What’s Up: December 3, 2012?

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

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· Krauthammer On Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: “Republicans Ought To Simply Walk Away” – It’s not just a bad deal, this is really an insulting deal. What Geithner offered, what you showed on the screen, Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox, and he lost the Civil War. The Democrats won by 3% of the vote and they did not hold the House, Republicans won the house. So this is not exactly unconditional surrender, but that is what the administration is asking of the Republicans.

This idea — there are not only no cuts in this, there’s an increase in spending with a new stimulus. I mean, this is almost unheard of. What do they expect? They obviously expect the Republicans will cave on everything. I think the Republicans ought to simply walk away. The president is the president. He’s the leader. They are demanding that the Republicans explain all the cuts that they want to make.

We had that movie a year-and-a-half ago where Paul Ryan presented a budget, a serious real budget with real cuts. Obama was supposed to given a speech where he would respond with a counter offer. And what did he do? He gave a speech where he had Ryan sitting in the front row. He called the Ryan proposal un-American, insulted him, offered nothing, and ran on Mediscare in the next 18 months.

And they expect the Republicans are going to do this again? The Republicans are going to walk on this. And I think they have leverage. Yes, for Congressional Democrats it will help them in the future if Republicans absorb the blame because we will have a recession. But Obama is not running again unlike the Congressional Democrats. He’s going to have a recession, 9% unemployment, 2 million more unemployed, and a second term that’s going to be a ruin. That is not a good proposition if you are Barack Obama. Story Continued:

· McConnell ‘Burst Into Laughter’ as Geithner Outlined Obama’s Plan – Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says he “burst into laughter” Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined the administration proposal for averting the fiscal cliff. He wasn’t trying to embarrass Geithner, McConnell says, only responding candidly to his one-sided plan, explicit on tax increases, vague on spending cuts.

Geithner’s visit to his office left McConnell discouraged about reaching a “balanced” deal on tax hikes and spending reductions designed to prevent a shock to the economy in January. “Nothing good is happening” in the negotiations, McConnell says, because of Obama’s insistence on tax rate hikes for the wealthy but unwillingness to embrace serious spending cuts.

Geithner suggested $1.6 trillion in tax increases, McConnell says, but showed “minimal or no interest” in spending cuts. When congressional leaders went to the White House three days after the election, Obama talked of possible curbs on the explosive growth of food stamps and Social Security disability payments. But since Geithner didn’t mention them, those reductions appear to be off the table now, McConnell says.

Obama is pushing to raise the tax rates on couples earning more than $250,000 and individuals earning more than $200,000. But those wouldn’t produce revenues anywhere near $1.6 trillion over a decade.

The “guess” of those involved in the negotiations, Politico reported, is that a bipartisan deal “will include a rate hike, higher taxes on carried interest and probably capital gains and dividends, and either a cap on total deductions for rich people or some form of a minimum tax rate for them.”

House speaker John Boehner said today that nothing has been agreed to. “No substantive progress has been made.” Besides raising taxes, Geithner was reported to have proposed a one-year delay in scheduled $1.2 trillion spending cuts to defense and domestic, and a $400 billion reduction in Medicare funding. The $1.2 trillion in cuts was mandated after Congress failed to reach an agreement in 2011 on reductions.

Obama has talked up what he calls a “balanced” approach to averting the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts in January. But he’s offered few specifics on the spending side. Story Continued:

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· Obama Warns Congress: “I’ve Been Keeping My Own Naughty And Nice List – “Joe Biden was in Costco and he wanted to buy some of this stuff, but I told him he had too much work to do. I wasn’t going to have him building roller coasters all day long. Now, of course, Santa delivers everywhere. I’ve been keeping my own naughty and nice list for Washington, so you should keep your eye on who gets some K’NEX this year. There are going to be some members of Congress who get them, and some who don’t,” President Obama said Friday at a rally where he pushed Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff. Story Continued:

· Why Obama is pushing for stimulus in ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

President Obama’s opening offer in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks includes $255 billion in stimulus spending – tax cuts, incentives, and more. It could be a bargaining ploy or a bid to offset rising taxes on the rich.

