of a default agreement by Congress after it failed reach a more measured deal to reduce the roughly $1.3 trillion annual deficits that have brought the national debt to more than $16 trillion.

The mix of tax increases and budget cuts will equal roughly $100 billion alone next year and about $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years should Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal. Some economists say that could plunge the economy into a recession.

“We cannot keep postponing structural changes to our largest entitlement programs,” Cornyn added. “And unless we are happy with a tax code that wastes economic resources, stifles job creation and promotes crony capitalism, we cannot keep delaying genuine tax reform.”

Cantor was joined at a Capitol Hill press conference by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, incoming chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

“Republicans are committed to working with the president, that’s why they’ve agreed to put revenue on the table,” Boehner said. “The spending crisis is coming at us like a freight train.”

Cantor also said he was pleased to see that senior Obama adviser David Plouffe note that Medicare and Medicaid are drivers of the deficit.

Meanwhile, House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday furthered the Democrats argument that the party has already made cuts.

“We have already agreed to over a trillion dollars in cuts,” The California congresswoman said. “We’re looking to see what the revenue piece will be to that.”

The president also will be joined Wednesday at the White House by business executives to discuss his strategy.

Among the chief executive officers scheduled to attend the event are Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola, Home Depot’s Frank Blake and Brian Roberts of Comcast.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn told Fox News on Wednesday he was indifferent to the president campaigning, saying that was essentially okay as long as White House negotiators were agreeing to a balanced plan.

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Obama to present a plan that “goes beyond the talking points of the campaign trail.”

The president also is using social media to make his argument. The White House plans to promote (hashtag)My2K on Twitter and other social media — a reference to the estimated $2,200 tax increase that a typical middle-class family of four would see if the Bush tax cuts expire. And Obama on Friday is hosting a rally in the Philadelphia area where he is scheduled to lay out his plan. Story Continued:

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– This is a perception that the liberals believe. It is not clear that this is true but it is funny. PdC.

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· Democratic left keeps pressure on Obama – Just over two years ago, at a low point in Barack Obama’s first term, his then press secretary lashed out at the president’s liberal critics for flaying the White House’s failure on pet policies such as universal healthcare and allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

Labeling the critics the “professional left”, Robert Gibbs said: “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Since then the complaints have died down. For anyone on the left, Mr Obama has delivered in the most fundamental way, beating back a Republican candidate and party that had in its sights much of the US postwar social safety net.

But the celebrations have not lasted long. In recent weeks, the left has returned to the barricades, presenting Mr Obama with a series of demands to take into talks over avoiding the fiscal cliff, the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that kick in early next year.

Much is made of how the Republicans in Congress quiver in fear of their base, especially since the rise of the Tea Party. Republicans won’t stick their necks out on taxes for good reason. They know their seats in Congress would be in jeopardy if they did.

But Mr Obama has a Democratic base to deal with as well. The negotiations over the fiscal cliff will be as good an indication as any about how much he feels he needs to listen to them anymore.

In last year’s failed talks with John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, Mr Obama had been willing to discuss elements of the liberal sacred cows, Social Security for pensioners, and different ways to trim benefits paid through Medicare and Medicaid, the programs covering elderly healthcare and low-income families respectively.

Since the election, many of Mr Obama’s allies, in Congress, the unions and various lobby groups, have called for these so-called entitlement programs to be taken off the table in the fiscal cliff talks.

Mr Obama’s victory, they argue, was a mandate for lifting marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and shouldn’t be traded away by cutting benefits for the poor.

Mr Obama appears to agree, at least in the short term, and he may welcome his allies’ agitation on his behalf. The united front he is drawing together to press Republicans to move on tax rates suggests he sees no reason to trade on this issue for the moment either.

But to secure both the kind of policy stability the business community craves and his own place in history, Mr Obama needs a genuine grand bargain beyond mere tax rises on the rich.

Such a deal will neither be credible nor possible unless he takes on the issues that large parts of the Democratic base are telling him to leave alone, namely healthcare for the elderly and income support for the poor.

One reason he might be able to move is that one of Mr Obama’s great successes has been his ability to create a new base that is all his own. He may not be much of a leader of the Democratic party, but he certainly stands at the head of his own political movement.

In the place of blue-collar whites, whom the Republicans have been peeling away from the Democrats on and off for decades, Mr Obama won by cobbling together a new coalition: minorities, single women, young people and social liberals.

Their interest in the budget is often very different from that of the old Democratic coalition, more willing to countenance cutting current benefits in favor of infrastructure investment for the future.

Another reason why Mr Obama should leave entitlement programs on the table is that Republicans continue to give him cover to do so.

Older and blue-collar voters of the kind the Democrats are losing have consistently recoiled from the Republicans’ plan to cap Medicare payments and force seniors into private insurance many will struggle to afford.

A deal on entitlements might offend large parts of the old Democratic base but Mr Obama can always remind them he has saved them from much worse. Story Continued:

· Cracks surface in Republican unity on tax rates – Republican unity against raising tax rates for the wealthy began to show cracks on Wednesday after a conservative congressman said he would back an agreement with President Barack Obama to raise rates on the rich but extend tax cuts for income below $250,000.

With Congress scrambling to avert a series of tax increases and spending cuts due to kick in at the end of the year – known as the “fiscal cliff” – Congressman Tom Cole said Republicans should approve a deal ensuring 98 percent of Americans do not suffer a tax increase that endangers the economic recovery.

With the lower tax rates enacted a decade ago under Republican President George W. Bush due to expire on December 31, Obama and his Democrats have pushed to extend the lower rates for most Americans while letting rates rise for wealthier taxpayers.

Republicans have been adamant about extending the lower tax rates for all taxpayers, including households earning more than $250,000 a year, and finding savings through the elimination of tax loopholes and cuts in the costly Medicare and Medicaid healthcare plans.

“If we have an opportunity to, right now, secure the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people … and then continue to fight on these other issues, I think we should do that,” Cole, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma, told Reuters in an interview.

“Why make the American people wait through 30 days of this, wondering – 98 percent of them – if their taxes are going to go up,” Cole said.

It is unclear whether the comments from Cole, a senior Republican who has been loyal to the party’s congressional leadership, will lead to an eventual bipartisan compromise in the high-stakes negotiations.

Also, the Bush tax cuts are just one part of a larger deficit reduction plan lawmakers are trying to hammer out.

Cole said Republican leaders had sought opinions on his plan from key House of Representatives members in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. He described the reaction as “mixed.”

Republican congressional leaders stayed firm for now in their public opposition to any tax rate increases as part of a fiscal cliff agreement.

“I told Tom earlier … that I disagreed with him,” House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

“You’re not going to grow the economy if you raise taxes on the top two rates,” Boehner said, adding Republicans would be willing to talk with Democrats about other kinds of revenue increases along with spending cuts.

Boehner and the White House have an end-of-year deadline to avoid triggering about $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts in January that could throw the economy back into a recession.

Boehner voiced optimism about striking a deal “sooner rather than later,” while Obama said he hoped to strike a deal with Congress before Christmas. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will go to Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet on the issue with House and Senate leaders from both parties.

With a month left before the deadline, markets are worried about predictions that falling off the “fiscal cliff” could trigger another recession. Analysts said a failure to compromise by mid-December could trigger a selloff.

The S&P 500 rebounded from a 1 percent decline, gaining more than 20 points from its low after Boehner’s comments, to close near the day’s highs.

‘POLITICAL WINDS’

Cole’s stance reverberated through the Capitol, where Democrats have stood firm in their push to raise the top two rates paid by the wealthy in an effort to shrink budget deficits that have topped $1 trillion in each of the last four years.

Cole, said one senior House Republican aide, “is a pragmatist at his core. He knows which way the political winds are blowing” in his congressional district and in the country.

The aide added that while some in the House Republican leadership “are probably cursing his name, when all is said and done, he just may be shining a light” on what is to come in the high-stakes negotiations.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Cole’s pronouncement “seems like Act Two of Boehner trying to explain reality to the Tea Party.”

That refers to the large number of House Republicans elected in 2010 with the support of small-government tea party activists who vehemently oppose any tax increases. Boehner will have to sell many of them on any final agreement with Obama.

Cole, the former head of the House Republican campaign committee, is one of the party’s most practical members and a loyal supporter of Boehner.

His proposal could give Republicans political protection by guaranteeing most Americans lower tax rates without forcing lawmakers to cast a vote for higher rates for the wealthy. Those higher rates would kick in automatically if Congress does nothing.

Representative Xavier Becerra, a member of House Democratic leadership, said Cole’s remarks showed that “a few Republicans are beginning to break from the rigid theocracy of their party.”

But even with Cole’s remarks, there was still skepticism among some Republican House aides that any tax increase could clear the House and pass roadblocks in the Senate.

TAX TALKS

Several glimmers of hope for a compromise have surfaced since Obama won a second term in the November 6 election, with some Republicans showing a willingness to consider revenue increases, and some Democrats easing their opposition to new savings in the costly government-run Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs.

Obama has launched a campaign-style public relations push for his effort to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and met with executives from large companies late on Wednesday.

Many Democrats and Republicans have speculated on the possibility of a compromise that would raise income taxes on the rich, but not to the level Obama wants.

While Obama has called for letting the rates rise for those families with net incomes above $250,000, some Republican aides have said a final compromise could provide a threshold of $500,000 or $1 million, instead of $250,000.

Alternatively, negotiators could look at raising the current 35 percent top rate to a higher rate but not as high as the 39.6 percent Obama wants. Obama said earlier this month that he was “open to new ideas” on the rates.

Obama’s proposal would raise about $80 billion in new revenues a year, which would go a long way toward replacing the $109 billion in harsh, across-the-board domestic spending cuts that are set to begin in 2013 unless Congress acts.

Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired the White House’s 2010 deficit-reduction panel and is now working with chief executives and others to try to broker a deal, met with Republican leaders at the Capitol and said afterward that progress was being made.

“I think we will see give in all areas, if we’re going to get a deal done. If not, we’re going to go over this cliff and I think everybody realizes that would be disaster,” he told reporters.

“Look, I’m not more optimistic or less optimistic. I’m hopeful, but I wouldn’t put me anywhere near the optimistic category,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go and very few days to get it done.” Story Continued:

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· U.S. Chamber: Europe is dying Europe’s once vibrant economy is slowly dying, robbing American companies of business and prompting calls for a new trade deal to revive the economic health of the continent.

“Europe is in a slow decline,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the Chamber. “We need to see them get stronger.”

Donohue, addressing the Chamber’s board of directors Thursday, said that the organization is pushing for new trade deals to open markets in Europe for U.S. products. A new deal, he said, could spark an economic revival in Europe. Without it, the European economy could slowly fade, choking America’s largest trading partner.

“Its not going to go like that,” he said later to reporters. “They are in a recession already. A lot of people over there, over here, are saying it could be eight to 10 years. Let’s get them the hell out of it so we can sell them some more stuff.” Story Continued:

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·Inside the Beltway: Bill and the hoodie

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Two decades have passed since nightclub entertainer and blond bombshell Gennifer Flowers stepped before cameras and announced she had a 12-year affair with then-Gov. Bill Clinton, joining a roster of attractive women who reported similar dalliances, wanted and unwanted. Miss Flowers has stepped forward once again to reveal that in 2005, Mr. Clinton offered to come visit her once again.

“I picked up the telephone, and it was him. I said, ‘No, you can’t come over here. No way.’ I said ‘No, you can’t come to my house.’ He said, ‘I’ll put on a hoodie and jog up there.’ He used to do that. I said ‘No. No. And I want you to leave me alone.’ And that was the end of it,” said Miss Flowers, now 62, as she sipped wine and laughed languidly through an interview with WGNO, an ABC affiliate in New Orleans.

She also had advice for Paula Broadwell, still generating scandalous news coverage of her affair with former CIA Director David H. Petraeus.

“Call me, Paula,” Miss Flowers said, miming a phone to her ear. “I’ll give you some really good advice.”

The self-described “cougar,” author and motivational speaker, incidentally, is currently shopping around a new reality show titled “The Real Housewives of New Orleans,” in which she plays herself.

“I’m always looking for romance,” she explains.

ABOUT THAT LUNCH

Fresh veggies from the White House kitchen garden? Indeed, there could very well be a kale salad involved, though tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches might be more comforting. Or meatloaf.

Inquiring minds ponder what will be on the menu when Mitt Romney arrives at the White House on Thursday for a private lunch with President Obama, actually a traditional political ritual meant to prove to the nation’s critics around the planet that civility ultimately prevails in American presidential elections.

The public tone has already been set, with warm praise for Mr. Romney served as tasty appetizer.

“I’m sure that the topics will be many in their lunch. The president noted that Governor Romney was very successful in running the Olympics. He was obviously a successful businessman, and I’m sure has some ideas that the president will find helpful,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told the press gaggle Wednesday, revealing little else. Story Continued:

· Make the Democrats own the Obama economy – One bright spot of Barack Obama’s re-election was knowing that unemployment rates were about to soar for the precise groups that voted for him — young people, unskilled workers and single women with degrees in gender studies. But now the Democrats are sullying my silver lining by forcing Republicans to block an utterly pointless tax-raising scheme in order to blame the coming economic Armageddon on them.

Democrats are proposing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for everyone … except “the rich.” (Why do only tax cuts come with an expiration date? Why not tax increases? Why not Obamacare? How about New York City’s “temporary” rent control measures intended for veterans returning from World War II?)

Raising taxes only on the top 2 percent of income earners will do nothing to reduce the deficit. There’s not enough money there — even assuming, contrary to all known history, that the top 2 percent won’t find ways to reduce their taxable income or that the imaginary increased government revenue would be applied to deficit reduction, anyway.

Apart from Obamacare, it’s difficult to think of a more effective method of destroying jobs than raising taxes on “the rich.” This isn’t a wealth tax on useless gigolos like John Kerry — it’s an income tax on people who are currently engaged in some profitable enterprise. Their business profits, which could have been used to hire more employees, will instead be used to pay the government.

But Republicans are over a barrel. Unless Republicans and Democrats reach an agreement, the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. By pushing to extend the tax cuts for everyone except “the rich,” Democrats get to look like champions of middle class tax cuts and Republicans can be portrayed as caring only about the rich.

And when the economy tanks, the Non-Fox Media will blame Republicans.

The economy will tank because, as you will recall, Obama is still president. Government rules, regulations, restrictions, forms and inspections are about to drown the productive sector. Obamacare is descending on job creators like a fly swatter on a gnat. Obama has already managed to produce the only “recovery” that is worse than the preceding recession since the Great Depression. And he says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The coming economic collapse is written in the stars, but if Republicans “obstruct” the Democrats by blocking tax hikes on top income earners, they’re going to take 100 percent of the blame for the Obama economy.

You think not? The Non-Fox Media managed to persuade a majority of voters that the last four years of jobless misery was George W. Bush’s fault, having nothing whatsoever to do with Obama.

The media have also managed to brand Republicans as the party of the rich, even as eight of the 10 richest counties voted for Obama. And that doesn’t include pockets of vast wealth in cities — Nob Hill in San Francisco, the North Shore of Chicago, the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the Back Bay of Boston — whose residents invariably vote like welfare recipients. Seven of the 10 richest senators are Democrats. The very richest is the useless gigolo.

Republicans have a PR problem, not an economic theory problem. That doesn’t mean they should cave on everything, but seeming to fight for “tax cuts for the rich” is a little close to the bone, no matter how tremendously counterproductive such taxes are.

Yes, conservatives can try harder to get the truth out, but as UCLA political science professor Tim Groseclose has shown, media bias already costs Republicans about 8 to 10 points in elections. Try arguing a year from now that Republicans’ refusal to agree to tax hikes on the top 2 percent of income earners — resulting in an expiration of all the Bush tax cuts — had nothing to do with the inevitable economic disaster.

Republicans have got to make Obama own the economy.

They should spend from now until the end of the congressional calendar reading aloud from Thomas Sowell, Richard Epstein, John Lott and Milton Friedman and explaining why Obama’s high tax, massive regulation agenda spells doom for the nation.

Then some Republicans can say: We think this is a bad idea, but Obama won the election and the media are poised to blame us for whatever happens next, so let’s give his plan a whirl and see how the country likes it.

Republicans need to get absolute, 100 percent intellectual clarity on who bears responsibility for the next big recession. It is more important to win back the Senate in two years than it is to save the Democrats from their own idiotic tax plan. Unless Republicans give them an out, Democrats won’t be able to hide from what they’ve done.

Even Democrats might back away from that deal. Story Continued:

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What’s Up: November 28, 2012?

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

· Why Warren Buffett Is Right About Raising Taxes on the Rich – Ask any non-partisan economist how this country can begin to address its debt and deficit problem, and the answer is “raise taxes and cut spending.”

Not raise taxes OR cut spending.

Raise taxes AND cut spending.

With the federal government currently spending about 22% of GDP per year and taxes pulling in only 17% of GDP, there’s simply no way we can get the deficit under control just by cutting spending or raising taxes unless we crush the economy in the process.

On the spending side, the big long-term problems are the social and healthcare programs, so the attention should be focused there. Defense spending is also massive and can likely be trimmed without compromising the country’s security.

On the tax side, meanwhile, the obvious place to look for potential increases is the place where taxes are relatively low. And one of those places is the tax rates that mostly benefit the highest-earning Americans–top-bracket income taxes, capital gains taxes, and dividend taxes.

The only argument against modestly raising these taxes, aside from the fact that no one wants to see their own personal taxes raised, is that increasing taxes on investing and earning will discourage the country’s entrepreneurs and investors from building companies.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, billionaire Warren Buffett gives this argument the only response it deserves: Ridicule.

