Tag Archive: Barack Obama


Last I  checked the excuse for the shuffling that was  going on with  scheduling appointments.  Was not an  isolated incident as it was  being  done in more than one  VA Hospital.  Taking place due to  policies being implemented  to  monitor the productivity and efficiency of Hospital personnel and their respective departments. 

Protocols such as this are generally handed down from corporate hierarchy to regional and then local.   It is doubtful that regional or local management implemented these measures on their own and just happened to coincide with similar incidents in other  hospitals in the same way. 

If these protocols were being implemented and enforced  throughout all VA Hospitals , logic would dictate that  they originated higher up the food chain and that local as well as regional management had a stake in the ultimate outcome of these assessments.  After all ,  corporate politics would dictate that promotions and rewards would directly correlate with the outcome of said assessments as well as departmental records.

To establish unrealistic goals without providing adequate means to accomplish said goals effectively.  As well as establishing a competitive situation without adequate control measures to keep the  overzealous and unscrupulous from doing exactly what has been done.  Is an obvious failure on the part of corporate management, Eric Shineski, in this case.  To gloss over that fact is naive at best and criminal at worst.  But then Mr. Obama is no stranger to criminal negligence , gross ineptitude and just plain ignorance of the actions taking place around him.  So I suppose he can sympathize…..

 

~Desert Rose~

 

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VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

 The Washington Post

 

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House votes 390-33 to speed up VA firings

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to grant the Veterans Affairs secretary expanded authority to fire senior executives for poor performance.

The measure passed on a 390-33 vote amid allegations that veterans encountered delays in access to medical care at multiple VA hospitals across the country, leading to dozens of deaths. All 33 votes in opposition came from Democrats, including ledership Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted to approve the measure.

Under the bill, the VA secretary would be authorized to dismiss senior executives or demote them to the civil service. It would require the VA secretary to notify Congress of such a firing or demotion within 30 days.House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the measure would help rid the department of incompetent employees in light of the controversy.

“The committee has received nothing but disturbing silence from the White House and only excuse after another from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Miller said.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) said the legislation would send a message that the VA would be held accountable.

“It is very important as we go into Memorial Day that we let the veterans know that we appreciate their service. And we also need to let them know that we’re going to do all we can to make sure they have the quality health care they deserve,” Brown said.

An administration official said the White House supports the overall goals of the legislation, but also had concerns that it could have unintended consequences.

 

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Obama vows fix to veterans’ health care troubles

 

WASHINGTON (AP) – With outrage mounting over veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated, and he left open the possibility that Secretary Eric Shinseki, a disabled war veteran, could be held to account.

“I will not stand for it – not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with the embattled Shinseki.

Congress moved to keep up the pressure on the administration, with the House easily approving a measure Wednesday evening that would give the VA secretary more authority to fire or demote the 450 senior career employees who serve as hospital directors or executives in the agency’s 21 regions. The vote was 390 to 33.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored the measure, saying VA officials who have presided over mismanagement or negligence are more likely to receive bonuses or glowing performance reviews than any sort of punishment. He declared that a “widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating” the department’s problems.

The White House said it supported the goal of seeking greater accountability at the VA but had unspecified concerns about the legislation.

The growing furor surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department’s inspector general’s office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.

The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the Obama administration’s management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of new veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s comments Wednesday – his first on the matter in more than three weeks – signaled a greater urgency by the White House to keep the matter from spiraling into a deeper political problem in a midterm election year.

 

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Possible drawbacks of the VA firing bill scheduled for Wednesday vote

The House is set to vote this week on a bill that would give the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to fire or demote senior executives for perceived performance problems without going through the usual administrative procedures.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added the measure to the weekly docket on Thursday, the same date VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified about reports that VA health clinics throughout the country have cooked their books to hide treatment delays, some of which may have affected patients who died while waiting for care.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Ironically, the American Legion has called for Shinseki’s removal because of the alleged coverups, along with other problems such as a longstanding backlog of disability claims and preventable deaths at various VA hospitals. If the secretary departs, his critics would have to wait for a replacement to fire senior officials for the recent controversy.

