Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spending $716 Billion, Twice! Time for an honest debate on Medicare.

Hat Tip: Press Patrol
By Grace-Marie Turner
August 17, 2012

At the signing of the Balanced Budget Act in 1997

National Review Online:

The issue of $716 billion in spending cuts to Medicare has taken center stage, with accusations flying about who is raiding Medicare and pushing Granny off the cliff.

So here are the facts:

In 1997, the Republican Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, the Balanced Budget Act (BBA), which gradually reduced payments to Medicare providers as part of a plan to reduce overall federal spending. The key to the policy is the Sustainable Growth Rate, which requires the government to adjust payments for physician services each year so that growth in Medicare spending does not exceed the growth of GDP.

But Medicare’s fee-for-service model works at cross-purposes with this policy, and incentivizes doctors to bill for more and more services, driving up Medicare spending to higher levels year after year. Further, each time the payment cuts are about to be triggered, doctors swarm Capitol Hill to get Congress to postpone them. At first, the payment cuts would have been just 1 or 2 percent if doctors hadn’t succeeded in killing them. But over time they have accumulated, and now doctors would be paid 27 percent less for treating Medicare patients if the originally intended cuts had gone into effect. And the cuts would continue in perpetuity.

Doctors say these payment reductions would cripple their practices and make it difficult for them to see Medicare patients, especially since Medicare already pays doctors less than private plans.

The American Medical Association wants a permanent “doc fix” that would end the threat of these cuts, and the fix was the main demand the AMA made when it was at the negotiating table over Obamacare. The White House promised the fix, but reneged at the last minute. The doc fix was yanked from the bill, largely because of its $208 billion price tag. Astonishingly, and much to the dismay of doctors across the country, the AMA endorsed Obamacare anyway, giving the bill an important push over the finish line.

Last month, following the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision about Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office recalculated the ten-year cost of the health-overhaul law to determine what the court’s decision would mean to the overall cost of the law. The CBO concluded that the cuts to Medicare now total $716 billion over 10 years — chiefly because the ten-year window is moved three years into the future and, as health costs grow every year, so does Medicare spending. (The law contains other Medicare payment reductions as well.)

The president’s plan to “save” Medicare relies primarily on paying doctors and hospitals less and less by keeping in place the 1997 trajectory for spending cuts. According to Medicare actuaries, this would mean that 40 percent of providers eventually will either go bankrupt or stop seeing Medicare patients altogether.

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Lunch lady faces fine for feeding poor kids in Pennsylvania

Angela Prattis Faces $600 Fine for Feeding Needy Children

By Rene Lynch
August 17, 2012, 1:10 p.m.
Los Angeles Times

Lunch lady Angela Prattis thought she was just doing God's work, handing out free lunches to hungry children in a Pennsylvania neighborhood. But even acts of altruism, it seems, must bow to red tape.

National outrage has erupted after Prattis found herself running afoul of Chester Township zoning laws and threatened with a $600 fine if she continued, according to NBC10 Philadelphia.

Moreover, she faces a $1,000 fee if she wants to continue performing her good deeds, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The lunch lady, who is also a youth pastor at her church, was told that she needed a township zoning permit continue to hand out lunches outside her home. And the approval process requires an official hearing. And that hearing would cost her $1,000, the Inquirer reported.

It was enough to raise questions about whether Prattis could continue her work. She is a married mother of three and also a trained volunteer with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Nutritional Development Services, which supplies the food she gives out, according to the Inquirer.
The food is paid for by the state, according to the Inquirer, which also reported that program representatives had inspected and approved Prattis' operation.

The stalemate has prompted an outpouring of support. So far, several in the community offered to cover the $1,000 bill. She has received dozens of calls from others offering to do whatever is needed to keep the lunch lady on the job, and a law firm has also offered to represent her for free.

Prattis told the Inquirer that she's grateful for the offers but has not taken any money yet because she's still hoping authorities will waive the fee.

The Inquirer said it spoke to the township's acting solicitor, Murray Eckell, who acknowledged that the incident is giving local government a black eye. But he said the township is in a difficult position.
"Suppose a child gets hurt on her property," Eckell was quoted as saying. "Will the family sue the township? What if somebody gets food poisoning?

"What she is doing is commendable.... But if we don't have laws, there's chaos. It's a difficult situation for the township to be in."

NBC10 says Prattis plans to attend the next township meeting in a bid to clear up the controversy, but until then she plans to continue feeding children.

The Chester Township manager did not return a phone call seeking comment by the time this article was posted online.

Police Department Wants Blimp To Spy On “Suspicious Activity”

Dirigible would hover at height of just 400 feet over “high crime areas” of city

Paul Joseph Watson
Friday, August 17, 2012 - The Ogden Police Department wants to fly an unmanned surveillance blimp at a height of just 400 feet over high crime areas of the city to watch for “suspicious activity,” but an initial request for approval was rejected by the FAA on the basis that the program would be a safety risk.

Recently released FAA documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation illustrate how law enforcement bodies across the country are rushing to deploy drones and surveillance blimps with scant regard for the fourth amendment or privacy rights.

In a letter sent to the FAA by Jon J. Greiner, the Ogden Police Chief attempted to assure the federal agency that the UAS surveillance blimp the police department planned to use was air worthy and safe.

In the letter, Greiner describes the blimp as a “nocturnal surveillance airship which will be used for law enforcement surveillance of high crime areas of Ogden City.”

From a height of just 400 feet in the sky, the dirigible would use its camera system to spot “suspicious activity” on city streets and send the footage back to police headquarters.

“The Pilot in Command would also be able to manually operate the UAS so that it could remain on scene waiting for an officer’s arrival,” states the letter.

The FAA responded by refusing to give approval for the police department to deploy the blimp, noting that the operation “presents an unacceptable high risk to the National Airspace System (NAS),” because the blimp would not be under visual observation throughout its use.

“Your Program Executive Summary addresses a Concept of Operation (CONOPS) where the VIPAR UA will be utilized in a patrol capacity for nocturnal surveillance within a high crime area of Ogden, UT. The CONOPS describes the launch and recovery of the UA from a Department of Public Safety Building in Ogden at which time control of the UA would be transferred from the ground control station at the launch site to a control station located in the Police Command Center. The COA application does not address the use of visual observers during the operation and without conforming to policy guidelines regarding the utilization of visual observers, this application cannot be approved,” states the FAA letter.

It is likely that the police department will get permission to use the blimp so long as they give assurances that the dirigible will be under visual observation at all times.

The use of surveillance drones and blimps to carry out sweeping surveillance of the public with total disregard for privacy rights is expected to accelerate in the coming years. The FAA has forecast that 30,000 surveillance drones will be in U.S. skies by the end of the decade.

Last month, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told a House Committee on Homeland Security that the federal agency was working on deploying drones for purposes of “public safety.”

As we reported earlier this year, the DHS is already using another type of airborne drone surveillance, also utilized to track insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.

US law enforcement bodies are already using drone technology to spy on Americans. In December last year, a Predator B drone was called in to conduct surveillance over a family farm in North Dakota as part of a SWAT raid on the Brossart family, who were suspects in the egregious crime of stealing six missing cows. Local police in this one area have already used the drone on two dozen occasions since June last year.

The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

Recently released FAA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the FAA gave the green light for surveillance drones to be used in U.S. skies despite the fact that during the FAA’s own tests the drones crashed numerous times even in areas of airspace where no other aircraft were flying.

The documents illustrate how the drones pose a huge public safety risk, contradicting a recent coordinated PR campaign on behalf of the drone industry which sought to portray drones as safe, reliable and privacy-friendly.

Alex Jones predicted the use of blimps for invasive surveillance in his 2005 film Martial Law. Watch a clip below during which Alex discusses this and related issues during a CBS San Antonio interview.

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.

A Return to Stealth Communism, Obama's "Soft Media" Strategy

8/17/12 3:33 PM EDT
Updated: 8/17/12 4:39 PM EDT

The strategy lets the Obama camp avoid the back-and-forth with the national press corps. AP Photo


Forget Chris Matthews — he’ll take Nancy O’Dell.

President Barack Obama has been taking a lot of questions in the two months since his last press conference or national news interview. He’s just been doing them with ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine and FM radio stations around the country, mostly to talk local sports and regional cuisine.

