Thursday, February 27, 2014

Senate Blocks Dem Bill Boosting Vets' Benefits


Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic bill that would enrich health, education and job-training programs for the nation's 22 million veterans.
Helping veterans is widely popular among lawmakers, especially with this fall's congressional elections approaching. The sweeping $21 billion measure would do everything from letting more veterans get in-state college tuition to providing fertility treatments for wounded troops.

Republicans complained that the bill was too expensive. And they were upset that Majority Leader Harry Reid prevented a vote on a GOP amendment cutting the bill and adding sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

The Senate derailed the legislation on a 56-41 procedural vote. Fifty-six senators voted to keep the bill alive, but supporters needed 60 votes to prevail.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oops: GOP’s Anti-Obamacare Bill Backfires Spectacularly


The legislation, offered by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) and 208 co-sponsors as a tweak to Obamacare, would change the definition of a full-time work week under the health care law from 30 hours per week to 40 hours. The aim was to mitigate the effect of the law's employer mandate, which says businesses with 50 or more workers must offer insurance to full-time employees.
An analysis of the bill, released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, found that it would cause 1 million people to lose their employer-based insurance coverage. The report projected that more than 500,000 of them would end up getting coverage through Medicaid, the Children's Health Care Program or the Obamacare exchanges. The rest, CBO and JCT said, would become uninsured.
The legislation would also lower the amount the federal government collects in penalties from businesses who don't abide by the employer mandate. As a result, the report found, the deficit would go up by $74 billion over 10 years.
Titled the "Save American Workers Act," the bill cleared the House Ways & Means Committee on a party line vote earlier this month and was slated for a full House vote perhaps as early as next week. Of the bill's 208 cosponsors, seven are Democrats.
The CBO findings are problematic for Republicans in part because they've raised hell about insurance cancellations and market disruptions due to Obamacare's minimum coverage standards and other provisions.
A spokesman for Young didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
"[A]s the administration continues to stumble through implementation of the law, many Americans are still confused with how this sweeping law will work and what its impact will be," the congressman said upon introducing his bill. "Repealing this redefinition [of 'full time employment'] and restoring it to the historical norm ensures this bill not only protects working poor and middle class employees, it also ensures that laws governing employment are consistent."
The reality, it appears, is less simple.
"I think this shows that [the Republicans'] repeal agenda will actually hurt or destroy jobs, and make it harder for people to get health insurance," said Alex Nguyen, a spokesman for Democrats on the Ways & Means Committee.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Former Bush aide: Arizona anti-gay Christians use religion like Islamic terrorists


President George W. Bush’s former chief strategist Matthew Dowd on Sunday likened Christians in Arizona who are using religion to discriminate against LGBT people to Islamic terrorists. Last week, Arizona’s legislature passed a bill that would allow business owners to assert religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. 

 On Sunday, ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Dowd to predict if Gov. Jan Brewer (R) would sign the bill into law. “I think, in the end, Gov. Brewer is probably going to veto this because it seems like an easy veto for her to do because of everything that’s going in the business economy there,” Dowd explained. “This is one of those problems when people use religion as a way to sort of enforce discriminatory practices,” he continued. 

“People used religion back in the 1860s when they defended slavery. They used religion to defend slavery.” “We’ve used religion to go to war. People have criticized Islam because they use religion to fight people and kill people. This is the problem with that [bill].”............

Friday, February 21, 2014

Exxon CEO Comes Out Against Fracking Project Because It Will Affect His Property Values


As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.
The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.
The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.
Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.
When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”
In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.
Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A spokesperson told the WSJ it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

Dallas Paper Wants To Know What Abbott Thinks Of Nugent's 'Paean To Sex With Underage Girls'