Buffett says, as he has before, that modestly higher taxes would not cause him to work any less hard. He points out that, even in the 1960s and 1970s, eras with truly high taxes, these taxes did not stop him and his clients from pursuing investment opportunities. Lastly, he notes that, given the vast sums of money that the richest Americans have banked in the past decade, they will have plenty of money to invest even if taxes rise modestly.

And then Buffett lays out a series of proposals that are eminently reasonable.

– First, he only calls for raising taxes on Americans earning more than $500,000 a year, not the $250,000 that President Obama is focused on. Families who earn $250,000 and live in major cities justifiably point out that this salary does not leave them feeling “rich.” So, raising the definition of rich would go a long way toward making these tax hikes more palatable.

– Next, he calls for a minimum 30% tax on Americans making $1 million to $10 million or more, regardless of how this income is generated. One of the most egregious elements of the tax code is that some of America’s highest earners pay much lower tax rates than average earners, because they generate their income from capital gains or dividends or have figured out how to shelter it by taking advantage of various loopholes. This tax would ensure that most income is treated the same way.

No, these new taxes won’t completely fix our debt and deficit problems. But they will help. And they will also encourage entrepreneurs, investors, and senior managers to keep their money in their investments and companies, rather than taking it out and spending it. This should have a positive impact on future economic growth, and with it, jobs.

Let’s be clear: No one wants to pay higher taxes.

But to address our debt and deficit problems, we have to raise taxes.

And Warren Buffett is right: Raising taxes on the highest earning Americans back to levels that will still be historically low is a smart place to start. Story Continued:

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· California Man Jailed Four Days for Recording CopsA California man was jailed for four days for attempting to record police officers on a public street.

Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer but the video shows he was standing well out the way of a traffic stop and was only arrested when he failed to produce identification to an approaching officer.

And there is no law in California that requires citizens to produce identification. And even if there was, it would require the officer to have a reasonable suspicion that he was committing a crime.

But prosecutors have already dropped the charge against Saulmon as well as a few other minor citations relating to his bicycle such as not have proper reflectors on the pedals.

And they most likely knew who he was considering he won a $25,000 settlement from the same police department after they unlawfully arrested him on eavesdropping/wiretapping charges in 2005.

This time, it appears the Hawthorne Police Department will be dishing out much more, thanks to officer Gabriel Lira’s abuse of authority.

“They knew exactly who I was,” Saulmon said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a CrimeSaturday, adding that he has recorded them on a regular basis since the 2005 arrest when he was jailed after attempting to file a complaint inside the police station.

“They always address me as ‘Mr. Saulmon’,” he said. Story Continue and to watch the video:

· Jamie Foxx: ‘Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama’ – Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx recently called Barack Obama “our lord and savior.”

This occurred at the previously recorded Soul Train Awards broadcast on BET Sunday (video follows with transcript and commentary):

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JAMIE FOXX: First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior Barack Obama. Barack Obama.

Please also notice that this clip was used as a promo for the presentation by BET.

I guess Obama really IS the messiah.

*****Update: If you get a “Sorry this video does not exist” message from Vimeo, try this: Story Continued and to watch the video:

· Schools’ Tracking Devices Causes Controversy

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A San Antonio school district’s website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus.

A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district “is stripping away the privacy of students in your school.”

The teen, who identified himself in an email as being 16 years old, said he hacked into the website Saturday, and it was not working Sunday. District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said he has not yet been able to confirm that it was hacked.

Starting this fall, all students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels.

Northside has been testing a “radio frequency identification” tracking system for the two schools to increase attendance in order to secure more state funding, officials have said. The program, which kicked off at the beginning of this school year, eventually could be used at all of Northside’s 112 campuses, officials have said. The district is the fourth largest in Texas with more than 97,000 students.

The hacked website isn’t the first controversy over the program.

One John Jay student refused to wear the device, citing religious reasons, and then filed a lawsuit after Principal Robert Harris threatened to remove her from the school and stopped her from petitioning against the ID badge. Last week a judge said the principal’s actions violated the student’s speech and religious rights, and granted a restraining order barring Harris from removing her from the school, San Antonio television station KENS reported.

Anonymous is a collection of Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included financial institutions such as Visa and MasterCard, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies. Story Continued:

– Texas schools, like the Texas legal system feel they should do everything they can to get Texans to comply with their version of life paths. Yes, I do live in Texas. PdC

· Warren Buffett’s $250K difference of opinion with Obama

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Warren Buffett says he supports President Barack Obama’s efforts to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans, but he disagrees on where to draw the line.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times on Monday, Buffett writes that the cutoff should be “maybe $500,000 or so.”

Obama has insisted that the cuts be extended only for families with less than $250,000 in annual income.

Republicans argue that tax rates should stay lower for everyone to promote economic growth.

It’s a key issue in the ongoing negotiations over the looming “fiscal cliff.”

In his op-ed, Buffett rejects the idea that wealthier Americans would go on “strike … stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp —capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.”

Buffett also repeats his controversial call for a minimum tax of high incomes. He’s suggesting 30 percent on taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on incomes above $10 million. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny faction of ours,” he writes.

He thinks Congress should make that change right away, and not wait for some effort at a more comprehensive tax reform.

In the meantime, he writes, you might “run into someone with a terrific investment idea, who won’t go forward with it because of the tax he would owe when it succeeds.”

Buffett wants to help. “Send him my way. Let me unburden him.” Story Continued:

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· The Fiscal MythRobert KuttnerCo-founder and co-editor, ‘The American Prospect.’

As President Obama gets closer to making his deal with the Republicans on the budget, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the fiscal cliff is an artificially contrived trap. Were it not for the two Bush wars and the two Bush tax cuts and the House Republican games of brinksmanship with the routine extension of the debt ceiling, there would be no “fiscal cliff.”

Rather, there would be a normal, relatively short-term increase in the deficit resulting from a deep recession and the drop in government revenues that it produces. When the economy recovered, the deficit would return to sustainable levels. In the meantime, these deficits are necessary and useful to maintain public spending as a tonic to the economy.

In addition, there are two entirely extraneous questions that do not belong in this debate — whether Social Security requires any long-term adjustment to assure its solvency, and if so, what kind; and how to restrain the long-term growth in Medicare spending.

In fact, if we get can get back to full employment, there is no Social Security crisis, because Social Security is financed by taxes on payrolls. In the Clinton era, when we had full employment, the crisis kept receding. If we want a little extra insurance, we can lift the cap on income subject to payroll taxes.

Medicare spending is a long-term problem that requires major structural reforms. Reducing benefits or raising the eligibility age in the heat of an artificially contrived fiscal crisis is the wrong way to proceed. Obama’s Affordable Care Act will keep Medicare at roughly its present level of spending relative to GDP — too high, but not an imminent catastrophe.

The strategy of the right-wing has been to blur these several distinct issues into a single grand fiscal crisis, the better to reduce government spending and especially to cut Social Security and Medicare. The right-wing, in this case, is a two-headed beast. The Republican right-wing is mainly interested in defending tax cuts for the rich and reducing social spending generally, while the deficit hawks of the center-right want to achieve budget balance and weaken Social Security and Medicare. And since Social Security and Medicare are phenomenally popular, so much the better for the Republicans if they can trick the Democrats into sharing responsibility for the deed.

A further piece of mischief is the premise that we somehow need a 10-year budget deal that reduces the projected deficit by something like $4 to $5 trillion. We don’t. What we need is an economic recovery. If we get a recovery with something close to full employment, the deficit naturally comes down as revenues to and current levels of public spending are entirely sustainable — especially if we go back to the pre-Bush tax levels on the wealthy.

So if we limit the debate to the real subject at hand — namely how to avoid a massive fiscal contraction next year when all the Bush tax cuts expire, President Obama holds a very strong hand. He has made it clear that he will not tolerate extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent at a cost of cutting back valued government outlays for everyone else. But he does want to extend the lower tax rates for the bottom 98 percent.

This puts the Republicans in the position of allowing everyone’s taxes to increase in order to preserve the cuts for the top two percent. Not a happy position politically. And Obama has said he is willing to play hardball — let the economy go “over the cliff” of a general increase in rates in order to force the Republicans to back down.

The Republicans have been tying themselves in knots in order to find other sources of additional revenue to plug the budget gap so that they can keep their pledge to Grover Norquist never to increase tax rates. (Funny how the Norquist pledge is a one-way ratchet. Republicans can vote to cut tax rates on the premise that the economy needs the temporary stimulus, but then if they vote to restore the old rates they are in violation of the pledge. You can see where this leads.)

But there is just not enough money for this budget deal unless a rate hike on the rich is part of the package. Restoring the pre-Bush tax rates on the top 2 percent would raise about $1.2 trillion over a decade. Raising capital gains rates to those of ordinary income and closing other loopholes that benefited mainly the wealthy would raise at most less than another trillion.

Even with those tax hikes, Obama and the Republicans would be more than $2 trillion short of the stated goal of cutting the deficit by at least $4 trillion over a decade.

And there is where the deeper mischief of the $4 trillion goal and its relation to Social Security and Medicare comes in. Neither party wants significant budget cuts in the next year or two, when the recovery is too fragile to stand even a smaller fiscal contraction. So the Republicans, Obama and the Democratic budget hawks like Erskine Bowles and retiring Budget Committee chairman Senator Kent Conrad all want to “back-load” the spending cuts — have them bite late in this decade.

It just happens that Social Security and Medicare cuts fill that bill perfectly. Cut social insurance several years from now, and you delay the political outcry until Obama has left office. You also delay the fiscal impact, and you leave room for a bit of other government spending.

But cutting Social Security and Medicare for the sake of an arbitrary and needless budgetary reduction of $4 trillion and as a “solution” to an entirely contrived fiscal crisis is bad policy. It is bad economic policy and worse social policy. And for Democrats, it is dumb politics. If Republicans want to be the ones to attack America’s two most valued social programs, Obama should let them go right ahead — until they march off their own fiscal cliff.

And if the president is too determined to get a deal to appreciate what a strong hand he has, then it is up Democrats in Congress and the progressive community outside Washington to make sure that Obama doesn’t follow Republicans off their cliff. Story Continued:

– It seems like the liberals are still intent on blaming everything on George W. Bush. They do not want to accept any of the blame when they are half of the problem. Yet they think only a liberal solution will overcome the problems. Yet James Carville claims the reason he wanted to be a Democratic pundit is he could tell Democrats what they should believe and they would. PdC.

· Belgian discovers his wife used to be a man after 19 years – A Belgian is seeking to have his marriage annulled after discovering that his Indonesian wife of 19 years had been born a man.

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The man, only named as Jan, married Monica, his family’s former au pair in a previous marriage, in 1993 despite legal difficulties raised by the Belgian immigration authorities.

But it was only in recent weeks that he discovered that his wife had originally been a man and had undergone a sex change.

“I feel I’ve been assaulted,” he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.

“I brought her to Belgium. That was not easy. The Belgian courts had serious doubts about the authenticity of her birth and her identity papers, but eventually they accepted it anyway. I thought she was an attractive woman, all woman. She had no male traits.”

Jan, 64, said that he and his wife had decided not to have children because he had two by his previous marriage and she fooled him by pretending to menstruate, using sanitary towels, “to conceal the truth”.

“Even during sex, I never noticed anything,” he said.

For many years the couple lived a normal family life and Monica, 48, was like a “big sister” to his children until their marriage started to come under strain when she got a new full-time job.

“Monica began to change very much,” he said.

“My oldest son saw her sometimes at a nightclub. She began to wear very flashy clothes, those ultra-short skirts or tiny tops, so her abdomen was completely exposed.”

Finally rumors began to surface and after Jan found “amorous messages” from other men on her computer, he confronted her in a violent row that led to the police being called.

“A friend told me that he had heard that Monica was actually a sex-changed man. I could not believe it. My son heard similar rumors,” he said.

“I pushed her against the wall and said: Now I know the truth. Are you a man? She then announced that she was born as a boy and that she had been operated on. She was now a woman, and so she did not need to tell me about her past as a man. My world collapsed. That evening came to blows. The police came.”

Jan, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment following the discovery, has started legal proceedings to have the marriage annulled but the Belgian courts have so far refused to allow him to turn her out of the familiy home.

“That person has deliberately deceived him for years, even scammed. Presumably she has also forged documents used here to get a residence permit. The children, who for years have lived with her, are devastated,” said his Liliane Verjauw, his lawyer. Story Continued:

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· Push to step up domestic use of drones Gary Martin and Viveca Novak

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Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America’s crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy?

Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America’s skies to tens of thousands of the drones – pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft.

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives’ “drone caucus” – officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus – has helped push that agenda. And over the past four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions, an investigation by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

Flood of applications

The Federal Aviation Administration has been flooded with applications from police departments, universities, private corporations and even the celebrity gossip site TMZ, all seeking to use drones that range from devices the size of a hummingbird to full-size aircraft like those used by the U.S. military to target al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Domestic use of drones began with limited aerial patrols of the nation’s borders by Customs and Border Patrol authorities. But the industry and its allies pushed for more, leading to passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law Feb. 14. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, into national airspace by September 2015.

“These timelines are very aggressive,” said Heidi Williams, a vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, one of the stakeholders taking part in a working group put together by the FAA to help develop a regulatory plan. “These issues are very complex, and we have a long way to go.”

Many potential uses for unmanned aircraft, which are cheaper to operate than piloted planes or helicopters, have been identified. Among them: monitoring pipelines and power lines, finding lost hikers, surveying crops, and assessing environmental threats and damage from natural disasters. The FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years, sharing space with commercial, military and general aviation.

Major safety issue

An FAA official, who spoke on background, said “one of the main safety issues” with drones is lack of ability to “sense and avoid other aircraft.”

A September report by the Government Accountability Office identified the same concern: “Obstacles include the inability … to sense and avoid other airborne objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft.”

In addition, the GAO report said, “Concerns about national security, privacy and interference with Global Positioning System signals have not been resolved.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a conference on drones earlier this year in Las Vegas that the agency is making progress working through the issues. FAA is working with “collision avoidance experts” from the Defense Department, NASA and private firms to determine what standards and requirements should be set.

Who gets the money

House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan “drone caucus” received the lion’s share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Hearst and CRP found.

Eleven “drone caucus” lawmakers from California, where many aviation firms are located, received more than $2.4 million from manufacturers during the 2012 and 2010 election cycles, according to CRP tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports. Story Continued:

· Black Friday Gun Sales Hit New Record High – Overwhelming demand crashes FBI background check center

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Black Friday gun sales hit an all time record high last week with demand for new firearms so overwhelming that it caused outages at the FBI background check center on two separate occasions.

Fueled by fears that the Obama administration will go after gun rights during a lame duck term, the FBI reported 154,873 background check requests on Friday – a 20 per cent increase on last year’s record total of 129,166 checks.

The number of guns sold could actually be double or more that figure because only one background check is recorded per sale even if buyers purchase multiple firearms.

“With the recent election, some people are making buying decisions just in case something (new law) happens,” Don Gallardo, manager of Shooter’s World in Phoenix, told USA Today.

Gun stores noted that first time gun owners and women represented a significant number of those purchasing firearms on Black Friday.

Gun sales were so brisk that the FBI’s Instant Background Check center was overwhelmed with the volume of requests and crashed on two separate occasions. Some even saw the outages as an insidious way of providing “anti-gunners a clue about how to suspend the Second Amendment.”

President Obama indicated during the presidential debates that he would pursue an assault weapons ban, which second amendment activists see as merely the first step towards wider gun control regulation.

Obama also indicated that he would attempt to eviscerate the right to keep and bear arms during a White House meeting with gun control advocate Sarah Brady last year. During the meeting, Obama told Brady he was working “under the radar” on new gun control policy. Brady added that Obama assured her gun control was “very much on his agenda.”

But it’s not just Obama’s conduct on the domestic front that has second amendment activists concerned. The Obama administration’s willingness to sign up to a United Nations global arms treaty which threatens to outlaw guns in the U.S. is also driving firearms sales.

Final discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) are set to take place in March next year. The New American notes that, “Section III, Paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Programme of Action mandate that if a member state cannot get rid of privately owned small arms legislatively, then the control of “customs, police, intelligence, and arms control” will be placed under the power of a board of UN bureaucrats operating out of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs,” opening the door to UN peacekeeping forces to disarm American citizens. Story Continued:

· Painting Depicts Obama as Crucified Christ

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A painting that features President Obama posed as Jesus Christ crucified on is on display at a community college art gallery in Boston.

The painting by Michael D’Antuono is part of a larger exhibit called “Artists on the Stump – the Road to the White House 2012.” It’s on display at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery until Dec. 15th.

The painting is called “Truth” – and shows the president with his arms outstretched. A crown of thorns rests on his head.

It was originally supposed to debut nearly four years ago at New York City’s Union Square. But that event was cancelled due to public outrage.

“I always regretted cancelling my exhibit in New York because I feel my First Amendment rights should override someone’s hurt feelings,” D’Antuono told Fox News. “We should celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we are given the freedom to express ourselves.”

A spokesperson for the art gallery told Fox News there hasn’t been any criticism of the painting.

D’Antuono said the public exhibition “has afforded me the ability to right a wrong.”

He dismissed critics who called the display blasphemous.

“The crucifixion of the president was meant metaphorically,” he told Fox News. “My intent was not to compare him to Jesus.”

D’Antuono blamed the controversy on conservative media “trying to promote the idea that liberals believe the president to literally be our savior.”

In the aftermath of his aborted first attempt – the artist said he received more than 4,000 emails containing messages that were “anything but Christian-like.”

