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 81 
 on: Jan 29, 2015, 06:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Greece’s new young radicals sweep away age of austerity

From minimum wage to prescriptions, Alexis Tsipras is making good his promises to voters in startling fashion

Helena Smith in Athens
Wednesday 28 January 2015 20.56 GMT
TheGuardian
  
One by one they were rolled back, blitzkrieg-style, mercilessly, ruthlessly, with rat-a-tat efficiency. First the barricades came down outside the Greek parliament. Then it was announced that privatisation schemes would be halted and pensions reinstated. And then came the news of the reintroduction of the €751 monthly minimum wage. And all before Greece’s new prime minister, the radical leftwinger Alexis Tsipras, had got his first cabinet meeting under way.

After that, ministers announced more measures: the scrapping of fees for prescriptions and hospital visits, the restoration of collective work agreements, the rehiring of workers laid off in the public sector, the granting of citizenship to migrant children born and raised in Greece. On his first day in office – barely 48 hours after storming to power – Tsipras got to work. The biting austerity his Syriza party had fought so long to annul now belonged to the past, and this was the beginning not of a new chapter but a book for the country long on the frontline of the euro crisis.
Alexis Tsipras, accompanied by members of his government, poses for a group picture outside the parliament in central Athens.

“A new era has begun, a government of national salvation has arrived,” he declared as cameras rolled and the cabinet session began. “We will continue with our plan. We don’t have the right to disappoint our voters.”

If Athens’s troika of creditors at the EU, ECB and IMF were in any doubt that Syriza meant business it was crushingly dispelled on Wednesday . With lightning speed, Europe’s first hard-left government moved to dismantle the punishing policies Athens has been forced to enact in return for emergency aid.

Measures that had pushed Greeks on to the streets – and pushed the country into its worst slump on record – were consigned to the dustbin of history, just as the leftists had promised. But the reaction was swift and sharp. Within minutes of the new energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, announcing that plans to sell the public power corporation would be put on hold, Greek bank stocks tumbled. Many lost more than a third of their value, with brokers saying they had suffered their worst day ever. While yields on Greek bonds rose, the Athens stock market plunged. By closing time it had shed over 9%, hitting levels not seen since September 2012 and losing any gains it had clawed back since Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank chief, vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro.

‘Hope begins today was their mantra’: the inside story of Syriza’s rise to power

By nightfall there was another blow as Standard & Poor’s revised its Greek sovereign rating outlook, taking the first step towards a formal downgrade. The agency warned that a bank run might also be in the offing, noting that “accelerated deposit withdrawals from Greek banks had created “a credit concern”.

Perhaps prepared for the onslaught, Tsipras had also acted. On Tuesday, he met the Chinese ambassador to Athens to insist that while Syriza and its junior partner, the populist rightwing Independent Greeks party, would also be cancelling plans to privatise Pireaus port authority, the government wanted good relations with Beijing. China’s Cosco group, which already controls several docks in Pireaus, had been among four suitors bidding for the port.

On Tuesday, Greece’s anti-austerity finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, held late-night talks with his French counterpart, again to placate and reassure. “Our priority is to conduct new negotiations with our partners with the aim of reaching a fair, viable and mutually beneficial solution,” insisted Tsipras, at 40 the country’s youngest postwar leader, “so that the country exits the vicious circle of excessive debt and recession.” As he was handed the reins of the finance ministry, by Gikas Hardouvelis, his predecessor, Varoufakis, 53, an academic who has taught economics in Athens, Britain, America and Australia, repeated that message. The new government’s aim was not to spar with its partners but to create a “new relationship of friendship and sincerity”.

There is no denying Athens’s young revolutionaries have hit the ground running – and hit it with a thunderous thud. In some ways no one represents this better than the iconoclastic Varoufakis, whose investiture should go down as a textbook case of what happens when radicals come into town.

Yanis Varoufakis: maverick economist with Greece’s fate in his hands

If Hardouvelis, had had his way the handover would have been uneventful, if a little lachrymose. “I sincerely wish the new government well,” he said, eyes firmly fixed ahead. “Greece doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until June to conclude [negotiations] with our partners. There are debt repayments that have to be made.”

And then it was Varoufakis’s turn and he was off, rocking and rolling his way through Hardouvelis’s script, demolishing the philosophy of a government that had, he said, thrown the country into a self-perpetuating economic death spiral and all because of a mistake “a huge toxic mistake made in this very building”. There was no looking back and as Hardouvelis nervously looked on – at times relieved, at times alarmed – it was quite clear that there was no stepping back either. Greece sincerely had no intention of clashing with its partners, Varoufakis insisted, but the logic of austerity was such that policies conducted in its embrace could only fail.

“We will rehire the cleaners who were fired from this building,” he said, all guns blazing, as he promised to reinstate the women who have become the face of austerity’s injustice. “And then we will seek a pan-European new deal to reboot [our] economies.”