How about a little government economic stimulus?

That may sound incongruous considering the budget deficit and the push from Republicans to cut government spending.

But President Obama’s first offer to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff” holds out the hope of at least some stimulus. This would include extending the 2 percentage point Social Security payroll tax cut, boosting a tax incentive to businesses, establishing a $50 billion bank for long-term infrastructure projects, and extending unemployment benefits.

RECOMMENDED: ‘Fiscal cliff’ 101: 5 basic questions answered

The total bill: about $255 billion out of the federal government’s pocket – an amount the GOP would likely say needs to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere.

The argument in favor of such stimulus? The tax measures, at least, could minimize the drag on the economy from Mr. Obama’s proposed tax increases on the wealthy.

“The increases in the top two income tax brackets would put a drag on consumption, so I think, from the Obama point of view, the spending or tax cuts are designed to offset that drag to consumption,” says Michael Brown, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

But to some budget experts, Obama’s list seems more like an opening round of negotiations, where he has asked for a lot more than he will get.

“It looks to me like these are bargaining chips,” says Pete Davis of Davis Capital Ideas, which advises Wall Street firms. “Even most Democrats had given up on the prospect of getting the payroll tax cut extended.”

Mr. Davis considers the odds of most of the stimulus proposals passing Congress “very low.”

What’s needed most, say others, is just buckling down and negotiating an end to the fiscal cliff. “Cancelling the fiscal cliff is economic stimulus,” says Stan Collender, a budget expert and partner at Qorvis Communications in Washington.

If Obama’s stimulus were passed, however, here is a look at the impact the four elements might have.

SOCIAL SECURITY PAYROLL TAX CUT

The largest chunk of the Obama plan is the extension of the payroll tax cut. This is the money that comes out of an individual’s paycheck as a contribution to Social Security. Two years ago, in an effort to stimulate the economy, Congress decreased the individual contribution from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The employer’s contribution of 6.2 percent remained unchanged.

The Obama administration estimates extending the cuts would cost the government as much as $115 billion in revenue.

The argument for extending the tax cut is that it helps lower-income workers who live paycheck to paycheck. “The difference in the paycheck might be the ability to pay the electric bill for someone or the chance to go to a sit-down restaurant once a month,” says Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS in Lexington, Mass.

The argument against continuing the cut is that it is weakening the Social Security Trust Fund. In order to make up for the loss of contributions, the government taps the general tax revenues, says Pamela Tainter-Causey, a spokeswoman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“It sets up Social Security to compete for funding from the general fund,” she says. “It’s a perfect set up for people who are gunning for the program and claim we can’t afford it now.”

BUSINESS TAX INCENTIVE

The second largest program proposed by Obama would be the extension of accelerated depreciation for business, which would cost the US Treasury about $65 billion in fiscal year 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Two years ago, business was allowed to accelerate the write-off of 100 percent of its spending on certain capital equipment. Capital spending on equipment and computer software soared by 18.3 percent in 2011.

Then, this year, the benefit to business was cut in half to 50 percent. Capital spending sank in the third quarter by 2.7 percent compared with the same quarter the prior year. With business interest in using the tax break diminishing, economist Gregory Daco of IHS says “it’s a goner.”

INFRASTRUCTURE BANK

Obama has also proposed a $50 billion infrastructure bank. The idea is to fund roads, bridges, tunnels and other large projects that last for a long period of time. “At the moment the funding is done on a cash basis – you have to pay for it as you build it,” says Mr. Collender.

Democrats have been trying to get Congress to fund the bank for the past 10 years, he says. “It does not have a chance of getting through the House,” which is controlled by the Republicans, says Mr. Collender.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

And, finally, Obama wants to extend unemployment benefits, which would cost about $30 billion.

