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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1078272 times)
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« Reply #2940 on: Nov 07, 2012, 08:15 AM »

In the USA

Record number of women likely to serve in next Senate

By Jonathan Terbush
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 0:54 EST

As polls closed across the country Tuesday night, it appeared as though women would wind up holding a record high number of seats in the next Senate, based on projections of the 2012 elections.

By midnight eastern time, three female candidates had been predicted as winners of their contests, enough to offset the loss of two retiring female Senators. And the prospect remained of the new high reaching higher, as several more undecided races held the chance of producing a female winner as well.

In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren unseated incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R), returning to Democratic control the seat long held by Ted Kennedy. Then in Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin was predicted to win her race, which would make her the first openly gay Senator in the nation should that prediction hold true.

In Hawaii, two women faced off for the state’s vacant seat, with Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono winning and becoming Hawaii’s first female Senator.

Those victories offset the retirements of Republican Senators Olympia Snowe in Maine, and Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas.

Should the projected outcomes hold, that would give women 18 seats in the next Senate, one more than the current record of 17. And that’s before the outcome of two more races with strong female candidates are even called. By early morning Wednesday, it was still too close to call Nevada’s Senate race, where Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) has a good shot to win her campaign. Similarly, North Dakota’s race, in which Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp held a lead late into the night, could result in one more woman in the Senate.

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill came from behind to win reelection, largely thanks to an unforced mistake by opponent Rep. Todd Akin, who implied that some rapes were more “legitimate” than others.

In the House, women also stood to gain based on early returns. In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth was expected to knock off incumbent Tea Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh (R.)

The gains for female politicians—and the rebukes of candidates who made shocking remarks about women and women’s issues—come after the two parties spent months battling over the so-called “war on women.” Democrats have long tried to convince voters that Republicans will roll back women’s rights, including their reproductive rights. And to be fair, Republicans rashly pursued a number of controversial values-based votes after reclaiming the House in 2010, such as a proposal that would have redefined rape.

Then during the campaign season, with prognosticators predicting that female voters would play a pivotal role in the election, several Republican candidates made widely unpopular remarks about women, rape and abortion, sparking a media firestorm and sending those candidates spiraling in the polls.

And of course there was Romney’s own infamous moment when, in the penultimate presidential debate, he referenced the “binders full of women” he used to staff his cabinet in Massachusetts, prompting yet another round of conservative anti-women memes.


Tammy Baldwin becomes first openly gay senator

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 0:43 EST

Tammy Baldwin made history on Tuesday night by becoming the first openly gay woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Baldwin defeated her Republican challenger Tommy Thompson in the Wisconsin Senate race. The tightly contested race broke spending records in the state as outside groups pumped more than $30 million into the election.

“This night will go down in history,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. The group, dedicated to electing LGBT individuals, had repeatedly endorsed Baldwin.

“This is a historic victory not only for the people of Wisconsin, but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans across the country who have finally gained an authentic and powerful voice in Congress’ upper chamber,” Wolfe added. “Tonight Tammy shattered a glass ceiling that has existed for more than two centuries, and we could not be more thrilled.”

Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to win election to the U.S. Congress as a freshman in 1998.


Washington state votes to legalize marijuana

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 1:28 EST

Washington voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 502, a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.

As of 10:00 p.m. PST, the ballot initiative was up 55.45 percent to 44.55 percent.

Initiative 502 legalized the production and sale of marijuana in Washington state through state-licensed stores. Under the law, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will regulate marijuana-shops, and possessing up to an ounce of marijuana will be legal.

The Washington State Democratic Central Committee, the state-wide umbrella organization for the Democratic Party, had endorsed Initiative 502. In a resolution passed last year, the Democrats stated that “marijuana is Washington’s second biggest cash crop and could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues” and that outlawing the drug was “wasting millions of dollars.” The initiative was also supported by the NAACP, ACLU and a number of other organizations.

Initiative 502 also amends Washington’s DUI laws by making driving under the influence of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, illegal. The 5 nanogram limit would not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC, which can appear in blood or urine tests for weeks.

Colorado voters also approved a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use Tuesday night.


Same sex marriage measures approved in three states

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 0:52 EST

Supporters of same sex marriage won electoral victories in three separate states across the country, with a throwback Minnesota ballot initiative codifying matrimony as the sole province of heterosexual couples trailing of 1 am EST.

According to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, support for Amendment 1 was two percentage points behind opposition, 54 percent to 52, with 67 percent of state precincts reporting. Meanwhile, pro same-sex marriage measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington state all passed, with Maine becoming the first state ever where marriage equality won on a popular vote.

In Maine, Question 1 won approval by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent with 49 percent of precincts reporting in. Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement the vote showed residents the issue was “one of human dignity,” instead of one painted across partisan lines.

“The claims made by anti-gay activists that voters would never embrace marriage for gay and lesbian couples could not be further from the truth,” Graddick said. “Across lines of politics, race, religion and gender, Mainers today demonstrated that marriage equality is the becoming a real part of American history.”

In Maryland, NBC News projected passage of Question 6 by four points, 52 percent to 48 percent, with 93 percent of precincts reporting. If the lead holds, the measure would take effect in January.

In Washington, Referendum 74 passed by the same margin, according to the Associated Press. The law had been signed into effect by Governor Chris Gregoire earlier this year but was not implemented, pending the vote results.
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« Reply #2941 on: Nov 08, 2012, 07:45 AM »

November 8, 2012

Preparing to Step Aside, Chinese Leader Warns of Challenges


BEIJING — Capping 10 careful years at the helm of the Communist Party, China’s top leader, Hu Jintao, on Thursday boasted of successes during his tenure while issuing a blunt warning against unrest and political reform.

Mr. Hu, 69, is to step down as the party’s general secretary next week, handing over power to his designated successor, Xi Jinping. His speech at the opening here in Beijing of the Communist Party’s 18th Congress was likely to be his last major address — a chance to write his own eulogy while also setting the course for Mr. Xi.

“He’s worried about how history will view him,” said Qian Gang, who works with the China Media Project of Hong Kong University. “On the whole, he is against reform.”

Formally, Mr. Hu nodded to almost every manner of reform: economic, social, political and environmental. But, in the fashion of his predecessors, this was balanced with warnings of the need to guard against a rise in unrest. It was an unusual admission for a man whose signature slogan is creating for China a “harmonious society.”

“Social contradictions have clearly increased,” said the formal 64-page document issued at the congress. (Mr. Hu’s speech, even at 100 minutes, was only a summary.)

“There are many problems concerning the public’s immediate interests in education, employment, social security, health care, housing, the environment, food and drug safety, workplace safety, public security and law enforcement.”

The solution, Mr. Hu said, was “reform and opening up,” a policy initiated by the man who chose him for the job nearly two decades ago, the paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

Mr. Hu also lauded his own contribution to Communist Party ideology: “Scientific Development.” All of his predecessors have had their own ideologies enshrined as guiding state doctrines. His repetition of the phrase — which means that the party should be pragmatic and follow policies that are demonstrably effective — implied that he, too, would be so honored.

But his caveats to reform were many.

According to Mr. Qian, a leading expert on textual analysis of Chinese leaders’ speeches, Mr. Hu’s speech hit on almost every anti-reform phrase used by Chinese Communist leaders.

He referred to Communist China’s founder three times with the phrase “Mao Zedong Thought,” and said the party must “resolutely not follow Western political systems,” something not mentioned at the last party congress five years ago.

“They don’t say these terms lightly,” Mr. Qian said. “When they mention it, it matters.”

Mr. Hu also coined a new term, pledging that the party will not to follow the “wicked way” of changing the party’s course.

Mr. Hu’s speech is thought to have been drawn up in cooperation with his successor, Mr. Xi. While Mr. Xi is widely thought to be consulting with liberal members of China’s intelligentsia, he either did not oppose Mr. Hu’s direction or was not able to change it.

That is important, observers say, because Mr. Xi will not exercise unrestrained power when he takes over. Besides the other half-dozen members on the Standing Committee of the party’s Politburo, he will also have to listen to the advice of Mr. Hu, Mr. Hu’s own predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and an estimated 20 other “senior leaders.” As if to emphasize their role, these men were seated on the dais next to Mr. Hu. Many of them are in their 70s and 80s and have exercised power for decades.

“Xi Jinping certainly won’t be a Gorbachev,” said Yao Jianfu, a former official and researcher who closely follows Chinese politics and advocates democratic change. “Every aspect of reform has an important precondition — that the Communist Party remains in charge.”

Even though Mr. Hu’s speech was broadcast live on national television and on screens in Beijing subway cars, gauging popular opinion was difficult.

Microbloggers, who are mostly urban and fairly well educated, at times cast scorn on the rhetoric. One blogger listed the Marxist terminology that Mr. Hu used and wrote simply “madness.” Others used laughing emoticons, while some delved closely into the speech for clues to new policies — some noted that he did not mention China’s unpopular single-child policy.

Mr. Hu’s tough rhetoric on social issues contrasted with his strong reaffirmation of the Communist Party’s commitment to the economic policy mantra of “reform and opening up,” a policy that has produced soaring trade and economic growth over the past three decades.

Many economists have begun to question, however, whether Mr. Hu’s tenure has amounted to a “lost decade” for economic reform. State-owned enterprises have gradually strengthened their roles in the economy through a combination of monopoly power and access to cheap loans from state-owned banks.

Mr. Hu called for reform of state-owned enterprises and a level playing field for entrepreneurs who try to compete against them. He also endorsed a series of other economic liberalization moves that have been discussed for years, although their progress has sometimes been slow during his tenure.

Mr. Hu endorsed making interest rates and the exchange rate of the renminbi more dependent on markets and less on government fiat. The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has already begun doing this by gradually broadening the range of interest rates that banks can charge based on the creditworthiness of borrowers and by widening the daily range in which the currency can trade against the dollar.

Mr. Hu also repeated the government’s longstanding desire to expand the role of consumer spending in the economy and reduce the dependence on investment — although despite years of similar statements, the share of economic output from investment spending set another record last year, at 45.7 percent.

Another frequent complaint of foreign governments and foreign businesses, China’s lax enforcement of copyrights and patents, drew at least an acknowledgment from Mr. Hu, who promised greater protection of intellectual property as a way to foster innovation in China.

There was one perhaps unintentional sign at the Party Congress that China remains enthusiastic about foreign brands — at least if they are manufactured in China. A special parking lot for officials on the north side of the Great Hall of the People, across the street from the walled residential compound where the country’s leaders live, was full of German, American and Japanese cars, with no sign of any Chinese models.

The lot held at least a dozen black Audi A8 sedans and several dark blue Buick GL8 minivans — both are assembled in China — and even a white Toyota Highlander crossover utility vehicle. Sales of Japanese-brand models have plummeted about 40 percent in each of the past two months compared with a year ago after a Sino-Japanese territorial dispute in the East China Sea led to rioting and the destruction of around 100 Japanese brand cars.

Mobs have attacked Japanese cars, and occasionally even their owners, even though most Japanese cars sold in China are manufactured by joint ventures in China so as to avoid China’s 25 percent tax on imported cars, the highest of any large auto market.


November 7, 2012

Long Retired, Ex-Leader of China Asserts Sway Over Top Posts


BEIJING — In a year of scandals and corruption charges at the commanding heights of the Communist Party, a retired party chief some had written off as a spent force has thrust himself back into China’s most important political decisions and emerged as a dominant figure shaping the future leadership.

The resurgence of Jiang Zemin, the 86-year-old former leader, is all the more striking because he was said last year to be near death. But over recent months, Mr. Jiang, who left office a decade ago, has worked assiduously behind the scenes, voicing frustration with the record of his successor, Hu Jintao, and maneuvering to have his protégés dominate the party’s incoming ruling group. He even weighed in on how to deal with Bo Xilai, the populist political figure who was caught up in a major scandal and was investigated after his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.

Mr. Jiang has also sought to shape policy, party insiders say, by proposing changes to an agenda-setting report presented Thursday at the start of the 18th Party Congress, the weeklong meeting that precedes the naming of Mr. Hu’s replacement and a new generation of leaders. Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu arrived together at the Great Hall of the People, before others in the senior leadership — another sign of Mr. Jiang’s influence.

Mr. Jiang’s goal, those insiders say, appears to be to put China back on a path toward market-oriented economic policies that he and his allies argue stagnated under a decade of cautious leadership by Mr. Hu, a colorless party leader who favored more traditional socialist programs and allowed gargantuan state-owned companies to amass greater wealth and influence. Many see Mr. Jiang, who brought China into the World Trade Organization and rebuilt ties to the United States after a breakdown in 1989, as favoring deeper ties to the West and more opportunities for China’s private sector.

Mr. Jiang was able to outflank Mr. Hu to shape a new lineup for the Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body, which appears to have Jiang allies chosen for five of the projected seven seats, according to party insiders. The most prominent is Xi Jinping, the designated heir to Mr. Hu as party chief and president.

“Look at the final seven people and you know who the big winner is: Jiang, or Jiang and Xi,” said an editor at a party media organization. “The loser is Hu.”

That Mr. Jiang has been able to insert himself so boldly shows how diluted power has become at the apex of the Communist Party, just as policy makers and intellectuals from all quarters say the nation needs strong leadership to guide it through a period of a slowing economy and rising social discontent.

Some supporters of Mr. Jiang say his involvement might give greater confidence to policy makers who could prove more amenable than Mr. Hu to loosening the hold of state-owned conglomerates in some crucial sectors, like finance and transportation, and also more inclined to establish a credible legal system that operates with a degree of autonomy from the party.

Such steps could inject vigor into the economy, while also signaling modest steps toward accountability demanded by China’s expanding middle class.

Even so, Mr. Jiang’s return to the center of party politics also exposes fundamental weaknesses in a system that relies on factional alliances and aging patriarchs to make crucial decisions.

China’s ambitions to rise to be a modern global power remain yoked to a secretive political system in which true authority resides in hidden recesses. That could spell trouble for Mr. Hu’s presumed successor, Mr. Xi, who has yet to establish his own credentials as the party’s ultimate authority. When the congress ends next week, there will be 20 retired Standing Committee members, most of whom expect some say in running the country and appointing allies.

Mr. Jiang does not possess the indomitable behind-the-scenes power once held by Deng Xiaoping, who ushered in market reforms after the death of Mao Zedong. But a year of division and uncertainty has created openings for Mr. Jiang to shape important decisions.

“The atmosphere seems very tense,” said Christopher K. Johnson, a former C.I.A. analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who recently visited Beijing. “The problem is that there’s no senior figure in charge — there’s no revolutionary elder to act as arbiter and manage the different groups.”

“My sense of the games that Jiang is playing is, ‘This is my last hurrah, and I want to show that I still matter,’ ” Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Jiang retired as party secretary in November 2002 and stepped down as state president the following March. He remained the chief of China’s military until late 2004, which led to impatience among many party officials. His relationship with his successor has been a delicate one, shaped by the fact that Mr. Hu was put on the path to the top leadership by the party patriarch, Mr. Deng, leaving Mr. Jiang with no independent choice over who would succeed him.

The decade-long rule of Mr. Hu and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, has been criticized as a period when China’s leaders, despite robust economic growth over much of that period, bolstered state enterprises, expanded the security apparatus and eroded basic legal protections. Mr. Jiang has been the most powerful voice privately criticizing the Hu administration’s policies.

“His line of attack has been that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have been too cautious about reform, and the slowdown in growth might have been mitigated by more aggressive reforms earlier on,” one official said.

Any calls for reform in China encompass a broad array of possibilities. Some intellectuals and policy advisers are seeking a significant relaxation of China’s authoritarian political system, but there is no sign Mr. Jiang backs any such transformation. Instead, he seems primarily focused on economic issues.