Shinseki said during the hearing that he is “mad as hell” about the reported treatment delays, and he vowed to stick around until he improves VA services for veterans or President Obama asks him to resign.

MORE: Shinseki faces tough questions on VA scandal, vows to ‘accomplish a mission’

Although firing VA officials may quell the recent outrage over reported coverups, the Senior Executives Association has raised concerns about the House bill. Below is a summary of the measure’s drawbacks, as outlined in recent statements from the group:

* Due process: Senior executives can appeal firings and demotions to an administrative panel known as the Merit Systems Protection Board, which determines whether the personnel actions were warranted. However, the hearings are informal and the decisions are non-binding for agency executives, unlike with rank-and-file employees.

The SEA said the House bill would rob employees of the right to recourse when department chiefs wrongly punish their workers. They also noted that accountability processes already exist for senior executives.

Agencies must provide a 30-day written notice when they decide to remove senior executives. The officials can then argue against removal, choose to resign, or return back to work at a lower position. They may also be eligible for immediate retirement.

 

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Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections

Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

VA Budget 03 042313 445x295 Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

Updated 6:22 p.m. | The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department.

“As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review,” he said.

“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.”

Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he wants the investigation to go forward first. 

 

 

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Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed with NSA reform bill

• Judiciary committee chair gives new life to USA Freedom Act
• Bill to overhaul spy agency had been stalled by months of delay

NSA logo
House judiciary committee Bob Goodlatte has agreed to support the surveillance overhaul bill. Photograph: Alex Milan Tracy/Corbis

The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.

The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.

The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.

Goodlatte, who had been hesitant to endorse the bill, written by former committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, will now vote for it personally.

Goodlatte’s decision comes despite pressure by the House Republican leadership, which preferred an alternative bill, written by the House intelligence committee leadership, that would permit the government to acquire Americans’ data without a specific prior judicial order for it. Additional pressure came from a desire on all sides to avoid surveillance-related amendments to unrelated, critical bills slated for floor consideration later this month.

An attempt by the intelligence committee and the House leadership to circumvent Goodlatte’s committee and pass the rival bill is said by observers to have galvanised Goodlatte’s decision to move forward on the USA Freedom Act. Internal committee negotiations on modifying the USA Freedom Act for passage intensified after the House intelligence committee unveiled its bill in March.

The Obama administration has yet to take a public position on the House judiciary bill or the House intelligence bill, although President Barack Obama endorsed getting the National Security Agency out of the business of bulk domestic phone records collection in March.

“This will start to look like a reasonable path forward for surveillance reform,” said a congressional aide.

Barely an hour after the judiciary committee announced its move on the USA Freedom Act, the House intelligence committee announced that it will mark up its alternative bill, the Fisa Transparency and Modernization Act, on Thursday.

“This bill directly addresses the privacy concerns many Americans have expressed over bulk collection. The bill ends bulk collection of telephone metadata and increases transparency while maintaining the tools our government needs to keep Americans and our allies safe. We believe this bill responds to the concerns many members of Congress have expressed and can be the compromise vehicle to reform Fisa while preserving important counterterrorism capabilities,” said the intelligence committee leaders, Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, in a joint statement on Monday.

 

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A House committee has voted unanimously to rein in the NSA

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). (Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post)

A key House committee has approved a package of NSA reforms that would end the spy agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, nearly a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program’s existence.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 Wednesday to rein in the NSA with the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure that places new requirements on the government when it comes to gathering, targeting and searching telephone metadata for intelligence purposes.

In addition to prohibiting the NSA from engaging in what the bill’s sponsors have called “dragnet surveillance,” the bill would also require authorities to get permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on a case-by-case basis. It would establish a panel of privacy experts and other officials to serve as a public advocate at the court. And it would also give businesses more latitude to tell the public about requests it receives from the government for user data.

