December 30, 2012

Health Care Reform Forces Republican Governors to Walk Fine Line

GOP governors walk balance beam on health law

December 30, 202

AP - Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who made a fortune as a health care executive, long opposed President Barack Obama's remake of the health insurance market. After the Democratic president won re-election, the Republican governor softened his tone. He said he wanted to "have a conversation" with the administration about implementing the 2010 law. With a federal deadline approaching, he also said while Florida won't set up the exchange for individuals to buy private insurance policies, the feds can do it.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie held his cards before saying he won't set up his own exchange, but he's avoided absolute language and says he could change his mind. He's also leaving his options open to accept federal money to expand Medicaid insurance for people who aren't covered. The caveat, Christie says, is whether Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius can "answer my questions" about its operations and expense.

Both Republican governors face re-election in states that Obama won twice, Christie in 2013 and Scott in 2014. And both will encounter well-financed Democrats.

Their apparent struggles on the issue, along with other postures by their GOP colleagues elsewhere, suggest political uncertainty for Republicans as the Affordable Care Act starts to go into effect two years after clearing Congress without a single Republican vote. The risks also are acute for governors in Democratic-leaning or swing-voting states or who know their records will be parsed should they seek the presidency in 2016 or beyond.
"It's a tough call for many Republican governors who want to do the best thing for their state but don't want to be seen as advancing an overhaul that many Republicans continue to detest," said Whit Ayers, a consultant in Virginia whose clients include Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican who didn't announce his rejection of a state exchange until days before Sebelius's Dec. 14 deadline.
Indeed, cracks keep growing in the near-unanimous Republican rejection of Obama's health care law that characterized the GOP's political messaging for the last two years. Five GOP-led states — Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah — are pressing ahead with state insurance exchanges. Ongoing monitoring by The Associated Press shows that another five Republican-led states are pursuing or seriously a partnership with Washington to help run the new markets.

Democrats, meanwhile, hope to use the law and Republican inflexibility to their advantage, betting that more Americans will embrace the law once it expands coverage. The calculus for voters, Democrats assume, will become more about the policy and less about a polarizing president.
"It shouldn't be complicated at all," said John Anzalone, an Obama pollster who assists Democrats in federal races across the country. Anzalone said Republicans could use their own states-rights argument to justify running exchanges. Instead, he said, "They are blinded by Obama-hatred rather than seeing what's good for their citizens."
Governors can set up their own exchanges, partner with Sebelius' agency or let the federal government do it. The exchanges are set to open Jan. 1, 2014, allowing individuals and businesses to shop online for individual policies from private insurers. Low- and middle-income individuals will get federal premium subsidies calculated on a sliding income scale. Eighteen states plus Washington, DC, most led by Democrats, have committed to opening their own exchanges.

The law also calls for raising the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility to cover people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $15,400 a year for an individual. That could add more than 10 million people, most of them childless adults, to the joint state-federal insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans. Together, the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion are expected to reduce the number of uninsured by about 30 million people within the next decade.

A Supreme Court ruling last summer made the Medicaid expansion voluntary, rather than mandatory for states. At least eight governors, all of them Republicans, have already said they have no plans to expand Medicaid.

The complexity is obvious.

National exit polls from last month's election showed that 49 percent of voters wanted some or all of Obama's signature legislative achievement rolled back. Among self-identified independents, that number was 58 percent. Among Republicans, it spiked to 81 percent. When asked about the role of government, half of respondents said the notion that government is doing too much fits their views more closely than the idea that government should do more.

Before the election, a national AP-GfK poll suggested that 63 percent of respondents preferred their states to run insurance exchanges, almost double the 32 percent who wanted the federal government to take that role. And the same electorate that tilts toward repealing some or all of the new law clearly re-elected its champion.

That's not the most important consideration for governors who face re-election in Republican states. Georgia's Nathan Deal and Alabama's Robert Bentley, who also face 2014 campaigns, initially set up advisory commissions to consider how to carry out the health care law, but they've since jumped ship. But, unlike others, Deal and Bentley aren't eyeing national office.

Three Republicans who are viewed as potential national candidates — Rick Perry of Texas, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — were full-throated opponents. Jindal, the only one of the three who is term-limited, is the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association. In that role, he has co-signed more conciliatory letters to Sebelius asking questions to flesh out how the designs might work.

Republican governors also are feeling quiet pressure from hospitals and other providers.

