What’s Up June 14, 2013?

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· Coulter: If the GOP is this stupid, it deserves to die

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Democrats terrify Hispanics into thinking they’ll be lynched if they vote for Republicans, and then turn around and taunt Republicans for not winning a majority of the Hispanic vote.

This line of attack has real resonance with our stupidest Republicans. (Proposed Republican primary targets: Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio.) Which explains why Republicans are devoting all their energy to slightly increasing their share of the Hispanic vote while alienating everyone else in America.

It must be fun for liberals to manipulate Republicans into focusing on hopeless causes. Why don’t Democrats waste their time trying to win the votes of gun owners?

As journalist Steve Sailer recently pointed out, the Hispanic vote terrifying Republicans isn’t that big. It actually declined in 2012. The Census Bureau finally released the real voter turnout numbers from the last election, and the Hispanic vote came in at only 8.4 percent of the electorate — not the 10 percent claimed by the pro-amnesty crowd.

The sleeping giant of the last election wasn’t Hispanics; it was elderly black women, terrified of media claims that Republicans were trying to suppress the black vote and determined to keep the first African-American president in the White House.

Contrary to everyone’s expectations, 10 percent more blacks voted in 2012 compared to 2008, even beating white voters, the usual turnout champions. Eligible black voters turned out at rate of 66.2 percent, compared to 64.1 percent of eligible white voters. Only 48 percent of all eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls.

No one saw this coming, which is probably why Gallup had Romney up by 5 points before Hurricane Sandy hit, and up by 1 point in its last pre-election poll after the hurricane.

Only two groups voted in larger numbers in 2012 compared to 2008: blacks aged 45-64, and blacks over the age of 65 — mostly elderly black women.

In raw numbers, nearly twice as many blacks voted as Hispanics, and nine times as many whites voted as Hispanics. (Ninety-eight million whites, 18 million blacks and 11 million Hispanics.)

So, naturally, the Republican Party’s entire battle plan going forward is to win slightly more votes from 8.4 percent of the electorate by giving them something they don’t want.

As Byron York has shown, even if Mitt Romney had won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, he still would have lost. No Republican presidential candidate in at least 50 years has won even half of the Hispanic vote.

In the presidential election immediately after Reagan signed an amnesty bill in 1986, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote actually declined from 37 percent to 30 percent — and that was in a landslide election for the GOP. Combined, the two Bush presidents averaged 32.5 percent of the Hispanic vote — and they have Hispanics in their family Christmas cards.

John McCain, the nation’s leading amnesty proponent, won only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, not much more than anti-amnesty Romney’s 27 percent.

Amnesty is a gift to employers, not employees.

The (pro-amnesty) Pew Research Hispanic Center has produced poll after poll showing that Hispanics don’t care about amnesty. In a poll last fall, Hispanic voters said they cared more about education, jobs and health care than immigration. They even care more about the federal budget deficit than immigration! (To put that in perspective, the next item on their list of concerns was “scratchy towels.”)

Also, note that Pew asked about “immigration,” not “amnesty.” Those Hispanics who said they cared about immigration might care about it the way I care about it — by supporting a fence and E-Verify.

Who convinced Republicans that Hispanic wages aren’t low enough and what they really need is an influx of low-wage workers competing for their jobs?

Maybe the greedy businessmen now running the Republican Party should talk with their Hispanic maids sometime. Ask Juanita if she’d like to have seven new immigrants competing with her for the opportunity to clean other people’s houses, so that her wages can be dropped from $20 an hour to $10 an hour.

A wise Latina, A.J. Delgado, recently explained on Mediaite.com why amnesty won’t win Republicans the Hispanic vote — even if they get credit for it. Her very first argument was: “Latinos will resent the added competition for jobs.”

But rich businessmen don’t care. Big Republican donors — and their campaign consultants — just want to make money. They don’t care about Hispanics, and they certainly don’t care what happens to the country. If the country is hurt, I don’t care, as long as I am doing better! This is the very definition of treason.

Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don’t want amnesty, and they’re hopeless Democrats. So Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!

It’s as if Republicans convinced Democrats to fixate on banning birth control to win more pro-life voters. This would be great for Republicans because Democrats will never win a majority of pro-life voters, and about as many pro-lifers care about birth control as Hispanics care about amnesty.