 

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President calls Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti ‘critical’

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

In a deal penned Monday, President Obama cemented the U.S. military’s foothold in the drone war by signing a new long-term lease for Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Defense/ Creative Commons /Flickr))

The United States has agreed to sign a long-term lease agreement with the government of Djibouti, President Obama announced Monday, cementing the U.S. military’s presence at Camp Lemonnier, home to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and key foothold for the killer drone program.

In a statement announcing the agreement with Djibouti President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, Obama hailed Camp Lemonnier’s “critical role as an operational headquarters for regional security,” emphasizing “the importance the base plays in protecting Americans and Djiboutians alike from violent extremist individuals and organizations.”

The only “official” U.S. base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier is known as the “busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone,” according to The Washington Post, and is central to drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. The base primarily serves the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and currently houses more than 2,000 U.S. personnel.

Human rights groups have accused Djibouti of being a “knowing participant” in the CIA’s rendition program and of housing CIA “black sites,” where prisoners of the U.S. military have been held and tortured.

According to an administration official, the $63 million per year lease permits to U.S. to keep personnel and equipment at the camp for an additional 10 years with options to renew, the Associated Press reports.

According to recent reporting by Nick Turse, investigative journalist with TomDispatch, the U.S. military has been working towards establishing a “permanent footprint” in Djibouti, awarding over $320 million in construction projects in 2013, including a $220 million Special Operations compound at the base.

During the meeting, Guelleh thanked Obama for U.S.’s development assistance to the poverty-stricken nation and said the base agreement would “reinforce our partnership and our relationship.”

Though largely undisclosed, the U.S. military’s presence in Africa extends far beyond the “official” base Lemonnier. As TomDispatch investigations have revealed, U.S. forces “average far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country, while building or building up camps, compounds, and ‘contingency security locations.'”

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The New American

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 15:08

Democrat Says Worst of ObamaCare Yet to Come

Written by 

 


 Photo of Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.): AP Images

It is always noteworthy when a lawmaker breaks what seems to be the “Cardinal Rule” against speaking out against one’s own party, particularly when it regards the party’s signature accomplishment. The Obama administration cannot possibly be pleased with the assertions made by Representative Stephen Lynch (shown, D-Mass.) about the healthcare law, which stand in direct opposition to statements made by the president about the very same law.

On April 17, readers may recall, President Obama announced during a White House news conference that the healthcare law “is working.” Yet during an interview with the Boston Herald, Lynch did not hesitate to criticize the law when he said the worst of the Affordable Care Act has yet to be seen.

“There are parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, that were postponed because they are unpalatable,” he told the Herald. “As these provisions come into effect, the administration thus far is saying, ‘Gee, we really can’t handle this right now so we’re going to delay it.’”

 

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Washington Examiner.com

 

By Paul Bedard | APRIL 18, 2014 AT 1:05 PM

More than half of the nation’s union members, most of whose Washington-based executives support President Obama and use dues to support Democrats, fear the government, a remarkably high number that even tops the 42 percent of gun owners who fear Uncle Sam, according to a new poll.

Overall, Rasmussen Reports said on Friday that 37 percent of likely voters fear the government. They didn’t poll what they feared. Some 47 percent do not fear the federal government, and 17 percent said they were unsure.

Among union workers, 52 percent of those in the poll expressed fear, compared to 30 percent who said they don’t worry about the federal government. Nearly half the nation’s gun owners, 49 percent, don’t fear the Feds.

The poll suggested that the reason for the concerns among voters is the belief that Washington is a threat to individual liberty, not a protector.

 

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Bloomberg

 

U.S. Strikes at Putin’s Inner Circle With Sanctions as Fight Over Ukraine Intensifies

 

The Obama administration today imposed sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over the crisis in Ukraine.

The list includes Igor Sechin, OAO Rosneft (ROSN) chief executive officer, and Sergei Chemezov, director of State Corporation for Promoting Development, Manufacturing and Export of Russian Technologies High-Tech Industrial Products, also known as Rostec, and banks such as InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank.

The travel bans and asset freezes announced by the White House were levied in coordination with the European Union, which said today it’s adding 15 more names to the list of 55 individuals previously sanctioned. The identities of those targeted by the EU weren’t immediately disclosed.

