Saturday, March 16, 2013

FBI snooping tactic ruled unconstitutional

March 16, 2013

And as we have learned from past actions of the Obama administration, they will surely honor that decision. Now excuse me while I break the next pile of cinder blocks over my head... brb.

A US judge has ordered the FBI to stop its "pervasive" use of National Security letters to secretly snoop on phone and email records, ruling that the heavily used tactic was unconstitutional.

AFP - A US judge has ordered the FBI to stop its "pervasive" use of National Security letters to snoop on phone and email records, ruling that the widespread tactic was unconstitutional.

The order issued by US District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco came as a blow to a measure heavily used by the administration of President Barack Obama in the name of battling terrorism.

The Patriot Act passed after the September 11 attacks gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation strong authority to order that people's telecom records be handed over, without such requests having to be disclosed.

But in her ruling, Illston said evidence indicated that tens of thousands of NSLs are sent out every year, and that 97 percent of them are fettered with the provision that recipients never mention the requests.

The Patriot Act passed after the September 11 attacks gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation strong authority to order that people's telecom records be handed over, without such requests having to be disclosed.

"This pervasive use of nondisclosure orders, coupled with the government's failure to demonstrate that a blanket prohibition on recipients' ability to disclose the mere fact of receipt of an NSL is necessary to serve the compelling need of national security, creates too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted," Illston said in her written decision.

Illston set her ban on NSLs to take effect in 90 days to allow US lawyers to appeal the decision given "the significant constitutional and national security issues at stake."

The judge's ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Internet rights law group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of an unnamed telecom company.

"We are very pleased that the court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.

"The government's gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools."

It was the potential for gag orders accompanying NSLs to violate the First Amendment right of free speech that prompted the ruling, according to Zimmerman.

NSLs are used to get companies to secretly turn over private information such as websites visited, phone records, email addresses, and financial data.

Google early this month made the unusual move of adding NSLs to its tranparency report about requests by governments for data about users of the Internet giant's various online products and services.

But Google said it was only allowed to provide broad ranges of numbers: in the years from 2009 to 2012, for example, it received between zero and 999 requests.

The requests affected between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts, except in 2010, when the range was 2,000 to 2,999 accounts.

"You'll notice that we're reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers," said a blog post from Google law enforcement and information security director Richard Salgado.

"This is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations."

The numbers, while inexact, were believed to be the first data from a private company about the requests, criticized by civil liberties groups for giving the government too much power to conduct surveillance without a warrant.

The EFF calls the letters "dangerous" and has challenged the authority, along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Google's actions are "an unprecedented win for transparency," EFF's Dan Auerbach and Eva Galperin said at the time.

Despite a lack of exact data, "Google has helped to at least shed some limited light on the ways in which the US government uses these secretive demands for data about users," they added in a blog post.

"While we continue to be in the dark about the full extent of how the law is being applied, this new data allays fears that NSLs are being used for sweeping access to large numbers of user accounts -- at Google, at least."

The EFF said public records have documented the FBI's "systemic abuse" of the power.

Kerry voices conditional U.S. support for U.N. arms treaty

March 16, 2013

Yeah... And just how fortunate are we to have an administration whose been totally transparent and 100% honest about all of it's agenda? More KoolAid and Bar-B-Qued paint chips please..

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to U.S. embassy staff in Doha, March 6, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:27pm EDT

(Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry voiced support on Friday for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade, but restated Washington's "red line," affirming that it would not accept limits on U.S. domestic gun ownership.

The U.N. General Assembly voted in December to hold a final round of negotiations from March 18 to 28 on what could become the first international treaty to regulate international weapons transfers after a drafting conference in July 2012 collapsed because the United States and others wanted more time.

Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies worldwide as a result of armed violence and that a convention is needed to prevent the unregulated and illicit flow of weapons into conflict zones fueling wars and atrocities.

"The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability," Kerry said in a statement.

"An effective treaty that recognizes that each nation must tailor and enforce its own national export and import control mechanisms can generate the participation of a broad majority of states, help stem the illicit flow of conventional arms across international borders and have important humanitarian benefits."

But he repeated that the United States - the world's No. 1 arms manufacturer - would not accept any treaty that imposed new limits on U.S. citizens' right to bear arms, a sensitive political issue in the United States.

"We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment," he said.

"International conventional arms trade is, and will continue to be, a legitimate commercial activity," he said, adding that countries should work to prevent arms from reaching those who commit "the world's worst crimes, including those involving terrorism and serious human rights violations."

The point of the treaty is to set standards for all cross-border transfers of any type of conventional weapon - light and heavy. It would also set binding requirements for nations to review all cross-border arms contracts to ensure the munitions are not used in human rights abuses, do not violate embargoes and are not illegally diverted.


The leading U.S. pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association, has vowed to fight the treaty, dismissing suggestions that a December U.S. school shooting massacre in Connecticut bolstered the case for such a pact.

If a treaty is approved, it will require ratification by countries' legislatures before it goes into effect. The NRA has warned the arms trade treaty would undermine the right to bear arms and says it will fight hard to prevent ratification if the Obama administration supports the treaty.

Backers of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the U.S. public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports.

Some 150 countries will participate in the negotiations that begin on Monday at U.N. headquarters.

Human rights groups and other advocates of the treaty welcomed Kerry's statement.

"While the U.S. government reaffirms its red line on the Second Amendment, it did not issue any new red lines or demands on the international community," said Frank Jannuzi of Amnesty International. "We hope that this means that they will lead the next round (of negotiations) to consensus."

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, said Kerry's remarks were a "long overdue positive statement that makes it clear the administration is dedicated to pursuing a robust treaty."

He added that it was positive Kerry did not raise the issue of ammunition, something the United States had previously demanded be excluded from the treaty. Supporters of a tough treaty in Europe and elsewhere insist on including it.

Last month, U.S. National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Washington would continue to oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the draft treaty.

"Ammunition is a fundamentally different commodity than conventional arms," Hayden said. "It is fungible, consumable, reloadable, and cannot be marked in any practical way that would permit it to be tracked or traced."

A U.S. official told Reuters on Friday that Washington's position against including ammunition had not changed.

(Editing by Todd Eastham and Peter Cooney)

Friday, March 15, 2013

World 'needs dictators like Chavez' says French minister

March 15, 2013

(AFP) - Victorin Lurel, the minister for France's overseas territories, was impressed by the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s funeral and said on Saturday that the world needed “more dictators” like him.

By Tony Todd

The minister for France's overseas territories lamented the death of Hugo Chavez on Saturday, saying the world "needs more dictators" like him after attending the late Venezuelan leader's funeral a day earlier.

Victorin Lurel described Chavez as a cross between French General Charles de Gaulle and reforming left-winger Léon Blum, who served three times as French prime minister.

“De Gaulle because he profoundly changed his country’s institutions, and Blum because he fought relentlessly against injustice,” he told RTL radio.

“I’ll be criticised for saying this, but the world needs more dictators like Hugo Chavez, if it’s a dictator that he actually was. He showed a strong respect for human rights.”