But that still wouldn’t be as idiotic as what Republicans are doing because, according to Gallup, pro-lifers are nearly half of the electorate. Hispanics are only 8.4 percent of the electorate.

And it still wouldn’t be as stupid as the GOP pushing amnesty, because banning birth control wouldn’t create millions more voters who consistently vote against the Democrats.

Listening to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus burble a few weeks ago on “Fox News Sunday” about how amnesty is going to push the Republicans to new electoral heights, one is reminded of Democratic pollster Pat Caddell’s reason for refusing to become a Republican: No matter how enraged he gets at Democratic corruption, he says he can’t bear to join such a stupid party as the GOP. Story Continued

· Obamacare? We were just leaving

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Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.

The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect — a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.

If the issue isn’t resolved and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

The problem is far more acute in the House, where lawmakers and aides are generally younger and less wealthy. Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about Obamacare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.

Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

Republicans, never a fan of Democratic health care reform, are more vocal about the potential adverse effects of the provision.

“It’s a reality,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). “This is the law. … It’s going to hinder our ability with retention of members, it’s going to hinder our ability for members to take care of their families.” He said his fellow lawmakers are having “quiet conversations” about the threat.

Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner said the threat is already real, especially for veteran lawmakers and staff. If they leave this year, they think they can continue to be covered under the current health care plan.

“I’ve lost one staffer who told me in confidence that he had been here for a number of years and the thought of losing the opportunity to keep his health insurance on Dec. 31 [forced him to leave]. He could keep what he had and on Jan. 1 he would go into that big black hole,” said Bonner, who had already planned his resignation from Congress. “And then I’ve got another staff member that I think it will be a factor as she’s contemplating her future.”

Lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are acutely aware of the problems with the provision. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have discussed fixes to the provision. Boehner, according to House GOP sources, believes that Reid must take the lead on crafting a solution. Since Republicans opposed the bill, Boehner does not feel responsible to lead the effort to make changes.

The Affordable Care Act — signed into law in 2010 — contained a provision known as the Grassley Amendment, which said the government can only offer members of Congress and their staff plans that are “created” in the bill or “offered through an exchange” — unless the bill is amended.

Currently, aides and lawmakers receive their health care under the generous Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The government subsidizes upward of 75 percent of the premiums for the health insurance plans. In 2014, most Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers are expected to be put onto the exchanges, and there has been no guidance whether the government will subsidize those premiums. This is expected to cause a steep spike in health insurance costs. Story Continued

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· Justices rule human genes cannot be patentedSupreme Court decision is a win for women with genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as geneticists and researchers who had criticized a Utah company’s exclusive patent.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that human genes cannot be patented, a decision with both immediate benefits for some breast and ovarian cancer patients and long-lasting repercussions for biotechnology research.

The decision represents a victory for cancer patients, researchers and geneticists who claimed that a single company’s patent raised costs, restricted research and sometimes forced women to have breasts or ovaries removed without sufficient facts or second opinions.

But the court held out a lifeline to Myriad Genetics, the company with an exclusive patent on the isolated form of genes that can foretell an increased genetic risk of cancer. The justices said it can patent a type of synthesized DNA that goes beyond extracting the genes from the body.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision for a unanimous court. “Myriad did not create anything,” Thomas said. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

The decision will allow other scientists and laboratories to provide genetic diagnostic testing, now that the patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes themselves has been lifted. That should lead to lower costs and greater access.

“It is splendid news for patients, for physicians, for scientists and for common sense,” Mary-Claire King, the geneticist who in 1990 discovered the abnormality on chromosome 17 that proved to be the breast cancer gene, told USA TODAY. “The marketplace will now be open.”

Myriad emphasized the bright side of the decision for the company — that cDNA, which is not naturally occurring, remains patentable. As a result, it said, 24 patents containing more than 500 valid claims remain in effect.

“More than 250,000 patients rely upon our BRACAnalysis test annually, and we remain focused on saving and improving peoples’ lives and lowering overall health care costs,” said Peter Meldrum, the company’s president and CEO.

THOUSANDS OF PATENTS INVALIDATED

The complex scientific case was perhaps the most important on the high court’s calendar other than its more celebrated cases involving same-sex marriage, voting rights and affirmative action.

