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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hardened Obama plans new fights

Emanuel said that they recognized they had overdone their initial outreach to Republicans and had offered "a sharp message for the last week."For now, the hard-charging chief of staff added, “He has an open hand, but he has a very firm handshake.” Translation: Yes, the president will continue to do obligatory outreach to the GOP, but he’s not going to be burned again by an out-of-power and toothless minority for the sake of appearances.
Emboldened by his victory on the stimulus package — but chastened by the pothole-pocked road that got him there — -President Barack Obama and his aides are plunging ahead on a large and expensive agenda that virtually assures 2009 will be marked by intense partisan battles about the size and role of government. White House aides say they have concluded that Obama too frequently lost control of the debate and his own image during the stimulus battle. By this reckoning, the story became too much about failed efforts at bipartisanship and Washington deal-making, and not enough about the president’s public salesmanship. For Obama’s next act, the program is the same as he has been planning for months: New Deal-style plans to rescue struggling homeowners and rewrite regulations on the financial markets, plus a budget proposal that lays the groundwork for sweeping health care reform. But the strategy to promote these items is getting an emergency overhaul. Obama plans to travel more and campaign more in an effort to pressure lawmakers with public support, rather than worrying about whether he can win over Republican votes in Congress. Officials suggested that the new, more partisan tone Obama embraced last week in his speech before House Democrats at their retreat and continued at his news conference Monday was what he should have been doing all along.

A Torture Report Could Spell Big Trouble For Bush Lawyers

By Michael Isikoff NEWSWEEK
An internal Justice Department report on the conduct of senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics is causing anxiety among former Bush administration officials. H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the department's ethics watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), confirmed last year he was investigating whether the legal advice in crucial interrogation memos "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys." According to two knowledgeable sources who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters, a draft of the report was submitted in the final weeks of the Bush administration. It sharply criticized the legal work of two former top officials—Jay Bybee and John Yoo—as well as that of Steven Bradbury, who was chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the time the report was submitted, the sources said. (Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
But then–Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his deputy, Mark Filip, strongly objected to the draft, according to the sources. Filip wanted the report to include responses from all three principals, said one of the sources, a former top Bush administration lawyer. (Mukasey could not be reached; his former chief of staff did not respond to requests for comment. Filip also did not return a phone message.) OPR is now seeking to include the responses before a final version is presented to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. "The matter is under review," said Justice spokesman Matthew Miller.

Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on U.S. Officers

Army official: Suicides in January 'terrifying'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One week after the U.S. Army announced record suicide rates among its soldiers last year, the service is worried about a spike in possible suicides in the new year.
The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone -- six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday.
The Army said it already has confirmed seven suicides, with 17 additional cases pending that it believes investigators will confirm as suicides for January.
If those prove true, more soldiers will have killed themselves than died in combat last month. According to Pentagon statistics, there were 16 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in January.
"This is terrifying," an Army official said. "We do not know what is going on."
Col. Kathy Platoni, chief clinical psychologist for the Army Reserve and National Guard, said that the long, cold months of winter could be a major contributor to the January spike.
"There is more hopelessness and helplessness because everything is so dreary and cold," she said.
But Platoni said she sees the multiple deployments, stigma associated with seeking treatment and the excessive use of anti-depressants as ongoing concerns for mental-health professionals who work with soldiers.
Those who are seeking mental-health care often have their treatment disrupted by deployments. Deployed soldiers also have to deal with the stress of separations from families.
"When people are apart you have infidelity, financial problems, substance abuse and child behavioral problems," Platoni said. "The more deployments, the more it is exacerbated."

Creep, Wanker, Slime Bag. Give us a few tear, Bwahhhhhhhhh

He's having a little TEMPER TANTRUM, like a two year old

"Our [Republican] ideas weren't considered," Boehner said. "We weren't allowed in the room. We weren't allowed to participate at all. And all the talk about bipartisanship that we have heard over the last several months went down the drain."

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Obama met with Republicans concerned with size and scope of ...

Obama to meet with Republicans on stimulus package: Scientific ...

Obama, Visiting G.O.P. Lawmakers, Is Open to Some Compromise on ...

Report: 'Out' comedian Sykes to headline for White House correspondents.

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"It is a great loss for the world of human rights, international justice and the whole of humanity,"

Genocide expert lost in Buffalo plane crash
The court trying alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide has expressed its shock at the death in an air crash of a top expert on the 1994 massacres.
Alison Des Forges, 66, was among 50 people killed in a plane crash on Thursday near Buffalo, New York state.
A spokesman for the the UN tribunal for Rwanda called her death "a great loss", said AFP news agency.
Ms Des Forges was an expert adviser to the court on the genocide, in which some 800,000 people were killed.
"It is with deep shock that the tribunal has learned of the tragic disappearance of Alison Des Forges," said Roland Amoussouga, a spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
"It is a great loss for the world of human rights, international justice and the whole of humanity," he added.

