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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 420817 times)
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« Reply #2970 on: Nov 10, 2012, 08:22 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
11/09/2012 04:14 PM

EU Budget Battle: Berlin and Brussels Demand More from London and Paris

London must be more willing to compromise, and Paris needs to get on the economic reform bandwagon. At least, that is what top European and German politicians are demanding as tough EU budget talks swiftly approach. Two more influential voices have now blasted Britain and France.

The European Commission and top German politicians are becoming increasingly exasperated with both France and Britain as the summit in Brussels to determine the EU budget for the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020 approaches.

Both countries have been insistent on getting their way as member states position themselves for what promise to be difficult talks -- and both London and Paris have threatened to veto the budget if it doesn't meet their expectations. In response, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Germany's representative on the EU's executive body, has harshly criticized the two countries.

In a speech before the German association representing magazine publishers in the country, Oettinger warned against "cheap populism" when reporting on Greece, before saying "my problem children are France and Great Britain." By way of explanation, he said that with its anti-EU course, London has "taken leave of its senses." He added that tabloids such as The Sun appear to be trying to force Britain out of the EU. Turning to France, he said the country had too little industry and innovation.

Oettinger's comments were echoed on Friday by a close confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. Volker Kauder, head of Merkel's conservatives in parliament, said that "Europe will not make progress without a functioning Franco-German axis."

Kauder was critical of France's socialist leadership, saying that "we can only hope that President François Hollande moves a bit closer to the chancellor" when it comes to combating the euro crisis. He added: "It would be good if the socialists there undertook real and courageous structural reforms. That would be good for the country and good for Europe."

'Prepared to Compromise'

If anything, Kauder was even firmer when it came to London. "I want Europe to stay together," he said. "Great Britain can't constantly claim special treatment; they too have to be prepared to compromise."

The two politicians are just the latest to express frustration with the brinksmanship that has so far defined preliminary talks on the EU budget. British parliament recently passed a non-binding resolution demanding substantial cuts to the €1 trillion budget recently proposed by the European Commission. The vote included several lawmakers from David Cameron's own party breaking ranks to force the British prime minister into an uncompromising position at the upcoming summit, scheduled for Nov. 22.

Cameron had told parliamentarians that he would, at worst, seek a budgetary freeze. "I am quite prepared to use the veto if we do not get a deal that is good for Britain," he said. Yet a freeze, albeit adjusted for inflation, is essentially what the Commission has proposed. British parliament, however, would like cuts of up to 20 percent. Last week, European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Janusz Lewandowski said, in reference to London, "either they see their future in the European Union in the long term or they don't."

France, for its part, has threatened to veto the budget if it doesn't include a continuation of generous agricultural subsidies. Last week, Merkel -- who would also like to see the budget reduced, though not to the degree proposed by Britain -- urged leaders to avoid inflammatory rhetoric. "I don't want to throw more vetoes into the room," she said. "It doesn't help bring about a solution."

Still, for all the recent pleas for compromise coming from Berlin and Brussels, there have been no signs that Cameron is preparing to back down. At a dinner in London with Merkel on Wednesday night, the two made little progress in reconciling their positions. Next week, the British prime minister plans to fly to Rome for a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on the upcoming budget showdown.

And if Cameron does ultimately refuse to budge, it seems certain that he will have the support of most Britons. According to a new survey published by the public opinion research group YouGov on Friday, some 49 percent of British citizens would vote in favor of their country withdrawing from the EU if a referendum were held. Only 28 percent would vote to stay. In Germany, the numbers are flipped, with 57 percent in favor of staying and just 25 percent backing withdrawal.

With reporting by Philipp Wittrock and Roland Nelles
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« Reply #2971 on: Nov 10, 2012, 08:23 AM »


Report: Chinese economy will overtake U.S. within four years

By The Guardian
Friday, November 9, 2012 10:17 EST
By Josephine Moulds

China’s economy will be biggest in world by end of 2016, says leading international thinktank

China will overtake the US in the next four years to become the largest economy in the world, says a leading international thinktank.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said China’s economy will be larger than the combined economies of the eurozone countries by the end of this year, and will overtake the US by the end of 2016.

Global GDP will grow by 3% a year over the next 50 years, it says, but there will be large variations between countries and regions. By 2025, it says the combined GDP of China and India will be bigger than that of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada put together. Asa Johansson, senior economist at the OECD, said: “It is quite a shift in the balance of economic power we are going to see in the future.”

Inequalities will persist, even though people in the poorest countries will see their income more than quadruple by 2060, with those in China and India seeing a more than a seven-fold increase. By 2060, the OECD says living standards in the emerging countries will still only be 25%-60% of the level enjoyed by those in the US.

Global imbalances, which created the conditions for the crash of 2007, will continue to widen and reach pre-crisis levels by 2030, it said. In the short term, this is largely a cyclical effect of the financial crisis. So the US, which had a large budget deficit before the crisis, experienced a sharper downturn than China, which had a budget surplus.

The OECD warned that rising imbalances could undermine growth. But, it said, if countries undertook more ambitious reforms with regards to labour and production, they could be reduced. Johansson said these could address how easy it was to hire and fire employees, or regulations around starting up a business and restrictions over foreign business investment.

© Guardian News and Media 2012
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« Reply #2972 on: Nov 10, 2012, 08:37 AM »

Witness: From Al Jazerra

Diary Of A Massacre: Pacificists learn the hard way that there is no escaping the civil war in Colombia.

Filmmakers: Guillermo Galdos & Gabriel Elizondo

Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the world, entrenched in a decade-old civil war that pits several militant groups against each other.

Many of the players in the internal conflict, including the Colombian military, put pressure on civilians to take sides.

But in 1997 a community of 2,000 people from the village of San Jose de Apartado declared themselves a neutral "Peace Community." They decided not to carry guns, not to take any side in the conflict, and not to collaborate with any armed group.

Renata Rendon, a young human rights worker with American citizenship, went to San Jose de Apartado to try and understand how the ongoing conflict was affecting the villagers.

Renata found the community well organised, holding elections for their own governing council and even allowing their young to vote. They lived in harmony, despite being eyed with suspicion by both the army and the guerrilla groups.

But this harmony was to be mercilessly shattered. In February 2005, eight villagers were killed, some were women and children.

There are conflicting reports on who perpetrated the crimes, but San Jose residents and international observers blame the Colombian army. For its part, the government says the victims were collaborators of the guerrillas. So far, no one has been brought to justice.

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZdnMsPrrNQ&feature=relmfu

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIIU0UQ6X6E&feature=relmfu



* witness.jpg (3.3 KB, 77x51 - viewed 64 times.)
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« Reply #2973 on: Nov 10, 2012, 09:03 AM »

In the USA..

November 9, 2012

Climate Change Report Outlines Perils for U.S. Military

By JOHN M. BRODER
NYT

WASHINGTON — Climate change is accelerating, and it will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report issued Friday.

The group, the National Research Council, says in a study commissioned by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies that clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems.

Hurricane Sandy provided a foretaste of what can be expected more often in the near future, the report’s lead author, John D. Steinbruner, said in an interview.

“This is the sort of thing we were talking about,” said Mr. Steinbruner, a longtime authority on national security. “You can debate the specific contribution of global warming to that storm. But we’re saying climate extremes are going to be more frequent, and this was an example of what they could mean. We’re also saying it could get a whole lot worse than that.”

Mr. Steinbruner, the director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said that humans are pouring carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases into the atmosphere at a rate never before seen. “We know there will have to be major climatic adjustments — there’s no uncertainty about that — but we just don’t know the details,” he said. “We do know they will be big.”

The study was released 10 days late: its authors had been scheduled to brief intelligence officials on their findings the day Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, but the federal government was shut down because of the storm.

Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests, the study said.

The Defense Department has already taken major steps to plan for and adapt to climate change and has spent billions of dollars to make ships, aircraft and vehicles more fuel-efficient. Nonetheless, the 206-page study warns in sometimes bureaucratic language, the United States is ill prepared to assess and prepare for the catastrophes that a heated planet will produce.

“It is prudent to expect that over the course of a decade some climate events — including single events, conjunctions of events occurring simultaneously or in sequence in particular locations, and events affecting globally integrated systems that provide for human well-being — will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of the affected societies or global system to manage and that have global security implications serious enough to compel international response,” the report states.

In other words, states will fail, large populations subjected to famine, flood or disease will migrate across international borders, and national and international agencies will not have the resources to cope.

The report cites the simultaneous heat wave in Russia and floods in Pakistan in the summer of 2010 as disparate but linked climate-related events that taxed those societies.

It also cites the Nile River watershed as a place where climate-related conflict over water and farmland could arise as the combined populations of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia approach 300 million. South Korea and Saudi Arabia have purchased fertile land in the Nile watershed to produce crops to feed their people, but local forces could decide to seize the crops for their own use, potentially leading to international conflict, the report says.

The 18-month study is not the first such report from government agencies or research organizations to draw a direct link between climate change and national security concerns.

The National Intelligence Council produced a classified national intelligence estimate on climate change in 2008 and has issued a number of unclassified reports since then. The Pentagon and the White House have also highlighted the role of climate change in humanitarian crises and security threats.

The National Research Council recommends in the new report that all government agencies improve their ability to monitor the global climate and assess the risks to populations and critical resources around the world.

Yet Mr. Steinbruner said that as the need for more and better analysis is growing, government resources devoted to them are shrinking. Republicans in Congress objected to the C.I.A.’s creation of a climate change center and tried to deny money for it. The American weather satellite program is losing capability because of years of underfinancing and mismanagement, imperiling the ability to predict and monitor major storms.

**************
November 9, 2012

Petraeus Quits; Evidence of Affair Was Found by F.B.I.

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
NYT

WASHINGTON — David H. Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and one of America’s most decorated four-star generals, resigned on Friday after an F.B.I. investigation uncovered evidence that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.

Mr. Petraeus issued a statement acknowledging the affair after President Obama accepted his resignation and it was announced by the C.I.A. The disclosure ended a triumphant re-election week for the president with an unfolding scandal.

Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, F.B.I. agents met with Mr. Petraeus to discuss the investigation.

Administration and Congressional officials identified the woman as Paula Broadwell, the co-author of a biography of Mr. Petraeus. Her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” was published this year. Ms. Broadwell could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Broadwell, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, spent 15 years in the military, according to a biography that had appeared on her Web site. She spent extended periods of time with Mr. Petraeus in Afghanistan, interviewing him for her book, which grew out of a two-year research project for her doctoral dissertation and which she promoted on a high-profile tour that included an appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

Married with two children, she has described Mr. Petraeus as her mentor.

Senior members of Congress were alerted to Mr. Petraeus’s impending resignation by intelligence officials about six hours before the C.I.A. announced it. One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter said that Mr. Petraeus had been encouraged “to get out in front of the issue” and resign, and that he agreed.

As for how the affair came to light, the Congressional official said that “it was portrayed to us that the F.B.I. was investigating something else and came upon him. My impression is that the F.B.I. stumbled across this.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not inform the Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the inquiry until this week, according to Congressional officials, who noted that by law the panels — and especially their chairmen and ranking members — are supposed to be told about significant developments in the intelligence arena. The Senate committee plans to pursue the question of why it was not told, one official said.

The revelation of a secret inquiry into the head of the nation’s premier spy agency raised urgent questions about Mr. Petraeus’s 14-month tenure at the C.I.A. and the decision by Mr. Obama to elevate him to head the agency after leading the country’s war effort in Afghanistan. White House officials said they did not know about the affair until this week, when Mr. Petraeus informed them.

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Mr. Petraeus said in his statement, expressing regret for his abrupt departure. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”

Mr. Petraeus’s admission and resignation represent a remarkable fall from grace for one of the most prominent figures in America’s modern military and intelligence community, a commander who helped lead the nation’s wartime activities in the decade after the Sept. 11 attacks and was credited with turning around the failing war effort in Iraq.

Mr. Petraeus almost single-handedly forced a profound evolution in the country’s military thinking and doctrine with his philosophy of counterinsurgency, focused more on protecting the civilian population than on killing enemies. More than most of his flag officer peers, he understood how to navigate Washington politics and news media, helping him rise through the ranks and obtain resources he needed, although fellow Army leaders often resented what they saw as a grasping careerism.

“To an important degree, a generation of officers tried to pattern themselves after Petraeus,” said Stephen Biddle, a military scholar at George Washington University who advised Mr. Petraeus at times. “He was controversial; a lot of people didn’t like him. But everybody looked at him as the model of what a modern general was to be.”

At the C.I.A., Mr. Petraeus maintained a low profile, in contrast to the celebrity that surrounded him as a general. But since the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans two months ago, critics had increasingly pressured him to give the agency’s account of the chaotic night. Mr. Petraeus was scheduled to testify before a closed Congressional hearing next week.

White House officials say they were informed on Wednesday night that Mr. Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair. Intelligence officials notified the president’s national security staff. Mr. Obama at the time was on his way back to Washington from Chicago, where he had gone to receive election returns.

On Thursday morning, just before a staff meeting at the White House, Mr. Obama was told. “He was surprised, and he was disappointed,” one senior administration official said. “You don’t expect to hear that the Thursday after you were re-elected.”