This isn’t a mistake. Even at the height of a campaign in which they’ve been firing hard at Mitt Romney and trying to keep hold of the news cycle, Obama’s reelection staffers are pretty sure most voters aren’t tuning in.

“People get their news in many different ways,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told POLITICO. “Sometimes it’s turning on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and seeing what the latest news is out there.”

Psaki said the president will be doing a variety of media appearances in the coming weeks with both national and local outlets, but for now, “We’re reaching an audience that may not be paying attention to the day-to-day political back and forth.”

That also lets them avoid the back-and-forth with the national press corps for much lighter outlets. Friday, Obama was behind closed doors at the White House to cap off a week in which Mitt Romney announced his running mate and Obama’s own vice president lit up controversy. But he was on the air: Obama called in to a New Mexico morning radio show to weigh in on “Call Me Maybe,” his favorite work-out songs and his ideal super power (he chose speaking any foreign language, though “the whole flying thing is pretty good”). The exchange ended with one co-host Kiki Garcia giggling, “I just flirted with the President of the United States of America.”

Obama’s not the only one. Romney has been more available recently — including two news conferences just this week — but before that had done only one since May. He even spurned U.S. reporters in favor of a British press availability on his recent overseas trip. And the day after he tapped Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the GOP ticket (and their wives) gave the first sit-down interview to … People magazine.

Obama himself has often complained about the media’s focus on trivialities over substance. But the anti-Beltway press sentiment is one that Obama himself has echoed on the trail, saying that the concerns of the national press corps and the the American people are wildly different.

“What the American people hear and what the press corps want to focus on are two very different things,” Obama told “Entertainment Tonight,” about ongoing questions regarding Vice President Joe Biden’s controversial quip about Republicans putting Americans back in “chains.”

Obama points to his failure to communicate as one of the single largest problems of his presidency, but media exposure has always proved tricky for him. In 2008, he was clearly helped, despite the knocks — including the famous “celebrity” ad from John McCain — from making stops like Ellen and Oprah a regular part of his routine. Even then, though, he was chided for giving an October 2008 interview to Mario Lopez on “Extra,” after a month without a press conference. And in 2009, his media handlers yanked him back in the face of withering criticism that he’d overexposed himself and the presidency in a way that was bad for the presidency and bad politics too.

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Obamanomics: Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July

By Christopher S. Rugaber
Associated Press
Friday, August 17, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates fell in only two states and were unchanged in four.

Unemployment rates rose in nine states that are considered battlegrounds in the presidential election. That trend, if it continued, could pose a threat to President Barack Obama’s re-election bid in less than three months.

Nationwide, hiring improved in July after three months of tepid job gains. But the national unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent. Monthly job gains have averaged 150,000 this year. That’s barely enough to accommodate population growth. As a result, the unemployment rate is the same as when the year began.

Still, 31 states gained jobs in July, while 19 lost them. Unemployment rates can rise in a state even when more jobs are created if more people start looking for work. People who are out of work are counted as unemployed only if they’re looking for a job.

In the most closely contested states in the presidential race, unemployment has fallen over the past year. That could help Obama in his contest with GOP candidate Mitt Romney.

But it has started to tick up in recent months. In Nevada, the rate rose to 12 percent in July from 11.6 percent the previous month. That’s the highest rate in the nation, though it’s still much lower than a year ago, when it was 13.8 percent.

And in Michigan, the rate has increased to 9 percent, from 8.5 percent two months earlier.

Unemployment also increased in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

The rate was unchanged at 7.2 percent in Ohio, the only swing state that didn’t suffer an increase. Still, that rate is down sharply from 8.9 percent a year ago.

Most competitive states have unemployment rates below the national level, so even recent increases may not have a large impact on voter sentiment.

Iowa’s unemployment rate, for example, increased to 5.3 percent, still the sixth-lowest in the country. New Hampshire’s rose to 5.4 percent and Virginia’s increased to 5.9 percent, both far below the national rate.

Only four swing states have higher unemployment rates than the national figure: Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina at 9.6 percent, and Florida at 8.8 percent.

Some battleground states reported large job gains that could lead to lower unemployment rates in coming months. Michigan added 21,800 jobs, the second-largest increase in the nation, after California. Michigan’s gains were mostly in manufacturing and government. Virginia reported the third-largest increase, 21,300, mainly in education and health care.

Most other battleground states added small numbers of jobs.

Story Continues →

Germany debates plan to pay stay-at-home moms

Germany's conservative coalition is pushing to pay moms who stay home to care for children ages 1 to 3. Opposition parties are outraged, calling the plan an antiquated take on family politics.

By Rieke Havertz, Contributor / August 16, 2012

Claudia takes a walk with her children (l.-r.) Michael, Julia, and Katharina in Durach, southern Germany, June 20. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is looking to establish a childcare allowance for stay-at-home mothers. Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Christian Science Monitor:

Germany's conservative coalition, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is planning to pay mothers who stay at home to care for their children. The draft law has touched off debate between those who see this as offering more people the option of staying at home and those who see it as a missed opportunity to expand access to affordable child care outside the home.

Private daycare or nannies are uncommon in Germany, and most often only chosen if government-funded or church-funded daycare is not available. But the government system struggles to handle the demand, especially in large cities like Berlin, Munich, or Hamburg, where parents scramble to register for daycare even before their child is born. Private daycare for little children is on the rise, but expensive.

The proposed law, which is scheduled to be debated for a second time in parliament at the end of August, might ease some of the burden on the system. Women would receive 150 euros per month (about $190) if they decide to look after their children ages 1 to 3 at home rather than sending the child to government-funded daycare. Generally, parents can take up to three years off and still have their jobs guaranteed. During these years off, if the employer doesn't pay the parent, the parent can receive money from the government for up to 14 months, with the amount based on their previous salaries. The planned 150 euros per month would go on top of that.

Critics of the plan argue that the money could be better spent shoring up the gaps in publicly funded daycare. “The estimated costs of 1.2 billion euros a year should be spent on providing high quality early childhood daycare,” says Katja Dörner, spokeswoman for family issues with the Green Party.

Starting next year, parents will be legally entitled to affordable daycare for their 1- to 2-year-old children. But current estimates indicate a shortage of 150,000 to 170,000 places.

Chancellor Merkel denies that the proposed payments to stay-at-home moms are a way to get around the government's shortfall of trained daycare professionals and facilities. Still, the government would gain time to build up the daycare infrastructure.

Dorothee Bär, spokeswomen for family issues within Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), denies that that is the intent of the draft law: “We do not want to force a particular childcare model on parents.”

Critics of the plan argue that the money could be better spent shoring up the gaps in publicly funded daycare. “The estimated costs of 1.2 billion euros a year should be spent on providing high quality early childhood daycare,” says Katja Dörner, spokeswoman for family issues with the Green Party.

Starting next year, parents will be legally entitled to affordable daycare for their 1- to 2-year-old children. But current estimates indicate a shortage of 150,000 to 170,000 places.

Chancellor Merkel denies that the proposed payments to stay-at-home moms are a way to get around the government's shortfall of trained daycare professionals and facilities. Still, the government would gain time to build up the daycare infrastructure.

Dorothee Bär, spokeswomen for family issues within Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), denies that that is the intent of the draft law: “We do not want to force a particular childcare model on parents.”

"The childcare allowance is contrary to modern family politics," says Ms. Dörner of the Green Party. The center-left opposition is determined to stop the law's passage. Even with the ruling CDU and its liberal coalition party FDP, the law is unpopular with some politicians.

Choice for families

Mrs. Bär calls the draft law an important step in family politics. “It will make sure that families can choose if they want to give their children to daycare or educate them at home,” she says.

A number of studies point to the influence of available daycare on women's working choices. The national education report of 2012, written by scientists and promoted by the government, shows that women with children three years old or younger are more likely to be unemployed. And those who do work are more likely to do so part-time. The study shows that the number of women going back to work increases significantly as soon as the children are three years old and can go to daycare.

And data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that taking care of children at home reduces their chances of a good academic and social outcome within immigrant families. "Children of immigrants would also especially benefit from a larger participation in kindergarten before the age of four, the age-range for which provides strong disincentives to send children into early childhood educational institutes,” it says in a report on working immigrants in Norway.