Obama to honor Stevie Wonder

US President Barack Obama will honor Motown legend and high profile supporter Stevie Wonder later this month, in what will likely be the first major cultural event since he moved into the White House.
Obama and wife Michelle will hold a concert in the ornate East Room of the presidential mansion in honor of singer songwriter, who is being awarded the second annual Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Library of Congress.
The White House said the February 25 event will be recorded for broadcast the next day by US PBS public television as part of celebrations for African American History month.
Multi Grammy-award winning Wonder was a frequent presence at Obama's campaign rallies in the 2008 election campaign, and performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and inaugural festivities in Washington.
The Democratic candidate, now president, often danced along to the Wonder hit "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" when he had wound up his campaign speeches.
Signed Sealed Delivered Stevie Wonder Barack Obama in pictures

This is a video response to Yes We Can - Obama Song - Will-I-Am, - Lyrics

The world's richest nations called Saturday for urgent reform of global finance

ROME (AFP) – The world's richest nations called Saturday for urgent reform of global finance to save the world from the economic devastation that is dragging more and more countries into recession.Italy's Finance Minister called for a "new world economic order" as he wrapped up the crisis meeting of finance leaders from the Group of Seven leading economies over which he presided here.In a joint declaration, the G7 called for "urgent reforms" of the international financial system.Tremonti said a so-called set of "legal standards" discussed in Rome would be presented at a meeting of 20 key advanced and emerging economies (G20) in London in April and a summit of the Group of Eight (G8) world powers in July."A new world economic order might seem rhetorical," he told reporters. "But it is a true goal we should be aiming towards... today right here in Rome we've embarked on a very significant journey, both technical and ethical."

Rove may be forced to testify as Obama's lawyers get involved

Obama lawyers negotiating withBush team over Rove testimony
Bush proxies now negotiating with new administrationWhite House counsel Gregory Craig issued a statement late Friday encouraging former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove to cut a deal with Congress, an indication the new administration has begun to put pressure on President George W. Bush's former chief adviser."The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Obama's White House counsel Gregory Craig said in a statement yesterday to The Washington Post's Carrie Johnson. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."Moreover, the Obama White House is now trying to work out an agreement with former Bush administration staff -- seemingly going over the head of the man some once dubbed "Bush's brain."Craig's statement does, however, seem to suggest that Bush's former adviser will be granted some leeway as to the form of his deposition to Congress in lieu of President George W. Bush's claim that Rove is protected by executive privilege.President Bush's former White House counsel Fred Fielding told Rove last month not to testify to Congress in a letter issued to Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin.In the letter, Fielding told Rove that President George W. Bush would not allow Rove to testify about the firing of nine US Attorneys, a matter which has raised the hackles of Democrats, who contend the firings were political."Please advise Mr. Rove (i) that the President continues to direct him not to provide information (whether in the form of testimony or documents) to the Congress in this matter... and not to appear before Congress in this matter," then-White House Counsel Fielding wrote, citing "absolute" presidential immunity.Rove himself recently told a California crowd that he would not honor a congressional subpoena.The winds appear to be changing. Obama lawyers and Bush representatives are now "engaged in discussions that could clear a path for congressional testimony by onetime Bush aide Karl Rove, three sources familiar with the talks" told Johnson for Saturday's Post.The negotiations surfaced on the same day House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) issued his third subpoena compelling to Rove to testify in less than two years. Seeing that Conyers is not backing down, Rove's attorney has hinted at a more conciliatory position, and Bush advisers seem to have all but conceded that they must allow Rove to testify in some form."Democrats say President Obama's view of the matter may open the door for Rove's eventual appearance on Capitol Hill," Johnson said.
As President Obama prepares to announce a program next week to stem the soaring rate of foreclosures, key Democratic lawmakers say they are planning to craft a housing bill that would give the administration the authority it needs to carry out several elements of the initiative.
Obama will unveil the plan Wednesday in Arizona, among the states hardest hit by the housing downturn, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said the administration's program would probably require changes to federal law. Some of those are already working their way through Congress. But Frank said he is looking to pull them together into a single housing package.
The legislation would include a provision changing the bankruptcy law to allow judges to modify the mortgages of distressed homeowners, including by reducing the principal of the loan to the property's current market value, he said. This proposal has already gained support from one House committee but drawn fierce objections from Republicans and the financial industry. Though Obama supports this provision, he declined to include it in the stimulus bill approved yesterday, fearing the bankruptcy measure would derail the overall legislation, Democratic congressional sources said.
Another provision, Frank said, would provide legal protection to lenders who reduce interest rates or otherwise modify the terms of troubled loans for homeowners. Some previous foreclosure prevention efforts have been hampered by the threat that investors who own securities backed by the mortgages would sue to block loan modifications, according to the financial services industry

The climate is heating up far faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

UN Climate Chief Praises "Night-To-Day Change" In US Policy
TOKYO — The U.N. climate chief praised President Barack Obama's pledge to tackle global warming and expressed hope Friday that the U.S. policy shift would boost chances for a new international agreement on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.
"It's been a night-to-day change in terms of the U.S. position on this topic," United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer said in Tokyo, adding that he hopes that the more active American approach will encourage China and other developing nations to make further efforts to control their emissions.
De Boer was in Tokyo to attend two days of informal international talks on laying the groundwork for negotiations on a new global agreement on cutting carbon emissions in December in Copenhagen.
The U.S. position is seen as crucial for the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting.
Under former President George W. Bush, the United States refused to sign the last climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, citing a lack of participation by developing countries, particularly China, and harm to the U.S. economy.
Global Warming Seen Worse Than Predicted

Soaring unemployment and rising prices.