“But I accepted that it is their right to express themselves and hope that they now see it in their hearts to afford me the same right,” he said. Story Continued:

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Filed under Left - Off Base, Politics from Just Right of Center - I want Balance!, Right - too Religous for me

What’s Up: November 26, 2012?

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

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· Rejected Beatles audition tape discovered – The Beatles’ audition tape famously rejected by a record executive in 1962 has finally been uncovered after 50 years.

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The fledgling group were told “they had no future in show business” as guitar groups were “on the way out” following the audition.

The decision by a Decca Records executive proved to be one of the worst made in music history.

Within months John, Paul, George and original drummer Pete Best had signed with EMI and went on to become the greatest band of all time.

Now the original safety master tape, a 10-track demo the group recorded at Decca’s London studios on New Year’s Day 1962, has come to public light for the first time.

It is thought the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein held on to the tape he had paid to make and later gave it to an executive associated with EMI.

He sold it in 2002 to a prolific buyer of music memorabilia. He is now selling it at auction with a pre-sale estimate of 30,000 pounds.

The recording has never been officially released and the sound quality on it is said to be pristine.

At the time of the recording, Epstein had visited several record companies with the hope of securing a contract for the Beatles.

On New Year’s Eve 1961 the band were driven from Liverpool to London but ended up taking 10 hours to get there as the driver got lost.

The following day they were auditioned by Decca producer Tony Meehan.

Epstein selected the material and chose 10 cover songs the Beatles had previously performed in various clubs, along with three of their own songs.

But the band failed to impress Decca executive Dick Rowe who turned them down, believing ‘guitar groups are on the way out.’

The 10 tracks on the 12 inch audio tape include Money (That’s What I Want), Like Dreamers Do, Take Good Care of my Baby, Three Cool Cats, Love of the Loved, Memphis and Crying Waiting Hoping.

A handwritten note stuck on the cover for the tape lists the 10 songs and their length.

There is also a photo negative of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best that they took with them to the audition and would have been used as the album cover had they won the contract.

Ted Owen, of auctioneers the Fame Bureau, which is now selling the tape, said the tape had never been officially released.

“It is totally unique and the sound quality is crystal clear,” he added, saying that the tape went to a Capitol Records executive after the Beatles signed with EMI.

“He sold it to the current owner who was one of the top buyers for Hard Rock Cafe but it was for his own personal collection.”

Mr Owen said the tape contains covers from mainly American artists and in some songs they sound American.

“They are copying the American style, the style of artists like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry,” he said. “Those were the days of Rock and Roll and everybody who was trying to make a name for themselves were trying to replicate that style.

“They were hoping that by doing that they would get a record deal.

“But they were turned down, which is pretty ironic when you look at what happened after.”

Instead of the Beatles, Decca Records signed up the Tremeloes, who auditioned the same day. They did later go on to sign the Rolling Stones.

Within weeks after signing with EMI, it was decided to replace drummer Pete Best with Ringo Star.

Bill Heckle, the co-owner of The Cavern Club in Liverpool, said: “This was always a big, big deal for Beatles fans.

“It was a great album. It was the one that failed the audition but it is such a historical document.”

The tape will be offered for sale at the Fame Bureau auction in London’s Mayfair on November 27. Story Continued:

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· Embattled Morsi calls out his backers – Both sides of Egypt’s political divide take to the streets as judges join protest against President’s controversial decree

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The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has called for a mass demonstration in Cairo this week to show support for the embattled President, Mohamed Morsi, who is facing widespread protests over his controversial decree granting him extensive new powers.

In a statement published on its website, the Brotherhood also called for demonstrations in public squares across the country after early evening prayers today.

The latest blow to Mr Morsi came yesterday when the Supreme Judicial Council, Egypt’s highest body of judges, called the move by the President to grant himself near-absolute power an “unprecedented assault” on the judiciary.

Through their statement, the judges joined a growing list of leaders and activists from Egypt’s political factions, including some Islamists, who have denounced the decree Mr Morsi says is necessary to “protect the revolution”. The council’s move reflects the anger within the judiciary.

Mr Morsi has accused pro-Mubarak elements in the judiciary, many of whom were appointed by the former president, of blocking political progress. In the past year, courts have dissolved the lower house of parliament as well as the first panel drafting the constitution, both led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The council’s stand against the President sets the ground for an uneasy alliance between former regime officials and activist groups that helped to topple Mubarak’s regime and have in the past derided those officials as “felool”, or remnants.

The Presidents’ opponents see the judiciary as the only civilian branch of government with a degree of independence, as Mr Morsi holds both executive power and legislative authority.

The judges released their statement following an emergency meeting yesterday. They described Mr Morsi’s decree as an “unprecedented assault on the judiciary and its rulings” and called on the President to “distance himself from the declaration and all things that touch judicial authority, its specifications or interference in its members or its rulings.”

The primary court and the judges’ club in Alexandria announced that they and public prosecutors have suspended all work until the declaration is withdrawn, according to the state news agency, MENA.

Parties opposed to the decree have called for a protest on Tuesday in Cairo, though in a different square from the one where the Brotherhood called on its supporters to gather. Story Continued:

· Romney aides blast ‘hypocrites’ who asked for cabinet jobs just before election and are now trashing himPresidential candidate has come under fire from Republicans after loss But aides say figures like Bobby Jindal and Newt Gingrich were desperate for positions in his cabinet if he had won.

Former senior aides to Mitt Romney have hit back at the ‘craven hypocrites’ in the Republican party who just days before the election were clamouring for jobs in a Romney administration and are now belittling him.

‘I’m sure Governor Romney is finding out now who his real friends are,’ a former adviser told MailOnline.

‘There were one or two well-known figures who were late committing to support him, were the most eager to curry favour when it looked like we would win and are now out there trashing the governor.

‘In politics, when you win you are a genius and when you lose everyone calls you an idiot. But to see the way certain craven hypocrites are acting right now really sticks in the craw.’

Speaking on MSNBC, Dan Senor, a former top foreign policy adviser to Romney, accused some of the former Massachusetts supporters of being fair weather friends.

At a big event in Ohio just days before the election, he said, there were leading figures cozying up to Romney and trying to land cabinet positions.

‘Tens of thousands of people, you could feel the energy, a hundred top-tier Romney surrogates were at the event,’ he remembered. ‘I’m backstage with some of them – I won’t mention their names – but they’re talking about Romney like he’s Reagan.

‘”His debate performances were the best performances of any Republican nominee in presidential history. He’s iconic.” They were talking about him because they believed he was going to win in four or five days. And in fact, some of them were already talking to our transition to position themselves for a Romney cabinet.’

Fight: Romney took on Barack Obama in a bitter battle for the White House waged over several months

Defeat: The Romneys after the candidate conceded defeat to Obama on November 6

Within days, however, there was a ‘stunning’ turnaround as the same people turned on Romney with a vengeance.

‘They were on television, it was unbelievable, it was five, six days later, absolutely eviscerating him,’ Senor said.

But the other senior adviser, who declined to be named when criticizing senior Republicans, singled out Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Newt Gingrich as among those who had been quickest to lambast Romney.

After Romney told donors on a post-election conference call that many voted had plumped for President Barack Obama because he had offered them ‘gifts’, Jindal said Romney’s comments were ‘absolutely wrong’.

He said: ‘We have got to stop dividing American voters. We need to go after 100 per cent of the votes, not 53 per cent – we need to go after every single vote.’ Story Continued:

· An Open Letter to President Obama Michael Moore, Oscar and Emmy-winning director and Blithering Idiot.

Dear President Obama:

Good luck on your journeys overseas this week, and congratulations on decisively winning your second term as our president! The first time you won four years ago, most of us couldn’t contain our joy and found ourselves literally in tears over your victory.

This time, it was more like breathing a huge sigh of relief. But, like the smooth guy you are, you scored the highest percentage of the vote of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson, and you racked up the most votes for a Democratic president in the history of the United States (the only one to receive more votes than you was… you, in ’08!). You are the first Democrat to get more than 50 percent of the vote twice in a row since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This was truly another historic election and I would like to take a few minutes of your time to respectfully ask that your second term not resemble your first term.

It’s not that you didn’t get anything done. You got A LOT done. But there are some very huge issues that have been left unresolved and, dammit, we need you to get some fight in you. Wall Street and the uber-rich have been conducting a bloody class war for over 30 years and it’s about time they were stopped.

I know it is not in your nature to be aggressive or confrontational. But, please, Barack — DO NOT listen to the pundits who are telling you to make the “grand compromise” or move to the “center” (FYI — you’re already there). Your fellow citizens have spoken and we have rejected the crazed ideology of this Republican Party and we insist that you forcefully proceed in bringing about profound change that will improve the lives of the 99 percent. We’re done hoping. We want real change. And if we can’t get it in the second term of a great and good man like you, then really — what’s the use? Why are we even bothering? Yes, we’re that discouraged and disenchanted.

At your first post-election press conference last Wednesday you were on fire. The way you went all Taxi Driver on McCain and company (“You talkin’ to me?”) was so brilliant and breathtaking I had to play it back a dozen times just to maintain the contact high. Jesus, that look — for a second I thought laser beams would be shooting out of your eyes! MORE OF THAT!! PLEASE!!

In the weeks after your first election you celebrated by hiring the Goldman Sachs boys and Wall Street darlings to run our economy. Talk about a buzzkill that I never fully recovered from. Please — not this time. This time take a stand for all the rest of us — and if you do, tens of millions of us will not only have your back, we will swoop down on Congress in a force so large they won’t know what hit them (that’s right, McConnell — you’re on the retirement list we’ve put together for 2014).

BUT– first you have to do the job we elected you to do. You have to take your massive 126-electoral vote margin and just go for it.

Here are my suggestions:

1. DRIVE THE RICH RIGHT OFF THEIR FISCAL CLIFF. The “fiscal cliff” is a ruse, an invention by the right and the rich, to try and keep their huge tax breaks. On December 31, let ALL the tax cuts expire. Then, on January 1, put forth a bill that restores the tax cuts for 98 percent of the public. I dare the Republicans to vote against that! They can’t and they won’t. As for the spending cuts, the 2011 agreement states that, for every domestic program dollar the Republicans want to cut, a Pentagon dollar must also be cut. See, you are a genius! No way will the right vote against the masters of war. And if by some chance they do, you can immediately put forth legislation to restore all the programs we, the majority, approve of. And for God’s sake, man — declare Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid untouchable. They’re not bankrupt or anywhere near it. If the rich paid the same percentage of Social Security tax on their entire income — the same exact rate everyone else pays &– then there will suddenly be enough money in Social Security to last til at least the year 2080!

2. END ALL THE WARS NOW. Do not continue the war in Afghanistan (a thoroughly losing proposition if ever there was one) for two full more years! Why should one single more person have to die FOR NO REASON? Stop it. You know it’s wrong. Bin Laden’s dead, al Qaeda is decimated and the Afghans have to work out their own problems. Also, end the drone strikes and other covert military activities you are conducting in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Colombia and God knows where else. You think history is going to remember the United States as a great democracy? No, they’re going to think of us as a nation that became addicted to war. They’ll call us warlords. They’ll say that in the 21st century America was so in need of oil that we’d kill anyone to get it. You know that’s where this is going. This has to stop. Now.

3. END THE DRUG WAR. It is not only an abysmal failure, it has returned us to the days of slavery. We have locked up millions of African Americans and Latinos and now fund a private prison-industrial complex that makes billions for a few lucky rich people. There are other ways to deal with the drugs that do cause harm — ways built around a sense of decency and compassion. We look like a bunch of sadistic racists. Stop it.

4. DECLARE A MORATORIUM ON HOME FORECLOSURES AND EVICTIONS. Millions of people are facing homelessness because of a crooked system enacted by the major banks and Wall Street firms. Put a pause on this and take 12 months to work out a different way (like, restructuring families’ mortgages to reflect the true worth of their homes).

5. GET MONEY OUT OF POLITICS. You already know this one. The public is sick of it. Now’s the time to act.

6. EXPAND OBAMACARE. Your health care law doesn’t cover everyone. It is a cash cow for the insurance industry. Push for a single-payer system — Medicare for All — and include dentistry and mental health. This is the single biggest thing you could do to reduce the country’s deficit.

7. RESTORE GLASS-STEAGALL. You must put back all the rigid controls on Wall Street that Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes removed — or else we face the possibility of another, much worse, crash. If they break the law, prosecute them the way you currently go after whistleblowers and medical marijuana dispensaries.

8. REDUCE STUDENT LOAN DEBT. No 22-year-old should have to enter the real world already in a virtual debtors’ prison. This is cruel and no other democracy does this like we do. You were right to eliminate the banks as the profit-gouging lenders, but now you have to bring us back to the days when you and I were of college age and a good education cost us little or next to nothing. A few less wars would go a long to way to being able to afford this.

9. FREE BRADLEY MANNING. End the persecution and prosecution of an American hero. Bush and Cheney lied to a nation to convince us to go to war. Manning allegedly hacked the war criminals’ files and then shared them with the American public (and the world) so that we could learn the truth about Iraq and Afghanistan. Our history is full of such people who “break the law” for the greater good of humanity. Army Specialist Bradley Manning deserves a medal, not prison.

10. ASK US TO DO SOMETHING. One thing is clear: none of the above is going to happen if you don’t immediately mobilize the 63,500,000 who voted for you (and the other 40 million who are for you but didn’t vote). You can’t go this alone. You need an army of everyday Americans who will fight alongside you to make this a more just and peaceful nation. In your 2008 campaign, you were a pioneer in using social media to win the election. Over 15 million of us gave you our cell numbers or email addresses so you could send us texts and emails telling us what needed to be done to win the election. Then, as soon as you won, it was as if you hit the delete button. We never heard from you again. (Until this past year when you kept texting us to send you $25. Inspiring.) Whoever your Internet and social media people were should have been given their own office in the West Wing — and we should have heard from you. Constantly. Need a bill passed? Text us and we will mobilize! The Republicans are filibustering? We can stop them! They won’t approve your choice for Secretary of State? We’ll see about that! You say you were a community organizer. Please — start acting like one.

The next four years can be one of those presidential terms that changed the course of America. I’m sure you will want to be judged on how you stood up for us, restored the middle class, ended the s***ting on the poor and made us a friend to the rest of the world instead of a threat. You can do this. We can do it with you. All that stands in the way is your understandable desire to sing “Kumbaya” with the Republicans. Don’t waste your breath. Their professed love of America is negated by their profound hatred of you. Don’t waste a minute on them. Fix the sad mess we’re in. Go back and read this month’s election results. We’re with you.

P.S. President Obama — my cell number to text me at is 810-522-8398 and my email is MMFlint@MichaelMoore.com. I await my first assignment! Story Continued:

· Democrats See a Future of Electoral Dominance But History Says OtherwiseNov 25, 2012 4:45 AM EST.

Obama’s victory convinced a lot of Democrats that they just took out a long-term lease on the White House. The lessons of history say otherwise, writes David Freedlander.

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In 1969, Kevin P. Phillips, a little-known Richard Nixon campaign operative turned White House lawyer penned a book called The Emerging Republican Majority. It argued that in the wake of the 1968 election, the GOP was beginning a period of sustained electoral dominance, fueled by populist Democrats in the West and especially the South switching their allegiance to the GOP, leaving the Democrats a rump party filled with the eastern establishment and minorities.

By the next year, the Democrats had picked up seats in the House and won a handful of governorships around the country. Six years later, they had retaken the presidency.

In 2002, Ruy Teixeira and John Judis argued in their own The Emerging Democratic Majority that a coalition of minorities, women, and well-educated professionals would create a lasting coalition for the other guys. It took six years to come to fruition, with the election of Barack Obama–in fairness, roughly the amount of time they said it would—and has been interrupted by the rise of the Tea Party.

And in 2004, Karl Rove and Tom Delay looked out over the presidential election that just was and believed they were on the cusp of creating their own permanent majority, one that would be secured by gerrymandered redistricting and a more seamless relationship between K Street and Capitol Hill.

‘I wouldn’t want to be the Democratic nominee in four years if the economy doesn’t improve by a lot.’

One would think, given this history that those cheered by the re-election of President Obama would take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and consider that the worst way to predict future outcomes is by placing too much emphasis on recent results.

But instead, the conventional wisdom quickly congealed around a notion that the Obama win wasn’t a result of the candidate or his campaign but that Obama’s three-point win heralded a sea-change in the electorate. And Republicans agreed, with Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, a former chairman of the RNC, warning that the GOP was in danger of being “relegated to a minority party” and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly lamenting that the sun had at last set on the “white establishment.”

To be sure, Democrats do have some advantages. They are increasing their margins on Hispanic and Asian voters at just the moment when both groups are becoming increasingly large parts of the electorate. They seem to have the youth vote locked up. Strains of social conservatism and ant-intellectualism will keep women and white voters with college degrees away from the party.

But nothing lasts forever, and the Obama coalition isn’t likely to either.

“We assume that people believe in party identification, that it is like granite—like those of us who live and breathe the stuff do, but for most of the rest of the population, politics is an avocation at best,” said Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia. “But most people don’t have a permanent party affiliation. Their party i.d. is built on sand.”

Take the Democratic advantage with the young, for example. Currently there is a great debate in political science circles about whether or not people who come into voting age voting a certain way keep that partisan affiliation throughout their lives, or whether young voters always favor the Democrats but gradually become more conservative as they get older. A compelling piece of evidence however is that in 1968 and 1972, just under half of voters under 30 pulled the lever for the Democrats. This year, Mitt Romney won seniors by 12 points, roughly the same margin by which McCain bested Obama among the gray-haired set.