The president was in the White House all day on Thursday, getting back to his old routine after months on the campaign trail. That afternoon, Mr. Petraeus came in to see him, and informed him that he strongly believed he had to resign.

Mr. Obama did not accept his resignation right away. “He told him, ‘I’ll think about it overnight,’ ” the administration official said. After months on the road, the disclosure of a career-killing extramarital affair from his larger-than-life C.I.A. director was the last thing that Mr. Obama was expecting, the official said.

The president, officials said, did not want Mr. Petraeus to leave. But he ultimately decided that he would not lean heavily on him to stay. On Friday, he called Mr. Petraeus and accepted the resignation, “agreeing with Petraeus’s judgment that he couldn’t continue to lead the agency,” a White House official said.

The White House had hoped to keep the news under wraps until after the daily briefing for the news media, but as it was reported on MSNBC, reporters checking their e-mail confronted Jay Carney, the press secretary, who tried to duck the questions.

“I think I’ll let General Petraeus address this,” Mr. Carney said. Shortly after the news broke, Mr. Obama released a statement praising Mr. Petraeus for his “extraordinary service” to the country and expressing support for him and his wife, Holly.

“By any measure, through his lifetime of service, David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger,” the president said. Without directly addressing the affair, Mr. Obama added, “Going forward, my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work.”

A favorite of President George W. Bush and once the subject of intense speculation about his future as a possible presidential candidate, Mr. Petraeus managed the awkward move from a Republican administration to a Democratic one. He was one of the most telegenic faces of the military during his tenure, testifying frequently in Congress about the country’s difficult battles overseas.

Mr. Petraeus clashed with Mr. Obama in 2008 during a campaign visit to Iraq, having what David Plouffe, his campaign manager, called in his book a “healthy debate” over troop levels in the country.

But the president’s decision to tap Mr. Petraeus to command the war in Afghanistan, and later picking him to lead the C.I.A., effectively ended lingering concerns among Obama political advisers that the popular general might challenge his commander in chief during the election.

Mr. Petraeus and his wife met when he was a cadet at West Point; she was the daughter of the academy’s superintendent and a student at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

Holly Petraeus works for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, running a branch dedicated to educating military families about financial matters and monitoring their consumer complaints.

Mr. Petraeus’s resignation and the circumstances surrounding it stunned military officers who have served alongside him in war zones over the past two decades and the national security establishment he later served.

“It was a punch in the gut for those of us who know him,” said Col. Michael J. Meese, a professor at West Point who has known Mr. Petraeus for a decade and served as one of his top aides in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Dave’s decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants.” James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement.

By acknowledging an extramarital affair, Mr. Petraeus, 60, was confronting a sensitive issue for a spy chief. Intelligence agencies are often concerned about the possibility that agents who engage in such behavior could be blackmailed for information.

Mr. Petraeus praised his colleagues at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va., calling them “truly exceptional in every regard” and thanking them for their service to the country. He made it clear that his departure was not how he had envisioned ending a storied career in the military and in intelligence.

“Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing,” he said. “I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you, and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.”

Under Mr. Bush, Mr. Petraeus was credited for helping to develop and put in place the “surge” in troops in Iraq that helped wind down the war there. Mr. Petraeus was moved to Afghanistan in 2010 after Mr. Obama fired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal over comments he made to a reporter.

In his statement on Friday, Mr. Obama said that Michael J. Morell, the deputy director of the C.I.A., would take over once again as acting director, as he did briefly after Leon E. Panetta left the agency last year.

Among those who might succeed Mr. Petraeus permanently is John O. Brennan, the president’s adviser for domestic security and counterterrorism. Mr. Brennan was considered for C.I.A. director before Mr. Obama’s term began but withdrew amid criticism from some of the president’s liberal supporters. Another possibility is Michael G. Vickers, the top Pentagon intelligence policy official and a former C.I.A. paramilitary officer.

 Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Helene Cooper, Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt and Scott Shane.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 9, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that David H. Petraeus was expected to remain in President Obama’s cabinet. The C.I.A. director is not a cabinet member in the Obama administration.

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

November 9, 2012

Woman Linked to Petraeus Is a West Point Graduate and Lifelong High Achiever

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
NYT

WASHINGTON — Paula Broadwell, whose affair with the nation’s C.I.A. director led to his resignation on Friday, was the valedictorian of her high school class and homecoming queen, a fitness champion at West Point with a graduate degree from Harvard, and a model for a machine gun manufacturer.

It may have been those qualities — and a string of achievements that began in her native North Dakota, where she was state student council president, an all-state basketball player and orchestra concertmistress — that drew the attention of David H. Petraeus, the nation’s top spy and a four-star general, as the two spent hours together for a biography of Mr. Petraeus that Ms. Broadwell co-wrote.

Ms. Broadwell’s name burst into public view on Friday evening after Mr. Petraeus resigned abruptly amid an F.B.I. investigation that uncovered evidence of their relationship.

But Ms. Broadwell was hardly shy about her interactions with Mr. Petraeus as she promoted her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” in media appearances earlier this year. She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Mr. Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital.

Ms. Broadwell said in an interview in February that Mr. Petraeus was enjoying his new civilian life at the C.I.A., where he became director in September 2011. “It was a huge growth period for him, because he realized he didn’t have to hide behind the shield of all those medals and stripes on his arm,” she said. Ms. Broadwell was 39 at the time.

Her biography on the Penguin Speakers Bureau Web site says that she is a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

A self-described “soccer mom” and an ironman triathlete, Ms. Broadwell became a fixture on the Washington media scene after the publication of her book about Mr. Petraeus, who is 60. In a Twitter message this summer, she bragged about appearing on a panel at the Aspen Institute, a policy group for deep thinkers.

“Heading 2 @AspenInstitute 4 the Security Forum tomorrow! Panel (media & terrorism) followed by a 1v1 run with Lance Armstrong,” she wrote. “Fired up!”

On her Twitter account, she often commented on the qualities of leadership. “Reason and calm judgment, the qualities specially belonging to a leader. Tacitus,” she wrote. In another message, she said: “A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. Truman.”

She also used her Twitter account to denounce speculation in the Drudge Report that Mr. Petraeus would be picked as a running mate by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president.

Married with two children, she was described in a biography on the Web site of Inspired Women Magazine as a high achiever since high school.

The biography says that Ms. Broadwell received a degree in political geography and systems engineering from West Point, where she was ranked No. 1 over all in fitness in her class. She benefited from a different ranking scale for women, she told a reporter this year. But “I was still in the top 5 percent if I’d been ranked as a male,” she said.

The official Web site for Ms. Broadwell’s book was taken down Friday, but comments from her echoed across the Internet.

“I was driven when I was younger,” she was quoted as saying on the Web site, noting her induction into her high school’s hall of fame. “Driven at West Point where it was much more competitive in that women were competing with men on many levels, and I was driven in the military and at Harvard, both competitive environments.”

“But now,” she is quoted as saying, “as a working mother of two, I realize it is more difficult to compete in certain areas. I think it is important for working moms to recognize that family is the most important.”

On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart summed up Ms. Broadwell’s book by saying: “I would say the real controversy here is, is he awesome or incredibly awesome?”A short time later, Ms. Broadwell challenged Mr. Stewart to a push-up contest, which she won handily. Mr. Stewart had to pay $1,000 to a veterans’ support group for each push-up she did beyond his total. Ms. Broadwell said that he wrote a check for $20,000 on the spot.

On Friday evening, her house in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., was dark when a reporter rang the doorbell. Two cars were in the home’s carport and an American flag was flying out front.

Viv Bernstein contributed reporting from Charlotte, N.C.

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

Obama: ‘Open to compromise’ but firm on tax increases for wealthiest

By The Guardian
Friday, November 9, 2012 16:55 EST

President says he is not ‘wedded to every detail of my plan’ but insists he wants to raise taxes for wealthiest Americans

Barack Obama used his first public appearance since his return to the White House to issue a challenge to Republicans in Congress work with him to prevent the economy going into freefall next year.

In a carefully posed statement from the East Room, during which he was accompanied by a crowd of “middle-class” Americans, Obama called on Congress to strike a deal before the January 1 deadline that would see an automatic rise in taxes across the board and swingeing cuts in spending.

“I am not wedded to every detail of my plan. I am open to compromise,” Obama said. But, in a hint of the strife to come, he said that he still wanted to raise tax rises for the wealthiest American – a policy most Republicans in Congress vehemently oppose.

“We can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” the president said. “If we are serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes.”

As part of the search for a compromise, the president invited to the White House for talks next week the most senior Republican leader left standing amid the election debris, House Speaker John Boehner, as well as other Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress.

As Obama grappled with the economy, his cabinet reshuffle and an agenda for the second term, Republicans were still trying to come to terms with the scale of the election defeat.

New details emerged revealing that his Republican opponent Mitt Romney had been confident of victory right up until the first voting figures came through on election night. A source inside his camp said that at planning meeting after planning meeting he had been assured of victory.

Not only had Romney planned an $25,000 fireworks display in Boston Harbour to mark his win but he had written only a victory speech, the reason his concession speech had been so brief. In a sign of how confident he had been, he had established a 200-strong transition team paving the way for the shift to the White House that even on election day was hiring more staff.

In his White House statement, Obama said that creation of jobs and economic growth was his top priority. There was an urgent need to deal with the impending fiscal crisis.

Without mentioning the word ‘mandate”, he waved his election win at the Republicans. He as not going to ask working-class Americana students and the elderly to pay for reducing the deficit while people like himself earning more than $250,000 were not asked to pay a dime more in taxes. “It was a central question during the election. It was debated over and over again, and on Tuesday night we found that the majority of Americans agree with my approach.”

Only a few hours before Obama’s statement, Boehner held his first press conference since the election. He suggested he was prepared to engage with Obama in a new spirit of bipartisanship both on working out a grand bargain on the fiscal cliff but also on immigration reform.

On the grand bargain, Boehner said: “This is an opportunity for the president to lead. This is his moment to engage the Congress and work for a solution that can pass both chambers … I am hopeful that productive conversations can begin soon.”

But any bipartisan spirit might prove short-lived. He also also went on to say that, unlike Obama and the Democrats, he does not favour raising taxes on the wealthy and that removing some loopholes and cleaning up the tax code would be enough to do the trick. He also expressed opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy.

Part of Boehner’s problem is that so far he has not been able to control all his colleagues, particularly those elected with Tea Party support.

Ominously, in his first answer to a reporter, Boehner was less than truthful, saying: “When the president and I have been able to come an agreement, there has been no problem in getting it passed in the House. ”

Boehner and Obama reached an agreement on a ‘grand bargain’ to resolve the fiscal cliff crisis last year but when Boehner took it back to his colleagues in the House, they, led by the House majority leader Eric Cantor, blocked it.

Asked about the Republican post-mortem, Boehner was curt, restricting himself to saying just that conversations were under way.

After losing 434.36 points, or 3.28%, over the past two days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average held roughly steady following Obama’s speech. Jack Ablin, the chief investment officer at BMO, said there were signs of compromise on both sides, and that hee expected a stop-gap compromise would be reached.

“I am still under the belief that they will a comprehensive compromise soon and hopefully a bigger deal next year,” he said. “Hopefully I am not being naive.”

Before the election 80 US business leaders, including Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, signed a letter calling for a balanced approach to tackling the budget deficit, including tax hikes and spending cuts.

On Friday United Continental airline boss Jeff Smisek told CNBC that the fiscal cliff could have a potentially more disastrous impact on his business than superstorm Sandy.

“It makes it difficult for us to operate,” Smisek said. “The uncertainty that you get with the economy [and] a second recession would be bad for everybody,” he said.

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

November 9, 2012

Justices to Revisit Voting Act in View of a Changing South

By ADAM LIPTAK
NYT

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.

Three years ago, the court signaled that part of the law may no longer be needed, and the law’s challengers said the re-election of the nation’s first black president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that gave rise to efforts to protect the integrity of elections in the South.

The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.

Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the role the law played in the recent election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.

“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected by June, could reshape how elections are conducted.

The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.

Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

Should the court rule that Congress was not entitled to rely on outdated data to decide which jurisdictions should be covered, lawmakers could in theory go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law using fresher information. In practice, given the political realities, a decision striking down the coverage formula would probably amount to the end of Section 5.

In May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the law filed by Shelby County, Ala. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”

“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law.

Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”

“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”

The Supreme Court has already once considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress did not respond.

At the argument of the 2009 case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the distinctions drawn in the 2006 law reflect contemporary realities.

“Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.”

“No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act,” he added. “The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.”

In the end, the court, in an 8-to-1 decision, ducked the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Tex., that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.

“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.

“Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity,” he wrote. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.

“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added,“and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”

Having said all of that, and acknowledging that the court’s alternative ruling had stretched the text of the statute, Chief Justice Roberts said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.

On Friday, in agreeing to hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, the court indicated that it is prepared to provide an answer to the question it left open three years ago.

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

November 9, 2012

U.S. Extends a Deadline for States on Coverage

By ROBERT PEAR


WASHINGTON — With many states lagging far behind schedule, the Obama administration said Friday that it would extend the deadline for them to submit plans for health insurance exchanges, the online markets where millions of Americans are expected to obtain private coverage subsidized by the federal government.