************

‘Hope begins today’: the inside story of Syriza’s rise to power

Ten years ago, Syriza scraped just 4% of the vote in Greek elections. This week, the leftwing party took control under the charismatic leadership of Alexis Tsipras. How did it do it? For 22 days, Paul Mason followed the party’s campaign trail and saw an anti-austerity message delivered with youthful plausibility win over a nation

Paul Mason
Wednesday 28 January 2015 21.05 GMT
Guardian
    
Syriza’s victory has electrified the left in Europe – even moderate social democrats who have floundered in search of ideas and inspiration since the 2008 crisis. Now there is talk everywhere of “doing a Syriza” – and in Spain, where the leftist party Podemos is scoring 25% in the polls, more than talk.

But Syriza’s route to becoming Europe’s first far-left government of modern times was neither easy nor inevitable. For the past 22 days, I have been part of a Greek documentary team following its activists and leaders on the campaign trail to watch how they did it. I have seen them offering new hope to farmers on the breadline, and drumming up supplies for their network of food banks. I have watched them win over old-school communists in the dockers’ union, smarting from seeing their workplace sold off to the Chinese, and present a modern, youthful alternative to a political establishment serving a corrupt elite. And I have seen their leader, Alexis Tsipras, in action in his private office at critical moments.

Tsipras is so charismatic that he hardly needs a world-class press team. But when I interview him, in the first week of the campaign, it becomes clear that Syriza has no shortage of spin doctors. “I’m afraid I have to forbid it,” press secretary Danai Badogianni tells me, just as Tsipras looks persuaded to speak in English on camera. “Otherwise it will set a precedent.”

Tsipras’s campaign began from a solid record of parliamentary opposition. On 3 January, the day he filled a stadium with 5,000 party members, the inner core saw him browbeat his party’s left into withdrawing their objections to his choice of prospective MPs. Tsipras has transformed both the party and its operation; the central committee in its shabby HQ became less important than the policy team around shadow ministers.

Up close, he speaks perfect English and has an infectious laugh. There are some Syriza MPs who have mastered restraint and discretion in off-the-record conversations, but he is not one of them. We talk frankly about a controversial briefing his economics team gave the City, and the high-profile attempted bribery case he thinks has torpedoed the election strategy of the right. He poses, without demur, for selfies with the young Greek women I am filming with, knowing they will be on Facebook within minutes.
Tsipras with supporters in Thessaloniki. Tsipras with supporters in Thessaloniki. Photograph: Kostas Argyris

Despite recruiting no fewer than four leftwing economics professors to his ministerial team, Tsipras himself seems to have the clearest grasp of the political economy of his coming showdown with the European Central Bank. The crunch calls, when they come, will be made by him.

But on top of professionalism and discipline, Tsipras has built momentum. His poll lead in early January was 2%. With all the private Greek TV channels against him, and most of the newspapers, the right expected to claw back the lead. Instead it was Syriza that surged.

A countryside in revolt

In the weak January sun, the mountains along the Gulf of Corinth are topped with snow. Dotted along the hillsides are villages known as political “castles”, normally so wedded to one or other of the main parties – Pasok and New Democracy – that you could navigate at election time by following the posters. But this is a troubled land; two-thirds of the vineyards and lemon groves here are technically in foreclosure. The farmers have been forced to take morgtgages, the banks are clamouring to repossess and suicides in these quiet farming towns are on the up.

Giannis Tsogkas, a 56-year-old grape grower from Assos, tells us: “The government pushed us into the IMF deal and all they do is obey the rightwingers. The little man will die. We keep hearing about suicides. So we tried to find somebody on the left to protect us. And we found it in Syriza.”

As night falls, the taverna in nearby Psari is full of the old and children – most of the young adults are gone. The battered faces of farmers on the breadline stare cautiously as one Syriza man delivers a Bolshevik-style oration: “Why do the IMF want to destroy us? Is it because the sun shines here? Is it because we’re a hospitable people? Do they hate southern European life?”

‘In Syriza, we found someone to protect us’ … grape grower Giannis Tsogkas.

But, says election candidate Theofanis Kourembes, it’s not rhetoric that has turned villages like this red. “We go out and help people. When they tell us something, we listen. When they ask for help, we are here. You never see Pasok or New Democracy.”

It’s small meetings like this, miles from the main towns, that have helped turn Syriza from a party polling 4% 10 years ago to, by the last week of campaigning, a party leading on 32%.

“You journalists have come all the way up here to interview us,” says one farmer. “Syriza is the only party that did the same. They came and talked to us. If we wanted to talk to the main parties, how would we find them?”

The countryside, a stark landscape of twigs and turned fields, is fertile ground for Syriza’s winning message. Farmers have suffered badly from austerity: it means higher taxes and fewer subsidies. But corruption is also a major issue. In Assos, Tsogkas tells us how the merchants who buy the grapes regularly disappear without paying: “They don’t give us receipts, and the law protects them. They disappear, they claim bankruptcy and we get nothing. But we have to pay for medication, workers’ wages, service our loans, electricity, all of that. We’re done,” he sighs, “it’s over.”

The Greek political system was so inept, corrupt and oiled by what they call here “black money” that, when the money ran out, support for it collapsed.

Though Syriza’s economic programme is constrained by the €319bn Greece owes the rest of Europe, fighting the oligarchy costs nothing. Tsipras tells me: “We will start a new political era. We will bring in massive change in state governance. We have no responsibility for the state of clientelism created by the parties that ran the country up till now. We need a state that functions and stands by the citizens. We need to stop this carnival of tax evasion and tax avoidance.”