The U.S. and EU say Russia hasn’t lived up to an accord signed April 17 in Geneva intended to defuse the confrontation between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists. The U.S. warned it’s prepared to levy additional penalties to hit the broader Russian economy if Putin escalates by sending troops into Ukraine.

“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally,” President Barack Obama said earlier today at a news conference in the Philippines. “The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pro-Russian activists break through the gate in front of TRK Donbass television station… Read More

Export Restrictions

The U.S. also expanded export restrictions on defense technologies and services and revoked previously approved export licenses.

A Snapshot of Ukraine’s Past and Future

The new sanctions list includes Oleg Belavantsev, Putin’s presidential envoy to Crimea; Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and Evgeniy Murov, director of Russia’s Federal Protective Service and an army general.

Most of the companies on today’s list are tied to Gennady Timchenko or brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who were placed on a sanctions list on March 20. They include the Volga Group, which is controlled by Timchenko, and InvestCapitalBank and SMP Bank, which are controlled by the Rotenbergs.

One of the most prominent individuals on the list is Sechin, 53, who was Putin’s colleague at the St. Petersburg mayor’s office before rising to become the head of state-run Rosneft. Over the past decade he has built it into the world’s largest publicly traded oil company by output and reserves.

Photographer: Maxim Shipenkov-Pool/AP Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters for his meeting with Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO… Read More

Company Ties

Rosneft, in which British oil company BP Plc holds a 20 percent stake, isn’t being sanctioned. The Russian company also has exploration projects with other international oil producers, including a venture with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) to drill a multibillion-barrel prospect in Russia’s Arctic Ocean.

 

Read More Here

 

 

Full coverage of the Crisis in Ukraine:

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Bloomberg

U.S. Sanctions Target Putin Allies’ Companies, Rosneft’s Sechin

The U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian executives and officials and 17 companies controlled by four of President Vladimir Putin’s allies as the crisis in Ukraine escalates.

The following is a list of those targeted.

*Igor Sechin

Sechin, 53, has worked with Putin for more than two decades, starting the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s. He was appointed chief executive of OAO Rosneft (ROSN) in 2012, having served as board chairman since 2004. Sechin oversaw the company’s growth over the past 10 years into the world’s biggest publicly traded oil producer by output, largely through acquiring Yukos Oil Co.’s assets and TNK-BP.

*Sergey Chemezov

Chemezov, 61, heads Rostec, the state corporation that owns arms exporter Rosoboronexport and holds stakes in more than 660 other civilian and military-industrial manufacturers. He is chairman at titanium producer OAO VSMPO-Avisma and OAO Uralkali, the world’s largest potash producer, and is on the boards of automaker OAO AvtoVAZ, controlled by Renault SA-Nissan, and OAO Kamaz, part-owned by Daimler AG.

Chemezov has known Putin since the 1980s, when the Russian leader served as a KGB officer in Dresden, then East Germany.

*Dmitry Kozak

Kozak, 55, a deputy prime minister, was in charge of Russia’s preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics and is now overseeing the development of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine.

*Vyacheslav Volodin

Volodin, 50, has served as the first deputy chief of the presidential staff under both Putin and now Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, replacing Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov in 2011.

*Alexei Pushkov

Pushkov, 59, heads the foreign affairs committees of Russia’s lower house of parliament and supported the annexation of Crimea.

 

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Bloomberg

Russian Billions Scattered Abroad Show Trail to Putin Circle

Outside a Moscow stadium one night in 2006, deputy central bank chief Andrei Kozlov was walking to his car after playing soccer when two men opened fire, pumping bullets into his head and neck and killing his driver.

Days before the murders, the man leading Russia’s fight against money laundering had shut down a scheme used to funnel $1.6 billion of dirty funds abroad, including at least $112 million via Vienna-based Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich AG, according to Russian and Austrian investigators.