Mr. Jiang was able to raise his concerns about the direction of policy when invited to comment on a draft of the political report that was presented to the congress, two party insiders said. That report is intended to sum up the achievements under Mr. Hu, but also to sketch out future priorities. After Mr. Hu gave a 100-minute speech on the report on Thursday, delegates applauded for several seconds, but Mr. Jiang clapped faintly just a few times.

Political insiders said Mr. Jiang’s involvement in determining the new Standing Committee, expected to be announced at the end of the congress next week, is his clearest expression of impatience with Mr. Hu’s policies and faction. Months ago, analysts had expected the incoming committee to be almost evenly balanced between Hu and Jiang allies. But Mr. Jiang’s power plays, aided by scandals this year, including one that weakened Ling Jihua, a powerful aide of Mr. Hu’s, have changed that.

One recent move by Mr. Jiang was to strongly back Yu Zhengsheng, the party chief of Shanghai, for a Standing Committee seat. Other Jiang allies expected to join the committee are Zhang Dejiang, a vice prime minister and party chief of Chongqing; Zhang Gaoli, the party chief of Tianjin; and Wang Qishan, another vice prime minister.

Of the favorites for the committee, only Li Keqiang, the designated prime minister, and Liu Yunshan, director of the party’s propaganda department, are considered allies of Mr. Hu’s. But even Mr. Liu received a career lift under Mr. Jiang.Five of the seven would retire after one five-year term because of an age limit.

Mr. Jiang’s motives are not entirely clear. While several people say he mounted his political offensive in the name of reform, some say his allies in crucial party posts previously hindered any bold moves by Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen. And the proposed lineup that bears his imprint appears to be short of officials known to advocate market-driven growth and less state meddling. The two Zhangs are reputed to be conservative, and Mr. Wang, a supporter of a more open financial sector, looks unlikely to be given a major role in economic policy.

In principle, Mr. Jiang and other leaders are supposed to retreat from any public role in setting policy after leaving office. Since retiring, Mr. Jiang has been following a regimen of swimming, listening to tutorials with scholars, and preparing his biography and other publications, an aide to a prominent official said.

But Mr. Jiang has also used a succession of statements and appearances to signal that he remains active in politics. A preface he wrote to a history textbook published in July served to remind readers that he was paying attention to the party’s future. Despite China’s spectacular growth and rising power, he wrote, “we must clearly recognize that there are still many hardships and challenges on our road forward, in both domestic and external conditions.”

Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting, and Amy Qin contributed research.


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« Reply #2942 on: Nov 08, 2012, 07:53 AM »

November 7, 2012

An Array of Relationships for Obama to Strengthen and Redefine


WASHINGTON — If history is any guide, President Obama will cast his eye abroad over the next four years, hoping to put an imprint on the world that matches the sweeping domestic programs of his first term. From Iran and Russia to China and the Middle East, there are plenty of opportunities, but also perils, for a leader seeking a statesman’s legacy.

Many of the issues Mr. Obama will have no choice but to address. For months, decisions on a number of festering problem areas have been deferred by administration officials until after the election. And yet as Richard M. Nixon did in opening ties to China or Ronald Reagan in embracing arms control, Mr. Obama could see the foreign policy arena as a place to achieve something more lasting in a second term than crisis management and more satisfying than the gridlock that has bedeviled his domestic initiatives.

Atop Mr. Obama’s list, administration officials and foreign policy experts agree, is a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program. The United States is likely to engage the Iranian government in direct negotiations in the next few months, officials said, in what would be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to head off a military strike on its nuclear facilities.

Officials insist they have not set a date for talks nor do they know if Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blessed them. But with Iran’s centrifuges spinning and Israel threatening its own strike, the clock is ticking, and it may put pressure on the Iranians to make a deal, particularly between now and Iran’s presidential elections next June.

“If they can achieve something during that period, it would create a new dynamic and create a very promising opening,” said Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy group based in Washington that favors diplomacy.

While Mr. Obama can scarcely hope for something as seminal as President Nixon’s famous journey to Beijing, experts say he has the chance to forge a new relationship with China that takes into account its rising economic might.

Last year, the president articulated a “strategic pivot” from the Middle East to China and Asia. Critics said there was less to the initiative than met the eye. But with four more years, Mr. Obama could put meat on the bones of an ambitious, if incomplete, policy.

To be credible in Asia, experts said, the United States will need a robust military presence from the Yellow Sea to the South China Sea. But unless the White House and Congress strike a fiscal deal, the Pentagon will face deep budget cuts, depriving it of the ability to project such power. The challenge will be to assert a big role without precipitating a clash with Beijing. “It’s going to have to be very deft and subtle in its implementation because there’s going to be pushback from the Chinese,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state who teaches at Harvard.

There may also be an opening for Mr. Obama with Russia on one of his most cherished issues: nuclear nonproliferation. Among the most intriguing congratulatory telegrams the president received this week was from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who had taken a bristling tone toward the United States for much of the last year. On Wednesday, Mr. Putin and his surrogates signaled a willingness to make deals with the United States.

In his infamous remark to then-President Dmitri A. Medvedev last March, picked up by an open microphone, Mr. Obama promised “flexibility” after the election on a missile defense system based in Europe — a concession Mr. Putin, who succeeded Mr. Medvedev last May, has long sought. In Washington, a government review group has been quietly preparing strategic arms-reductions proposals.

“It’s teed up for the president to make the decision,” said Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “If you think about what his legacy would be, this is something he would like to leave behind.”

For Mr. Obama, the Middle East is generally less a landscape for bold new initiatives than a place for triage. On situations as varied as the crackdown in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the president will have to fight to keep intact even the vestiges of the overture he made to the Islamic world early in his presidency.

But other unfinished business remains there — not least Mr. Obama’s frustrated efforts to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But several experts expressed doubt that the president would thrust himself again into the role of Middle East peacemaker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has had a fraught relationship with Mr. Obama, seems likely to stay in power with a right-wing government.

“Because he got his fingers burned and was outmaneuvered by Netanyahu, he will wait to see the outcome in the Israeli election,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel.

Mr. Obama will not be able to avoid one issue. Over American and Israeli objections, the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is likely to petition for nonstate membership in the United Nations next month — a step he had put off for the election. If the United Nations were to grant that, it would cause Congress to cut off aid not only to the Palestinian Authority but also to the United Nations.

“He doesn’t have an easy way to head off this vote,” said Mr. Indyk, one of the authors of a book about Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, “Bending History.” “But if Obama sends a message to Abu Mazen that he is going to reinvigorate the peace process, this could give Abu Mazen a way to climb down from the tree he’s in.”

Ellen Barry contributed reporting from Moscow, and Rick Gladstone from New York.


November 7, 2012

Obama Victory Brings Europe a Sense of Continuity and Relief


PARIS — The victory of President Obama after a campaign that turned partly on the role of government in the American economy is likely to resonate in some unusual ways across the Atlantic, where European leaders remain locked in a contentious struggle over austerity, slow growth and the future of the European welfare state.

Though European politics have their own dynamic, the role of government in a time of economic stress, which figured prominently in the campaign, is deeply divisive here as well. European experts said both President François Hollande, a pro-growth Socialist who just proposed a $25 billion cut in business taxes for France, and Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy seemed to gain the most politically from Mr. Obama’s victory.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and the high priest of European austerity, may have more to lose. Austerity has significantly deepened Europe’s slump this year, many economists say, and Ms. Merkel is facing a tougher challenge from fellow European leaders as well as her own opposition Social Democrats in Germany, who could gain from the re-election of a Democratic president in the United States who favors national health care and fiscal stimulus.

For the British prime minister, David Cameron, who championed austerity, the re-election of Mr. Obama may deprive him of an economic soul mate, but it also leaves in place a firm ally on issues of free trade and security.

The impact of Mr. Obama’s re-election may be limited to a degree by his faded appeal around the Continent compared with 2008, when he was hailed as a hero.

“This is a president whose policies are closer to European policies,” said Laurence Nardon, head of the United States program at the French Institute for International Relations. “The French adore Obama but in a strange way, because he is not very warm and he hasn’t truly clicked with European countries.”

He is seen as generally supportive of European efforts to deal more firmly and quickly with the euro crisis, sending Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to hector European leaders to act fast and not rely only on austerity measures to deal with fiscal debt. For a time, Mr. Geithner’s name was reviled by some Europeans, especially Germans, as someone handing out advice while letting the American debt balloon far beyond European levels.

There was greater appreciation in Italy from supporters of Mr. Monti, who found a quiet ally in Mr. Obama against the austerity dogma of Germany.

“I think Mario Monti found a good talking partner in Obama,” said Sergio Romano, a columnist for the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera and a former ambassador. “Even if Obama is not particularly involved in European issues, the resolution of E.U. woes has been essential to his economic policy, and Monti offered him a guarantee that Italy was acting. On the other hand, Monti needed to restore Italy’s political, economic and financial credibility at the international level, and Obama offered him a chance to do so.”

Mr. Hollande summed up the hopes of the European left neatly in his official congratulations to Mr. Obama, which he sent to “Cher Barack.” “Your re-election is a clear choice in favor of an America that is open, united, fully engaged on the international scene and conscious of our planet’s challenges: peace, the economy and the environment,” Mr. Hollande said. He added that he hoped the election result would bring a renewed focus on “economic growth to battle against unemployment in our countries.”

Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, said Ms. Merkel, who is up for re-election this year, ultimately has a decent working relationship with Mr. Obama, despite their clear differences.

“Merkel and Obama embrace very different economic philosophies,” Mr. Perthes said. “She doesn’t much like Keynesianism and quantitative easing. But it’s easier for them to work with the people they know.”

In any case, the German model of social market capitalism that Ms. Merkel favors remains left-wing in American terms, reliant on a large state welfare system and national health care. “There would not have been much fun between Merkel and Paul Ryan,” Mr. Perthes said.

Maïa de la Baume and Scott Sayare contributed reporting from Paris, and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.


November 7, 2012

Abroad, Obama’s Victory Brings Demands for Attention


LONDON — World leaders sought comfort from the familiar on Wednesday after President Obama’s re-election but, with the global political landscape substantially unchanged and crises on hold while the vote unfolded, many vied with new vigor for his attention and favor as he embarks on a second term.

In marked contrast to a euphoric surge four years ago, when many hailed Mr. Obama’s victory as a herald of renewal, the mood was subdued, reflecting not only the shadings of opinion between the American leader’s friends and foes but also a generally lowered expectation of America’s power overseas.

Mr. Obama, one French analyst said, is “very far from the hopes that inflamed his country four years ago.”

Even in Kenya, where Mr. Obama’s father was from, the energy surrounding this election was just a shadow of what it had been in 2008, when it seemed as if the entire African continent was cheering him on. Many Kenyans have been disappointed that Mr. Obama has yet to visit as president, part of a broader feeling on the continent that Africa has not been a priority, certainly not compared with the unfolding nuclear debate in Iran and the civil war in Syria.

Some were quick to list their conflicting requirements, signaling the diplomatic shoals ahead.

Iranian officials hinted that talks were possible between Iran and the United States. “If it benefits the system, we will negotiate with the U.S.A. even in the depths of hell,” Mohammad Javad Larijani, one of several brothers with key positions in the ruling elite, told the semiofficial Mehr news agency, saying bilateral talks were “not taboo.”

Last month, some Obama administration officials said such talks had been agreed to in principle, but that was later denied in Washington and Tehran.

Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament, who is regarded as a staunch ally of the Republicans, evoked “the existential threat posed to Israel and the West by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“Now is the time for President Obama to return to the wise and time-honored policy of ‘zero daylight’ between our respective nations,” Mr. Danon said.

Mr. Danon is a member of the conservative Likud Party, led by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has tense relations with Mr. Obama and who was widely perceived in Israel and the United States as having supported the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said in a brief statement that he hoped that Mr. Obama would press for peace in the Middle East.

That call seemed mirrored in Malaysia, where Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Mr. Obama to “continue in his efforts to foster understanding and respect between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

But, after the upheaval of the Arab Spring, such overtures now seem more complex. In Cairo, where Mr. Obama committed himself three years ago to “a new beginning” with the Arab world, Essam el-Erian, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, said in an online posting as the results became clear, “We have to realize that after the Arab revolutions, we can reduce foreign interference in our domestic affairs and our foreign policy — with American interference first on the list.”

Before the outcome was known, Chinese analysts had summed up what seemed to be a widespread calculation that the Chinese leadership, itself scheduled to change in two days’ time, favored Mr. Obama “because he’s familiar,” said Wu Xinbo, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. A victory for Mr. Romney would have made China “a little nervous because he might bring new policies.”

President Hu Jintao of China praised the “hard work of the Chinese and American sides” in creating “positive developments” in their relationship during Mr. Obama’s first term.

“With an eye toward the future, China is willing, together with the United States,” he said, “to continue to make efforts to promote the cooperative partnership between China and the United States so as to achieve new and even greater development, bringing better benefits to the people of the two countries and the people of the world.”

China’s response was colored by a pre-election pledge from Mr. Romney to label Beijing a currency manipulator. “With Obama continuing,” said Poon Tsang, a street market vendor in Hong Kong, “there should be some stability in his relationship with China.”

Across Europe, many greeted news of Mr. Obama’s re-election with a sense of mild relief, though it was not immediately clear whether those feelings were accompanied by any enhanced expectation that armed with a new mandate, the Obama administration would find solutions to the huge challenges still facing it in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and the Middle East.

Imran Khan, a prominent Pakistani politician, urged Mr. Obama to “give peace a chance” after a first term marked by “increased drone attacks, a surge in Afghanistan, increased militancy in Pakistan as a result of that.”

Most Afghans appeared pleased by the election result, welcoming the continuity it offered in a country buffeted violently by change and conflict over the past few years, although many were worried that Mr. Obama could accelerate the withdrawal of American troops from the country, due to conclude in 2014.

Mr. Obama is also under pressure to increase his involvement in ending the Syrian war.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Jordan, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said early on Wednesday, “One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis.”

On the ground in Syria, rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad seemed divided over the effect of a second term for Mr. Obama. A commander who asked to be identified only by his first name, Maysara, said he expected Washington to take a much clearer stance within 10 days. “If they don’t, Syria will become like Somalia,” he said.

By contrast, Fawaz Tello, an opposition figure living in Germany, referred to a Romney proposal to help the rebels while “Obama made no clear proposals.” A second term for Mr. Obama, he said, is “not a good sign.”

Some of the favorable responses to Mr. Obama reflected campaign blunders by Mr. Romney, who drew barbs from both Britons and Spaniards for remarks about their countries.

“We in Spain wanted Obama to win because he is more like us; we still see him as a transformative leader,” said Manel Manchon, a political scientist. “Romney insulted Spain, and you can’t just blame Spain for this crisis.”

Like most Western Europeans, Britons are broadly more liberal than Americans; even most British conservatives sympathize far more with Democratic than with Republican views on social issues like abortion, the death penalty and health care.

There is also a perception in Britain and elsewhere in Europe that a Romney government would have been parochial, suspicious of foreigners and untested in world affairs, while Mr. Obama’s victory, as the left-leaning Guardian newspaper put it, “is good for Americans, good for America, and good for the world.”

Mr. Obama’s standing elsewhere seemed more ambiguous.

After his election in 2008, for instance, Mr. Obama promised a “reset” with Moscow. But the United States and Russia took opposing positions on the Libyan and Syrian crises and the Kremlin has depicted the American response to antigovernment protests in Moscow as undermining President Vladimir V. Putin’s return to power.

However, after Mr. Obama’s victory became clear, Russian officials issued the most optimistic comments to be heard in months about relations with the United States.

Dmitri S. Peskov, spokesman for Mr. Putin, said, “In general, the Kremlin took the news about Barack Obama’s victory in the elections quite positively.”