The original Nov. 16 deadline will be extended to Dec. 14 — and in some cases to Feb. 15, the administration said.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 25 million people will obtain coverage through the new online shopping malls known as insurance exchanges. Most of them will receive federal subsidies averaging more than $5,000 a year per person to help them pay premiums.

Every state is supposed to have an exchange by Jan. 1, 2014, when the federal government will require most Americans to have insurance. Many states delayed work on the exchanges to see the outcome of a Supreme Court case challenging the health care law, then waited to see if President Obama would be re-elected.

If a state wants to run its own exchange, its governor still must submit a declaration of intent — generally a brief letter of one or two pages — by Nov. 16. But states will have more time to submit the detailed applications required by federal officials.

The White House has repeatedly said that states were making excellent progress toward creation of the exchanges, even as Republican governors and state legislators expressed ambivalence or outright opposition. In addition, state officials who want to establish exchanges said they were having difficulty because Mr. Obama had yet to issue crucial regulations and guidance.

In a letter to governors on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said that many states had asked for “additional time” to submit applications indicating whether they wanted to run their own exchanges or help the federal government run exchanges in their states.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will run the exchanges in any states that are unable or unwilling to do so. Fewer than half the states have indicated that they will set up their own exchanges.

If states want to run their own exchanges, Ms. Sebelius said, they will have until Dec. 14 to submit applications, or blueprints. And if states want to run exchanges in partnership with the federal government, she said, they will have until Feb. 15 to file applications.

Ms. Sebelius said the new timetable would not defer the dream of affordable insurance for millions of Americans.

“Consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have access to insurance through these new marketplaces on Jan. 1, 2014, as scheduled, with no delays,” Ms. Sebelius told governors. “This administration is committed to providing significant flexibility for building a marketplace that best meets your state’s needs.”

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said the change in the deadline was “no surprise” because the White House had not given states enough information or guidance to make decisions.

“Frankly,” Mr. Hatch said, “the fact that the exchanges are such a mess is pretty emblematic of how flawed the president’s health law is — with states having to bear the brunt.”

Representative Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana, a spokesman for House Republicans on health policy, said he doubted that extending the deadline would make the law any more workable.

Even in states where governors want to establish insurance exchanges, they need legal authority to do so, and Republican legislators have balked in some states.

Federal officials hope that fierce competition among insurers offering health plans in the exchanges will drive down premiums.

Joel S. Ario, a former director of the federal office for insurance exchanges who now advises states as a consultant at Manatt Health Solutions, said: “The administration’s decision is a good move. It increases the chances that more states will opt for a partnership exchange, rather than default to a federal exchange.”

An administration official said that Mr. Obama was on schedule in carrying out the law, and that starting in October, Americans will be able to enroll in health plans for coverage starting in January 2014.

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

November 9, 2012

Races in Arizona Still Hang in the Balance

By FERNANDA SANTOS
NYT

PHOENIX — Three days after the election, the outcome of several races remained a mystery in Arizona as officials struggle to count a record number of early and provisional ballots, many of them cast by voters who believed they had registered but whose names were not on the voter rolls at the polling place.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett revealed the magnitude of the situation: 631,274 votes remained uncounted, he said, more than in any presidential election in memory and enough to anger voting- and immigrant-rights advocates, who have called on the Justice Department to investigate. (By Friday, there were 524,633 uncounted ballots. There are 3.1 million registered voters in the state.)

The advocates, who have been staging nearly continuous protests outside the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, where most of the votes are being tallied, have raised accusations of disenfranchisement, saying the same Latino voters they worked so diligently to register may have been disproportionately affected. Based on accounts they have been collecting since before the polls closed, among the 115,000 voters who cast provisional ballots in Maricopa County on Tuesday were many first-time minority voters who signed up to get their ballots by mail, but never did.

“We’re concerned that some of the barriers we’re seeing fell heavily on Latino and African-American voters,” said Monica Sandschafer, acting coordinator for One Arizona, a coalition of nonprofit groups working to increase voter participation among working families.

Volunteers took to the phones on Friday at the offices of Unite Here, which represents hospitality workers, calling Latinos on the early-voting registry to find out if they got their ballots in time to vote by mail. Meanwhile, the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the county recorder, Helen Purcell, saying the “public confidence in the voting process” was at stake.

The uncertainty has also unsettled candidates and campaign staffs, prompting at least one of them — Mark Napier, the Republican candidate for sheriff in Pima County, which had 80,735 uncounted votes on Wednesday — to rescind his concession.

“I was down by 7,400 votes on election night,” Mr. Napier said. “I assumed it was over, but this election could change.”

Three Congressional races remained too close to call on Friday, and there were also some misgivings about the outcome of several other races. One of them was the United States Senate race, where, as of Friday, Jeff Flake, a Republican congressman, was ahead of his Democratic challenger, Richard H. Carmona, by 78,775 votes, according to unofficial results posted by the secretary of state.

Mr. Carmona conceded on Tuesday; on Friday, in a message to supporters, he wrote, “We will take every necessary step to make sure all of our supporters’ ballots are counted.”

Activists say that they believe, based on what they have heard from people in the field, that provisional ballots tended to be used most often in Hispanic and black neighborhoods. But that cannot be verified until all the ballots are counted, and officials in each of Arizona’s 15 counties have until next Friday to do that.

Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Mr. Bennett, said that all valid votes would be counted. Advocates and elected officials are worried, though, that voters who had to cast conditional provisional ballots because they forgot to bring identification to the polls, as state law requires, may not know they have to present their ID at the county elections office by Wednesday for their vote to count.

“You should do it not just for the Democrats or the Republicans, or for the Hispanic voters and the black voters. You should do it because it’s the right thing to do,” State Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, said at a protest on Friday.

Deborah Curtis, a poll observer at Xavier College Preparatory in Central Phoenix attending the same protest, said she saw a black voter being told she could drop off her early ballot only in her neighborhood precinct, although early ballots can be left at any polling place.

“I wondered how many other people were told the same thing,” Ms. Curtis said.

On Thursday night, more than a hundred people — activists, high school students who are too young to vote but worked for months to register voters, and voters who said they were forced to use provisional ballots at the polls — joined hands in a human chain and prayed outside the election center, a squat brick building on a desolate stretch of downtown, next to the train tracks and across the street from a jail.

Friday morning, they marched five blocks along Third Avenue to the county recorder’s office, where they delivered a petition with at least 20,000 signatures, demanding answers. Outside, on small pieces of paper, they left messages taped to a wooden board. One of them read, “We have rights.” Another read, “Justice.”

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

November 9, 2012

Republicans Reconsider Positions on Immigration

By JULIA PRESTON

After a presidential election in which Latino voters rewarded President Obama while punishing Republicans for their positions on immigration, Republican leaders and prominent conservatives moved quickly this week to shift to new ground, saying they could support some kind of legislation to fix illegal immigration.

The prospects for an immigration overhaul next year improved with stunning speed after the vote, with John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House, who had long resisted any broad immigration bill, saying on Thursday that “a comprehensive approach is long overdue.” Haley Barbour, a Republican elder statesman and former governor of Mississippi, echoed Mr. Boehner, and Sean Hannity, the conservative talk show host — in a startling turnaround — joined calls for measures opening pathways to legal status for illegal immigrants.

One of every 10 voters who cast ballots on Tuesday was a Latino, and they favored President Obama, with 71 percent of their votes, compared with 27 percent for Mitt Romney, forcing Republican leaders to wonder if they could ever regain the presidency without increasing their appeal to Hispanic Americans.

Mr. Obama wasted no time, renewing in his acceptance speech early Wednesday his promise to move “in the coming weeks and months” on “fixing our immigration system.”

A host of advocates noted that the coalition of forces supporting a thorough repair of the immigration system, including the offer of legal status for more than 11 million illegal immigrants, is broader and more organized than ever before. It includes Latino organizations, business and agricultural employers, libertarian conservatives, evangelical Christians and law enforcement groups.

“Is the Republican disconnect with the Latino community temporary or permanent?” asked the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the largest organization of Hispanic evangelicals. “The Republicans can redeem the narrative with this community by passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Mr. Rodriguez said Thursday.

Republicans, in soul-searching after their loss, weighed the lessons from Mr. Romney’s failed campaign. Looking at polls that showed immigration was not the top subject of concern for Latinos, Mr. Romney avoided the issue when he could and instead based his appeal to them on the economic themes he used with other voters. That was a serious misunderstanding of Latino sensibilities, leaders said.

“How you talked about immigrants sent a signal on what kind of perspective you had on Latinos over all,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, a bipartisan group.

Mr. Romney never recovered after he moved to the right during the primaries, saying he would pressure immigrants to “self-deport” and veto the Dream Act, a bill to give legal status to young immigrants here illegally that enjoys near-universal support among Latinos.

Mr. Obama lifted his sinking standing with Hispanics in June when he offered two-year reprieves from deportation and work permits to hundreds of thousands of those young immigrants, an action so popular it made Latinos overlook his having deported more than 1.4 million people during his term.

But many Republicans attacked the reprieves as amnesty by fiat, and Mr. Romney said he would cancel them if he became president.

In exit polls on Tuesday, 77 percent of Hispanic voters said immigrants here illegally should have a chance to apply for legal status, while 18 percent said they should be deported. In the polls, 65 percent of all voters favored legal status for those immigrants, while 28 percent said they should be deported.

Mr. Boehner chose his words carefully on Thursday, in an interview with ABC News. Saying he was ready for a “comprehensive approach,” he said he was confident that Congress and Mr. Obama could find “common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Friday, Mr. Boehner declined to say whether he was endorsing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

“What I’m talking about is a common-sense step-by-step approach that would secure our borders, allow us to enforce our laws and fix a broken immigration system,” he said. “But again,” he added, “on an issue this big, the president has to lead.”

Mr. Boehner’s use of the word comprehensive caused a stir, because supporters of legal status for immigrants who lack it have long called their proposal “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Mr. Hannity was more forthright. On his show on Thursday, he said he had “evolved” and now believed that “if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, first secure the border, then pathway to citizenship, done.”

Those comments created new openings for Republicans who were already urging a more inclusive approach, including Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former Gov. Jeb Bush, all of Florida.

In recent years, traditional immigrant and Latino groups worked to organize and expand their base of support, finding middle ground with Republicans in state offices worried about the party slipping with minorities.

The attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, a conservative Republican, said he was part of an “education campaign” to persuade Republican officials that “they need to reject the run-’em-out, deport-’em, enforcement-only approach that people think is the only voice of the Republican Party.”

The emerging coalition includes technology companies seeking more visas for high-skilled immigrants, growers seeking legal farm workers, evangelical pastors responding to huge growth in their churches from Latino immigrants and young undocumented immigrants whose protests pushed the White House to offer the deportation reprieves.

Last month Grover Norquist, the fiscal hawk who is president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in a speech in Indianapolis that more immigration, including legal status for those here illegally, was vital to economic revival.

However, it was evident almost immediately after Mr. Boehner spoke on Thursday that many Congressional Republicans would be hostile to comprehensive immigration-reform efforts.

“I’m urging the speaker to talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news,” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. “The first thing we need is for President Obama to finally enforce current immigration law and strengthen our borders. To take up any other agenda is bad policy for the American people and bad politics for Republicans.”

Jennifer Steinhauer contributed reporting.

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

November 9, 2012

Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
NYT

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Conservative Christian leaders said that they would intensify their efforts to make their case, but were just beginning to discuss how to proceed. “We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, an evangelical organization in Iowa.

The election results are just one indication of larger trends in American religion that Christian conservatives are still digesting, political analysts say. Americans who have no religious affiliation — pollsters call them the “nones” — are now about one-fifth of the population over all, according to a study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The younger generation is even less religious: about one-third of Americans ages 18 to 22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Americans who are secular are far more likely to vote for liberal candidates and for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who said they had no religion voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

“This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization based in Washington.

“Barack Obama’s coalition was less than 4 in 10 white Christian,” Dr. Jones said. “He made up for that with not only overwhelming support from the African-American and Latino community, but also with the support of the religiously unaffiliated.”

In interviews, conservative Christian leaders pointed to other factors that may have blunted their impact in this election: they were outspent by gay rights advocates in the states where marriage was on the ballot; comments on rape by the Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard E. Mourdock in Indiana were ridiculed nationwide and alienated women; and they never trusted Mr. Romney as a reliably conservative voice on social issues.

However, they acknowledge that they are losing ground. The evangelical share of the population is both declining and graying, studies show. Large churches like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, which have provided an organizing base for the Christian right, are losing members.

“In the long run, this means that the Republican constituency is going to be shrinking on the religious end as well as the ethnic end,” said James L. Guth, a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Meanwhile, religious liberals are gradually becoming more visible. Liberal clergy members spoke out in support of same-sex marriage, and one group ran ads praising Mr. Obama’s health care plan for insuring the poor and the sick. In a development that highlighted the diversity within the Catholic Church, the “Nuns on the Bus” drove through the Midwest warning that the budget proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, would cut the social safety net.