Inquiry on Graft in Iraq Focuses on U.S. Officers

Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program, according to interviews with senior government officials and court documents.
Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.
It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, and both said they had nothing to hide from investigators. Yet officials say that several criminal cases over the past few years point to widespread corruption in the operation the men helped to run. As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004.
Before he was shot on a road north of Baghdad, Mr. Stoffel drew a portrait worthy of a pulp crime novel: tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered surreptitiously to the American contracting offices in Baghdad, and payoffs made in paper sacks that were scattered in “dead drops” around the Green Zone, the nerve center of the United States government’s presence in Iraq, two senior federal officials said.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rachel Maddow Probes Incoherent Ben Nelson On Stimulus (VIDEO)



Oh boy! Another broadcast, another chance to see Senator Ben Nelson attempt to reason his way back to credibility. In case you are just joining us, Nelson is part of a coterie of hack Senators who have zeroed in on some of the most effective parts of the stimulus package, only to gut them, and then walk around in front of cameras pretending that these decisions make "centrism" look credible. And, if you remember yesterday's conversation with Norah O'Donnell, Nelson justified his actions by informing her that Nebraskans were terrified of large numbers.
Anyway, Nelson took his jive nonsense on the "Rachel Maddow" show last night, and, surprise, it didn't go well. Asked by Maddow why he pushed to cut "$15 billion of school construction" monies out of the bill -- monies that would create jobs, and improve schools, which are engines for job growth -- Nelson said that the reason he pushed for the cut was because Republicans have "an aversion to money going to that sort of a program." One would imagine this line being deployed as a criticism of Republicans, but Nelson here uses it as a rationale for caving. There's no discussion of how losing the money makes the bill better, or worse. To Nelson, empty-headed compromises make the bill prettier, so it's better. LinkHere

Keith Olbermann Traces "Anatomy Of A Smear" -- Bizarre Stimulus Attack (VIDEO)

As the stimulus package wended its way through Congress this week, a familiar face popped up to get up to some familiar shenanigans. Betsy McCaughey, a Republican former Lieutenant Governor of New York, was suddenly on the Bloomberg website and on TV, issuing dire warnings about the changes that the stimulus package was going to wreak on health care. How? McCaughey claimed that the plan contained health technology language that let the federal government could "monitor" patient care in order to "guide your doctor's decisions." In short, a top-down bureaucracy that would enforce its own set of medical treatment protocols.
Naturally, that would be bad, and naturally, not a word of it was true. That didn't stop the contention from flowing from the Rush/Drudge edges onto cable news, most notably Lou Dobbs' CNN show. Happily, however, the media seems to be gathering to put McCaughey's nonsense back on the dungheap.
Last night, Keith Olbermann featured a debunking of McCaughey on Countdown:

But CNN was among the first to dispute McCaughey's claims, deploying senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to correct the record: LinkHere

40 years' worth of thanks: In 1968, a white firefighter saved a black baby girl....

Source: Boston Globe
In 1968, a white firefighter saved a black baby girl, touching the heart of a divided city. The two did not meet again. Until yesterday.
The firefighter crawled on his stomach through the pitch-black apartment, the smoke so thick he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. Somewhere inside was a baby and he had to find her.
A window broke, light filled the room, and he saw her lying in her crib, dressed only in a diaper, unconscious. Soot covered her tiny nose. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse. He grabbed her and breathed life into her as he ran from the apartment.
A newspaper photograph captured their image - a white firefighter from South Boston with his lips pressed to the mouth of a black baby from the Roxbury public housing development - at a time when riots sparked by racial tensions were burning down American cities.
But despite this most intimate of introductions, they remained strangers. William Carroll won a commendation for the rescue, stayed on the job another 34 years, and retired. Evangeline Harper grew up, lost her family to drugs and illness, had six children of her own, and became a nursing and teaching assistant. And through it all someone would often tell her the story about the day she almost died and the man who would not let it happen. She always wanted to meet him and say thank you.
Yesterday, more than 40 years after the fire, she finally did.

LinkHere

Why Is That Friking Slime Bag Still In The Senate?