Under current law, if Congress does nothing, the maximum number of weeks in which an individual could receive jobless will drop to 26 from the current 73 weeks for states with unemployment over 9 percent and 63 weeks for states with unemployment over 7 percent.

If Congress does nothing about the program during the lame-duck session, some 2.1 million jobless will lose their benefits in the first week of January, says Judy Conti, a federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project (NELP) in Washington. By the end of the March, she says, another 900,000 people will lose their benefits.

“Forty percent of the unemployed are long term unemployed,” she says. “They have been out of the workforce for over six months.” Story Continued:

· Russia forced to deny Vladimir Putin’s health is preventing him from working

Vladimir Putin’s health is not preventing him from working or travelling, his spokesman has insisted, after claims that the Kremlin cancelled upcoming talks with the Japanese prime minister.

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Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the visit of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to Moscow was “never scheduled definitively” and expressed hope it will occur in January.

“We hope that this visit will take place and assume that it will happen in the second half of January,” Mr Peskov told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

A Japanese government source told AFP that Russian officials informed the Japanese side of the cancellation of the meeting due to Mr Putin’s unspecified health problem.

Media in Japan also said that a mayor of a north Japanese town quoted Prime Minister Noda as saying “President Putin’s health condition is bad.”

Mr Peskov – who has repeatedly denied rumors that Mr Putin is suffering from a back injury – also gave an interview to tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, calling the rumors “blown out of proportion.”

“He is working as before, and plans to continue working at the same pace. He is also not planning to stop his sports activities, and, as any athlete, he may sometimes have pain in back, or arm, or leg – this has never affected his work efficiency,” Peskov said.

The globe-trotting Russian strongman, 60, travelled actively ever since embarking on his historic third term in the Kremlin in May, but has not ventured outside Moscow since an official visit to Tajikistan on October 5.

This week the Kremlin confirmed that Mr Putin will be visiting Turkey next Monday, December 3. Story Continued:

· Valerie Jarrett Heckled by ‘Climate Activist’ at Speech to Grassroots Organizers

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A top adviser to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, was heckled at a speech yesterday to grassroots organizers by a “climate activist.”

“White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett was heckled during a speech on Friday by an activist demanding that President Barack Obama do more to address climate change,” reports the Huffington Post.

“Jarrett was about two-thirds of the way into her speech at RootsCamp, a conference for grassroots organizers being held in Washington, D.C., when Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts and former editor of ThinkProgress Green, stood up and interrupted her.”

The liberal website reports that the Secret Service began to move toward the heckler before being waved off by Jarrett. The adviser to Obama reportedly has her own Secret Service detail.

After the speech, Jarrett spoke with the heckler and “told him the White House would be willing to speak more with him about climate change.”

“I stood up and asked Valerie Jarrett to have the president speak about the reality of climate change,” the activist told the Huffington Post. “This nation is facing a fundamental threat to its existence, and the people of New York and people all across America are already suffering the effects, the consequences of carbon pollution, and the president has been silent on that threat and is promoting an agenda of increased dependence on fossil fuels. Even with the aftermath of Sandy, the president has still been silent on the reality of this threat, and that silence needs to end.” Story Continued:

· Sneed: Hillary Clinton no fan of Susan Rice, prefers Kerry for State

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The Rice Report…

The big question: Who would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton like to get her job?

It ain’t embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is dealing with the way she handled the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Sneed is told if Hillary had to choose between Rice and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who is head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, she would prefer Kerry.

“Hillary is not close to Rice, who is tough — but is not the friendliest person,” said a top White House source. “And Hillary’s brief comment recently that Rice had done ‘a great job’ was considered underwhelming and tepid,” the source added.

“It would be hard for President Obama to back away from Rice, but he’s dealing with what’s known as “the Club of the Senate,” which includes powerful U.S. Sen. John McCain — a Republican — who is adamantly against Rice and a big supporter of Kerry’s. Story Continued:

· NYC’s famous Stage Deli closes, owner cites rent

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The famous Stage Deli in Manhattan has closed. Visitors on Friday were greeted with a hand-written sign on the door that said “Thanks for 75 years!”