For the Christian right in this election, fervor and turnout were not the problem, many organizers said in interviews. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate — 3 percent more than in 2004, when they helped to propel President George W. Bush to re-election. During the Republican primaries, some commentators said that Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith would drive away evangelicals, many of whom consider his church a heretical cult.

And yet, in the end, evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Romney — even matching the presidential vote of Mormons: 78 percent for Mr. Romney and 21 percent for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls by Edison Research.

“We did our job,” said Mr. Reed, who helped pioneer religious voter mobilization with the Christian Coalition in the 1980s and ’90s, and is now founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said that his organization outdid itself this year, putting out 30 million voter guides in 117,000 churches, 24 million mailings to voters in battleground states and 26 million phone calls.

“Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama,” Mr. Reed said. “But you can’t be driving in the front of the boat and leaking in the back of the boat, and win the election.

“You can’t just overperform among voters of faith,” he continued. “There’s got to be a strategy for younger voters, unmarried voters, women voters — especially single women — and minorities.”

The Christian right should have a natural inroad with Hispanics. The vast majority of Hispanics are evangelical or Catholic, and many of those are religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion. And yet, the pressing issue of immigration trumped religion, and Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.

“Latino Protestants were almost as inclined to vote for Mr. Obama as their Catholic brethren were,” said Dr. Guth, at Furman, “and that’s certainly a big change, and going the wrong direction as far as Republicans are concerned.”

The election outcome was also sobering news for Catholic bishops, who this year spoke out on politics more forcefully and more explicitly than ever before, some experts said. The bishops and Catholic conservative groups helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage in the four states where that issue was on the ballot. Nationwide, they undertook a campaign that accused Mr. Obama of undermining religious liberty, redoubling their efforts when a provision in the health care overhaul required most employers to provide coverage for contraception.

Despite this, Mr. Obama retained the Catholic vote, 50 to 48 percent, according to exit polls, although his support slipped from four years ago. Also, solid majorities of Catholics supported same-sex marriage, said Dr. Jones, the pollster.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who serves on the bishops’ domestic policy committee, said that the bishops spoke out on many issues, including immigration and poverty, but got news media attention only when they talked about abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty. Voters who identify as Catholic but do not attend Mass on Sunday may not have been listening, he said, but Catholics who attend Mass probably “weigh what the church has to say.”

“I think good Catholics can be found across the political spectrum,” Bishop Soto said, “but I do think they wrestle with what the church teaches.”


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

Deluge of Republican money made little difference
    
10 November 2012 - 13H06  

AFP - Despite their funding deluge from wealthy donors, Republicans failed to overwhelm President Barack Obama and Democrats at the ballot box. So was throwing all that money at the 2012 election worth it?

Obama was handily re-elected, Democrats added two more seats to their majority in the Senate, and they cut into the Republican lead in the House.

There is no two ways about it: that spelled bad news for Karl Rove, president George W. Bush's then-strategist and a party luminary who raised huge money for Republican efforts across the United States this year.

His two groups, super political action committee (PAC) American Crossroads and its general interest group cousin Crossroads GPS, funneled at least $176 million of donor money into anti-Obama advertising and Republican candidates, who lost en masse on November 6.

Some reports put the dollar figure above $300 million.

In its historic 2010 ruling, "Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission," the US Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate campaign spending, essentially giving companies the same basic right to political speech that individuals have.

By contrast, donations to the candidates and political parties themselves remained capped.

Citizens United unleashed a torrent of funds from corporations and wealthy individuals -- on both sides of the political fence.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates greater transparency in government and elections, estimated that outside groups spent a total of more than $1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of the 2012 races.

In the case of a public policy advocacy group like Crossroads GPS, spending must be reported but the donor information can be kept confidential, allowing billionaire conservatives to spend sky-high sums without being identified.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson acknowledged parting with no less than $54 million of his own money to try to get Romney elected.

But of the 14 races targeted by American Crossroads, just three were won by Republicans, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a group that publishes election expenses. Crossroads GPS fared only slightly better; the group was seven for 24 in its races.

Factors well beyond money helped explain the outcomes in multiple races, but progressive groups had feared that wealthy conservatives' blank checks would swamp less heavily invested liberal candidates running in smaller, out-of-the-way areas.

"The candidates sometimes don't have enough resources of their own to make themselves well known to the electorate," Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, told AFP.

"People don't know them to begin with, so you can shape people's judgment about candidates more easily in those kind of districts" with big money invested by super PACs.

Crossroads sees the glass half full. According to its communications director Jonathan Collegio, the group helped offset the fundraising juggernaut that was the Obama campaign, which spent $541 million compared to the Romney campaign's $336 million.

"Crossroads played a critical role of balancing out those efforts, and had we not been there, it's safe to say that the outcome would have been considerably worse," Collegio said.

The strategist is confident about his group's


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« Reply #2974 on: Nov 11, 2012, 07:54 AM »

 11 November 2012 - 11H22 

Russia helping on Arafat exhumation: Abbas

AFP - The Palestinians are coordinating with Russia, as well as Swiss and French experts, on the exhumation of late president Yasser Arafat, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Sunday.

Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable to say what had killed him, with many Palestinians convinced he was poisoned by Israel.

"We are currently in coordination with the French investigators, the Swiss experts, and also the Russian government to open the tomb," Abbas said in a speech marking the eighth anniversary of Arafat's death.

His comments were the first time Palestinian officials have said that Russia is involved in the new investigation into Arafat's death.

French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry in August after Al-Jazeera television broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts said they had found high levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's personal effects.

A French team is due to arrive in Ramallah on November 26 to begin work on exhuming the body, Palestinian sources told AFP last month, adding that Swiss experts would arrive at the same time for an operation that could take "several weeks or a month."

Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles.

It was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.

The French murder inquiry was opened in late August at the request of Arafat's widow Suha, who had refused to give her permission for an autopsy at the time of his death.

This week, Nasser al-Qidwa, Arafat's nephew and the head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation, repeated his "opposition in principle" to an exhumation, "primarily because samples collected after eight years may not be clinically exploitable."

"Every Palestinian is convinced that Arafat was murdered," he told AFP, "but even opening his tomb won't convince the sceptics of the truth."

The anniversary is being marked in the West Bank with a series of events, including candlelit vigils for the iconic leader.
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« Reply #2975 on: Nov 11, 2012, 07:57 AM »

Created 11/11/2012 - 08:15
Published on FRANCE 24

Crisis-riven Slovenia chooses new president

Slovenians voted Sunday in a presidential election as the small ex-Yugoslav republic, once a star pupil in the EU, battles with an economic crisis that threatens to make it the next eurozone member to need a bailout.

The post of president is largely ceremonial but the present head of state Danilo Turk has been a thorn in the side of centre-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa as he attempts to implement reforms and austerity cuts.

Opinion polls indicate however that Turk will come first in the election, although not with enough of the vote to win in the first round. A second round run-off, likely pitting Turk against Jansa's centre-left predecessor Borut Pahor, is set for December 2.

Jansa's favourite among the three candidates, former culture minister and European MP Milan Zver, is expected to come third, with polls giving him some 24 percent compared with 33 percent for Pahor and 42-44 percent for Turk.

Slovenia is in the throes of one of the deepest downturns in the eurozone with the European Commission predicting last week that output will shrink a painful 2.3 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2013.

Large volumes of bad loans at Slovenia's banks have raised fears that the country of two million people may become the latest in the 17-nation European currency union to need outside help.

Slovenia's credit ratings have been slashed, mostly because of the banks, and borrowing rates on its sovereign debt have soared to seven percent, a level regarded as unsustainable in the long term without assistance.

Unemployment in the 21-year-old nation is hitting record levels and trade unions plan major protests on November 17 against tough government spending cuts.

A new government led by Jansa took office in February after the collapse of Pahor's administration last year and has launched a series of austerity measures aimed at stabilising public finances and reforming the country's pension and labour systems.

During the electoral campaign Turk, 60, a law professor who worked at the United Nations under former secretary general Kofi Annan, openly and repeatedly questioned Jansa's policies.

"The economic situation is difficult but not extraordinary, there is no use of dramatising the situation and threatening. The government's assessments of the situation are more alarming than they should be," Turk warned during one television debate.

In January Turk even refused to give Jansa a mandate to form a new government after the winner of December's early elections, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic, failed to form a coalition. Eventually Jansa was elected by MPs.

By contrast, Turk's rivals in Sunday's election, Pahor, 49, and Zver, 50, have backed the government's efforts.

"If there was a run-off between Pahor and Turk, certainly Jansa and the whole government would prefer Borut Pahor. For Jansa that would be the less-bad choice, he will be much more cooperative as president," said Matevz Tomsic from the Nova Gorica Advanced Social Studies faculty.
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« Reply #2976 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:05 AM »

November 10, 2012

Amid Calls to Open China’s Politics, Party Digs In

By EDWARD WONG
IHT

BEIJING — As the Communist Party’s 18th Congress approached, Li Weidong, a scholar of politics, made plans to observe a historic leadership battle in one of the world’s great nations.

Instead of staying in Beijing to monitor China’s once-a-decade transfer of power, Mr. Li boarded a plane.

“I’m going to the United States to study the elections,” Mr. Li said in a telephone interview during a stopover in Paris. After witnessing the American presidential election on Tuesday, Mr. Li went on the radio for another interview. “I still think China’s politics remain prehistoric,” he said. “I often joke that the Chinese civilization is the last prehistoric civilization left in the world.”

With China at a critical juncture, there is a rising chorus within the elite expressing doubt that the 91-year-old Communist Party’s authoritarian system can deal with the stresses bearing down on the nation and its 1.3 billion people. Policies introduced after 1978 by Deng Xiaoping lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and transformed the country into the world’s second-largest economy. But the way party leaders have managed decades of growth has created towering problems that critics say can no longer be avoided.

Many of those critics have benefited from China’s stunning economic gains, and their ranks include billionaires, intellectuals and children of the party’s revolutionary founders. But they say the party’s agenda, as it stands today, is not visionary enough to set China on the path to stability. What is needed, they say, is a comprehensive strategy to gradually extricate the Communist Party, which has more than 80 million members, from its heavy-handed control of the economy, the courts, the news media, the military, educational institutions, civic life and just the plain day-to-day affairs of citizens.

Only then, the critics argue, can the government start to address the array of issues facing China, including rampant corruption, environmental degradation, and an aging population whose demographics have been skewed because of the one-child policy.

“In order to build a real market economy, we have to have real political reform,” said Yang Jisheng, a veteran journalist and a leading historian of the Mao era. “In the next years, we should have a constitutional democracy plus a market economy.”

For now, however, party leaders have given no indication that they intend to curb their role in government in a meaningful way.

“We will never copy a Western political system,” Hu Jintao, the departing party chief, said in a speech on Thursday opening the weeklong congress.

The party’s public agenda, which Mr. Hu described in detail in his 100-minute address, was laid out in a 64-page report that is in part intended to highlight priorities for the new leaders, who will be announced later this month. Much of the document had retrograde language that emphasized ideology stretching back to Mao and had little in the way of bold or creative thinking, said Qian Gang, the director of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong.

Most telling, there was no language signaling that the incoming Politburo Standing Committee, the group that rules China by consensus, would support major changes in the political system, whose perversions many now say are driving the nation toward crisis.

While Chinese who are critical of the current system generally do not expect a wholesale adoption of a Western model, they do favor at least an openness to bolder experimentation.

“To break one-party rule right now is probably not realistic, but we can have factions within the party made public and legalized, so they can campaign against each other,” said Mr. Yang, who added that there was no other way at the moment to ensure political accountability.

Only in the last few years has the idea of liberalizing the political system gained currency, and urgency, among a broad cross-section of elites. Before that, as the West foundered at the onset of the global financial crisis, many here pointed to the triumph of a “China model” or “Beijing consensus” — a mix of authoritarian politics, a command economy and quasi-market policies.

But the way in which China weathered the crisis — with the injection of $588 billion of stimulus money into the economy and an explosion of lending from state banks — led to a spate of large infrastructure projects that may never justify their cost. As a result, many economists now say that China’s investment-driven, export-oriented economic model is unsustainable and needs to shift toward greater reliance on Chinese consumers.

Constant lip-service is paid to that goal, and on Saturday, Zhang Ping, a senior official, reiterated that stance. But it will not be easy for the new leaders to carry it out. At the root of the current economic model is the political system, in which party officials and state-owned enterprises work closely together, reaping enormous profits from the party’s control of the economy. Under Mr. Hu’s decade-long tenure, these relationships and the dominance of state enterprises have only strengthened.

“What happens in this kind of economy is that wealth concentrates where power is,” said Mr. Yang, the journalist.

The 400 or so incoming members of the party’s Central Committee, Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee, as well as their friends and families, have close ties to the most powerful of China’s 145,000 state-owned enterprises. The growing presence of princelings — the children of notable Communist officials — in the party, the government and corporations could mean an even more closely meshed web of nepotism. It is a system that Xi Jinping, anointed to be the next party chief and president and himself a member of the “red nobility,” would find hard to unravel, even if he wanted to.

“There are people who run state-owned enterprises who are Xi Jinping’s friends, relatives and old classmates,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian. “This group is part of his political energy and support base. If Xi Jinping is willing to reform, he must sacrifice the interests of these people for the long-term good.”