Deal, the Georgia governor, offers the typical argument for saying no: "We can't afford it." But the law envisions the new Medicaid coverage more or less as a replacement of an existing financing situation that pays hospitals to treat the uninsured. The law contemplates cuts in that program, which already requires state seed money. The idea was that expanding Medicaid coverage would reduce "uncompensated care" costs.
"Some of those cuts were made with the expectation that Medicaid would be expanded and that hospitals would be paid for portions of business that we are not being paid for now," said Don Dalton of the North Carolina Hospital Association.

Dalton's Governor-elect, Republican Pat McCrory, said as a candidate that he opposed Medicaid expansion. Dalton said his industry is leaning on McCrory and legislative leaders, though he commended "their deliberate approach." Similar efforts are underway in South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri and elsewhere.

For Democrats, Anzalone said the framing will be simpler: "You don't want to take a 9-to-1 match? That's a pretty easy investment. These governors who aren't expanding Medicaid, they're basically giving taxpayer money to the states that do."

17-foot Burmese Python Slithered onto Picnic Area in South Florida

Unwanted guest in Florida picnic area is a 17-foot Burmese python

December 29, 2012 - If visitors to a South Florida picnic area were bothered by ants, those worries surely passed the moment a 17-foot Burmese python slithered onto the grounds. The enormous snake was shot and killed after the sighting, by a family visiting from Arkansas, and the raw footage was supplied to CNN.

At 17 feet, the python was just shy of the Florida record: a 17-foot, 7-inch specimen captured last year.

The python hunt referred to in the CNN report is the "2013 Python Challenge," a month-long hunt that kicks off Jan. 12. The inaugural program, in which hunters armed with firearms and machetes will kill as many pythons as they can, is an attempt to dent the population of the invasive reptiles, which threaten native wildlife.

Burmese pythons, which prey on small mammals, birds, and even small alligators, are prolific breeders and prevalent throughout the Everglades. They're believed to have been introduced to Florida, initially, by pet owners who turned the snakes loose when they outgrew their pens.

Burmese pythons can no longer be acquired as pets in Florida, and it's illegal to transport the reptiles across state lines.


The Asian Invasion: Stink Bug, Asian Carp, Northern Snakehead Fish and Burmese Python

December 29, 2012

New York Newspaper to List More Gun Permit Holders after Uproar

New York newspaper to list more gun permit holders after uproar

December 29, 2012

Reuters - A suburban New York newspaper that sparked an uproar among gun enthusiasts by publishing names and addresses of residents holding pistol permits is now planning to publish even more identities of permit-toting locals.

Further names and addresses will be added as they become available to a map originally published on December 24 in the White Plains, New York-based Journal News, the newspaper said.

The original map listed thousands of pistol permit holders in suburban Westchester and Rockland counties just north of New York City.

Along with an article entitled "The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood," the map was compiled in response to the December 14 shooting deaths of 26 children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, editors of the Gannett Corp.-owned newspaper said.

The next batch of names will be permit holders in suburban Putnam County, New York, where the county clerk told the newspaper it is still compiling information.

Some 44,000 people are licensed to own pistols in the three counties, the newspaper said. Owners of rifles and shotguns do not need permits, the newspaper said.

The publication prompted outrage, particularly on social media sites, among gun owners.
"Do you fools realize that you also made a map for criminals to use to find homes to rob that have no guns in them to protect themselves?" Rob Seubert of Silver Spring, Maryland, posted on the newspaper's web site. "What a bunch of liberal boobs you all are."
Republican state Senator Greg Ball of Patterson, New York, said he planned to introduce legislation to keep permit information private except to prosecutors and police.

A similar bill that he introduced earlier as an Assemblyman failed in the state Assembly.
"The asinine editors at the Journal News have once again gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law abiding firearm owners throughout the region," Ball wrote on his Senate web site.
The newspaper's editor and vice president of news, CynDee Royle, earlier in the week defended the decision to list the permit holders.

"We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings," she said.

Some critics retaliated by posting reporters' and editors' addresses and other personal information online.

Howard Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, called the critics' response childish and petulant.
"It doesn't move the issue of gun control to the level of intelligent public discussion," he said. "Instead, it transforms what should be a rational public debate on a contentious issue into ugly gutter fighting."
Good said the information about permit holders was public and, if presented in context, served a legitimate interest.