All over Greece, Syriza set up food banks, known as Solidarity Clubs. When I follow their activists into a street market in Athens, they wear orange bibs and politely but firmly put the argument to farmers there that a bag of potatoes or oranges for the poor is their social duty. Within half an hour the trolleys are full of food.

The organiser tells me: “This is the opposite of charity. We’re supporting 120 families in one area, and a lot of the work we do is about isolation, mental health and shame.” You cannot get more micro-political than sitting in a small room with desperate people and talking them out of suicide. Spin becomes impossible, the trust built hard to destroy.

And in the final week, as the polls give Syriza a solid six-point lead, it becomes clear what is going to deliver victory. Even if Syriza’s programme is only a form of left social democracy, it is doing the opposite of what social democrats do at election time. It is giving clear, hard promises to take on the rich. Its senior MPs promise publicly to “destroy the oligarchy” – to tax the ship owners and construction bosses, and to enforce basic modern regulation on the private TV channels the oligarchs own, which at present do not even have to register, or pay for, the radio spectrum they use.

“Hope begins today” is Tsipra’s mantra. This translates into a new mood in the coffee bars and at family dinner tables: we’re not frightened any more.

The centre self-destructs

By the time of Syriza’s final election rally, the global media have woken up to the possibility of an upset. To the outside eye, the red flags and polite renditions of the Italian communist anthem, Bandiera Rossa, look radical – but everybody in the crowd knows the party is travelling in the opposite direction. It won’t confront Europe on debt reduction – simply request a new deal. But it is determined to cancel austerity. That, say the canny economists huddled backstage at the rally, puts the ball in the court of ECB boss Mario Draghi. He can pull the trigger on a bank collapse and euro exit crisis, but Syriza will not.

As Tsipras wows the crowd, Pablo Iglesias, the journalist who has taken Spain’s new left party Podemos to a 25% poll position, shrugs and shakes like a boxer about to go in the ring. He is rehearsing what he is going to say and then sprints up the steps, accompanied by a Leonard Cohen song, to join Tsipras. He yells in English: “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.” The IMF and the ECB, in other words, will face a determined challenge. The Syriza cadres surrounding the two men know how heavy the pressure is going to be from now on.

Rena Dourou, whom I first met as a bedraggled protester in the Occupy camp at Athens’ Syntagma Square four years earlier, can’t contain her smile as she waves a hand at the streets, crammed with supporters: “Nobody listened to us for years,” she says. “Now everybody is listening. And this is not just about Greece. It’s about Europe, and especially the young.”

Dourou is in her first few weeks of office as prefect of Attica, Greece’s largest region. She’s finding out for real what it means to try and clean up the Greek state. Now coiffed and trouser-suited like a mainstream politician, she can’t suppress her nervousness. Four years ago, as we dodged the tear gas, she had told me: “Europe needs a Chirac, or a Schröder, or even someone like Kirchner in Argentina. Some kind of mainstream leader to stop the madness of austerity.” I joked then: “It’s probably going to be you guys.” Today she knows that’s not a joke. As the whole political centre in Europe acquiesced in an austerity programme that pushed the continent towards deflation, only a party of former Trotskyists, eco-warriors and Occupy protesters stood its ground.

On election night, on the top floor of Syriza’s HQ, where Tsipras staff sit, nervousness turns to stunned relief as the results come through. Their prospects of winning a majority in parliament are on a knife’s edge, but a few minutes after the polls close, it is clear they have won. Tsipras arrives, beaming. He hugs a tiny middle-aged woman on his staff, calling her “my little piglet”. His secretaries are in tears. “Why are you crying?” he jokes. “When we lost in 2012 you were celebrating and now we’ve won, you cry!”

Syriza’s future interior minister phones the heads of the army and police. “We trust you,” is the gist of the message. Which is a big leap of faith, as the Greek military and police force have been configured since the cold war to suppress far leftism, even giving their officers political education as to the perils of Marxism.

In the years since the fall of the military junta in 1974, the two-party oligarchy tolerated the left, but ensured there was no chance it could hold power. This, with hindsight, created a massive but dormant left consciousness. Tsipras is surrounded by party cadres who fought in the student rising that overthrew the junta, but their fathers’ generation suffered torture and imprisonment during and after the civil war. Excluded from power, the left built a counterculture of rebel songs, folk music, the Che Guevara cult and powerful manual trade unions, as in the docks. This is key to understanding what is replicable about Syriza, and what is not. The party emerged out of the Eurocommunist split with Moscow in the 1970s, but has grafted on to it a soft-left culture, and captured the allegiance of many young people, whose lives revolve around precarious and low-skill work, and reaching the magical subsitence figure of €400 a month.

Tsipras crafted Syriza from a loose alliance into a party that is the quintessential expression of the values of this broad-left section of the Greek electorate. All it took was for their natural party, Pasok, to destroy itself.

In the last week of campaigning, leftwing Greeks found the invisible walls around them collapsing. Conversations with their rightwing neighbours and their non-political workmates were dominated by one word – Tsipras. And in the last days, just “him”. So for all the relentless canvassing, and the food banks, and the classy branding, what put Syriza into power was, basically, the self-destruction of the centre. And that, in turn, was the work of the EU and the IMF.