A study conducted by the nonprofit, left-leaning German political foundation "Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung" says that in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, payments for women to stay at home with their child had negative effects on their employment. In Norway parties now are discussing ending the child allowance.

But Merkel has been quoted by German media saying that childcare allowance is part of the government's family politics strategy as well as the effort to invest in daycare facilities. Merkel had to silence the critics in her own party because the law is very important to the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The CSU has threatened to leave the already fragile and shaken coalition if the childcare allowance fails. A second debate in parliament is scheduled for the end of August.

Biden's unscripted moments keep campaign on its toes

Compared with discreet Republican running mate Paul D. Ryan, the vice president presents a particular challenge to handlers with his off-the-cuff remarks.

During the daily White House briefing Thursday, press secretary Jay Carney told CBS News' Nancy Cordes that Republicans and the media are trying to use Vice President Joe Biden's controversial remark ...

By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

August 17, 2012, 4:24 a.m.

DANVILLE, Va.(Los Angeles Times) — A Joe Biden campaign event can at times have the feel of a high-wire act. Sure, there's a prompter in place, and a message of the day he's been tasked to deliver. But the vice president's freelancing can begin almost immediately.

"Mr. Mayor, thank you for the passport, thank you for letting me come back in," Biden said as he began remarks in Danville this week. "You get invited once, it's OK. Get invited back, man, that means he doesn't know any better," he said, ignoring his prepared remarks.

The same Joe Biden who can display a mastery of the kind of face-to-face, hand-to-hand retail campaigning that President Obama is sometimes accused of lacking can also be a bit too candid, too over the top. That's always been the case, but the emergence of the highly scripted Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate makes the contrast all the more pointed.

On balance, the campaign insists that Biden remains a valuable asset. But a firestorm over his remarks to a diverse audience here Tuesday — when he accused Republicans of wanting to "put y'all back in chains," in reference to Wall Street reform — points to the challenge of managing a blunt candidate in an era where unscripted moments go viral in an instant.

Most candidates give the same stump speech over and over, putting reporters if not the audience to sleep. But during any Biden speech, there might be a dozen moments to make press handlers cringe, and prompt reporters to turn to each other with amusement and confusion.

Any such moment can be quickly edited down, posted online and relayed to blogs and inboxes — and some will stick, but many more are just ignored or saved for a Biden blooper reel.

In Danville, as he turned to the portion of his remarks where the campaign's designated attack dog sinks his teeth into the Republican ticket's agenda, Biden said Romney had pledged in his first 100 days as president to "let the big banks once again write their own rules."

Then he went off-script.

"Unchain Wall Street!" he said, voice rising, prompting boos. "They're going to put y'all back in chains," he added, to a mixture of applause and agreeing jeers.

After the Romney campaign pounced, Biden attempted to clarify his remarks in his next campaign stop. In Wytheville, Va., he said he meant to use the term "unshackled," one that Republicans themselves had used in relation to regulations on banks and businesses.

The story would linger for another few days, with Republicans like Sen. John McCain of Arizona egging it on by suggesting again that Obama could replace Biden on the ticket with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Any fallout would be short-lived, former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said in an interview.

"Right now it all seems to be about winning the news cycle. If you can catch the other guy in a gaffe, you win the news day," he said. "For the vice president it's kind of a warning shot. If you do this in September, it would be more meaningful."

Although Ryan, of Wisconsin, is untested on the national stage, he has an advantage over Biden in that he "comes out of the new political world," accustomed to the immediacy of the Twitter era, Davis said. The vice president has "got to adapt."

Aides traveling with Biden on a three-day tour of North Carolina and rural southwest Virginia occasionally displayed unease as the vice president veered outside the lines — or even simply at the possibility that he might. The unscheduled stops that Biden made at a firehouse, local eateries and a country store this week were choreographed to let television cameras capture "middle-class Joe" in action, but made it difficult for reporters to engage with him.

As he greeted locals in Radford, Va., on Wednesday, a reporter attempted to ask Biden about the reaction to his comments the day before in Danville. Almost immediately, staff announced it was time for reporters to return to their designated vans in the motorcade. Biden simply continued to smile as he posed for a picture with a young boy.

There are other indications that aides are attempting to minimize the dissemination of uncomfortable moments — whether they be genuine gaffes or moments they worry will be misrepresented. The White House press office has not released a complete transcript of any Biden speech, whether campaign or official, in more than two months. Transcripts for all of Obama's speeches, however, are distributed quickly, as they are for many of the first lady's events.

Aides acknowledge that Biden was vulnerable to a "gaffe-watch," given his reputation.

"Everything is in the moment, and everybody is vulnerable under this microscope right now. It's like hand-to-hand combat," said one aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation candidly.

But that doesn't mean the campaign plans to bottle him up. "The objective is not to get good press coverage. That's part of it, but it's getting on the ground and interacting with people, and having them come away with an impression that they then share with other people. That's how you penetrate," the aide said.

It's also clear that there's a significant difference in how Biden's trip was covered in the national press than the local press. The front page of the Danville Register & Bee on Tuesday was dominated by photos of Biden, sporting aviator glasses and a broad smile, chatting with a high school football team. Thursday's Roanoke Times showed Biden, tie loosened, greeting a local woman.

It's such local coverage that the campaign sees as more influential in shaping voter opinion than the gaffe- and horse-race-obsessed cable-centric coverage.

As the "chains" remark illustrates, the staff has come to a familiar approach: Fix it as quickly as possible, and move on. Beyond that, "there isn't a whole lot we can do if other people aren't ready to go on," the aide said.

Robin Hood mayor vows to occupy banks

Last updated: August 17, 2012 6:50 pm
By Miles Johnson in Madrid

Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo shouts slogans next to members of the Andalucian Union of Workers as they march between the towns of Jodar and Bedmar, in Jodar, southern Spain,

Financial Times: For Spain’s ruling politicians he is a criminal; for his supporters he is Robin Hood, stealing from supermarkets and redistributing the food to the poor.

Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor of Marinaleda, a southern town with a population of 2,600, has been catapulted to cult hero status in Spain after setting out this week on an anti-austerity march across Andalucia – occupying banks and stealing food, and enraging the government of Mariano Rajoy.

Earlier this month Mr Sánchez Gordillo stood outside a supermarket with cheering supporters as trade unionists piled food into shopping trolleys and left without paying, later donating the items to food banks for the poor. The raid resulted in seven arrests.

The 59-year-old is also a member of the regional parliament, and enjoys immunity from prosecution. He says he will forgo this right on the march, which began this week with about 500 supporters.

“We are fighting a war for the poor ... going to jail is not important for me, it would be an honour,” Mr Sánchez Gordillo told the Financial Times.

“We are going to occupy all of the banks and supermarkets we are able to in Andalucia. The robbers who have caused this crisis must pay the consequences for what they have done.”

Mr Sánchez Gordillo, who wears a large beard and often sports a keffiyeh-style scarf, said he was attacking banks for repossessing the homes of people unable to pay their mortgages, and supermarkets for damaging local farmers.

“The euro is a fraud that enriches some and impoverishes the rest ... There are families going hungry, and small farmers who are ruined. We are asking for a change of the political model.”

His actions have infuriated Spain’s ruling Popular party, which has called for him to be stripped of his seat for the United Left party in Andalucia’s parliament.

“One can’t be Robin Hood and at the same time earning a salary as the sheriff of Nottingham,” said Alfonso Alonso, parliamentary spokesman for the ruling PP in Spain’s parliament.

“This man is looking for publicity at the cost of everyone else, and above all at the cost of the image of Spain,” he said.

During its first seven months in power, Mr Rajoy’s government has implemented swingeing austerity measures that have damaged his popularity and triggered waves of demonstrations by public workers.

Andalucia, Spain’s largest region by population, has 30 per cent unemployment – the highest of any region within the European Union. It has become a focal point for the government’s drive to rein in regional spending, and earlier this month Madrid clashed with the southern region over new budget cuts.

“This could close 19 hospitals, all of the Andalucian health service, or get rid of 60,000 public workers, one in four of the local governments workforce,” José Antonio Griñán, the region’s leader, said earlier this month.

On Friday, the marchers, who plan to sleep in the open or in parks, occupied a branch of Banco Santander in the town of Mancha Real in the province of Jaén before leaving later in the day.

