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« Reply #105 on: September 16, 2010, 05:31:23 PM »




Census: 1 in 7 Americans live in poverty


 WASHINGTON — The number of people living in poverty has climbed to 14.3 percent of Americans, with the ranks of working-age poor reaching the highest level since at least 1965.

The Census Bureau says that about 43.6 million people, or 1 in 7, were in poverty last year. That’s up from 39.8 million, or 13.2 percent, in 2008.

The number of people lacking health insurance rose from 46.3 million to 50.7 million, due mostly to the loss of employer-provided health insurance during the recession. Congress passed a health overhaul earlier this year to extend coverage to more people.

The statistics released Thursday cover President Barack Obama’s first year in office, when unemployment climbed to 10 percent in the months after the financial meltdown.

The median — or midpoint — household income was $49,777.
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« Reply #105 on: September 16, 2010, 05:31:23 PM »

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« Reply #106 on: October 12, 2010, 03:36:41 AM »



Benefits frozen, seniors prepare to cut back

Anger follows news that Social Security again won't have cost-of-living hike


Seniors prepared to cut back on everything from food to charitable donations  to whiskey as word spread Monday that they will have to wait until at least 2012 to see their Social Security checks increase.

The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through a second straight year without an increase in monthly benefits. This year was the first without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation started in 1975.

"I think it's disgusting," said Paul McNeil, 69, a retired state worker from Warwick, R.I., who said his food and utility costs have gone up, but his income has not. He lamented decisions by lawmakers that he said do not favor seniors.

"They've got this idea that they've got to save money and basically they want to take it out of the people that will give them the least resistance," he said.

Cost-of-living adjustments are automatically set by a measure adopted by Congress in the 1970s that orders raises based on the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation. If inflation is negative, as in 2009 and 2010, payments remain unchanged.

Still, seniors like McNeil said they'll be thinking about the issue when they go to vote, and experts said the news comes at a bad time for Democrats already facing potentially big losses in November. Seniors are the most loyal of voters, and their support is especially important during midterm elections, when turnout is generally lower.
Story: No cost-of-living hike for Social Security again

"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

At St. Andrews Estates North, a Boca Raton retirement community, seniors largely took the news in stride, saying they don't blame Washington for the lack of an increase. Most are also collecting pensions or other income, but even so, they prepared to tighten their belts.

Bette Baldwin won't be able to travel or help her children as much. Dorcas Eppright will give less to charity. Jack Dawson will buy cheap whiskey instead of his beloved Canadian Club.

"For people who have worked their whole life and tried to scrimp and save and try to provide for themselves," said Baldwin, a 63-year-old retired teacher, "it's difficult to see that support system might not sustain you."
Life Inc.: America's retirement nest egg is $6.6 trillion short
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Baldwin and her husband mapped out their retirements, carefully calculating their income based on their pensions and Social Security checks. Trouble is, they expected an annual cost-of-living increase.

"When we cut back, we're cutting back on niceties," Baldwin said. "But there are other people that don't have anything to cut back on. They're cutting back on food and shelter."

Many at St. Andrews said the cost-of-living decision won't affect who they vote for next month. But seniors tied the Social Security issue to what they see as a larger societal problem with debt, entitlements and hopefulness for the future.

"I'm kind of glad in a way," Stella Wehrly, an 86-year-old retired secretary, said of the freeze. "One thing depends on the other and when people aren't working there's not enough people feeding into the Social Security system."
Story: Forced to retire, some take Social Security early

Wehrly and her husband, Hank, said curtailing government spending is necessary to maintain the Social Security system.

"We have a generation now that we're not going to leave a very good legacy for," she said.

Jack Dawson, 77, said the freeze is the right move considering the state of the government and the American economy.

"Who would be surprised what's happened?" he asked. "I feel this is the right decision in light of the malaise."

More than 58.7 million people rely on Social Security checks that average $1,072 monthly. It was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008; one-third relied on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.

At the Phoenix Knits yarn shop in Phoenix, 73-year-old owner Pat McCartney said she already worries about paying for utilities, groceries and gas. Not having the increase makes her worry even more.

"If I have any major expense, I don't know what I'll do," McCartney said while helping customers with their knitting. "I live on Social Security."

In Kansas City, Mo., Georgia Hollman, 80, said Social Security is her sole source of income. She would have liked a bigger check, but said she's grateful for what she gets.

"There isn't nothing I can do about it but live with it," she said. "Whatever they give us is what we have to take. I'm thankful we get that little bit."