But media critic Al Tompkins of the Florida-based Poynter Institute wrote online this week that the newspaper's reporting had not gone far enough to justify the permit holders' loss of privacy.
"If journalists could show flaws in the gun permitting system, that would be newsworthy," he said. "Or, for example, if gun owners were exempted from permits because of political connections, then journalists could better justify the privacy invasion."
Tompkins said he feared the dispute might prompt lawmakers to play to privacy fears.
"The net effect of the abuse of public records from all sides may well be a public distaste for opening records, which would be the biggest mistake of all," he said.

December 28, 2012

Russia Now Backing Western Countries by Reaching Out to Syrian Coalition

Russia Reaches Out To Syrian Coalition

December 28, 2012

AP - Russia's foreign minister says Moscow has proposed talks with the main Syrian opposition coalition, despite Russia's previous criticism of Western countries for recognizing the group.

Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday that Russia has contacted the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces through the Russian Embassy in Egypt and "we expressed readiness to conduct a meeting" with coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib.

The statement comes in the wake of comments by officials, including President Vladimir Putin, that suggest Russia is resigned to its longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad losing power.

The opposition coalition was formed in November and recognized by Western countries as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. Russia has criticized such recognition as running counter to agreements to seek political transition in Syria.

Although Moscow's approach to the Syrian National Coalition falls short of the formal recognition accorded by Western countries, it acknowledges the group's significance. Russia previously had held talks with more marginal opposition factions.

Throughout the 21-month-old revolt in Syria, in which more than 40,000 people are estimated to have died, Russia has opposed international intervention and called for the crisis to be settled by talks. Russia has blocked attempts in the U.N. Security Council to step up pressure on Assad, but claims the moves were not aimed at propping up his regime.

Under the leadership of Assad and previously his father, Syria has been a longtime ally of Russia, hosting Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union and remaining a significant customer for Russia's arms industry.

But Russia appears to be slowly distancing itself from Assad. Putin last week said that Russia is "not preoccupied that much with the fate of the Assad regime" and "undoubtedly there is a call for changes."

Lavrov, speaking after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr, said Russia is also urging Assad's regime to make efforts toward a political settlement.

In a meeting Thursday with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad,
"We urged the Syrian leadership to make concrete to the maximum extent their stated readiness for dialogue with the opposition," Lavrov said.
U.N. envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is to hold talks with Lavrov on Saturday in Moscow.

Extreme Environmentalists Will Use 'Fracking' as a Reason to Keep U.S. Dependent on Oil Imports and to Keep Gas Prices Up

After Jackson, EPA faces big decisions on U.S. fracking boom

December 28, 2012

Reuters - The past four years of U.S. environmental regulation was marked by a crackdown on emissions that angered coal miners and power companies. Over the next four, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will have to decide whether to take on an even larger industry: Big Oil.

Following Lisa Jackson's resignation on Wednesday, her successor will inherit the tricky task of regulating a drilling boom that has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over the possible contamination of water supplies.

The controversial technique at the center of the boom, hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals deep into shale rocks to extract oil and gas. It has become a flashpoint issue, putting the EPA -- charged with safeguarding the nation's water -- in the middle of a fight between environmentalists and the energy industry.

Both sides now eagerly await a major EPA research project into fracking's effects on water supplies due in 2014, as well as final rules on issues including the disposal of wastewater and the use of 'diesel' chemicals in the process.

It is unclear who will take the role, but the incoming chief may have a "huge impact" on the oil and gas industry, says Robert McNally, a White House energy adviser during the George W. Bush administration who now heads the Rapidan Group, a consulting firm.

On the one hand, energy industry and big manufacturers are warning the EPA not to impede a drilling boom that offers the promise of decades' worth of cheap energy. Meanwhile, environmentalists are pressing President Barack Obama to ensure the drilling bonanza is not endangering water resources.
"This administration clearly needs contributors to economic growth for its economic legacy as much as it needs to add to its environmental legacy," said Bruce Bullock of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "This appointment could be key in seeing which of those two legacies is more important."
There are many contenders for the role, but no clear front-runner as yet. But Obama is unlikely to win Congressional approval for a heavy-handed regulator, and there is no suggestion of a stringent crackdown.