And unlike those cases, which are expected to divide the court sharply along ideological lines, the controversial concept of gene patenting gave all nine justices something to agree on.

The decision was based on past patent cases before the high court in which the justices ruled that forces of nature, as opposed to products of invention, are not patent-eligible.

“Jonas Salk once said that the polio vaccine could not be patented — it belonged to the public,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a microbiologist and leader on genetic issues. “I am pleased the Supreme Court has applied this same standard to all genetic material.”

Since 1984, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted more than 40,000 patents tied to genetic material. About one-fourth of the 22,000 human genes have been patented — patents that are now invalidated. That could open up competition in genetic testing for diseases ranging from Duchenne muscular dystrophy to inheritable heart arrhythmia.

Still, the bulk of the biotechnology industry’s products are not affected by the ruling, said Lawrence Brody of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Armed with its patents, Myriad has tested more than 1 million women since the late 1990s for mutations that often lead to breast and ovarian cancer. Most women who want testing must pay its price — $3,340 for the breast cancer analysis and $700 for an additional test that picks up a genetic link in about 10% of women who test negative the first time. Myriad officials say about 95% of its patients receive insurance coverage, often without co-payments, so that most patients pay only about $100.

Myriad and a broad array of industry trade groups argued that without patent protection, research and development would dry up. Doctors, geneticists, women’s health groups and cancer patients contended that competition would lower prices, improve outcomes and lead to more discoveries.

“The court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, which filed the original lawsuit. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them.

“Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing, and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued,” Park said.

COST OF TESTING SLASHED BY 75 PERCENT

Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist who became the last remaining plaintiff in the case, heralded the decision as “thrilling” and predicted it would slash the cost of breast and ovarian cancer testing for women with a genetic risk from $4,000 to less than $1,000. That will make it more available to lower-income women and those without quality health insurance, he said.

As if to make Ostrer a prophet, by late afternoon a Houston-based genetics testing company called DNATraits, a division of Gene by Gene, said it would offer the test for $995.

Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, hailed the decision as one that put “patients’ health before corporate profits.”

“This ruling makes a huge and immediate difference for women with a known or suspected inherited risk of breast cancer,” Jaggar said. “And it is a tremendous victory for all people everywhere. The Supreme Court has taken a significant stand to limit the rights of companies to own human genes by striking down Myriad’s monopoly.”

The two sides had battled to a draw in lower courts: A federal district court in New York sided with the patent’s challengers, while a divided court of appeals that handles patent cases ruled for the company.

During oral argument in April, the court was presented with opposite interpretations of Myriad’s contribution to genetic research. Christopher Hansen, the lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the patent’s challengers, said Myriad had invented “nothing.” Myriad’s attorney, Gregory Castanias, said the company created “a new molecule that had never been known to the world.”

The justices generally agreed that Myriad deserved credit for its process of isolating the gene and its use — but not for the gene itself. “In isolation, it has no value,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “It’s just nature sitting there.”

Thomas’ decision was slightly more diplomatic. “We merely hold that genes and the information they encode are not patent-eligible … simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material,” he said.

The compromise that emerged Thursday was evident during that 65-minute debate. Several of the more conservative justices said a complete denial of patent rights could jeopardize investments by other biotechnology companies — and that could limit progress on a range of research, from agriculture to the environment.

University of Michigan professor Shobita Parthasarathy said that compromise is significant, since scientists still must contend with gene patents. “This will likely continue to have a deleterious effect on genetics research and access to health care in the United States,” she said. Story Continued

· AILES ON BENGHAZI: WHERE WAS OUR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF?

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Fox News chairman Roger Ailes said on Wednesday that he would like to know what the country’s Commander-in-Chief was doing on the night terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last September.

“I have come to the conclusion that even I don’t care what the President of the United States was doing that night,” Ailes said in his remarks while accepting the prestigious Bradley Award. “However, I would like to know what the Commander-in-Chief was doing that night.”

Ailes noted Fox News Channel finished its 137th consecutive month in first place in cable news and said part of the reason for the network’s success is that it relentlessly covers news stories like Benghazi “we know others will not.”

“We covered Benghazi when four Americans were killed, even though no other network would touch the story,” Ailes said. “It’s an important story because it involves two hundred years of our military ethos, which is: If we ask you to go out in the middle of the night and risk your life for America, we promise that we will backstop you. And, try to get you out if it is humanly possible. In Benghazi we did not do that.”