A party of youth and normality

In the village of Assos, once the votes are counted, 1,529 of its 4,000 inhabitants have voted Syriza (38%). The conservatives, who relied on this town for generations, have just 29%, with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party scoring 7% – a near exact replica of the national result. The electoral map shows that, apart from in the old right heartlands of Macedonia and the southern Peloponnesus, deep Greece has turned red.

Kourembes, who is now the Syriza MP for Assos, tells us: “This time people just started to think differently. They realised there’s no way out with the current set of politicians. They realised that, to keep afloat, they had to do something different.”

There was no killer tactic Syriza employed on the campaign trail. But there were killer qualities: youthfulness, plausibility and normality. Many of their candidates are young and stylish; they live and behave like normal twenty- and thirtysomethings. At the launch rally of conservative shipping minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the contrasts were obvious. As befits a system that allows ship owners to pay no tax on offshore profits, the crowd here was old, exquisitely turned out and unashamedly rich.

Though the minister himself is part of a technocratic generation that nods towards modernised conservatism, it is impossible to be modern when surrounded by an apparatus crafted in the cold war, and reliant on billionaires for support. Just by being normal, and avoiding deranged broadcasts by individual MPs, and projecting bland calm into the face of the right’s fear campaign, Syriza’s people won. It will be hard to pull off again, once years or months of compromise and hard work take their toll.

In Athens, just after the polls have closed, Syriza candidate Spiros Rapanakis leans, exhausted, against the shutters of a shop. He has spent the day zipping around his constituency, the port community of Keratsini, in a battered Hyundai, whistling the Internationale for courage. It is clear, as we speak to voters, that even traditional right wingers have voted Syriza. As it dawns on him that, instead of begin a junior reporter on the party’s newspaper, he is now an MP, he murmurs: “The Greek people wrote history and I am glad to be part of it. I can’t really describe how I feel. We have a big duty to keep going. Tomorrow we are going to create Greece anew.”

 82 
 on: Jan 29, 2015, 01:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Linda
Thanks so much, Rad!   Cheesy

 83 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 06:39 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Hello Jen,


Any questions?


Skywalker and I thought that this would be a good time to answer some of your questions.

You can ask about:

-  any specific questions you may have regarding your natal chart

-  specific dynamics you have lived and need to make sense of

-  the need to understand the "why" of anything that one can try and see via EA

-  the current moment (transits)

Any questions that we cannot answer we will defer to other EA members and/or Rad.

We know you are looking after your new baby - there is no pressure to ask any questions - only if you wish to.


Thank you,

Linda

 84 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 06:38 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda


Jen's Chart





 85 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 06:35 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Hello Lila,


Any questions?


Skywalker and I thought that this would be a good time to answer some of your questions.


You can ask about:

-  any specific questions you may have regarding your natal chart

-  specific dynamics you have lived and need to make sense of

-  the need to understand the "why" of anything that one can try and see via EA

-  the current moment (transits)

Any questions that we cannot answer we will defer to other EA members and/or Rad.


Thank you,

Linda



 86 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 06:35 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Hello Eos,


Any questions?


Skywalker and I thought that this would be a good time to answer some of your questions.


You can ask about:

-  any specific questions you may have regarding your natal chart

-  specific dynamics you have lived and need to make sense of

-  the need to understand the "why" of anything that one can try and see via EA

-  the current moment (transits)

Any questions that we cannot answer we will defer to other EA members and/or Rad.


Thank you,

Linda



 87 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 06:34 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Hello Kelly,


Any questions?


Skywalker and I thought that this would be a good time to answer some of your questions.


You can ask about:

-  any specific questions you may have regarding your natal chart

-  specific dynamics you have lived and need to make sense of

-  the need to understand the "why" of anything that one can try and see via EA

-  the current moment (transits)

Any questions that we cannot answer we will defer to other EA members and/or Rad.


Thank you,

Linda



 88 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 08:44 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
USA

Obama Gets a Huge Win As Democrats Withdraw Their Support For Iran Sanctions Bill

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, January, 27th, 2015, 3:47 pm   

Obama Drills Republicans in Health Care Victory Lap SpeechObama Drills Republicans in Health Care Victory Lap Speech
President Obama got a huge win today as ten Democratic senators have vowed to vote against the Iran sanctions bill being pushed by Republicans in order to give the president more time to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran.

United States Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) all signed a letter to the president expressing their support:

Dear Mr. President:

We remain hopeful that diplomacy will succeed in reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability, in accordance with the timeline that the P5+1 and Iran negotiating teams have set for themselves: March 24, 2015 for a political framework agreement and June 30, 2015 to conclude negotiations on the technical annexes of the comprehensive deal.

Congress has always been a partner in the shared goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon capability. We remain appreciative of your leadership in seeking to protect the United States, and our allies and partners, from the threat of a nuclear Iran. For more than two decades, the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government have worked together in a bipartisan way to implement sanctions legislation that successfully ratcheted up pressure on Iran’s nuclear program. This pressure proved to be decisive in compelling Iranian leadership to enter the latest round of nuclear negotiations in September 2013.

We remain deeply skeptical that Iran is committed to making the concessions required to demonstrate to the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful by March 24 – the deadline agreed upon for a political framework agreement. Considering Iran’s history in nuclear negotiations and after two extensions of the Joint Plan of Action, we are concerned that Iran is intentionally extending the negotiations to improve its leverage at the negotiating table.

