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

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