Slater writes:
As attorney general, Abbott pledged as part of his conservative agenda to fight sexual predators who target young girls. Nugent took the campaign stage with Abbott this week where the attorney general touted him as a “fighter for freedom” because of his appeal to gun-rights voters in Texas. But then there’s this, Nugent’s 1981 paean to sex with underage girls entitled Jailbait.
"Jailbait" contains lyrics like these: "Well I don’t care if you’re just thirteen/ You look too good to be true/ I just know that you’re probably clean/ There’s one lil’ thing I got to do to you."
Nugent admitted to having affairs with underage girls in a 1998 "Behind the Music" documentary.
Abbott deflected CNN's questions Thursday when asked if he felt it appropriate to campaign with someone who had a history of inflammatory remarks like Nugent, who has also called President Barack Obama a "subhuman mongrel." The gun rights activist later apologized, but not to the President.
Abbott's gubernatorial campaign hadn't responded to Slater's request as of Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

One Night in Bangkok - Murray Head

3 Dog Night - Eli's Coming

Three Dog Night~Liar


Easy To Be Hard -- Three Dog Night

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard, easy to be cold

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud, easy to say no

Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend, I need a friend

How can people be so heartless
You know I'm hung up on you
Easy to be proud, easy to say no

Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend, we all need a friend

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be proud, easy to say no
Easy to be cold, easy to say no
Come, on, easy to give in, easy to say no
Easy to be cold, easy to say no
Much too easy to say no

Three Dog Night - Never Been To Spain

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black Sabbath - Iron Man


Black Sabbath - End of the Beginning

North Koreans Reveal Brutal Truth Of What Life Is Really Like Inside The World’s Most Secretive Nation

Published on Monday, 17 February 2014

ONE was a sex slave forced into abuse and another saw starvation deaths on a daily basis.
Then there’s the woman who spent nine years in a brutal prison camp for the seemingly harmless crime of gossiping.
Even a prison official who was forced to witness the executions was left so traumatised he can still see blood spatters and bodies heaped on the ground.
This is the North Korea you probably never knew existed.
For the first time footage of these damning testimonies provides a shocking insight into how North Korea treats some of its citizens, including those sent to repressive prison camps 15 and 16, known as Yodok and Kwanliso.
The testimonies from a former prison guard, a prison detainee, an army officer and a trafficked sex worker reveal what life’s really like inside the world’s most secretive nation.
Their claims are so damning they were provided to the UN as part of its inquiry into North Korea’s human rights abuses.
The inquiry, headed by former supreme court judge Michael Kirby, will release its final report tomorrow.
Amnesty International, which provided information to the inquiry on a wide variety of human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity, has released the footage of those who testified before the inquiry.
Among those are a former prison guard, who spoke to exclusively to Amnesty about how officials would rape women from the camp and then kill them, as well as detailing the methods used for executing prisoners.
The prison official, who’s name is not given, said detainees were forced to walk between 12 to 14 miles (19-20 kms) to get to the fields where they are expected to plough and work until midnight.
But it is the executions which stick in his mind, with whole generations of families “exterminated” using two main methods.
“One is getting the prisoner to dig their own grave,” he said.
“Afterwards, the prisoner is made to stand before the grave. The prisoner stands there, facing his grave, and is unable to see what’s behind him. The hammer is small. It’s a short metal hammer.”
But it gets worse.
“The second method is like this,” he reveals.
“The prisoner comes into the office and is told to take a seat. Behind the screen, there are two people on standby. Always. They are holding on to what looked to me like a rubber rope. It’s a metre long, just about. If you strike someone with it, it will wrap around their neck. Then you kill them by pulling the rope.”
Kim Young Soon knows all too well what life is like inside the notorious camps, having spent nine years in Yodok prison along with her parents and children who all died there, for gossiping about an affair her friend had with Kim Jong Il.
Kim said her family was simply guilty by association and was sent to the camp without ever knowing the charge.
“No words would help you to understand what this place is like,” she said.
“From sunrise to sunset, you work. There are no set working hours. You get up at 3:30am to report for work at 4:30am and then you work until dark.”
Her elderly parents, daughter and three sons all ended up there. They never got the chance to leave or learn about why they were there.
“When my parents starved to death, I didn’t have coffins for them,” she said.
“I wrapped their bodies with straw carried them on my back and went to bury them myself. And the children …. I lost all my family.”
Another former prison and trafficked sex worker Jihyum Park also revealed how women were used for sex with rape, abuse and forced terminations all occurring regularly.
Park Ji-hyun was sold to a Chinese farmer and was sent to a labour camp for trying to escape.
“They would force abortion after the pregnancy test. Pregnant women get sent to labour camps to carry loads up and down the hills which cause miscarriages.”
Park also detailed the starvation within the camps and how people were so hungry they would eat anything, including beans and maize kernels stuck in animal dung.
But it’s the testimony from former military captain Joo-Il Kim that provides the most shocking details, revealing how a shortage of food and starvation remains the biggest problem facing the army.
He goes on to tell in graphic detail how it feels to watch a starving person die, how they are so malnourished and swollen nothing can be done to save them and how the executions he witnessed haunt him the most.
“The first public execution I had to witness happened to be my classmate’s brother-in-law,” he said.
“The first bullet hits the head strap, and the brain and blood splatters. People scream in horror at this sight. The crowd roars. It is so gruesome, you instinctively close your eyes or turn your head away on subsequent gun shots. When all the gunshots have died down, you look and the body is heaped onto the ground.”
All four North Koreans, who have since escaped the country, said they hoped their stories would bring about change and that it was time the international community knew the reality of what took place.
The testimonies follow the release of satellite images showing the ongoing development of two of North Korea’s largest political prison camps — kwanliso 15 and 16 in December last year.
Amnesty International published the images and analysis was shared with the Commission of Inquiry, which will publish its final report in Geneva at midnight.