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« Reply #106 on: October 12, 2010, 03:36:41 AM »

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« Reply #107 on: October 13, 2010, 02:58:00 AM »



Governor signs budget but vetoes nearly $1 billion


October 8, 2010 |  6:14 pm

Advocates for the poor were stunned Friday night after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed nearly $1 billion worth of spending on welfare, child care, special education and other programs that had been agreed to during a marathon legislative that ended at sunrise, about 10 hours earlier.

It took the governor less than half a day to find 23 line items to slash from the $87.5-billion general fund budget, including $366 million from the main welfare program, CalWORKS, $256 million from a program for school-aged children of families moving off welfare and $133 million from mental health services for special education students.

"Governor Schwarzenegger's final actions in office were directed at making life more difficult for California's working parents and the poorest, sickest and most elderly Californians. This is disappointing, but not surprising,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles).

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento

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« Reply #107 on: October 13, 2010, 02:58:00 AM »

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« Reply #108 on: November 03, 2010, 04:15:29 AM »

(CNN) -- Republicans effectively gained control over Congress on Tuesday. The GOP won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, thus overturning the gains Democrats made in 2006 and 2008.

In the Senate, where the procedural power of the minority has already given Republicans the power to shape deliberations, the narrowed Democratic ranks will further weaken the majority.

In the weeks running up to the election, there were some commentators who concluded that the current situation would be the best outcome for President Obama.

Pointing to the example of the 1994 midterms, which gave Republicans control of Congress, they have argued that a bad outcome for Democrats would ironically allow Obama to regain his standing. Obama could use Republicans as a foil to attack extremism -- just as Clinton did with Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995 and 1996 -- and he would have political cover and incentives to move closer toward the center, where voters would like him more.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said, "I do see a similarity to the Clinton experience. The divided government result, if it happens, is good for the president, because he now has some potential enemies but he also has some potential partners to get things done where he didn't have them before."

Yet this analogy rests on a selective memory of what happened after 1994, which is particularly surprising from someone who worked in the administration. The period that followed those midterms was among the most contentious in recent American politics.

Republicans conducted a series of investigations into the Clinton administration, which consumed an enormous amount of time and political energy from the White House. The investigations culminated in Clinton's impeachment proceedings.

The partisan battles took their toll. While Osama bin Laden and his minions were preparing to attack the United States, Washington was engaged in bitter partisan wars over Clinton's relationship with an intern. As the historian Steve Gillon recounted, the partisanship also drowned a secret effort by Gingrich and Clinton to reach a bipartisan pact on Social Security reform.

The process damaged both parties, not just Democrats. Republicans were left without their own leaders. Gingrich essentially was forced to resigned because the Republican Conference lost confidence in his leadership. His slated successor, Louisiana's Robert Livingston, had to resign because of personal problems.

The 2000 election revealed how divided the parties had become. Democrats and Republicans squared off in the courts after questions about the vote in Florida, making the electoral process itself fair game in the scandal wars taking place between the parties.

Divided government will make a fragile legislative process even more difficult to maneuver. Although political scientists have shown how important legislation has passed in periods of divided government, it is unclear how this model holds up in recent times.

There was not much legislative progress on big issues such as Social Security or health care reform in the second half of the 1990s. These years were not some high point in policymaking. In fact, it was just the opposite. Most key issues were pushed aside.

The situation will only be worse today. The intensified partisan polarization that exists in today's never-ending campaign cycle makes it even more difficult for the parties to reach deals on major issues. With the exodus of moderate Democrats as a result of Republican victories, the parties in Congress will move farther apart. The 24-hour polarized media will fuel the conflict and facilitate scandal warfare.

For those who liked what they saw in the second half of the 1990s: Obama will have more trouble doing what Clinton did politically when he painted Republicans as right of center. After all, the nation doesn't have divided government, it has a divided Congress.

So if Obama attacks the Congress for failing to produce results, voters will not only turn to see the face of Speaker John Boehner but they also will see whoever ends up as leader of the Senate Democrats. This makes the argument hard to sell.

Additionally, there is no reason to believe that either President Obama or congressional Republicans will have much incentive to enter a grand bargain such as welfare reform in 1996. If there was ever a time that Republicans had reason to compromise it was after their disastrous showing in the election of 2008. Yet Republicans did not compromise.

Now, with 2012 over the horizon, the GOP will have more incentives to oppose the president. Indeed, Sen. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, recently said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

At the same time, Obama faces a significant risk if he tries to appease Republicans in Clinton-like fashion. After all, many liberals are already frustrated with the kinds of compromises Obama has made. Going too far -- for example, declaring that the era of big government is over -- could trigger a challenge to the president in the Democratic primaries.