It was a trickle in a flood of illegal outflows that would reach $52 billion in 2012 alone, according to former central bank Chairman Sergey Ignatiev. Such flows are now in the cross hairs of President Barack Obama’s efforts to penalize Vladimir Putin for annexing Crimea and to halt his incursions into Ukraine. Obama signed a law on aid to Ukraine this month that includes a clause that allows the U.S. to go after assets of Russian officials and their allies who are deemed complicit in “significant corruption.”

“This is a declaration of war by the Obama administration on the current governing Russian elite,” Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based research group, said by phone from New York. “There will be a lot of people potentially targeted.”

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

The two-headed eagle symbol of Russia’s central bank sits on ruble banknotes… Read More

Money Game

One possible weapon in this new battle is Dmitry Firtash, 48, the billionaire Ukrainian and major Raiffeisen client who was arrested in Vienna last month on U.S. bribery charges, according to Mark Galeotti, a Russian organized crime expert at New York University who advises regulators on money laundering.

A longtime ally of Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president who fled to Russia in February, Firtash made his fortune as a middleman in OAO Gazprom’s secretive gas trade with Ukraine, conduit for 15 percent of Europe’s supply and the most corrupt country on the continent, according to Transparency International. He’d be an invaluable asset to the U.S. if he agrees to cooperate because he knows how Russian officials have shifted billions of dollars into banks abroad, Galeotti said.

Financial Warfare: an Alternative to Military Force

“Firtash knows the way the game is played, the way the money is moved,” Galeotti said in an interview in Moscow.

Ignatiev told lawmakers last June that money laundering in Russia, ranked the most corrupt major economy by Transparency International, was so pervasive that fighting it consumed more of his time than formulating monetary policy. In his last address to parliament before stepping down after a decade in the post, he highlighted one network in which 1,173 shell companies channeled $24 billion to foreign banks.

‘Almost Anyone’

About half of all illegal capital flight, including bribes to bureaucrats and revenue from criminal syndicates, “appears to be controlled by one well-organized group of people,” Ignatiev told the Vedomosti newspaper in a rare interview in February 2013, without elaborating. Ignatiev, 66, is now an adviser to his successor, Elvira Nabiullina.

The wording of the new U.S. law is so broad it could apply to “almost anyone” close to Putin, 61, said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center who’s co-written academic articles on Putin with former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.

The U.S. today imposed sanctions on 17 Russian companies and seven individuals, including Igor Sechin, CEO of OAO Rosneft, the country’s largest oil producer. That adds to the more than two dozen officials and billionaires penalized last month for being what the Treasury Department called part of Putin’s inner circle.

‘Body Blow’

An agreement to disarm pro-Russian rebels and anti-Russian groups in Ukraine that both countries signed with the U.S. and the European Union is on the brink of collapse. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia was trying to impose its will on Ukraine by the “barrel of a gun and the force of a mob.”

Russia is already on the verge of recession, so the U.S. can inflict major damage with industry-wide sanctions, according to John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“Even without European support, U.S. sanctions against the Russian financial sector would deal a body blow to the nation’s economy,” Herbst said by e-mail.

 

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Bloomberg

U.S. Said to Sanction Seven Russians, 17 Companies

The Obama administration will sanction seven Russians and 17 companies, including some involved in the financial, energy and infrastructure sectors, according to a congressional official briefed on the actions.

President Barack Obama said today in Manila that the U.S. is “moving forward with an expanded list of individuals and companies that will be affected by sanctions. They will remain targeted. It will also focus on some areas of high-tech defense exports to Russia.”

European Union representatives have discussed similar penalties, a European Commission spokeswoman said. The announcements of expanded measures came as Gennady Kernes, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, was shot in the back and rushed to hospital for surgery. It also followed the seizure of international military inspectors by pro-Russian separatists last week.

In the worst confrontation with the U.S. and its European allies since the Cold War, Russia has started military exercises on Ukraine’s border where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says Putin is massing about 40,000 troops in a potential preparation for invasion. That conflicts with an April 17 agreement signed in Geneva aimed at solving the standoff, according to U.S. and EU officials.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pro-Russian activists take control of TRK Donbass television station on April 27, 2014 in Ukraine.