Friday, February 14, 2014

When Will Social Conservatives Stop Demanding Special Rights?

Josh Barro

This week, the Kansas House of Representatives passed House Bill 2453, "An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage." Despite its name, this bill isn't about religious freedom. It's about creating new special rights (yes, those dreaded special rights) for people with anti-gay views.
The bill would protect the ability of any individual, government agency, or "religious entity" (which includes a business operated in accordance with its owner's religious views) to refuse service based on sincere religious beliefs about sex or gender, and to refuse to recognize any marriage or similar arrangement for those reasons — even if such service would otherwise be required under Kansas law.
In other words, a special new right to discriminate on a particular basis.
Republicans aren't normally keen on creating special workplace rights for public employees, but this bill would let government workers refuse to do their jobs if doing so conflicted with such sincere religious views. Let's say you work for the Kansas Department for Children and Families and you don't want to process a foster care application from a same-sex couple, even though that's within the agency's policy. Or you're a police officer and you don't want to respond to a domestic abuse complaint from a same-sex couple. If this bill becomes law, that will become your right.
The bill even creates a special new employee right for anti-gay people working in the private sector. Let's say you work for a national chain supermarket with a policy against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, and you're asked to make a cake for a gay wedding. Now, you can refuse, and your private employer "shall either promptly provide another employee to provide such service, or shall otherwise ensure that the requested service is provided, if it can be done without undue hardship to the employer."
Social conservatives have a reason for seeking these special privileges: the America they knew is falling away from them, and that change is mostly about social attitudes, not law. Legal freedom won't be enough to protect people's ability to be loudly and proudly anti-gay; the government will have to create special rules barring private action against the anti-gay.
This bill comes from the same place as the complaints that Phil Robertson's "religious freedom" or "freedom of speech" were infringed when his comments on homosexuality were criticized. Of course, nobody was infringing on Phil Robertson's legal rights — there's no right to your own A&E show, there's no right not to be criticized for your religious views, and (so far) there's no right to refuse to do your job because you think homosexual behavior is wrong.
Maybe in Kansas, there soon will be. Whatever that is, it won't be an advance for religious freedom.