We should hope that the United States is not about to live through a repeat performance of what occurred after 1994. The nation faces too many pressing economic and foreign policy problems to have that happen again.
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« Reply #109 on: November 28, 2010, 07:32:38 PM »



New Developments on Federal Unemployment Extensions



11/23/10 4:45 p.m.
Updated: Number of individuals who have run out of benefits is now almost 250,000

Once again, filing deadlines for starting any new federal extension tier of unemployment benefits are fast approaching. Unless Congress takes action to extend the filing deadlines, many Unemployment Insurance (UI) customers will start experiencing a reduction in the number of benefit weeks available come December 2010. The House of Representatives did take up a bill on Thursday, November 18, 2010, proposing a 90 day extension of the filing deadlines. But the effort to get the bill passed was rejected by House members.

EDD will continue to monitor developments and provide updates on our Web site. In the meantime, here is some information about federal extensions and how the upcoming deadlines impact our UI customers.

For more than two years, an unprecedented offering of federal unemployment extension benefits have provided additional financial support to unemployed workers hit hard in this long, harsh recession. In addition to the up to 26 weeks of regular UI benefits offered any time an eligible worker becomes unemployed, up to 73 weeks of additional benefits have been available through four different tiers of extension benefits and a separate extension of benefits known in California as the FED-ED extension. All together, up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits have been available to help support unemployed workers, their families, and their communities.

It is now possible that the maximum amount of benefits available will be pared back to the regular 26 weeks of UI benefits offered by each state. This is due to the upcoming filing deadlines on federal extensions, unless Congress acts to push back those deadlines identified in the following chart:

CURRENT UI EXTENDED BENEFIT DURATION & CLAIM DEADLINES
UI Benefits Provided During This Recession UI Claims Maximum Weeks of Benefits Provided Deadline for Starting This Type of UI Claim
Regular UI Claim Up to 26 weeks of benefits Once someone becomes unemployed
1st Tier of Federal Extension Up to 20 weeks of benefits November 21, 2010
2nd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 14 weeks of benefits November 28, 2010
3rd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 13 weeks of benefits November 28, 2010
4th Tier of Federal Extension Up to 6 weeks of benefits November 28, 2010
Separate FED-ED Extension Up to 20 weeks of benefits December 5, 2010*
POTENTIAL TOTAL MAXIMUM BENEFITS Up to 99 weeks of benefits

*If California does not meet the unemployment rate threshold after the week ending December 11, 2010, the last effective date that a FED-ED claim may be filed will be December 5, 2010. The week of December 5 – 11 will be the last payable week of FED-ED benefits unless Congress takes further action to extend the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and continue fully funding FED-ED benefits.

Impacts on Unemployed Workers Currently Receiving Unemployment Benefits
If you are currently collecting on a regular UI claim that provides up to 26 weeks of benefits, and you run out of those benefits anytime after the week ending November 20, 2010, you will not be eligible for a first tier of federal extension benefits or any other extension benefits unless Congress takes further action.
If you are currently collecting on a first, second, or third tier of federal extension benefits and you run out of those benefits anytime after the week ending November 27, 2010, you will not be eligible to move into the next tier of extension benefits unless Congress takes further action.
If you are currently collecting on a fourth tier of federal extension benefits and you run out of those benefits anytime after the week ending December 4, 2010, you potentially will not be eligible to move into the separate FED-ED extension of benefits unless California meets the unemployment rate threshold or Congress takes further action.
If you are currently collecting on the separate FED-ED extension of benefits, eligibility will cease after December 5, 2010 with the end of 100% federal financing. Original rules governing FED-ED will once again be in place and California does not currently qualify for the FED-ED extension program under those rules. If California does not meet the unemployment rate threshold after the week ending December 11, 2010, the week of December 5 – 11 becomes the last payable week of FED-ED benefits. That’s unless Congress takes further action to extend the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and continue fully funding FED-ED benefits.

That means even if someone will still have a remaining balance of the 20 weeks available on a FED-ED extension, no further weeks can be paid after the week ending December 11, 2010 if California does not meet the unemployment rate threshold. Affected customers will receive a notification in the mail regarding this pending end to FED-ED benefit payments.
Without further Congressional action, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates about two million people across the country will experience a decreased total of available benefits by the end of this year. Of this total, 454,000 are here in California.