The deli, on Seventh Avenue near 54th Street, got its start 75 years ago. It was known for overstuffed sandwiches named for celebrities.

It was popular with Broadway audiences.

Co-owner Paul Zolenge says the dining landmark had been struggling for some time.

He told The New York Times that yet another rent increase was expected when the lease ended in a few months. Story Continued:

· Prince William and Kate Middleton Expecting First Child

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Kate Middleton is pregnant.

The most eagerly awaited pregnancy was announced today by St. James Palace on behalf of Middleton and her husband Prince William.

The child, whether boy or girl, will eventually be heir to the British throne according to new legislation awaiting final approval.

The duchess was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital today in central London with hyperemesis gravidarum, an acute morning sickness which requires supplementary hydration and nutrients, the palace said.

“As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, Her Royal Highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter,” the statement said. The royal family was clearly delighted with the news.

“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby,” the palace said in a statement today. “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news.”

The baby will be the queen’s third great-grandchild.

Robert Lacey, author of the definitive book “Majesty” said, “The British public and indeed the whole world will be delighted for the same, it keeps the monarchy going. The royal wedding brought a magic back to the monarchy and people are fascinated by William and Catherine.”

The announcement follows relentless public and media speculation about when Prince William and his wife would have an heir. The guessing game began almost immediately after the couple said, “I do.”

Tabloids began snapping close-ups of Middleton’s stomach for any indication of a baby bump. Baby rumors abounded when the duchess held a baby at a press event and when she declined peanut butter at another event. British physicians are known to warn women against eating peanuts during pregnancy. When the couple got a dog, Lupo, headlines wondered if they were practicing for another addition to the family.

The palace, which rarely comments on speculation, took the unusual step of saying, “We would be the ones to make the announcement, not Hollywood.”

“It is quite strange reading about it, but I try not to let it bother me,” Prince William said in an interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric in May 2012. “I’m just very keen to have a family and both Catherine and I are looking forward to having a family in the future.”

Asked by Couric if there was anything else he wanted to share, he coyly answered, “You won’t get anything out of me. Tight lipped.”

Due to a dramatic change in the rules of succession, the royal couple’s first-born will likely be the heir to the throne, regardless of the baby’s gender.

Last year, the heads of 16 Commonwealth countries agreed to a change in the rules of succession so that first-born children of either gender can take the throne. Queen Elizabeth II was only eligible to be monarch because her father had no male children. The British Parliament must still amend existing law to make the succession change official.

“Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in 2011.

Royal babies have typically been born within one year of marriage. Princess Diana gave birth to William just 11 months after her wedding and the queen gave birth to Prince Charles six days before her first wedding anniversary.

Prince William and Kate were married on April 29, 2011.

Click here for an interactive look at William and Kate’s love story.

William, who has long been known for making privacy a priority, will now be faced with the inevitable fascination with his first child. And the scrutiny will doubtless be familiar to him.

From his infant trip to Australia with his mother to his graduation from St. Andrews University, William’s life was filled with photo ops.

“We have a paradox here. William loathes the press and exposure to the publicity. On the other hand, Diana exposed both sons at an early age. They are immensely assured young men,” Lacey said. “While he may want to keep his children out the limelight, as a modern monarch he knows he has to deal with the media.”

Now, the name guessing game begins.

“They’ll stick to traditional names,” Lacey predicts. “William has a great sense of history from working with his grandmother. The queen would have him over for tea to teach him about history and the workings of the monarchy.”

It’s typical for royals to have three or four names. Prince William’s full name is William Arthur Philip Louis.

“If it’s a girl it’s not likely to be called Diana,” Lacey said. “But you’re very likely to see Diana in one of the middle names. You might very likely get Elizabeth Diana something. It shows the bravery with which he’s kept his mother’s memory alive, right down to the ring on Kate’s finger.” Story Continued:

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