Mass murderer Breivik to hunger strike for better video games

Oslo — Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik threatened to go on hunger strike for better video games and other perks to alleviate his "torture"-like prison conditions, in a letter received by AFP Friday.
The right-wing extremist -- who killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage on July 22, 2011 -- enclosed a typed list of 12 demands sent to prison authorities in November.
He described as "torture" the conditions in two prisons -- Ila near Oslo and Skien in southeast Norway -- where he is serving out a 21-year sentence.
The demands include better conditions for his daily walk and the right to communicate more freely with the outside world, which he argues are in line with European rights legislation.
He also demanded the replacement of a PlayStation 2 games console for a more recent PS3 "with access to more adult games that I get to choose myself" as well as a sofa or armchair instead of a "painful" chair.
"Other inmates have access to adult games while I only have the right to play less interesting kids games. One example is "Rayman Revolution", a game aimed at three year olds," wrote the 35-year-old convicted killer.
Held apart from other prisoners since 2011 for security reasons, Breivik wrote that he has behaved in an "exemplary fashion" in prison, arguing that he has the right to a wider "selection of activities" than other inmates to compensate for his strict isolation.
Breivik also wants his standard weekly allowance of 300 kroner ($49, 36 euros) to be doubled, particularly to cover his postal charges for written correspondence.
His mail is monitored and censored by prison authorities which, he complained, considerably restricts and slows down his contact with the outside world.
- 'In hell' -
Other demands include an end to daily physical searches at Ila prison, and access to a PC rather than to a "worthless typewriter with technology dating back to 1873".
"You've put me in hell ... and I won't manage to survive that long. You are killing me," he wrote to prison authorities in November, threatening a hunger strike and further right-wing extremist violence.
"If I die, all of Europe's right-wing extremists will know exactly who it was that tortured me to death ... That could have consequences for certain individuals in the short term but also when Norway is once again ruled by a facist regime in 13 to 40 years from now," he warned, calling himself a "political prisoner".
On July 22, 2011, Breivik killed eight people in a bomb attack outside a government building in the capital Oslo and later killed a further 69, most of them teenagers, when he opened fire at a Labour Youth camp on the island of Utoeya.
In the letter dated January 29 he said that since there has not been any real improvement in his prison conditions, a hunger strike would be "one of the only" options at his disposal.
"The hunger strike won't end until the Minister of Justice (Anders) Anundsen and the head of the KDI (the Norwegian Correctional Services) stop treating me worse than an animal," he said, adding that he would "soon" make public the starting date of his protest action.
Karl Hillesland, acting director of the prison where is being held, told AFP that no one is currently on hunger strike there.
- 'Human rights activist -
In his letter Breivik attacks the Scandinvaian media which he accuses of complicity with the "torture" he is subjected to by not reporting his complaints.
He also refers to himself as a "human rights activist":
"You seem to think that we -- all human rights activists who fight for one fundamental human right (cultural self-determination) -- ... are Nazi monsters who should be pushed into suicide," he wrote.
Breivik's lawyers announced in January 2013 that their client had lodged a complaint over alleged "aggravated torture".
"These conditions have barely improved since," his lawyer Tord Jordet said Thursday, adding that he was nonetheless "keeping his spirits up."
Norwegian police told AFP that a response to that year-old complaint is due next week.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dallas sportscaster destroys homophobic ‘concerns’ over gay NFL prospect Michael Sam

The Republican Party Now Wants States To Seize Public Lands For Drilling And Mining