Ailes and Fox News were ultimately vindicated when evidence came to light that the Benghazi attacks did not occur due to a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both implied that an anti-Islam video was responsible for the attacks even though evidence now suggests they both clearly knew that was not the case.

Four Americans lost lives last September due to a terrorist attack. The Obama administration, which was in an election year, immediately altered talking points and changed its story about when it knew the attacks may have been related to terror.

Obama’s schedule on the night of the attacks has not been released, and questions remain about whether he gave the “stand down” order to prevent troops from aiding Americans who were under attack, or if he was even briefed about the attacks in real time. Obama promptly attended a fundraiser and campaign events in Las Vegas the day after the attacks.

The Bradley Foundation awarded Ailes the Bradley Award, which honors visionaries like Ailes “who shape America” before a packed audience at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Ailes said he would match the $250,000 prize awarded to him and donate it to charity.

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and National Affairs founding editor Yuval Levin also were honored this year. Past honorees include Jeb Bush, Thomas Sowell, and Victor Davis Hanson. Story Continued

· The Obama Family Trip to Africa to Cost $60 to $100 MillionPresident Obama and his family will be going to Africa later this month. But the trip won’t be cheap; it’s expected to cost American taxpayers $60 to $100 million, according to the Washington Post.

“When President Obama makes his first extended trip to sub-Saharan Africa later this month, the federal agencies charged with keeping him safe won’t be taking any chances. Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of emergency,” reports the Post.

“Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet-proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.

“The extraordinary security provisions — which will cost the government tens of millions of dollars — are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander-in-chief on trips abroad.”

After the paper questioned the costs of a planned family safari, the White House nixed the plan. “The president and first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. But the White House canceled the safari on Wednesday following inquiries from The Washington Post about the trip’s purpose and expense, according to a person familiar with the decision.”

The paper adds, “Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to The Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.” Story Continued

· DUKE STUDENT URGES TRUSTEE NOT TO SELL TRIBUNE’S NEWSPAPERS TO KOCH BROTHERSDuke University student Lucas Spangher had a 40-minute phone conversation with Oaktree Capital Management CEO and Tribune chairman Bruce Karsh – a Duke grad and trustee – about the possible sale of Tribune’s newspapers to the Koch brothers.

clip_image006 Karsh and Spangher

“The conversation was fairly unproductive or negative,” says Spangher, a former Duke Chronicle columnist whose interests include green energy technology. “His primary purpose for calling me [back] was to explain his side of the story rather than listening to my arguments.”

The Duke newspaper reports:

Spangher is personally opposed to the sale because the Koch brothers have given money to support scientific studies that will deny climate change. A group established by the brothers—The Koch Foundation—has been a significant funder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, which aims to address criticism of the planet’s temperature record.

Spangher says he told Karsh that “students are watching — Duke is aware of the situation.” He adds: “I appreciate the things he’s done for Duke, but if this goes down, there could be student action.” Story Continued

· Steven Spielberg Predicts ‘Implosion’ of Film Industry

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George Lucas echoed Spielberg’s sentiments at an event touting the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building, saying big changes are in store.

Steven Spielberg on Wednesday predicted an “implosion” in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next — or even before then — will be price variances at movie theaters, where “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” He also said that Lincoln came “this close” to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release.

Cannes: Oscar Rivals Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee Bury Hatchet for Jury Duty

George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months.

The two legendary filmmakers, along with CNBC anchor Julia Boorstin and Microsoft president of interactive entertainment business Don Mattrick, were speaking at the University of Southern California as part of the festivities surrounding the official opening of the Interactive Media Building, three stories high and part of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Lucas and Spielberg told USC students that they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters. Some ideas from young filmmakers “are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg said. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.

“We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” Lucas said. “I got more people into Lincoln than you got into Red Tails,” Spielberg joked.

Spielberg added that he had to co-own his own studio in order to get Lincoln into theaters.

“The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller,” Lucas said.

Mattrick and Spielberg also praised Netflix, prompting Boorstin to ask Spielberg if he planned to make original content for the Internet streamer. “I have nothing to announce,” said the director.