Art_from_Ark
Source: Mother Jones
Republican Louisiana Sen. David Vitter made a trip to DC's Chinatown on Thursday to nibble on kung pao chicken and rally the conservative troops. Addressing the DC lawyers chapter of the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society, Vitter got right down to red meat. After quoting comments from President Obama suggesting that he'd like his judicial nominees to be able to empathize with the downtrodden, Vitter declared that demanding empathy in a judge was something you'd expect in a "dictatorship." How empathy equates with repressive rule, Vitter didn't really explain, except to say that it had little to do with ensuring checks and balances on an imperial government. (Vitter also claimed--and it was hard to tell if he was joking or not--that he routinely walks from the Senate to the House of Representatives to use the apparently more populist House water fountains, instead of imbibing the stuff the Senate is drinking these days.)
But Vitter didn't really come to Tony Cheng's to discuss judges or the Constitution. His talk, entitled "Defending Conservative Principles in the Senate," was mostly a complaint about the economic stimulus bill that his Senate colleagues were poised to pass without his vote or the votes of most Republicans. According to Vitter, his party was having a come-to-Jesus moment over the stimulus package, which had provided the minority party an opportunity to rediscover its mantra of smaller government and lower tax
====
But it was hard not to wonder whether "Diaper Dave" is really the guy to be making the party's case for embracing conservative values. You'll recall that back in 2007, he admitted to calling the prostitute ring run by the infamous DC Madam, the late Deborah Jeanne Palfry. (The ensuing media digging into his alleged patronage of a New Orleans brothel also produced reports suggesting the junior senator had a diaper fetish, hence the nickname.) But the Federalists (including several unemployed Bush administration officials networking for jobs) didn't seem to hold all that against him. They cheered as Vitter hyped his votes against the confirmation of Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, and Timothy Geithner, and his intention to continue to fight the all-but-done economic stimulus package.
More interesting, Vitter offered up a few specifics about the opposition party's political strategy given its diminished congressional power. Vitter said defeating the stimulus bill was never the goal; changing public opinion about it was. "We may have lost the vote, but we collectively have won the debate," he said, claiming that the public now perceived that the bill as evidence that the Obama administration was not bringing real change to Washington, but rather just engaging in the same old wasteful government spending. (Congressional Democrats have been disseminating polls showing that the stimulus plan is backed by a majority of the public.) "We're getting back to our roots," Vitter said of congressional Republicans. LinkHere

Airliner crashes in US state of NY


Source: AP
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. February 11, 2009, 02:21 pm ET · For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.
The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.
In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

Snip

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.
LinkHere

Seldom have chickens come home to roost so quickly after the chicken farmer left for the ranch.

The first twenty minutes of this evening's news covered incredibly wealthy investment bankers responsible for costing the American taxpayers a trillion dollars, corporate executives responsible for purposely marketing salmonella-tainted peanut butter that killed children, and Mr. and Mrs. Madoff who cheated investors of $50 billion dollars.
What did this unrelated cast of characters have in common?
They all benefited from the tax cuts and deregulation policies of George W. Bush.
Seldom have chickens come home to roost so quickly after the chicken farmer left for the ranch.

Poll: Two thirds of Americans support probes of Bush era

Almost 40 percent of Americans support criminal investigations into the Bush Administration's use of harsh interrogations and warrantless wiretapping program, even after President George W. Bush left office, a USA Today/Gallup poll found Thursday.
Forty-one percent favor a criminal investigation into the Bush Administration's use of the Justice Department for political purposes; 38 percent favor an investigation for the Administration's warrantless wiretapping and 38 percent favor a criminal probe for the possible use of torture in terrorism investigations.
Close to two-thirds of respondents also said they'd like to see formal investigations of Bush policies, even if not criminal probes.
These results are based on a Jan. 30-Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup poll.
Strikingly, Gallup and USA Today presented the polls in entirely different lights.
USA Today headlined their article, "Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics," while Gallup bannered theirs, "No Mandate for Criminal Probes of Bush Administration.
"Bush, meanwhile, claimed a mandate for his agenda in 2000 with just 48 percent of the popular
vote.
LinkHere

Leon Panetta Confirmed As CIA Director By Senate


WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Leon Panetta as director of the CIA on Thursday, placing the nation's top spy agency in the hands of a government veteran valued for his skills as a lawmaker and policy manager rather than an expert at intelligence-gathering and analysis.
The Senate approved President Barack Obama's choice on a voice vote. On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent Panetta's nomination to the full chamber without opposition.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Large Banks On The Edge Of Insolvency

'LIKE DEAD MEN WALKING' Some Large Banks On Edge Of Insolvency... Total Losses On Loans And Fall In Value Of Market Assets Estimated To Reach $3.6 Trillion
Some of the nation's large banks, according to economists and other finance experts, are like dead men walking.
A sober assessment of the growing mountain of losses from bad bets, measured in today's marketplace, would overwhelm the value of the banks' assets, they say. The banks, in their view, are insolvent.
Read the whole story here.

Axelrod To Bush Advisers: Butt Out

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, had harsh words for some of former President Bush's closest advisers during an interview with the Post's Lois Romano yesterday, dismissing as "intramural stuff" the critiques offered by the former Administration.
Axelrod praised Bush for his handling of the transition while sharply criticizing some of the former president's advisers.
Axelrod said he was "disappointed" by former Vice President Dick Cheney's comments regarding the planned closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the suggestion that it would increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack; he described himself as "surprised" by former White House chief of staff Andy Card's remark that not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office was disrespectful.
But, Axelrod saved his strongest condemnation for the man who held his job in the Bush White House: Karl Rove. Of Rove's criticism of Obama's economic stimulus plan, Axelrod said: "The last thing that I think we are looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove -- anyone who's read the newspapers for the last eight years would laugh at that."
LinkHere

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Olbermann to Rove: Newsflash! 'You guys leaked like hell'

While speaking to an audience at Loyola Marymount University the other week, former Bush adviser Karl Rove expressed his belief that government leaks to the media can cause serious damage.

On Wednesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann told viewers, "Karl Rove is still talking. The creator of the impermanent Republican majority, the possessor of the math that did not add up, telling an audience at Loyola Marymount University in L.A. that government leaks to the media can cause serious harm and newspapers should not run them. And he never did."

"Quote, 'the Bush White House was criticized for being tight lipped,'" Olbermann continued. "'We didn‘t leak. Secrecy and confidentiality are necessary for every government, especially when you‘re at war,' he scolded."

Olbermann went to town on what he perceived as Rove's hypocrisy.

"So why didn‘t you practice that?" Olbermann asked. "You guys leaked like hell. You and your minions leaked the name of a CIA op, ironically one devoted to countering weapons of mass destruction, while you were starting up a war supposedly designed neutralize weapons of mass destruction. By the way, the quote/unquote leak you‘re still whining about, the 'New York Times' revealing that you and your fellow future convicts had arranged to illegally eavesdrop on many, most or all Americans, and maybe some people who might have had tangential connections to terrorism, maybe, that leak came from somewhere in your government, Karl.

" Olbermann then accused Rove of "doing the same things to Americans that the terrorists want to do to Americans." LinkHere

White House: 'We regret to say he has had a change of heart'

GOP SEN. GREGG DUCKS COMMERCE NOMINATION
Report: Gregg notified White House of plans several days ago

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is no longer President Obama's nominee for commerce secretary.

"We regret that he has had a change of heart," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to Sen. Gregg's announcement."
The fault lies with me," Gregg told Politico. "He refused to discuss any conversations he had with Obama, saying, 'I may have embarrassed myself but hopefully not him.'
"According to a late-breaking MSNBC report, Sen. Gregg notified the White House and outlined his plans several days ago.
Citing "irresolvable conflicts" on the census and President Obama's economic stimulus package, Judd took himself out of consideration mid-afternoon, after Republican criticism of the White House's indication that it may assume greater responsibility for the Census Bureau, currently under control of Commerce.

Unreported pages detail repeated use of "abusive" behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths.

UNREDACTED DOCUMENTS REVEALPRISONERS TORTURED TO DEATH
The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These previously unreported pages detail repeated use of "abusive" behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths. The documents, obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, who was tapped to conduct a comprehensive review of Defense Department interrogation operations. Church specifically calls out interrogations at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan as "clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance."The two unredacted pages from the Church report may be found here."In both cases, for example, [prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake," reads the document. "Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of "compliance blows" which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma." In a press release, the ACLU summarized the documents as detailing, "[An] investigation of two deaths at Bagram. Both detainees were determined to have been killed by pulmonary embolism caused as a result of standing chained in place, sleep depravation and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators. (Also reveals the use of torture at Gitmo and American-Afghani prisons in Kabul).
Bush: We Don't Torture People


Judges allegedly took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juveniles in lockups.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Good luck with that."

Political Author, Blogger, and New Media Producer
By rising above their bait and merely presenting a contrast of character, President Obama is making the Republican A-listers appear small, petty and absolutely befuddled. They're frantically struggling to figure out how to counterpunch, so they're grabbing, borrowing or downright plagiarizing ideas from anywhere, irrespective of the general quality of the idea. But if this is their "voice" and they're satisfied with it, I for one welcome the new Republican "voice" and wish them a hearty and very sincere: "Good luck with that."

Specter Reflects On Ingraham Interview (VIDEO)

As we noted yesterday, Arlen Specter ended up on the business end of an on-air scold from Laura Ingraham, who insinuated that a trip to the White House for wine and snacks ultimately won his support for the Economic Stimulus Package in the Senate. I thought Specter ended up getting the upper hand, mainly because Ingraham's intimations sort of collapsed in an array of backtracking comments that made it clear that she didn't sincerely believe what she was saying. Anyway, this was of interest to John Roberts of CNN, so he asked Specter to reflect on the matter on the air: LinkHere

U.S. envoy Holbrooke visits northwest Pakistan

Source: Reuters
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke visited northwest Pakistan's tribal region on Wednesday, where security forces have been battling Islamist militants, officials said.
Holbrooke arrived in Pakistan late on Monday at the beginning of his first visit to the region since his appointment and met top government and military leaders on Tuesday.
"He went to the headquarters of the Mohmand Rifles and was given a briefing about military operations," said a government official in the region, who declined to be identified, referring to a paramilitary force in the Mohmand region.
An intelligence agency official in the northwest said Holbrooke had travelled to Mohmand, one of seven of Pakistan's ethnic Pashtun tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, by helicopter.
LinkHere