‘Expanded List’

“Later today, there will be an announcement made, and I can tell you that it builds on the sanctions that are already in place,” Obama told a news conference in the Philippine capital Manila today. “We are going to be moving forward with an expanded list of individuals and companies that will be affected by sanctions. They will remain targeted. It will also focus on some areas of high-tech defense exports to Russia.”

The U.S. list may include people inside Putin’s inner circle such as Alexey Miller, chief executive of gas-export monopoly OAO Gazprom and his deputy Alexander Medvedev, as well as Igor Sechin, CEO of oil company OAO Rosneft, according to people familiar with developments.

Representatives of the 28 EU states met to discuss extending a “stage two” black list, spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said in Brussels today. German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler said in an interview on ZDF television yesterday he had “the impression” that the EU would extend visa bans and asset freezes to “maybe another 15 people.”

Asset Freezes

“We’ve already taken action, we’ve already introduced travel bans and asset freezes on certain individuals,” U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in Paris after meeting his German, French, Italian and Spanish counterparts. “European countries are discussing further such action today following the statement from the G-7.”

 

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HumanEvents

Political competition, not racism, changes voter alignments

By Michael Barone | APRIL 20, 2014 AT 3:20 PM

Have the Republicans become the white man’s party? Are the depth and bitterness of Republicans’ opposition to Barack Obama and his administration the product of racism?

Those are questions you hear in the clash of political argument, and you will hear plenty of answers in the affirmative if you click onto MSNBC or salon.com with any regularity.

“Race … has now became the primal grievance in our politics.”

You can find a more nuanced and thoughtful analysis in Jonathan Chait’s recent New York magazine article “The Color of His Presidency.”

Chait, a liberal, starts off by noting that the post-racial America that Obama seemed to promise in his 2004 national convention speech and his 2008 campaign has not come into being.

On the contrary. “Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history,” he writes, “has now became the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world.”

Many liberals see racism in every criticism of the Obama presidency, even though, as Chait points out, Bill Clinton met with similar and in some cases more strident opposition.

Conservatives, he argues, “dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs.” Understandably so, given his description of liberals’ “paranoia of a white racism.”

Chait defends liberals by arguing that the debates on big government inevitably produced by the Obama agenda and “there is no separating this discussion from one’s sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America.”

But he also admits that “advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.” And he seems to ignore the argument that policies that directed large sums of money disproportionately at blacks–like the welfare programs from the 1970s to the 1990s, which the Obama administration is trying to partially resurrect–harm more than benefit their intended beneficiaries.

This is, after all, what House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan was getting at when he lamented “a culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working.” The fact that Obama has made similar arguments didn’t prevent Ryan from being excoriated as racist by some liberals.

 

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NY Mag.com

Is the Rising Democratic Majority Doomed?

By

Oooh, I know! I know! It's "no," right?
Oooh, I know! I know! It’s “no,” right? Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The slow, increasingly Democratic cast of the American electorate would seem to be a cardinal fact of American politics. The electorate is firmly polarized, with few voters actually liable to change their minds. The proportion of nonwhite voters has risen by about two percentage points every four years, a rate that seems likely to persist indefinitely as the population grows steadily more diverse. The youngest voting cohort has decidedly more liberal views, and more Democratic voting habits, than its elders, and partisan loyalty tends to stick throughout a voter’s lifetime. And yet the phenomenon continues to be met with an unduly wide, deep array of skepticism.

When Ruy Teixeira and John Judis wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority a dozen years ago, few of us placed much credence in their then-wild-sounding prediction. As recently as two and a half years ago, it was still being ridiculed.

As political events have increasingly borne out the prediction, it has been met with a series of objections, most of which have either been confounded or made no sense to begin with. Consider a few:

Objection: The growth of the Latino vote might stop (Sean Trende).

Result: Nope, the Latino vote has continued to rise.

Objection: Younger millennial voters entering the electorate during the sluggish Obama recovery would turn against him (Dana Milbank, Michael Barone).

Result: No, it turns out “Younger and older millennials also have similar assessments of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.”