The rules have become so unbalanced against private entrepreneurs that even some who have benefited handsomely from China’s growth are denouncing the system. One is Sun Dawu, a party member and the millionaire founder of a rural food conglomerate. He was handed a suspended three-year prison sentence in 2003 for trying to raise capital from local residents. Mr. Sun stayed quiet after his trial, but is now openly critical again.

“The finance system is very corrupt,” he said in a telephone interview. “The country should allow private banks to do financing, especially for peasants and the rural population.”

China’s systemic problems are most evident in the countryside. Land seizures by officials looking to sell property to developers are the most common cause of the growing number of protests.

“Land, finances, medical care and education resources are too concentrated,” Mr. Sun said. “The majority of the nation’s resources are concentrated on welfare for party members and government workers.”

The growth-at-all-costs development model has also led to widespread environmental destruction and a surge of protests against industrial projects from middle-class urban residents. At a news conference on Thursday, the opening day of the party congress, Yi Gang, deputy governor of China’s central bank, acknowledged the problem: “After 30 years of development, there is no big difference from developed countries in what we eat and wear,” he said. “Where we lag behind is in the air and the water.”

But the only way to really address endemic problems like these, critics say, is to create a political system, with checks and balances, that is designed to benefit ordinary Chinese rather than officials and their cronies, and is able to meet the demands of a rapidly changing society.

“It is still possible for China to get on the right track while staying stable,” said Mr. Li, the scholar who observed the American vote. “It is also possible, however, for the party to miss the opportunity and devolve into chaos.”

Mia Li contributed research.

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

November 11, 2012

China, at Party Congress, Touts Its Cultural Advances

By IAN JOHNSON
IHT

BEIJING — China’s government touted 10 years of reform for its cultural sector on Sunday, saying it had privatized thousands of publishers, newspapers and cultural groups while promoting industries that can spread soft power abroad — all firmly under party control.

Speaking to reporters during the Communist Party’s 18th Congress, several leading cultural regulators praised the achievements of the party leader, Hu Jintao, over the last decade. Mr. Hu is scheduled to step down later this week and turn over power to his designated successor, Xi Jinping.

Last week, Mr. Hu declared at the opening of the congress that “culture is the lifeblood of a nation” and that “the strength and international competitiveness of Chinese culture are an important indicator of China’s power and prosperity and the renewal of the Chinese nation.”

The participants in the news conference, one of a series over the last few days intended to highlight Mr. Hu’s accomplishments, said that China had made great strides toward these goals.

The officials made their case with a blizzard of statistics: China produced 558 feature films in 2011 compared with 140 in 2003; it has 9,200 movie screens versus 1,953 in 2003; it has listed 43 cultural sites with the United Nations, giving it the third-highest number in the world; it set up 600,000 rural reading rooms and offers a free movie each month in villages; it has 2,115 museums that do not charge for admission; and last year it published 370,000 book titles, which officials said was more than any other country in the world. Chinese Central Television has 249 million viewers in 171 countries. It spent 190 million renminbi, or $30.4 million, over the last decade to support 55 minority ethnic groups in China.

Another theme was privatization. More than 2,000 cultural troupes have been privatized, although the government continues to sponsor worthy productions from a public fund that now has 8.3 billion renminbi ($1.2 billion).

None of this means that the government has relaxed control, officials said.

“Guidance is the soul” of these moves, said Tian Jin, party secretary of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. “We always insist on political responsibility, social responsibility and cultural responsibility.”

Mr. Tian said some industries were facing challenges. In film, for example, an agreement earlier this year with the United States has resulted in Chinese films’ losing foreign dominance. He said that from January to October, box-office revenues amounted to 13.27 billion renminbi. Chinese films, however, lost their dominance in their home market, accounting for 41.4 percent of this gross.

But Mr. Tian refused to blame foreign films, saying Chinese films needed to improve.

“The immediate reason is the strong attack by the imported movies,” he said. “But the basic reason is that our competitiveness needs to increase.”

Mr. Tian also said that foreign films were not banned from Chinese theaters during national holidays, when the theaters are often very crowded — a claim often made by importers. He said that foreign distributors “voluntarily” decided not to show their products during this time “out of consideration” for local sensibilities.

Chinese films, Mr. Tian said, have done less well abroad. In 2011, 55 Chinese films were distributed in 22 countries, grossing 2 billion renminbi.

Mr. Tian pledged to do better by carrying out “the 18th Party Congress spirit.”

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

November 10, 2012

Chinese Official Reaffirms ‘Rebalancing’ of Economy

By KEITH BRADSHER
IHT

BEIJING — A senior Chinese official reaffirmed on Saturday a national goal of shifting China’s economy away from its dependence on investment and exports and toward a more sustainable emphasis on consumption spending.

In doing so, the official, Zhang Ping, the chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, glossed over recent data that suggested the reverse might be happening.

Mr. Zhang, whose agency oversees economic planning and coordinates the country’s economic ministries, said in a news conference held in conjunction with the 18th Party Congress that the Chinese economy was growing again, crediting government policies aimed at moving China away from its reliance on capturing an ever greater share of overseas markets for its exports. He also claimed success in easing the economy’s dependence on enormous investment, which has become less efficient and less productive as many industries struggle with overcapacity.

“Starting from August, the turn toward a slower economy has been effectively curbed,” Mr. Zhang said. “From the October economic data, we can see that the trend toward a rebalancing of the Chinese economy is all the more obvious.”

But independent economists question whether any such conclusion is justified. China’s General Administration of Customs announced on Saturday morning that the country’s trade surplus in October had soared to $32 billion, the highest level in nearly four years. Exports surged 11.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports rose 2.4 percent.

Chinese officials are acutely conscious of the frictions that their trade surpluses create with importer nations like the United States, and have argued for many years that the surpluses are temporary and should not be an issue because they might soon disappear. President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, vied during the presidential election campaign over who could be tougher in trade and currency disputes with China over the next four years.

Commerce Minister Chen Deming tried again on Saturday to allay foreign concerns about rising Chinese exports, describing the surge as unlikely to last. He said exports would probably not remain strong because of economic troubles in overseas markets and because of what Mr. Chen described as an international rise in protectionism.

“The trade situation will be relatively grim in the next few months,” he said, “and there will be many difficulties next year.”

Investment has also surged rapidly this autumn, government statistics released on Friday showed, as state-owned banks have lent heavily to state-owned enterprises.

A series of news conferences on economic policy — a third was held on Saturday evening on efforts to encourage industrial innovation — came as the 2,268 delegates to the Party Congress attended closed-door meetings on the third day of the gathering, which is held every five years. The Congress is scheduled to choose a new Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party this coming week, and that committee will approve a list of leaders who are expected to run the country for the next decade.

Mr. Zhang said in his news conference that the economy was becoming less reliant on exports and investment spending. He omitted October in citing data from 2012’s first nine months that he described as showing that consumption had been playing a bigger role than investment in economic growth. He also said exports had been a drag on growth.

But investment, which had slumped early this year as the government limited bank lending and restricted real estate sales to pop a housing bubble, has been bouncing back as the restrictions have been eased. Exports were also very weak early this year because of Europe’s difficulties, but are strengthening as American demand rebounds.

Wang Tao, a China economist at UBS in Hong Kong, said short-term changes in various sectors of the economy made it hard to draw any reliable conclusions about whether policy makers had been able to shift the foundations of the Chinese economy onto a firmer and more sustainable footing.

But she expressed skepticism that any fundamental shift had taken place so far, saying: “These are cyclical moves. Rebalancing happens very slowly.”

At the news conference on innovation, corporate executives expressed concern about China’s ability to create its own inventions. But Liang Wengen, the president of Sany Heavy Industry, a big construction equipment manufacturer, answered a last question on American investment policies.

Mr. Liang is widely viewed as a well-connected industrialist with the best chance of becoming the first business tycoon to join the Central Committee, possibly this coming week. He bitterly criticized the Obama administration on Saturday evening for its decision not to allow an American company owned by Sany executives to install Sany-made wind turbines in or near restricted airspace next to a United States Navy site where drones are developed.

Mr. Liang promised a long legal battle against the decision, saying: “We will fight to the end. We hope we will achieve final victory, because we believe in the justice of U.S. law, the courage of the American people and the justice of the world.”

Patrick Zuo contributed research.

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

China plans manned space launch in 2013

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, November 10, 2012 13:25 EST

China is aiming to launch its next manned space mission as early as June 2013, state media reported Saturday, as the country steps up its ambitious exploration programme.

The Shenzhou-10, with three crew members, is aiming for a primary launch window in June, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space programme, told China National Radio in an interview Friday.

Niu, speaking on the sidelines of China’s 18th Communist Party Congress that kicked off Thursday in Beijing, said officials had identified a back-up launch window for July or August.

He said one of the three astronauts would likely be a woman.

China sent its first female astronaut, Liu Yang, into space earlier this year on the Shenzhou-9 in the country’s first manual space docking mission.

The docking procedure was a major milestone in the country’s ambitious space programme that has a goal of building a space station by the end of the decade.

In its last white paper on space, China said it was working towards landing a man on the moon, but did not specify a time-frame.

So far only the United States has achieved that feat, most recently in 1972.

Beijing has said it will also attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time in the second half of 2013 and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface.

China sees its space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

The country sent its first man into space in 2003. It completed a space walk in 2008 and an unmanned docking between a module and rocket last year.



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11 November 2012 - 07H23  

China to ramp up development on disputed island

AFP - China is to ramp up development on a disputed South China Sea island, a local government chief has said, in a move likely to stoke a growing territorial row with its neighbours.

The development of roads, water supply and drainage systems will be stepped-up in the new "capital" city of Sansha on Yongxing, one of the islands that make up the disputed Paracel chain, Luo Baoming, Communist Party secretary of southern Hainan Province told state television on Saturday.

Luo also said steps will also be taken to enforce China's "legal rights" in the region, which includes other island chains which are the subject of competing claims by Asian countries.

Beijing enraged Vietnam and caused concern in Washington when it announced the establishment of a new city and military garrison at Sansha in July.

The island, under the control of Hainan Province, will have administrative control over a region that encompasses not only the Paracels, but Macclesfield Bank, a largely sunken atoll to the east, and the Spratly Islands to the south.

The sovereignty of each remains a matter of dispute.

"To safeguard our legal rights in the South China Sea, we are now coordinating between the relevant departments in order to set a more unified, and efficient law enforcing body," Luo said.

Domestic media reported in August that work had begun on sewage disposal and waste collection facilities for the island's roughly 1,000 residents.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and substantial proven and estimated oil and gas deposits.

Taiwan and ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia all have rival claims on areas of the sea, while the United States is also watching China's increased assertiveness closely.

The announcement in July that Sansha would be established led to a formal protest being lodged by Vietnam, which said it violates international law.

The Philippines, which is involved in a dispute over the Spratly Islands, summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a complaint against the garrison announcement.


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« Reply #2978 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:12 AM »

11 November 2012 - 07H37  

With new term, Obama doubles down on Asia

AFP - After a convincing re-election victory, President Barack Obama looks set for another four years of reorienting the United States toward Asia at a time of uncertainty over a rising China.

In his first foreign trip since Tuesday's election, Obama plans a historic visit to encourage reforms in Myanmar -- seen as a key success during his first term -- and will go to Thailand and Cambodia.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will also head to Asia this month. While the timing is coincidental -- Obama is attending the East Asia Summit in Cambodia -- experts saw a powerful sign.

"Actions speak louder than words; the visit shouts Obama's intent for a purposeful focus on Asia in his second term," said Ernie Bower of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointing out that the trip is the first by a president solely to Southeast Asia since the Vietnam War.

Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and took office vowing to pay more attention to Southeast Asia, charging that the dynamic and mostly US-friendly region had been neglected as George W. Bush's administration was absorbed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Though issues like Syria are not going to go away, the fact that the US will not be at war by 2014 when it pulls combat troops out of Afghanistan should mean Asia can move up on the administration's second-term agenda," said Nina Hachigian, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Obama initially focused on cooperation with China but later hardened his line, boosting the US military role in the region as Southeast Asian countries and US ally Japan accused Beijing of growing assertiveness in territorial disputes.

The US election came just before China launched a once-a-decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping -- whom the Obama administration has courted in a series of high-level meetings -- set to succeed President Hu Jintao.

China had criticized Obama's rival Mitt Romney, who accused the incumbent president of being too soft on issues including human rights and especially trade practices such as Beijing's allegedly undervalued currency.

After Obama's victory, the state-run Xinhua news agency ran a commentary urging the US administration to "rethink its policy on China." It called for cooperation on "common challenges like terrorism, climate change (and) economic turbulence."

But Walter Lohman, director of the Asian studies center at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the US election and China's leadership changes would not change the dynamics in ties between the world's top two economies.

The United States is still faced with a China that Lohman said was marked by rising nationalism, a growing military and aggressive pursuit of border claims.

"It's not just campaign rhetoric," Lohman said of US concerns on China.

"Just because we're through with the silly season doesn't mean we're going back to the good old days. I think we're in for a long-term rough patch with the Chinese."