Lucas and Spielberg also spoke of vast differences between filmmaking and video games because the latter hasn’t been able to tell stories and make consumers care about the characters. Which isn’t to say the two worlds aren’t connected. Spielberg, in fact, has teamed with Microsoft to make a “TV” show for Xbox 360 based on the game Halo and he is making a movie based on the Electronic Arts game Need for Speed. Story Continued

· Obama administration: Syrian regime used chemical weapons against oppositionThe United States and its allies have concluded that the government of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria’s protracted civil war, leading President Barack Obama to broaden aid — including military support — to opposition groups.

The intelligence community concluded with “high confidence” that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons — including the nerve agent sarin — “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”

“The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete,” said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.

NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that Bashir Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in Syria. The White House announced plans to increase U.S. aid to Syrian rebels.

The use of chemical weapons crosses the so-called “red line” first established by Obama last year, which he said would prompt the administration to alter its posture. The administration said on Thursday that Obama had decided to broaden support to the Supreme Military Council, a principal opposition group in Syria, and Rhodes said that assistance “will include military support.”

Rhodes declined to specify what kind of military support the United States would provide to the SMC, but noted that Obama had not decided to establish a no-fly zone, as some Republicans have demanded.

Rhodes cited the “great and open-ended cost” associated with establishing a partial or complete no-fly zone over Syria, seeming to suggest that the prospect of such action, for now, was unlikely.

Obama first laid out his “red line” in August of last year.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama told reporters at that time. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

The president noted earlier this year that there had been preliminary indications of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But he resisted taking action until he said the intelligence community could conclude with certainty that such weapons had actually been used by Assad.

To that end, Rhodes said that the United States and its allies had begun acting in April to assist the SMC by providing increased support in response to Assad crossing a “red line.”

But Rhodes also noted that the United States had prepared for “multiple contingencies” — military, diplomatic, or economic — to help put pressure on the Assad government.

“We’re going to make decisions about further actions on our own timeline,” he said, later adding: “We’re looking at a wide range of types of support we could provide.”

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President Barack Obama speaks immigration reform, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in the East Room of the White House.

The topic of Syria is sure to loom large next week as the leaders of the world’s largest economies gather for the G8 conference in Ireland.

The Obama administration had come under pressure from hawkish Republicans in Congress to take a more active role in ousting the Assad regime, either by directly arming rebels, or by enforcing a partial or complete no-fly zone in Syria.

“I applaud the president’s decision and I appreciate it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one such hawk, said Thursday on the Senate floor.

“But the president of the United States had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation on the ground [or] the balance of power. These people – the Free Syrian Army – need weapons, heavy weapons to counter tanks and aircraft, they need a no-fly zone, and Bashar Assad’s air assets have to be taken out and neutralized. We can do that without risking a single American airplane.”

Said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: “It is long past time to bring the Assad regime’s bloodshed in Syria to an end. As President Obama examines his options, it is our hope he will properly consult with Congress before taking any action.”

But there are delicate considerations involved in the administration’s decision to become more involved. Namely, the U.S. is worried about navigating a thorny relationship with Russia, which has been resistant to apply much pressure to the Assad regime.

Some U.S. officials have also expressed concern that arms supplied to rebels could fall into the hands of fighters who could eventually pivot to use those very arms against U.S. interests or allies.

And then there is the issue of scarce political appetite among most Americans for increased military involvement in Syria following more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Just 15 percent of Americans said in June’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that they favor U.S. military action in Syria; only 11 percent want to provide arms to the opposition. A plurality of respondents — 42 percent — prefer to provide only humanitarian assistance, and 24 percent believe the U.S. shouldn’t take any action. Story Continued

· U.S.: Syria used chemical weapons, crossing “red line”The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.

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“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Syria: The next front in the war on terror?

Focus on political resolution in Syria, says Sen. Reed

President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.

“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.

In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted. Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.

“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.

To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who met with the rebels last month and has been a vocal critic of the president’s Syria policy said in a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “We appreciate the President’s finding that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on several occasions. We also agree with the President that this fact must affect U.S. policy toward Syria. The President’s red line has been crossed. U.S. credibility is on the line. Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions.”

“A decision to provide lethal assistance, especially ammunition and heavy weapons, to opposition forces in Syria is long overdue, and we hope the President will take this urgently needed step” they added. Former President Bill Clinton this week, at a private event with McCain, also ratcheted up pressure for the White House to increase its support to the rebels.