Even Jackson, who suffered withering criticism from big industry and Republicans for her efforts to curb pollution and limit greenhouse gas emissions, has cautiously condoned the practice as safe, while acknowledging the need for greater study and, in some cases, oversight.
"(Fracking technology) is perfectly capable of being clean," Jackson said in February. "It requires smart regulation, smart rules of the road."
Jackson's successor may now be charged with refining those rules, and both energy companies and fracking critics are anxious about the outcome.

Industry body Independent Petroleum Association of America said the EPA has "hindered development" of oil and gas for four years, and looks forward to a new chief who will promote energy drilling "hand in hand" with environmental regulation.

Executive director of the Sierra Club environmental group Michael Brune says the EPA has "unfinished business" in addressing things such as the release of methane emissions during fracking.


Some analysts say Obama will not risk the economic stimulus of cheaper, domestic energy by pushing for tougher regulations. The oil sector is one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy; natural gas prices are near their lowest in a decade, a boon for manufacturers, and U.S. oil output is the highest in 18 years.
"Even before (Jackson's resignation) there didn't seem to be much of an appetite in the White House to regulate shale drilling on a federal level in the next couple of years," says Nitzan Goldberger, U.S. energy policy analyst with Eurasia Group.
But big drillers such as ExxonMobil and Chesapeake who have plowed billions of dollars into shale fields are watching carefully for any sign of new rules or oversight that could drive up costs, or limit access.

While fracking technology has been around for decades, it has only gained widespread use across dozens of states in recent years. The EPA, like many groups, has struggled to keep up with the expansion, according to Government Accountability Office reports released earlier this year.

After years in which states were mostly responsible for regulating onshore drilling, the new EPA administrator will be pressed to take a more central role. A Gallup poll this year showed drinking water contamination is the leading environmental concern among Americans.

A year ago, in the first U.S. government report of its kind, the EPA drew a potential link between water contamination in rural Pavillion, Wyoming and fracking, based on samples of ground water from the area. That study has been contested, and subsequent research has been inconclusive.

 A firmer word on the impact may not emerge until 2014, when the EPA is expected to release the first exhaustive in-depth government study on the long-term effects of fracking on drinking water, commissioned by Congress over two years.


The debate rages over a diverse range of issues.

While fracking was exempted from the Federal Clean Water Act in 2005, operations that used diesel fuel, which contains a number of toxic chemical compounds, were not exempted.

However, what exactly constitutes "diesel" has been a bone of contention among oil firms and environmental groups.
"The question is how to define "diesel" - broadly or narrowly," says consultant McNally.

"It's a big issue especially for Bakken producers," he said, referring to the region of North Dakota where crude oil output has more than tripled in two years.
The EPA published a draft definition in May, which met with criticism from the industry and some legislators, but it will fall to the new administrator to set a final definition.

Under Jackson, the EPA also said it would begin to regulate the millions of gallons a day of wastewater that is withdrawn from wells after the fracking process, probably in 2014. This is usually trucked offsite and sometimes re-injected elsewhere, although increasingly it is being reprocessed for further use.

And eventually, the EPA could face pressure to backtrack on previous initiatives. In April, the agency relented to pressure from the industry, giving drillers until January 2015 to end the practice of "flaring" excess natural gas from wells that were not connected to pipelines. It had initially proposed that firms cease almost immediately.

For Jackson's successor, a central question is whether the EPA takes a broader role in the industry, or, as Jackson hinted a year ago, allows state officials to call most the shots when it comes to drilling:
"It's not to say that there isn't a federal role, but you can't start to talk about a federal role without acknowledging the very strong state role."

Satellite Photos Show North Korea Nuclear Readiness

Photos Show NKorea Nuclear Readiness

December 28, 2012

AP - North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a quick atomic explosion if it chose, though water streaming out of a test tunnel may cause problems, analysis of recent satellite photos indicates.

Washington and others are bracing for the possibility that if punished for a successful long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12 that the U.N. considers a cover for a banned ballistic missile test, North Korea's next step might be its third nuclear test.

Rocket and nuclear tests unnerve Washington and its allies because each new success puts North Korean scientists another step closer to perfecting a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile that could hit the mainland United States.

Another nuclear test, which North Korea's Foreign Ministry hinted at on the day of the rocket launch, would fit a pattern. Pyongyang conducted its first and second atomic explosions, in 2006 and 2009, weeks after receiving U.N. Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar long-range rocket launches.