Diego Canamero, head of the Andalucian Workers Union, was in the branch on Friday. He said critics of the protests were politicians protecting their own interests.

“These are symbolic actions against an unsustainable economic situation,” he said. “The bankers rob us, and take our money to tax havens, and the political parties are corrupt. We live in a culture of robbery.”

Mr Canamero said the marchers were under tight police surveillance, but they would try and “redistribute food for the most needy” if they could. Only staple items such as sugar, olive oil, milk and rice were being taken.

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Arab Spring run amok: Obama-endorsed 'Muslim Brotherhood' starts crucifixions

Opponents of Egypt's Muslim president executed 'naked on trees'
Published: Aug. 17, 2012
by Michael Carl


The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi.

Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

Raymond Ibrahim, a fellow with the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said the crucifixions are the product of who the Middle Eastern media call “partisans.”

“Arabic media call them ‘supporters,’ ‘followers’ and ‘partisans’ of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Ibraham said.

Ibrahim also says the victims can be anyone, including Egyptian Christians.

“It’s anyone who is resisting the new government,” Ibrahim said. “In this particular case, the people attacked and crucified were secular protesters upset because of Morsi’s hostile campaign against the media, especially of Tawfik Okasha, who was constantly exposing him on his station, until Morsi shut him down.”

Ibrahim said extra brutality is reserved for Christians, but the crucifixions are because of Islamic doctrine and are required by the Quran. The time and other details about the crucifixions were not readily available.

Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez cited chapter and verse from the Quran to explain that crucifixions are not simply normal for Islam, they’re demanded.

“Crucifixion is a hadd punishment, stipulated in the Quran, Sura 5:33, and therefore an obligatory part of Shariah,” Lopez said. “It’s been a traditional punishment within Islam since the beginning, even though it’s not exclusively Islamic. The Romans used it too.

“So, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood haven’t the option to not include crucifixion within their legal code. It’s obligatory to comply with Shariah. And yes, it’s for shock value also to be sure,” Lopez said.

Lopez includes a warning for Egypt’s Christians and compares the coming treatment of the Christians to the Jews in Germany.

“The Copts must get out of Egypt as soon as possible – for the many millions who will not be able to get out, I expect things will continue to deteriorate – just as they did for Germany’s and Europe’s Jews from the 1930s onward,” Lopez said.

“The warnings were there long before the ghettos and round-ups and one-way train trips to the concentration camps began in the 1940s,” she said.

Author Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs, an analyst of the Middle East and Islam, fully agrees and also cites the Quran.

“The Christians are in serious trouble, because the Quran in Sura 9:29 commands Muslims to wage war against them and subjugate them, and they’re also identified with the hated West and the U.S.,” Geller said.

Geller also turned to Sura 5:33.

Islamic hardliners

“These are Islamic hardliners who do everything by the Quran. The Quran says, ‘Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land,” Geller said.

International Christian Concern’s Middle East analyst Aidan Clay believes there is a relationship between the recent attacks on the regime’s enemies, a recent Sinai military skirmish and Morsi’s moves against the ranking generals.

The “Sinai skirmish” involved suspected Hamas guerrillas trying to cross into Gaza from Egypt. The Israeli Defense Force and intelligence learned of the attempted crossing in advance and stopped the incursion. Sixteen Egyptian border guards were killed in the attempted Rafah border crossing incident.

“It’s hard to believe that President Morsi could have dismissed Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi without the help of lower-ranking military officers. The military’s sense of prestige, which millions of Egyptians still take great pride in, took a battering following the militant attack in Sinai that killed 16 soldiers,” Clay said.

“The military should have been prepared for the attack. Israel was. And the blame has largely been placed on Tantawi for his negligence and for embarrassing the military establishment,” he said.

Lopez agrees that Israel’s preparedness is a slap against the Egyptian army.

“That border skirmish that resulted in deaths of Egyptian border guards was known ahead of time by Israeli intelligence, which warned their Egyptian military counterparts,” Lopez said.

She notes that Israeli intelligence avoided contact with the Muslim Brotherhood in the incident because the attacks were a Hamas plot.

Lopez added that even after notification, the Egyptian army didn’t act.

“The Egyptian military did nothing, even as Israel expected. Thus the attack was carried out, Israel was totally prepared and responded and the result was Egyptian military deaths,” Lopez said.

Responding to ‘crisis’

She added that Morsi wasted no time in responding to the “crisis.”

“Morsi jumped on the incident as the perfect reason to purge the top ranks of the Egyptian military, install his own MB-sympathizers in positions across the top, chief of staff and intel chief,” she said. “Some call it an internal coup d’etat – and I agree. It put Morsi in sole control of the legislative branch (there is no parliament right now) and in control of the political power in Egypt. The new defense minister is a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. Things are moving very fast.”

Clay said there are mixed feelings among the military top brass in Egypt. He said some still support Tantawi; some have called for change.

“While many senior military officers maintained their support for Tantawi, his reputation took a dive among many younger officers who saw the need for a replacement. It wasn’t just the attack in Sinai that led to this, but the military’s reputation has been on the decline since a few months following the country’s uprising early last year,” Clay said.

“For some, the Sinai attack was the final straw and Morsi may have viewed it as an opportune time to remove Tantawi and other high-ranking officers from key positions,” Clay said.

He noted that Morsi, not the military, took the lead in responding to the Sinai attacks.

“In doing so, while also forcing Tantawi out of his cabinet, Morsi has set a precedent that it is he who decides who runs the army,” Clay said.

“While the generals will still advise Morsi, he can decide whether or not to listen to them. It’s apparent that Morsi is quickly becoming Egypt’s sole leader which means control of the country will be in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

However, Geller believes Morsi had a second motive for his action.

Reign of terror

“I suspect that Morsi’s action was timed in part to forestall any further military action against the jihadis,” Geller said, adding that the results will make Egypt’s government more monolithic than it already was.

“Morsi is instituting a reign of terror to consolidate his power,” Geller said.

American Enterprise Institute Middle East analyst Michael Rubin agreed: Morsi is after the power.

“Morsi certainly wants absolute control. The Egyptian army have never been saints, but Morsi will broker no checks to his power as the Muslim Brotherhood writes a constitution and imposes its dream of an Islamic state on Egypt,” Rubin said.

Lopez says this all means that Morsi is shedding his “moderate” veneer.

“The point I would make is that Morsi is not bothering to play ‘moderate’ anymore. He’s moving very aggressively to consolidate power for the Muslim Brotherhood,” Lopez said.

She added that Morsi is now free to act without any concern for public opinion.

“He doesn’t seem to care who thinks what anymore. He knows he’s got the USG and president in his corner no matter what he does. He doesn’t have to pretend, no need for ‘plausible deniability.’ He also knows he’s got the majority of the Egyptian people behind him,” Lopez said.

Rubin believes, however, that Morsi will still try to play the “moderate” to continue to gain U.S. support.

Playing the moderate?

“Morsi is going to play the moderate and the mediator for the world media, all the while complaining that he can’t take more forceful action against the extremists because the radical fringe won’t allow him to do more,” Rubin said.

“It’s nonsense, of course, but still an explanation that will satisfy American diplomats, safe behind the walls of their compound,” Rubin said.

Lopez added to Rubin’s explanation, but points to the White House as the main cheerleader for Morsi and the Brotherhood.

“This is exactly what many of us expected him to do (consolidate power) and I think the White House knew, too, and not only expected but wanted Morsi and the Brotherhood to take over Egypt,” Lopez said.

“As far as I know, the White House invitation for Morsi in September still stands – nor have I heard the slightest hint of criticism from any top U.S. government leadership figure about Morsi’s coup. He knows he’s on solid ground with this administration,” Lopez said.

Democratic. Rep. Gauthier, 56, claims rest-stop oral sex with Craigslist boy, 17, was consensual

By Aaron Rupar Fri., Aug. 17 2012 at 7:39 AM

Rep. Kerry Gauthier, D-Duluth, won't face charges for having oral sex with a minor at the Thompson Hill rest stop near Duluth, but at the least he's revealed himself to be a dishonest person, lying to the 17-year-old about his age and to police about what exactly happened in the woods that night.

When contacted by a police officer and asked about the allegations last month, Gauthier initially said: "I don't know what you're talking about." In a police report, the officer writes, "At this point I felt that Gauthier was not going to be honest with me." The officer then informed the first-term legislator that police had already gotten the details about the sexual encounter from the boy himself.