McCain: Syrian rebels don’t understand why we won’t help

Syria death toll tops 92,000, U.N. says

However, Rhodes would not detail the type of military support the administration intends on providing. He said helping the opposition improve their effectiveness as a fighting force means helping with “nonlethal assistance” such as communications equipment and transportation. “These are things that allow them to cohere as a unit,” he said.

He added, meanwhile, that no decision has been made about enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria. “A no-fly zone… would carry with it open-ended costs for the international community,” Rhodes said. “Furthermore, there’s not even a clear guarantee that it would dramatically improve the situation on the ground.” Story Continued

· Whistleblower Edward Snowden claims, NSA has been hacking China since 2009

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Edward Snowden, the self-confessed NSA Whistleblower of secret surveillance documents, claimed Wednesday that the United States intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world, especially Chinese targets since 2009.

Snowden alleged that the Prism program, which collects information on users of numerous technological services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, targeted universities, businesses and public officials throughout mainland China and Hong Kong.

Out of More than 61,000 targets of the National Security Agency, there are thousands of computers in China which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden claims, NSA has been hacking China since 2009 “We hack network backbones like huge Internet routers, basically that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he revealed.

But why Snowden leaking all this information? He gave the reasons that this new information is to show the “hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries.”

Why Snowden Choose Hong Kong? “People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstood my intentions,” he said “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.” The US is exerting bullying diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him, but according to him Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US.

From last week, whole Internet is talking about NSA, PRISM and Edward Snowden and Snowden having a long list of supporters such as WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Anonymous and WE. More than 64,000 of Snowden’s supporters have signed a petition calling for his pardon in the United States while many have donated money to a fund to help him.

Several nations have offered Snowden asylum should he seek it, also Russia. A rally is being organized Saturday to support the 29-year-old former government contractor, who has been in the city since May 20. Story Continued

· U.S. Military Proposal to Arm Rebels Includes No-Fly Zone in SyriaA U.S. military proposal for arming Syrian rebels also calls for a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there, according to U.S. officials.

Asked by the White House to develop options for Syria, military planners have said that creating an area to train and equip rebel forces would require keeping Syrian aircraft well away from the Jordanian border.

To do that, the military envisages creating a no-fly zone stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to U.S. officials.

The White House is currently considering proposals to arm the rebels in Jordan, according to U.S. officials. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on the details of those deliberations.

The limited no-fly zone wouldn’t require the destruction of Syrian antiaircraft batteries, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the White House could decide to authorize the U.S. to arm and train rebels in Jordan without authorizing the no-fly zone recommended by military planners. A White House announcement could come soon, officials said.

Jordan has been inundated by a flood of refugees that Jordanian and U.S. officials say is a growing threat to the kingdom, a key U.S. ally in the region. The U.S. has already moved Patriot air defense batteries and F-16 fighter planes to Jordan, which could be integral to any no-fly zone if President Barack Obama approves the military proposal.

Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the U.S. would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn’t hold Syrian territory.

U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials said that aircraft may be required to enter Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. Such an incursion by the U.S., if it were to happen, could be justified as self-defense, officials say.

Military planners believe it would be dangerous to set up a major operation inside Jordan to arm the rebels without creating a no-fly zone to hold Syrian aircraft back.

“Unless you have a good buffer zone inside Syria, you risk too much,” said a U.S. official briefed on the military proposal.

Creating even a limited buffer zone that Syrian airplanes cannot enter will be expensive, costing an estimated $50 million a day. Still, officials say that a full no-fly zone covering all of Syria would cost far more money. Officials said the U.S. hopes the operation would be conducted with other allies, who could help pay for the cost of a no-fly zone.

The U.S. planes involved in the no-fly zone would fly from Jordan and possibly from Navy ships in the Mediterranean or Red Sea. Jordan has offered the U.S. and its allies the use of its military bases to protect a safe zone inside the kingdom, according to U.S. officials. Jordanian officials in Washington had no immediate comment.

U.S. military officials believe it will take about a month to get such a limited no fly zone up and running, officials say. Officials say there may be a limited window to do so. If Russia decides to provide advanced, long-range S-300 air defense weapons to Syria, it would make such a limited no-fly zone far more risky for U.S. pilots. Story Continued

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