We are Democratic supporters of the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2015 – a bill that would impose sanctions on Iran only if Iran fails to reach a comprehensive agreement by the June 30 deadline. This bill also includes monthly waivers after June 30 to provide additional negotiating flexibility. We believe that this bill, as introduced, is reasonable and pragmatic, respects the nuclear negotiating timeline, and sends a strong signal to Iran and to the international community that endless negotiations under the interim agreement are dangerous, unacceptable, and could leave Iran with a threshold nuclear weapon capability.

In acknowledgement of your concern regarding congressional action on legislation at this moment, we will not vote for this legislation on the Senate floor before March 24. After March 24, we will only vote for this legislation on the Senate floor if Iran fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement. This deadline is the critical test of Iranian intentions. We expect that your Administration will consult closely with Members of Congress in the coming months, and look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goal of reversing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon capability.

The collapse in Democratic support came after President Obama promised to veto the sanctions bill, and Republicans insulted the president by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the White House. Boehner tried to force Democrats to choose between Netanyahu and Obama, and the Democrats have chosen their president. Another Republican attempt to divide Democrats has failed and the latest congressional attempt to undermine this president has fallen apart.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have made such a big production out of the Iran sanctions bill that they have little choice, but to vote on the legislation that now has no chance of passing the Senate. The Republican attempt to destroy the talks with Iran represents a dangerous meddling in foreign policy for domestic political gain. Senate Democrats aren’t going to be pawns in the Republican Party’s efforts to humiliate this president.

Democrats have the president’s back, as the Republican dreams of dividing and conquering are turning into the reality of a party united behind their president.

*************

Obamacare Knocks Out The GOP As Enrollment Poised To Shatter 2015 Goal

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, January, 27th, 2015, 6:49 pm      

The latest good news for President Obama is that the Affordable Care Act is poised to shatter his administration’s enrollment goals for 2015.

The Department of Health and Human Services released the latest numbers:

    Nationwide, 9.5 million consumers selected or were automatically reenrolled in quality, affordable health insurance coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace through the second month of 2015 Open Enrollment, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, more than 7.1 million were in states using the HealthCare.gov platform and 2.4 million were in the 14 states (including Washington, D.C.) using their own Marketplace platforms. As the Feb. 15 deadline approaches, HHS encourages all eligible consumers to sign up for Marketplace coverage. Most will be eligible for financial assistance to lower the cost of monthly premiums.

    Today’s report includes data for individuals who selected or were automatically reenrolled in coverage through Jan. 16 for the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform, and through Jan. 17 for the 12 states and Washington, D.C. using their own Marketplace platforms. Data for California is through Jan. 18. To have their coverage effectuated, consumers need to pay their first month’s health plan premium (today’s report does not include effectuated enrollment).

The good news about enrollment was part of a one-two punch that also included the CBO lowering the cost of the ACA by 20% due to a slowdown in the growth of healthcare costs. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are trying to keep the repeal charade going by voting again to repeal Obamacare next week. The disconnect between Republicans and reality has never been clearer. The Affordable Care Act is becoming a raging success. The law is doing exactly what it was intended to do. More people have access to healthcare, and the price of that healthcare is dropping.

President Obama is on a roll. His approval ratings are skyrocketing. The economy is expanding, and now healthcare is more accessible and affordable than ever before. Things are by no means perfect, but the country is moving in the right direction again. It is becoming impossible for Republicans to avoid the reality that Americans love the Affordable Care Act. The ACA will easily pass the administration’s targets for 2015 enrollment. The years of Republican fear-mongering are being proven wrong. The ACA hasn’t destroyed the health care system. It has granted tens of millions of Americans access to it.

Republicans don’t have an alternative. They don’t have a plan, and it is becoming clear that their irrational hatred of the ACA is out of step with the wants of most Americans.

************

Mitch McConnell Begs Senate Democrats To Stop Filibustering Keystone XL

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, January, 27th, 2015, 1:08 pm      

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Democrats successfully filibustering the Keystone XL bill by practically begging Democrats to allow the bill to move forward.

In remarks on the Senate floor today, McConnell responded to the successful Democratic filibuster:

    The Keystone jobs bill is a bipartisan infrastructure project the American people deserve.

    So the vote last night to filibuster was disappointing.

    The Keystone jobs bill has been considered and reported out by the Energy Committee…

    It’s been subject to weeks of open debate.

    Senators on both sides have been able to offer and vote on amendments — two dozen and counting.

    Our Democratic friends have had more amendments considered on this bill than Republicans — more amendments than all of last year combined.

    And just a few days ago, we offered our friends the opportunity to have even more of their amendments voted on. Unfortunately, Democrats rejected that offer.

    I’m asking them to reconsider.

    Join us. Work with the bill managers, Senators Murkowski and Cantwell, to get your amendments processed. And let’s make progress for the American people.

What McConnell left out of his woe is me remarks was why Democrats are so angry. Mitch McConnell tried to go back on his word with an attempt to abruptly end debate on the Keystone XL. Sen. McConnell has been trying to strong-arm the DOA pipeline bill through the Senate. Senate Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durban explained why Democrats are angry, “The authors of the amendment were denied 60 seconds to even explain their amendments. It didn’t leave a very good taste in the mouth of many Democrats, not even those who were supporting the Keystone Canadian pipeline.”