Gauthier, 56, was then a bit more forthcoming, telling the officer that he met the boy through an ad he posted on Craigslist. In the ad, Gauthier characterized himself as a 43-year-old looking for man-on-man sex with "no strings attached." His ad received a receptive reply from the unnamed 17-year-old, who allegedly told Gauthier he was 18. The dynamic duo agreed to meet at the Thompson Hill rest stop for sexual relations.

They met on the night of July 22 and headed for the woods for fondling and a five-minute oral sex session. Spooked about the possibility of being busted, Gauthier and his boy tryst decided to end it there, and the whole incident might never have been publicized had it not been for the boy's decision to take a leak right next a couple eating dinner in a car. The couple called police to report "suspicious activity," and when authorities arrived Gauthier was still there.

The responding officer, in a police report, writes that he drew his gun on Gauthier, who approached him with his hand in his pocket. "I told him he shouldn't walk up to us with his hand in his pockets," the officer writes.

"It was at that time I noted his zipper was open and part of his shirt was hanging out," the officer continues. "I asked him why his zipper was down and he said he didn't know. I told him to zip it up and leave. The male seemed nervous."

A short time later, the officer came across the 17-year-old. Though he initially denied that he was up to any funny business, the teen eventually spilled the beans and admitted "he had met an older man at the rest area after corresponding with him in response to a Craigslist ad." The boy explained he hadn't yet told his parents he's gay. The officer, putting two and two together, got Gauthier's cell number from the boy, and police contacted him on July 31.

The teen initially said he was 18, but the officer wasn't buying it. He wrote that he could tell the teen was younger than he said "just by looking at him."

(Click to page two for more)

Secret 'menu' details perks for big Democratic donors

By MATTHEW MOSK (@mattmosk) , BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) and RHONDA SCHWARTZ
Aug. 17, 2012

Democratic U.S. Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) reacts to the crowd on day four of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at Invesco Field at Mile High August 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

ABC News - Those seeking invites to the most lavish receptions at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, "gold ticket" access to "dialogues," and private breakfast briefings with party luminaries, can expect a hefty price of admission.

A list of high-end convention packages circulated by the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, and obtained by ABC News, shows that those and other perks are being offered to donors who raise $1 million or donate $100,000 to the convention's nonprofit planning arm.

The cash-for-access formula has been a longtime staple of national political conventions, and though Democrats told ABC News they have tried to shift the focus to access for grassroots supporters this year, critics say the menu of perks for donors is a reminder that those giving big dollars can still expect special treatment.

"We pride ourselves on being a country of equality, and this kind of arrangement subverts that," said Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation reporting group. "If you have big money to give, you get a lot more access."

READ the Democratic National Convention "Menu" of Donor Perks

The packages for the Democratic Convention in Charlotte are tiered. Top fundraisers and donors are given "premier credentials" that access luxury suites and the convention floor. They also grant donors hotel locations with close proximity to party leadership events, and special access to a special hospitality house near the convention floor.

Someone who raises $1 million tops the list, while top flight packages are also spelled out for those who donate $100,000 directly, or raise more than $650,000 (Trustee Package), $500,000 (Piedmont Package), $250,000 (Dogwood Package) and on down.

If their track record holds, Republicans will be offering even pricier perks for those attending the GOP Convention in Tampa. Four years ago, the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul provided donors of $5 million or more a private dinner and a separate golf outing with the Republican leadership.

Democrats say they are trying to move away from the cash for access tradition. This year, the party's contract with the convention host committee included the first ever restrictions on who can donate, and on how much they can give. The Host Committee announced it would not take corporate or lobbyist money, and that it would limit individual giving to no more than $100,000.

"We've gone further than any convention in history to find ways to provide greater access for the public," said Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Dan Murrey, the executive director of the Host Committee said in a statement to ABC News that his group is "raising money for this convention in a way that has never been done before."

The committee hired a full time grass roots finance director, and tried to be creative in enticing smaller donors to contribute to the event -- even sponsoring a barbecue sauce competition, a poster contest, and a chance for anyone donating $3 to win a trip to the convention with the airfare and hotel provided.

With just weeks left to go, Murrey said the host committee had raised money from nearly 65 times more individuals than did the Denver committee. "Our grassroots fundraising has exceeded expectations in terms of broadening the donor base and engaging more people in the effort," he said.

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Punk band members sentenced to 2 years in Russian prison

By Nataliya Vasilyeva
Associated Press
Friday, August 17, 2012

Washington Times - A Moscow judge sentenced three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison on hooliganism charges on Friday following a trial seen around the world as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

The trial inspired a wave of small but raucous protests across Europe and North America in support of the feminist rockers, who have been dubbed prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters waiting outside the Moscow courtroom chanted “down with the police state” when the sentence was announced. Dozens were detained, including several opposition leaders.

The three women were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral where they high-kicked and danced while singing a “punk prayer” pleading with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third term as Russia’s president two weeks later.

Judge Marina Syrova said in her verdict that the band members “committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” She rejected the women’s arguments that they were protesting the Orthodox Church’s support for Putin and didn’t intend to offend religious believers.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, stood in handcuffs in a glass cage in the courtroom for three hours as the judge read the verdict. They smiled sadly as the judge recounted testimony of prosecution witnesses accusing them of sacrilege and “devilish dances” in church and said that their feminist views made them hate the Orthodox religion.

Tolokonnikova laughed out loud when the judge read the testimony of a psychologist who said that her “active stance on social issues” was an anomaly.

The three women remained calm and kept smiling after the judge announced the sentence. Someone in the courtroom shouted “Shame!” They waved at relatives from behind the glass.

Samutsevich’s father said he met with his daughter before the court session and she was prepared for a prison sentence. “We tried to comfort her,” said Stanislav Samutsevich.

The charges carried a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, although prosecutors had asked for a three-year sentence.

Putin himself had said the band members shouldn’t be judged too harshly, creating expectations that they could be sentenced to time served and freed in the courtroom. This, however, would have left the impression that Putin had bowed to public pressure, something he has resisted throughout his 12 years in power.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin couldn’t intervene in the judicial process and refused to comment on the sentence.

“Putin has doomed himself to another year and a half of international shame and humiliation,” said Boris Akunin, one of Russia’s most popular authors, who was among the Pussy Riot supporters outside the courthouse. “The whole thing is bad because it’s yet another step toward the escalation of tensions within society. And the government is absolutely to blame.”

Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdict, although they had little hope that it would be overturned. “Under no circumstances will the girls ask for a pardon (from Putin),” said Mark Feygin. “They will not beg and humiliate themselves before such a bastard.”

Outside the court, police rounded up a few dozen protesters, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who is a leading opposition activist, and leftist opposition group leader Sergei Udaltsov.

When a prison bus drove the three women away, hundreds of supporters cheered their support.

Amnesty International strongly condemned the court’s ruling, saying it “shows that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society.” Governments including the United States, Britain, France and Germany denounced the sentences as disproportionate.

President Barack Obama was disappointed by the decision, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “While we understand the group’s behavior was offensive to some, we have serious concerns about the way that these young women have been treated by the Russian judicial system,” he said.

The Pussy Riot case has stoked the resentment of opposition partisans who have turned out for a series of huge anti-Putin rallies since last winter.

Alexei Navalny, a key leader behind those protests, condemned the verdict as a “cynical mockery of justice” and said the opposition will step up its protests.

Even some Kremlin loyalists strongly criticized the verdict. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said it has dealt “yet another blow to the court system and citizens’ trust in it.” ”The country’s image and its attractiveness in the eyes of investors have suffered an enormous damage,” he said.

Mikhail Fedotov, the head of a presidential advisory council on human rights, criticized the verdict and voiced hope that the sentence will be repealed or at least softened.

And Mikhail Barshchevsky, a lawyer who represents the Cabinet in high courts, said that the verdict had no basis in Russian criminal law

The Pussy Riot case has underlined the vast influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although church and state are formally separate, the church identifies itself as the heart of Russian national identity and critics say its strength effectively makes it a quasi-state entity. Some Orthodox groups and many believers had urged strong punishment for an action they consider blasphemous.