In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent some of his childhood, students at his former elementary school cheered his victory, as did elite Indonesians gathered at a party hosted by the American Embassy. On the streets, motorcycle taxi drivers raised their fists, shouting, “Obama, Obama.”

For some Europeans, the victory offered an object lesson in the politics of economic hardship that has cost leaders in France, Spain and Britain and elsewhere their jobs.

“Obama has succeeded where Sarkozy, Zapatero and Brown failed — to be re-elected amid a major economic crisis,” François Sergent, a deputy editor, wrote in a special edition of the leftist newspaper Libération in France, referring to the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy; José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former prime minister of Spain; and Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister.

The sense that Mr. Obama’s second term would be less constrained by electoral considerations offered analysts a rich theme. “For all the criticism of Obama, he now has the tail wind and the independence of not having to seek re-election,” Philipp Missfelder, a leading member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said in an interview. “He can use that for foreign policy, too.”

But there was unease in Germany that Mr. Obama’s focus on Asian issues, in particular the rise of China, had sapped trans-Atlantic ties with Europe. “I hope he will not only be the Pacific president, but also the trans-Atlantic president,” Mr. Messfelder said.

In South Africa, whose prism is shaped by the decades of apartheid, Mathews Phosa, a senior member of the ruling African National Congress, said the outcome made Mr. Obama a potent symbol of the triumph of merit over race. “There is hope for the future if we all transcend racial patterns and look at people as people on their merits,” he said.

And Mr. Obama’s re-election brought relief and some economic concern in Brazil, where he is broadly popular and seen as more cautious in foreign policy than his Republican challengers.

“Everything that happens in the United States influences every other country, in both positive and negative ways,” said Rogério Antonio, 31, a salesman in an optical store in Rio de Janeiro. “It’s as though someone threw a pebble in the water and you sit waiting for the ripples to come out your way.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 7, 2012

An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation. It was Philipp Missfelder of the Christian Democratic Party in Germany, not Claudia Schmucker of the German Council on Foreign Relations, who said: “For all the criticism of Obama, he now has the tail wind and the independence of not having to seek re-election. He can use that for foreign policy, too.”


11/07/2012 06:09 PM

Homework for the Second Term: What Germany Expects from Obama

By Severin Weiland in Berlin

Europe is no longer the greatest priority in American foreign policy, but many German politicians would like to see that change. Washington and Berlin face common challenges -- from the economy to Iran's nuclear program. Now that he has been re-elected, the hope is that President Obama will visit to discuss the issues.

In Berlin, politicians had been anticipating the outcome for the United States election that came late Tuesday night. Christoph Heusgen, foreign policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, first sounded out the US president some time ago about a possible visit to Germany. The hope was that Barack Obama, if he got re-elected, might drop in on Merkel at some point during the first year of his second presidential term.

That visit could happen soon. The invitation to President Obama stands, even if the time and place have yet to be established. Shortly after Obama's electoral victory was announced, Merkel wrote the American president with her congratulations, adding, "I would be pleased to welcome you again soon as my guest in Germany." German President Joachim Gauck likewise sent his congratulations across the Atlantic.

So what does Obama's re-election actually mean for Germany? Will the president set a new tone in German-American relations in the coming four years? From the German government's perspective, the top priority -- not least because of its effects on the global economy -- is the United States' high national deficit. Chancellor Merkel and her strategists have expectations for Obama to finally consolidate his country's budget. "The time of policies financed by debt has come to an end, and the US knows this," says Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). "Obama needs to demonstrate that he can get the deficit under control," stresses Philipp Missfelder, the foreign policy spokesperson in the federal parliament, the Bundestag, for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Old Continent No Longer Ranks 1st in America's Eyes

Obama's win over challenger Mitt Romney has been met with relief among politicians in Berlin for a simple reason: The Republican candidate was considered by some in the German government and the governing coalition to be an enigma on matters of foreign policy, while Obama is a known factor -- even if his first term hasn't exactly dazzled the world with an energetic approach to foreign policy. Only after long hesitation did Obama engage in the aerial warfare that toppled Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. In the case of Iran's secret nuclear program, it was the United Nations that stepped in. And in the ongoing civil war in Syria, Obama has not yet managed to budge Russia away from its support of Bashar Assad's regime.

Obama has a great deal to do in terms of foreign policy -- and at the same time new conflicts are arising, for example in Mali, where the rebel-held north of the country threatens to develop into a new center of international terrorism. Still, Obama's re-election should make planning on one important point easier for the NATO states, and thus for Germany: the future of NATO's engagement in the Hindu Kush. President Obama's goal remains the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by 2014. Other nations with troops in Afghanistan, including Germany, have oriented their plans around this goal. During the election campaign, Romney sowed doubt about the plan for withdrawal, leaving politicians in all the NATO states wondering what would come next.

International cooperation with Obama, though, has its own potential problem areas. The president's focus on the Asia-Pacific region in recent years has made clear to his European partners that the old Continent no longer ranks first in the American president's eyes.

Many politicians who play a role in shaping foreign policy in Berlin would like to see that change. Ruprecht Polenz, who is the chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, proposes revitalizing previous calls to create a trans-Atlantic free-trade zone. The politician, a member of Merkel's CDU party, believes that could help tighten ties between Europe and the United States. Five years ago, when Germany held the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, the chancellor created the Trans-Atlantic Economic Council (TEC), the aim of which is to remove or lower barriers to the free flow of goods, services and capital between the two continents. However, little has happened since then. Nor is it likely that such a free-trade agreement could take shape quickly. Amidst the economic crisis and relatively high unemployment, protectionist sentiments are growing -- within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Worries Grow of Conflict Between US and China

The United States has accused Beijing of currency manipulation and industrial espionage, but cheap imports from China have been a source of particularly intense strife. Critics in Washington allege the Chinese keep the exchange rate artificially low in order to increase exports and limit imports. Still, any major conflict between the United States and Beijing -- which could take place either by way of a trade dispute or a proxy within China's sphere of influence in the southeast Asian region -- could also threaten to have an impact on the German economy.

"We have a major interest in ensuring that a confrontation between the US and China does not taking shape," says Rolf Mützenich, the foreign policy expert in parliament for the center-left Social Democratic Party. "Europe needs to make some suggestions here." What members of Merkel's government coalition would like to see right now is for Obama to rethink his previous stances on China. "When it comes to the Asian challenge," CDU foreign policy expert Missfelder says, "there should be a better and tighter exchange (of information) between America and Europe."

Meanwhile, the question of when Obama will visit Germany remains an open one. As president, Obama has already travelled to Germany twice, but he has not yet visited Berlin, the capital. But that could soon change -- at least if you go by hints provided by US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy. "Every visit is enriching. But Berlin is a special place and I hope that he will come here soon."

During a visit by Merkel to the US last year, Obama himself said he would love to visit Berlin -- after his re-election. There's a hitch though. Germany is heading into a national election next September and the campaign will kick into high gear starting in mid-2013. Obama would have to visit before summer in order to avoid making it look like he was giving a boost, intentional or not, to Merkel's re-election effort. That, at least, is how the Social Democrats, who are roughly tantamount in Germany to Obama's Democratic Party, view the matter.

That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for a visit by a US president, especially since the massive security effort that is necessary requires meticulous preparations. But Obama knows Berlin and probably has good memories of the city. As a senator running for president in 2008, he gave a major speech in front of Berlin's Victory Column. Around 200,000 people came to listen to him. It was a major event -- the kind that people remember for a long time.

With additional material from news wires.


November 7, 2012

Netanyahu Rushes to Repair Damage With Obama


JERUSALEM — Over the past several years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on several occasions confronted or even undercut President Obama, taking his message directly to the Israel-friendly United States Congress, challenging Mr. Obama’s appeal to the Arab world, and seeming this fall to support his opponent, Mitt Romney.

Mr. Netanyahu woke up Wednesday to find not only that his Republican friend had lost, but also that many Israelis were questioning whether he had risked their collective relationship with Washington.

“This has not been a very good morning for Netanyahu,” a deputy prime minister, Eli Yishai of the religious Shas Party, told journalists in Eilat.

The prime minister, facing his own re-election fight on Jan. 22, did not directly acknowledge any missteps, but he rushed to repair the relationship. He called the American ambassador to his office for a ceremonial hug. He issued a damage-control statement declaring the bond between the two nations “rock solid.” He put out word to leaders of his Likud Party whose congratulatory messages had included criticism of Mr. Obama that they should stop.

Mr. Netanyahu still maintains strong ties to members of Congress, particularly Republicans, and to other influential Americans. But his strained relationship with Mr. Obama may prove more than a temporary political headache. Israeli leaders and analysts are concerned that the prime minister has hampered his ability to influence Washington on vital policy matters, particularly the Iranian nuclear threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In practical terms, Jerusalem is worried that Washington will agree to direct talks with Tehran, and go easier on the Palestinian Authority’s quest this month for upgraded status in the United Nations.

“Netanyahu backed the wrong horse,” Mitchell Barak, a pollster and strategist, said at a morning gathering of Americans watching the election results here. “Whoever is elected prime minister is going to have to handle the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we all know Netanyahu is not the right guy.”

Mr. Obama’s re-election seemed to embolden Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister who has spent the past few years battling corruption charges, making it more likely that he will forge a comeback that he hopes can unite and expand Israel’s center-left bloc.

“Given what Netanyahu had done these recent months, the question is: Does our prime minister still have a friend in the White House?” Mr. Olmert asked at a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York. “I am not certain of this, and this might be very significant to us at critical points.”

Few believe that Mr. Obama will act to punish Mr. Netanyahu, but their notoriously tense relationship, made worse in recent months not only by the Romney question but also by Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line position on Iran, could hurt efforts to coordinate priorities. And freed from electoral concerns, the second-term president may prove likelier to pursue his own path without worry about backlash from Washington’s powerful and wealthy pro-Israel lobby.

“I would be surprised if he were more rather than less forthcoming in dealing with Israel,” Bob Zelnick, a former Middle East correspondent for ABC News who now teaches at Boston University, said of Mr. Obama. “My sense is that he both dislikes and distrusts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and that he is more likely to use his new momentum to settling scores than to settling issues.”

On Iran, the immediate concern here is that a White House pursuit of bilateral talks would stretch out the timetable for diplomacy even as Mr. Netanyahu’s famous “red line” for halting Iran’s capability to develop a nuclear weapon closes in. On Wednesday, one member of the inner circle of Iran’s ruling system said such talks — the subject of an October article in The New York Times — are “not a taboo,” though another said it was a “big mistake” for Washington to think it could “blackmail” Iran into relations.

Several analysts said Mr. Obama was loath to take on a new Middle East military operation; indeed, one of the biggest applause lines in his victory speech was his declaration that “a decade of war is ending.”

Regarding the Palestinians, Israeli officials had been counting on the Obama administration to forcefully oppose the United Nations bid — as it did last year — and to chastise those countries that support it. But Palestinian leaders seemed unworried on Wednesday, making the bid for nonmember state status in the General Assembly a central focus of their congratulations.

“We will not retract,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. “We hope President Obama will even support this move.”

Regardless of how he handles the United Nations effort, Mr. Obama is unlikely to pursue the peace process more broadly in the early part of his second term, given the turmoil across the Middle East and internal divisions among the Palestinians.

“I think he recognizes the importance of this issue — he would be a fool not to,” said Diana Buttu, a political analyst and former Palestinian Authority official based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “But when it comes to the priority list of issues he will have to deal with, I’m just not certain that this is going to be No. 1 or even No. 10 on that list.”

Ehud Barak, the defense minister who shared a close partnership with Mr. Netanyahu for much of the last four years but has tried to distinguish himself on Iran and other issues as elections approach, since he leads the separate Independence Party, congratulated Mr. Obama nearly an hour ahead of Mr. Netanyahu, and followed up by e-mailing reporters photographs and video of himself with the newly re-elected president.

“Even if there were certain kinds of bumps on the road in recent years, we should be able to move beyond it,” Mr. Barak said in an interview. “There is nothing better to mend any scar or grudge from the past than making better achievements in the present and the future.”

Thomas Erdbrink contributed reporting from Amsterdam, and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.


November 7, 2012

Warm Words From China, With a Subtext of Warning


BEIJING — With the re-election of President Obama to a second term and the imminent transfer of power in China to a new generation of leaders, one of the biggest challenges facing Mr. Obama will be finding a strategic and economic role for the United States in Asia that is acceptable to its strong network of allies and friends without alienating the Chinese, analysts in the region said.

In China, the government welcomed Mr. Obama’s victory, but woven into the warm words from the departing President Hu Jintao was a warning that the United States should be a more cooperative partner as China, even with a slowing economy, continues to rise in wealth and power.

The presumptive new leader of China, Xi Jinping, has expressed the idea of a “new type of relationship between major countries in the 21st century.”

The goal appears to be for China to share more and more power with the United States in the decades ahead, much as Britain opened the door to a rising United States around the end of the 19th century and into the 20th. But many in Washington fear that rather than share power, China wants to unravel America’s alliances in Asia.

And the United States policy of a “pivot” toward Asia that Mr. Obama announced a year ago — meaning more American naval and air power would return to the region — is viewed by China as an unfriendly effort at containment.

“While everyone in Asia wants the U.S. to stay, they want it to stay as a balancing power, not as a primary power,” said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

Allies of the United States like Japan and Australia, which have secured robust economic relationships with China while maintaining traditional military ties with the United States, do not want to be forced to choose between Beijing and Washington, he said.

The Obama administration’s recent efforts to deepen relations with China’s Asian neighbors — not just an enhanced military presence but also a regionwide free-trade accord that excludes China — are seen in Beijing as a way of resisting China’s challenge to American leadership in Asia, analysts said.

Whether the United States has the ability and will to follow through on its promises remains very much an open question.

Martin Fackler contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Thomas Fuller from Bangkok.


Canada confident Obama will approve Keystone XL pipeline

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 21:52 EST

OTTAWA — Canada is confident US President Barack Obama will approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that he previously rejected, a government minister said Wednesday.

Obama, who was re-elected on Tuesday, denied approval for part of the $7 billion pipeline earlier this year while the US State Department asked for a new route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas as it carries oil from Canada’s tar sands to US refineries on the Gulf coast.

A southern leg of TransCanada Corporation’s pipeline was later approved but the northern portion still needs State Department approval because it crosses the border.

TransCanada submitted a new route for the northern part of the pipeline in September, and has said it expected a decision in early 2013.

“We believe that the Keystone XL will be approved by the Americans because it is clearly in the US national interest in terms of national security, jobs and economic growth,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told reporters on Wednesday.

“We’ll continue of course to advocate for approval of the pipeline,” he said, pointing out that “right now we’re not in the middle of an election campaign, and (so) it will be decided by the (Obama) administration on its merits.”

Canada is the largest energy exporter to the United States.

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day to the Gulf coast, easing US reliance on less stable sources.

Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s presidential election. Romney had pledged during the campaign to approve the pipeline “on day one” of his presidency, if elected.

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November 7, 2012

Ally of Former Georgian Leader Faces Criminal Charges


TBILISI, Georgia — The Georgian authorities brought criminal charges against a former defense minister and two current Defense Ministry officials on Wednesday, in what some lawmakers feared presaged a wave of reprisals against members of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s defeated government.

Mr. Saakashvili’s party lost parliamentary elections last month in the country’s first post-Soviet constitutional transfer of power, and party members are surrendering control after eight years in office. The new prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said he would make it a priority to investigate officials in the departing government. Such investigations have followed previous defeats of sitting leaders.

The former defense minister, Bacho Akhalaia, was charged with assaulting six servicemen in October 2011. According to written testimony released by the prosecutor, Mr. Akhalaia attacked the servicemen after they complained of bad living conditions. The two current Defense Ministry officials were also charged with assault.