No Impact for Customers who have Run Out of Maximum Benefits
Whether or not Congress decides to extend filing deadlines on federal extension benefits will not impact an estimated 250,000 unemployed workers in California who have already run out of all available benefits as of November 15, 2010. That maximum remains up to 99 weeks of benefits. Two bills were introduced in Congress that would add an additional tier of extension benefits to the maximum of 99 weeks. But there are no reports of any significant movement on the measures. EDD will be closely monitoring any developments on this issue.

Unemployed individuals may be eligible for assistance to meet basic needs as well as other services such as health care, counseling, employment and training assistance. For more information, read the Assistance for Unemployed California Residents flyer and the Job Dislocation Brochure: English | Spanish.

Impacts on Federal Stimulus Payments
If you are a claimant who qualified for the $25 stimulus payments, current federal law states the last week these stimulus payments can be made is the week ending December 11, 2010. Claimants who filed a new regular UI claim effective May 30, 2010 or after do not qualify for the $25 stimulus payments.

EDD is closely monitoring developments regarding the federal extension of unemployment benefits. We strongly encourage our customers to monitor the EDD Web site for updates, or sign up for our Twitter messages that advise you when new information is posted.


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« Reply #110 on: December 13, 2010, 03:49:43 PM »



US healthcare law: Judge rules against key provision



A federal judge in the US state of Virginia has ruled against a key part of the Obama administration's law on healthcare reform.

The decision by US District Judge Henry Hudson is the first finding against the law passed in March.

He backed the state of Virginia's argument that the law's requirement that Americans purchase healthcare or face a fine was unconstitutional.

Other lawsuits are pending, but the US Supreme Court will have the final word.

The judge wrote in a 42-page decision that the disputed provision was "neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution".

But he declined to invalidate the entire law, in what correspondents say was a small victory for Barack Obama.
'Critical milestone'

The decision has been welcomed by Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, who filed the lawsuit.

"This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution," he said in a statement after the ruling.

The US Justice Department expressed disappointment, but said it continued to believe the law was constitutional.

"There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail," said a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The law on healthcare reform is seen by some as one of Mr Obama's biggest achievements during his first two years in office, but it continues to divide public opinion.

It aims to extend health insurance to millions of Americans who lack it - partly by requiring the mostly young, healthy Americans who currently forgo insurance to purchase it.

Two judges have rejected other challenges to the law, including one in Virginia last month.


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« Reply #111 on: January 02, 2011, 07:39:58 PM »



Health care in the hot seat again


Republicans on Sunday demonstrated a united front against health care reform passed by the Obama administration, an issue that is sure to fan the flames on the left and right when a divided Congress returns Wednesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said members in the House and Senate will try to "defund the Obama care bill and start over."

"I think this fight is going to continue to 2012 and it will move from Washington to the states," Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It will be one big fight over the role of health care and should Obama health care be in existence in 2012 the way it is today."

California Rep. Darrell Issa, who will chair the House Oversight and Government Reform committee in the new Congress, said the committee will identify where "waste, fraud and abuse" exists in the plan to find where government can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

"As Republicans, our goal is to repeal what was done on a partisan basis, come back and do on a bipartisan basis, real reform," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Incoming House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton went a step further, saying there are 242 Republicans and a "significant number of Democrats" who want to repeal the legislation. The Michigan Republican, whose committee will play a key role in the roll-back effort, said he believes the House may be close to having the votes necessary to override a presidential veto. And if they don't have the votes for repeal, Upton said the House will "go after this bill piece by piece."

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said the GOP will try to repeal the bill because "that's what the American people want us to do."

However, New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel criticized Republicans for focusing on health care instead of job creation.

"They're (Republicans) talking about wasting time repealing health care, when they know that the Senate and administration won't go along with it," Israel said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Don't waste time, create jobs."

In fact, even if repeal is possible in the House, it is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate or receive traction in the White House.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that signed into law in March was a pillar of the president's agenda and was met with strong opposition from Republicans.

The measure was designed to help millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans receive adequate and affordable health care through a series of government-imposed mandates and subsidies. Critics have equated it to socialized medicine, fearing that a bloated government bureaucracy will result in higher taxes and diminished health care services.

Parts of the historic legislation have recently been challenged by individual states.

In December, a Florida U.S. District Court judge struck down the "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014, litigation supported by 19 other states. The Justice Department is expected to challenge the judge's findings in a federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court rejected the first constitutional challenge of the law because the justices refused to get involved at a relatively early stage of the legal process.