Objection: Young voters are “libertarian,” and politically independent, and thus up for grabs (Ron Fournier, Julie Borowski, Nick Gillespie, and pretty much all the libertarians).

Result: This goes in the “never made any sense” category. Like libertarians, millennial voters do tend to have left-wing views on social policy and culture. Very much unlike libertarians, they also tend to have left-wing views on economics. They self-identify as “liberal,” believe the government has a duty to provide health insurance to all Americans, and support “bigger government” in the abstract at a far higher rate than any other age cohort. It’s true that millennial voters self-identify as “independent” more than Democrat, but they vote heavily Democratic. (Political scientists understand that most self-identified “independents” reliably vote for the same party).

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The most popular new grounds for skepticism hold that the browning of America will provoke a backlash among whites — as the proportion of Latinos and Asians rises, threatened whites will grow increasingly conservative. Versions of this hypothesis have reverberated not only among conservatives like Trende and Barone, but also among liberals like Jamelle Bouie. And this theory does have at least some suggestive evidence that it may be true.

The greatest trick the Easter Bunny ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.Alex Wong/Getty Images

A recent psychological study found that, when researchers read a news story reporting the rising share of minorities in the United States to a group of white subjects, the subjects grew more Republican. The study has attracted widespread attention, confirming the liberal fear, and the conservative hope, that the growth of Asian and Latino voters will produce an offsetting shift to the right among whites. “The changing American polity may come to look more like Texas than like the multicultural Democratic stronghold of California,” concludes political scientist Larry Bartels. “In an increasingly diverse America, identity politics will continue to cut both ways.”

It is certainly plausible that this study portends a future racially polarized America. But it seems strange to treat mass trends in evidence among successive elections involving over 125 million Americans while hanging confident predictions of the future of American politics on a laboratory microsimulation. People are highly susceptible to priming — which is to say, even slight changes to the context in which they make a decision can produce large differences in their actions. Making white people focus on increasing diversity while sitting in a controlled room may cause them to immediately report more conservative beliefs. That does not necessarily tell you what the open vista of American politics, a vast ecosystem teeming with messages and context of all kinds, will look like.

 

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April 24, 2014

Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination

Posted by
obama-net-wu.jpgIn 2007, at a public forum at Coe College, in Iowa, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality. Specifically, “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint F.C.C. commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality?”“The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Explaining, he said, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

 

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Federal regulators are expected to release draft net neutrality rules in mid-May as part of an ongoing effort to craft rules for Internet traffic that might actually hold up in court.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Wednesday that the agency would consider draft “Open Internet,” or net neutrality, rules at an agency meeting May 15. As we reported in February, Wheeler will propose basically the same rules that the agency had tried before, but justify them under a different part of the law.

Consumer groups have complained about that plan because they’re worried that Wheeler’s rules may not hold up in court either. A federal appeals court rejected two previous versions of net neutrality rules after finding fault in the FCC’s legal reasoning. During the latest smackdown, however, the court suggested that the FCC had some authority to impose net neutrality rules under a section of the law that gives the agency the ability to regulate the deployment of broadband lines.

Internet activists would prefer that the FCC just re-regulate Internet lines under old rules designed for telephone networks, which they say would give the agency clear authority to police Internet lines. Wheeler has rejected that approach for now. Phone and cable companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, have vociferously fought that idea over the past few years.

 

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April 25, 2014

 

Wake Up, Internet — Time to Save Yourself

Posted: 04/24/2014 3:26 pm EDT Updated: 04/24/2014 3:59 pm EDT
VIDEO GAMES
What if you had only three weeks before the Internet you know and love was about to disappear?

Would you spend your time binging on listicles or the final season of Breaking Bad? Or would you do something about it?

Would you email all your friends with the news? Blast your social media networks? Demand that Congress and the president keep this amazing invention from going away?

If the Internet had only three weeks left, would you take to the streets and raise hell?

I bet you would.

And here’s your chance to prove it: Because three weeks from today the Internet as we know it may not disappear, but it could be a lot closer to the precipice.