Lurel described Chavez’s funeral service as “moving”, adding that “while not everyone can agree with all his policies and actions, the people here are very proud of what he accomplished in 14 years.”

Some 32 foreign leaders and a host of celebrities attended the funeral in Cararacas on Friday at the city’s military academy.

Embalmed and on display “like Lenin”, Chavez’s body will remain on public display for a week. Officials said his body would then be placed in a glass casket and housed at the military barracks where he plotted a failed coup in 1992.

The barracks are due to be transformed into a Museum of the Bolivarian revolution.

Lurel said that while the embalming seemed to be “from another era”, he was “impressed by an operation that seemed to "genuinely sanctify” Chavez.

Video: Angry reactions after French minister's homage to Hugo Chavez

Obama-Endorsed Muslim Brotherhood claims stopping violence against women is "un-Islamic" and would completely degrade society

March 15, 2013

Egypt Islamists say UN women text threat to society

AFP - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has warned that a UN document demanding global standards to prevent violence against women is un-Islamic and would lead to the "complete degradation of society."

Egyptians march in downtown Cairo to mark International Women's Day
on March 8, 2013. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has warned that a UN
document demanding global standards to prevent violence against women
is un-Islamic and would lead to the "complete degradation of society."
Governments and NGOs from around the world are to wrap up two weeks of discussions in New York on ways to end violence against women and children with the aim of reaching a consensus by Friday.

But the Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, said the document includes articles "that contradict established principles of Islam, undermine Islamic ethics" and, if ratified, "would lead to the complete disintegration of society."

The movement argued against imposing universal standards to fight violence against women and called on women's organisations "to commit to their religion and the morals of their communities... and not be deceived with misleading calls for decadent modernisation and the path of subversive immorality."

The Brotherhood's statement is its clearest yet on women and their role in society -- an issue the group had tried to skirt around since being thrust into power following a popular uprising in 2011.

The Brotherhood warned that "decadence awaits our world" should the UN document be signed.

It said it opposed 10 key points of the text, including "full equality in marriage legislation" and "cancelling the need for a husband's consent in matters like travel, work or use of contraception."

It slammed "granting wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment" as well as "removing the authority of divorce from husbands and placing it in the hands of judges."

The Brotherhood said the document provided society with "destructive tools to undermine the family," including "granting girls full sexual freedom" and "providing contraceptives to adolescent girls and training them in their use."

It also opposed the "full sharing of roles within the family between men and women, such as spending, childcare and domestic chores."

It said the document's provisions would "subvert society as a whole and drag it into pre-Islamic ignorance."

Diplomats at the conference have said the Vatican, Iran and Russia are leading attempts to remove language from the final statement that says religion, custom or tradition must not be used as an excuse to avoid a government's obligation to eliminate violence.

WOW Who would have seen this coming?: U.N. General Assembly honors Hugo Chavez

March 15, 2013

 And now let's play "Spot The Lie(s)"...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias addressed the 64th General Assembly at the United Nations on September 24, 2009 in New York City. UPI /Monika Graff License photo
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (UPI) -- Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is remembered as a charismatic leader who worked for regional unity and social security, the U.N. General Assembly said.

Chavez died March 5 after a long bout with cancer. Social programs helped earn Chavez a reputation as a hero for the Venezuela's poor. His efforts at nationalization, however, brought opposition from middle and upper classes.

U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon lauded Chavez for his contribution to peace talks between Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, known as FARC.

"As the process of regional integration progresses, the key role that President Chavez has had in promoting the unity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean will be present in everyone's minds," Ban said in a statement to the General Assembly.

General Assembly statements echoed those from European leaders who recognized work by Chavez on social reforms.

Former Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic said Chavez was able to lower the national poverty rate from 70 percent to 20 percent during his tenure.

Elections to replace Chavez are scheduled for April. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition leader Henrique Capriles are the top contenders.

Anti-Military BBC: Younger members of Britain's armed forces returning from duty are more likely to commit violent offenses, "study" suggests

March 15, 2013

(BBC) - Younger members of the armed forces returning from duty are more likely to commit violent offences than the rest of the population, a study suggests.

Researchers analysed data from nearly 14,000 UK service personnel who had served in wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

They highlighted a particular issue in younger men and those who had combat roles or had a traumatic experience.

The results in the Lancet medical journal come 10 years after the start of the war in Iraq.

Overall criminal activity was slightly lower in military personnel than in people of the same age in the wider population. Some 94% of men returning from combat zones will not offend.

However, the researchers found violent offending was higher within members of the armed services and there was a "stark" difference in men aged under 30.

Just over 20% of the 2,728 young men followed had committed a violent offence, compared with 6.7% of young men outside the military.

Most violent offences were assaults.

Being in the junior ranks, deployment in a combat role and experiencing traumatic events, such as being shot at, were all linked to an increased risk of violence when service personnel returned from duty.

'Choir boys'

Alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder were also closely associated with violent behaviour.

The researchers did adjust their analysis to account for the backgrounds of those studied - those with a greater tendency towards violence may be more inclined to choose combat roles.

Prof Simon Wessely, from King's College London, told the BBC: "Those who are in combat roles are themselves slightly different from those who are not.

"The military don't select chess-playing choir boys. They select people who often come from difficult and aggressive backgrounds and they're the ones who are most likely to end up in the parts of the military that do the actual fighting.

"The biggest single risk factor is those who previously had violent offending before they joined up, but there is still an impact of combat, mediated partly through excessive drinking and partly through developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health problems as a result of combat."

He added that the reluctance of young men to admit they may not be coping is the "biggest single obstacle" to tackling the problem.

'Body and mind'

Lewis McKay, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said his character changed from "laid-back" to "aggressive" after he returned from Afghanistan.

"Nothing will ever prepare you for what you physically see or physically do in Afghanistan... there is only so much that anyone's body and mind can take.

"My wife didn't exist to me... I felt a lot of anger towards her and I came very, very close to hitting her.

"Instead I was walking out the door and punching holes in doors and windows... I had flashbacks. A car door slam would be enough to make me drop to the ground."

The 26-year-old added that until soldiers receive help, problems such as PTSD will continue to manifest. He now works as a security guard at a BBC building.

Surgeon Capt John Sharpley, a Ministry of Defence mental healthcare expert, agreed that getting young soldiers to ask for help was a "major issue".

"Stigma is a really big problem. The study shows there is a link between mental health symptoms and violent offending.

"It is not possible to train yourself for something that is traumatic, which by definition is something outside one's experience.

"We do a lot [at the MoD], but we're always going to be in a situation when we need to do more."

A spokesman for the MoD said: "We are committed to supporting members of our armed forces, and their families, as they return to civilian life post-deployment.

"This report recognises that the vast majority of service personnel make this adjustment successfully and are not more likely to commit a violent offence post-deployment - there is only an increased risk of 2% when compared to the general population.

"However, any violent offence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by our armed forces."

The Royal British Legion said: "The vast majority of ex-service personnel go on to live successful and law-abiding lives. However, inevitably, and for a variety of reasons, a small number experience difficulties."