Lawmakers from the prime minister’s and the president’s parties, who must now share power in Parliament, engaged in a bitter debate on Wednesday. David Bakradze, a leader of Mr. Saakashvili’s party, told reporters that the prosecutions would be “the first very serious test for the new government — if it is ready to work according to the law or will choose the path of political and personal revenge.”

Manana Kobakhidze, vice speaker of the Parliament and an ally of Mr. Ivanishvili, said during the debate: “Society has been waiting for the punishment of this person for a very long time. But believe me, if it is not proved that he conducted a crime, no one will prosecute him.”

Lawmakers from the president’s party then staged a walkout, complaining about Mr. Akhalaia’s arrest and a new order to audit the country’s public broadcaster. During an evening television appearance, Mr. Saakashvili warned, “The international community will never accept this.”

According to the charges, a sergeant, identified by the letter B, said Mr. Akhalaia hit his head with the handle of a knife in his office, and took him and five other servicemen to the Vaziani military base, where Mr. Akhalaia and the two arrested defense officials beat them in the presence of other officers. Then, the charges say, the servicemen, members of the Fourth Brigade, were locked in an unfurnished cell and told to stand at attention for three days, shouting “Fame to the Fourth Brigade” once an hour.

All of the servicemen were charged with attempted mutiny and dismissed last year. They gave testimony recently, after Mr. Ivanishvili’s personal lawyer was appointed general prosecutor, replacing an ally of Mr. Saakashvili’s.

Prosecutors said more charges could be brought against Mr. Akhalaia soon.

Giga Bokeria, secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia, urged Mr. Akhalaia’s immediate release, calling the charge “political retribution.”

Several former ministers, including Mr. Akhalaia, left Georgia immediately after Mr. Saakashvili’s party lost the Oct. 1 election, presumably to avoid prosecution. Mr. Akhalaia returned this week, announcing that he was ready “to answer whatever questions” the new government had to ask him.

Dmitri Shashkin, another former defense minister, left for the United States and is staying in the Washington area. He has said he has no plan to return to Georgia while Mr. Ivanishvili’s government is in power. The former justice minister, Zurab Adeishvili, also left Georgia but has made no public statement so far.
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November 7, 2012

French Cabinet Advances Gay Marriage Bill Despite Conservatives’ Opposition


PARIS — The French cabinet approved a draft bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Wednesday after weeks of loud opposition, especially from religious figures and the political right.

During his successful campaign for president, François Hollande promised to legalize same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, he said the measure represented “progress for all of society.” Mr. Hollande and his Socialist Party have a majority in both houses of Parliament, and the bill is expected to pass sometime early next year.

The draft law redefines marriage to stipulate that it is “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex,” and the words “father” and “mother” in existing legislation are replaced by “parents.” The bill would also allow married gay couples to adopt children.

Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, told the conservative newspaper La Croix that “marriage for all,” as the government calls it, was a response to “a demand for equality.”

But the move to legalize same-sex marriage has been controversial, and the bill was subject to delays in a country where only married couples can adopt. Opinion polls indicate that a majority of the French support gay marriage, but only half approve of allowing gays to adopt.

On Wednesday, Serge Dassault, an influential senator from the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the bill represented “the end of the family, the end of children’s development, the end of education.” He called it “an enormous danger to the nation.”

Dominique Bertinotti, the minister of family affairs, rejected that criticism, saying, “On the contrary, it is a legal protection.”

The cabinet decision came a day after Maine and Maryland became the first American states to approve same-sex marriage in a popular vote. Also on Tuesday, Spain’s highest court upheld that country’s law allowing same-sex marriage seven years after it was passed and after more than 21,000 same-sex couples had married.

If the French bill passes, France will become the 12th country, including Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain and Sweden, to make its marriage laws gender neutral. In Germany, registered same-sex couples have essentially the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples, but same-sex marriage is not legal.

Last month, several hundred people demonstrated against the bill in cities across France, including Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lille, emphasizing their opposition to the adoption of children by gay men and lesbians.

The most virulent opposition has come from religious leaders, with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris, calling the bill an act of “deception.” In a speech before 120 bishops in Lourdes on Saturday, the cardinal said the law would establish “the marriage of a few imposed on everyone.”

He continued, “When we defend the right of children to build their personality with reference to the man and the woman who gave them life, we are not defending a particular position.”

Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, sent a 25-page report to the government, calling “marriage for all” a “slogan” rather than a societal project.

“There would not be courage and no glory in voting a law by using slogans more than arguments and by complying to the dominant political correctness,” Rabbi Bernheim wrote.

Muslim, Protestant and Orthodox Christian religious leaders have also opposed the bill.

Conservative and far-right politicians have called for street protests and asked the government to delay the bill. Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Front, called for a referendum on the issue, and others said they wanted more debate. One Paris official, François Lebel, mayor of the Eighth Arrondissement, warned that if the government broke the taboo of gay marriage, it would lead to the breaking of other taboos, like incest or polygamy, a hot topic among conservatives worried about the spread of conservative Islam in France.

In a compromise, the bill does not include state aid for artificial insemination and other forms of assisted procreation for gay couples. Such aid is available for heterosexual married couples, and some Socialist deputies have vowed to amend the text of the bill or include such aid in a follow-up bill. Nicolas Gougain, a spokesman for Inter-LGBT, a major association defending gay rights in France, said, “It is progress, but also a problem” because adoption takes a long time and there are few babies available to adopt in France.

According to French associations of gay men and lesbians, more than 300,000 children have gay parents.
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November 7, 2012

Turkey Considers Deploying Missiles Near Syria


ANTAKYA, Turkey — Turkey raised publicly for the first time on Wednesday the idea of stationing Patriot missile batteries along its southern border with Syria. The move would effectively create a no-fly zone that could help safeguard refugees and give rebel fighters a portion of Syrian territory without fear of crippling airstrikes by Syrian forces.

In comments reported in the local news media here, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, indicated that Turkey, a member of NATO, planned to request Patriot missiles from the alliance that would provide a defensive shield from incoming munitions from Syria. But the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet reported that Turkey had agreed with the United States on a plan to use the missiles in an offensive capacity to create safe zones in Syria.

In the weeks before the presidential election, a plan for limited no-fly zones in Syria circulated in Washington policy circles and won advocates in the State Department, a person briefed on the matter said. According to this plan, safe zones would be enforced by Patriot missile batteries under NATO authority and positioned in Turkey and Jordan.

The plan, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential, was presented in recent weeks to Turkey’s leaders as a possible option, although the Obama administration has not signed off on it.

At a briefing in Washington, the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that Turkey’s request for the missiles was unrelated to establishing safe zones. “On the no-fly zone itself, you know that we’ve been saying for quite a while we continue to study whether that makes sense, how it might work,” she said.

In Syria on Wednesday, insurgents escalated attacks on targets within earshot of President Bashar al-Assad’s hilltop Damascus palace, killing a prominent judge with a car bomb and lobbing mortar shells at a neighborhood that houses central government offices and a military airfield. The assassination of the judge, reported by the official news agency, SANA, was the second high-profile killing of a top Assad loyalist in the Syrian capital in two days and added to the impression of an intensifying insurgency in the 20-month-old conflict.

The plan for safe zones would deter Syrian bombers from flying over the areas, which in the north would stretch from the Turkish border town of Kilis into Syria south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. In the south, the missile batteries would be placed in Jordan and cover areas around the Syrian city of Dara’a.

“This kind of passive no-fly zone, if combined with a political and arming strategy with the opposition, could work,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Mr. Tabler added that the effort could give the Syrian rebels their “Benghazi pocket,” a reference to the area of eastern Libya that was a base for rebel operations in the Libya uprising.

The divided and ineffective Syrian political opposition gathered in Doha, Qatar, in an attempt to forge a more cohesive political force to coordinate with the myriad rebel fighting units on the ground, who fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. Those talks came after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently criticized the Syrian National Council, currently the main opposition group, as out-of-touch exiles who needed to absorb more representatives from Syria.

For weeks, Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have voiced frustration over the West’s unwillingness to take a more muscular approach to Syria, saying that the inaction has let Mr. Assad prosecute a bloody counteroffensive that has killed thousands and sent a surge of refugees to neighboring countries.

At the same time, there has been an expectation among Turkish officials and rebels here and in Syria that the end of the American presidential campaign could result in a greater effort on the part of the Americans to end the war, no matter who won.

“I believe that the U.S. should handle the issue differently from now on,” Mr. Erdogan said Wednesday, according to the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency.

In Doha, some Syrian opposition figures agreed. “Now that the elections are over, the U.S. gets to put Syria on its priority list,” said Mulham al-Droubi, a member of the Syrian National Council who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “Obama is liberated in his second term from pressures of getting re-elected, so he can take bolder decisions.”

There were other indications on Wednesday that Western allies would act more forcefully in the wake of the American election. Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, visited a refugee camp in Jordan and was quoted by The Associated Press as saying that the international community should do more to “shape the opposition,” and that Britain would open direct talks with rebel military commanders.

Reporting was contributed by Neil MacFarquhar from Beirut, Lebanon; Hala Droubi from Doha, Qatar; Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul; and Rick Gladstone from New York.
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« Reply #2946 on: Nov 08, 2012, 08:16 AM »

11/08/2012 12:08 PM

The End of 'Drachmophobia'?: Greek Parliament Narrowly Passes Deep New Cuts

The Greek parliament on Wednesday night passed yet another package of deep cuts in order to qualify for the next tranche of vital euro-zone aid. But the coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras showed signs of fracturing, while protests on the streets outside grew violent.

Residents of Athens on Thursday woke up to more chaos. For the third straight day, subways, commuter trains and taxis were on strike, leading to gridlocked traffic as those needing to get to work took to their cars.

The more significant bedlam, however, took place the previous evening in parliament and on the streets outside. Greek lawmakers passed yet another painful austerity package on Wednesday night worth €13.5 billion ($17 billion) over two years, an important step toward receiving the next €31.5 billion tranche of European Union aid money. But the vote revealed signs that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' governing coalition could be fracturing, while 80,000 protesters demonstrating in central Athens reminded leaders that biting austerity is also taking its toll on Greek society.

Samaras did his best to exude confidence, saying the bill "will finally rid the country of drachmophobia." He added that "many of these measures are fair and should have been taken years ago, without anyone asking us to. Others are unfair -- cutting wages and salaries -- and there is no point in dressing this up as something else."

But, he noted, the alternative was a Greek bankruptcy -- looming, Athens says, as early as the end of next week should the EU continue to withhold funding.

The austerity package squeaked through with a 153 to 128 majority in the 300-member parliament. But Samaras, of the conservatives, and Evangelos Venizelos, who heads up the coalition-partner Socialists, saw several lawmakers jump ship and ultimately expelled seven of them from their ranks. Many other parliamentarians, part of a third coalition party, the Democratic Left, abstained from the vote. The result is a weakened government which could have difficulty passing controversial laws in the future. And the to-do list remains long, with labor market reform, stricter tax evasion laws and laws aimed at the shadow economy still to come.

Two Days of Paralysis

Furthermore, despite the austerity package -- which included significant pension cuts, tax increases, an increase of the retirement age from 65 to 67 and a loosening of job protection laws to make it easier to fire civil servants -- Greece's stumbling economy means it is possible that more cuts may ultimately be needed to achieve the budgetary goals the EU has set for the country. The year 2013 is expected to be the sixth year running in which the Greek economy has been in recession, and unemployment is at the staggering level of 25 percent.

The demonstrations on Wednesday evening were largely peaceful, called by the country's largest labor unions. But as has often been the case, several dozen protesters began hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons. The protests came after two days of paralysis in Athens with all public facilities remaining closed in the country, including public transportation, schools, post offices, museums and other tourist sites. Ferries likewise remained docked.

Still, the austerity package was a necessary step toward convincing the country's creditors that Greece is making progress toward budgetary health. Euro-zone leaders have continued to insist that no decision will be made on the next aid tranche until after the troika -- made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- issues its next report in the coming days. But Wednesday's austerity deal has long been cited as an important prerequisite. Samaras has said that Greece will become insolvent on November 16 without additional funding.

The cuts promise to further increase the difficulties normal Greeks are facing. The average pension in the country will now be €617 ($787) per month and the average salary a paltry €950. The salaries of leading public servants have also been radically cut, with the army chief of staff now receiving take-home pay of just €1,872 per month and Greek ambassadors just €1,899.

Europe, though, continues to take a hard line. "Our Greek friends have no other choice," said Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Euro Group, on the sidelines of a conference in Singapore. "And my impression is that Greek citizens continue to better understand the reforms that have been undertaken."
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« Reply #2947 on: Nov 08, 2012, 08:18 AM »

11/08/2012 12:35 PM

Butting Heads on the EU Budget: Merkel and Cameron Deadlocked ahead of Summit

By Carsten Volkery in London

Will British Prime Minister David Cameron veto the EU budget plan? Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to London on Wednesday night in an effort to convince him not to. It appears unlikely that she succeeded, though, setting the stage for a showdown at the EU summit later this month.

The front lines in the battle over the European Union budget remain unchanged. A dinner on Wednesday evening in London between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron brought no breakthroughs. Cameron reaffirmed that he would call for a decrease in the budget proposed to fund the EU from 2014 to 2020 at the bloc's summit on Nov. 22.

The atmosphere between the two during the dinner at Number 10 Downing Street was good, according to German government officials. But in terms of substance, as expected, neither side budged. The morning before the meeting even took place, the Financial Times said sardonically that the pair of conservatives "enjoy one of the warmest but least productive relationships in European politics."

Merkel came to London in the hopes of pressuring Cameron into a joint position on the budget dispute. "Great Britain and Germany are both net contributors, meaning we have a good deal of common interests," she said. At the same time, she wanted to make it clear to Cameron that the patience of his EU partners should not be tested. In principle, she agrees with the UK that in light of austerity programs on the national level, the EU budget should not be increased. But with the euro crisis still taking up much of her attention, she is willing to allow a modest spending increase in the interest of reaching a swift decision and avoiding a drawn-out battle among EU member states.

The 17 "net recipients" -- those that receive more money from the budget than they pay in -- in addition to the European Commission and the European Parliament all support a budget increase. The Commission's draft budget foresees spending of around €1 trillion ($1.28 trillion) from 2014 to 2020. The government of Cyprus, which holds the rotating EU presidency, suggested a compromise cut of €50 billion less. That doesn't go far enough for the net contributor nations, which are pressing for at least another €50 billion to be dropped.

Cameron Calls Budget Increase "Completely Ludicrous"

Whatever potential budget compromises Cameron may have relayed to the chancellor behind closed doors were not made known. Publicly he said increasing the seven-year budget would be "completely ludicrous," and that he would go to the EU summit with a robust position and readiness to use his veto power if need be.

Cameron's stubbornness is not surprising. Before the budget showdown in Brussels two weeks from now, the prime minister has to prove to his Tories that he's a tough negotiator. Should he give any ground at all, it would likely only be late in the night after hours of negotiations. But even that appears unlikely, after the British parliament's recent vote calling on Cameron to demand large cuts to the EU budget.

The proposal was non-binding, but it raises the question of whether Cameron is prepared to act against the will of the very parliament that elected him to his post. When in doubt, he has typically deferred to the interests of his national electorate when making decisions in Brussels. If he indeed employs his veto, he would likely be celebrated in Britain's euro-skeptic press as a hero.

Merkel to Greece : "It's Not Okay"

London was not the only place where Merkel on Wednesday had to convince skeptics of her position. Before her trip across the channel, she was a guest of the European Parliament in Brussels, where she gave a speech laying out her vision for the currency union. Here, in the heart of federalist Europe, Merkel is seen as a representative of national interests and a relentless proponent of austerity.