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« Reply #112 on: July 06, 2011, 01:56:52 AM »



Sources: 10,000 US troops could remain in Iraq

White House would keep forces on ground through next year if requested by Baghdad


BAGHDAD — The White House is offering to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq next year, U.S. officials say, despite opposition from many Iraqis and key Democratic Party allies who demand that President Barack Obama bring home the American military as promised.

Any extension of the military's presence, however, depends on a formal request from Baghdad — which must weigh questions about the readiness of Iraqi security forces against fears of renewed militant attacks and unrest if U.S. soldiers stay beyond the December pullout deadline.

Iraq is not expected to decide until September at the earliest when the 46,000 U.S. forces left in the country had hoped to start heading home.

Already, though, the White House has worked out options to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty troops to continue training Iraqi security forces during 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials in interviews with The Associated Press. The figures also were noted by foreign diplomats in Baghdad briefed on the issue.

All spoke on condition of anonymity to frankly discuss the sensitive matter during interviews over the past two weeks.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said the Pentagon is still planning for all U.S. troops to withdraw by year's end, noting that time is running out for Iraq's government to ask them to stay.

"We have said for a long time now if the Iraqi government asks us to maintain some level of troops beyond that end of the year deadline, we would consider it," Carney told reporters in Washington.
Story: New plan to defeat al-Qaida: 'Surgical' strikes, not costly wars

He appeared to back off that possibility, however, adding: "That doesn't necessarily mean we would do it. We would just consider it. And I really don't have any more information on that possible outcome because, again, we haven't even gotten a request."

Any change in the U.S. military withdrawal timetable in Iraq — after more than eight years and more than 4,450 U.S. military deaths — could open up difficult political confrontations for Obama as pressure builds to close out the Iraq mission and stick to pledges to draw down troops in Afghanistan.

The Senate's top Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid, told the AP that the high cost of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq — given a mounting U.S. debt crisis and Iraq's fledgling security gains — is no longer necessary.

Reid, the Senate majority leader, estimated nearly $1 trillion has been spent in Iraq since the U.S. invaded in 2003, including $50 billion this year alone.

"As Iraq becomes increasingly capable, it is time for our own troops to return home by the end of the year and for these precious resources to be directed elsewhere," Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said in the statement. "There is no question that the United States must continue to provide support for the Iraqis as they progress, but now is the time for our military mission to come to a close."

Reid was responding to a request for comment after 15 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in June, mostly by Shiite militias, in the deadliest month for the American military here in two years. It was the first public statement by a top party leader to oppose Obama's policy in Iraq, and may signal splintering Democratic support over his war planning just as he ramps up his 2012 re-election campaign.
Story: June deadliest month in 2 years for US troops in Iraq

Iraq has flown under Washington's political radar for much of the past year, and Democrats who want Obama to end the war this year as promised vowed to exert more pressure on the White House.

"With a false declaration that combat operations are over in Iraq, what is now Operation New Dawn has ironically become a forgotten war," said Ashwin Madia, a former Marine who served in Iraq in 2005-06 and is now interim chairman of VoteVets.org. "That is about to change."

The group has raised millions of dollars for Democratic Party candidates.

Though violence has dramatically dropped from just a few years ago, when Iraq teetered on the brink of civil war, attacks still happen almost daily. On Tuesday, Iraqi police said at least 35 people were killed when two bombs exploded outside a city council headquarters just north of Baghdad.

Running for president in 2008, Obama promised to withdraw all troops from Iraq — what he had described years earlier as "a dumb war, a rash war." Shortly after he took office, he pledged to stick to a Dec. 31, 2011, deadline negotiated between Washington and Baghdad for all U.S. forces to leave Iraq.

Recently, however, the door gradually has been opening to push the deadline. In May, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled Obama was willing to keep troops in Iraq beyond December. Last week, Navy Vice Adm. William McRaven, nominated to command U.S. special operations forces, said a small commando force should remain.


Without a request from Iraq, fewer than 200 active duty troops would stay at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as military advisers, a role that is common for American diplomatic missions worldwide. More than 166,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq in October 2007, the peak of the Pentagon's surge.

In Baghdad, the debate over whether U.S. troops should stay past the deadline is topic No. 1 for Iraq's government.

Iraq's top military commander, Gen. Babaker Shawkat Zebari, has long maintained that Iraqi security forces need another decade of training and aid before they are ready to protect the country alone, especially its air space and borders. Iraq sits on the fault line between Shiite powerhouse Iran and mostly Sunni nations across the rest of the Mideast, which share U.S. concerns about Tehran's influence growing in Baghdad if American troops leave.

Iraqi Kurds, who have long relied on American forces to protect them, are lobbying for U.S. troops to stay.