The obstructor has become the obstructed. The fast start that McConnell promised during the 2014 campaign has evaporated as he has been pinned down by Senate Democrats on one end and President Obama on the other. The Keystone XL debate is about more than a certain to vetoed pipeline authorization bill. The deeper meaning of the debate is that Democrats are showing that they won’t be pushed around while for Republicans Keystone XL was supposed to be a symbol of their newly won power.

As the weeks go by, the Keystone XL debate has morphed into a sign that Republicans still can’t govern as they are wasting weeks on legislation that will never become law. The argument that Democrats have become the obstructionists holding back progress won’t play well in a 2016 Senate election landscape that is tilted towards Democrats. McConnell’s comments are increasing sounding like blame shifting and are the biggest sign yet that Democrats are winning the legislative struggle over Keystone XL.

***********

Boehner To Waste Millions More Taxpayer Dollars By Launching Second Lawsuit Against Obama

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, January, 27th, 2015, 2:33 pm   

John Boehner told House Republicans that he was finishing plans that will waste millions more taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit against President Obama’s immigration executive actions.

Politico reported:

    House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team is preparing a resolution that could authorize further legal action against the Obama administration over its moves on immigration; he told his colleagues Tuesday morning.

    The resolution, which Boehner discussed in a closed Republican meeting Tuesday, could authorize the House to take several different forms of legal action against the administration, but no final course of action has been decided. For example, the resolution could authorize the House to join a lawsuit that states have filed against President Barack Obama over the executive action.

    “We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue — one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” Boehner said in the meeting.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi blistered Boehner for not governing, “Republicans control both houses of Congress, but Speaker Boehner still doesn’t have the wherewithal to legislate. House Republicans’ latest lawsuit against the President is an embarrassing admission of failure. Republicans’ radical anti-immigrant legislation is dead on arrival. Once again, House Republicans are crawling to the courts to relieve them of their responsibility to govern. Republicans should stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars suing the President, and start showing some seriousness for the security of the American people.”

House Republicans announced yesterday that they were delaying a vote on their border security bill because of the blizzard, but the real reason for the delay is that Speaker Boehner doesn’t have the votes to pass the bill. Boehner has refused to govern most of the time, but when he has tried to pass legislation, he often doesn’t have the votes to pass his own bills.

John Boehner can’t govern, so he is going to sue President Obama for using his executive powers. Speaker Boehner’s Obamacare lawsuit is costing taxpayers $500/hour in attorney fees. Instead of passing legislation, Speaker Boehner’s answer to everything is to abuse the court system by filing frivolous lawsuits against President Obama.

The lawsuit strategy was born out of Republican desperation, ineptitude, and failure. Speaker Boehner’s lawsuits are an attempt to distract the country from the fact no matter how big of a majority Boehner has in the House, Republicans remain unfit to govern.

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Time To Prosecute House Speaker John Boehner For Violating Federal Law

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Tuesday, January, 27th, 2015, 11:31 am   

It is beyond refute that there is a more than glaring level of hypocrisy in the Republican Party, and there is no better example than in the House of Representatives; particularly since the Koch brothers invested power in the tea party movement. After the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans took control of the House they immediately launched myriad investigations into wrongdoing by the Obama Administration; including fabricating highly-profitable and phony scandals, only to find the Obama Administration is guilty of nothing untoward. In fact, the House, under the direction of Speaker John A. Boehner, initiated a lawsuit against the President for exercising his executive authority according to the Constitution and long-settled Supreme Court rulings.

What is stunning hypocrisy is that there have been several unethical acts by House Republicans who are following the lead of their leader Speaker John A. Boehner; the ethics-challenged cretin that no-one is willing to prosecute. Like every common criminal, or once-convicted felon, who continues to escape punishment for violating the law, Boehner continues his unethical, and now illegal, behavior because he truly believes he IS above the law. It is time to disabuse Boehner of that belief and restore the American people’s faith in the nation’s justice system.

When Boehner conspired with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress to campaign and “send a clear message to the White House” about how Israel will set America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, he violated a 216 year old law. A law, by the way, devised and enacted by America’s Founding Fathers that Republicans claim are their exemplars. It is now time to finally call for Boehner to be charged, tried, and convicted for violating the law and put a stop to his career-long abrogation of long-standing ethical and legal provisions to send a clear message that no-one in America is above the law.

The Speaker of the House openly violated the so-called Logan Act that was signed into law and enacted in 1799 by President John Adams and codified in 18 U.S. Code § 953. The Code addresses precisely what Speaker of the House John A. Boehner did in conspiring with Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress to defeat the measures of the United States in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States.

The Logan Act prohibits any “Private correspondence with foreign governments” and reads; “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.” The Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot and should not conduct foreign affairs; that power rests in the Executive Branch exclusively.

In the 1936 Supreme Court case, United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp, the Court held that “all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President. It is given implicitly and by the fact that the executive, by its very nature, is empowered to conduct foreign affairs in a way that Congress cannot and should not.” Boehner just does not, and Republicans cannot, accept that yes, “all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President;” regardless of the fact he is an African American man or that Republicans’ allegiance is to a foreign power; in this case Israel.