North Korea is thought to have enough plutonium for a handful of crude atomic bombs, and unveiled a uranium enrichment facility in 2010, but it must continue to conduct tests to master the miniaturization technology crucial for a true nuclear weapons program.
"With an additional nuclear test, North Korea could advance their ability to eventually deploy a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nongovernment Arms Control Association.
Analysts caution that only so much can be determined from satellite imagery, and it's very difficult to fully discern North Korea's plans. This is especially true for nuclear test preparations, which are often done deep within a mountain. North Korea, for instance, took many by surprise when it launched its rocket this month only several days after announcing technical problems.

Although there's no sign of an imminent nuclear test, U.S. and South Korean officials worry that Pyongyang could conduct one at any time.

Analysis of GeoEye and Digital Globe satellite photos from Dec. 13 and earlier, provided to The Associated Press by 38 North, the website for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said scientists are "determined to maintain a state of readiness" at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility after repairing flood damage.

The nuclear speculation comes as South Korea's conservative president-elect, Park Geun-hye, prepares to take office in February, and as young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marks his one-year anniversary as supreme commander.

Kim has consolidated power since taking over after his father, Kim Jong Il, died Dec. 17, 2011, and the rocket launch is seen as a major internal political and popular boost for the 20-something leader.

Some analysts, however, question whether Kim will risk international, and especially Chinese, wrath and sure sanctions by quickly conducting a nuclear test.

The election of Park in South Korea and Barack Obama's re-election to a second term as U.S. president could "prompt North Korea to try more diplomacy than military options," said Chang Yong-seok, an analyst at the Institute for Peace Affairs, a private think tank in Seoul.
"I think we'll see North Korea more focused on economic revival than on nuclear testing next year."
The 38 North analysis said the North "may be able to trigger a detonation in as little as two weeks, once a political decision is made to move forward." But the report by Jack Liu, Nick Hansen and Jeffrey Lewis also said it was unclear whether water seepage from a tunnel entrance at the site was under control. Water could hurt a nuclear device and the sensors needed to monitor a test.

The analysis also identified what it called a previously unidentified structure that could be meant to protect sensitive equipment from bad weather.
"We don't have a crystal ball that will tell us when the North will conduct its third nuclear test," said Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official and now editor of 38 North. "But events over the next few months, such as the U.N. reaction to Pyongyang's missile test and the North's unfolding policy toward the new South Korean government, may at least provide us with some clues."
Another unknown is how China, the North's only major ally, would respond to calls for tighter sanctions. Washington views more pressure from Beijing as pivotal if diplomatic pressure is going to force change in Pyongyang.

Even if Beijing signs on to U.N. punishment if the North conducts a test, there may be less hurt for Pyongyang than Washington wants.

The impact of tougher sanctions would be "a drop in the bucket compared with the tidal wave of China-North Korean trade" that has risen sharply since 2008, even as inter-Korean trade has remained flat, said John Park, a Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Trade figures show North Korea's deepening dependence on China. Pyongyang's trade with Beijing surged more than 60 percent last year, reaching $5.63 billion, according to South Korea's Statistics Korea. China accounted for 70 percent of North Korea's annual trade in 2011, up from 57 percent in 2010.

North Korea's 2006 nuclear test had an estimated explosive yield of 1 kiloton. The Los Alamos National Laboratory estimated in 2011 that the North's test on May 25, 2009, which followed U.N. condemnation of an April long-range rocket launch, had a minimum yield of 5.7 kilotons. The atomic bomb that hit Nagasaki at the end of World War II was about 21 kilotons.

Both North Korean tests used plutonium for fissile material. Without at least one more successful plutonium test, it's unlikely that Pyongyang could have confidence in a miniaturized plutonium design, according to an August paper by Frank Pabian of Los Alamos and Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University.

North Korea's small plutonium stockpile is sufficient for four to eight bombs, they wrote, but it may be willing to sacrifice some if it can augment information from the previous tests. Pabian and Hecker predicted that Pyongyang may simultaneously test both plutonium and highly enriched uranium devices.

A uranium test would worry the international community even more, as it would confirm that North Korea, which would need months to restart its shuttered plutonium reactor, has an alternative source of fissile material based on uranium enrichment. North Korea unveiled a previously secret uranium enrichment plant in November 2010.
"Whether and when North Korea conducts another nuclear test will depend on how high a political cost Pyongyang is willing to bear," Pabian and Hecker wrote.
Another test would also undermine Pyongyang's assertion that its long-range rocket launches are for a peaceful space program and not what outsiders see as the development of ballistic missiles that could eventually deliver nuclear weapons.