At its Winter Meeting in late January, the Republican National Committee, the primary organizing and fundraising arm of the Republican Party, passed a series of resolutions, including one endorsing a “pro-life strategy” and another calling on members of Congress and Governors to “explain…burdensome federal regulations” to the public.
But in a surprising move for a party that is struggling to restore its appeal to moderate voters, the RNC also endorsed a fringe, right-wing campaign by some local officials to seize federal lands, turn them over to Western states, and further expand mining and drilling. The RNC resolved that:
[It] calls upon the federal government to honor to all willing western states the same statehood promise to transfer title to the public lands that it honored with all states east of Colorado; and …calls upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the imminent transfer of public lands to all willing western states for the benefit of these western states and for the nation as a whole.
The RNC’s resolution follows the re-emergence of the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the late 1970s that swept the western United States in a wave of anti-government fervor. Today, a small group of local officials and state legislators are reviving this effort. In March 2012, for example, Governor Gary Herbert of Utah (R) signed a bill demanding that the U.S. Congress turn federal public lands over to the state by 2015, or the state will sue (legislators have appropriated $3 million of taxpayer money to fight this legal battle). Similar efforts are underway in Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, and other states.
Although the RNC’s resolution presents thoroughly debunked constitutional arguments to justify the seizure of federal lands, the real goal of the effort appears to be to dramatically expand drilling and mining of fossil fuels on federal lands — but without federal environmental protections and with profits going exclusively to corporations and states, rather than federal taxpayers.
There is ample evidence that control of fossil fuel reserves is the real purpose of the land seizure movement. The RNC’s resolution, for example, says that the federal government takes “10 times longer to approve energy development permits than states” and that “that there is more than $150 trillion in mineral value locked up in federally controlled land.”
 Additionally, the website of the American Lands Council, run by Utah state representative Ken Ivory (R), states explicitly on its front page that “More oil than Saudi Arabia…and the rest of the world combined locked up in federal lands — locking up jobs, economic growth and opportunity not only in the west but throughout the nation!”
These state efforts can be traced to corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has drafted model legislation for states eager to engage in such efforts. Additionally, Americans for Prosperity — funded by Koch money — has promoted the issue.
Many legal scholars believes state land seizure movements are constitutionally indefensible, because when states entered the Union, the federal government assumed the rights over federal public lands. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution “gives Congress authority over federal property generally, and the Supreme Court has described Congress’s power to legislate under this Clause as ‘without limitation.’” And, Utah’s own Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, said that Utah’s legislation had “a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.”
John Leshy, a legal scholar who was the Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior under President Clinton, noted that “Legally, it’s a ridiculous claim. It would be thrown out in federal court in five seconds…[and] is all just about cranky, symbolic politics.”
Notwithstanding the RNC’s endorsement, land seizure movements in the West run counter to the feelings of Western voters. In fact, only 30 percent of respondents in a poll last year believed that “too much public land” was a serious problem. And 71 percent of Westerners oppose selling-off public lands to corporations for development.

John Oliver reams wealthy, entitled ‘dweebs’ at tech awards show: ‘F*ck you, straight away’

Republicans Lash Tea Party Groups As Money-Hungry Cynics


Within the House GOP, there was a mix of disappointment and resignation, but no overt rebellion against Speaker John Boehner. But outside tea party outfits seized on the fundraising opportunity at GOP leaders' expense. "John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House," declared Matt Hoskins of the Senate Conservatives Fund in a email asking for donations moments after the news broke. The Club For Growth was outraged: "[W]e thought it was a joke. But it's not," said Andy Roth, the group's top congressional lobbyist. "Something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party."
The move was indeed a surrender for Republicans -- a fairly predictable one. So predictable that hard-right organizations have been appropriately skeptical that they could win a debt limit fight, staying largely silent throughout the debate, and refraining from proposing an alternate way forward.
"A lot of the groups that are blasting the 'clean' debt limit increase have never explained what – if anything – they would actually support," said a second senior House Republican aide. "They're just sending out emails with a big 'donate' button embedded in them."
Boehner, seeing no better options, brought up a "clean" debt limit bill on Tuesday and it passed with mostly Democratic votes. It's the latest sign that although the tea party retains the ability to block new economic and domestic initiatives, it has lost its ability to hold the basic functions of government hostage to conservative policy reforms.
FreedomWorks called it "an all-time low for Speaker Boehner," pushing lawmakers to vote down the debt limit bill.
The tug-of-war between conservative activists and the Republican establishment has been increasingly acrimonious since the 2012 elections. GOP leaders believe these groups live in a fantasy world and are endangering the party and its ability to move the needle to the right. The groups say Republican leaders are cowards who refuse to take risks to advance important conservative causes.
Boehner publicly went after the tea party groups in December, saying they had "lost all credibility" and were "using" House Republicans to achieve their goals. He has privately urged his members not to let outside entities call the shots.
On that front, he achieved just enough support Tuesday to avert a catastrophic debt default, but it's clear the tea party still carries sway: just 28 Republicans voted for the bill; 199 voted against it -- including House GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), whom the party tapped to respond to the president's State of the Union speech last month.