She found the right words. The euro zone has to correct the failures of its foundation in the next two to three years, she told lawmakers, and an "ambitious" roadmap should be approved by the EU summit in December.

Merkel warned against focusing only on short-term efforts to fight the euro crisis. Rather, the economic and currency union must be rebuilt from the ground up, she said. She repeated her call to give the European Commission more power over national budgets. The German proposal for a "savings commissioner" is controversial in Brussels.

Several parliamentarians accused the chancellor of worsening the economic crisis across Europe with her "blind austerity policy." But she was unrelenting, saying that other countries must push through the same reforms that Germany already has behind it.

Economic policy in the euro zone has to be better coordinated and harmonized, Merkel said, including labor market and tax policy. However she added that this must be done "cautiously." She called for the euro zone to have its own budget, with which countries could be rewarded for their willingness to reform.

The chancellor had harsh words for Greece. "You have to say to them: It's not okay to go on strike every time a privatization takes place," she said. "It's not okay when you have a tax system, but no one pays taxes."

Merkel Wants to Avoid EU Schism

Immediately prior to her visit to London, Merkel sent clear signals of peace to the island. She couldn't imagine an EU without the United Kingdom, she said, and she doesn't want a split into a two-track Europe. That's why she rejects the idea of a separate euro-zone parliament, she said. However she said she could imagine European parliamentarians from the euro zone voting on matters that exclusively affect the currency union.

Merkel's vision has a big caveat: It's dependent on the support of the 26 other member states. The British government, however, has been steering in the opposite direction. At the dinner on Downing Street, two widely differing world views collided. Merkel is fighting with all her might for a closer union. Cameron, in contrast, would like to see the process of European unification turned back a few decades.

In the coming months, the British prime minister faces two key tests. The fisrt is at the special EU summit on Nov. 22, where the EU budget will be addressed. Then, at the next regularly scheduled summit on Dec. 15, a banking union for the euro zone will be tops on the agenda. In both instances, he could use his veto power -- like he did one year ago, when he prevented Merkel from writing the fiscal pact into the EU treaty.

Cameron will carefully consider whether he wants to ignite the resentment of his partners for a second or even third time within 12 months. He himself will soon be dependent upon their support. His declared goal is to withdraw from certain individual areas of EU cooperation and to establish a looser relationship between the UK and the Continent. But that requires the approval of all 26 other member states. And with each "no," London is sinking its chances of convincing the other capitals to grant the Britons any of their wishes.

"One can be very happy on an island," Merkel warned. "But in this world, being alone doesn't bring you happiness anymore."

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« Reply #2948 on: Nov 08, 2012, 08:21 AM »

Man made stone tools thousands of years earlier than previously thought

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 15:05 EST

Paleontologists said Wednesday they have found small blades in a South African cave proving that Man was an advanced thinker making stone tools 71,000 years ago — millennia earlier than thought.

The find suggests early humans from Africa had a capacity for complex thought and weapons production that gave them a distinct evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals, say the authors of a study published in Nature.

Scientists agree that our lineage appeared in Africa more than 100,000 years ago, but there is much debate about when Homo sapiens’ cultural and cognitive character began resembling that of modern humans.

Small, manufactured blades such as those found in hunting arrows were first thought to have appeared in South Africa between 65,000 and 60,000 years ago.

Now, a team of scientists say they have found much older blades, called microliths and produced by chipping away at heat-treated stone, in a cave near Mossel Bay on South Africa’s south coast.

“Our research… shows that microlithic technology originated early in South Africa, evolved over a vast time span (about 11,000 years) and was typically coupled to complex heat treatment,” the study authors wrote.

“Advanced technologies in Africa were early and enduring,” they said, adding that long absences of tool-use evidence in the palaeontological record are explained by the relatively small number of sites excavated to date, not by an ebb and flow in early Man’s technological know-how.

The find is evidence that early modern humans in South Africa had the ability to make complex designs and teach others to copy them, said the researchers.

This would have allowed them to produce tools like arrows with a much longer killing distance than hand-cast spears.

“Microlith-tipped projectile weapons increased hunting success rate, reduced injury from hunting encounters gone wrong, extended the effective range of lethal interpersonal violence,” wrote the team.

It would also have conferred “substantive advantages on modern humans as they left Africa and encountered Neanderthals equipped only with hand-cast spears”.

Neanderthals lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for up to 300,000 years but appear to have vanished some 40,000 years ago.

In a comment on the study, also published by Nature, anthropologist Sally McBrearty from the University of Connecticut said humans making the monoliths would have chipped small blades from stone carefully selected for its texture and heat-treated to make it easier to work with.

They would then have retouched the blades into geometric shapes, probably for use in arrows to be shot from bows.

This, in turn, meant the makers would have had to collect other materials such as wood, fibres, feathers, bone and sinew over a period of days, weeks or months, interrupted by other, more urgent tasks.

“The ability to hold and manipulate operations and images of objects in memory, and to execute goal-directed procedures over space and time, is termed executive function and is an essential component of the modern mind,” McBrearty wrote.
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« Reply #2949 on: Nov 08, 2012, 08:42 AM »

In the USA...

November 6, 2012

President Obama’s Success

NYT Editorial

President Obama’s dramatic re-election victory was not a sign that a fractured nation had finally come together on Election Day. But it was a strong endorsement of economic policies that stress job growth, health care reform, tax increases and balanced deficit reduction — and of moderate policies on immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage. It was a repudiation of Reagan-era bromides about tax-cutting and trickle-down economics, and of the politics of fear, intolerance and disinformation.

The president’s victory depended heavily on Midwestern Rust Belt states like Ohio, where the bailout of the auto industry — which Mr. Obama engineered and Mr. Romney opposed — proved widely popular for the simple reason that it worked.

More broadly, Midwestern voters seemed to endorse the president’s argument that the government has a significant role in creating private-sector jobs and boosting the economy. They rejected Mr. Romney’s position that Washington should simply stay out of such matters and let the free market work its will.

The Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to steal away Pennsylvania by stressing unemployment was a failure there and elsewhere. Voters who said unemployment was a major issue voted mainly for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Romney, it turns out, made a fatal decision during the primaries to endorse a hard line on immigration, which earned him a resounding rejection by Latinos. By adopting a callous position that illegal immigrants could be coerced into “self-deportation,” and by praising Arizona’s cruel immigration law, Mr. Romney made his road in Florida and several other crucial states much harder. Only one-third of voters said illegal immigrants should all be deported, while two-thirds endorsed some path to legal residency and citizenship. The Republican approach, if unchanged, will cost them dearly in the future.

 Still, Mr. Obama’s victory did not show a united country. Richer Americans supported Mr. Romney, while poorer Americans tended to vote for Mr. Obama. There also remained clear divisions among voters by gender, age, race and religion.

African-Americans and Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama. White men voted for Mr. Romney; he won among those who said they opposed gay marriage, wanted to outlaw abortion, or favored mass deportation of illegal immigrants. None of those are majority positions in this country anymore.

Mr. Romney’s strategy of blaming Mr. Obama for just about everything, while serenely assuring Americans he had a plan to cut the deficit without raising taxes or making major cuts in Medicare, simply did not work.

A solid majority of voters said President George W. Bush was to blame for the state of the economy rather than Mr. Obama. And voters showed more subtlety in their economic analysis than Mr. Romney probably expected. Those who thought the housing market and unemployment were the nation’s biggest problems said they voted for Mr. Obama. Those most concerned about taxes voted heavily for Mr. Romney.

Significantly, 60 percent of voters said taxes should be raised either on the rich or on everyone. Only 35 percent said they should not be raised at all; that group, naturally, went heavily for Mr. Romney. The polling made it clear that Americans were unhappy with the economic status quo, and substantial numbers of voters said the economy was getting worse. But Mr. Romney did not seem to persuade voters that the deficit was a crushing problem. Only 1 in 10 voters said the deficit was the most important issue facing the country.

Republicans had to be disappointed in the results of their unrelenting assault on Mr. Obama’s health care reform law. Only around a quarter of Americans said it should be repealed in its entirety.

People who were comfortable with the rightward slide of the Republican Party (as measured by their comfort with the Tea Party) voted heavily for Mr. Romney.

But Christopher Murphy’s victory over Linda McMahon in the Senate race in Connecticut, Joe Donnelly’s defeat of Richard Mourdock in Indiana’s Senate race and Claire McCaskill’s defeat of Todd Akin in the Missouri Senate race showed the price the Republicans are paying for nominating fringe candidates in their primaries.

The polls were heartening in that they indicated that a solid majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, and that half of Americans now say their states should recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

That the race came down to a relatively small number of voters in a relatively small number of states did not speak well for a national election apparatus that is so dependent on badly engineered and badly managed voting systems around the country. The delays and breakdowns in voting machines were inexcusable.


November 07, 2012 04:00 PM

A Stirring Populist Triumph

By Mike Lux

In the face of five years of the deepest economic troubles this nation has seen since the 1930s that put voters in a bad mood, and veritable floodgates of millionaire money unleashed by Citizens United (far, far surpassing anything in American history), an incumbent President won a clear victory and over 50% of the vote. Except for FDR in 1936, Barack Obama is the only other Democratic President to win re-election in an economy this tough, and he is the only one except for FDR and Andrew Jackson to get over 50% of the vote. And beyond the Presidency, with Democrats having to defend over twice as many seats in the Senate as the Republicans and pundits earlier in this cycle suggesting that a Republican Senate was practically a lock- and again with all those hundreds of millions of dollars of millionaires’ money spent against them- the Democrats actually look like they will be picking up 2 seats.

This remarkable historic achievement was accomplished with the kind of old fashioned middle class populism that modern day DC sophisticates have been saying for 25 years doesn’t work anymore.

Little more than a year ago, in the fall of 2011 after an ugly deal with the Republicans on the debt ceiling that had followed 2 earlier deals with the Republicans on the budget that left a bad taste in Democrats’ mouths, the President was at his lowest point politically. His poll numbers were bad, his base was upset, the swing voters he was trying to court thought he looked weak. The re-election looked like it was in deep trouble.

But the President made the right political decision and made clear he was fighting for the American middle class and those young and poor people who were striving to get into it. He channeled his inner Teddy Roosevelt, giving a speech that was a tribute to TR that was the kickoff for a yearlong campaign firmly rooted in the hopes and aspirations of working and middle class voters. He enthusiastically embraced the car company bailout that had been so unpopular when he had first done it. He started strongly defending Obamacare after Democrats had run from it- and been pilloried with it- in 2010. He recess appointed aggressive consumer watchdog Rich Cordray to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and asked aggressive Wall Street prosecutor Eric Schneiderman to co-chair a new task force to investigate financial fraud. He hammered the Ryan budget for voucher-izing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He stuck to his guns on boldly attacking Romney’s role at Bain Capital when Wall Street friendly Democrats were calling on him to back off. He started talking about, and working on, rebuilding our manufacturing base.

It worked. Turns out that both Democratic base voters and the mostly working class swing voters liked this new populist approach. So despite those tough odds that I discussed in the first paragraph, President Obama found his rhythm and found his way. After Mitt Romney, the perfect candidate to run a populist campaign against, became the Republican nominee, the Obama campaign established a small but steady lead in the key swing states which through all the ups and downs of a long tough campaign they never relinquished.

And how did we Democrats do so well in the Senate? By running as populist a group of candidates in many of the most competitive races as I have seen in my political career. And looking at the results in those races, it was for the most part those candidates who carved out a clear populist path that won the close races, and those that didn’t that lost them. The only partial exception I can think of is Tim Kaine, whose campaign focused a lot on bi-partisan reasonableness, although he also did tie himself closely to Obama’s populist campaign message. I also am less familiar with the themes from the Carmona-Flake race, so that may have been an exception to the trend as well. But look at the Dems who won the tough races in the Senate:

    The headliner of the night besides the Presidential race was Elizabeth Warren. She is the ultimate in tough-on-Wall-St/fight for the middle class populists, having built her entire career around those kind of economic issues. She will be an instant leader in the Senate, with a huge national platform.
    The Senate incumbent who was easily the most highly targeted by Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, and right wing billionaires like the Koch brothers was the number one working class populist in the Senate, Sherrod Brown of Ohio. He kicked their collective asses in spite of their35 million plus onslaught against him.
    Tammy Baldwin will get a lot of attention as the first openly lesbian Senator, but her campaign in Wisconsin was based on taking on Wall St. and fighting for regular folks- one of her main stump speech talking points was bragging about how she had opposed the repeal of Glass-Steagall. She was running against popular ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson, Rove and the Chamber and Gov. Walker political machine attacked her mercilessly, but she ended up winning a solid victory.
    Chris Murphy took on the queen of the WWE and all her money, and beat her solidly. Murphy is one of the leaders in Congress on the big-money-in-politics issue, and his fighting against the special interests was what won him this race.
    Heidi Heitkamp is a protégé of long time populist Wall St foe former Senator Dorgan, and she bucked a Romney landslide in ND to win against the sitting House member from ND. She will likely be the same kind of tough-minded fighter for the middle class Dorgan always was.
    Martin Heinrich ran a populist race against a former Republican congresswoman who was supposed to give him a much tougher race, but he ended up winning easily, and will likely join fellow NM Senator Tom Udall as one of the leading progressive populists in the Senate.
    Jon Tester bucked the MT political establishment 6 years ago to win both a primary and his Senate seat, and he apparently won a very tough re-election by going back to that kind of populism.

Who lost the other competitive Senate races? Shelley Berkeley, whose race seemed like it was more attack and counter-attack on personal issues with her opponent; and Bob Kerrey, who made cutting Social Security as a big plank in his platform.

This is the most firmly pro-middle class, tough on Wall Street and big business Senate class as we’ve had in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited.

The President now has a choice to make. He can take the advice of the Washington establishment and punditry class, and go back to DC’s version of “centrism”, which to establishment folks usually means giving Wall Street and other big business lobbyists what they want while cutting things the middle class counts on like Social Security, Medicare, and education. Or he can stick with the political strategy that won him this election, uniting his base and working class swing voters in a coalition for the middle class and willing to take on the powers that be. Let’s hope he sticks with what worked so well for him in the past year.


November 8, 2012

Obama Win Shows Demographic Shifts Working Against Republicans


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tuesday's decisive win by Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election highlighted how population shifts - ethnic and generational - have buoyed Democrats while forcing Republicans to rethink their message.

Without recasting their core message and actively trying to expand their base beyond older mostly white Americans, conservatives could struggle even more in future elections as the nation's population incorporates more Latinos, Asians and other minorities as well as young voters, analysts said.

First-time voters, including many young people and immigrants, favored the president by large margins, while older voters leaned to Republican Mitt Romney, Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling showed.

Obama won an estimated 66 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos election day polling, at a time when the Latino population is growing rapidly in states such as Florida, one of eight or so politically divided states that were crucial in the presidential race. Other estimates put Obama's share of the Hispanic vote above 70 percent.

"The nonwhite vote has been growing - tick, tick, tick - slowly, steadily. Every four-year cycle the electorate gets a little bit more diverse. And it's going to continue," said Paul Taylor of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

"This is a very powerful demographic that's changing our politics and our destiny," Taylor said, adding that the number of white voters is expected to continue to decline a few points in each future election cycle.

Data has shown for years that the United States is poised to become a "majority minority" nation - with whites a minority of the country - over the next several decades. But Tuesday's results highlighted the political impact.(See for a graphic.)

About 80 percent of blacks, Latinos and other nonwhite voters cast their ballots for Obama on Tuesday compared with less than 17 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Obama also won about 63 percent of total voters age 18 to 34.

Overall, Romney won nearly 57 percent of the white vote compared with 41 percent for Obama, the polling data showed. The vast majority of votes cast for Romney came from white voters.