The head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, has made no secret of his strong support for Putin, praising his presidencies as “God’s miracle,” and he described the performance as part of an assault by “enemy forces” on the church. He avoided talking to the media as he left Warsaw’s Royal Castle following a ceremony in which he and the head of Poland’s Catholic Church called for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.

The judge relied extensively on the testimony of church laymen, who said they were offended and shocked by the band’s stunt. “The actions of the defendants reflected their hatred of religion,” Syrova said in the verdict.

The Orthodox Church said in a statement after the verdict that the band’s stunt was a “sacrilege” and a “reflection of rude animosity toward millions of people and their feelings.” It also asked the authorities to “show clemency toward the convicted in the hope that they will refrain from new sacrilegious actions.”

The case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times to 300,000 rubles (about $9,000).

Another measure requires non-government organizations that both engage in vaguely defined political activity and receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

• Lynn Berry, Jim Heintz, Mansur Mirovalev and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Biden's 'good friend,' donor gets $20 million federal loan

Published: 12:05 AM 08/17/2012
By Christopher Bedford
Hat Tip: Michael Savage

The Daily Caller - In late July, John Hynansky — a longtime friend of Vice President Joe Biden, and a major donor to Biden’s campaigns as well as President Barack Obama’s — was awarded a $20 million taxpayer loan to build a foreign-car dealership in Ukraine.

According to a public summary document, the loan, from the federal government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation, is for “[u]p to $20.0 million,” and is designed to “expand Winner Import Ukraine’s automobile business, [and] construct and operate ‘Winner Autocity,’ which will have two new, state-of-the-art dealership facilities for Porsche and Land Rover/Jaguar automobiles.”

Porsche is a German-made luxury and sports car, and Jaguar Land Rover is a British luxury and sports car company owned by an Indian subsidiary.

Under “U.S. Economic Impact,” the summary document says, “This project will have a positive developmental impact on the host country, Ukraine. The project will generate a significant number of new local jobs. Running a dealership for premium automobile brands requires a highly trained sales force, mechanics, accountants, communications and advertising specialists, IT specialists, service personnel, warehouse managers, and customer relations specialists.”

Along with his family, Hynansky also owns car dealerships in Pennsylvania and Biden’s home state of Delaware.

Since at least 1999, Hynansky and his family have been regular donors to Biden’s campaigns, and, later, Obama’s. John Hynansky has donated $7,690 to a combination of Biden’s Senate campaigns and failed presidential campaign; Michael Hynansky donated $7,690; Alexandra Hynansky donated $7,280; Deanne Hynansky donated $4,645; and Susan Hynansky donated $1,000 — coming to a total family donation of $28,715.

During Obama’s 2008 run for president, John Hynansky gave $30,800 to the Obama Victory Fund; Alexandra Hynansky gave $2,550; and Deanne Hynansky gave $2,000 — totaling $35,350 to that campaign.

Understandably, during a speech during a diplomatic trip to Ukraine in 2009, Biden described John Hynansky as “my very good friend, John Hynansky, a very prominent businessman from Delaware… I had breakfast with him the other day.”

Watch Biden’s comment on Hynansky at 4:37:

Though the Overseas Private Investment Corporation report says that “the project is not expected to have a negative impact on the U.S.economy or employment,” the revelation that Biden’s “very good friend” and donor, John Hynansky, received a taxpayer loan to open a business selling foreign luxury cars in a foreign country using foreign labor stands in stark contrast to the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign charges that the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan campaign stands for breaks for big business and shipping American jobs overseas.

At the time of publication, the White House had not returned requests for comment.

Nonprofit raises eyebrows with mailings seeking to increase voter registration

By Eric Shawn
Published August 17, 2012

"Register to vote today!" instructs the envelope of the mailer, which notes: "Voter registration documents enclosed."

For help, the brochure instructs people to "Please visit the Texas Secretary of State website," and the return address for the enclosed voter registration form is: "The Voter Participation Center, Office of Secretary of State, Elections Division, PO Box 12060, Austin, TX, 78711-9904."

What has concerned some recipients, though, is that Texas elections officials did not send it.

These voter registration forms, and others like them in other states, are being mailed nationwide by a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., called the Voter Participation Center. The organization says it is working to help register the estimated 73 million Americans nationwide who are currently not on the voting rolls, specifically targeting what it describes as underrepresented voting blocs.

But officials in states like Florida, Texas, Louisiana and others report that the mailers are causing confusion among residents and that they’ve shown up in mailboxes addressed to dead people, children and even dogs and cats.

"It's just ridiculous, and I think needs to be exposed for what it is," Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said. He said the mailings in his state have been rife with problems, and only about 10 percent of those his office has received have actually been valid registrations.

"This is happening all over the country prior to the presidential election," said Schedler, a Republican. "It needs to be stopped, and folks need to take a look at it because the integrity of the election ... is utmost in my mind."

"This is America, it's their right," he added. "But I don't know why they would try to, in my opinion, disrupt the process and cause undue work on states."

Schedler has charged that the Voter Participation Center's mailings also "open the door to voter fraud."

Several people contacted Fox News with concerns about the mailers. One man reported that he received a voter registration solicitation in his mother’s name. The problem is, his mother has been dead for 12 years.

"This all looks like a total fraud to me," says another viewer, who contacted Fox News to investigate why the group was pitching a voter registration form that, he said, appeared to be an official government mailing to, in his case, someone who cannot even legally vote.

The Voter Participation Center blames faulty mailing lists, not fraud, and says that it is trying to correct any problems.

"The Voter Participation Center, of course, regrets any instance at all where there is some sort of mis-mailing to some address or some person who shouldn't receive the mailing," said Center lawyer Scott Thomas. He is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who was appointed by President Reagan and reappointed by both President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton.

Thomas insists that the group is working with state officials to streamline and clean up the process, saying the forms go to the proper government election agencies to register voters, not to the Voter Participation Center.

"The Voter Participation Center goes out of its way to try to clean its list and to make sure that it is not sending to people who are not eligible for registration," Thomas said.

Thomas thinks claims of possible voter fraud from the mailings are "far-fetched." He notes that any registration forms that are erroneously sent to ineligible people, or pets, should not be filed out and returned to election officials. If that were to happen, though, he says checks are in place at registration boards to catch any errant submissions and prevent actual registration.

Critics also question the Voter Participation Center’s aims, pointing out that the voting groups it is trying to register can largely skew Democrat.

The organization proudly says that is has registered more than 1.5 million people in less than a decade, focusing its efforts on registering what it calls "historically underrepresented groups in our democracy," such as unmarried or divorced women, minorities and young people.

"They only target a certain demographic group. Quite frankly, this is strictly a Democratic situation," Secretary of State Schedler said. "That doesn't mean a Democratic group can't register Democrats, any more than a Republican group or a Mickey Mouse party can.”

But Schedler thinks the group needs "to do a little more due diligence” in creating its mailing lists to prevent errors that could end up making more work for the election officials who verify the registration forms.

The Voter Participation Center is staffed with several former Democratic officials and political consultants, some of whom are veterans of President Bill Clinton's and President Obama's presidential campaigns.

Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, for example, is listed on 2010 IRS filings as a board member.

The organization's website states that the assistant program director, who "helps direct the VPC's voter registration and vote-by-mail campaigns in 30 states ... previously ... worked for Obama for America, serving in the campaign's media planning department in Chicago. He was a field organizer for OFA in 2008."

But Thomas insists that the organization has no political agenda beyond trying to serve the millions of Americans who remain unregistered.

"There are lots of non-partisan organizations in Washington and across the country that rely on leadership that comes from all different ranks," Thomas said "If you can find someone who is proficient in their field and is a leader, it’s good to get them on the board and your leadership, and that's a very common thing in Washington."

"The real key is, what do they do?" he said. "Their mailings are strictly non-partisan. They don't reference political issues or candidates or party committees, and it’s up to the individual if they want to fill out the form to do it. And in that sense, the process is entirely non-partisan."

But Schedler, who notes that his state ranks fourth in the nation in voter registration with 84 percent of his constituents on the voting rolls, has a blunt message.

"Follow the paper trial, follow the money," he says. "If you are out there doing a legitimate thing, do a legitimate thing. If you are out there saying you are non-partisan, be non-partisan. Don't just send it to a certain group of individuals ... Just say you are a Democratic group, and I don’t have any problem with that. Republicans go out and try to register Republicans. Just say what you are. Don't disguise yourself into something that you are not, and please spend your time getting the voter out to vote."