Israeli military arrests 10 Palestinians suspected of throwing rocks at Israeli cars causing a crash that badly injured a child

March 15, 2013

JERUSALEMThe Israeli military says it has arrested 10 Palestinians suspected of throwing rocks at Israeli cars and causing a crash that badly injured a 2-year-old Israeli infant.

The car crash took place Thursday near the West Bank settlement of Ariel. The army said in a statement that it considers the rock throwing as "terror."

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says an Israeli mother driving her three daughters crashed at the time of the rock throwing. He said the police assume the rocks caused the crash, but are still investigating.

Hospital officials say the Israeli infant is in critical condition.

Police say Palestinians also threw rocks Thursday at an Israeli bus in east Jerusalem.

Police are on high alert Friday for demonstrations by Muslim worshippers at a holy site in Jerusalem.

denver post

Dem on Dem Arrests: AG files criminal charges in Pa. Turnpike probe 8 charged in 'pay to play' case involving Former Pa Gov. Ed Rendell's appointed minions

March 15, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania prosecutors said they have filed charges against a former state Senate leader and seven others in what is being called a "pay to play" case involving the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Wednesday they are accused of criminal activity for their financial and political advantage.

"The grand jury found that these men were using the Turnpike to line their pockets and to influence elections," said Kane. "That is stealing from the public, pure and simple."

The defendants include former state Senate Democratic Leader Bob Mellow, former turnpike chairman Mitchell Rubin, former turnpike chief executive Joe Brimmeier and three other former turnpike employees. The other defendants are two turnpike vendors.

The allegations include conspiracy, commercial bribery, bid rigging, theft and conflict of interest.

"The findings of the grand jury are very troubling to me," said Kane. "These were blatant actions. It was almost as though they had no fear of being caught. That kind of behavior has to stop."

Below is a list of the charges each person faces.

-- Robert Mellow, 70, 110 Oak Hill Drive, Archbald, PA, is charged with two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of restricted activities, one count of commercial bribery, one count of unlawful bid-rigging, one count of restricted activities, one count of criminal conspiracy, and one count of failure to file expense account.

-- Mitchell Rubin, 61, 1608 Green St., Philadelphia, PA, is charged with three counts of unlawful bid rigging, two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of restricted activities, one count commercial bribery, and one count of criminal conspiracy.

-- Joseph Brimmeier, 64, 141 Renfer St., Pittsburgh, PA, is charged with two counts corrupt organizations, two counts of unlawful bid-rigging, two counts of restricted activities, one count of commercial bribery, one count of criminal attempt, and one count of criminal conspiracy

-- George Hatalowich, 47, 224 Tiverton Lane, Harrisburg, PA, is charged with seven counts of restricted activities, three counts of unlawful bid-rigging, two counts of corrupt organizations, one count of commercial bribery, one count of criminal attempt, and one count of criminal conspiracy.

-- Dennis Miller, 51, 1626 Whitley Drive, Harrisburg, PA, is charged with one count of unlawful bid-rigging, one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of restricted activities, and one count of criminal conspiracy.

-- Jeffrey Suzenski, 63, 2193 Saint Peters Road, Pottstown, PA, is charged with one count of restricted activities.

-- Melvin Shelton, 81, 6000 West Oxford St., Philadelphia, PA, is charged with two counts of theft by unlawful taking, two counts of theft by deception, two counts of misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions, one count of unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles, one count of perjury, one count of false swearing,

-- Raymond Zajicek, 67, 731 Hidden Lake Drive, Tarpon Springs, FL, is charged with two counts theft by unlawful taking, two counts theft by deception, two counts of misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions, one count of unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles, and one count of simple assault.

Turnpike Commission releases statement

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chief Executive Officer Mark P. Compton made the below statement in response to the attorney general's news conference regarding a state grand jury probe of the Turnpike Commission:

We understand how important it is to maintain the public's trust. And certainly, we're troubled by today's news from Attorney General Kane's office.

If charges against former Turnpike employees are indeed proven, we certainly cannot -- and will not -- defend that. But I can say that these actions definitely don't represent the hard-working men and women who keep our road open and safe for customers. In the time that I've been here, the Turnpike that I have experienced firsthand is quite different than the one that I've heard about in media reports.

It's important to point out that we have taken steps in the past two years to reform and modernize Turnpike operations:

-- We hired a Chief Compliance Officer, who is a former FBI agent, to make sure employee actions continue to be beyond reproach; and we provided the resources needed to do the job.

-- We adopted, as policy, a more rigorous, transparent process for awarding professional-services contracts to ensure that only the most-qualified firms are considered and awarded.

-- Thanks to a recently formed diversity and inclusion department, we are attracting a more diverse pool of contractors and service providers to bid on our projects.

Without doubt, the commission remains committed to continuing our efforts to improve the accountability and operations of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

source: WGAL

Reuters journalist charged with hacking conspiracy

March 15, 2013

The Daily Caller

SAN FRANCISCO (AP)Federal authorities on Thursday charged a journalist with conspiring with the notorious hacking group “Anonymous” to deface a story on the Los Angeles Times’ website a little more than two years ago.

The federal indictment handed down in Sacramento accuses Matthew Keys of being a “terminated employee” of the Tribune Co. who gave hackers the information they needed to login to the publisher’s computer system in December 2010. A hacker identified only as “Sharpie” in the indictment is alleged to have used the information to alter a headline on a Times story to include a reference to a hacking group.

Keys, 26, was a former web producer for the Tribune-owned television station KTXL who was discharged during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. Several weeks later, he disclosed the login information in an Internet chat room frequented by hackers, according to the indictment. Tribune also owns the Times.

Reuters hired Keys in 2012 as a deputy editor for social media and he was at work Thursday. He didn’t return a phone call or respond to email messages seeking comment.

A post on his Twitter account late Thursday read: “I am fine. I found out the same way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I’m going to take a break. Tomorrow, business as usual.”

Reuters spokesman David Girardin said Keys began working for the company in 2012 and it was “aware” of the indictment. Girardin declined to comment further.

According to the indictment, Sharpie altered a Times news story posted Dec. 14 and 15, 2010, to read “Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337,” a reference to another hacking group. “Chippy 1337″ claimed responsibility for defacing the website of video game publisher Eidos in 2011.

The indictment alleges that a second attempt to hack the Times was unsuccessful.

According to Keys’ Facebook page, he worked as an online news producer for the Sacramento FOX affiliate KTXL from June 2008 to April 2010.

Federal prosecutors allege in court papers that a legendary hacker and Anonymous leader named “Sabu” offered advice on how to infiltrate Tribune’s systems. The FBI unmasked Sabu when they arrested Hector Xavier Monsegur on June 7, 2011. Monsegur secretly worked as an FBI informant until federal officials announced that he helped them arrest five other alleged hackers on March 6, 2012.

Federal officials declined to comment on whether Sabu assisted in the investigation of Keys.

The day after it was announced that Sabu was an FBI informant, Keys wrote a story for Reuters about “infiltrating” the hackers’ chat room.