One question mark is how Obama's next team will impact Asia policy. Clinton has made the continent a priority, but she plans to leave the administration along with her energetic top diplomat on East Asia, Kurt Campbell.

Obama's visit to Myanmar, where he will meet President Thein Sein and freed opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, would have been unthinkable when he entered the White House four years ago.

US officials point to Myanmar, also known as Burma, as a success in Obama's policy declared in his inaugural address of extending a hand to US adversaries in return for progress. Republicans had sharply criticized Obama's attempts at dialogue with Iran and Syria.

But Aung Din, head of the US Campaign for Burma advocacy group, urged Obama not to go to the country, saying that the military still remains in charge of parliament and would be strengthened by the presidential visit.

Lohman praised Obama's decision to visit Thailand, the oldest US ally in Asia. Bush went twice to the kingdom, but one trip was for a regional summit and his 2008 visit focused on Myanmar and the Beijing Olympics. President Bill Clinton paid a state visit to Thailand in 1996.

"Had he gone to Cambodia, a place that the Thais have had some ups and downs with, and not gone to see the US allies in Thailand, it would have been a disaster," Lohman said.

**************
November 10, 2012

Words and Deeds Show Focus of the American Military on Asia

By ELISABETH BUMILLER
NYT

WASHINGTON — In November 2011, President Obama stood before the Australian Parliament and issued a veiled challenge to China’s ambitions in Asia: “As a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future.” A year later, the details of his pledge — along with a nascent American military buildup in the Pacific — are emerging.

This summer, about 250 United States Marines, the first of 2,500 to be deployed to Australia, trained with the Australian Army near the port city of Darwin and with other militaries in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Next spring, the first of four American littoral combat ships, fast new vessels meant to keep a watch on the Chinese Navy, is to begin a 10-month deployment in Singapore.

The United States is strengthening its alliances and expanding its military exercises in the region. In an amphibious warfare drill on Guam in September, which did not go unnoticed in Beijing, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and American Marines “retook” a remote island from an unnamed enemy.

But as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta heads off this weekend for his fourth trip to Asia in 17 months, criticism is intensifying among defense policy experts in Washington that the administration’s “pivot” to the Pacific remains mostly verbal — a modest expansion and repackaging of policies begun in previous administrations, although still enough to unnecessarily antagonize the Chinese.

Pentagon officials counter that they are managing tensions with China while devoting crucial new resources and attention to a region that has been central to American defense policy since World War II.

“Our policy is not to contain China,” said George E. Little, the Pentagon press secretary. “It’s to continue to strengthen our defense relationships with our allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific.”

Pentagon officials acknowledge that they are in the early stages of the policy and that much of the hardware — the new ships, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets and P-8 Poseidon maritime reconnaissance planes, to name a few — will not arrive in the region for years. They also say that if Congress does not agree to a fiscal deal this fall, the Pentagon will not be able to pay for much of the Asia strategy.

For now, the Pentagon is shifting weapons like the B-1 and B-52 long-range bombers and Global Hawk drones to the Pacific from the Middle East and Southwest Asia as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

China, which has spent the past year asserting territorial claims to disputed islands that would give it vast control over oil and gas rights in the East and South China Seas, remains suspicious about American intentions.

“We hope the U.S. can respect the interests and concerns of other parties in the region, including China,” a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Gao Yuan, said last week in a written statement, responding to a question on the eve of Mr. Panetta’s trip to Asia about China’s reaction to the pivot.

Mr. Panetta, who will travel to Australia, Thailand and Cambodia ahead of a trip to the region by Mr. Obama later this month, will promote what the Pentagon prefers to a call a rebalancing in the region, with these main elements:

¶Troop increases: The United States has 320,000 troops in the Pacific region, and the Pentagon has promised there will be no reductions as troops are drawn down in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. The already large military presence is one reason there has been skepticism that an additional 2,500 Marines in Australia, a move Mr. Obama announced last fall, amounts to more than show. It did, however, provoke a sharp response from Beijing.

“The Marine issue is really a blip in the larger pivot to Asia,” said David J. Berteau of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a co-author of a report last summer that criticized the Pentagon for not sufficiently explaining how it would carry out and pay for the pivot. “If you have a fly on your glasses it looks really big and you can’t see past the fly. But it’s still just a fly.”

Pentagon officials nonetheless say that the Marines are an important symbol of America’s long-term commitment to the Pacific. Under an agreement with Australia, the Pentagon anticipates that the company of 250 Marines that arrived in Darwin in April for a six-month rotation will grow to a battalion of 1,000 Marines in 2013. By 2016, assuming more housing is built, the Marines are expected to number 2,500.

¶More military exercises: Unlike building new ships and fighter jets, having joint training with other countries in Asia is relatively inexpensive and can be done fairly quickly. The United States has not only increased the number of exercises but also opened them up to more countries: a powerful message to China that America is working to improve the capabilities of the militaries in its strategic backyard.

This summer, India and Russia participated for the first time in Hawaii in the world’s largest international maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific, but the United States excluded China, drawing a protest from Beijing. China is invited to the next Rim of the Pacific, in 2014.

In another acknowledgment of Chinese sensitivities, the Japanese government canceled a joint amphibious landing on a remote island near Okinawa that was to have been part of an enormous annual exercise of the American and Japanese militaries last week. The cancellation was an effort not to provoke China, which is locked in a dispute with Japan over the control of uninhabited islands near Okinawa in the East China Sea.

¶More ships: Mr. Panetta has said that by 2020, the United States will have 60 percent of its ships in the Pacific and 40 percent in the Atlantic, compared with the current 50-50 split. The Pentagon has not specified what kinds of ships or how many would make up the 60 percent, although Mr. Panetta has said they would include six aircraft carriers and a majority of the Navy’s cruisers, destroyers, submarines and littoral combat ships.

Doubts persist among lawmakers and naval experts about the maneuverable and relatively small littoral combat ship, which is not designed to operate in a combat environment.

¶Strengthened military ties: The Pentagon’s efforts to shore up alliances and increase military cooperation with allies in Asia has already prompted negative reactions from China. In September, Japan and the United States reached a major agreement to deploy a second American advanced missile-defense radar on Japanese territory, which was also immediately criticized by the Chinese. Over the past year, the Obama administration has stepped up talks with the Philippines about expanding the American military presence there, including more frequent visits by American warships.

¶More attention to Asia: One measure of the region’s growing importance is that Mr. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now hold a secure one-hour video conference every other week with the top commander for Asia and the Pacific, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III. Pentagon officials say the frequency is similar to that of video conferences with American commanders in war zones.


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 11 November 2012 - 11H54 

Syria opposition hammer out Assad alternative

AFP - Syrian opposition groups were thrashing out details on Sunday of a new structure to take forward their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad's rule as the exiles who have led it so far heeded Arab and Western calls to broaden their ranks.

On the ground fighting flared anew on the Syrian border with Turkey where deadly clashes between the Syrian army and rebels have triggered a mass exodus in recent days.

Reservations persisted in the ranks of the Syrian National Council, which had been regarded as the leading representative of the opposition but has been increasingly criticised as a talking shop for exiles, over what some members see as a move to sideline it.

But the bloc's leaders voiced confidence that a deal was near.

After marathon talks in Qatar that ran into the early hours of Sunday and resumed in early afternoon, SNC officials said they were set to sign an agreement on a new framework that would embrace opposition groups that have been unwilling to work within the existing format.

"We are going to ink an agreement on the formation of a coalition between the SNC and the other components of the opposition," said senior SNC official Ahmed Ramadan.

"The most important thing is that it's an agreement on the imperative of fighting for the overthrow of the regime and that is sets out clearly that there can be no dialogue" as long as Assad remains in power, he added.

Leading dissident Riad Seif, champion of the US-backed reforms being thrashed out at the Qatar-hosted talks, said a framework deal had been agreed and it was now only a matter of the details.

"We were on the point of signing but we preferred to give some time to study the internal rules at the request of certain parties," said Seif, a leader of the so-called Damascus Spring reform movement of a decade ago and now being canvassed in Washington as a potential new opposition chief.

The putative deal envisages the formation of a transitional government, a military council to oversee rebel groups on the ground and a judiciary to operate in rebel-held areas.

The government-in-waiting would be chosen by a new broader-based umbrella organisation embracing rebel fighters and civilian activists inside Syria as well as the exiles who have dominated the SNC.

The talks' Qatari hosts, along with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, have been key backers of the Syrian opposition and both stand accused by Assad's government of funnelling arms to the rebels through Turkey.

Fighting flared again on the Turkish border before dawn on Sunday as Syrian troops and rebel fighters battled for the key northeastern frontier zone of Ras al-Ain, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said.

Ras al-Ain is one of just two Turkish border crossings still controlled by the Syrian army. Rebels fighting to bring down Assad have captured four others while a seventh is controlled by Kurdish militia.

As the clashes raged in the mainly Kurdish town and thousands of refugees poured across the border into Turkey, Kurdish civilians backed by militia quietly took control of a string of towns in the region's Hasakeh province, leaving just two of its main cities under the control of Assad's government.

Local militia already control a swathe of territory around the mainly Kurdish town of Afrin in the northwest, under a similar arrangement that excludes Assad troops and rebel fighters alike, prompting accusations of collusion from the Arab-led opposition.

Violence also broke out on the Iraqi border, with government warplanes bombing rebel positions in the frontier town of Albu Kamal, scene of persistent fighting for several months.

At least two civilians were killed in the town, said the Observatory, which relies for its casualty tolls on a network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals.

There was also renewed fighting for the main highway between Damascus and the northern metropolis of Aleppo where Assad troops have been battling to retain control since mid-July.

The army on Saturday retook a stretch of the strategic road in Idlib province but failed to regain control of the key highway town of Maaret al-Numan, the Observatory said.

The rebels' capture of Maaret al-Numan last month delivered a severe blow to the government's ability to reinforce its beleaguered troops in Aleppo and other key nothern battlefields on the border with Turkey.
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« Reply #2980 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:25 AM »


11 November 2012 - 11H14 

Palestinian UN non-state bid this month: Abbas

AFP - The Palestinians will submit a bid to the General Assembly for non-state membership of the United Nations later this month, president Mahmud Abbas said on Sunday.

"We're going to the United Nations in November 2012, not 2013, or 2014," Abbas said at an event commemorating the eighth anniversary of the death of former president Yasser Arafat.
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« Reply #2981 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:28 AM »

11 November 2012 - 08H49 

Indian PM sees end of economic 'gloom and doom'

AFP - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the economic "gloom and doom" clouding the country in recent years has been dispelled and that he is determined to push ahead with further reforms.

In a speech on Saturday evening in Mumbai, Singh said that in 2006, 10 percent annual growth looked "eminently achievable" and "the sense of optimism was all pervading".

But he admitted that since then, Indian exports have shrunk and the fiscal deficit has gone up.

"Growth decelerated to 6.5 percent last year and may be only around six percent in the current year," he said. "This has dampened investor sentiment.

"Doubts are being raised in some quarters about the India growth story going astray," he said at a corporate function organised by the Economic Times.

Singh vowed that a raft of reforms announced in September would revive the economy and attract foreign investment, with more policy changes in the pipeline.

"We have dispelled gloom and doom, improved the climate for foreign investment (and) are working hard to restore investor confidence and the growth environment," Singh told business leaders in Mumbai, India's financial capital.

In a strongly-worded speech, Singh said that his government "bit the bullet" when introducing recent reforms, including to the retail sector that will allow global chains such as Walmart and Tesco to open branches for the first time.

The move has attracted fierce opposition, and many Indian states may still act to keep out giant supermarkets to protect small shop owners.

"Some of the steps were considered by many of our critics as politically impossible. We bit the bullet and did what we felt was the right thing to do," Singh said. "Undoubtedly, more needs to be done."

The reforms have already cost the ruling coalition its parliamentary majority with the exit of an allied party that has threatened to bring a no-confidence motion against the government when parliament reopens later this month.

The Congress-led government has suffered a difficult second term in power amid policy paralysis, worsening economic data and corruption allegations, and is looking to revive its fortunes with the next general elections due in 2014.
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« Reply #2982 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:32 AM »

11 November 2012 - 07H10 

W.African leaders meet on military plan for north Mali

AFP - West African leaders meet at an emergency summit Sunday to firm up military plans to win back Islamist-held northern Mali, as fears grow over the risks the extremists pose to the region and beyond.

Leaders from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States will meet in the Nigerian capital Abuja to approve a military blueprint for action. That plan will eventually be sent via the African Union to the UN Security Council for review.

Countries from outside ECOWAS have also been invited to attend the summit, including South Africa, Mauritania, Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Chad, according to a source from the bloc.

Discussions so far have involved the deployment of more than 3,000 troops from the region, backed by soldiers other countries. The ECOWAS source said military chiefs were requesting a total of 5,500 troops.

Regional leaders have stressed that dialogue remains the preferred option to resolve the crisis in Mali's north, but they have also warned that talks are not open-ended.

ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has said that the bloc should pursue a dual approach of dialogue and military pressure.

The UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy and ex-president of the European Commission, has said every effort would be made to avoid military intervention.

But some analysts have questioned whether a negotiated solution is possible with Islamist extremists intent on establishing a theocratic state.