Demographer William Frey said that division is troubling.

The United States has long history of racial divide stemming from its roots in slavery and including the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

"We still are a country that's kind of divided, and a lot of that fissure in the population tends to be based in race and age and ethnicity," said Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. "There's kind of a dangerous result in this election when we see older whites moving in one direction and younger minorities moving in another direction."

Frey said he sees the gap less as racism and more as a cultural generation gap.

"It's a little bit of a warning sign that we need to pay attention to," he said.


U.S. data released earlier this year showed the number of ethnic minority births topping 50 percent of the nation's total births for the first time..

It will be years before those newest Americans will be old enough to vote, but the demographic shift is clear. Most analysts project whites to be the racial U.S. minority sometime between 2040 and 2050.

Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, are a huge factor.

More than 70 percent voted for Obama compared with about 28 percent for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos data.

"We are a much more diverse country than we were" just a generation or two ago, said Pew's Taylor, who also oversees the center's Social and Demographic Trends project and the Pew Hispanic Center. The rising number of multiracial children are also likely to become more of a factor, he added.

Obama, whose historic win in 2008 made him the first ethnic minority U.S. president, had a black father and a white mother.

Aging baby boomers also are a key factor in the demographic transition, as older voters "leave the electorate," as Taylor delicately put it, and young voters more accepting of diversity and an active government are added to the rolls.

That could help drive certain civil rights ballot initiatives, like votes in Maryland and Maine on Tuesday to approve same-sex marriage. In each instance, support from younger voters helped put the measures over the top.

"It was an election in which the future won over the past," said Marshall Ganz, a Harvard University lecturer on public policy, said of Tuesday's various contests.


Tuesday's outcome poses big questions for Republicans as they seek new national leaders and prepare for the next congressional election in 2014 and beyond.

Conservatives' stance against immigration reform and gay marriage is "a recipe for extinction," said analyst Mike Murphy, a one-time adviser to prominent Republicans including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

"The question is whether or not we're going to have an adult conversation inside the party about our need to attract more people than grumpy old white guys," Murphy told MSNBC. "Demographically, our time is running out."

Ted Cruz, a Latino Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas, said on CBS that his party had to recruit candidates who connect with that community in a "real and genuine way."

Not all Republicans were willing to concede to demographics. Some highlighted tactical and strategic issues in their lost bid for the White House and their failed efforts to take control of the U.S. Senate.

And analysts said Democrats, too, have lessons to learn.

"It is a very powerful wake-up call to both political parties," said Pew's Taylor.

Brookings' Frey said Democrats still must keep the white vote in mind for at least the next couple of election cycles.

"Whites are not dead," he said. "They're still a big part of this population."

(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny and Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington; and David Adams in Miami; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


November 7, 2012

A Record Latino Turnout, Solidly Backing Obama


Defying predictions that their participation would be lackluster, Latinos turned out in record numbers on Tuesday and voted for President Obama by broad margins, tipping the balance in at least three swing states and securing their position as an organized force in American politics with the power to move national elections.

Over all, according to exit polls not yet finalized by Edison Research, Mr. Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent. The gap of 44 percentage points was even greater than Mr. Obama’s 36-point advantage over John McCain in 2008.

After waiting in long lines in countless places — more than four hours at some South Florida polls — Latinos had such a strong turnout that it lifted them to 10 percent of voters nationwide, an increase from 6 percent in 2000. Latino leaders said their voters had cast ballots that ensured Mr. Obama’s relatively narrow plurality — fewer than 2.8 million votes — in the popular count.

“Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House passes through Latino neighborhoods,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, a top official at NCLR, the Hispanic organization also known as the National Council of La Raza, which joined in an extensive campaign this year to register and turn out voters.

Latinos’ greatest impact was in several battleground states portrayed by polls as close contests before Election Day. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by big percentages that well exceeded margins of victory, exit polls showed. In each of those states, Latinos significantly increased their share of total voters, gaining influence that could be decisive in future elections.

In Florida, where Mr. Obama held a narrow lead on Wednesday in a race that had not yet been called, the president won among Latinos by 60 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Romney, among a group that now makes up 17 percent of the state’s voters.

Mr. Romney’s weak showing prompted Latino leaders to warn that Republicans could no longer afford to ignore or alienate Hispanics in national races. But they also immediately laid out an ambitious agenda for Mr. Obama, saying they expected to see jobs programs tailored to Latinos and quick action on legislation to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

“The sleeping Latino giant is wide-awake and it’s cranky,” said Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, another group that played a central role in spurring Latinos to vote. “We expect action and leadership on immigration reform in 2013. No more excuses. No more obstruction or gridlock.”

In many states, Latinos did not wait for either the Democratic or the Republican campaigns to come to them. Instead they mounted coordinated voter registration and education efforts, giving them a degree of independence as a voting bloc and creating popular networks that they said they planned to mobilize again to bring pressure on the White House and Congress.

In Arizona, a conservative state known for tough immigration enforcement policies that Mr. Romney won handily, Latinos saw setbacks. A bid to unseat Joe Arpaio, the hard-line sheriff of Maricopa County, was declared to have failed. A Hispanic Democrat, Richard Carmona, apparently was defeated in a Senate race by Jeff Flake, a popular Republican who has served in the House of Representatives.

Records from the office of Secretary of State Ken Bennett showed Wednesday that there were 600,000 votes yet to be counted statewide.

Luis Heredia, the executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, said the outcome of many close races could not be determined without the counting of those ballots.

A crucial piece of Mr. Obama’s winning strategy among Latinos was an initiative he announced in June to grant temporary reprieves from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants here illegally. In a survey of 5,600 Latino voters on the eve of the election by ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, a polling group, 58 percent said the reprieves had made them “more enthusiastic” about Mr. Obama.

Last month, Mr. Romney said that he would end the reprieves if he became president, a move that solidified the view among many Latinos that he was hostile to a program they liked. It gives young immigrants protection from deportation for two years and also work permits that allow them to be employed legally in this country for the first time.

A campaign led by young immigrants eligible for the deferrals was one of the most effective voter mobilization efforts.

“Even though we could not vote, we had many friends and family members who could,” said Lorella Praeli, advocacy director of the United We Dream network, a youth group that led a voter campaign.

In Arizona, a dozen groups teamed up to increase Latino voter registration and to add more Latinos to the state’s early-voting list, which entitles voters to receive ballots by mail at their homes. The number of Latinos on early-voting lists rose substantially, to 225,000 this year from 96,000 in 2008, said Petra Falcón, director of Promise Arizona, one of the groups in that effort.

On Tuesday, the groups dispatched monitors to poll sites where they knew many Latino voters would be casting ballots for the first time.

By midmorning, it had become clear that a lot of them were being forced to cast provisional ballots because officials could not find their names on the rolls. In a precinct in Tolleson, 300 out of 342 votes cast by 4 p.m. were provisional ballots, according to poll monitors assigned to the site. At Word of Abundant Life Christian Center in West Phoenix, 68 out of 123 voters had used provisional ballots by that hour.

Adilene Montesinos, a poll worker at Progressive Baptist Church in Mesa, said the problem had affected Latinos and also blacks. “There were so many, we almost ran out of provisional ballots,” Ms. Montesinos said.

Officials in Maricopa County, which accounts for more than half of the state’s voters, said the count of provisional ballots was not likely to begin until Monday. The officials said Wednesday that 344,000 ballots remained to be counted, among them 115,000 provisional ballots.


November 7, 2012

Back to Work, Obama Is Greeted by Looming Crisis


Newly re-elected, President Obama moved quickly on Wednesday to open negotiations with Congressional Republican leaders over the main unfinished business of his term — a major deficit-reduction deal to avert a looming fiscal crisis — as he began preparing for a second term that will include significant cabinet changes.

Mr. Obama, while still at home in Chicago at midday, called Speaker John A. Boehner in what was described as a brief and cordial exchange on the need to reach some budget compromise in the lame-duck session of Congress starting next week. Later at the Capitol, Mr. Boehner publicly responded before assembled reporters with his most explicit and conciliatory offer to date on Republicans’ willingness to raise tax revenues, but not top rates, together with a spending cut package.

“Mr. President, this is your moment,” said Mr. Boehner, a day after Congressional Republicans suffered election losses but kept their House majority. “We’re ready to be led — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as president of the United States of America.”

His statement came a few hours after Senator Harry Reid, leader of a Democratic Senate majority that made unexpected gains, extended his own olive branch to the opposition. While saying that Democrats would not be pushed around, Mr. Reid, a former boxer, added, “It’s better to dance than to fight.”

Both men’s remarks followed Mr. Obama’s own overture in his victory speech after midnight on Wednesday. “In the coming weeks and months,” he said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

After his speech, Mr. Obama tried to call both Mr. Boehner and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, but was told they were asleep. The efforts from both sides, after a long and exhausting campaign, suggested the urgency of acting in the few weeks before roughly $700 billion in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts take effect at year’s end — the “fiscal cliff.” A failure to reach agreement could arrest the economic recovery.

Corporate America and financial markets for months have been dreading the prospect of a partisan impasse. Stocks fell on Wednesday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closing down 2.4 percent. The reasons for the drop were unclear, given that stock futures did not drop significantly on Tuesday night as the election results became clear. Analysts cited fears about the economic impact of such big federal spending cuts and tax increases, but also about new economic troubles in Europe.

While Mr. Obama enters the next fray with heightened leverage, both sides agree, the coming negotiations hold big risks for both parties and for the president’s ability to pursue other priorities in a new term, like investments in education and research, and an overhaul of immigration law.

The president flew back to Washington from Chicago late on Wednesday, his post-election relief reflected in a playful race up the steps of Air Force One with his younger daughter, Sasha. At the White House, he prepared to shake up his staff to help him tackle daunting economic and international challenges. He will study lists of candidates for various positions that a senior adviser, Pete Rouse, assembled in recent weeks as Mr. Obama crisscrossed the country campaigning.

The most prominent members of his cabinet will leave soon. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner long ago said they would depart after the first term, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, previously the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has signaled that he wants to return to California in the coming year. Also expected to depart is David Plouffe, one of the president’s closest confidants.

Mr. Obama is expected to reshuffle both his inner circle and his economic team as he accommodates the changes. For example, Jacob J. Lew, Mr. Obama’s current White House chief of staff and former budget director, is said to be a prime candidate to become Treasury secretary. For the foreseeable future, the holder of that job is likely to be at the center of budget negotiations, and Mr. Lew has experience in such bargaining dating to his work as a senior adviser to Congressional Democrats 30 years ago in bipartisan talks with President Ronald Reagan.

“They’ve been thinking about this for some time and they’re going to have a lot of positions to fill at the highest levels,” said former Senator Tom Daschle, who has close ties to the White House.

Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ended up replacing about half of their cabinet members between terms, and Mr. Obama could end up doing about the same, especially since his team has served through wars and economic crisis. John D. Podesta, a chief of staff for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama’s transition adviser, said, “There’s a certain amount of new energy you want to inject into any team.”

There is talk about bringing in Republicans and business executives to help rebuild bridges to both camps. The one Republican in the cabinet now, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has said he will leave. One possible candidate, advisers say, could be Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican moderate from Maine who is retiring.

A front-runner for secretary of state appears to be Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Democrats said worries about losing his Senate seat to the Republicans in a special election had diminished with Tuesday’s victories. Another candidate has been Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, but she has been a target of Republicans since she provided the administration’s initial accounts, which proved to be wrong, of the September terrorist attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

While no one in the White House blames her, “she’s crippled,” said one adviser who asked not to be named discussing personnel matters. Another possible candidate, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, has told Mr. Obama he wants to stay in his current position, according to a White House official.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., once expected to leave, now seems more likely to stay for a while. Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, would like to be attorney general and is widely respected in the White House.

Among other cabinet officers who may leave are Ron Kirk, the trade representative; Steven Chu, the energy secretary; Ken Salazar, the interior secretary; Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, and Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency chief. But Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime friend and senior adviser, plans to stay, according to Democrats close to her.

It may be weeks before Mr. Obama starts making personnel announcements. His first priority is policy, and its politics — positioning for the budget showdown in the lame-duck session, to try to avoid the fiscal cliff by agreeing with Republicans to alternative deficit-reduction measures.

If Mr. Obama got a mandate for anything after a campaign in which he was vague on second-term prescriptions, he can and will claim one for his argument that wealthy Americans like himself and his vanquished Republican rival, Mitt Romney, should pay higher income taxes. That stance was a staple of Mr. Obama’s campaign stump speeches for more than a year. And most voters, in surveys of those leaving the polls on Tuesday, agreed with him.

Specifically, Mr. Obama has called — over Republicans’ objections — for extending the Bush-era income tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, only for households with taxable income below $250,000 a year.

“This election tells us a lot about the political wisdom of defending tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everything else,” a senior administration official said early on Wednesday.

But Mr. Boehner, in his public remarks on Wednesday, sought to avoid a White House tax trap that would have Republicans boxed in as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Speaking for Republicans after a conference call with his Congressional colleagues, Mr. Boehner said he was ready to accept a budget deal that raised federal revenues, but not the top rates on high incomes. And the deal, he said, also would have to overhaul both the tax code and programs like Medicare and Medicaid, whose growth as the population ages is driving projections of unsustainable future debt.

Instead of allowing the top rates to go up, which Republicans say would harm the economy, Mr. Boehner said Washington should end some deductions and loopholes to raise revenues. The economic growth that would result from a significant deficit reduction compromise would bring in additional revenues as well, he said.

Mr. Boehner entered the ornate Capitol room with none of his usual bonhomie, walked to a lectern and spoke in formal tones from two Teleprompters. He then hastened out of the room, ignoring shouted questions.

Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.


November 7, 2012

Senate Races Expose Extent of Republicans’ Gender Gap


Republicans, hoping to gain seats in the Senate, knew that their limited appeal among minorities would be a problem, as would party infighting. But they did not expect to be derailed by the definition of rape.

Comments by two Republican Senate candidates concerning pregnancies that result from rape — which came after months of battles in Congress over abortion, financing for contraception and a once-innocuous piece of legislation to protect victims of domestic violence — turned contagious as one Senate candidate after another fell short of victory.

In Indiana and Missouri, where voters are reliably conservative, Republicans lost their Senate battles even as many of those voters rejected President Obama. In Wisconsin, the Republican candidate, a former governor, lost to a female lawmaker who is decidedly more liberal than much of the state. In Connecticut, women over all turned against a Republican candidate who frequently reminded voters that she was a grandmother.

Being a woman did not offset being a Republican when it came to winning many Congressional seats among female voters. While one Republican woman, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, will join the Senate in January, Democrats will add four women as senators, including Heidi Heitkamp, who was declared the winner in the race for North Dakota’s open Senate seat, the last undecided contest. There are currently 17 women in the Senate; two of them, both Republicans, are retiring.

Republicans in the House entered the election with just 24 women. Now, unless another one prevails in late tallies, there will be 21. By contrast, there are 52 women among the Democrats in the House, and 61 are expected in the next Congress.

Some Republicans conceded that they had worked to marginalize Representative Todd Akin after he suggested during his failed bid for a Senate seat in Missouri that a woman’s body was able to prevent a pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape.” They did so because they were worried that their party was increasingly seen among voters as preoccupied with issues like the one sponsored by Republicans in Virginia that would have required women to undergo vaginal sonograms before they could have an abortion.

“We have a significant problem with female voters,” said John Weaver, a senior Republican strategist. Mr. Akin’s comments, Mr. Weaver said, “did not seem like outliers.” Nor, he added, were those made by Richard E. Mourdock, whose Senate campaign in Indiana was derailed in spectacular fashion after he said in a debate that it was “God’s will” when a pregnancy resulted from rape.

“They did not seem foreign to our party,” Mr. Weaver said. “They seemed representative of our party.”