Keys is charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, as well as transmitting and attempting to transmit that information. If convicted, the New Jersey native faces a combined 25 years prison and a $500,000 fine if sentenced to the maximum for each count.

He is scheduled for arraignment in Sacramento federal court April 12.

The indictment comes on the heels of recent hacks into the computer systems of two other U.S. media companies that own The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Both newspapers reported in February that their computer systems had been infiltrated by China-based hackers, likely to monitor media coverage the Chinese government deems important.

The hacker group Anonymous and its offshoot Lulz Security have been linked to a number of high profile computer attacks and crimes, including many that were meant to embarrass governments, federal agencies and corporate giants. They have been connected to attacks that took data from FBI partner organization InfraGard, and they’ve jammed websites of the CIA and the Public Broadcasting Service.

A computer security specialist said the incident would be an unusual hack if the government’s charges are accurate.

“This is first case where I’ve heard of someone leaking stuff to Anonymous to have a site defaced, instead of defacing it himself,” said Clifford Neuman, director of University of Southern California Center for Computer Systems Security. “He found some way to achieve his ends of defacing the website without having to do it himself.”

A spokesman for the Chicago-based Tribune Co. declined to comment.

While Keys did not directly address the federal charges Thursday through his voluminous Twitter feed, commentary from his more than 23,500 followers and even a story about the news indictment were retweeted from his account.

He did not address the issue on his Facebook page, where his last posting Thursday was about the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

According to Keys’ Facebook profile, he is single, lives in New York City and works at Thomson Reuters Corp.’s New York office, where “I get paid to use Twitter and Facebook at work.”

Reuters has been expanding its business in the United States. This year, six of Tribune’s seven newspapers dropped The Associated Press for Reuters, citing cost savings. The Los Angeles Times stayed with AP.


Paul Elias and Garance Burke and AP National Writer Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, Calif., contributed to this report.

Pentagon spends nearly $1B a year on unemployment

March 15, 2013

Associated Press

FILE - In this July 19, 2012, file photo, military job seekers line up to speak to law enforcement recruiters during a job fair Thursday, July 19, 2012, in Irving, Texas. Even as it faces budget cuts and forced employee furloughs, the Pentagon is spending nearly a $1 billion a year on a program that sends unemployment checks to former troops who left the military voluntarily. But eligibility for the military compensation requires only that a person served in uniform and was honorably discharged. LM Otero, File / AP Photo
WASHINGTON -- Even as it faces budget cuts and forced employee furloughs, the Pentagon is spending nearly a $1 billion a year on a program that sends unemployment checks to former troops who left the military voluntarily.

Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers, a Labor Department program, is a spinoff of the federal-state unemployment insurance program. The Labor Department says the overall program is meant to help "eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own" such as during layoffs.

But eligibility for the military compensation requires only that a person served in uniform and was honorably discharged. In other words, anyone who joins the military and serves for several years, then decides not to re-enlist, is potentially eligible for what could amount to more than 90 weeks of unemployment checks.

Chart shows cost of veteran unemployment claims
K. Vineys / AP

The program's cost rose from $300 million in 2003 to $928 million last year.

"It eats away at other parts of the budget, and is for people they no longer have control of," said Air Force veteran Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"Why are we spending so much on (the program) at a time when we can't afford to build a new fighter jet?" said Samuel Wright, a former Navy lawyer who helps troops with employment and other legal issues. The Pentagon is facing across-the-board cuts because of automatic spending reductions that took effect this month.

Defense officials and outside experts have become increasingly concerned about the rising cost of the compensation program. And some believe it's evidence of weaknesses in other programs, such as those designed to help veterans find jobs. Some military experts suspect the availability of the money may be discouraging some veterans from actively looking for work and thus falsely inflating data on their unemployment - data that shows higher joblessness for Iraq and Afghanistan vets than for older ones and for society in general.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said a factor in the higher costs is the increased use of National Guard and Reserve units over the past decade for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is, once they were activated, came home and were deactivated, they were added to the rolls of ex-active duty troops.

Another factor could be the recession, which resulted in higher overall national unemployment rates, he said.

The program for former military members started under a 1958 law aimed partly at helping troops transition from life in uniform to the private sector. Unlike the larger U.S. unemployment insurance program, there is no paycheck deduction from troops to fund the military one. In the private sector, employers pay a tax to fund compensation checks; in the military program, the service branches are the employer.

Claims are filed with the states. The Labor Department then tallies compensation sent to former military members and sends the bill to their individual service branches, as well as to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, where a smaller number of former employees also are covered.

Former military members are subject to the same state requirements as others when they apply to a given state for the money. All states have a requirement of some kind that recipients search for work while getting compensation, the Labor Department says. States vary in the types of search activity needed and the effort required, with some, for instance, requiring two job interviews within a certain period or different types of documentation on the search.

Nearly 120,000 people filed first-time claims for money in the military program over the last budget year, compared with 71,000 in 2008, the Labor Department says. Well over 515,000 have gotten compensation since 2008.

Wright, now director of the law center at the Reserve Officers Association, says the payments "ought to be for people who are actively seeking re-employment - it's not just free money."

Officials worry, too, about what will happen to costs when the military draws down from its wartime size, sending more troops out of the services.

A 2008 analysis for the Pentagon by the RAND Corp. research institution found that the sharp rise in military unemployment payments did not mean the civilian labor market for recent veterans had weakened. The study suggested "a rethinking" of the program and also noted the big increase in reservists called up over the decade.

It's not solely the number of reservists activated that matters, but also how many know about, and claim, their legal right to go back to their former civilian employers after coming home from mobilization.

"I think one reason that a lot of (recent) veterans are unemployed and have great difficulty finding work is because employers are routinely violating" the law on returning troops and that too few are being prosecuted for it, Wright said. He says his law center gets more than 700 calls a month from people complaining about that or other employment or legal issues.

There are plenty of other reasons troops may not go straight from life in uniform to one in the private sector.

The need for "down time" - particularly among those who saw combat - can be a huge factor in re-acclimating.

Some troops also find it hard to face civilian life after the more authoritarian and regimented style of the military.

It also can take time for some to figure out how their military skills and experience translate to private sector jobs.

And some may not want what's being offered in the job market.

"A lot say, 'Hey, I joined the Army or Marines so I could get out of working at McDonald's,'" Wright says.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is 9.4 percent, compared with 7.7 percent among all Americans, and has been higher for some years.

The compensation "could be funding the acclimation period for veterans; some veterans may be declining employment opportunities or choosing not to seek employment," said a study last year by analysts at the Center for a New American Security.

That may be inflating the program's cost and "artificially inflating the ranks of unemployed veterans with individuals who are not actively seeking employment," said the study, which looked at how American business executives view hiring veterans.

It said the Defense Department should work to better understand the complex needs of veterans during transition to civilian society and figure out how "efficient, helpful and necessary" the unemployment compensation is.