"There's a sense in which (military force) is the only course open, because clearly there's nothing to negotiate," said Jibrin Ibrahim, head of the Nigeria-based Centre for Democracy and Development.

At the same time, analysts and others warn of the risks a continued occupation of the north poses to countries beyond Mali. They say it could provide a safe haven to Al Qaeda-linked extremists and criminal groups.

The ECOWAS military strategy the leaders are to examine Sunday was drawn up with the help of experts from the European Union, African Union, UN and the region. The region is also seeking logistical support from elsewhere.

Foreign and defence ministers from five European countries -- France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain -- are expected to meet next Thursday to discuss a European mission train Malian troops.

Algeria, seen as important to any military operation, has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution.

While not a member of ECOWAS, Algeria is viewed as key due to its superior military capabilities, intelligence services and experience battling Islamist extremism. It also shares a 1,400-kilometre (875-mile) border with Mali.

Mali rapidly imploded after a coup in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had relaunched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the north with the help of Islamist allies.

The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by the Islamists, who had little interest in their aspirations for an independent homeland and set about implementing their version of strict sharia law.


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« Reply #2983 on: Nov 11, 2012, 08:47 AM »

In the USA...

November 10, 2012

Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line

By JONATHAN WEISMAN and JENNIFER STEINHAUER
NYT

WASHINGTON — On a conference call with House Republicans a day after the party’s electoral battering last week, Speaker John A. Boehner dished out some bitter medicine, and for the first time in the 112th Congress, most members took their dose.

Their party lost, badly, Mr. Boehner said, and while Republicans would still control the House and would continue to staunchly oppose tax rate increases as Congress grapples with the impending fiscal battle, they had to avoid the nasty showdowns that marked so much of the last two years.

Members on the call, subdued and dark, murmured words of support — even a few who had been a thorn in the speaker’s side for much of this Congress.

It was a striking contrast to a similar call last year, when Mr. Boehner tried to persuade members to compromise with Democrats on a deal to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes, only to have them loudly revolt.

With President Obama re-elected and Democrats cementing control of the Senate, Mr. Boehner will need to capitalize on the chastened faction of the House G.O.P. that wants to cut a deal to avert sudden tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts in January that could send the economy back into recession. After spending two years marooned between the will of his loud and fractious members and the Democratic Senate majority, the speaker is trying to assert control, and many members seem to be offering support.

“To have a voice at the bargaining table, John Boehner has to be strong,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, one of the speaker’s lieutenants. “Most members were just taught a lesson that you’re not going to get everything that you want. It was that kind of election.”

Aides say this is an altered political landscape that Mr. Boehner did not expect. As a result, whether the nation can avoid the so-called fiscal cliff will depend not only on whether Mr. Boehner can find common cause with a newly re-elected, invigorated president, but also whether he can deliver his own caucus.

“I just believe John will have more leeway than in the past Congress,” said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York. “The election will matter.”

The divide between Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner appears wide. In their Saturday addresses, the president demanded immediate House passage of a bill approved by the Senate that would extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for households earning under $250,000, while the speaker said raising tax rates on anyone would be unacceptable.

But beneath the posturing, both men were keeping open avenues of negotiation. Mr. Obama was careful to call for more revenue, not higher tax rates, a demand that could be fulfilled by ending or limiting tax deductions and credits, a path Mr. Boehner has accepted.

The question over what to do about the expiring tax cuts would be swept aside if the parties could reach an agreement before then to overhaul the tax code completely — and render obsolete the current structure of six income tax rates, all of which would rise on Jan. 1.

Even so, some Republicans have issued a stern warning to Mr. Boehner that he cannot expect their votes if he makes a deal with Democrats before seeking their consent.

“What we’ve seen in the past is the speaker goes, negotiates with the president, and just before we vote, he tells us what the deal is and attempts to persuade us to vote for it,” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. “We’re just not very happy with deals being baked, then we’re asked to stay with the team and support the speaker.”

Given those conflicting demands, Mr. Boehner must decide whether he wants to seal his role as an essential player in a grand plan to restructure the nation’s fiscal condition, or continue the status quo of the very gridlock voters appear to detest.

“I don’t want to box myself in, and I don’t want to box anyone else in,” Mr. Boehner told reporters on Friday.

Republican lawmakers and Congressional aides say the situation is not as dire as the conflicts of the past two years, which nearly led to a government default on its debt and included a series of impasses that plunged Congress’s approval rating to its lowest recorded level. Any deal with the president would probably lose 60 to 80 Republican votes, but the president would bring along enough Democrats to get it passed.

“When the president and I have been able to come to an agreement, there has been no problem getting it passed here in the House,” Mr. Boehner assured reporters, alluding to the deal struck with Mr. Obama to extend payroll tax cuts, which took Democratic support.

On Wednesday’s conference call, their ranks slightly reduced by the election, House Republican leaders presented a united front, a departure from the backbiting of earlier showdowns, the leaders’ aides admit. After acknowledging that the election had not gone the way any of them had hoped, Mr. Boehner made an ardent plea for unity, saying they could expect a good deal out of the coming negotiations only if they stuck together.

The handful of Republican backbenchers who spoke up agreed, and those included often-rebellious conservatives like Representatives Phil Gingrey of Georgia and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.

Before Mr. Boehner went in front of the cameras that afternoon with a carefully worded statement on the fiscal talks, aides say he checked in with another figure he will need on his side, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the defeated vice-presidential nominee and the House Budget Committee chairman. He told Mr. Ryan what he was about to say and assured him he would be welcomed back as chairman, even though he needs a waiver to escape rules limiting chairmen’s terms.

Mr. Ryan then went hunting and left Mr. Boehner to deliver his message.

But even his vague comments last week about his openness to new revenues to resolve the fiscal impasse — and about a desire to work on some sort of immigration reform legislation, in a blunt acknowledgment of his party’s weakness among Hispanic voters — got immediate pushback from some members, including Mr. Fleming and Representative Steve King of Iowa.

Some House Republicans have latched on to their own re-elections to claim a dual mandate.

“The message from this election for me seems to be, ‘You guys keep going,’ ” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma. “The Senate was rewarded for inactivity, the House was rewarded for standing up for its principles and the president was rewarded for his. I was elected by my district to represent their values. I really don’t approach this and say, Now I’ve got to cave to what the Senate or president want.”

Mr. Obama has continued to press his point that he campaigned clearly on a call to allow taxes to rise on the rich. Otherwise, he has said, the poor and middle class would bear all the burden of deficit reduction.

Some Republican members appear ready to accede.

“The election was a wake-up call,” said one veteran Republican in the House. For many members, “everyone they knew hated Obama. Everyone they knew agreed exactly with them. And then we lost.”

But other Republicans see a different message.

“If you look at my own election as an example, what voters were saying is they like Obama but they don’t trust him on taxes, so they want a check and balance on things,” said Representative Tom Latham, Republican of Iowa, who convincingly beat a Democratic incumbent, Leonard L. Boswell. Mr. Obama carried Iowa.

Others representing staunchly conservative districts see no reason to give in, even if the nation as a whole sided with the president on taxes.

“A majority of Americans thought it was just fine to raise taxes on higher income people, but that’s more of an emotional response, more ‘I’m in pain, I want someone else to pay,’ ” Mr. Fleming said. But, he added, “How does that solve America’s problems? That’s counterproductive to go down that road.”

***********

Obama Dares House Republicans to Push America off the Fiscal Cliff

By: Jason Easley November 9th, 2012
Politicus

President Obama let Republicans know that he is in charge by telling House Republicans to give him a deal that includes tax hikes on the wealthy, or the country will go off the fiscal cliff.

Here is the video from NBC:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

During his press conference today, Speaker of the House John Boehner rejected the idea that taxes have to be raised, “On Wednesday, I outlined a responsible path forward to avert the fiscal cliff without raising tax rates. About 24 hours after I spoke, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that the most harmful consequences of the fiscal cliff come from increasing tax rates. According to Ernst & Young, raising the top rates would destroy nearly 700,000 jobs in our country.”

After discussing how he has invited the leaders of both parties to the White House next week to build consensus for action, President Obama said that he refuses to accept any approach that doesn’t include new revenue. He specifically called for taxes to be raised on the wealthy by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the rich. President Obama then said that the country is waiting for action from House Republicans. While pointing out that he was encouraged that Boehner put revenue on the table Obama reminded House Republicans that if they don’t cut a deal with him, everyone’s taxes will go up on January 1. The president told Republicans that they could avoid this fate by extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class right now. The president reminded Republicans that they could avoid raising taxes on 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses right now if they wanted to.

The president’s message to House Republicans was that the pressure is all on them. He holds all the cards. If House Republicans try to play hardball with him, he’ll let them raise taxes on every American. The tone of Obama’s remarks stressed that he would be happy to compromise, but he isn’t playing around with House Republicans anymore.

If a compromise is struck, it will be on his terms. Any deal has to include raising taxes on the rich, or it is a non-starter. House Republicans can bluster all they want about refusing to raise taxes, but they really don’t have a choice. If they don’t strike a deal with the president that raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans, everyone’s taxes will go up.

Either way, Obama will get what he wants. The Bush tax cuts for the rich are destined to die. The only thing left to be determined is whether House Republicans are smart enough to get out before the burning building that they created collapses on them on January 1, 2013.

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

Republicans Label President Obama and the American People the Enemy

By: Rmuse November 10th, 2012
Politicus

The concept of patriotism is fierce devotion to one’s country, and it is supposed to override differences caused by the individual geographical locations and philosophies inherent in varying cultures and ideology within a nation. Nationalism is a form of patriotism based on a group of individuals’ identification with a nation, and it belies the belief that citizenship should be limited to any one ethnic, religious, or philosophical conviction, and yet after the re-election of President Obama, the notion of nationalism and a unified population appears to be non-existent among Republican supporters. After nearly four years, the hate manifest toward President Obama and his supporters is candid and intense, and portends trouble for America.

Over the past three days, there has been a flurry of condemnation aimed at the President and astonishingly, the majority of Americans who supported his re-election. The vitriol against voters who did not support Willard’s bid for the White House is stunning in an alleged United States, and it has engendered calls for revolt, secession, assertions that over half of the country are parasites, and in California, a racist remark accompanied by hope President of the United States gets assassinated.

In California, four miles from this author’s home, a 22-year old woman posted inflammatory comments about the President’s re-election Tuesday night on her Facebook page that led to her summary termination of employment. The woman said, “And another 4 years of the (N—–). Maybe he will get assassinated this term!!!” The woman told a reporter that she would not “go do that or anything like that, but if it was to happen, I don’t think I’d care one bit.” The woman said “a lot of people think I’m racist. WOW is all I got to say!! I’m not racist; I’m simply stating my opinion.” The racist’s remarks notwithstanding, Romney’s supporters took their outrage against the President to the people who voted for him in an attempt to divide the nation.

A bevvy of Fox News malcontents like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, Monica Crowley, and  Brian Kilmeade asserted Americans who voted for the President were “shallow,” “childish,” “dependent on government,” and just “want stuff” in a rerun of the  Romney-Ryan campaign rhetoric that contributed to his electoral demise. In fact, if one compiled Fox News’ pundits’ comments together, they are Romney’s 47% and NAACP speeches that alienated more than half the nation; the half that voted for President Obama.

Willard Romney’s supporter Donald Trump suggested conservatives should “march on Washington,” “fight like hell and stop this disgusting injustice,” “have a revolution in this country,” and claimed “the world is laughing at us” because we do not “stop this travesty.” Another of the good people Romney sought for endorsement, one-hit wonder and self-admitted serial pedophile Ted Nugent, lambasted Americans who voted for President Obama as “soulless fools” and “subhuman varmints” who “believe others must pay for their obesity, abortions, and lives.” Nugent said he cried “tears of blood for the last best place and the warriors who died for this tragedy,” but this so-called patriot snorted methamphetamine, and urinated and defecated in his pants for a week to feign insanity before the draft board during the Viet Nam war to avoid serving his country. However, while these so-called Americans demeaned half the population for exercising their right to vote, there were Republicans who expressed Confederate sentiments because their racist white knight was rejected at the polls.

South Carolina Republican congressman Jeff Duncan said, “When I look at the results of the election, it becomes clear to me that the House is the last line of defense for preserving freedom in this country. The people of South Carolina clearly rejected President Obama’s policies, and I intend to fight for them on their behalf” instead of working for all Americans as per his oath of office and job description.

A Texas Republican called for his state to secede from the United States and separate from the “maggots” that re-elected President Obama, and claimed Texans “must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity. In due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity. We need to do everything possible to encourage a long-term shift in thinking on this issue. Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government?” Morrison, a teabagger, complained that “many members of minority groups are simply racist against the party most white people happen to vote for.”

A Louisiana resident started a petition appealing to the Obama Administration to, “Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own new government.” These Republicans and teabaggers are wont to call themselves real Americans and patriots, and yet they are inclined to break away from the Union because they disagree with the results of a legal, Constitutional election.