Boehner violated the Logan Act just by “directly commencing or carrying on any correspondence with a foreign government, or agent thereof” with his admitted and explicit intent of influencing measures of the United States. Boehner did say publicly that his reason for illegally corresponding with Netanyahu was to “specifically ask him (Netanyahu) to address Congress and send a clear message to the White House about our commitment to Israel.” Boehner’s hubris, defiance, and obvious disregard for longstanding U.S. law was when he publicly said, “Congress can make this decision on its own.” No matter what Boehner says, or thinks, Congress cannot make that decision on its own according to a 216 year old law and reiterated by the 79 year old ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Boehner needs to be fully prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code § 953 to teach him that no American is above the law regardless what he thinks. Obviously, throughout Boehner’s political career he has considered himself above the law.

This is not Boehner’s first offense without facing any legal action or congressional ethics violation repercussions to remove him for various acts. He was caught red-handed, and admitted to handing out corporate bribes for favorable votes on the floor of the House that garnered expulsion for another Ohio congressman guilty of corruption. Boehner openly, and continues to, lie about the number of jobs the KeystoneXL pipeline will create since he bought stock in seven Canadian tar sand companies in 2010; a few months before becoming Speaker of the House. In 2013 the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) began an investigation into campaign finance violations and like Boehner’s other instances of malfeasance; nothing is done to put a stop to his criminality; likely because he is white.

It is difficult for regular Americans to understand how unarmed African Americans are gunned down in cold blood, and then tried and convicted in absentia (because they were murdered) by a hostile justice system when men like Willard Romney openly violated SEC and bankruptcy laws with impunity. Or, how seditious malcontents like Cliven Bundy can defy federal court orders and summon armed militias to confront and aim their weapons at federal officials in the commission of their duty; a federal offense and sedition, and face no charges. Every year across the nation evangelical clergy violate the conditions of their tax-exempt designation, videotape their illegal acts, and dare the IRS to take punitive action.  Former president George W. Bush and his co-conspirator Dick Cheney proudly boast that they authorized torture of captive enemy prisoners of war, many innocent, and nothing happens. Now, the Speaker of the House of Representatives blatantly violates an over-200 year old law, boasts about it, and the Justice Department and congressional ethics committees turn away in what; fear?

One often hears politicians, including President Obama proclaim with authority that “no-one in America is above the law.”  Americans certainly understand that is undoubtedly one of the biggest lies, and farces, being parroted time and time again with no chance in proverbial Hell of ever changing. John A. Boehner is a sleazy, crooked politician, and although handing out corporate bribes for votes, lying to manipulate tar sand share prices, and taking illegal campaign donations are crimes, they pale in comparison to conspiring with a foreign nation’s leader to “influence and defeat foreign policy measures of the Unite States.

John Boehner’s most recent crime is not up for debate, or opinion; he deliberately and with substantial malice aforethought violated the Logan Act and Americans must demand that he be charged, tried in federal court, and convicted with his own confession that he defiantly “carried on any correspondence or intercourse an officer of a foreign government to defeat the measures of the United States” because Israel has a dispute with the United States of America’s Middle East foreign policy.

 89 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 08:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Angry birds? These lost species have every right to be…

Human greed and thoughtlessness are responsible for the loss of hundreds of species that could have been saved, and the extinction rate is increasing alarmingly. Here are some we have already lost for ever

John Vidal
1/28/2015
TheGuardian   

The Laysan crake stood six inches tall, had a yellow bill and black legs, and its cry, said one ornithologist, was "like pebbles ricocheting on a glass roof". In the 1890s there were around 2,000 of these friendly but flightless birds alive on Laysan, a tiny Pacific coral island.

Fifty years later there were none, and the bird, which ran like a chicken and was so unafraid of humans it would crawl up trouser legs, has disappeared for ever – a sad chapter in the dismal history of modern bird extinctions.

Like so many other bird species, it was made extinct not because it was wanted for its meat or feathers, or because of climate change or even a rare disease, but thanks to sheer human thoughtlessness.

First, a US businessman set up a guano-collecting station on Laysan and introduced rabbits. But the rabbits escaped and bred, eating most of the vegetation on which the bird depended. Then, in 1942, rats escaped off a US landing craft and thrived by smashing and eating its eggs. Three years later the Laysan crake was to be found only in a few museums, and immortalised on a grainy black and white BBC film.

The Laysan crake is one of around 1,000 bird species known by exhibits, written accounts, illustrations, skeletons, eggs or subfossil remains to have existed but which have vanished in the last 700 years. It joins the dodo, the great auk, the huia and species of woodpeckers, boobies, pigeons, parakeets, cormorants, owls, swifts, finches, crows, petrels and birds of almost every taxon in a remarkable new book that documents for the first time the world's known extinct birds.

"The sheer magnitude of bird extinctions that have taken place is shocking, says Julian Hume, a research fellow at the Natural History Museum, and co-author with Michael Walters, of Extinct Birds. "Many more recently extinct species await description, and a number of critically endangered species will probably disappear in the next decade. A human-induced mass extinction is taking place."