U.S. Prepares to Broach Hard Issues With China

Source: New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to realign the United States’ relationship with China by putting more emphasis on climate change, energy and human rights, widening the focus beyond the economic concerns of the Bush years, according to senior administration officials.
With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton scheduled to visit Beijing next week as part of her first foreign trip in her new job, the administration is said to believe that a broader relationship with the Chinese could create opportunities for collaboration — not only on a response to the global economic crisis, but also on the environment and on security issues like the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.
Yet the new focus, which is being championed by Mrs. Clinton, carries risks, experts said, because it could aggravate tensions on delicate issues like China’s repression of Tibet and its position as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases.
An added hurdle for Mrs. Clinton, these experts said, is that the United States urgently needs China’s support on the economic front. Putting new issues on the table now may complicate efforts to seek Beijing’s help in areas like financial regulation and stimulus campaigns.
LinkHere

China exports continue to plunge

Source: al Jazeera
China's exports plunged by a massive 17.5 per cent in January, the biggest year-on-year decline in more than a decade and threatening more job losses in an already slowing economy.
The data released by China's customs agency on Wednesday showed a third consecutive month of declines after years of double digit increases.
January's decline against the previous year was much steeper than the 2.8 per cent contraction seen in December.
"The numbers are terrible. The environment is awful," Citigroup economist Ken Peng told the Associated Press.
LinkHere

China Needs U.S. Guarantees for Treasuries, Yu Says

Source: Bloomberg
Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- China should seek guarantees that its $682 billion holdings of U.S. government debt won’t be eroded by “reckless policies,” said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the central bank.
The U.S. “should make the Chinese feel confident that the value of the assets at least will not be eroded in a significant way,” Yu, who now heads the World Economics and Politics Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in response to e-mailed questions yesterday from Beijing. He declined to elaborate on the assurances needed by China, the biggest foreign holder of U.S. government debt.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields climbed above 3 percent this week on speculation the government will increase borrowing as President Barack Obama pushes his $838 billion stimulus package through Congress. Premier Wen Jiabao said last month his government’s strategy for investing would focus on safeguarding the value of China’s $1.95 trillion foreign reserves.
China may voice its concerns over U.S. government finances and the potential for a weaker dollar when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits China on Feb. 20, according to He Zhicheng, an economist at Agricultural Bank of China, the nation’s third-largest lender by assets. A People’s Bank of China official, who didn’t wish to be identified, declined to comment on the telephone.
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AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

Source: Associated Press.
"SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Banks collecting billions of dollars in federal bailout money sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.
The dozen banks receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.
The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers. As the economic collapse worsened last year — with huge numbers of bank employees laid off — the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in fiscal 2007 to 4,163 in fiscal 2008."
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Family members of fallen soldiers urge President Obama to reverse photo ban on flag-draped coffins

Source: NY Daily News
Family members of fallen soldiers urged President Obama to allow the flag-draped coffins of their loved ones to be photographed as they arrive home from war.
"Americans should know how many people are dying in the war," said Caitlin Casey, whose fiancé, Sgt. Deon Taylor of the Bronx, was killed in Afghanistan in October.
Thousands of people attended Taylor's funeral, including Mayor Bloomberg, but Casey said not all families are honored in that way.
"There needs to be national coverage," she said. "All you know is if someone dies in your hometown."

Source: Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans

Source: Inter Press Service
Source: Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans
Monday 09 February 2009
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by: Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service
Washington - The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.
The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn't necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.
The real story of the leak by Petraeus is that the most powerful figure in the U.S. military has tried to shape the media coverage of Obama and combat troop withdrawal from Iraq to advance his policy agenda - and, very likely, his personal political interests as well.
This writer became aware of Petraeus's effort to influence the coverage of Obama's unfolding policy on troop withdrawal when a military source close to the general, who insisted on anonymity, offered the Petraeus account on Feb. 4. The military officer was responding to the IPS story 'Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision' published two days earlier .
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A top defense-lobbying firm in Washington that was recently raided by the FBI is disintegrating.
Several high-profile lobbyists with The PMA Group privately informed clients and K Street colleagues this week that they are starting a new firm.
The lobbyists resigned from PMA last Friday after they were unable to strike a buyout deal with Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of PMA Group, who indicated earlier this year he wanted to retire.
The new group is called Flagship Government Relations and is being billed as a business development and lobbying firm, The Hill has learned.
The announcement comes as news broke on Monday that the FBI raided PMA’s offices in November.
Magliocchetti was a long-time aide for Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on the House defense appropriations panel. PMA specializes in obtaining earmarks in the defense budget for a long list of clients.
WASHINGTON -- The White House is seeking to restore funding cut by the Senate for schools, health insurance and computerizing health records as the economic-stimulus plan headed into a final round of negotiations in Congress, with top lawmakers struggling to bring the price of the two-year package down to $800 billion.
That would be well below the $838.2 billion plan approved Tuesday by the Senate on a 61-37 vote, but would reflect pressure from influential moderates in the Senate to hold down costs. As lawmakers meet to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the legislation, the White House's effort to reshape it is leading to skirmishes among House and Senate Democrats, as well as with the moderate Republicans and Democrats who pushed to cut the size of the original Senate package.
President Barack Obama stumped for quick action on the stimulus plan in Florida Tuesday. In Washington, senior White House aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, headed to Capitol Hill soon after the Senate vote for meetings aimed at nailing down details and clearing the way for a final vote by this weekend. Mr. Emanuel and other Obama aides worked into the night at the Capitol, convening a series of meetings with House and Senate leaders. "This is shuttle diplomacy," Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, said after one session.
To make room for added spending, the White House, joined by House Democratic leaders, is pressing to scale back certain Senate-passed tax breaks, including measures intended to boost auto and home sales.
White House officials said they can hold on to support for the package, even if spending is increased as a share of the total plan. "We don't think it's that precarious," one administration official said.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Poll: Lieberman Would Lose 2012 Re-Election In Landslide