"Questions to be considered include which veterans require an acclimation period, how much time is generally needed and whether (the compensation) is currently supporting recently separated veterans through that acclimation period," the authors said.

source: Miami Herald

A Small Pennsylvania Town Leads By Example: Protecting American Freedoms and Liberty on a Local Scale

March 15, 2013

While there is no direct mention of any corporate or government entity, the Conoy Township officials deserve to be commended for their efforts. Just like any government regulation or rule, it's vague enough to include the government itself. If the meaning is tweaked properly.

Conoy Township passes ordinance that limits drones' air space

Conoy Township

Updated Mar 14, 2013 21:38

Conoy Township supervisors approved an ordinance Thursday that regulates remote-controlled airplanes, an action that makes it the first municipality in Pennsylvania to set rules about airborne drones.

But the move didn't get much of a rise out of the two dozen people who attended the supervisors meeting at which the ordinance was passed.

"It's a nonevent," said Craig Peck, owner of Flying Media in Lancaster, which specializes in aerial photography from remote-controlled aircraft. "We certainly don't fly over neighborhoods."

Peck, who had recently been publicly critical of the ordinance, said after the meeting that there wasn't anything unreasonable in what the supervisors passed

"Everybody just needs to behave themselves," he said.

The new ordinance mostly deals with nuisances such as junked cars, garbage and high grass. But it also contains a section that prohibits "the operation of remote-controlled or other non-tethered aircraft over property not owned by the operator and without permission of the property owner."

While some of the discussion about that part of the ordinance has focused on privacy issues, Matt Creme, the township's solicitor, said that wasn't the point.

"This has nothing to do with privacy. This has to do with people who are or may be disturbed in the enjoyment of their property through the flying of remote-controlled or non-tethered aircraft," Creme said.

"It is not about taking photographs; it is about flying over private property without the permission of that property owner," he added.

During the 23-minute public hearing on the ordinance, most of the discussion from supervisors focused on how and when it can be used to regulate junked cars or buildings in disrepair.

Creme said the ordinance specifies that such things actually have to be creating a public problem to qualify as a nuisance under the new ordinance. For example, it is not enough for vehicles to just be unregistered or out of inspection, he said.

While the township had previously addressed such issues elsewhere in its zoning guidelines, this new ordinance tightens the regulatory language.

Violations of any part of the ordinance could result in a fine of up to $300.

During the public comment period of the hearing, four residents addressed the part about remote-controlled airplanes.

One person expressed concern about whether the ordinance would affect flying planes in a public park (it won't), two wondered who to call if they see a plane flying over their property (the police or a township official) and one pointed out apparent typographical errors in the written ordinance.

Supervisor Stephen Mohr said the township was trying to be proactive with the new regulations, while saying he didn't imagine that people will rebel against the new rules.

"We expect compliance. We don't expect it to be a major problem," he said.

Gina Mariani, chairwoman of the board of supervisors, said the ordinance would only impact extreme cases.

"It is just for the people that decide they're going to start flying over everything," she said.

source: Lancaster Online

Thursday, March 14, 2013

UN Arms Trade Treaty 2013 - It's Back…

March 14, 2013

New York, NY --( Just when American gun owners thought they were safe from the gun grabbers at the United Nations, a zombie returns from the dead.

Now being billed as the “Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty”, it’s on the world body’s agenda once again. American gun owners better beware.

Despite repeated failures to agree in previous attempts at passage, most recently in August of 2012, the UN is once again seeking the required 100% consensus among nations to establish in international law the responsibility of all nations to control and eventually disarm their law-abiding citizens.

If the UN has its way, all humans on this planet, except perhaps the political elite in both democracies and dictatorships, and members of the criminal class, will be defenseless against armed thugs, greedy, genocidal governments and worldwide organized crime syndicates.

From March 18 to March 28, 2013, we will watch the United Nations in all its dysfunctional glory, lurching toward an agreement on civilian disarmament with the promise of “Peace on Earth” via global arms control. If successful, it will mark the beginning of a massive new global bureaucracy whose goal is civilian disarmament, regardless of the cost in human lives. The only thing standing in the way of an agreement is the requirement for 100% consensus among the nations. Without unanimity, there will be no United Nations-based treaty.

This process is being driven by two different camps with the same objective, but for different reasons. What American gun owners need to know is that neither of these groups are our friends, and they both seek to disarm us, along with all of humanity.

Gun Haters

The first group, who we might label the “gun-haters”, have been fighting against private gun ownership their whole lives. They’ve fought for the Arms Trade Treaty process from the beginning, and they appear to actually believe that by eliminating the tools of self-defense, PEACE will suddenly break out throughout the world. This group is led by the countries of Norway, Austria, Mexico and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) led by Oxfam. This group would be happy to break away from UN auspices and the requirements for 100% consensus so they can create a treaty which includes everything that their little hearts desire.

Gun Grabbers

The second group, is just as dangerous to us, but a bit more practical in their outlook. They’re in favor of the Arms Trade Treaty because, in their sick minds, arms control is always beneficial to governments and those in power, especially if those governments can avoid yielding any sovereignty to a new treaty body.

The issue of “Human Rights” was a concern for many treaty proponents at last August’s meeting. In the final hour, 74 countries signed a document explaining the “humanitarian” need for “transfer denial” to countries likely to commit human rights violations ( ).

However, “transfer denial” has implications that could mean loss of sovereignty. For example, what happens when countries continue to commit human rights violations with illegally trafficked weapons or aid in providing such weapons. The “gun haters” are ready with an answer.

“In order to deter persistent and flagrant violations, it may be considered necessary to include options for sanctions against parties that consistently disregard their obligations under the treaty.” (The Arms Trade Treaty: Countering myths and misperceptions;

Major disagreements remain from last August’s meeting. For example, the US remains adamant about not including ammunition in the scope of the treaty, because of the fact that there is no practical way to track and trace the hundreds of billions of rounds of ammunition presently in circulation throughout the world. According to a February 2012 white paper circulated by the US delegation (,

“costs to States Parties of attempting to control ammunition within the context of the ATT greatly outweigh any benefits that could possibly result from doing so.”

For the US, this appears to be a ‘red-line‘ issue, but under the right circumstances, the Obama administration could always change its mind. Many such “red-line” issues remain for other countries as well. According to Jeff Moran, a shooting sports and defense consultant in Geneva, there are 195 instances of opposition to the present draft document, any of which would prevent its passage. In the category of “transfer criteria” alone, about half the countries are opposed, while the others are in favor. According to Moran, opposition to the draft document is growing (CONSENSUS KILLED, 10/17/2012,, a trend we can only hope will continue.

Will we see a limited agreement on firearms at United Nations, where the gun-grabbers and the gun-haters join together to steal our human right to self-defense? Or will the gun-haters abandon the venue of the United Nations, with its requirement for 100% consensus, in favor of more limited international conventions that would include pie-in-the-sky proposals such as “reparations for past violations”, all in the name of “Human Rights”?