Walters, former curator of the egg collection at the museum, adds: "In the last millennium the impact of humans on the natural world has accelerated out of control, at a rate unprecedented in the earth's long history. Before humans evolved on the planet, mass extinction events were caused by things like extraterrestrial impacts, volcanism and changes of climate and sea level. Now we recognise a new agent of mass destruction – ourselves."

According to BirdLife International, the organisation that assesses bird populations worldwide, the natural rate of bird extinction is about one per century. But in the last 30 years, 21 bird species are known to have become extinct, and 189 are classified as "on the very edge of extinction". Most of these could be lost for ever without immediate action within 10 years, says Birdlife spokesman Martin Fowlie.

"Usually mass extinctions take place over millions of years. Nothing has ever happened like this. They are being lost at an irreplaceable rate. One in eight of all the world's 9,920 bird species are "threatened"; 381 are classed as "endangered" and a further 683 are "vulnerable"', says Fowlie.

Biodiversity is under massive threat everywhere, with amphibians, mammals and bees in the frontline as the world's remotest places are developed for mining, forestry and habitations or are severed by roads. But no vertebrate has suffered more than birds, which evolved over millions of years from dinosaurs, and which specialised in certain foods and habitats. Because they are relatively large, conspicuous and are mostly active by day, they have been long prized by humans for food, collections and their cultural connection.

Most threatened bird species are in the tropics because that is where there is most biodiversity, but losses in the last 200 years have been distributed widely across the Pacific, Latin America and Africa. Such is the rate of deforestation and intrusion into earth's last wild areas that huge numbers of species other than birds are being lost before they are even recorded.

"Birds are symbols of life, movement, vitality and freedom," says Errol Fuller, author of several books on extinct birds. "The fact that they live so noticeably around us makes it doubly difficult to come to terms with the idea that a species should no longer exist."

"When a bird species goes, we are all diminished," says Will Turner, a researcher with Conservation International. "Organisms are all connected to each other. Lose one species and it can have an effect on many others. When the dodo went it meant that a tree could no longer disperse its seeds. Take one piece out and the entire system becomes less resistant. Gradual loss [of species] can result in decreased resilience and productivity."

Fowlie adds: "In fact, a lot of bird species have been saved. We know what to do, we understand what the problem is, we only need action and money. It's possible that £20m would save them all."

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Extinct Birds - in pictures

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2012/feb/19/birds-endangeredspecies

 90 
 on: Jan 28, 2015, 08:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Frigatebird returns to nest on Ascension for first time since Darwin

Endangered species may be saved from extinction after eradication of feral cats that had been eating its chicks

Robin McKie, science editor
1/28/2015
Guardian
   
One of the world's rarest seabirds has returned to remote Ascension Island in the Atlantic 150 years after its colony was wiped out by feral cats. Last week ornithologists spotted two nests containing eggs being guarded by Ascension frigatebirds, the first of the species to breed there since Charles Darwin visited the island in the early 19th century.

Ascension frigatebirds only survived in a small colony on a nearby rocky outcrop where they were considered to be highly vulnerable to outbreaks of disease and oil spills. But now they have returned to the island after which they are named, raising hopes that the vulnerable bird may be rescued from extinction.

The news marks the success of a project which has cost UK taxpayers more than £500,000 and has involved the eradication of hundreds of feral cats that had been eating frigatebird chicks.

"We are absolutely overwhelmed," said Derren Fox, a conservation officer based on Ascension. "We thought it would take decades for the Ascension frigate to come back and breed after we had got rid of the island's feral cats. But we have already succeeded after only a few years. This suggests we have a real chance of saving the Ascension frigate."

The project's success also raises hopes of saving colonies of other species threatened by feral animals. These include populations of seabirds and amphibians on Montserrat, Gough Island and South Georgia, which are all ravaged by rats, mice and other wild creatures.

In the early 19th century, Ascension Island was home to more than 20 million seabirds, mainly masked boobies, black noddies, brown noddies and Ascension frigatebirds. The frigatebird was considered to be the most important because it was unique to the island. Adults are about 30 inches in length while males have distinctive red sacs on their chests which they inflate during courtship.

Around 1800, rats – accidently introduced by settlers – began to kill off chicks. Cats were imported to kill the rats but instead joined in the killing of frigatebird chicks. "By the time Darwin visited the island in 1836, there were only a few frigatebirds left and the last few were killed off not long after he left," said Clare Stringer of the RSPB, which has played a key role in re-establishing the bird on Ascension. Only a small colony of around 10,000 survived on Boatswain Bird Island, a rocky outcrop off Ascension's east coast which could not be reached by cats.

In 2002, the RSPB – backed with funding from the Foreign Office – launched a programme to eradicate Ascension's feral cats. "It was slightly tricky," said Stringer. "We had to avoid killing islanders' pet cats and kill only feral animals. Owners were told to collar and microchip their pets. Then traps were laid and feral cats caught in these were put down."

In 2006, Ascension was declared to be free of wild cats. "It has taken six years to get frigatebirds to start to recolonise the island since we got rid of the feral cats and frankly it could have taken much longer," said Fox, who – with fellow conservation officer Stedson Stroud – has been monitoring the island for signs of the frigatebird's return. "We now have two nests being tended by parent birds and that should encourage a lot more to settle here in future."

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