The comments had resonance, some Republicans said, in part because Democrats, seizing on the remarks and repeating them, worked hard to tar the entire party as being insensitive to women.

Congressional Republicans’ heavy focus on social issues affecting women — like their proposals to reduce financing for Planned Parenthood and their challenge of an Obama administration ruling requiring insurance coverage for contraception — set the groundwork for those perceptions.

“What was really frustrating is that there was this myth manufactured by Democrats in Washington that the Republican Party as a whole is against women,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who said she watched with disappointment as her friend Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts was tarred by the broader fight and lost his bid for re-election, to a woman. “There is no doubt we need to do a better job as a party in reaching out to women, recruiting strong women candidates and sending a more positive message,” Ms. Collins said.

Women were not just turned off by perceived threats to their reproductive rights, Mr. Weaver said, but also by the tough tone that the party has taken toward immigrants and the poor.

“We have to reach across a whole host of policy reforms,” he said. “For instance, immigration may not seem like a women’s issue, but as Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43 for a while seemed to understand is that when you reach out to one group it helps you across the board. We need to be changing our tone, to be standing for something and not just against things. We can be for health care and for equal pay for equal work without undermining our conservative principles.”

The problem with female voters was reflected at the top of the ticket: Mr. Obama beat Mitt Romney by 11 points among women.

The numbers also lined up against Republicans in Congressional races. In Indiana, Mr. Mourdock’s opponent, Representative Joe Donnelly, won 53 percent of women’s votes, compared with Mr. Mourdock’s 41 percent, in a state that Mr. Romney won handily.

In the Connecticut Senate race, men were evenly divided, 49 percent to 49 percent, but women favored the Democratic candidate, Representative Christopher S. Murphy, 60 percent to 39 percent, over the Republican, Linda E. McMahon.

In Virginia, 56 percent of women voted for the Democrat, Tim Kaine, and 44 percent went to George Allen, the Republican, who lost the race.

Some Democrats, after months of relentless criticism of Republicans on women’s issues, played down the importance of those concerns on Wednesday, preferring instead to credit the candidates they recruited. “Offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide this election,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Either way, Republicans said their party had work to do. “It has never made sense that my party, the party of individual freedom and personal responsibility, thinks the government should be involved in issues” like abortion, Ms. Collins said. “We are the party that trusts individuals to make their own decisions. That is one of the defining issues of the differences between Republicans and Democrats. So this is just bewildering to me.”


Obama sets out to tackle bitterly divided Congress

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 8, 2012 7:29 EST

After the short-lived euphoria of his re-election, President Barack Obama immediately set about the daunting task of ending the partisan gridlock of a bitterly divided US Congress..

Before leaving Chicago and returning to the White House Wednesday, Obama was already on the phone trying to bridge the gap with Republican leaders to avoid a catastrophic “fiscal cliff” that could plunge the fragile American economy back into recession.

A combination of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases will take effect on January 1 without a deal on reducing the ballooning budget deficit, with Democrats and Republicans in Congress locked in a who-blinks-first stand-off.

Obama called congressional leaders, sending out an overt message that his priority was to try to break the deadlock in the lame-duck session of Congress that precedes his January 21 inauguration ceremony.

He spoke to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and also telephoned the minority Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as well as top Democrats.

“The president reiterated his commitment to finding bipartisan solutions to reduce our deficit in a balanced way, cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses and create jobs,” a White House official said.

Obama believes that by returning him to the Oval Office, American voters signaled to Washington that both parties must set aside partisan interests and put the economy first, the official said.

But Boehner offered little during a Wednesday press conference in which his opening gambit was an unpalatable short-term fix to the “fiscal cliff” that the president has repeatedly opposed.

Obama arrived back at the White House at 2355 GMT following his unexpectedly decisive victory, claiming almost all the states he won in his historic 2008 electoral college landslide.

A campaign official said on the flight that election night returns unfolded very close to what the Obama team had expected though there was surprise at how quickly US television networks called the race.

Key to victory was the “ground game” waged in battleground states.

In explaining the superiority of Obama’s operation, the official mentioned a conversation he had with a top field director on Monday, in which he said a rival Republican had tweeted that Romney’s team had knocked on 75,000 doors in the must-win state of Ohio the previous day.

Not to worry, the director said, “we knocked on 376,000.”

Obama triumphed despite the highest unemployment rate of any US president since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and became only the second Democrat since then to win a second term — the other being his stalwart supporter Bill Clinton.

With Florida still totaling up the last remaining ballots after another embarrassing vote-counting debacle in the “Sunshine State,” Obama had 303 electoral college votes, easily surpassing the 270 needed to win.

In a soaring victory speech, the 51-year-old president sought to revive the great hopes he stirred in 2008, promising “the best is yet to come” and hinting at a far-reaching agenda in his second term.

But his in-tray is already overflowing with first-term plans thwarted by blanket Republican opposition, whether it be comprehensive immigration reform, education, or a grand plan to rein in the troublesome deficit.

The big question for Obama is this: Will the Republicans be willing or can they be pressured to strike a meaningful deal that will avoid the prospect of a disastrous economic crunch forced by mandatory budget cuts?

“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward,” the president told the country in his rousing acceptance speech.

But Obama knows it is not his vanquished foe that he must now deal with but rather the Republican leadership in Congress, which may dig its heels in after failing in its stated goal: to make him a one-term president.

As Obama’s victory was confirmed with wins in Ohio and Iowa, large crowds assembled outside the White House, chanting “four more years” and “O-bama, O-bama.”

Republican nominee Romney, 65, deflated and exhausted, offered a dignified tribute, as he consoled dejected supporters in Boston moments after phoning Obama to formally concede.

“This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney said.

Obama’s victory means he will get the chance to embed his healthcare and Wall Street reforms deep into the fabric of American life. Romney had pledged one of his first acts would be to repeal Obamacare.

The president may also be able to reshape the Supreme Court in his liberal image for a generation, a move that could shape policy on abortion and gay rights.

Obama will also face a challenge early in 2013 over whether to use military force to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

The president ran for re-election on a platform of offering a “fair shot” to the middle class, of fulfilling his pledge to end the war in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, and starting to build a clean energy economy.

But Obama also ran a fiercely negative campaign branding Romney — a multi-millionaire former corporate turnaround wizard and ex-governor of Massachusetts — as indifferent to the woes of ordinary Americans.

Remarkably, Obama’s coalition of Hispanic, black, and young voters turned out in similar numbers to those of his heady change-fueled campaign in 2008, shocking Romney’s team and presenting a new American face to the world.

In what is likely to be Obama’s first foreign trip since re-election, a Myanmar government official announced that the US president would visit the former pariah state on November 19.

Democrats kept the Senate in Tuesday’s vote but fell short of the 60-vote super-majority needed to sidestep Republican blocking tactics.

And on a night that saw liberal-championed measures on same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana approved in several states, the Democrats also clawed back a couple of seats in the House but the Republicans retained control.

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November 8, 2012]

Obama to Visit Myanmar as Part of First Postelection Overseas Trip to Asia


WASHINGTON — President Obama will make Asia his first overseas destination since his re-election, with a trip this month that is to include a historic visit to Myanmar and underscore his desire to reorient American foreign policy more toward the Pacific during his second term.

The White House announced on Thursday that the newly re-elected Mr. Obama would head to an annual international economic summit meeting in Cambodia and stop in Thailand and Myanmar. No sitting American president has visited either Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, or Cambodia, allowing Mr. Obama to reinforce his commitment to the region.

The trip fits into a larger geopolitical chess game by the Obama administration, which has sought to counter rising Chinese assertiveness by engaging its neighbors. China was Myanmar’s main international patron during the final years of military rule there, and the long-isolated country’s opening to the West comes amid a popular backlash against Beijing’s perceived influence and its role in extracting natural resources.

But the planned trip drew criticism from human rights advocates who worried that a presidential visit to Myanmar as it moves toward democracy was premature given its continuing insurgency, ethnic violence and detention of political prisoners. Likewise, some in Congress expressed concern that Mr. Obama’s stop in Cambodia not be seen as validating a harsh authoritarian government that has cracked down on dissidents.

The trip from Nov. 17 to 20 will be a quick one, squeezed in just before Thanksgiving, as Mr. Obama focuses most of his energy on confronting tax and spending issues that must be addressed by the end of the year and rebuilding his team for the next four years. The White House said that while in the region, the president would discuss “a broad range of issues,” including economics, security and human rights.

The most symbolically potent part of the trip will be the stop in Yangon, where Mr. Obama will meet with the two driving forces behind Myanmar’s dramatic emergence from decades of military dictatorship, President Thein Sein, who came to power last year, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning opposition leader freed from house arrest and allowed to run for and win a seat in Parliament.

Mr. Obama met with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi when she visited Washington in September, and he has eased sanctions to encourage the evolution in Myanmar. But critics said he was going too far by rewarding Yangon with a visit of his own without extracting additional concrete progress like freedom for hundreds of political prisoners still held there.

“This is an incredibly delicate process that’s still at a very early stage,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “It would have been better, I think, to reserve some leverage before the incredibly difficult decisions that the government has yet to make.” He added, “It would not be a good thing if the president leaves Burma and there are still political prisoners there.”

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), an advocacy group, lists 283 political prisoners whose whereabouts it has verified, and said that even as the government has released many others, it has detained more activists arbitrarily. During a visit last winter, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton seemed to say that additional relationship building seemed to depend on the release of the prisoners. “That would have to be resolved before we could take some of the steps that we would be willing to take,” she said then.

The U.S. Campaign for Burma, an exile group that has been critical of the government, urged Mr. Obama to cancel the trip. “This government has continuously failed its own responsibilities in serving the people of Burma,” said Aung Din, the group’s director and a former student activist who fled a bloody crackdown by the military in 1988.

Others disagreed. “It’s a good time to show American support for what has taken place,” said Gordon Hein, vice president of the Asia Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that is returning to Myanmar 50 years after being forced out. “It’s true there’s still unfinished business to be done in the reform process, but if one waited until every major issue was successfully resolved, that would be a long wait for any country.”

In a similar vein, the Cambodia stop has generated concern. Mr. Obama is visiting Phnom Penh to attend a meeting of the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A bipartisan group of 12 members of Congress sent Mr. Obama a letter on Oct. 31 saying they saw the value of attending but urging him to condemn human rights violations by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for 27 years.

The prime minister’s party “uses various forms of coercion, including violence and manipulation of national institutions, to limit the freedoms of ordinary citizens,” said the letter, whose authors included Senator John McCain of Arizona, a conservative Republican, and Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a liberal Democrat.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Thomas Fuller from Bangkok.


11/09/2012 11:59 AM

Unrequited Love: Explaining Germany's Infantile Crush on Obama

A Commentary by Jan Fleischhauer

German schadenfreude knows no bounds, particularly when it comes to the United States. The country loves to feel superior to a superpower like America. Yet Germany also harbors a childish infatuation with Obama -- one which has little political grounding. The reasons are psychological.

It's too bad that Mitt Romney didn't win. If the Republicans had won, we could finally have known for sure that our suspicion of America's imminent demise is correct. "Four more years," translated into the German viewpoint means little more than a "four-year reprieve."

For the über-watchful among us, the signs of the downfall are obvious. One must only take a look at the condition of the streets (every fourth bridge is crumbling!), or the entirely outdated power grid, to come to the conclusion that this country has its future behind it. A nation that has its utility lines hanging from poles in the street, instead of burying them in an orderly fashion underground, cannot really be taken seriously.

With a bit of luck, the specter across the Atlantic might even take care of itself. It can't be ruled out. When they are not shooting each other or being fried by dangling power lines then the Americans might simply pop. Two out of every three US citizens are overweight, or even obese! Every child in Germany knows the numbers.

There is hardly an issue about which Germans as so united as they are by their desire to see America on its knees. It unites both the left and the right. Wherever they look, they see decay, a lack of culture and ignorance. "A perverse mixture of irresponsibility, greed, and religious zealotry," as my adversary, columnist Jacob Augstein, furiously argued on Monday.

A Blessing to Live in Germany

What a blessing it is, one must conclude, to live in Germany, a country where the highways are regularly repaired and the washing machines use so little water that one could water the entire Sahara with what is left over. In which citizens' initiatives are formed against McDonald's, and two-bit crime dramas are considered the pinnacle of TV entertainment. If the utility poles here were to snap like toothpicks, then it would be the fault of some natural catastrophe, the likes of which would make a hurricane seem like a gentle breeze.

I don't want to sound like a smart aleck, but does anyone remember when, in December 2005, a surprisingly strong winter storm left 250,000 people in the area surrounding Münster without power for days? Münster and its environs do not want to rule the world. But still, it was strange to see the same experts on TV, who two years prior, during a large power outage on the east coast of the US, had given their reasons for why something like that could never happen in Germany.

The criticism of America has always been a bit infantile. One is familiar with the theory from psychoanalysis, when people talk about transference, or when suppressed feelings or emotions are overcome by projecting them onto others. It may work for a while, improving one's feeling of self-worth by devaluing an imagined adversary. But it always falls short. Which is why the ritual must be constantly carried out anew.

For as long as I can remember, America has been on the decline. Already in the 1970s, the country was doomed, and that was before people like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush came to power. In the meantime, Americans brought communism to its knees, rang in the age of the Internet and revolutionized capitalism several times.

The reality is that a quarter of global wealth is still created in the United States. They still have at their command the largest military power on the globe, and will continue to do so, despite all of the talk of a multi-polar world.

The Infatuation with Obama

Above all, the United States remains the largest chosen destination of millions of people in the world. If they had the choice of where they could live, the majority oddly enough would not choose the German DIN standard for happiness, but life in New York or California, where the potholes are as big as gravel pits. That may make people here want to light as many candles as possible, to pray for the downfall to finally come.

The childish excitement over Obama, that once again took hold over Germans during this election -- fully 93 percent of the country would have voted for him in this election -- is the flip side of this desire for America's demise. That the Germans, of all people, should see themselves in a black civil rights attorney from Chicago can only be explained by the fact that they see him as the opposite of what they consider to be normal Americans.

Since Obama spoke to the world in front of the Victory Column in Berlin during his first presidential campaign in the summer of 2008, he has found a firm place in the hearts of German citizens. They will always be grateful to him for this honor. That's why they forgive him for keeping Guantanamo open and for sending out drones like other people would send postcards.

In the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Andrian Kreye correctly pointed out that for Europe, life with Republican presidents is usually easier, because the US then takes the obligations of its alliances seriously.

Obama has no interest in Europe, and all of his attention goes to Asia. If this president calls the German chancellor's office, it is only to try to sweet talk her into finally implementing euro-bonds, so Wall Street can sleep again. But that is one of those facts that is better to suppress.

Superpowers don't disappear over the course of years. It takes decades, if not centuries. As such, the verdict might not arrive for awhile yet. The prophets of doom can continue to hope.


The Lede - The New York Times News Blog
November 7, 2012, 5:34 pm

Israeli Left Mocks ‘Bibi’s Bet on Romney’


Last Updated, Thursday, 3:30 p.m. As my colleague Alan Cowell reports, President Obama's re-election could prove to be awkward for Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, since the conservative Israeli leader "was widely perceived in Israel and the United States as having supported the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney."

Remarks by Mr. Netanyahu, in which he seemed to chastise Mr. Obama for not taking action to defend Israel from the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb, were used in a television ad that ran in Florida during the final weeks of the campaign. That ad was produced by a Republican political operative who has worked for the Israeli prime minister. (During the secretly recorded address Mr. Romney gave to wealthy donors in Florida this year, he boasted that consultants working for his election "work for Bibi Netanyahu in his races.")