Coheed and Cambria - Welcome Home

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GOP Report Acknowledges That The U.S. Military Couldn’t Have Changed Benghazi Outcome


In a new report released on Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee concludes that there was no way for the U.S. military to have responded in time to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya to save the four Americans killed that night. In doing so, the report debunks entirely a right-wing myth that says the White House ordered the military not to intervene.
For months after the attack that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, conservative media was awash in reports that on the night of the assault the Obama administration at some point ordered the military not to take action that would have saved lives. This supposed “stand down order” led to a bevy of right-wing conspiracies about why the President and his administration had let the Americans die.
“Who told the SEALs to stand down?” Rep. Steve King asked in Nov. 2012, in just one of many interviews with Republicans referring to the response to Benghazi as “worse than Watergate.
As Media Matters reports, Fox News cited reports of a stand-down order no fewer than 85 times during prime-time segments as of June 2013. As the new report — which the Republican majority of the committee authored –makes very clear in its findings, however, no such order ever existed. “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi,” the report says, noting that the military was not positioned to respond to the attack.
“Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack,” the report concludes.
This tracks with the repeated insistence from the White House and Pentagon over the months that everything possible had been done once the military assets in the region had mobilized. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in the first Senate hearing on the military response, told panel members that it’s impossible to prepare for every possible contingency when planning, accusing the panel of believing the military was akin to a “911 service.”
While Senate Republicans chided Panetta at the time, it seems Republicans on the HASC now agree with the secretary’s assessment. “Majority members believe the regional and global force posture assumed by the military on September 11, 2012 limited the response,” the report continues. “Majority members recognize, of course, that it is impossible for the Department of Defense to have adequate forces prepared to respond immediately to every conceivable global contingency. Ensuring that preparations exist for some likely possibilities is not to be confused with the ability to anticipate all prospective circumstances, especially in highly volatile regions.”
The night of the attack, the United States had few military assets within the region, the report reads, requiring the transport of soldiers from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) stationed in Germany to Libya, a trip that took several hours. Once there, the majority of the reinforcements were given the order to remain in Tripoli to prevent a possible attack on the U.S. Embassy itself, a distinct possibility in the eyes of the Pentagon. The Pentagon also confirmed to the HASC that there were no AC-130 gunships or armed drones within the region that night, another topic of speculation from right-wing media outlets.
The Democrats on the panel asked their Republican colleagues if they could finally move on from Bengahzi. “This report, produced by House Armed Services Committee Republicans, should finally bring an end to the politicization of the heinous attacks on brave Americans in Benghazi,” HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-CA) and Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), the HASC Oversight and Investigations subcommittee’s ranking member, said in a statement. “It is time to move forward, take the real conclusions we have arrived at and establish how to best protect our citizens around the globe. It is our hope that today’s report, which was authored by Republicans, finally brings this attempt to manufactured scandal to an end.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

West Virginia families, billed for smelly water they didn’t use, bill water company right back


The chemical spill in West Virginia has left thousands of people near Charleston with licorice-scented tap water that they’re afraid to use, despite the assurances of government and their water company. West Virginia American Water promised customers a credit on their bills for the water homeowners needed to use to flush their pipes of contamination. But when many received their January bills, the credit was no where to be found, ThinkProgress reported. 

And some bills showed hundreds of gallons of water use that homeowners claimed as impossible even with the flushing, given how circumspect their water use had been since the January 9 contamination of the Elk River with 10,000 gallons of Crude MCHM. So, about a hundred people marched Saturday to the offices of West Virginia American Water to present the company with invoices for the water they’ve had to buy on the open market, along with their ancillary expenses. Their invoices leave space to estimate the cost of lost wages and profits from when businesses closed, extra school costs, sewage bills from flushing pipes and the cost of additional taxes they’ll be forced to pay to manage the crisis, the West Virginia Gazette reported. 

Brooke Drake, of Charleston, told the Gazette that she estimated that the water crisis has cost her $290, mostly in gas and hours lost picking up bottled water. The water company asked customers to flush their pipes twice last month. During those flushes, customers were asked to leave their water on for 25 minutes, a process that WVAM said should use at most 500 gallons of water. 

A 1000-gallon credit for homeowners and 2000-gallon credit should have appeared on bills this month, WVAM President Jeff McIntyre told ThinkProgress. But several people approached ThinkProgress with their bills, showing no credit and inexplicably-increased water usage............