The Voter Participation Center plans more mailings before the November presidential election and says it is continually working to improve the screening process of its mailing lists.

Fox News' Meredith Orban contributed to this report. If you suspect voter fraud or problems at the polls where you live, tell us at

Fanatic leftist, cheater reinstated at CNN

Time, CNN reinstate Fareed Zakaria after find 'journalistic lapse' was isolated

Hat Tip: Michael Savage
Published August 16, 2012
Associated Press

Fareed Zakaria, seen in this May 21, 2012, file photo, has been suspended by Time and CNN for plagiarism. (AP)

Fox News:

All is forgiven for Time magazine writer and CNN host Fareed Zakaria, who last week was suspended by both outlets for apparent plagiarism.

CNN said Thursday that Zakaria's weekly "GPS" public affairs program returns to the air Aug. 26. Time said in a separate statement that Zakaria's column would resume with the magazine's Sept. 7 issue.

Zakaria was suspended by both outlets last Friday for lifting several paragraphs from a New Yorker magazine essay for his use in a recent Time column. A version of that column, which examined gun control, was subsequently posted on CNN's website.Zakaria apologized, acknowledging a "terrible mistake."

CNN and Time said Thursday that each had conducted a thorough review and found Zakaria's recent "journalistic lapse" to be an isolated incident.

'Your skin is your sin': Chicago cops sue over demotion from Emanuel detail

Published August 17, 2012

Fox News:

July 11, 2012: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks during Taste of Chicago. (AP)

Eleven Chicago police officers are suing the city over claims they were demoted from the mayor's security detail when Rahm Emanuel took office because they weren't politically connected and aren't black.

"The color of your skin is your sin," the police commander told one of the plaintiffs when asked why he was being demoted and the black officers were not, according to the suit.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Illinois, contains explosive accusations that the officers had their civil rights violated after Emanuel took office last year.

The officers charge that shortly after Emanuel was elected in February 2011, the city government began to bring people associated with the Emanuel campaign on board -- both those who volunteered on Emanuel's security detail during the campaign and others who were "politically involved."

Within a few weeks, the suit says, most of the defendants were removed from the detail "without just cause or any explanation" and were demoted in title, rank and pay. Meanwhile, they allegedly were replaced by Emanuel's former security detail volunteers and others with a "political connection."

The demoted officers were sent to work in city police districts. Three of the 11 briefly retained their title, going to work on the detail for former mayor Richard M. Daley, but were soon removed from that detail as well and reassigned.

The Chicago Department of Law, in a brief written statement, rejected the claims.

"Any claim that the selection of the mayor's detail was based on political or other improper considerations is completely baseless and false," the statement said, adding that any hiring decisions were made by an interim superintendent and not Emanuel or his staff.

The suit claims the officers were removed in violation of an order known as the Shakman Decree, which prohibits political considerations in hiring. Further, the officers claim race was a factor, as the black officers on the mayor's security detail kept their jobs during the administration change.

Commander Brian Thompson, a defendant in the suit who is black, allegedly told one of the officers "the color of your skin is your sin" when the officer asked about the discrepancy.

The officers are seeking to be reinstated with their old title and salary, and are seeking unspecified damages.

Friday, August 17, 2012

House Dems: It’s totally unfair to have a debate question on the deficit commission Obama created and then ignored

Hat Tip: Press Patrol

Posted at 10:01 am on August 15, 2012
by Ed Morrissey

Hot Air:
Man, I love the smell of panic in the morning … at least when it comes from the other side:

Some Democratic lawmakers want to make sure that one question does not get asked at the upcoming first presidential debate – about Simpson-Bowles.

Three Democratic House members objected Tuesday to a request by four senators that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney be asked which of the commission’s proposals to address the debt they support. The Democrats said such a question would force “candidates to choose solutions from one menu of options.” …

But that caused Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to cry foul, writing in their own letter to the debate commission on Tuesday that although the Simpson-Bowles commission’s plan “may contain proposals helpful to our recovery…to hold it out as the only pathway to fiscal responsibility and economic success is foolish and wrong.”

“We urge the [Debate] Commission to fight any effort to unnecessarily narrow such an important debate by placing disproportionate attention on one set of proposals over another,” they wrote, adding that such a question would “cheapen the debate” and “thwart the candidates’ ability to explain alternative proposals.”

On the face of it, this is a ridiculous assertion. Asking one question about the Simpson-Bowles plan doesn’t restrict a range of answers on budget reforms and deficits. The moderators can ask other questions on the topic, and the candidates themselves can expand on those options in their answers to the Simpson-Bowles question. Ryan will almost certainly do so, since he served on the commission and passed his own version of budgetary reform in the House — twice.

But of course, this isn’t about the range of options in the debate. Democrats don’t want Barack Obama to have to answer for his total rejection of the commission he called into existence in the first place. Obama announced his grand plan to find consensus on the deficits after taking a beating on the massive deficits his budgets ran up, a few months before the midterm elections. He wanted to gain traction against the rising Tea Party by taking away one of the key fiscal arguments. When that plan failed, Obama completely ignored the recommendations from Simpson-Bowles even though the panel was a presidential advisory commission.

Part of this effort by Democrats to bury that history has been a new effort to get Erskine Bowles to repudiate his remarks from September 2011 praising Ryan while criticizing Obama and his budget. So far, Bowles isn’t budging:

Erskine Bowles is not backing away from his previous praise of Rep. Paul Ryan now that the Wisconsin congressman is on the Republican presidential ticket.

“I like him,” Bowles, the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and co-chairperson of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, told The Daily Caller in a phone interview.

“I think he’s smart. I think he’s intellectually curious. I think he is honest, straightforward and sincere. And I think he does have a serious budget out there — it doesn’t mean I agree with it by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m not going to act like I don’t like him or that I don’t have some real respect for him.”

Looks like Bowles won’t be making a Cory Booker Hostage Video any time soon.

How I became George Obama's 'brother'

By Dinesh D'Souza
Published August 16, 2012

A few days ago I received a call from a man I recently met named George. He was a bit flustered, and soon informed me that his young son was sick with a chest condition. He pleaded with me to send him $1,000 to cover the medical bills. Since George was at the hospital I asked him to let me speak to a nurse, and she confirmed that George’s son was indeed ill. So I agreed to send George the money through Western Union. He was profusely grateful. But before I hung up I asked George, “Why are you coming to me?” He said, “I have no one else to ask.” Then he said something that astounded me, “Dinesh, you are like a brother to me.”

Actually, George has a real life brother who just happens to be the president of the United States. (George Obama is the youngest of eight children sired by Barack Obama Sr.) George’s brother is a multimillionaire and the most powerful man in the world. Moreover, George’s brother has framed his re-election campaign around the “fair share” theme that we owe obligations to those who are less fortunate.

One of Obama’s favorite phrases comes right out of the Bible: “We are our brother’s keeper.” Yet he has not contributed a penny to help his own brother. And evidently George does not believe, even in times of emergency, that he can turn to his brother in the White House for help.

So much for spreading the wealth around.

Obama’s refusal to help George is especially surprising because George doesn’t just live in American-style poverty but rather in Third World poverty. He lives in a shanty in the Huruma slum in Nairobi. He gets by on a few dollars a month. Obama also has an aunt named Hawa Auma, his father’s sister, who ekes out a living selling coal on the streets of a small village in Kenya. She says she would like to have her teeth fixed, but she cannot afford it. Obama hasn’t offered to help her either.

What’s going on here? Why is President Obama so hesitant to help family members in need?

A couple of years ago, George teamed up with a British journalist Damien Lewis and the two of them published George’s story in a book called "Homeland." Yet according to Lewis, shortly before the book’s publication in America, the publisher Simon & Schuster decided to shred the entire print run, more than 20,000 copies. Lewis tried unsuccessfully to get an explanation from Simon & Schuster but to no avail. He now suspects that the White House convinced Simon & Schuster that George’s story might prove embarrassing to the president.

In 2010, George also applied for a visa to come to the United States and was refused. While George confesses that in his younger years he was a delinquent, he has never been convicted of any crime. Moreover, he has a very good reason to visit the United States: his mother Jael Otieno lives in Atlanta. So why would the U. S. embassy in Nairobi refuse a tourist visa to the brother of the president who just wants to spend time with his mother?