The concept of the “transfer of sovereignty” created a backlash which persists, even as the latest Arms Treaty negotiations progress, and makes this split a possibility at next month’s meetings. What will actually happen remains to be seen. Yet whatever happens, law-abiding American gun owners must ALWAYS remember that the intent of ALL of them, the one-world government lovers, the gun-haters and the gun-grabbers, is the eventual disarmament of all civilians, with the inevitable subjugation of “the masses” by those who pretend to know what’s good for the rest of us.

Both the camps are already hard at work at the UN and both camps can hardly wait to disarm us. Despite the attempt by some at the UN and in the USA to “go slow” on civilian disarmament, enacting gun control incrementally over time, there can be no doubt that their goal is to eventually seize the legitimately-held weapons of all American civilians. They are resolute in their belief that the American Second Amendment cannot resist the constant assaults by gun-grabbing globalists.

Perhaps they are right. Encouraged by the ease with which New Yorkers agreed to give up their rights to self-protection after the Newtown massacre by a madman, the worldwide gun-haters can only see weakness.

However, hidden among the news headlines, honest citizens throughout the USA, most notably at the state and local level, have been fighting back. The movement to arm teachers, initially ridiculed by the media elite, is making headway. As more and more American communities act to protect students and teachers in their schools using armed employees, acts of violence in those locations will decline. Residents of less safe or “non-safe” schools will ask why they aren’t being adequately protected like families in pro-gun states. Although it is probably too much to expect this to lead to “safe schools” in places like Cuomo’s New York, as violence gravitates to places where civilian guns are banned, it will hopefully serve as a reminder to the rest of America as to why citizens with guns are so important to us all.

In an article dated February 26, 2012, Theodore Bromund explained the problem of “creeping treaty crud” (U.N. Arms Trade Treaty: Congress Should Show Leadership in Advance of the ATT Negotiations, Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D.;

He tellingly stated that “because the ATT seeks to control the entire world’s trade in all conventional arms, it cannot be completely negotiated at one or even two UN conferences…The ATT is thus fundamentally a process that will last for years or even decades…”

This is why all law-abiding American gun owners need to keep their eyes and ears open wide, constantly on the lookout for supposed “incremental changes” in gun laws that are proposed as “common sense solutions” to the “gun problem” by firearms-phobic elitists and anti-gun activists.

If we don’t pay attention to current events and speak up loudly, clearly and forcefully, the day may soon come when blue-helmeted forces of the UN, assisted by our own US government, will come knocking on our doors, “politely” asking for our guns, our ammo, and our God-given right to protect ourselves, our families, and our country.

Semper Paratum.

Stay prepared, America.

About the Authors:
Mr. Alan J. Chwick received a B.S. from the State University of New York at Albany in Business Administration and Data Processing, as well as an A.S. from Nassau Community College in Accounting. Alan has been engaged full-time since 1975 in the private sector as an Independent IT & Facilities Consultant in Freeport, New York (The Complete Machine, Inc.). He has been involved with firearms much of his life, and is currently the Managing Coach of the Freeport Junior Club (FJC) at the Freeport NY Revolver & Rifle Association. Alan is extremely active in defending the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights in the political arena in Nassau County and the State of New York. He is responsible, with the aid of attorney Robert Firriolo, for changing the face of preemption in NYS Penal Code 400, with his legal victory against Nassau County (Citation: Chwick v. Mulvey, 81 A.D.3d 161, 915 N.Y.S.2d 578 (2nd Dept. 2010)). Additionally, Alan was a strong voice in changing NYS PL 265.20.7e, to permit 14-20 year-olds to handle a firearm during training. At the Freeport Junior Club, with the help of Coach Edward Botsch and an excellent staff of Range Officers, Alan teaches firearm safety and use, competitive shooting and good sportsmanship to youths aged 5 to 21 years-old.

Dr. Joanne D. Eisen received her B.A. from Queens College, City University of New York, in Chemistry/Biology. She earned her D.D.S. degree from New York University in 1966. Since then, Joanne has been engaged full-time in the private practice of dentistry in Old Bethpage, New York. She has been a long-time advocate and prolific writer in defense of American’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Dr. Richard B. Goldman earned a B.S. in Geology from the State University of New York at Albany in 1974, and a D.D.S. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1981. He has practiced dentistry for over 30 years, and is presently Vice President for Clinical Products for a major dental manufacturing company. He maintains life memberships in many national and state gun rights organizations, and has spent many years educating all who will listen about the relationship between civilian disarmament and government-sponsored genocide.

The current primary focus of the writers’ research is the importance of the Second Amendment to the preservation of our American Constitutional liberties.

To contact the authors:
Dr. Eisen –
Mr. Chwick –
Dr. Goldman –
Distributed to you by - – The Shooting Sports News source.

Obama asks Organizing for Action to help him pass his policy agenda

March 14, 2013

YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS - President Obama, alongside former campaign manager Jim Messina, listens to a question from the audience at the Organizing for Action dinner. “We’re not done with the work that led me to run,” the president told the gathering of supporters.
(Washington Post) - President Obama on Wednesday night pleaded with some of his most enthusiastic campaign backers to mobilize support for his domestic policy agenda, telling them, “I actually want to govern.”

The entreaty came in Obama’s first address to Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group formed from his reelection campaign, as it kicked off a two-day summit to chart its future. The president said the group will work not to elect political candidates but instead to help pass his policy priorities.

“It’s not about 2014,” Obama said, referencing next year’s congressional midterm elections. “I actually want to govern, at least for a couple of years.”

He added, “If a senator or congressman from a swing district is about to take a tough vote on immigration or guns, they need to feel supported.”

Obama’s dinner address to about 75 supporters — just hours after he met privately on Capitol Hill with the House Republican caucus — lacked the combative tone of the campaign-style speeches he delivered earlier this year, when he traveled the country trying to apply pressure on reluctant lawmakers to back his proposals on immigration, guns and fiscal policies.

On Wednesday night, Obama spoke of a bipartisan commitment, at least in the Senate, to overhauling immigration laws. And he brought up his recent charm offensive with GOP lawmakers, saying he is trying to include rank-and-file legislators in his discussions, not just the congressional leadership.

“All I’ve been doing is calling up folks and trying to see if we can break through some of the gobbledygook of our politics here,” Obama said.

Organizing for Action (OFA) is holding a two-day summit at the St. Regis, an upscale hotel two blocks from the White House. Many of the Democratic Party’s biggest benefactors did not attend, although Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was there. Other participants were mostly volunteers and former White House and campaign staffers.

OFA has been criticized in recent weeks because it is being funded with unlimited donations from wealthy individuals and because the biggest donors will have access to the president. Democracy 21, a watchdog group, wrote a letter to Obama on Wednesday accusing him of indirectly soliciting funds for OFA by appearing at the dinner.

“Organizing for Action is a mistake by President Obama that he should correct,” said Fred Wertheimer, the watchdog group’s president.

But OFA’s leaders said the organization should be celebrated because it aims to mobilize grass-roots supporters to fight the status quo in Washington and help pass the president’s domestic agenda.

“I suppose we all could sit back and relax after the campaign and say we got him reelected, but it’s not ‘Yes, he can,’ it’s ‘Yes, we can,’ ” Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager and an OFA founder, said during the opening session.