Source: Talking Points Memo
If Joe Lieberman decides to run for a fifth term in 2012, a new Quinnipiac poll suggests that it may be a lost cause.
The new poll tests Lieberman as an independent against Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The numbers: Blumenthal 58%, Lieberman 30%. Yikes.
Lieberman's active campaigning against the Democratic Party last year hasn't won him too many friends back home. Democrats go for Blumenthal by 83%-9%, and independents are for Blumenthal 55%-29%. Lieberman is the de facto Republican nominee in this match, and with GOP voters he scores 67%-23% over Blumenthal.
Lieberman's job approval is also at only 45%, with 48% disapproving. Among Democrats that's a 21%-70% rating, Republicans 75%-20%, while independents give him a narrow approval of 48%-46%.
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OBAMA WARNS OF 'LOST DECADE'

Thousands of Americans Abroad Got No Ballots

By Brian Knowlton
More than 1 in 5 overseas civilian and military voters did not receive their official ballots for the 2008 U.S. election, a year in which nearly half of local election jurisdictions reported significant rises in ballot requests from abroad, according to a new survey.
The situation was worse for military voters: More than one-quarter failed to receive ballots, though that was an improvement from the 36 percent in the 2006 election, according to a survey of more than 24,000 voters in 186 countries by the nonpartisan Overseas Vote Foundation.
“We have serious data which once again confirm how much of a problem military and overseas voting really is,” said Bryan O’Leary, a former marine corps fighter pilot who works with the National Defense Committee, which helps military voters.
A major problem, according to a separate survey by the Pew Center on the States, is that 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, send out absentee ballots after the date necessary for military voters to meet required deadlines, and three others allow a scant five-day cushion.State performance varied dramatically. Voters from Arizona and Kansas received requested ballots in as little as eight days, the Pew Center found, while overseas military voters from Alabama, which has been struggling to update its approach, sometimes had to wait 88 days.
In contrast, military and overseas voters from Minnesota told the foundation that they were particularly satisfied. That state allowed online transmission of everything but voted ballots, and appointed an outreach officer for military and overseas voters. Result: Their participation shot up by 400 percent from 2004.
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Unreal vacancies' found in military storage records; Chems believed destroyed.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama News Conference: Live Video


N.Y.C. so costly you need to earn six figures to make middle class

Source: Daily News
More than $2,000 a month for day care. Some of the highest phone bills in the country. Jam-packed, 50-plus-minute commutes to work.
You knew it was tough to live in New York City — but this tough?
A new report shows just how ugly — and expensive — New York City can be, especially for the middle class, squeezed by skyrocketing living costs and stagnant wages.
The study, released Thursday by the Center for an Urban Future, shows that New York City is hands-down the most expensive place to live in the country.
Among the findings:
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A New Yorker would have to make $123,322 a year to have the same standard of living as someone making $50,000 in Houston.
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In Manhattan, a $60,000 salary is equivalent to someone making $26,092 in Atlanta.
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You knew it was expensive to live in Manhattan, but Queens? The report tagged Queens the fifth most expensive urban area in the country.
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The average monthly rent in New York is $2,801, 53% higher than San Francisco, the second most expensive city in the country.....
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Obama reaching out to Native Americans

Source: CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama intends to add a senior policy adviser for Native American affairs to his White House staff shortly, first lady Michelle Obama revealed Monday.
The first lady made the announcement while speaking to employees at the Interior Department — the latest stop in her ongoing meet-and-greet tour of federal departments and agencies.
“Barack has pledged to honor the unique government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government,” she said. The new senior staffer “will be tasked to work with tribes (on) issues such as sovereignty, health care (and) education — all central to the well-being of Native American families and the prosperity of tribes all across this country.”
The first lady also indicated that the Interior Department will play a critical role in one of the administration’s “highest priorities — securing America’s energy future.”
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Senate advances stimulus package 61-36 roll call vote

Source: Politico
Senate advances stimulus package
By DAVID ROGERS 2/9/09 6:16 PM EST Text Size:
Spurred on by President Barack Obama, an $838 billion economic recovery plan advanced in the Senate Monday, clearing a last procedural hurdle with the help of three Republicans and the return of Sen. Edward Kennedy, ill with cancer.
The 61-36 roll call vote – with Republicans Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter voting yes — set the stage for passage Tuesday. And it capped a day in which Obama grabbed hold of the presidential microphone as never before, campaigning in the industrial Midwest and then preparing to host a primetime televised press conference back at the White House.
With Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner scheduled to speak Tuesday on the banking and foreclosure crisis, the administration seems intent on conveying a greater urgency—and more human face—to a complex agenda that can seem a maze of frightening numbers to nervous voters.
“We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression,” the president said at a town hall appearance in Elkhart, Ind. “Economists from across the spectrum have warned that, if we don't act immediately, millions of more jobs will be lost…And our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.”
Geithner’s Treasury speech is confined to the second half of a $700 billion financial markets rescue fund already approved by Congress last fall. But with banks teetering near insolvency, the government will almost certainly need much more soon and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested the White House was “trying to kind of slow walk the cumulative effect of quite a lot of spending.”
LinkHere

video

In Rural Alaska Villages, Families Struggle to Survive

GOVENOR WHO!!!!!!!