On May 15, the Federal Communications Commission will propose a new set of rules that are supposed to stop big phone and cable companies from blocking websites or discriminating against apps and services they don’t like. Only as written the rules would do pretty much the opposite.

According to numerous sources, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal would allow Internet service providers like Verizon or Time Warner Cable to charge extra fees to content companies like Google and Netflix for preferential treatment, guaranteeing their content reaches end-users ahead of those that don’t pay.

In other words: Goodbye, open Internet. Hello, payola Schminternet.

 

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Nomi Prins Author of “All the Presidents Bankers“ on Upcoming Collapse

Nomi PrinsBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Best-selling author Nomi Prins warns, “Never before have the Government and the Fed collaborated so extensively by propping up the banking system to the detriment of the population.”  Prins lays out a long history of the relationships between U.S. Presidents and bankers that date back to Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan.   On her new book titled “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” Prins contends, “That connection with Teddy Roosevelt was a very powerful established entity between two people that has allowed all this stuff that has happened in the last hundred years to really happen.  The friendships, the social ties, the idea that the bankers could sort themselves out with Treasury Department help if it needed to.  Of course, it’s epic now.  All of that was solidified then.  Banks being hands-off with respect to the oval office was all solidified then.  We’ve only been consolidating that message throughout the century since.”   

Fast forward to JFK and the bankers of the day, and Prins points out the banks in the early 1960’s didn’t want a gold standard to restrict them.  It is dollar debasement history as Prins explains, “If bankers have a peg, if they have to put gold or any type of asset behind it or have any restriction, they don’t like it.  So at the time, they weren’t working on trying to demolish the regulations that happened from the 1930’s to separate bank speculation from depositors, but they saw something else, and that was getting off gold.  They really worked to push JFK off of gold.  JFK was a little less friendly with the bankers.  JFK, when he did invite bankers to the White House, he would have very short meetings.  It was like hello, goodbye and thank you.  Where LBJ, who came after JFK, was very friendly to the bankers and opened the White House to the bankers.”  

 

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“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” laureates write.

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Jimmy Carter with his grandson Hugo. Photo: Jeffrey Moore/The Elders

 

A group of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates including former President Jimmy Carter has sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to reject the “linchpin for tar sands expansion” — the Keystone XL.

The open letter, which appears in a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Politico, is the third sent by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates to Obama urging him to reject TransCanada’s tar sands carrying pipeline, and the first one to which Carter has added his name. Carter is now the first ex-president to voice opposition to the pipeline.

This additional letter shows “the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the signatories, which also include landmine activist Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, write.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate,” the laureates write.

As for the argument some have made that if the pipeline is rejected the Alberta tar sands crude will just travel by rail, the laureates write that this is “a red herring” because “[i]ndustry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.”

Photo: Steven Tuttle/cc/flickrSusan Casey-Lefkowitz, International Program Director at NRDC, one of the groups sponsoring the Politico ad, writes:

As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” the laureates’ letter states.

The State Department recommendation on the project is expected soon. While the State Department’s review is required because the northern leg of the pipeline crosses an international border, the final decision sits with President Obama, who has indicated his decision could come in the next few months.

Next week, Carter will join two fellow members of The Elders, Pakistani pro-democracy activist Hina Jilani and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, in leading a discussion on climate leadership and activism Paris.

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Calgary Herald

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter sits down for a conversation with Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on the first day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8 in Austin, Texas. Carter is one of 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners who have issued a letter urging President Barrack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on Texas’s Gulf Coast.

Photograph by: Ralph Barrera-Pool/Getty Images/File , Postmedia News

WASHINGTON — Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners from as far afield as Yemen, South Africa and Argentina have signed a letter asking U.S. President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oilsands bitumen to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The laureates, who include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, argue that denial of a permit would send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is rejecting a fossil fuels future.

“Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the letter says.

Rejection of the pipeline would set “a powerful precedent” and “would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy,” the letter says.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.”

The letter underscores Obama’s dilemma: By allowing the assessment process to take so long, he has awakened both national and international interest in a project that normally would garner only passing concern.

 

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