Messina said OFA plans to make quarterly public disclosures of every donor who gives more than $250. He also said the group will not accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors.

Leaders said OFA will tap the Obama campaign’s vast e-mail list and social media presence to help advance the president’s domestic policy agenda as well as state and local issues of importance to his supporters. They cited Medicaid reform in Tennessee as one example.

Since OFA’s founding in January, more than 1.1 million people have taken at least one volunteer action for the group, from engaging on Twitter to organizing events in their congressional districts, Messina said.

OFA’s leaders sought to root the group in the president’s legacy. “We’re a family,” longtime Obama adviser David Plouffe said. “It’s been about one man, one leader and millions of Americans by his side.”

Obama told his supporters that being in politics is like having a child in college — you keep writing checks and the kid doesn’t graduate.

“I’ve graduated,” Obama joked.

“I’ve run my last campaign,” he added. “But we’re not done with the work that led me to run in the first place, and I’m hopeful that with your continued ideas and support, your voices, that we can continue to make progress over the next several years.”

Obama nominates a replacement for slain ambassador to Libya

March 14, 2013

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

(The Daily Caller) - GOP senators are eyeing another opportunity to squeeze a few more facts from the White House about the jihadi attack in Libya last September that killed four Americans.

That’s because Obama has nominated a new ambassador to Libya, to take the place of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed when he briefly visited the lightly protected diplomatic compound.

The appointee is a career State Department official, Ambassador Deborah Jones.

She has worked for decades in embassies throughout the Muslim region, in Syria, Abu Dhabi, Turkey and Kuwait. She was also a top-level policy officials in Washington from 2002 to 2004, and worked in the U.S. Embassy in the Christian-majority country of Ethiopia.

Her nomination has to be approved by the Senate, allowing GOP senators to delay her confirmation until the administration decides to reveal more details about the attack, and more information about its actions — and inactions — in the months prior to the hours-long attack.

The jihadi attack was clearly successful.

It publicly killed four Americans, and forced the closure of the diplomatic site in Western Libya. Since then, jihadi groups have been able to train and organize in Western Libya, and the Muslim country’s new government have been shown as either unwilling or too weak to arrest the attackers.

The attack also highlighted the weakness of the United States in the country, despite President Barack Obama’s use of U.S. airpower to destroy the previous secular dictatorship.

The announcement was made the same day that Libya’s prime minister, Ali Zidan, is being welcomed in D.C. by Secretary of State John Kerry. He’s also slated to attend meetings in the White House, where he’ll likely meet with Obama.

Obama meets with new advocacy group

March 14, 2013

The president urges on members of Organizing for Action, set up to back his second-term agenda. The group is pushing Congress from the outside, while Obama woos lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

President Obama speaks to members of Organizing for Action in Washington. (Mandel Ngan / AFP-Getty Images / March 13, 2013)
By Matea Gold, Washington Bureau

March 13, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

WASHINGTONPresident Obama on Wednesday cemented his relationship with a new advocacy group set up to back his second-term agenda, underscoring the unprecedented role the nonprofit is playing as an outside arm of the White House.

In his first speech to Organizing for Action since its January launch, Obama urged former campaign donors, staff and volunteers to channel their resources and energy into the new entity.

"The only idea here that we're promoting is the notion that if the American people are speaking out, organized, activated, that may give space here in Washington to do the kind of work — hopefully bipartisan work — that's required," Obama said at the group's two-day "founders summit." "But in order to do that I'm going to need all your help."

Hours after courting House Republicans on Capitol Hill, the president said Congress also needed to be pressured from the outside.

"The politics of a lot of these issues are tough, and members sometimes are scared about making the right decisions," he told about 75 backers at a closed-door dinner at an upscale hotel two blocks from the White House. Among those in attendance was Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, an advisor and donor.

Although the White House has said the president would interact with Organizing for Action the same way he does with other supportive organizations, Obama's appearance put a spotlight on the group's unique position. Guided by his longtime aides, the organization is drawing on his campaign's data, technology and staff as it seeks to build a grass-roots force to back him on issues such as gun control, immigration reform and the budget.

"If Americans don't organize to support the issues they believe in, and if we don't help them do it, then lobbyists and special interests will drive Washington, just like they did for decades," Jim Messina, chairman of Organizing for Action and Obama's former campaign manager, told the gathering.

During his remarks, Obama said part of the impetus for the group was to avoid the mistake made after his 2008 campaign, when "some of that energy just kind of dissipated, and we were only playing an inside game."

It remains to be seen whether Obama's supporters will be effective on Capitol Hill.

The president's personal involvement will be key to keeping his 2.2 million campaign volunteers engaged, activists said. Sue Langley, a 64-year-old supporter from Vienna, Va., said that after seeing Obama speak, she would be able "to go back home and reassure our volunteers that he is going to be with us for the long haul."

Even as Organizing for Action ramps up plans to run sustained issue campaigns, which will start next week, it has come under fire for its ties to Obama and his former campaign operation.

Set up under Section 501(c)4 of the tax code as a "social welfare" organization, the group can raise unlimited sums and is already coordinating with the White House, as permitted by law.

Obama stayed for two hours at the Organizing for Action dinner, whose attendees included wealthy donors who had been asked to give $50,000 each. During meetings last month between the group's leaders and top campaign fundraisers, the idea was floated to name those who raise $500,000 a year to an advisory board that would meet quarterly with the president.

Campaign finance watchdogs have assailed the organization, arguing that it could serve as a conduit for special interests seeking to influence the administration. To blunt the criticism, Organizing for Action last week reversed its decision to accept money from corporations, a move that could severely hamper its fundraising.

On Wednesday, neither the president nor the group's leaders addressed the controversy directly. But David Plouffe, Obama's longtime political strategist, said in an opening speech that Organizing for Action "is something that should be celebrated, not criticized."

"Just the notion that there's millions of Americans that want to be part of these debates … that in my mind is reason enough to march forward," he said.

Officials said the group was a vehicle for average Americans to engage with their government.

"We are not a partisan organization," said Executive Director Jon Carson. "We are here to move this shared progressive agenda forward, and we will advocate to Democrats to move that forward, we will advocate to Republicans."

Obama noted that the group had been met with some "suspicion," but insisted that it was not created to boost Democrats in the 2014 midterm election.

"I actually just want to govern — at least for a couple of years," he said.

Still, there were no Democrats among the 13 lawmakers targeted in the group's first online ad campaign last month to pressure congressional Republicans to support universal background checks for gun buyers.

And as the group starts campaigns on gun control and the federal budget, it is sharing resources and strategy with organizations allied with the political left, such as the Center for American Progress, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.

Democratic leaders said that by keeping Obama's supporters energized, the group would be a boon to the party.

"Organizing for Action is going to be involved in making sure we keep our grass-roots activists engaged, and then they will be turned loose on the campaigns in 2014 and help us win the majority in the House back," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC this week.