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refuses to publicly endorse a troops' extension. One of his critical political allies — a Shiite movement headed by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — has threatened widespread violence if troops stay. Al-Sadr's militias once waged fierce attacks on U.S. forces.

Some of Iraq's Sunnis also oppose an extension. The Sunni Islamic Party in Iraq's northern Ninevah province, in a statement this week, called allowing the so-called "occupation forces" to remain "a great mistake against Iraq and its people."

President Jalal Talabani plans a meeting as early as this week of Iraq's political leaders to discuss the troop issue — which al-Maliki says he does not want to make alone.

"All political groups should be making this decision, because we do not want to shoulder the responsibility alone for such a grave and sovereign issue," said Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Shilah, a member of the State of Law coalition headed by al-Maliki. "The situation is still complicated because all the political blocs are avoiding giving a final and clear decision on this."

One of the main sticking points is how to ensure that troops on duty all have legal immunity from Iraqi courts if they remain. Al-Shilah called it "very difficult, if not impossible due to the complicated political situation."

The U.S. will not keep thousands of troops in Iraq without immunity. But it's far from certain parliament will approve it. Iraq is still seething from the 2007 shooting by guards from the security firm then called Blackwater Worldwide, which left 17 people dead but could not be prosecuted by Iraq courts because of an immunity deal at the time.

Al-Maliki also would not want any remaining U.S. troops to look like combat forces, and potentially would strip them of huge armored trucks or have them live on Iraqi bases. The U.S. will not agree to that.

In a July 1 letter, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told U.S. forces in and around Baghdad to expect to stay in Iraq "longer than they expected" until at least after Christmas, just days before the withdrawal deadline.

There is no end-date stated in Dempsey's letter, which was posted on the website of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division that is currently headquartered in Baghdad.

"We're well aware that the request means many of you will be separated from your families for a second consecutive Christmas holiday," Dempsey wrote. "I can assure you we wouldn't have asked this of you if it wasn't vitally important for the accomplishment of our mission in Iraq."





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« Reply #113 on: August 22, 2011, 03:40:21 PM »


Obama’s Other War: NATO Warplanes Bomb Tripoli



Tripoli, Libya (AP) - NATO warplanes struck Tripoli early Tuesday in the heaviest bombing of the Libyan capital in weeks, hours after an uptick in fighting between rebels and Moammar Gadhafi's forces on a long deadlocked front line in the country's east.

NATO struck at least four sites in Tripoli, setting off crackling explosions that thundered through the city overnight. One strike hit a building that local residents said was used by a military intelligence agency. Another targeted a government building that officials said was sometimes used by parliament members.

It was not immediately clear what the other two strikes hit, but one of them sent plumes of smoke over Tripoli. Libyan officials would not say what that strike hit but the smoke appeared to come from the sprawling compound housing members of Gadhafi's family.

Between explosions, an aircraft dropped burning flares. Some residents responded by raking the sky with gunfire and beeping their horns.

The Tripoli bombing came just hours after heavy fighting was reported Monday on the eastern front, south of Ajdabiya, a rebel-held town about 90 miles (150 kilometers) south of Benghazi, the rebel headquarters in the east.

Hundreds of rebels gathered at a checkpoint outside Ajdabiya on Monday afternoon, when an AP photographer counted about 100 pickup trucks coming back from the front, each carrying four or five fighters and some with mounted submachine guns.

The rebels, firing their weapons into the air as they shouted and danced, said they had been told that NATO was going to launch airstrikes on Gadhafi's forces and they had been ordered to withdraw temporarily from the front.

No overall casualty figures were available. Two ambulances came to the local hospital, and doctors said they carried the bodies of four rebels.

The cobbled-together rebel army -- comprised of some deserters from Gadhafi's forces and many civilians -- has been bogged down for weeks in the area around Ajdabiya, unable to move on to the oil town of Brega. The rebels say their weapons cannot reach more than about 12 miles (20 kilometers) while Gadhafi's forces can fire rockets and shells up to twice that distance. Brega has an oil terminal and Libya's second-largest hydrocarbon complex.

Rebel pleas for heavier arms from abroad have not met any response, although NATO is carrying out airstrikes on regime forces as many countries intensify their call for Gadhafi -- Libya's autocratic ruler for 42 years -- to leave power.

The rebels now control most of eastern Libya, and Gadhafi most of the west, including the capital, Tripoli. Exceptions in the west include pockets of embattled rebel-held towns along the border with Tunisia, and Misrata on the coast.