Several observers detected more than a little awkwardness in video of Mr. Netanyahu with the American ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, on Wednesday, in which he seemed to force a smile as he said, "I want to congratulate President Obama on his re-election."

Video of Israel's prime minister asking the American ambassador to pass on his congratulations to President Obama.

A former Israeli prime minister who could challenge Mr. Netanyahu in coming elections, Ehud Olmert, criticized what he called his rival's failed attempt to interfere in the United States' election as "a significant breach of the basic rules governing ties between nations."

As the Israeli news blog +972 reported, Mr. Netanyahu's political opponents on the Israeli left, gloating over the failure of "Bibi's bet on Romney," were filled with hope that Mr. Obama might soon remind their prime minister that he had backed the loser. In one image passed around on Facebook by Israelis on Wednesday, with Hebrew-language dialogue added in speech bubbles to photographs of the two leaders, the imagined exchange between the two men went like this:

    Mr. Obama: "Benjamin, what's up? Say, remember how much you intervened and tried to influence the presidential elections here in the States?"
    Mr. Netanyahu: "Yeah, why?"
    Mr. Obama: "Oh, no reason."

Another image shared by Israeli Facebook users -- remixed from a celebratory @BarackObama tweet -- suggested that the setback for Mr. Netanyahu's American friend might be a harbinger of failure for the prime minister's party in Israel's next election.

Writing in The Forward, a Jewish-American newspaper, Josh Nathan-Kazis noted that one of Mr. Netanyahu's strongest supporters, Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor, had gambled and lost even more heavily on Tuesday's elections.

    It's been a tough night for Jewish political mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate who was the biggest political donor of the election cycle. Adelson and his wife had backed Mitt Romney with $20 million in donations to the pro-Romney super PAC. But his spending on failed Republican candidates went well beyond the top of the ticket.

    Four additional Adelson-backed candidates lost their races tonight. In Virginia, Tim Kaine won... over George Allen, whose super PAC had received $1.5 million from Adelson. In Florida, Bill Nelson won the Senate seat over Connie Mack, who Adelson had backed with $1 million. And in New Jersey, Adelson-backed Orthodox Jewish Republican Shmuley Boteach lost to Democratic incumbent Congressman Bill Pascrell.

    In Florida's 18th Congressional District, Adelson-backed Republican Allen West narrowly trailed Democrat Patrick Murphy, who was declared the winner by news organizations.

As my colleague Jeff Zeleny reported in July, another part of Mr. Adelson's expensive effort to defeat the American president was a series of attack ads broadcast in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida that featured American Jews who said they now regretted voting for Mr. Obama in 2008 because of his insufficient support for the Israeli government during his first term. In one of those ads, a voter named Michael Goldstein claimed to have been particularly repulsed by what he saw as Mr. Obama's disrespectful treatment of Mr. Netanyahu when the two leaders met at the White House in May of last year.

An ad from a group sponsored by Sheldon Adlson attacking President Obama for his treatment of Israel's prime minister.

After the White House meeting referenced in the ad, some observers suggested that the Israeli prime minister might have crossed a line, since he appeared to lecture the American president in front of reporters.

According to the results of a poll of Jewish voters conducted on Tuesday for the liberal Jewish-American lobbying group J Street, the Adelson-supported advertising campaign seems to have had little effect. Mr. Obama -- who appears to have won Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida -- retained significant support among American Jews nationwide, taking about 70 percent of the vote, a loss of just 4 percent from 2008, when he won a more resounding victory across the board.

Reflecting on the apparently poor betting strategies of Mr. Adelson, a casino owner whose business practices in China are under investigation, the writer Jeffrey Goldberg joked that he would like to play poker with the billionaire donor.

    I want to play poker with Sheldon Adelson.

    - Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) 7 Nov 12

Noam Sheizaf, a +972 journalist and blogger in Tel Aviv reports that Mr. Adelson's Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, known for its support of Mr. Netanyahu, greeted President Obama's re-election with "a large headline in the news section" reading: "America Chose Socialism."

« Last Edit: Nov 09, 2012, 07:49 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #2951 on: Nov 09, 2012, 07:26 AM »

11/08/2012 02:38 PM

Obama's Diverse Coalition: The New America Flexes its Muscles

By Marc Pitzke  in Boston

The election in 2008 provided but a fleeting glimpse of America's vast new diversity. This year, it was impossible to ignore, with unprecedented numbers of Hispanics joining blacks and women to push President Barack Obama back into the White House. The Republicans are facing a bleak future if they don't reinvent themselves.

The confetti has long been thrown out, the TV crews have departed, the buffets have been cleared, the election night "ballrooms" stripped back down to the cold convention halls they were. What remains are images -- contrasting, silent, strong images which say it all.

Here in Boston, it was the shocked faces of the Republicans who had hoped to celebrate Mitt Romney's victory but ended up witnessing his political demise. Hundreds of white, serious faces, many of them middle-aged or elderly, with blacks, Latinos and other minorities few and far between. The predominant dress code: ruby-red for women, dark bespoke suits for men.

In Chicago, a thousand miles away, it was an utterly different scene. There, hugging each other in glee, were 15,000 Democrats of literally all shades: white, black, Latino, young, old, male, female, straight, gay. They wore jeans or gowns, baseball caps or church hats, scarves, hijabs, yarmulkes and, again and again, T-shirts with Obama's stylized countenance.

That's what the new America looks like, and that's what it looked like four years ago in Chicago's Grant Park, where Obama celebrated his first presidential victory. But back then it seemed fleeting, just a vision soon to be smothered by politics.

Obama's re-election has shown that it's more than a vision. "When you do it once, it's just a victory," writes Ross Douthat of the New York Times. "When you do it twice, it's a realignment."

And it could be here to stay. The era of monochrome majorities is ending. The political America looks more and more like a street corner in Manhattan.

"The White Establishment Is Now the Minority"

This new America manifests itself in Obama's multicultural winning coalition: Latinos, blacks, singles, women and young voters.

It manifests itself in the 20 women who will be inaugurated in the Senate come January -- among them Tammy Baldwin, the first openly homosexual senator in US history. It manifests itself in the successful referendums decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing same-sex marriage. This is not Ronald Reagan's Hollywood America anymore. It's not Mitt Romney's black-and-white America, either.

It wasn't enough that the Republican won 59 percent of the white vote. With 79 percent of the non-white vote (93 percent of African-Americans, 73 percent of Asians, 71 percent of Latinos), Obama forged a powerful majority from the demographic upheaval in the US.

"The white establishment is now the minority," lamented Bill O'Reilly, one of Romney's loudest cheerleaders at the (predominantly white) cable channel Fox News, during election night.

This fear also permeated Romney's "victory" party, which morphed into a last hurrah of said establishment. "I can't find my way around this world anymore," sighed one older lady, as the night's trend, projected on giant screens, was no longer deniable. "We were all convinced we'd win."

These new realities are more than images. They are facts, numbers and demographic data. For the first time in US history, Caucasian births are less than half of all births in the country. To turn Bill O'Reilly's grievance on its head, the minorities will soon be the majority. This is already the case in four US states and cities like New York and Las Vegas.

Latinos, Blacks, Women, Gays and Lesbians

These facts mark the tentative end of a long fight over America's soul. It was a fight between status quo and momentum; conformity and diversity; backward and forward. It's no wonder "Forward" was Obama's campaign slogan, punctuated by an exclamation mark in the last weeks. He ended up winning the popular vote with a margin of almost three million votes.

Entire generations have turned over. The demographic foundations of the US have shifted, while the Republican machinery has shrunk. The results are in: "Our diversity won," writes Peter Staley, a prominent AIDS activist.

This diversity includes Hispanics, the fastest growing population group. Almost three in four Hispanics voted for Obama, not least thanks to the Republicans' harsh immigration policies. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that comprehensive immigration reform, at which so many previous presidents failed, is once again a "very high" priority. The Republicans would do well not to stand in the way this time around.

This diversity includes blacks. In the swing state of Ohio alone, the Obama ground team's get-out-the-vote efforts managed to increase the black share of the electorate to 15 percent from 11 percent in 2008. Obama won Ohio, previously known as a blue-collar stronghold, with a margin of 1.9 percentage points -- and thus won the presidency.

This diversity includes women. Never before did so many women capture Senate seats. One of them is Elizabeth Warren, now the first woman ever to represent Massachusetts in the Senate, and Mazie Hirono, the first ever for Hawaii and the first Asian-American female senator in US history. New Hampshire's entire congressional delegation plus the new governor: all women.

This diversity includes gays and lesbians. Obama mentioned them in his Chicago speech, and for a reason: Under him they've seen their biggest progress fighting for equal rights, after much initial grumbling. And on Tuesday, voters in several states signed off on it. They voted yes on same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland -- for the first time by popular vote, not through the courts or legislatures. Early results in Washington suggest voters there also approved of same-sex marriage, and an amendment to the Minnesota constitution banning same-sex marriage failed.

"I think it's important to note that the American people have rejected the idea that our neighbors are our enemies," writes Sue Fulton, an ex-Army captain who co-founded OutServe, a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) active-duty military personnel. "This is an expression of the belief that we're all in this together -- black, white, Anglo, Latino, gay, straight."

Defeat Leads to Republican Introspection

Meanwhile, the Republicans are missing the boat. Long ignorant to that, they've now been shell-shocked into the harsh realization that they may end up on the wrong side of history.

"A Mad Men party in a Modern Family America" -- that's how George W. Bush's former top strategist Matthew Dowd calls his party now. The TV show Mad Men, of course, takes place in the 1960's; Modern Family focuses on an unconventional patchwork family, including a gay couple with an adopted daughter.

Panic has seized them. "In our party, intolerance can no longer be tolerated," tweeted the political consultant John Weaver on the next morning's hangover. "If we're going to win in the future, Republicans need to do better among Latinos," said Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush's electoral victories.

In 2004, Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Bush's younger brother Jeb, whose wife was born in Mexico, is now considered one of the new -- yet aging -- hopefuls of the party. Another one is Florida's young senator Marco Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba.

Hardline Conservatives Will Not Disappear

This will be an acid test for the Republicans. The old guard won't give up so easily. You only have to watch Fox News, a virtual land of denial where many commentators refused to acknowledge the results late into the night. Above all Rove, who kept resisting even after his network had called the race for Obama.

Obama's win didn't come by itself. The president didn't just rely on demographic advantages. He buttressed them with his massive ground operation -- and brutal, uncompromising attacks on Mitt Romney.

This is because he knows that this new America is brittle. Much works remains. The percentage of black inmates, for instance, is still disproportionately high, and the percentage of women in Washington disproportionately low. Hispanics are still being discriminated against, so are gays and lesbians.

"That era will not last forever," warns Douthat, "It may not even last more than another four years." In that case, only images would remain.
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« Reply #2952 on: Nov 09, 2012, 07:28 AM »

Interpol elects French woman as first female president

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 8, 2012 12:48 EST

ROME — Interpol on Thursday elected a French police commissioner known for her drive against organised crime in Bordeaux and Corsica as its first female president at its general assembly in Rome.

“Mireille Ballestrazzi of France becomes first woman to be elected president of Interpol,” the world’s top association of crime-fighters said on Twitter.

Ballestrazzi, 58, became a police commissioner in France in 1975 and was already vice-president for Europe on Interpol’s executive committee.

She is particularly well known for her time as director of judicial police in Corsica in the 1990s at a time of fierce turf wars on the island.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who attended the Interpol assembly earlier this week, said Ballestrazzi was “a great police woman”.

“She is one of the women who are the pride of the French police,” he said.

Valls said her experience with organised crime would serve her well in fighting drug trafficking, mafias from southern and eastern Europe as well as growing political violence that requires a coordinated international response.
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« Reply #2953 on: Nov 09, 2012, 07:30 AM »

U.K. lawmakers urge tough new press rules

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, November 9, 2012 7:05 EST

More than 40 members of Britain’s ruling Conservative party have urged Prime Minister David Cameron to impose tough new press rules overseen by regulators outside the industry, in an open letter published in the Guardian on Friday.

Senior members, including former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and former party chairmen Caroline Spelman and Lord Fowler were among those calling for Cameron to reject the industry’s recommendations for self-regulation.

“We are concerned that the current proposal put forward by the newspaper industry would lack independence and risks being an unstable model destined to fail, like previous initiatives over the past 60 years,” said the letter.

Judge Brian Leveson is due to publish the findings of his inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the country’s press before the end of the year, with many calling for statutory regulation to be recommended.

However, the letter warned against government interference in the running of the media.

“After eight months, 650 witnesses and 6,000 pages of evidence submitted to the Leveson inquiry, we can be clear about two things,” it said.

“Firstly, that a free press is essential for a free society. Secondly, that there are fundamental weaknesses in the current model of self-regulation which cannot be ignored.

“No-one wants our media controlled by the government but, to be credible, any new regulator must be independent of the press as well as from politicians,” it added.

Brian Cathcart, director of campaign group Hacked Off, called the letter “a welcome development”.

“We hope the Prime Minister will seize the opportunity presented by his own backbenchers and agree to hold cross-party talks on how to take forward Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations as soon as it is practical to do so,” he said.
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« Reply #2954 on: Nov 09, 2012, 07:32 AM »

November 9, 2012

Japan Seeks Tighter Pact With U.S. to Confront China


TOKYO — Japan’s defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto, said on Friday that he wanted to revise his nation’s security alliance with the United States to place more emphasis on the threat from China to Japan’s southeastern islands.

Mr. Morimoto said he wanted to update a set of guidelines that govern how the two allies’ militaries would cooperate during a crisis to include the potential for a maritime clash with China. Tensions between Japan and China have risen in recent months over contested islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

In a sign of the emotions conjured by the territorial dispute, China has kept up the pressure on Japan by sending paramilitary ships into waters around the islands, which are Japanese controlled. On Friday, Japan’s Coast Guard said Chinese maritime surveillance ships had sailed into Japanese-claimed waters for the 21st consecutive day.

Mr. Morimoto did not specify exactly what changes he would seek in the agreement. He told reporters that he had already informed the United States of Japan’s desire to revisit the guidelines, and on Friday sent the vice minister of defense, Akihisa Nagashima, to Washington for talks.

Mr. Morimoto noted that the last time the United States and Japan changed the guidelines was in 1997, in response to tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program.

“The situation in Asia is not limited to the Korean Peninsula, but there is also the problem of China’s increasing maritime activities,” Mr. Morimoto said. “In light of the qualitative changes in the security environment, I want to start a revision of the present state of the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the islands fell under the security alliance, requiring the American military to come to Japan’s aid during a possible clash there. The United States currently bases around 50,000 military personnel in Japan, with more than half of them on Okinawa, near the disputed islands.

However, some in Japan have questioned whether the United States would actually risk a war with China over what are essentially barren rocks surrounded by shark-infested waters. Japanese leaders have said that they want Washington to go a step further and openly support their claims to the islands.

While the United States has maintained its neutrality, Chinese officials have pointed out that Washington bears some responsibility in creating the current dispute. They say the United States essentially picked sides in 1972, when it returned the islands along with Okinawa to Japan without consulting China.

Friday’s effort to reach out to Washington is also in line with the conservative stance of Japan’s current prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who has sought to tighten ties with the United States. Relations were damaged three years ago when one of Mr. Noda’s predecessors, the left-leaning Yukio Hatoyama, tried to scrap a laboriously negotiated agreement to relocate a United States Marine air base.

The vice minister, Mr. Nagashima, will also try to smooth out a much smaller rift with the United States over a Japanese decision to cancel a joint military drill that was to have taken place this week. The drill, which would have simulated the recapture of a remote Japanese island from an unspecified foreign invader, was apparently deemed by Japan to be too provocative to China. However, some American officials have privately expressed displeasure at the cancellation, saying it sent the wrong signal to China that Japan was willing to compromise on security.
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