The Republicans Genius Nomination Fpr Vice President

Source: CNNThousands of villagers in rural Alaska are struggling to survive, forced to choose between keeping their families warm and keeping their stomachs full, residents say.Harvested nuts and berries, small game animals, and dried fish are the only things keeping some from starving.To get to the nearest store, Ann Strongheart and her husband, who live in Nunam Iqua, Alaska, take an hour-and-15-minute snowmobile ride to Emmonak, Alaska. Their town does not have a store of its own.In many stores, 2 pounds of cheese costs between $15 and $18, milk costs $10 a gallon, a 5-pound bag of apples costs $15, and a dozen eggs costs $22 -- more than double the price in the area just two years ago. LinkHere


GOP-Leaning Business Lobby Worried Republicans Will Ruin Stimulus

So, way back when, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to do more to reach across the partisan divide and unite both parties around critical policies. He restated that pledge at the beginning of the debate on the economic stimulus package, promising to sound out his ideological opponents for whatever good ideas they had on how to proceed. That promise has been honored, so yay, hooray, he can check that promise off his list, whatever. But in so doing, Obama ceded a certain amount of leverage over the effort to produce an effective stimulus bill, and, unsurprisingly, that bill has ended up in a diminished state.
House Democrats, under the charge of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have vowed to undo the damage. And why not? Public opinion remains behind both Obama and a stimulus package. Pelosi has already demonstrated she has the votes. So the problem of lost leverage now finds its locus in the Senate, where the support of a handful of so-called "moderates" is supposedly necessary to stave off a filibuster. Of course, these days, while the threat of filibuster inflames every decision the Senate, there is actually very little filibustering. Just the thought of it terrifies Harry Reid, for some reason.
LinkHere
Business Update: Pink slips surge
(01:12) Report
Feb. 4 - American companies continued to swing the ax in January, slicing away another half a million jobs and announcing plans to cut almost 242,000 more, as they respond to the recession.
The private jobs data comes ahead of the official government employment report released on Friday. President Obama LinkHere

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission will announce on Monday that its top enforcement official, Linda Thomsen, plans to leave the agency and return to the private sector, a source familiar with the matter said.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami is expected to replace her as the SEC's enforcement director, one source familiar with the matter told Reuters over the weekend.
Another source said Thomsen had scheduled to speak to her staff and the entire enforcement division Monday morning. It was not immediately known if she would stay until Khuzami starts at the agency, the source said on Monday.
The source said the SEC was due to make the announcement at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT) on Monday.
The SEC declined to comment.
The enforcement division has been heavily criticized for how it handled the case of Bernard Madoff, the former financier who is accused of defrauding investors of $50 billion.
Reuters reported Saturday that an announcement on Thomsen's replacement was expected as early as this week.
Madoff whistleblower
(01:24) Report
Feb. 4 - Harry Markopolos said he feared for his family's safety after he blew the whistle against alleged swindler, Bernard Madoff.
He blasted the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying regulators turned a deaf ear to his persistent demands over nine years that Madoff be investigated. Fred Katayama reports. SOUNDBITE: Harry Markopolos, Madoff whistleblower

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More than $3.9 billion in federal aid unspent and key repairs far from complete.

Massive Gulf Coast Reconstruction Effort Stalled
By Brad Heath, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A massive effort to fix public works destroyed more than three years ago by the Gulf Coast hurricanes remains largely stalled, leaving more than $3.9 billion in federal aid unspent and key repairs far from complete.
The scale of that job is enormous. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has promised $5.8 billion to repair everything from flooded libraries and schools to sewer systems and roads that were ruined when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita obliterated huge sections of coastal Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.
MORE: La. hospital empty as debate rages over funds
WATER MARK SERIES: Recovery on the Gulf Coast
Nearly 3½ years after those storms hit, new FEMA accounting reports show two-thirds of the money to pay for permanent rebuilding work still has not been spent, the latest bottleneck in a recovery long beset by criticism that it has been too slow and inefficient. And despite a handful of high-profile successes, officials who had vowed to speed up the pace of repairs concede it is still going far more slowly than it should.
BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber struck a U.S. patrol in northern Iraq on Monday, killing four American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces in nine months.
The blast occurred as U.S. vehicles were passing near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city and the last major urban battleground in the war against al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents.
American casualties have fallen to some of their lowest levels of the war since thousands of Sunnis abandoned the insurgency and U.S. and Iraqi forces routed Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra last spring. Only five of the 16 U.S. service members who died in Iraq last month were killed in action.
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