Likewise, to hear strategists on either side tell it, the Obama campaign’s advantage with Hispanic and Asian voters is likely to relegate the GOP to permanent minority status. Never mind that it was only 2004 that George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote or that arguably the GOP has more high profile immigrant spokespeople—think Bobby Jindal, Susanna Martinez, or Marco Rubio. Almost before the final votes were counted, Republicans were vowing to make a serious play for these voters, and assuming they don’t get tripped up by their plans for comprehensive immigration reform, it seems hard to imagine that the lopsided margins of 2012 among non-white voters will outlast the Obama moment.

“Asian and Hispanic voters share a lot of things that the Republican Party professes,” said John Johannes, a political scientist at Villanova University. And, he noted, the changing pattern of American immigration, where a group goes from being a disenfranchised minority to being assimilated into the mainstream, likely means that those voters could be up for grabs before long. Story Continued:

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What’s Up: November 23, 2012?

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· EGYPT BROTHERHOOD LEADER BLASTS PEACE WITH ISRAEL – CAIRO (AP) — The top leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced peace efforts with Israel and urged holy war to liberate Palestinian territories on Thursday – one day after the country’s president, who hails from the movement, mediated a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians to end eight days of fierce fighting.

“The enemy knows nothing but the language of force,” said Mohammed Badei. “Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords,” he said in a statement carried on the group’s website and emailed to reporters.

His statement was a sharp deviation from the role played by President Mohammed Morsi in the last week. Egypt’s role in brokering the deal has been hailed by U.S. officials.

The Brotherhood sometimes delivers conflicting messages, depending on its audience. There are also ideological and generational divisions within the movement, with older leaders like Badie often seen as more conservative.

The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t recognize Israel and – at least officially – its members refuse to hold direct talks with Israeli officials. But Morsi has said that he will abide by the terms of Egypt’s 1979 treaty with Israel, and many members say they are in little hurry to enter into armed conflict with the Jewish state.

Badei declared that “jihad is obligatory” for Muslims. But he also said that taking up arms would be the “last stage,” only after Muslims achieved unity. “The use of force and arms while the group is fragmented and disconnected, unorganized, weak in conviction, with faint faith – this will be destined for death.”

In the meantime, he called on Muslims to “back your brothers in Palestine. Supply them with what they need, seek victory for them in all international arenas.” Badei’s title — General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood — also implies a leadership role in the Islamist group’s sister movements across the world.

Under the deal, Gaza’s ruling Hamas is to stop rocket fire into Israel while Israel is to cease attacks and allow the opening of the strip’s long-blockaded borders.

The Hamas-Israel fighting was the first major international test for Morsi, who was caught between either supporting Hamas, one of the Egyptian Brotherhood’s sister movements, and Cairo’s regional and international commitments. Story Continued:

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· Complaints About Turkey Attacks On The Rise In Brookline – Neighbors are on the offensive in Brookline after what some residents are describing as aggressive turkeys.

“They were attacking the vehicle,” Karen Halvorson said outside her home in the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood.

After getting in her truck, a neighbor came and ran the birds off but it didn’t stop there.

“Then, the turkeys came and started attacking my front door,” she said.

A second run-in came a few weeks ago as she walked nearby.

“I looked back and three of them charged me,” she explained.

She moved to the center of the street to avoid the animals, but it wasn’t enough.

“The turkey flew in my face and scratched my neck,” she said.

Halvorson refuses to give up her walks so she has taken precautions.

“I went down to the hiking store and I got a hiking stick with a big ball on top of it. I walk with it all the time and now I never go without my phone,” she said.

At different spots near the Halvorson house, Karen’s husband cut piles of sticks. Those, too, are for protection.

“At least we can throw a stick at them and run into the house,” said Halvorson.

Complaints to Brookline Police about wild turkeys have doubled in the past two months.

“Some people going to work and they’ve been chased by turkeys,” said Brookline Animal Control Officer Pierre Verrier.

He spends nearly every morning trying to keep the animals away from students at Brookline High School.

“Sometimes I even take a tennis racket to try and shoo them out,” he said.

Verrier says there are basic things you can do to protect yourself. If you see a turkey, move to the other side of the street. Make noise or spray the turkey with water.

Whatever you do, don’t feed them or try to take a picture.

“There was a gentleman who took a picture with a flash and they flew right into his face.”

There are two turkey hunting seasons a year in Massachusetts. But in metropolitan areas, with firearm restrictions, that doesn’t help.

A frustrated Karen Halvorson is now working with Brookline town leaders to organize a meeting about the problem. Neighbors need guidance and an opportunity to vent, she said.

“I can’t believe we’re living this way,” she said. Town Selectman Nancy Daly is helping coordinate the gathering which she said will likely be held December 6. She wants anyone who has had a run-in with a turkey to attend and tell their story. Story Continued:

· EGYPT’S MORSI GRANTS HIMSELF FAR-REACHING POWERS – Egypt’s president on Thursday issued constitutional amendments granting himself far-reaching powers and ordering the retrial of leaders of Hosni Mubarak’s regime for the killing of protesters in last year’s uprising.

Mohammed Morsi decreed immunity for the panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it. He granted the same protection to the upper chamber of parliament, which is largely toothless. Both bodies are dominated by Morsi’s Islamist allies.

Several courts are currently looking into cases demanding the dissolution of both bodies. Parliament’s lower chamber, also dominated by Islamists, was dissolved in June by a court decision on the grounds that the rules governing its election were illegal.

The Egyptian leader also decreed that all decisions he has made since taking office in June and until a new constitution is adopted are not subject to appeal in court or by any other authority, a move that places Morsi above oversight of any kind. He already has legislative powers after the powerful lower chamber was dissolved days before he took office June 30.

The decree for retrials appeared aimed at launching a new prosecution of Mubarak. It says those who held “political or executive” positions in the former regime would be affected. Mubarak was convicted in June to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during last year’s uprising against his rule, but many Egyptians were angered that he wasn’t convicted of actually ordering the crackdown and that his security chief, Habib el-Adly, was not sentenced to death. Several top police commanders were acquitted, and Mubarak and his sons were found not guilty of corruption charges.

Morsi’s decrees came as thousands of demonstrators gathered in downtown Cairo for the fourth day running to protest against Morsi’s policies and criticize the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group from which the Egyptian leader hails. They come one day after he won lavish praise from U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for mediating an end to eight days of fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whose parent group is the Brotherhood.

Morsi also on Thursday fired the country’s top prosecutor by decreeing with immediate effect that he could only stay in office for four years. Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud has been in the job for close to a decade. Morsi fired Mahmoud for the first time in October, but had to rescind his decision when he found that the powers of his office do not empower him to do so.

Mahmoud, a Mubarak-era appointee, has faced widespread accusations that his office did a shoddy job collecting evidence against dozens of police officers who were tried and acquitted on charges of killing protesters during the uprising.

Thursday’s decisions were read on state television by Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali. Story Continued:

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· Sandy-Ravaged New Jersey Families Face $6,933 Tax Hike in Fiscal Cliff Stalemate – Families in Hurricane Sandy-ravaged New Jersey will face the highest tax increase as a percentage of their income – 6.82% or about $6,933 more in taxes — if Congress does not reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff tax issues during the lame-duck session, according to an analysis by the Tax Foundation.

In its study of how the fiscal cliff would affect typical families in each state, the Tax Foundation reports that if the numerous tax provisions that are due to expire on Dec. 31 are not changed, a four-person family in New Jersey with a median income of $101,682 will see its taxes go up at a rate 6.82 percent of its income, which translates into about $6,933.

The tax issues in question are the expiration of the Bush tax rates, which also include the elimination of the 10 percent tax bracket and the reduced deduction for married filers; ending the 2 percent cut to employee-side Social Security taxes; and the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Maryland was ranked second by the Tax Foundation because a four-person family there, with a median income of $106,707, would see its taxes go up 6.74 percent as a percentage of income, or about $7,194.

Connecticut, ranked third, would see taxes for a family of four go up by 6.62 percent, or $6,653.

All five states with the top tax increases are “blue states,” which President Obama won in the 2012 presidential election. But so are four out of the bottom five states with the exception of Kansas.

Top Five Tax Increases Tax Increases as % of Income

#1 – New Jersey $6,933 6.82%

#2 – Maryland $7,194 6.74%

#3 – Connecticut $6,653 6.62%

#4 – Massachusetts $6,632 6.53%

#5 – New Hampshire $5,660 5.81%

Forty states would see tax increases between $3,000 and $3,999. Six states would see an increase between $4,000 and $4,999 and three would see increases between $6,000 and $6,999.

New Hampshire would be the only state to see a tax increase between $5,000 and $5,999 and Maryland would be the only state to see a tax increase over $7,000.

Bottom Five Tax Increases Tax Increases as % of Income

#50 – Washington $3,362 4.12%

#49 – Hawaii $3,453 4.16%

#48 – Colorado $3,646 4.29%

#47 – Kansas $3,227 4.31%

#46 – Illinois $3,417 4.32%

The potential for tax increases on millions of U.S. taxpayers is still possible, the Tax Foundation explains, and would be especially devastating for lower-income families because of the changes to the child tax credit; the elimination of the 10 percent bracket, which would go back to 15 percent; and the reduced standard deduction for married filers — all of which are provisions in the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Story Continued:

· Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip All Style, No Substance – Diplomacy: So amid all the colorful and flirty photos from President Obama’s first tour of Southeast Asia, what did he actually accomplish? As usual, he served himself politically in what was largely a Potemkin mission abroad.

It was obvious enough from the rube-like gaffes that the president hasn’t been particularly interested or attentive to the affairs of Thailand, Burma or Cambodia as he made his first trip since his re-election. It was pretty much all style over substance.

In his tour of Burma, billed as an historic first visit since Burma’s 2007 move to democracy, it was clear he was in way over his head, even on small things. Obama repeatedly referred to the country’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader Aung San Suu Kyi as Aung Yan Suu Kyi, an astonishing error given her global fame.

He also bungled the norms of Burmese polite address, calling Thein Sein, the nation’s leader “President Sein,” an error comparable to addressing Cambodia’s Pol Pot as Mr. Pot.

But he also undermined his supposed democracy mission, first by telling the Burmese leaders that he too wished he could govern without opposition, calling into question whether he himself believed in the representative government he was advocating.

It didn’t help that he ignored the real heroes who helped push Burma toward a more open system — President and Mrs. Bush, as well as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Sens. John McCain and Mitch McConnell, seeming to take credit for it himself.

That emptiness of purpose left showy photo-ops in all three countries, with the president flirting around with Thailand’s photogenic Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and visiting the Buddha statues, effectively trivializing Thailand as a tourist trap instead of a major trading partner and the U.S.’s oldest ally in Asia.

Neither trade nor military matters were addressed substantively. Obama’s lecture to Thailand about its democracy needing “improvement” was a fairly strong signal that he had no intention of restoring free-trade talks with the Thais, who lost their access to that a few years ago after a military coup that has since restored democracy.

The other cornerstone of the U.S.-Thai relationship — the military — wasn’t advanced either, given Obama’s efforts to cut the U.S. Navy to 1918 levels even as he talks of a “strategic pivot” to Asia.

No substance, no influence. Nothing underlined this quite like the lack of crowds greeting Obama in all three nations. When a leader’s visit is cause for hope and a catalyst for change — think Pope John Paul II’s 1978 Poland visit — crowds turn out. Obama, supposedly representing the greatest nation on earth, couldn’t draw so much as an Occupy-sized crowd. Nor did he draw respect.

On his trip to Cambodia, a country he claimed didn’t deserve a visit due to its strongman government, first lady Bun Rany greeted Obama with a traditional “sampeah” pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians.

So what is really Obama’s tour about? Apparently a get-out-of-town photo-op all about himself as a means of avoiding pressing problems back home. The Asians deserve better — and so do the Americans. Story Continued:

– This article baffles me.  Why does someone think that our current president has substance.  Obama has always been about his public image and how the mainstream media treats him.  PdC

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· NSA Refuses To Release Secret Obama Directive On Cybersecurity – Order may allow military takeover of internet.

The National Security Agency has refused to release details of a secret presidential directive which experts believe could allow the military and intelligence agencies to operate on the networks of private companies, such as Google and Facebook.

As we reported last week, an article in the Washington Post, cited several US officials saying that Obama signed off on the secret cybersecurity order, believed to widely expand NSA’s spying authorities, in mid-October.

“The new directive is the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an “offensive” and a “defensive” action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism.” the report states.

In response to the move, lawyers with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) demanding that the Obama administration make public the text of the directive.

The NSA responded to the FOIA request this week with a statement arguing that it does not have to release the document because it is a confidential presidential communication and it is classified.

“Disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” the NSA response reads.

“Because the document is currently and properly classified, it is exempt from disclosure,” the statement notes.

Attorneys for EPIC say they plan to appeal and force the text of the secret directive to be publicly disclosed.

“We believe that the public hasn’t been able to involve themselves in the cybersecurity debate, and the reason they can’t involve themselves is because they don’t have the right amount of information,” EPIC attorney Amie Stepanovich said.

In an official statement to Congress earlier this year, EPIC explained that the NSA was a “black hole for public information about cybersecurity.”

EPIC is also involved in ongoing lawsuits involving the secret nature of the NSA’s relationship with search engine giant Google, and a similar secretive presidential directive issued in 2008 regarding the NSA’s cybersecurity authority.

As we have also noted, the latest secret directive appears to also legally enable the US military and the NSA to use newly created computer viruses to attack any organisation or country deemed to be a cyber-threat. Obama has already shown the willingness to carry out such attacks, as new details surrounding the 2010 stuxnet attack revealed earlier this year. Story Continued:

– It is obvious that this writer thinks that he has access to American Top Classified documents.  The silly boy lives in denial or thinks that he is more important than he really is.  PdC

· Two fired after pic near Tomb of the Unknowns sparks outrage – The woman photographed clowning around near the Tomb of the Unknowns, and her co-worker who took the picture, have been fired, their employer announced Tuesday evening.

Outrage ensued after Lindsey Stone’s co-worker snapped a picture of Stone raising her middle finger and apparently shouting near an Arlington National Cemetery sign that asked for “Silence and Respect.”

The two took the photo during a paid trip from LIFE, a non-profit organization that provides housing for people with disabilities in the Cape Cod area.

“We wish to announce that the two employees recently involved in the Arlington Cemetery incident are no longer employees of LIFE,” a statement posted to LIFE’s Facebook page said. “Again, we deeply regret any disrespect to members of the military and their families. The incident and publicity has been very upsetting to the learning disabled population we serve.”

Stone’s picture received attention after she posted it on Facebook, reports NBC News Washington’ Erika Gonzalez. More than 12,000 people supported a “Fire Lindsey Stone” Facebook page before it was removed from the social network.

Earlier: Arlington Cemetery pic sparks outrage, calls for woman’s firing

Stone posted an apology to her Facebook page before she lost her job.

“OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country,” she wrote, according to Gawker. “This is just us, being the d—- that we are, challenging authority in general.”

The Old Guard, the U.S. Army Infantry regiment that guards the Tomb of the Unknowns told NBC Washington’s Gonzales that Stone is entitled to her freedom of speech. It had no further comment about the picture. Story Continued:

· White House To Boehner: Obamacare Not Part Of Fiscal Cliff Deal

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The White House and congressional Democrats are balking at the idea, floated by House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday that changes to the president’s signature health care law should be on the table during lame-duck talks over taxes and the deficit.

An administration official told The Huffington Post that the president would oppose involving the Affordable Care Act in the negotiations taking place to stave off the so-called “fiscal cliff.” A top Senate Democratic aide called the idea “absolutely” a non-starter.

“And they know that, so it’s counterproductive to even offer it,” the aide added.

Another Senate Democratic aide did concede that some changes to the Affordable Care Act could be made as part of a grand-bargain deal that would replace the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the $1 trillion in spending cuts included in the sequester. But those changes would not alter the purpose and reach of the law “in any meaningful way.”

The comments came in response to an op-ed, written by Boehner for the Cincinnati Enquirer, in which he declared that the Affordable Care Act “has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.”

The speaker has made this point before, holding 33 votes during the past two years to wipe the law from the books. His appetite for this specific fight seemed to wane a bit after the 2012 elections, when he told ABC News that Obamacare was now the law of the land. But he quickly walked back that remark, and his op-ed ends the talk, for the time being, that House Republicans have given up on the idea of full repeal.

Still, it’s difficult to see Boehner and company making much progress on this front. For starters, he held more leverage in prior showdowns with the White House than he does now. And while he was able to secure minor changes to the law before it was passed, he swung and missed on the bigger items, like the individual mandate.

Boehner’s office declined to provide specific information about his plans beyond what he wrote in the Enquirer, but he could make another play at that provision during the lame-duck talks. He could end up targeting another subject of Republican griping: the independent advisory board assembled to keep Medicare costs low. But it seems more likely that he will aim for lower-hanging fruit, such as Medicaid spending or insurance tax credits.

The speaker may find those elements of the law easier to change, but the politics won’t be simple. As the first Senate Democratic aide emailed: “Pushing this will just show that Republicans are ignoring the writing on the wall and are profoundly un-serious about getting a deal to avert the cliff.” Story Continued:

· John Boehner Says Obamacare Is The Law Of The Land, But Still Favors Repealing Legislation

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In an interview with ABC News on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that the president’s Affordable Care Act was now the “law of the land.”

The comments were immediately trumpeted as a turning point in the year-long debate surrounding the president’s signature law, which has long been the target of repeal among House Republicans. But in a clarifying statement to The Huffington Post shortly after the first excerpts of the interview aired, Boehner’s office made it clear that he still favored changing the legislation, if not eliminating it entirely.

“While Obamacare is the law of the land, it is costing us jobs and threatening our health care,” said Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith. “Speaker Boehner and House Republicans remain committed to repealing the law, and he said in the interview it would be on the table.”