It is one thing to oppose a candidate in an election, but this is the second time in four years that a segment of the population floated the idea of breaking away from the Union, and now they have turned their ire on over half the population for not electing their champion. These malcontents and racists all share the same sentiment; they hate democracy and half the population, and it is a natural extension of Romney’s campaign portraying the President as a foreigner destroying America and ushering in “a thousand years of darkness.” The ignorant racists and conservative sycophants are neo-Birchers and confederate losers who have no more love for this country, its Constitution, or its people than Osama bin Laden.

The level of vitriol Republican extremists are expressing for the President and over half the population is the product of four years of indoctrination by conservatives that President Obama is a Marxist foreigner, and that Romney reinforced with dog whistle racism and assertions that the President is an outlier, and now they are spreading their hatred to American citizens because they voted against Romney. These so-called Americans have no nationalistic pride or belief in the United States, and have made every attempt to divide this country in the spirit of rebellion based on racism; not taxation, loss of freedom, religious liberty, or love of country, but pure racism.

Prior to the election, there was talk of a race war, revolution, and violence if the President won re-election, and Americans are seeing the results pan out right before their eyes. The people making threats of revolution, secession, and maligning voters is the natural expression of ignorant conservatives who heard Romney and his surrogates portray the President as a lazy foreigner who needs to learn to be American, and it has worked beyond Romney and Republicans wildest dreams. The problem is the election is over and as President Obama stated yesterday, “it’s time to get to work,” but with half the country laboring under the fallacy that President Obama and his supporters are enemies because they rejected the great white hope as president, nothing will get accomplished. America suffered through the deadliest war in its history 146 years ago, and as President Obama is attempting to bring the country together to rebuild the American Dream, Romney’s racist supporters threaten to rip the nation apart because their corrupt White Horse candidate failed to win an election. And all the while they call themselves real Americans and patriots instead of the racist hatemongers they really are.

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

November 10, 2012

Biographer’s E-Mails to Woman Led F.B.I. to Petraeus

By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC SCHMITT
NYT

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. investigation that led to the sudden resignation of David H. Petraeus as C.I.A. director on Friday began with a complaint several months ago about “harassing” e-mails sent by Paula Broadwell, Mr. Petraeus’s biographer, to another woman who knows both of them, two government officials briefed on the case said Saturday.

When F.B.I. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr. Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said several officials who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. They also discovered that Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information, one official said, but apparently concluded that it was probably not Mr. Petraeus who had given it to her and that there had been no major breach of security. No leak charges are expected to be filed as a result of the investigation.

The identity of the woman who complained about the harassing messages from Ms. Broadwell has not been disclosed. She was not a family member or in the government, the officials said, and the nature of her relationship with Mr. Petraeus was not immediately known. But they said the two women seemed to be competing for Mr. Petraeus’s loyalty, if not his affection.

One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter said senior intelligence officials explained that the F.B.I. investigation “started with two women” — evidently Ms. Broadwell and the woman who complained about her e-mails. “It didn’t start with Petraeus, but in the course of the investigation they stumbled across him,” said the Congressional official. “We were stunned.”

Ms. Broadwell has made no statement since the affair became public on Friday, and attempts to reach her for comment have been unsuccessful.

The circumstances surrounding the collapse of Mr. Petraeus’s career remain murky. It is not clear when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. or Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., became aware that the F.B.I.’s investigation into Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails had brought to light compromising information about Mr. Petraeus. Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Mr. Holder, declined to comment Saturday.

Neither the Congressional Intelligence Committees nor the White House learned of the investigation or the link to Mr. Petraeus until last week, officials said. Neither did Mr. Petraeus’s boss, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

A senior intelligence official said Saturday that Mr. Clapper had learned of Mr. Petraeus’s situation only when the F.B.I. notified him, about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, election night. That evening and the next day, the official said, the two men discussed the situation, and Mr. Clapper told Mr. Petraeus “that he thought the right thing to do would be to resign,” the intelligence official said.

Mr. Clapper notified the president’s senior national security staff late Wednesday that Mr. Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair, the official said.

The decisions on when to notify various administration officials, including Mr. Clapper on Tuesday, were “a judgment call consistent with policies and procedures,” according to one of the government officials who had been briefed.

If the investigation had uncovered serious security breaches or other grave problems, he said, the notifications would have been immediate. As it was, however, the matter seemed to involve private relationships with little implication for national security.

Some Congressional staff members said they believed that the bureau should have informed at least the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the unfolding inquiry. A spokesman for Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said the lawmaker had summoned Sean Joyce, the F.B.I.’s deputy director, and Michael J. Morrell, the deputy C.I.A. director, for closed briefings on Wednesday about the investigation.

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said Saturday an F.B.I. employee whom his staff described as a whistle-blower told him about Mr. Petraeus’s affair and a possible security breach in late October, which was after the investigation had begun.

“I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement.

Mr. Cantor talked to the person after being told by Representative Dave Reichert, Republican of Washington, that a whistle-blower wanted to speak to someone in the Congressional leadership about a national security concern. On Oct. 31, his chief of staff, Steve Stombres, called the F.B.I. to tell them about the call.

“They took the information,” said Doug Heye, Mr. Cantor’s deputy chief of staff, “and gave the standard answer: they were not able to confirm or deny any investigation, but said that all necessary steps were being taken to make sure no confidential information was at risk.”

White House officials said they were informed on Wednesday night that Mr. Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair. On Thursday morning, just before a staff meeting at the White House, President Obama was told.

That afternoon, Mr. Petraeus went to see him and informed him that he strongly believed he had to resign. Mr. Obama did not accept his resignation right away, but on Friday, he called Mr. Petraeus and accepted it.

Mr. Petraeus, 60, said in a statement that he was resigning after 14 months as head of the Central Intelligence Agency because he had shown “extremely poor judgment” in engaging in the affair. He has been married for 38 years.

Ms. Broadwell, 40, is also married. She and her husband have two children and live in Charlotte, N.C.

On Saturday, the two government officials who had been briefed on the case dismissed a range of media speculation that the F.B.I. inquiry might have focused on leaks of classified information to the news media or even foreign spying. “People think that because it’s the C.I.A. director, it must involve bigger issues,” one official said. “Think of a small circle of people who know each other.”

The F.B.I. investigators were not pursuing evidence of Mr. Petraeus’s marital infidelity, which would not be a criminal matter, the official said. But their examination of his e-mails, most or all of them sent from a personal account and not from his C.I.A. account, raised the possibility of security breaches that needed to be addressed directly with him.

“Alarms went off on larger security issues,” the official said. As a result, F.B.I. agents spoke with the C.I.A. director about two weeks ago, and Mr. Petraeus learned in the discussion, if he was not already aware, that they knew of his affair with Ms. Broadwell, the official said.

Michael D. Shear, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

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

November 10, 2012

Living in the American Atlantis (Population 14)

By ALAN SCHWARZ
NYT

KASKASKIA, Ill. — When Manny and Dorothy Brown stand atop the stairs rising to their screen door, they look at the overgrown field across Grand Avenue and still see Kaskaskia’s buzzing general store. Fathers are planning turkey shoots; mothers, bake sales. Schwinns clatter past rows of homes while little cowboys and Indians shriek down by the church.

That Kaskaskia is all almost gone now, washed away over the years by two huge Mississippi River floods and then residents’ growing suspicion that their quirky and once vibrant town — the first capital of Illinois — was vanishing into American history, like wild buffalo or penny postcards. If this country has an Atlantis, it is Kaskaskia, Ill.

“I’m not coming back if there’s another flood,” said Dorothy Brown, 80, one of only 14 full-time residents left in the three-by-five-block area that makes up Kaskaskia proper. “I’m too old to clean up that kind of a mess again.”

Fifty other stalwarts still live on the wider expanse of Kaskaskia Island, about 60 miles south of St. Louis and originally not an island at all. French missionaries settled in 1703 on what was then a peninsula in southwestern Illinois territory, with the Mississippi River (and what is now Missouri) on one side and the Kaskaskia River on the other. The outpost preceded St. Louis as the West’s primary economic center. It was given a mammoth bronze church bell from King Louis XV — 11 years before a different one, in Philadelphia, became the Liberty Bell — and went from French to British to American rule before 1818, when it became the bustling 8,000-resident capital of the new state of Illinois. The capital later moved north to Vandalia and ultimately to Springfield. Floods came and went, but the Mississippi really meant business around the Civil War after upstream steamboats had sheared its shores for firewood, weakening its banks. The river began to creep east across the peninsula’s width until, on the night of April 18, 1881, it finally met and slowly overtook the channel on the other side. Kaskaskians moved their church, their cherished bell and a few other buildings brick by brick two miles inland before the original town began slipping slowly under the relocated river.

Suddenly an island cut off from mainland Illinois, the new Kaskaskia has asked residents ever since to put up with some weirdness. No connection was ever built across the new Mississippi, leaving its only access a bridge from Missouri. So getting to this Illinois town requires a 20-minute detour through the neighboring state. Still very much Illinois residents, Kaskaskians eventually lost postal service and now must receive mail at addresses in St. Mary, Mo., causing tax problems galore and more than a few tiffs at the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Other people think it’s strange, but those of us who have spent our lives here have never had it any other way,” said Emily Lyons, a lifelong resident and the town’s de facto historian.

Losing residents with every passing decade, Kaskaskia had remained large enough to house three schools and about 600 residents when a 1973 flood drowned homes in 13 feet of Mississippi muck. The 200 people who returned and rebuilt were hit with an even more devastating flood in 1993, when 20 feet of water destroyed most homes and the resolve of all but the staunchest loyalists.

Today the church that was moved in the late 19th century is still in use, with bricks on the second floor showing some discoloration where floodwaters rose in 1993. (Mass is on Saturdays because no priest can get there on Sundays.) Louis XV’s old bell — cracked, just like Philadelphia’s — still hangs in a nearby shrine, metaphorically ringing out Kaskaskia’s three centuries of history and fortitude.

“People say nothing’s down there. But a lot’s been here; you just can’t see it anymore,” said Mary Brown, who along with Ms. Lyons has spent countless hours restoring historic buildings on the island. “We’ve been handed this baton. Hopefully, the younger ones will have the dedication.”

There are not many younger ones left, alas. With the closest school 20 miles away in Chester, Ill., requiring clunky trips down and through Missouri just to get there, the island has only a few children to inherit their parents’ and grandparents’ strong ties. Even the mayor is trying to move his family but has not been able to sell his house.

Herbert Klein, a lifelong resident who still farms 330 acres of soybeans on the northern end of the island, where parts of the original town once stood, chuckled and said that floods in 1973 and 1993 did not bode so well for 2013. One family rebuilt a small home on Third Street just this year — this time, perching it on steel stilts 16 feet above ground level — but Mr. Klein said that many folks now preferred mobile homes that could be whisked off the island quickly.

“If we have another flood,” he said of Kaskaskia, “it’s done for.”

Dorothy and Manny Brown, residents since the Depression, figure that floods are more part of their past than their future. Standing on that top step, their eyes below the level of the 1993 flood, they remember what the Mississippi can and probably will someday do. Yet while outsiders look at Kaskaskia and see only water, all they see is home.




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Empire: From Al Jazerra

Choosing the American President: The voters have chosen, but what will the next four years bring?

The voting is over and Barack Obama has won a second term as president.

This election took place against a background of rallies and conventions, social media, biting political satire, and billions of dollars of television commercials blanketing the airwaves. Through it all, the debate on the role of the federal government became increasingly polarised.

"This is really one of the great questions of our times ... why do people mistrust government more and more and more, even when arguably this is the moment when they should be doing the opposite?"

- Thomas Frank, an author

The US has not been this divided since perhaps the civil war. But this is a battle that has been brewing for decades.

In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson painted Republican Barry Goldwater as a right-wing, small government extremist, and won in a historic landslide. The day after the election, the Republican base began organising for a rematch. With the Reagan revolution, the tide was turned.

Former President Ronald Reagan famously said: "Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem."

Every Republican candidate since, including Mitt Romney, has promised to follow in Reagan's footsteps. The Republican Party offers a vision of a drastically reduced federal government, while Democrats argue that government intervention is the only thing that kept the great recession from becoming another depression.

Throughout the campaign, the candidates positioned themselves as leaders of two opposing camps, but their actual records suggest many fundamental similarities.

Some argue that the real question is not the size of the government, or even its role, but rather whose side the government is on. Has it been bought and sold by the one per cent, or is there still room for the 99 per cent? Or even the 47 per cent?

Empire asks: How different will the US look in the next four years? With a divided Congress and citizenry, will partisan gridlock rule, or will the Obama administration, given four more years, alter the path of the US?

Joining us as interviewees: Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Princeton professor and author of Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen; and Thomas Frank, the author of What's the Matter with Kansas and Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Comeback of the American Right.

And we discuss the results of the election and what the next four years will look like with our guests: Cynthia McKinney, a former presidential candidate for the Green Party, the first African-American woman to represent the state of Georgia in the US House of Representatives where she served six terms and the author of The Illegal War on Libya; Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a former member of President Clinton's National Security Council and the author of No One's World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn; Ellen Laipson, the president of the Stimson Center, a former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council and a former member of President Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board; Helle Dale, a senior fellow in Public Diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation; and Steve Rademaker, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and former assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush.

Click to watch: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/empire/2012/11/2012118141848323469.html
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