Also Monday, Gadhafi's forces shelled a northern Misrata neighborhood where many families from the besieged city center have fled to, said Abdel Salam, who identified himself as a resident-turned-fighter. He said NATO airstrikes hit targets on the city's southern edges, one of the areas where government forces have been concentrated after rebels pushed them back.

The fighting was threatening the port area, the city's only lifeline, preventing some aid ships from docking, Abdel Salam said. A ship carrying medical supplies and baby food was able to dock in Misrata on Monday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It was the first ship to arrive since Wednesday, when Gadhafi's forces fired a barrage of rockets into the port as the International Organization of Migration was evacuating nearly 1,000 people, mainly African migrant workers.

On Saturday, a rocket attack set the city's main fuel depot ablaze, destroying the main supply for vehicles, ships and generators powering hospitals and other key sites in a city darkened by electricity cuts.

The ICRC said it would use the chartered ship as a floating platform as its team works to reduce the danger of unexploded weapons on the streets of Misrata, visit prisoners detained by the rebels and help reunite families that lost contact when the city center was bombed.

The ship brought in 8,000 jars of baby food as well as urgently needed surgical instruments and medical dressings.

The ship docked safely though Gadhafi's forces were seen dropping mines into the port on Saturday from a white helicopter painted with a red cross, according to rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga and Misrata residents.

The ICRC said it was concerned by those allegations of "a serious misuse of the emblem" designated by the Geneva Conventions to be used solely by people providing medical or other humanitarian aid.

A civilian spokesman for the rebels in Misrata, lawyer Abdulbaset Abumzirig, said Sunday that 30 to 40 people are injured daily and 10 to 15 are being killed by the bombardment. The city has been under siege for two months, and local doctors say the total death toll is more than 1,000.

In Tripoli, government escorts did not allow reporters to come near the site of one building that was hit in the NATO air attack early Tuesday. Local residents said the several-story building, which had buckled from the bombing, was used by a military intelligence agency.

Reporters were shown damage done to a nearby hospital where some windows were smashed and some ceiling vents fell to the ground. A hospital physician, Dr. Mustafa Rahim, said one child was badly injured but would not allow reporters to see him, saying the four-year-old boy was in intensive care.

Another strike targeted a building that two employees said was used by parliament members and housed a library for research into Gadhafi's writings. It was the second time the building had been targeted in the past week, they said.

A hole was punched into what appeared to be its basement and thick blocks of concrete were reduced to dusty rubble.

The handsome pastel-colored building was built by Italians when they ruled Libya in the 1920s. The building, which once served as Italy's naval headquarters, was considered an iconic Tripoli site.

It was not immediately clear what the other strikes targeted. Reporters may not leave their Tripoli hotel without government escorts.

Meanwhile, the U.N. humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, asked all sides in the fighting for a pause in hostilities to allow food, water, medical supplies and other aid to be delivered to needy populations.

She told the Security Council the pause would also allow humanitarian workers to evacuate people from other countries who still remain in Libya and would give civilians a respite.

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« Reply #114 on: September 05, 2011, 05:45:40 PM »



Zero new jobs created in August, U.S. unemployment at 9.1 percent


The national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in August, as U.S. employers added a net total of zero nonfarm workers.

It was the first time since 1945 that the government reported no net job change for a month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the dismal jobs data Friday, one day after the Obama administration released a report predicting only slow improvements in the labor market over the next few years.

"The August employment report was even weaker than what we expected to see and we weren't expecting anything great to begin with," said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, associate economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "The job market is basically stagnant."

The 9.1 percent unemployment rate calculates to 14 million Americans looking for a job in August, but being unable to get one. Nearly 8.3 million of those people have not had a job for 15 weeks or more.

The official jobless rate does not include people who wanted a job but did not seek one because of personal commitments, discouraged workers nor people working part time for economic reasons. Including those numbers in the unemployment calculation would push the U.S. unemployment rate to a seasonally-adjusted 16.2 percent.

The Conference Board, a national business research organization, predicted slow job growth during the coming months.

The Conference Board's own findings show a sharp decline in consumer confidence, which

this week fell to its lowest point in more than two years.

"The lack of demand is the single biggest problem. It has led to this slow pace of hiring, especially in small firms in "core" services (which excludes health and education)," the Conference Board reported.

There seems to be little to no help on the way from monetary or fiscal policy, at the federal, state, or local level," the Board continued.

The Office of Management and Budget, which works for the White House, reported Thursday that analysts expect this year's unemployment rate to average 8.8 percent.