The full transcript of the ABC interview, as provided by Smith, makes it clear that Boehner never really embraced the Affordable Care Act as a fait accompli following the 2012 elections.

DIANE SAWYER: A couple of other questions about the agenda now. You have said next year that you would repeal the health care vote. That’s still your mission?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think the election changes that. It’s pretty clear that the president was reelected, Obamacare — is the law of the land. I think there are parts — of — the healthcare law that — are going to be very difficult to implement. And very expensive. And as — the time when we’re trying to find a way to create a path — toward a balanced budget — everything has to be on the table.

DIANE SAWYER: But you won’t be spending the time next year trying to repeal Obamacare?

JOHN BOEHNER: There certainly may be parts of it that we believe — need to be changed. We may do that. No decisions at this point.

The first ABC News excerpt only had Boehner saying that there were some parts of the Affordable Care Act that could be targeted in the context of debt-reduction negotiations.

Still, the rhetoric seems softened a bit. House Republicans, after all, have attempted to take down Obama’s health care law 33 times. Their last vote to repeal Obamacare came just two weeks after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to uphold the law in June and, according to a report, put the GOP repeal efforts at a total cost of $50 million.

Eddie Vale, a spokesperson for the pro-health care reform group Protect Your Care, called Boehner’s initially-reported remarks “welcome news” but stressed that Republicans should stop trying to repeal any of the law’s elements.

“It’s welcome news that Boehner has finally gotten the message and will stop having the House waste time trying to repeal Obamacare,” Vale told The Huffington Post. “But, if they want to fully accept reality, they also need to stop trying to repeal or defund any of its elements, including in the fiscal cliff negotiations.”

On his Twitter account on Friday, Boehner reiterated that he does not support the legislation. “Our goal remains full repeal,” he wrote. Story Continued:

· Denialists, Whiners, and Wackjobs – Nov 18, 2012 10:00 PM EST. There’s more than one way to be a Republican.

I used to think Republicans were a monochromatic monolith specializing in Group Think, though without the Think part. The Republicans’ reaction to the reelection of Barack Obama, however, has shown a surprising diversity in GOP thought. At least five distinct -approaches have emerged.

The Vince Lombardi Republicans. Political parties exist to win, this group says. If you don’t win, you can’t enact your agenda, can’t protect your values, can’t advance your cause. The Lombardi Republicans are pragmatic. They saw President Obama win 72 percent of the Latino vote—the fastest-growing segment of the -electorate—and they had a “Ven a Jesús” moment. Right-wing radio and TV personality Sean Hannity, who used to assail even the modest DREAM Act as “amnesty,” now supports a more comprehensive—and dare I say, -liberal—immigration policy. Since the election, Speaker John Boehner has looked with favor on passing immigration reform, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is reportedly working with N.Y. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to fashion an immigration compromise.

Same with taxes. Bill Kristol, the influential conservative intellectual who served in the Bush 41 White House and runs The Weekly Standard, took to the airwaves days after the Obama victory and said, “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.”

This pragmatic strain is in keeping with the finest traditions of Republicanism. As you can see in Steven Spielberg’s masterful Lincoln, the Great Emancipator was also a great pragmatist. And none other than Ronald Reagan, the alpha and the omega of modern conservatism, signed both a progressive immigration-reform law and numerous tax increases.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal seems to be a Vince Lombardi type. He has bluntly said the GOP must “stop being the stupid party” and went on to decry the current Republicans’ fetishistic worship of big money, telling Politico, “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

I happen to think the Vince Lombardi types are right. But, let’s face it, they’re outnumbered by less admirable Republicans.

The Sour Grapes Republicans. For a movement that aspires to macho stoicism, there sure are a lot of whiny wusses in the GOP these days. I hate whiners. I coach my kids in baseball and basketball, and I have two inviolable rules when they lose: don’t blame the other team and don’t complain about the officials. Sour Grapes Republicans do both. Donald Trump, the village idiot of a city of 8 million, took to Twitter to call President Obama’s reelection “a total sham and a travesty,” to propose a “revolution in this country,” and to allege (falsely) that Obama had lost the popular vote. Clearly, Trump is living proof that hair spray causes brain damage.

Conservative media critic Brent Bozell is another Sour Grapes Republican, but his focus is on the press. “The media,” he writes, “lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama’s Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders.” Umm, Brett, Herman Cain. Michele Bachmann. Rick “Oops” Perry. They actually are ridiculous pretenders.

The Flat-Earthers. When you listen to Flat Earth Republicans, you’d think they actually won. Karl Rove, the legendary Republican bogeyman, led groups that spent $300 million in opposition to the president and congressional Democrats. Ninety-four percent of that money was spent supporting candidates who lost. Rove’s analysis after the election: “We did good things this year.” Really? It’s not like they spent the money trying to do something truly good, like artificially inseminating zoo pandas or inventing untraceable email so Army generals can make love as well as war. No, Rove spent hundreds of millions and lost bad. That’s an abysmal year. But you wouldn’t know it listening to Flat Earth Karl.

Paul Ryan is another denialist. The president’s victory, he said, surprised him because the Democrats -really turned out their vote in the urban areas. Really? Of course the Obama-Biden campaign ran up the score in the cities—that’s a century-old pattern for the Democrats and could not have been a surprise. What Ryan ignores is that President Obama carried plenty of rural and suburban counties—and that he even won Rock County, Wis., whose biggest town, Janesville, is the home of one Paul Ryan. Won it big, too: 61-39 percent. If Paul Ryan wants to see a person responsible for Mitt Romney’s defeat, he needn’t travel to America’s urban areas; he just needs to look at the cocky, callous Ayn Rand disciple posing in those embarrassing workout photos. Story Continued:

· Elmo Around Until 2014He’s not going anywhere just yet. Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash may have resigned earlier this week after a sex scandal, but his voice is sticking around, because he has already taped Sesame Street episodes to air through 2014. But the controversy continues. Clash’s latest accuser, who is suing Clash for $5 million, claimed the puppeteer tried to keep his day job a secret. “It was essential to him that I not find out who he actually was,” he said. Meanwhile, Elmo is still appearing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, though a different puppeteer will be on duty. Story Continued:

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What’s Up: November 21, 2012?

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

· Rubio Makes his Iowa Debut as Possible ‘Future’ of the Republican Party

ALTOONA, Iowa – As the Republican Party regroups after Mitt Romney’s defeat, the message Saturday night at Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday fundraiser was “turn the page” and “look to the future” — and what that future apparently holds is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the event’s featured speaker.

Rubio was invited to speak at the event around Sept. 1, Branstad told The Daily Caller, and had Romney won, the atmosphere might have been a bit different.

But only 11 days after voters went to the polls and Republicans came up short, Rubio was speaking to a crowd that had trained its sights squarely on 2016. In his speech, Rubio weaved together the personal and the economic. He discussed the importance of a stable family life to a stable economy, and how critical the success of the middle class is not just to the country’s financial situation, but also to its place in the world. American exceptionalism, Rubio said, is important to every nation, not just the United States.

“The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer; it’s by making poor people richer,” Rubio said.

The Florida senator talked about the need to improve the country’s immigration system and develop a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. He also emphasized the importance of education reform, which he said is necessary to ensure that future generations are competitive in the global economy.

“People understand that we need to do something to address those issues, and they want to do that in a reasonable and responsible way,” Rubio told the crowd.

Rubio also talked about his personal history. He reminded attendees that his parents immigrated to the United States and gave him the opportunity to attend college and become a senator. Story Continued:

· THOUSANDS OF CHINESE PROTEST, SMASH POLICE CARS – Thousands of residents protested in a southeastern Chinese city after a traffic accident, smashing police cars and overturning three police vans, police and residents said.

The reason for the protest in Fuan city in Fujian province was unclear. Police said it was instigated by “a handful of lawless people.” One resident said people became angry because police and paramedics took nearly an hour to arrive to help the injured, while a Hong Kong-based human rights group said it was to do with corruption.

But such protests have become increasingly common in China, and Saturday’s violence is another reminder that the country’s new leadership has to deal with underlying social discontent that often boils over. People are fed up with corruption and high-handed officialdom, pensions that have not kept pace with inflation, and families being forced from their homes to make way for developments.

Residents said police were stopping cars and checking people for driving after drinking on Saturday evening when the accident happened on a main road in Fuan.

Wanting to avoid being tested, a driver in a sedan accelerated away and police started chasing the car, said a resident, who would give only his surname, Lin. About three motorcycles were hit during the chase, said Lin, adding he wasn’t sure who hit them.

“About 10,000 to 20,000 onlookers became angry because police officers and paramedics took nearly one hour to arrive,” said Lin.

He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 people clashed with police and overturned three police vans.

Photos carried by online southeastern news sites showed hundreds of people swarming across a wide street with two vans thrown onto their sides. In one photo, three people stood on top of an overturned van.

The official Fuan city police micro-blog said Sunday that a sedan had collided with a car and three motorcycles just before 8 p.m. Saturday, leaving five people injured.

“The accident made a small number of local people dissatisfied, so they smashed police vehicles and overturned three police vans,” said the statement.

An initial investigation found that a person with no driving license surnamed Jiang had caused the accident and was in police detention, it said. It said the driver wasn’t drunk but had accelerated to avoid a patrol vehicle and aroused attention.

It said four of the injured were in stable condition and the other one had been discharged from hospital.

Later Sunday, the propaganda department of Fuan’s Communist Party committee put out a statement countering accusations police and paramedics had been slow to respond.

It said police had immediately called paramedics and traffic police after the collisions, and a patrol car drove to a hospital to pick up three doctors. The five injured were taken to hospital 40 minutes after the accident happened, it said.

“As the rescue work was going on, some relatives of the injured people and onlookers got out of control,” said the statement. “They started to push and shove the doctors and knock the ambulance and so the ambulance left the scene under police escort.”

It said “a handful of lawless people misled some people who didn’t know the truth” and they began targeting police vehicles.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said about 10,000 people clashed with police, and that 10 police vehicles had been smashed, three overturned and 20 people injured.

The scenes were triggered by the local police corruption, the center said in a faxed statement that didn’t cite any sources.

It alleged that Fuan’s traffic police were illegally registering license plates to vehicles from outside their jurisdiction for 50,000 yuan ($8,000) and that local residents suspected the sedan had such a license.

Calls to Fuan’s transport bureau rang unanswered. A man at Fuan’s local government propaganda department didn’t answer questions but referred to a press release on a local news portal which said the same as the Fuan police micro-blog. Story Continued:

· The Twinkie Manifesto – By PAUL KRUGMAN

The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.

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Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.

Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing “lower tax rates” as a “guiding principle.”

Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.

Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders.

Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.

The data confirm Fortune’s impressions. Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply, not just compared with the middle class but in absolute terms. According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, in 1955 the real incomes of the top 0.01 percent of Americans were less than half what they had been in the late 1920s, and their share of total income was down by three-quarters.

Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever — and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats’ style is met with cries of “socialism.” Indeed, the whole Romney campaign was based on the premise that President Obama’s threat to modestly raise taxes on top incomes, plus his temerity in suggesting that some bankers had behaved badly, were crippling the economy. Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right?

Actually, some people thought so at the time. Paul Ryan and many other modern conservatives are devotees of Ayn Rand. Well, the collapsing, moocher-infested nation she portrayed in “Atlas Shrugged,” published in 1957, was basically Dwight Eisenhower’s America.

Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.

Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.

There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again. Story Continued:

· Why are retailers ruining Thanksgiving?

JENNIFER WATERS’S CONSUMER CONFIDENTIAL, Commentary: Customers want Black Friday to start on Thursday

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CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Say goodbye to Thanksgiving — and Black Friday while you’re at it. Retailers are wrecking holiday time for shoppers and shop workers alike.

This year will see an unprecedented move by the big boys of retail to open their stores earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day, putting pressure on the traditions — from indulging in an oversize dinner to loafing around watching football — that many families hold sacred.

“Retailers have basically ruined every holiday,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a retail research consultant. “They have commercialized every single holiday by creating a good reason to promote something and drive traffic.”

They do it for the simple reason that, well, they can. It follows that adage from “Field of Dreams” that if you build it, they will come. If you open the store earlier, they will shop.

We’ve seen the creep into Thanksgiving Day grow more aggressive each year but never getting this close to family time. Bold steps have been taken over the last three to five years as retailers first encroached on the day with online teasers for midnight Black Friday sales at the bricks-and-mortar stores to online sales during Thanksgiving Day to just opening the stores while many are still just getting to the turkey.

Bill Tancer, the general manager of global retail for Experian, sees it as a confluence of sophisticated retailing and consumer boredom, thanks to the swelling population of cyber-deal surfers on Thanksgiving. He’s been following for the past decade a growing group of restless consumers who turn to the Internet for entertainment and holiday shopping on the holiday. From 2003 to 2011, the No. 1 online shopping day has been Thanksgiving, according to his findings. Last year was the first that the so-called Cyber Monday, the Monday after the holiday, eclipsed Thanksgiving Day in online sales.

It makes sense then for retailers to just open the doors. They wouldn’t if we didn’t walk through them.

Though shoppers have been grousing for the past couple of years about Black Friday keeps creeping into Thanksgiving Day, it’s shareholders who are giving Target grief over the decision to kick off its sales at 9 p.m. on the holiday.

“Retailers are getting savvy to the fact that Thanksgiving Day is such a busy online shopping day that they’re now keeping their bricks-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving,” Tancer says. Among those making early plays for customers this year are Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Gap.

“I don’t know if it’s stealing our time from us, since consumers have shown a strong interest in searching for those deals and making purchases on Thanksgiving,” he says. “There’s a lot of dead time while that turkey is in the oven. It’s a good time to shop.”

So we have no one but ourselves — or our neighbors — to blame. Cohen claims that retailers who bucked tradition for revenue potential last year were rewarded with a 22% hike in Black Friday weekend business over those who didn’t open shop. That means there were lots of folks willing to forgo food and football to shop.”

Miro Copic, who sees this trend turning into the “new normal” for Thanksgiving within five years, says it’s not about stealing time from our families but giving us alternatives. (Wait! Not everyone watches football?)

“There will be a lot of backlash on blogs and such, on family values and how we’re becoming too commercial,” says the San Diego State University marketing professor. “But at the end of the day, it’s a choice. If I’m a retailer and I’m open, I’m telling you that you don’t have to come, but I’m giving you a convenience if you want to come.”

Retailing is a lot like herding, experts say. “If one store opens on Thanksgiving Day, competitors will follow — since it is a battle over market share,” says Chris Christopher, an economist for IHS Global Insight. Story Continued:

· House Intel Chair: ‘Appointees from Administration’ Changed Rice’s Talking Points – Who changed the CIA talking points to minimize the fact that terrorists were behind the attack on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi?

When Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., went on five Sunday talk shows five days later, she was still blaming the attack on a spontaneous protest over an obscure anti-Islam video.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, says the unclassified talking points put together by the CIA changed when they got to administration appointees:

“[T]here was not an intelligence failure,” Rogers told “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“The intelligence community had it right, and they had it right early. What happened was it worked its way up through the system of the so-called talking points, which everyone refers to, and then it went up to what’s called a deputy’s committee…It went to the so-called deputy’s committee, that’s populated by appointees from the administration. That’s where the narrative changed. And so how that thing got back to (Susan) Rice, I think, is probably another question.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate intelligence committee, appeared with Rogers on “Meet the Press.” She was asked why the CIA called the attack terrorism from the beginning — but Rice did not:

“Because she could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points,” Feinstein said. There was concern about naming a terrorist group “until we had some certainty,” Feinstein explained.

“Now, with the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false,” Feinstein said. “There is only one thing that was changed, and I’ve checked into this. I believe it to be absolute fact. And that was the word ‘consulate’ was changed to ‘mission’. That’s the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out.”

Asked why the reference to terrorism was removed from the unclassified talking points, Feinstein said, “That is something we’re going to find out.”

“Well, where — where this went awry is anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view. I mean, that’s pretty — pretty clear. Also the other point was, once the video was put together, it was clear there was no demonstration. This should have been known much earlier. It also raises the concern of talking points by committee. And I have some concern about that.”

“We are going to find out who made changes in the original statement,” Feinstein said. “Until we do, I really think it’s unwarranted to make accusations.”

‘References to al Qaeda were removed by somebody’

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that he tried to find out who changed the talking points:

“At the hearing we had on Thursday and Friday, we had every leader of the intelligence community there, including folks from the State Department, the FBI — everybody there was asked, ‘Do you know who made these changes?’ And nobody knew. The only entity that reviewed the talking points that was not there was the White House.

“So, you know, I don’t know whether — what they said yesterday is exactly right or not. But, what I do know is that every member of the intelligence community says that references to al Qaeda were removed by somebody, and they don’t know who. And references to attacks versus demonstrations were removed by somebody.”

Asked if the Senate Intelligence Committee will call Rice to testify, Chambliss said, “I don’t know the answer to that question right now.” He said he’ll discuss it with committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He also said Rice is “going to have to come in and testify at some point, whether it’s in a closed hearing or an open hearing.”

At some point, Chambliss added, “She needs to come in and say what the president or the White House directed her to say.”

Sen. Feinstein said she’s read transcripts of every one of the five Sunday talk show interviews Susan Rice gave on Sept. 16 — when Rice insisted the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration against a video.

Feinstein said Rice was “within the context” of the talking points put together by the intelligence community, Feinstein said. “And for this, she has been pilloried for two months.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the talking points changed after they left the CIA: “[S]omewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out.”