In the past few days, an article has been circulating on the web that depicts George as a social undesirable. First published in the London Daily Mail, the article portrays George as a habitual drunk and philanderer. I spent a day with George this past February while interviewing him for my documentary film 2016: Obama’s America. I can attest that George is not an innocent. If he had been, he would not have survived life in the Huruma slum. Yes, George is street smart and cunning and I did smell alcohol on his breath.

But so what? George may be a drinker and a skirt-chaser but, as becomes clear from his book, he is also a survivor. He has overcome his past as a gang-member and petty thief and now works as the organizer of a slum soccer league. He is trying to uplift himself, and he is trying to help slum kids aspire to a better life. On balance, Lewis assures me, “George is not a bad guy. He is on the side of the angels.”

But even if Lewis is wrong, and George exhibits some harmful cultural pathologies, the liberal argument—one that Obama himself makes in his book "The Audacity of Hope" — is that the cultural pathologies of the poor are themselves the product of social disadvantage.

Barack Obama Jr. first met George in 1987, when George was five years old. He met George again in 2006 when he visited Kenya as a U.S. Senator from Illinois; George was then in his early twenties. Had Obama helped George along the way, perhaps this young man would not have ended up dirt-poor and living such a degraded life.

So what’s the real story here? Where’s George Obama’s “fair share”? George’s tragic situation exposes President Obama as a hypocrite. Here is a man who demands that others pay higher taxes to help the poor—even poor people who are not related to them—while Obama himself refuses to help a close relative like George.

Yet I believe there is a deeper explanation that goes beyond hypocrisy for why Obama wants nothing to do with George. After all, it would cost Obama so little to raise George out of poverty, and yet he won’t do it. This isn’t mere negligence; it suggests an active animus. The reason for that animus emerges in George’s book and also in my interview with George in the film 2016. In that interview, George rejects the anti-colonial philosophy that was espoused by Barack Obama Sr. This is the “dream from my father” that President Obama celebrates in his own autobiography.

From the record of their lives and writings, it’s clear that Barack Obama Sr. and Barack Obama Jr. both share the anti-colonial view that blames Western colonial exploitation for the poverty and suffering of the Third World. Yet George doesn’t buy it. He observes that at the time of its independence in the early 1960s “Kenya was on an economic par with Malaysia or Singapore. Look where we are now, and where they are. They’re practically developed and industrialized, while Kenya is still a basket case.” George believes that poor countries should take responsibility for their own situation. “What’s our excuse for failure? We don’t have one. We’ve only got ourselves to blame.”

Incredible though it seems, George Obama is, within the context of his own society, a conservative. He doesn’t worship at the shrine of Barack Obama Sr. and he espouses an ideology diametrically opposed to that of his father and his famous brother. George has experienced first-hand the empty rhetoric of the two Baracks, and he rejects it based on his actual experience of Third World poverty.

No wonder President Obama despises George, doesn’t want him around, doesn’t care to hear George’s views circulated in America, and won’t lift a finger to help him even when George’s son is in the hospital.

So that’s why George Obama felt he had to call me. He had no one else to call. He reached out to me in his time of need because he felt he couldn’t call on his real life sibling living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That’s how I got to be, if only metaphorically and for a short time, George Obama’s “brother.”

Dinesh D’Souza, narrator and co-director of the film "2016 - Obama's America," is also the author of the new book "Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream," published this week by Regnery.


Published: 5:13 PM 08/16/2012
By Geoffrey Malloy

Daily Caller:

Obama First Kiss: A 3,000 pound granite marker in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood marks the location where President Obama first kissed First Lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas will celebrate their 20th anniversary this October. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

Bain Capital, the investment firm that Mitt Romney made famous, made a leveraged buyout that saved the site of Barack and Michelle Obamas’ first kiss.

In 2005, Bain and two other private equity firms purchased Dunkin’ Brands Incorporated for $2.425 billion, according to a 2006 company press release.

Dunkin’ Brands is the parent company of Baskin-Robbins, at whose Hyde Park, Chicago location the president and his future wife Michelle went on their first date — and shared their first lip lock.

President Obama took the first lady out on a date in 1989 when the two worked at the same Chicago law firm, according to a Chicago Tribune article.

A 3,000-pound granite boulder now occupies the corner of Dorchester and 53rd Street, outside the ice cream parlor, bearing a quote about the couple’s first date.

“On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate,” the inscription states.

In 2011, Dunkin’ Brands raised $400 million for its IPO, according to The Associated Press. The IPO allowed it to pay off most of its $475 million in high-interest debt.

As of June 30, 2012, Dunkin’ Brands had $3.174 billion in total assets. To help orchestrate the company’s turnaround, Bain and other private equity firms hired a new executive chef and new head of technology, and added health-conscious items to its subsidiary’s menus.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the CEO of Bain Capital from 1984 to 2002. He also co-founded the company.

Moms risk arrest: Capitol Hill protest for raw milk and lemonade stands August 18th

Friday, August 10, 2012 - Omkara World by Adam Helfer

Virginia vintners taste the police state

August 12, 2012 8:00 pm
Mark J. Fitzgibbons

Washington Examiner:

While the Obama administration is busy eviscerating private property rights at the federal level, Republican-controlled Fauquier County, Va., has decided to follow suit in its own way. Fauquier's Board of Supervisors recently passed a winery ordinance that tramples private property rights and some fundamental civil liberties.

The county, which is located about an hour west of Washington, calls itself an agricultural community. Its scenic, sprawling farmlands have become home to a growing number of wineries. Vintners have discovered that Fauquier's climate and rich soil are ideal for growing grapes.

Most of the wineries are mom and pop operations. Some, though, have been more creative in marketing, employing more people, and generating revenue. The county thinks such success must be punished.

At the center of all this is the county zoning administrator, a bureaucratic czar named Kimberley Johnson, whose bullying and heavy-handed enforcement tactics have resulted in calls for her dismissal by county farmers and residents. Johnson was recently the subject of a citizen-farmer "pitchfork protest" in a matter in which she fined one farmer for conducting a pumpkin carving and a birthday party for eight little girls without the proper permit.

The winery ordinance is Obama-esque, passed under the pretext that it protects the health, safety and welfare of the public. It forces wineries to close at 6 p.m. and prohibits sale of food -- something that goes quite safely with a taste of wine -- unless the wineries obtain special permits from the zoning administrator.

The ordinance lists prohibited winery activities such as hot air balloon rides, farmers' markets, and mini-golf, which assuredly threaten the health, safety and welfare of the public, right?

Among the prohibited activities, the ordinance includes anything else determined by the zoning administrator "to be similar in nature or in impact to" the listed activities. That's the equivalent allowing police officers to ticket drivers for nearly anything they wish.

The winery ordinance comes with potential criminal penalties, yet it has weak standards of evidence and due process to protect the innocent. It's a civil liberties and property rights nightmare on its face. Chicago politics and even dictatorships mask their tyrannical abuses of law better than this.

Fauquier gave its zoning czar the same type of unlimited discretion to decide whether to issue special permits to stay open past 6 p.m., to host events, and to determine entry road surface conditions. This gives the zoning administrator unfettered control over the very existence of wineries, and creates conditions under which vintners must fear her every next move.

Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes "private personal gatherings" at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don't need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property.

Yet even in their contempt for the freedom of assembly and private property rights, Fauquier officials limited the definition of "private personal gathering" to owners who reside at or adjacent to their wineries, and who do not market their wine at such gatherings. This means no winery signs -- no bottle labels, even, when owners hold private personal gatherings on their property, because that's marketing.

The Fauquier ordinance clearly violates Virginia's Right to Farm Act, which guarantees agriculture activities of growing and selling. No county may use ordinances to inhibit these rights.

Vintners are challenging the Fauquier ordinance in courts and are seeking legislative relief in Richmond. Perhaps, though, they and their patrons should form a Wine Party, and dispel the Fauquier government officials responsible for this lawbreaking and these trespasses on private rights.

Mark J. Fitzgibbons is president of corporate and legal affairs for the American Targeted Advertising, Inc. and co-author with Richard Viguerie of “The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society's Biggest Lawbreaker.”