The agency expects unemployment to reach 8.3 percent next year, before falling to 7.7 percent in 2013.

Although the Conference Board is not expecting much in the way of government attempts to boost the economy, President Obama is scheduled to address to a joint session of Congress next week to introduce a plan for creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

The president is facing criticism within his own party, particularly from black lawmakers, who say he hasn't done enough to help chronic unemployment in black communities.

The unemployment rate for black men jumped a full percentage point in August to 18 percent. That's the highest level for that group since March 2010. Unemployment for all black people increased from 15.9 percent in July to 16.7 percent last month.

But Obama is unlikely to win support for any stimulus spending from congressional Republicans, who say the president's economic policies have failed. They want deeper spending cuts and less government regulation.

That's what Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, contended in a statement responding to the jobs report.

"To grow our economy, we need to move away from the failed stimulus spending of the past two and a half years," Miller stated. "This includes tackling our massive national debt ... reforming the tax code to provide relief to taxpayers and increase America's competitiveness in the global economy, and removing unnecessary and costly regulatory burdens on small businesses."

Although the government calculated the net total of last month's hiring activity as zero new jobs, some employers did hire new employees.

Among business sectors, health care employers hired 30,000 new workers and mining firms hired 6,000 people. The temporary jobs industry, which some look to for signs of future long-term hiring, only added 5,000 people last month.

Continued government downsizing and a telecommunications strike contributed to offset last month's job increases in other sectors.

Public employers reduced their payrolls by 17,000 jobs, and the strike resulted in 45,000 people not being counted on August payrolls.

Manufacturers also shed 3,000 jobs, signifying the first decrease in that sector since October 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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« Reply #115 on: March 21, 2012, 11:12:46 PM »



APNewsBreak: Marine critical of Obama faces charge


SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Marine Corps on Wednesday notified a sergeant who has been openly critical of President Barack Obama that he is violating Pentagon policy barring troops from political activities and that he faces dismissal.

Camp Pendleton Marine Sgt. Gary Stein started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party to encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights. He declared a few weeks ago that he would not follow the unlawful orders of the commander in chief. Stein also criticized Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for his comments on Syria.

Stein, a nine-year member of the Corps, said he did nothing wrong and planned to fight the charges. He had applied to extend his service, which was set to expire in a few months.

"I'm completely shocked that this is happening," he said. "I've done nothing wrong. I've only stated what our oath states that I will defend the constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that's a crime, what is America coming to?"

The Marine Corps said in a statement Wednesday that Stein's commanding officer ordered a preliminary inquiry on March 8 after receiving allegations that Stein posted political statements about Obama on Facebook in violation of the Pentagon's directives.

"After reviewing the findings of the preliminary inquiry, the commander decided to address the allegations through administrative action," the Corps said.

Stein said in addition to being discharged, he would have his rank reduced to lance corporal if he is proven to be in violation of the rules. He said he was removed from his job at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego on Wednesday and given a desk job with no access to computers.

According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.

In January, an Army reservist wearing camouflaged fatigues got into trouble for taking the stage during a rally in Iowa with Republican presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul.

Stein was first cautioned by his superiors at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, in 2010, after he launched his Facebook page and criticized Obama's health care overhaul. Stein volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors.

He said he determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page. Last week, he said his superiors told him he could not use social media sites on government computers after he posted the message stating he would not follow unlawful orders of the president.

Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan.

In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

Another Marine alerted his command about the statement, Stein said.

Stein said he respects the office of the president, but he does not agree with Obama's policies. He said he is within his rights to speak up.

The Marine Corps said Stein is allowed to express his personal opinions as long as they do not give the impression he is speaking in his official capacity as a Marine.

Spokesman Maj. Michael Armistead said earlier this month that the Corps was taking a closer look to determine whether Stein had crossed that line.

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« Reply #116 on: March 21, 2012, 11:52:25 PM »


Reality Check: Delegate slates 'illegally' selected in Georgia?


(FOX19) - The fight for delegates in the Republican race just gets uglier with each state we look into.

We told you about members of the Missouri GOP admitting to attempting to shape the outcome of delegates at the states caucus on Saturday.

Tonight, new video out of the state of Georgia where the same thing has happened.  The video demonstrates how some party officials are willing to toss the rules if it works in their favor.

Ben has the Reality Check you won't see anywhere else.

http://www.fox19.com/story/17216091/reality-check-delegate-slates-illegally-selected-in-georgia


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« Reply #117 on: March 22, 2012, 02:28:03 AM »

Ron Paul: Delegates and Freedom
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