King said when the unclassified talking points were sent to the administration — “we don’t know whether it was the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department or the Defense Department — that language was changed. That was not the language that was sent over by the intelligence community.” Story Continued:

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What’s Up: November 19, 2012?

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

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· The Fiscal Cliff’s First Victim? – by Daniel Gross Nov 15, 2012 5:30 PM EST

On Wednesday, the CEOs came and went from the White House. Talks between Congressional leaders and President Obama are slated to kick off tomorrow. As Thanksgiving approaches, the White House is still holding the Bush-era tax cuts hostage. What’s more, automatic budget cuts that will affect major contractors are slated to kick in on Jan. 1—the same cruel day that tax rates on capital gains, income, dividends, and states rise.

In theory, it’s all open to negotiation. The tax cuts could be warded off through simple legislation. A deal could forestall some of the tax increases, or a package of tax reforms could provide higher revenue, thus obviating the need for marginal tax increases. And so while the Bush tax cuts are in jeopardy, they’re still very much alive. But the standoff may have already claimed one victim. One of the hostages is clinging to life, and will not likely emerge alive from the standoff: the temporary payroll tax cut.

The payroll tax cut—or tax holiday—was not part of the Bush-era tax cuts. Rather, it was a post-stimulus effort to goose the economy in 2011 and 2012. As Mitt Romney and his allies have famously pointed out, 47 percent of Americans don’t pay any income tax. But pretty much everybody with a job pays payroll taxes—the regressive 6.2 percent tax levied on the first $100,000 or so of income that funds Social Security and Medicare.

In late 2010, as President Obama suggested, Congress approved a temporary one-year payroll tax cut that reduced the rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. This was part of a larger package in which Congress extended the Bush tax cuts for two more years and threw in extended unemployment insurance. Since many people pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes, the cut was quite meaningful. Somebody with a salary of $50,000 would see an extra $1,000 in her paychecks over the course of the year. And since such middle-income earners are likely to spend—rather than save—these tax cuts, it was a pretty effective form of stimulus. The estimated cost for 2011 was $112 billion.

Now, the beauty of a temporary tax cut is that you can always accuse the other side of wanting to increase taxes if they simply want to let the temporary measure expire as it was designed to do. That’s the tactic Republicans have been using against Democrats and Obama with the Bush tax cuts for the past several years. Obama briefly turned the tables on the Republicans over the payroll tax in late 2011. And so, at the end of 2011 with the economy growing slowly and concerns about the ability of consumers to sustain the recovery, Congress and the White House struck another deal to extend the 4.2 percent payroll tax rate through 2012. Another 12 months, another $100-billion-plus into the consumer economy.

For the past several months, both sides have pretty much assumed that the payroll tax cut would fade away at the end of the year—regardless of who won the election. Why? Republicans never really liked it; in theory, the tax cuts undermined Social Security and Medicare, which is vital to their geezer constituents. What’s more, it’s a tax cut on wages of typical workers. And for ideological and personal reasons, Republicans much prefer cutting taxes on high earners, and on investment and estates. That’s where the real money is.

As for Democrats, they have understood that, while they like the idea of a tax cut that benefits workers, it isn’t sustainable. The payroll taxes are supposed to put money into cherished programs like Medicare and Social Security. In addition, the Obama administration seems to think that if you sell something as a temporary measure for a couple of years, then it probably should be. In this Annie Lowrey article in The New York Times in September, its end was telegraphed. “This has to be a temporary tax cut,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told a Congressional committee. “I don’t see any reason to consider supporting its extension.”

The payroll tax may be popular among taxpayers. And a lot of economists—especially progressive one—like it, too. It packs a pretty big bang for the buck. In a recent report, the Congressional Budget Office found that not extending the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits would reduce economic growth by .7 percent in 2013, a significant impact. But the payroll tax holiday is now “an orphan on the Hill,” as Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Earlier this year, both the House and the Senate passed (apparently irreconcilable) bills that would have avoided the fiscal cliff by temporarily extending some or all of the Bush tax cuts. Neither included a reprieve for the payroll tax cut.

Sure, here and there, you can hear plaintive calls for the hostage takers and ransomers to consider the fate of the poor payroll tax cut. Marr notes that former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has mentioned it, and some of the investment banks have noted the potential impact of a payroll tax increase on the economy. But in his public and private utterances over the past week, President Obama hasn’t indicated that it is a significant priority. This particular hostage may still be technically alive. But, as Marr concedes, “it is the one that is most at risk.” Story Continued:

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· Petraeus Fever Paralyzes Washington as the Media Pounce on Sex Scandal

by Howard Kurtz Nov 15, 2012 4:45 AM EST, Virtually every journalist in D.C. is feasting on the sex scandal. Howard Kurtz on the irresistible lure of tawdry affairs.

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Pick up the paper, turn on the tube, crack open the laptop, stop at any Starbucks, and the chatter is all about Dave and Paula and John and Jill.

The news that Petraeus’s paramour is hiding out here in the nation’s capital, at her brother’s house, prompted this breaking-news tweet from Politico’s Byron Tau: “After an hour in the cold, I can report that Paula Broadwell eats food and wears sweaters.” But it did produce a through-the-window photo that replaced the sleeveless-blouse pictures of Broadwell from her Daily Show appearance plugging her Petraeus-walks-on-water book.

Forget the fiscal cliff. Inside the Beltway, at least, we are all climbing Petraeus Mountain. There is no other topic. Every reporter, columnist, commentator, and blogger is finding an angle. Every conversation circles back to a scandalous tidbit: Jill Kelley and Gen. John Allen exchanged 30,000 emails! (Um, when did he have time to run the war in Afghanistan?) Broadwell called Kelley a “seductress” in those harassing e-mails that led Kelley to complain to the FBI. And what’s with that agent sending shirtless photos? Some of the details turned out to be overhyped—OK, maybe there weren’t 30,000 emails—but why let the details get in the way of a good wallow?

Even Barack Obama’s first postelection news conference began with the obsession du jour: So, prez, what do you think of the Petraeus affair?

There is an arc to the political sex scandal, beginning with the heady rush that comes with catching some highly placed public figure failing to keep his zipper zipped (they are, of course, usually men). Then we dig up everything we can on the mistresses (Monica Lewinsky, Rielle Hunter, Callista Bisek, Ginger White, Eliot Spitzer’s call girl, Mark Foley’s IM pals, Mark Sanford’s Argentine soulmate.) Next the country becomes acquainted with the peripheral figures: Linda Tripp, Anthony Weiner’s Twitter friends, Jill Kelley’s twin sister (how did she get Petraeus and Allen to write letters on her behalf in a custody battle?). Finally the story begins to fade, the press moves on to the next scandal, and the humiliated figure seeks rehabilitation as a global statesman or talk show host.

Of course, self-respect requires the media establishment to maintain that there are Very Serious Issues at stake. Did Petraeus allow national security to be compromised (as opposed to just getting some on the side)? Did Allen violate the military code of conduct (as opposed to engaging in a bit of long-distance flirtation)? And this one certainly has grave implications for protecting the nation: how can our top spymaster be dumb enough to engage in hot talk on Gmail? (This one is dressed up as a matter of online privacy or some such.) Story Continued:

· The Reality of Secession and Unicorns – Bob Cesca; Host of The Bob & Chez Show, Media Producer.

I hate to disappoint the 675,000 whiny diaper babies calling for secession in the wake of the election but, sorry, no matter how hard they stomp their feet and pout and fling their feces at the electoral map, demands for secession might as well be demands for goblins and unicorns. They’re equally as realistic.

Secession from the United States will never happen.

Ever.

Not only is it illegal, but it’s technically an act of treason as defined by the Constitution, and it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Texas v. White. Furthermore, the secessionists aren’t merely condemning the Obama administration, secession is by definition a categorical rejection of the United States and its Constitution, say nothing of the beloved Pledge of Allegiance, which specifically includes the word “indivisible” right after the word “God.” I thought these things were sacrosanct to conservatives.

I’m not breaking any news here, but the red states tried this already and it failed miserably. The core motivation behind the 1861 secession movement was, of course, the defense of slavery as the cornerstone of the Southern economy, and, subsequently, state sovereignty over the legality and regulation of slavery. When Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860, secessionist fire-eaters were convinced that the initially unconvinced Abraham Lincoln would summarily free the slaves and possibly arm them for an insurrection against their masters, thus undermining the southern economy in a massive display of executive “tyranny.” And so the southern states, one by one, seceded. In the four years that followed, 2.5 percent of the American population was wiped out in the American Civil War — the equivalent to 7,850,000 people in terms of today’s population, or roughly the entire 2010 population of Virginia. And, in the end, the decimated seceding states were forced by military attrition to return to the Union.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that all of the former Confederate states defied the astronomical one-in-a-million odds and actually seceded again. (I can’t help but to think about Jim Carrey’s reaction in Dumb and Dumber when presented with one-in-a-million odds: “So you’re saying there’s a chance…”)

What would actually happen?

Unless these states were able to muster an army of disloyal soldiers and militia and fired upon military bases loyal to the United States, it’s doubtful that a modern secession movement would result in another civil war. But if it did, the U.S. military of 2012 clearly possesses capabilities and manpower far beyond anything imaged in 1861 and would summarily wipe out an army of rag-tags, even if they did manage to seize a couple of bases and persuade a few commanders to join the cause. If it escalated into war, the bloodshed would be unspeakable. The late Civil War historian Shelby Foote once observed that the most brutal fistfights he’d ever seen were between two brothers.

However, with a modern economy, there would be no need for President Obama to order the military to retake the seceding states by force. Again, we’re talking about pure fantasy here, but if the president took seriously the various Ordinances of Secession and the subsequent formation of an anti-federalist confederation of sovereign states, my strong hunch is that the president would merely starve out the states until they simply gave up.

To avoid the inevitable sanctions, there would be a massive refugee crisis of non-secessionists flooding out of the secessionist states. They’d be the smart ones.

Most of the red states — now the hypothetical “New Confederacy” — had heretofore taken more federal aid than they paid back in federal taxes. South Carolina, for example, takes $1.35 in federal money for every dollar it pays in federal taxes. Louisiana takes $1.78 for every dollar it pays into the system. Talk about moochers and freeloaders. By the way, this money is redistributed from other states, including the blue states with their abortion-on-demand and evil healthcare mandate. After secession, that gravy train would cease to exist. Farmers, corporations, small businesses, universities and law enforcement would crumble without federal aid — grants, contracts, matching funds, tax breaks, etc.

If the reality of losing federal money wasn’t enough to convince the New Confederacy to stop behaving like petulant, tantrum-throwing children, then an array of more hard-core sanctions would begin. It’s likely the power grid, pipelines, shipping lanes and, yes, satellite and internet communications would be summarily blocked by the U.S. government. The confederacy would be totally cut off from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, without federal regulations on food safety, clean water, clean air, and without the CDC, rampant disease would spread across the confederacy. How would northern medical equipment and pharmaceuticals reach the seceded states? Inflation, especially on medicine, would skyrocket as demand for dwindling supplies increased. Black-marketeers would spring up in every town.

The solidly blue areas inside the seceded states — Austin, for instance — would be the Texas equivalent to West Berlin in the heart of East Germany. We’d have to airlift supplies to those areas and hope that hoards of desperate and well-armed suburban and rural warlords didn’t swoop in try to swipe the supplies. Needless to say, there would be a large scale humanitarian crisis.

At the governmental level of the New Confederacy, presuming there’s something holding all the states together, leaders would quickly learn the hard lessons of both the Articles of Confederation and the CSA: it’s nearly impossible to govern and do business as a confederacy, especially in a 2012 world. There wouldn’t be a standard national currency. There wouldn’t be national trade agreements even though, on the bright side, nations like China, which has been known to do business with rogue nations like Iran, might continue to ship cheap crap to Walmart and other stores inside this loose conglomeration of nations.

Instead of one large national economy, there would be individual state-level economies — each of them too weak to compete in the global marketplace. How would the New Confederacy generate revenue without a central system of taxation? If it came down to a fighting war against the U.S., how would the central government raise and finance a military?

Welcome, New Confederacy, to third world status!

But it gets worse. The impossible reality of a successful confederacy would be further exacerbated by the secession precedent. States would end up splitting into smaller and smaller pieces with parts of states seceded from other parts — subdividing and subdividing until the confederacy vaporized or was reunified into a more traditional federalist system.

Again, this isn’t speculative. This is tested reality. The Confederate States of America ended up with a strong central government because it quickly learned that it couldn’t fight a war and manage its economy without one. Years earlier, the disastrous Articles of Confederation were dismantled and replaced with the U.S. Constitution with a strong central government and a powerful chief executive as its centerpiece.

So if you’re one of the now hundreds of thousands of signatories to these ridiculous petitions, think about the reality of what you’ve endorsed. You signed a petition to disconnect yourself from the United States of America and, perhaps, to wage war against it. If you’re on Social Security — gone. If you’re on Medicare — gone. If your children attend public or charter schools — gone. If you work for a defense contractor or another corporation that relies on government contracts — gone. Hell, if you rely on the internet to do business — gone. And in the worst case scenario, you should be prepared to wage war against the most powerful military in the history of mankind, augmented by the military might of other allied nations.

And if you’re inclined to storm off like a drama-queen reality show contestant — if you’re inclined to “Go Galt” as so many conservatives threatened to do four years ago — then run off into the forest and live off the grid for while until you calm down from your post-election hysteria. While you’re there, wise up. Story Continued:

· Would You Give Up Booze For A Bud? – Laurel Dewey; Author, Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden and the Jane Perry mystical crime thriller series

I talked to a lot of older cannabis users when I researched my novel, Betty’s (Little Basement Garden). The average age of those who puffed or ingested cannabis was about 55 years old and while most of them were imbibing for medicinal purposes, there was a good percentage that enjoyed cannabis purely for recreational purposes. In fact, some of them liked it so much; they made a conscious choice to give up alcohol entirely in favor of the herb.

I found that idea quite curious and talked at length with those who made this unique lifestyle change. I wanted to know what compelled them to make their decision and each of them had a different reason. Several of the people told me that cannabis had been their “exit drug” (i.e., they used the herb to wean themselves off sleep aids, anti-depressants and, yes, booze.) One 58-year-old Conservative woman commented that she’d tried to quit both sleep aids and her nightly two glasses of red wine cold turkey but then suffered two “excruciating” nights of sleeplessness. After eating half a cannabis cookie her daughter made for her, she slept like a rock and woke up refreshed without the usual hangover and drugged feeling. She told me from that night onward, she decided that cannabis was more enjoyable, worked better than her pills or nightcap to prompt sleep and, as she put it, “produced a centered feeling” the following day.

Other users I spoke to came to the conclusion that “buds and booze” didn’t mix well for them and they decided to choose one over the other. As one man in his late seventies informed me, “Cannabis allows you to tune in; booze makes you tune out.” He liked the introspective quality that the herb offered him and expressed regret that he hadn’t made the switch sooner.

A senior couple, both professionals and well-educated, made the decision to give up alcohol and only use cannabis when the wife needed to quit drinking for medical reasons. While using the smoked cannabis for her medical condition, she realized it was “far more appealing” than her gin and tonic. Her husband agreed and now instead of two shots in a glass, it’s two puffs before dinner.

But this lifestyle change comes with a social stigma. Many recreational users were still hiding their cannabis use from family and friends, which made it impossible for them to be open during social occasions or family gatherings. And even if they decided to be open about their decision, they told me how concerned they were about losing valued friends and family members. “You can walk around all night with a drink in your hand,” a cannabis convert told me, “but God help you if you pick up a joint and take a hit.” However, as one man put it, the social irony could be comical. “We’d be at some get together where everyone was sloshed and we’d be a little high but operating just fine,” he told me, “and somebody would bring up ‘those damned pot heads,’ referring to some baggy-panted kid and not realize they were having a discussion with a ‘pot user’ right then!”

While replacing alcohol with cannabis may not be a growing trend yet, the idea is gaining traction for people who live in states where cannabis is already allowed for medical reasons. The concept of giving up a nightcap for a “nug” is more likely for those who have already gotten acquainted with the herb from a medicinal point of view because they enjoy the stress and anxiety reducing it provides. And for those who have made the “pot plunge” and quit drinking, the benefits outweigh any stigma. “I never thought I’d say this but pot makes my head feel less muddled than booze,” one woman told me, adding with a smile, “and it makes sex incredible.”

Laurel Dewey is the author of the first fiction novel on medical marijuana in Colorado, “Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden,” as well as penning the Jane Perry thriller series. Story Continued:

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· King: Petraeus Said CIA’s Talking Points Were Edited to Play Down Terrorism – Representative Peter King stated that former CIA Director David Petraeus stated that he knew the Benghazi attack was terrorism and that the talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice were different from the ones prepared by the CIA. Petraeus stated Rice’s talking points were edited to deemphasized the possibility of terrorism. Story Continued and to watch the video:

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· Intel officials unable to say who changed CIA talking points on Libya, lawmaker says

Former CIA Director David Petraeus stoked the controversy over the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya terror attack, testifying that references to “Al Qaeda involvement” were stripped from his agency’s original talking points — while other intelligence officials were unable to say who changed the memo, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News that intelligence officials who testified in a closed-door hearing a day earlier said they did not know who changed the talking points. He said they went out to multiple departments, including the State Department, National Security Council, Justice Department and White House.

“I’d say it was somebody in the administration had to have taken it out,” King told Fox News. “That to me, has to be pursued.”

Watch the full interview with King on Fox News at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Petraeus left Capitol Hill around noon, after testifying in private hearings before the House and Senate intelligence committees.

In his wake, Republicans and Democrats battled over whether his testimony should raise more suspicions about the administration’s handling of the attack.

King and other Republicans indicated they still have plenty of questions about the aftermath of the strike.