Whether the pro-Obama group can harness its resources to shape the messy process of passing legislation remains to be seen. There are already signs that the group's campaign-style tactics could run at cross-purposes with a stepped-up White House effort to court GOP support for Obama's initiatives.

The group recently sent emails to supporters blasting congressional Republicans as obstructionists on the budget, even as Obama was reaching out to them to find what he calls a "common-sense caucus." Among those Obama has contacted are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — two of the lawmakers Organizing for Action has publicly pressured to support stronger gun control measures.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Coulter: Trouble in the Nanny State

March 14, 2013

Like the proverbial monkey typing for infinity and getting Shakespeare, Mayor Bloomberg’s obsession with reforming New Yorkers’ health has finally produced a brilliant ad campaign.

Posters are popping up in subway stations and bus stops giving statistics about teen pregnancy that show cute little kids saying things like, “Honestly, Mom … chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”

(Based on a recent CBS report, the kid could add, “Then again, I’m in the New York City public school system, so even if I graduate I won’t be able to read.”)

It’s one thing to stigmatize “Big Gulp” drinkers, but liberals are hopping mad at this attempt to stigmatize teen pregnancy, 90 percent of which is unwed. To put it another way, if you’re a New York teen with a distended belly these days, it had better be because you’re pregnant.

Planned Parenthood’s Haydee Morales complained that the ads are creating “stigma” and “negative public opinions about teen pregnancy.” (I’m pretty sure that’s the basic idea.)

Instead, Morales suggested “helping teens access health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education.” Like the kind they got before becoming pregnant, you mean? Are you new here, Haydee?

Coincidentally, Planned Parenthood happens to provide reproductive health care! Liberals act as if gun owners, soda-guzzlers and smokers are innocent victims of the gun, food and cigarette industries, but the $542 million-a-year birth control industry is a quarry of angels.

The New York Times’ Michael Powell explained in a column that, as a parent of teenagers, he’s learned that the stupidest thing to do is resort to “the shame-and-blame game.” Teenage pregnancy, he states categorically, is a “problem of poverty.”

I think we have a chicken-and-egg problem, but let’s stick to liberals’ newfound opposition to shaming campaigns.

Far from opposing stigmas, liberals are the main propagators of them — against cigarettes, guns, plastic bags, obesity, not recycling, Fox News, racist “code words,” not liking “Lincoln,” and junk food.

The stigma against smoking has gone so swimmingly that you can’t enjoy a little tobacco pleasure 50 yards from another human being without some bossy woman marching over and accusing you of poisoning her.

California is currently running a series of “Reefer Madness”-style anti-smoking ads, including one that shows cigarette smoke going from a woman outside on her porch, up a story, through the door of another apartment, across the living room, down the hallway and into a room where a baby is sleeping. That would be the equivalent of the Bloomberg ads claiming teen pregnancy causes genocide.

And what exactly was the purpose of the Journal-News publishing the names and addresses of every legal gun owner in various counties in New York state a few months ago? To congratulate them? To start a hunting club?

No, I believe it was to stigmatize legal gun owners. The fact that we didn’t already know who they were proved that the problem isn’t legal gun ownership. All those legal guns — and no rash of drive-by shootings!

Los Angeles has banned plastic bags at supermarkets, even though reusable canvas bags are portable bacterial colonies. But a little ad campaign describing the downsides of teenage pregnancy — which is still subsidized — and liberals howl in protest.

One begins to suspect that liberals aren’t as interested in stopping teenagers from having illegitimate kids as they claim. Do they believe a teenager who gets pregnant out of wedlock is harming herself and her child as much a teenager who smokes? How about an unwed teen who smokes at a landfill?

It’s only a “shame-and-blame game” when liberals secretly approve of the behavior they pretend to oppose.

Unwed mothers have been the perennial excuse for big government, going back to Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who plotted in the 1960s to create broken families, welfare dependency and urban riots to pave the way for socialist revolution.

That’s why single mothers are revered victims — victims in need of an ever-expanding social safety net, staffed with well-pensioned government workers. As described in that great book, “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and Their Assault on America,” liberals concoct fake victims in order to victimize the rest of us.

The only thing single mothers are “victims” of is their own choice to have sex with men they’re not married to. Liberals seem to believe that drinking soda is voluntary, but getting pregnant is more like catching the flu.

It would be hard to make the case that fast food, plastic bags and cigarettes do more damage than single motherhood.

Controlling for socioeconomic status, race and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single mother.

At least 70 percent of juvenile murderers, pregnant teenagers, high school dropouts, teen suicides, runaways and juvenile delinquents were raised by single mothers.

A study back in 1990 by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that, absent single motherhood, there would be no difference in black and white crime rates.

So liberals don’t try to make that case. They just say they’re against “shaming” and then go back to shaming gun owners, non-recyclers, smokers and “Big Gulp” aficionados — while subsidizing illegitimacy.

Senate votes to OK gun for any school employee

March 14, 2013

Teacher or janitor could be designated to carry weapon

PHOENIX - State senators voted Wednesday to allow a teacher, administrator, custodian or even a cafeteria worker at rural and some suburban schools to be armed.

Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said SB 1325 would improve student safety. He said while better mental-health screening and more police officers at schools are important, it is also necessary to provide schools with a "self-defense component."

Crandall joined with other Republicans to beat back an effort to require that whoever is designated to carry a gun must report to police if the weapon is lost or stolen. That brought derision from Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

"The only reason that gun owners do not want to report they lost their gun or they misplaced it is because they're too embarrassed," Gallardo said. "They don't want people to know that they're an irresponsible firearm holder."

And Gallardo said that notice of an errant gun really should not be limited to police.

"At the very least, I would believe every parent would want to know that their child is going to a school that may have a gun roaming around," he said.

Crandall's legislation needs a final roll-call vote before going to the House.

The measure is limited to schools with fewer than 600 students that also are more than 30 minutes and 20 miles from the closest law-enforcement facility. He said the most isolated schools, like those in Crown King and Wikieup, are far too far away from anything to be able to depend on prompt police response.

The Republicans who control the Senate also killed an attempt by Gallardo to scale back the legislation so it would apply only to schools of fewer than 200. Crandall said larger schools need similar self-defense capacity, specifically mentioning the elementary and high schools in Elfrida.

But the Senate action may not be the last word. Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, already has said he hopes to expand the scope of the legislation when the measure reaches the House.

Stevens had crafted a proposal to allow an armed teacher at all of the state's more than 2,000 public schools. But it was introduced too late to get a hearing of its own.

Crandall said his legislation is modeled after laws in Texas that give school districts similar permission to let school employees be armed.

Aside from the school size and location limits, the legislation says weapons either must be carried concealed by the designated employee or secured in a storage locker.

Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, questioned the whole premise of allowing a school board to decide whether one of its employees is qualified to be armed and potentially walking around the building with a loaded weapon.

But Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Phoenix, dismissed those concerns.

"Who better to decide than the local school board, elected by the local community?" he said. Ultimately, he said it will be up to the community, acting through the school board, that decides whether it wants any employee armed.

Gun-violence forum set for Saturday / A7

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