Saturday, February 08, 2014

G-20 eyes database to fight tax evasion

TOKYO -- The world's leading economies will try to outfox tax dodgers by pooling information on offshore bank accounts.
     Later this month in Australia, finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of 20 are expected to agree on such an arrangement, which officials aim to have in place by the end of next year.
     The proposal would create a common set of rules for sharing information on bank accounts held by nonresidents in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.
     Financial institutions would input such data regularly into an online network accessible to tax authorities, which would gain instant access to account holders' names, account balances, transactions, and more.
      The difficulty of tracking down the people behind offshore accounts has hampered efforts to combat tax evasion. Existing bilateral tax agreements have netted a number of hidden troves, including, in 2011, some 2.5 billion yen (around $30 million) in assets in a Swiss bank, part of the estate of a top Japanese executive of one of Europe's premier fashion houses. But with information normally passed between authorities on CD-ROMs, sometimes only once every two years, the hunt has been slow.
     Until now, if Mrs. Watanabe had $1 million stashed in a U.S. bank account, Japanese authorities would have been hard-pressed to find it until the fictional housewife made a transfer. With the new system, they would be able to see an up-to-date account balance at the first sign of wrongdoing.
     China and other emerging-market G-20 members are expected to take part in this arrangement. So is the U.K., which would likely bring the Cayman Islands and other overseas territories notorious as tax havens within the scope of the information sharing.
     But the new rules would impose an extra reporting burden on financial institutions. Moreover, some countries may resist revealing every detail of nonresidents' bank accounts. How well such a system would work would depend partly on how many countries took part.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Muslim scholar - 'Allah Gave Israel to The Jews, There's No Palestine'

Muslim scholar in Jordan attacks 'Palestinians' for distorting Koran, Jews given Israel 'until Day of Judgement.'

Allah has promised Israel to the Jews -- so says Sheikh Ahmad Adwan, a Muslim scholar living in Jordan, who declared on his Facebook page recently that "Palestine" doesn't exist.
Blogger Elder of Ziyon translated Arab news sources that this Saturday reported on Adwan's statements, in which he quotes the Koran saying Allah assigned Israel to the Jews until the Day of Judgement (Sura 5 Verse 21), and that Jews are the inheritors of Israel (Sura 26 Verse 59).
"I say to those who distort...the Koran: from where did you bring the name Palestine, you liars, you accursed, when Allah has already named it 'The Holy Land' and bequeathed it to the Children of Israel until the Day of Judgment," argued Adwan. "There is no such thing as 'Palestine' in the Koran."
"Your demand for the Land of Israel is a falsehood and it constitutes an attack on the Koran, on the Jews and their land. Therefore you won’t succeed, and Allah will fail you and humiliate you, because Allah is the one who will protect them (i.e. the Jews)," warns Adwan.
The sheikh had more harsh words for the "Palestinians," calling them "the killers of children, the elderly and women" in using them as human shields in order to falsely accuse the Jews of targeting them. He reports having seen the same tactic used by "Palestinians" against the Jordanian army in the 1970s.
"This is their habit and custom, their viciousness, their having hearts of stones towards their children, and their lying to public opinion, in order to get its support," declared Adwan.
Adwan has previously said his support for the Jewish people "comes from my acknowledgment of their sovereignty on their land and my belief in the Koran, which told us and emphasized this in many places, like His (Allah’s) saying ”Oh People (i.e the Children of Israel), enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned unto you'" (Sura 5, Verse 21).
The Jews are a peaceful people according to Adwan, who says "if they are attacked, they defend themselves while causing as little damage to the attackers as possible. It is an honor for them that Allah has chosen them over the worlds – meaning over the people and the Jinns (spiritual creatures) until the Day of Judgment. ...When Allah chose them, He didn’t do so out of politeness, and He wasn’t unjust other peoples, it is just that they (the Jews) deserved this.”
Video (mostly in Hebrew) from Orot TV shows Adwan's 2012 visit to Tzfat, where he met with the city's Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and expressed his support for Israel..........

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