“No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points,” he said.

Petraeus’ testimony both challenges the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the attack was a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Islam video, and according to King conflicts with his own briefing to lawmakers on Sept. 14. Sources have said Petraeus, in that briefing, also described the attack as a protest that spun out of control.

“His testimony today was that from the start, he had told us that this was a terrorist attack,” King said, adding that he told Petraeus he had a “different recollection.”

Still, the claim that the CIA’s original talking points were changed is sure to stoke controversy on the Hill.

“The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement. And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” King said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agency process.”

Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the Al Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”

Lawmakers are focusing on the talking points issue because of concern over the account U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice gave on five Sunday shows on Sept. 16, when she repeatedly claimed the attack was spontaneous — Rice’s defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on the intelligence at the time.

The suggestion that the intelligence was altered raised questions about who altered it, with King asking if “the White House changed the talking points.”

One source told Fox News that Petraeus “has no idea what was provided” to Rice or who was the author of the talking points she used.

“He had no idea she was going on talk shows” until the White House announced it one or two days before, the source said.

While Petraeus resigned last Friday over an extra-marital affair, his testimony Friday was expected to focus on Libya as opposed to personal matters. King said it barely came up, and only when Petraeus was asked if the affair and investigation had any impact on his testimony on Libya. “He said no,” King said.

The pressure was on Petraeus to set the record straight, after other top intelligence officials struggled a day earlier to explain why their initial talking points after the Libya attack minimized the role of militant groups.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees heard testimony Thursday in private meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell. But Fox News was told there were heated exchanges on the House side, particularly over the talking points that administration officials relied on in the days after the Sept. 11 strike.

Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalized that information. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of a regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despite evidence of their involvement.

Further, Fox News was told Morell was pushed to explain why, during a Sept. 14 briefing, Petraeus seemed wedded to the explanation that the attack was in response to an anti-Islam video. Morell apparently said he wasn’t at that briefing and had nothing further to add.

Lawmakers continue to express concerns on several fronts — on whether warnings in the months preceding Sept. 11 were ignored, and on why the administration first insisted the attack was a “spontaneous” act.

Rice has been the focal point of that criticism. Obama, though, in his first post-election press conference Wednesday, called the criticism “outrageous” and told those lawmakers to “go after me” instead.

California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff also came to Rice’s defense Thursday, saying after the House intelligence committee hearing that Rice was given the intelligence community’s “best assessment” at the time.

“Those who have suggested that Ambassador Rice was politicizing the intelligence or misrepresenting what the intelligence community was putting forward as its best assessment are either unfamiliar with the facts, or willfully disregarding them,” he said. Story Continued and to Watch the video:

· FHA projected to exhaust reserves, could need bailout

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Housing Administration, which has played a crucial role in stabilizing the housing market, said it ended September with $16.3 billion in projected losses — a possible prelude to a taxpayer bailout.

The precarious financial situation could force the FHA, which has been self-funded through mortgage insurance premiums since it was created during the Great Depression, to tap the U.S. Treasury to stay afloat.

The agency said a determination on whether it needs a bailout won’t come until next year.

The FHA is required to maintain enough cash reserves to cover losses on the mortgages it insures. But in its annual actuarial report to Congress, the agency said a slower-than-anticipated housing market recovery has led its reserves to fall $16.3 billion below anticipated losses.

The FHA’s cash reserves aren’t supposed to drop below 2% of projected losses. They ended the 2012 fiscal year at -1.44%, down from the seriously low level of 0.24% at the end of 2011.

The FHA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees it, said the report “does not mean FHA has insufficient cash to pay insurance claims, a current operating deficit or will need to immediately draw funds from the Treasury.”

A request for taxpayer money would come in President Obama’s 2014 budget, set to be released in February, with a final determination of whether the FHA needs the funds coming next September. The FHA has permanent and indefinite authority to draw money from the Treasury, although it has never had to use that power.

The FHA does not lend money, but guarantees loans made by banks in exchange for insurance premiums. The agency’s role has expanded since the crash of the subprime mortgage market, and it now insures about $1.1 trillion in loans, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

But the expanded role, including backing mortgages with as little as 3.5% down payment and for some people who have undergone recent foreclosures, has taken a toll on its finances. The agency boosted premiums and took other steps in 2009 to shore up its capital reserves.

“While the loans made during this administration remain the strongest in the agency’s history, we take the findings of the independent actuary very seriously,” said acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante. “We will continue to take aggressive steps to protect FHA’s financial health while ensuring that FHA continues to perform its historic role of providing access to homeownership for underserved communities and supporting the housing market during tough economic times.” Story Continued:

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· Twinkies Maker Hostess Going Out of Business, CEO Blames Union Strike

Hostess, the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said.

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in announcing that the firm had filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shutter its business. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

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Hostess Brands Inc. had earlier warned employees that it would file to unwind its business and sell off assets if plant operations didn’t return to normal levels by 5 p.m. Thursday. In announcing its decision, Hostess said its wind down would mean the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores in the United States.

Hostess suspended bakery operations at all its factories and said its stores will remain open for several days to sell already-baked products.

The Irving, Texas-based company had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But thousands of members in its second-biggest union went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Officials for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union say the company stopped contributing to workers’ pensions last year.

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie read a statement on “Today” from the bakers’ union that said: “Despite Greg Rayburn’s insulting and disingenuous statements of the last several months, the truth is that Hostess workers and the union have absolutely no responsibility for the failure of this company. That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the company’s decision makers.”

Rayburn responded that he had been “pretty straightforward in all the town hall meetings I’ve done at our plants to say that in this situation I think there is blame that goes around for everyone.”

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He denied that the decision to shut down could be a last ditch negotiation tactic to get the union back to the table.

“It’s over,” he said. “This is it.”

Rayburn, who first joined Hostess earlier this year as a restructuring expert, had earlier said that many workers crossed picket lines this week to go back to work despite warnings by union leadership that they’d be fined.

“The problem is we don’t have enough crossing those lines to maintain normal production,” Rayburn told Fox Business.

Hostess said that production at about a dozen of the company’s 33 plants had been seriously affected by the strike. Three plants were closed earlier this week.

The privately held company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. The company cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing. Hostess had argued that workers must make concessions for it to exit bankruptcy and improve its financial position.

The company, founded in 1930, was fighting battles beyond labor costs, however. Competition is increasing in the snack space and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating. Hostess also makes Dolly Madison, Drake’s and Nature’s Pride snacks.

If the motion is granted, Hostess would begin closing operations as early as Tuesday.

“Most employees who lose their jobs should be eligible for government-provided unemployment benefits,” Hostess said. Story Continued:

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· EPA chief’s secret ‘alias’ email account revealed

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The name Richard Windsor may sound innocuous, but it is allegedly one of the secret “alias” email accounts used by Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

“That is the name — sorry, one of the alias names — used by Obama’s radical EPA chief to keep her email from those who ask for it,” Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the new book “The Liberal War on Transparency,” told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

In his book, Horner revealed the existence of “alias” email accounts used by EPA administrators. The first such transparency dodge, he writes, came from Carol Browner, former director of the Obama White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and Bill Clinton’s EPA administrator.

“You remember Ms. Browner, the lady who suddenly ordered her computer hard drive reformatted and backup tapes erased, hours after a federal court issued a ‘preserve’ order … that her lawyers at the Clinton Justice Department insisted they hadn’t yet told her about?” Horner told TheDC News Foundation. “The one who said it’s all good because she didn’t use her computer for email anyway? That one.”

Horner said two former “fairly senior” EPA officials contacted him while he was researching his book, and gave him the name of one of the email alias names used by EPA Chief Jackson.

“Richard Windsor” was just “[o]ne of the alternate email addresses she used,” according to Horner, meaning there could be more.

In September, Horner and CEI filed a lawsuit against the EPA, asking the U.S. District Court to order them to produce record regarding “‘secondary,’ non-public email accounts for EPA administrators, the existence of which accounts Plaintiff discovered in an Agency document obtained under a previous [Freedom of Information Act] request” which the EPA says were known only to a “few EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff.”

“These alias accounts, from their origin and use under Browner to their use by Browner’s successor, are now the subject of a lawsuit I and two colleagues at CEI also filed grounded in information I uncovered while writing The Liberal War on Transparency,” Horner said. Story Continued:

· White House denies terror Delete – The White House yesterday denied it edited talking points about the terrorist attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya — contradicting remarks made a day earlier by disgraced ex-CIA chief David Petraeus.

“The only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“Other than that, we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community. So I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made.”

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CONTORTIONS: President Obama imitates Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face during a White House visit last week.

Petraeus on Friday told lawmakers that from the onset of the investigation about the Sept. 11 attack, US intelligence pointed to al Qaeda affiliates.

The former four-star general, who resigned from the CIA Nov. 9 due to an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, said the unclassified talking points were later revised to omit any mention of al Qaeda.

The edits would have been made after the statements had left the CIA for review by the Defense and State departments, ultimately landing at the White House.

But instead of relaying what the CIA initially reported, UN Ambassador Susan Rice repeatedly insisted the attack was a spontaneous protest spurred by an American-made video depicting Prophet Mohammed as a pedophile.

“The main question today is that somebody briefed Susan Rice and she said she took the best information that the intelligence community had,” said Rep. Peter King (R-LI), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, probing the botched response. “Now we’re trying to put all the pieces together.”

But he added, “It’s going to be a long process before we find out anything else.”

The Benghazi attack killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and CIA employees Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Democratic officials, including President Obama and Ambassador Rice, insist they disclosed information about the attack as details came in from the intelligence community.

But Republicans counter that the administration purposely misled the public into believing al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack — in an effort to protect the president’s re-election campaign.

Intelligence officials yesterday said the references to al Qaeda connections were dropped to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods — not the president’s bid for re-election.

Meanwhile, Broadwell appeared in public for the first time since the scandal yesterday with her cuckolded husband, Scott.

They appeared to want to show that the affair was not harming their marriage as they walked arm-in-arm at 5:40 p.m. at her brother’s Washington, DC, home. Story Continued:

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What’s Up: November 16, 2012?

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· Krauthammer: White House ‘Held Affair Over Petraeus’s Head’ For Favorable Testimony On Benghazi

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on Tuesday said the White House used David Petraeus’s affair to get the CIA director to give testimony about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that was in line with the administration’s position on the matter.

Appearing on Fox News’s Special Report, Krauthammer said, “The sword was lowered on Election Day”

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think the really shocking news today was that General Petraeus thought and hoped he could keep his job. He thought that it might and it would be kept secret, and that he could stay in his position. I think what that tells us is really important. It meant that he understood that the FBI obviously knew what was going on. He was hoping that those administration officials would not disclose what had happened, and therefore hoping that he would keep his job. And that meant that he understood that his job, his reputation, his legacy, his whole celebrated life was in the hands of the administration, and he expected they would protect him by keeping it quiet.

And that brings us to the ultimate issue, and that is his testimony on September 13. That’s the thing that connects the two scandals, and that’s the only thing that makes the sex scandal relevant. Otherwise it would be an exercise in sensationalism and voyeurism and nothing else. The reason it’s important is here’s a man who knows the administration holds his fate in its hands, and he gives testimony completely at variance with what the Secretary of Defense had said the day before, at variance with what he’d heard from his station chief in Tripoli, and with everything that we had heard. Was he influenced by the fact that he knew his fate was held by people within the administration at that time?

As a point of reference, ABCNews.com reported on September 14:

The attack that killed four Americans in the Libyan consulate began as a spontaneous protest against the film “The Innocence of Muslims,” but Islamic militants who may have links to Al Qaeda used the opportunity to launch an attack, CIA Director David Petreaus told the House Intelligence Committee today according to one lawmaker who attended a closed-door briefing.

This of course was the administration line for almost two weeks after the attacks.

With that in mind, Krauthammer drove his point home further a few minutes later:

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course it was being held over Petraeus’s head, and the sword was lowered on Election Day. You don’t have to be a cynic to see that as the ultimate in cynicism. As long as they needed him to give the administration line to quote Bill, everybody was silent. And as soon as the election’s over, as soon as he can be dispensed with, the sword drops and he’s destroyed. I mean, can you imagine what it’s like to be on that pressure and to think it didn’t distort or at least in some way unconsciously influence his testimony? That’s hard to believe.

If Krauthammer is correct, it’s going to be very interesting to see if and how the Obama-loving media reports it. Story Continued and to watch video:

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· Israel kills Hamas commander, bombs Gaza targets

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Israel killed the military commander of the Islamist group Hamas in a missile strike on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and launched air raids across the enclave, pushing the two sides to the brink of a new war.

The attacks marked the biggest escalation between Israel and Gaza militants since a 2008-2009 conflict and came despite signs on Tuesday that neighboring Egypt had managed to broker a truce in the enclave after a five day surge of violence.

Hamas said Ahmed Al-Jaabari, who ran the organization’s armed wing, Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, died along with an unnamed associate when their car was blown apart by an Israeli missile. Palestinians said nine people were killed, including a seven-year-old girl.

Video from Gaza showed the charred and mangled wreckage of a car belching flames, as emergency crews picked up what appeared to be body parts.

Israel confirmed it had carried out the attack on Jaabari and warned that more strikes would follow. Reuters witnesses reported numerous explosions around Gaza, with Hamas security compounds and police stations among the targets.

“This is an operation against terror targets of different organizations in Gaza,” military spokesman Avital Leibovitch told reporters, adding that Jaabari had “a lot of blood on his hands”.

Immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio.

“The occupation has opened the doors of hell,” Hamas’s armed wing said. Smaller groups also vowed to strike back.

“Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,” Islamic Jihad said.

The escalation in Gaza came in a week when Israel pounded Syrian artillery positions it said had fired into the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights amid a civil war in Syria that has brought renewed instability to neighboring Lebanon.

Hamas has been supported by both Syria and Iran, which Israel regards as a rising threat to its own existence due to its nuclear program.

Israel’s intelligence agency Shin Bet said Jaabari was responsible for Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, when the militant Islamist group ousted fighters of the Fatah movement of its great rival, the Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

It said Jaabari instigated the attack that led to the capture of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit in a kidnap raid from Gaza in 2006. Jaabari was also the man who handed Shalit over to Israel in a prisoner exchange five years after his capture.

Israel holds a general election on January 22 and conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under pressure to respond firmly against Hamas, with residents of southern Israel complaining bitterly about repeated missile strikes

Hamas has been emboldened by the rise to power in neighboring Egypt of its spiritual mentors in the Muslim Brotherhood whom it views as a “safety net”.

Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in the 2008-2009 conflict. There was a lull in hostilities after that, but the violence has flared again in recent months and Israel has repeatedly warned of dire consequences unless Hamas and its fellow militants stopped rocket attacks.

In the latest confrontation, which appeared to have ended on Tuesday, more than 115 missiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza and Israeli planes launched numerous strikes. Seven Palestinians, three of them gunmen, were killed. Eight Israeli civilians were hurt by rocket fire and four soldiers wounded by an anti-tank missile.

Helped by Iran and the flourishing contraband trade through tunnels from Egypt, Gaza militias have smuggled in better weapons since the war of 2008-09, including longer-range Grad rockets and anti-tank missiles of the type they fired last week at an IDF patrol vehicle.

But Gaza’s estimated 35,000 Palestinian fighters are still no match for Israel’s F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, Merkava tanks and other modern weapons systems in the hands of a conscript force of 175,000, with 450,000 in reserve.

Israel’s shekel fell nearly one percent to a two-month low against the dollar on Wednesday after news of the Israeli airstrikes broke. Story Continued:

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· Jobless Claims in U.S. Jumped Last Week After Sandy

More Americans than forecast submitted claims for unemployment insurance last week as super storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market.

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) — More Americans than forecast submitted claims for unemployment insurance last week as super storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market. Applications for jobless benefits surged by 78,000 to 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The cost of living rose 0.1 in October, the slowest pace in three months, the Labor Department also reported. Betty Liu, Dominic Chu and Sara Eisen report on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Applications for jobless benefits surged by 78,000 to 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the most since April 2011, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Several states said the increase was due to the storm that hit the Northeastern part of the U.S. in late October, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data were released to the press.

The extent of the damage means it may take weeks for the underlying trend in firings to again become clear. Before the storm, the labor market was gaining momentum even as year-end domestic fiscal policy uncertainties raised concern among businesses.

“At least a few state labor offices were shut in the prior week so it’s almost as if you have two weeks of claims in one,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York. “You have a double whammy this week, where people were filing claims they were unable to previously and individuals unable to work for the storm were filing additional claims.”

Stock-index futures dropped after the report, erasing earlier gains. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in December fell 0.1 percent to 1,351.80 at 8:59 a.m. in New York.

Sandy struck the Northeast region, including New York and New Jersey, as it came ashore Oct. 29, and those who lost their jobs because the storm shuttered businesses may keep filing claims in coming weeks.

Sandy’s Impact

The Labor Department spokesman did not name the affected states, citing agency policy not to single out any one area. Today’s report showed a loss of electricity prevented New York offices from taking claims two weeks ago.

In addition, since Monday was a government holiday, three states and territories — Hawaii, Oregon and Puerto Rico — didn’t report claims data, causing the Labor Department to estimate their totals, the spokesman said. Two others, California and Virginia, provided their own estimates.

Claims were projected to rise to 375,000 from the prior week, according to the median estimate of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Projections ranged from 340,000 to 475,000. The prior week’s reading was revised up to 361,000 from an originally reported 355,000.

Throwing Darts

“When you’re trying to forecast a lot of the economic data, frankly, around a natural disaster like that, it’s like throwing at a dartboard,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. Inc. in New York, who projected a rise of 385,000. “We knew they would go up, but it was hard to say how much.”

The consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in October, the smallest gain in three months, Labor Department figures also showed today. The so-called core measure, which excludes more volatile food and energy costs, increased 0.2 percent.

Manufacturing in the New York region contracted for a fourth straight month in November as super storm Sandy knocked out electrical power and limited activity, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed.

The bank’s general economic index was minus 5.2 this month after minus 6.2 in October. The median forecast of 55 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for minus 8. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

Bolstering Builders

While pushing up claims, the storm may bolster homebuilders and other housing repair companies. Sandy’s damage could spur a sales boost similar to the one provided by Hurricane Irene, which added about $360 million in sales last year, executives at Home Depot Inc. (HD) said on a Nov. 13 earnings call.

“The property damage, as we understand it, related to Irene was about $16 billion; the property damage for Sandy is about $20 billion, so it would suggest possibly higher sales, but it’s impossible for us to know right now,” said Carol Tom, the Atlanta-based company’s chief financial officer.

A less-volatile measure of claims, the four-week moving average, rose to 383,750 from 372,000, today’s report showed.

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits climbed by 171,000 to 3.33 million in the week ended Nov. 3, the most in more than four years. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 33,300 to 2.12 million in the week ended Oct. 27.

States, Territories

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits rose to 2.6 percent in the week ended Nov. 3 from 2.5 percent. Thirty-four states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 19 reported a decrease.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth — measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report — accelerates.

The payroll report released Nov. 2 wasn’t affected by Sandy. Businesses in the U.S. hired 184,000 workers in October, the most since February, indicating they see enough demand to expand even in the face of the tax increases and spending cuts slated for January unless Congress acts.

Still, changes to headcount show the labor market hasn’t been able to gain traction in 2012. Gains in total payrolls so far this year have averaged 157,000 a month, little changed from the 153,000 average for 2011.

A separate survey of households showed the jobless rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September as 578,000 people joined the workforce is search of a job, swamping the 410,000 gain in employment.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his policy- making colleagues last month had a detailed discussion about whether the central bank should link its policy of holding the main interest rate at zero to numerical measurements of unemployment and inflation, an approach that participants “generally favored” over the current approach of specifying a calendar date through which rates will remain low, minutes of their October meeting released yesterday showed. Story Continued:

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· SURPRISE! JOBLESS CLAIMS UP 78,000 WEEK AFTER ELECTION; PA, OH WORST HIT

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The Department of Labor has announced that new jobless claims rose by a staggering 78,000 in the first week after the election, reaching a seasonally-adjusted total of 439,000. Over the past year, and in the weeks leading up to the election, jobless claims were said to be declining, dipping as low as 339,000, with the media proclaiming that they had reached the “lowest level in more than four years.” Now, suddenly, the news seems far less rosy.

From the Department of Labor press release this morning:

In the week ending November 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 439,000, an increase of 78,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 361,000. The 4-week moving average was 383,750, an increase of 11,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 372,000.

Some of the new claims, especially in New Jersey, were due to Hurricane Sandy–but these were offset by a decline in claims filed in New York. The highest numbers of new filings came from Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there were thousands of layoffs in the construction, manufacturing, and automobile industries.

Both states had been targeted by the presidential campaigns. President Obama highlighted his record of job creation in Ohio in particular, focusing on the automobile industry. The state reported 6,450 new jobless claims in the week after the election–second-highest after Pennsylvania, which recorded 7,766 new claims. Story Continued:

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· Texas Instruments Cuts 1,700 Jobs, Winds Down Tablet Chips

Texas Instruments is eliminating 1,700 jobs, as it winds down its mobile processor business to focus on chips for more profitable markets like cars and home appliances.

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Texas Instruments [TXN 28.845 0.085 (+0.3%) ] said in September it would halt costly investments in the increasingly competitive smartphone and tablet chip business, leading Wall Street to speculate that part of the company’s processor unit, called OMAP, could be sold.

The layoffs are equivalent to nearly 5 percent of the Austin, Texas-based company’s global workforce.

“A sale would have been better than a restructuring but a restructuring is certainly better than nothing,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said.

TI has been under pressure in mobile processors, where it has lost ground to rival Qualcomm [QCOM 61.39 -0.3368 (-0.55%) ].

Leading smartphone makers Apple [AAPL 528.80 -8.08 (-1.5%) ] and Samsung Electronics[005930.KS 1331000.00 -24000.00 (-1.77%) ] have been developing their own chips instead of buying them from suppliers like TI.

Instead of competing in phones and tablets, TI wants to sell its OMAP processors in markets that require less investment, like industrial clients like carmakers.

TI is expected to continue selling existing tablet and phone processors for products like Amazon.Com [AMZN 222.36 -0.59 (-0.26%) ] Kindle tablets for as long as demand remains, but stop developing new chips.

“This year, the Kindle runs on the OMAP 4 and next year’s Kindle is slated, we believe, for OMAP 5. We believe that program is well along to completion and do not expect that the termination of OMAP will disrupt those plans,” said Longbow Research analyst JoAnne Feeney.

Amazon had reportedly been in talks to buy the mobile part of OMAP.

TI said it expects to take charges of about $325 million related to the job cuts and other cost reduction measures, most of which will be accounted for in the current quarter.

Its previously announced financial targets for the fourth quarter do not include these costs, TI said.

The company, which has 35,000 employees around the world, expects annualized savings of about $450 million by the end of 2013 from the action.

TI shares rose to $29 in after-hours trading after closing at $28.76, down 2 percent on Nasdaq. Story Continued:

· Debate Over License Plate Readers Grows In Maryland

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A wild chase down Interstate 95 ends with a crash. Police got on the trail of the stolen car using controversial technology increasing across Maryland.

Adam May has an exclusive look at the police tool in action.

These days cameras are everywhere, but some do more than watch–they automatically run criminal records.

At the height of Tuesday’s rush hour, police chased a New Jersey car thief–alerted when he raced through the Fort McHenry Tunnel.

“Set off an automatic sensor that detected the plates were on a stolen vehicle,” said Captain Jeff Long, Sky Eye Chopper 13.

Those sensors are called automatic license plate readers, or LPRs. WJZ got an exclusive look at how they work.

“We’re looking for this Mercedes,” said Lt. Craig Hartman, Baltimore Police.

Specially assigned police officers have LPRs mounted on their cars.

“Looks like one of our guys got a hit,” said Det. Brian Ralph, Baltimore Police.

Detective Brian Ralph can scan up to 3,000 tag numbers a shift, searching for stolen vehicles and violent criminals.

“So if someone is looking for a particular vehicle in reference to a robbery or murder or something like that, we can put that tag number into the system and it will hit if the vehicle happens to drive by,” said Hartman, Regional Auto Theft Task Force.

More than 320 LPRs are in use across Maryland. Information about every scanned license plate–even non-criminal–is stored at the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center. That concerns the ACLU.

“As the data increases over time you get a more detailed picture of Marylanders’ movements. And that is information the government has no business knowing, absent some particular law enforcement need,” said David Rocah, ACLU.

But police say storing information could help in future cases, and the LPRs are way more effective than the naked eye.

“It’s really hard to see the tags for what we do every day and this LPR doesn’t miss a thing,” said Ralph.

It tracks the moves of tens of thousands of Marylanders every single day.

Police are trying to get funding for more plate readers, but the debate over storing the information remains unresolved.

Last month, a New York man–wanted for murder–was caught by a license plate reader on Interstate 95. Story Continued:

· If Every Food Stamp Recipient Voted For Obama, It Would Account For 75% Of His Total – If all 47 million food stamp recipients voted for President Obama, it would account for 75.4 percent of Obama’s 62.3 million votes.

Harry Hopkins, FDR’s close adviser who ran the non-defunct Works Progress Administration (WPA), once described Roosevelt’s strategy as “tax & tax, spend & spend, elect & elect.” He believed that if Roosevelt put everyone on the federal payroll, either through aid or federal jobs, that Roosevelt would never lose. FDR won four presidential elections in a row before his death removed him from office.

Did Obama use his idol’s model to win this election?

Food stamps rolls have grown by nearly 50 percent-by more than 15 million recipients-under the Obama administration. During that same time, the unemployment rate has stayed the same. Either those outside of the workforce have been decimated by the Obama economy or this administration is making a conscious effort to get more Americans reliant on government, or both.

Welfare programs now cost taxpayers a record-high $750 billion. While government “charity” has grown, so has poverty-and so has the Democrats’ poll numbers.

The candidates and their PACs spent $6 billion for the election. Should we add the $750 billion in federal welfare to Democratic campaign spending total?

Not everyone on food stamps votes or votes Democrat (and no one polls this subset of the population), and I don’t want to overstate the effects of the growth in welfare.

If citizens vote in their own personal, short-term interests, with 49 percent of the population receiving some sort of federal aid, Republicans will never win another election. Thankfully many of those 49 percent are elderly voters who want a bright, debt-free future for their children.

In fact, conservatives should take heart that this election was as close as it turned out. It means that at least some of those receiving federal aid are open to conservative anti-poverty ideas.

While liberals throw federal money at voters, conservatives must offer them something more substantial. It’s tough to beat politicians handing out free stuff, but we have to hope that careers and purposeful opportunity will appeal to American’s ethos. Story Continued:

· Demography is destiny – By: Ann Coulter:

Liberals brag about having won the hearts and minds of America, as if, through logic and argument, they’ve persuaded people to accept their bankrupt European socialist ideas.

Democrats haven’t changed anyone’s mind. They changed the people.

More white people voted for Mitt Romney this year than voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. Barack Obama lost white voters by 20 points — the widest margin since 1984.

But in 1980, whites were 88 percent of the electorate. In 2012, they were 72 percent of the electorate. Not only that, but the non-white electorate is far more Democratic than it was in 1980.

If the same country that voted in 1980 had voted in 2012, Romney would have won a bigger landslide than Reagan did.

Most Americans don’t realize that, decades ago, the Democrats instituted a long-term plan to gradually turn the United States into a Third World nation. The country would become poorer and less free, but Democrats would have an unbeatable majority!

Under Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration act, our immigration policy changed from one that replicated the existing ethnic population to one that strictly favored unskilled immigrants from the Third World. Since 1968, 85 percent of legal immigrants have come from what is euphemistically called “developing countries.”

We can’t admit computer scientists from Spain fleeing their failing socialist nation because we have to make room for a recent Senegalese immigrant’s brother-in-law with no skills but great needs.

Jonas Salk’s parents would be unable to immigrate to America today. But the good news is: Rich liberals and soulless businessmen have no trouble finding cheap busboys, gardeners and nannies! (Whom they underpay, requiring taxpayers to make up the difference.)

If yuppies had to compete with well-educated European immigrants, they might be a little less enlightened on the immigration question. As it is, only unskilled workers, mostly blacks and Latinos, are harmed by our immigration policies.

Because recent immigrants have no skills, they arrive in dire need of government assistance. Their desperation has been an enormous boon to the Democratic Party.Thirty-nine percent of native households receive some form of government assistance. By contrast, 57 percent of immigrant households — legal immigrants — get government assistance. We can’t do anything about the native population, but why on Earth is America taking in immigrants who require taxpayer support?

If you come to America and immediately go on welfare, by definition, you are not a desirable immigrant. Except as a voter for the Democratic Party.

In the last half-century, California’s non-Hispanic white population has been cut in half, from 80 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the Hispanic population has exploded from less than 10 percent to nearly 40 percent — mostly poor Mexicans.

And with that change, California went from being the state that produced anti-tax initiatives, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to a state that is absolutely untouchable by Republicans (see Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) and just enacted the highest tax rate in any state.

The same has happened, or is happening, to other states, such as Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois and New York. If Texas ever flips, Republicans will never win another presidential election. The two major political parties will be the Nancy Pelosi Democratic Party and the Chuck Schumer Democratic Party.

Republicans’ low-tax, small-government philosophy will eventually become popular with today’s struggling Hispanics, but not before America is ruined with socialist policies promoted by populist hucksters so strangely beguiling to poor people the world over.

It’s not that poor immigrants think differently about most issues from the rest of us. Try asking a recent immigrant:

– How do you feel about abortion?

It’s taking a life.

– What should we do about criminals?

Lock them up and throw away the key.

– Do you support raising taxes?

No, the government takes too much already.

– How do you feel about overpaid, well-pensioned government workers with no-show jobs?

It ticks me me off.

– Do you support gay marriage?

Absolutely not.

– How are you going to vote?

Democratic.

Most recent immigrants oppose abortion, gay marriage and big government. The problem is that poor, uneducated people — the Democratic base — are easily demagogued into voting tribally.

A white person can vote for a Republican or a Democrat without anyone saying to him, “HOW CAN YOU VOTE AGAINST YOUR RACE?” But that is exactly how poor Hispanics and blacks are pressured into voting Democratic.

Noticeably, the No. 1 issue Obama had in his favor this year was not his policies. It was that a majority of voters agreed with the statement: Obama “cares for people like me.” That’s how Hugo Chavez got elected.

Running Hispanics won’t help Republicans. Ask Gary Franks, Lynn Swann or Michael Steele if being black won them the black vote.

Promoting amnesty won’t help — ask John McCain, who won about the same percentage of the Hispanic vote as Romney did.

Or ask California’s Hispanics, only 4 percent of whom oppose Republican immigration policies. Their main beef with the GOP is that they think Republicans are “the rich.”

The only hope is to run another appealing Republican candidate in four years — when we’re not up against an incumbent president — and return our immigration policy to one that helps America and not just the Welfare Party. Story Continued:

· Obama’s Nightmare – By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

The scandal engulfing two of our top military and intelligence officers could not be coming at a worse time: the Middle East has never been more unstable and closer to multiple, interconnected explosions. Virtually every American president since Dwight Eisenhower has had a Middle Eastern country that brought him grief. For Ike, it was Lebanon’s civil war and Israel’s Sinai invasion. For Lyndon Johnson, it was the 1967 Six-Day War. For Nixon, it was the 1973 war. For Carter, it was the Iranian Revolution. For Ronald Reagan, it was Lebanon. For George H.W. Bush, it was Iraq. For Bill Clinton, it was Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. For George W. Bush, it was Iraq and Afghanistan. For Barack Obama’s first term, it was Iran and Afghanistan, again. And for Obama’s second term, I fear that it could be the full nightmare — all of them at once. The whole Middle East erupts in one giant sound and light show of civil wars, states collapsing and refugee dislocations, as the keystone of the entire region — Syria — gets pulled asunder and the disorder spills across the neighborhood.

And you were worried about the “fiscal cliff.”

Ever since the start of the Syrian uprising/civil war, I’ve cautioned that while Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Tunisia implode, Syria would explode if a political resolution was not found quickly. That is exactly what’s happening.

The reason Syria explodes is because its borders are particularly artificial, and all its communities — Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds, Druze and Christians — are linked to brethren in nearby countries and are trying to draw them in for help. Also, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war against Shiite-led Iran in Syria and in Bahrain, which is the base of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Bahrain witnessed a host of bombings last week as the Sunni-led Bahraini regime stripped 31 Bahraini Shiite political activists of their citizenship. Meanwhile, someone in Syria decided to start lobbing mortars at Israel. And, Tuesday night, violent anti-government protests broke out across Jordan over gas price increases.

What to do? I continue to believe that the best way to understand the real options — and they are grim — is by studying Iraq, which, like Syria, is made up largely of Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Kurds. Why didn’t Iraq explode outward like Syria after Saddam was removed? The answer: America.

For better and for worse, the United States in Iraq performed the geopolitical equivalent of falling on a grenade — that we triggered ourselves. That is, we pulled the pin; we pulled out Saddam; we set off a huge explosion in the form of a Shiite-Sunni contest for power. Thousands of Iraqis were killed along with more than 4,700 American troops, but the presence of those U.S. troops in and along Iraq’s borders prevented the violence from spreading. Our invasion both triggered the civil war in Iraq and contained it at the same time. After that Sunni-Shiite civil war burned itself out, we brokered a fragile, imperfect power-sharing deal between Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Then we got out. It is not at all clear that their deal will survive our departure.

Still, the lesson is that if you’re trying to topple one of these iron-fisted, multi-sectarian regimes, it really helps to have an outside power that can contain the explosions and mediate a new order. There is too little trust in these societies for them to do it on their own. Syria’s civil war, though, was triggered by predominantly Sunni rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad and his minority Alawite-Shiite regime. There is no outside power willing to fall on the Syrian grenade and midwife a new order. So the fire there rages uncontrolled; refugees are now spilling out, and the Shiite-Sunni venom unleashed by the Syrian conflict is straining relations between these same communities in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait.

But Iraq teaches another lesson: Shiites and Sunnis are not fated to murder each other 24/7/365. Yes, their civil war dates to the 7th century. And, yes, when they started going after each other in Iraq, they did so with breathtaking chainsaw-nails-pounded-into-heads violence. There is nothing like a fight within the faith. Yet, once order was restored, Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis, many of whom have intermarried, were willing to work together and even run together in multi-sectarian parties in the 2009-10 elections.

So the situation is not hopeless. I know American officials are tantalized by the idea of flipping Syria from the Iranian to the Western camp by toppling Assad. That would make my day, too, but I’m skeptical it would end the conflict. I fear that toppling Assad, without a neutral third party inside Syria to referee a transition, could lead not only to permanent civil war in Syria but one that spreads around the region. It’s a real long shot, but we should keep trying to work with Russia — Syria’s lawyer — to see if together we can broker a power-sharing deal inside Syria and a United Nations-led multinational force to oversee it. Otherwise, this fire will rage on and spread, as the acid from the Shiite-Sunni conflict eats away at the bonds holding the Middle East together and standing between this region and chaos. Story Continued:

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