On the same day as this month's rocket launch, an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told state media that a hostile U.S. response to a failed launch in April of this year had forced Pyongyang "to re-examine the nuclear issue as a whole."

The statement was a clear threat to detonate a nuclear device ahead of any U.N. Security Council action, said Baek Seung-joo, an analyst at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.

National Rifle Association Vows to Fight Arms Trade Treaty at U.N.

National Rifle Association vows to fight arms trade treaty at U.N.

December 28, 2012
Reuters - The leading U.S. pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association, has vowed to fight a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade and dismissed suggestions that a recent U.S. school shooting bolstered the case for such a pact.

The U.N. General Assembly voted on Monday to restart negotiations in mid-March on the first international treaty to regulate conventional arms trade after a drafting conference in July collapsed because the U.S. and other nations wanted more time. Washington supported Monday's U.N. vote.

U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense pressure to tighten domestic gun control laws after the December 14 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. His administration has since reiterated its support for a global arms treaty that does not curtail U.S. citizens' rights to own weapons.

Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies as a result of armed violence and a convention is needed to prevent illicitly traded guns from pouring into conflict zones and fueling wars and atrocities.

In an interview with Reuters, NRA President David Keene said the Newtown massacre has not changed the powerful U.S. gun lobby's position on the treaty. He also made clear that the Obama administration would have a fight on its hands if it brought the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
"We're as opposed to it today as we were when it first appeared," he said on Thursday. "We do not see anything in terms of the language and the preamble as being any kind of guarantee of the American people's rights under the Second Amendment."
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms. Keene said the pact could require the U.S. government to enact legislation to implement it, which the NRA fears could lead to tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

He added that such a treaty was unlikely to win the two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate necessary for approval.
"This treaty is as problematic today in terms of ratification in the Senate as it was six months ago or a year ago," Keene said. Earlier this year a majority of senators wrote to Obama urging him to oppose the treaty.
U.N. delegates and gun-control activists say the July treaty negotiations fell apart largely because Obama, fearing attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, sought to kick the issue past the U.S. vote.
U.S. officials have denied those allegation.

The NRA claimed credit for the July failure, calling it at the time "a big victory for American gun owners."


The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States - the world's biggest arms trader, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global transfers in conventional arms - reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

Supporters of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the American public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on U.S. domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports. Last week, Amnesty International launched a campaign to counter what it said were NRA distortions about the treaty.
"The NRA is telling lies about the arms treaty to try to block U.S. government support," Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International USA said about the campaign. "The NRA's leadership must stop interfering in U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the arms industry."
Jeff Abramson of Control Arms said that as March approaches, "the NRA is going to be challenged in ways it never has before and that can affect the way things go" with the U.S. government.

The draft treaty under discussion specifically excludes arms-related "matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State."

Among its key provisions is a requirement that governments make compliance with human rights norms a condition for foreign arms sales. It would also have states ban arms transfers when there is reason to believe weapons or ammunition might be diverted to problematic recipients or end up on illicit markets.

Keene said the biggest problem with the treaty is that it regulates civilian arms, not just military weapons.

According to the Small Arms Survey, roughly 650 million of the 875 million weapons in the world are in the hands of civilians. That, arms control advocates say, is why any arms trade treaty must regulate both military and civilian weapons.

Keene said the NRA would actively participate in the fight against the arms trade treaty in the run-up to the March negotiations.
"We will be involved," he warned, adding that it was not clear if the NRA would address U.N. delegates directly as the group did in July.
The NRA has successfully lobbied members of Congress to stop major new gun restrictions in the United States since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. It also gives financial backing to pro-gun candidates.


European and other U.N. delegates who support the arms trade treaty told Reuters on condition of anonymity they hoped Newtown would boost support for the convention in the United States, where gun control is an explosive political issue.
"Newtown has opened the debate within the United States on weapons controls in ways that it has not been opened in the past," Abramson said, adding that "the conversation within the U.S. will give the (Obama) administration more leeway."
Keene rejected the idea of bringing the Newtown tragedy into the discussion of an arms trade treaty.
"I find it interesting that some of the folks that advocate the treaty say it would have no impact whatever within the United States but that it needs to be passed to prevent another occurrence of a school shooting such as took place in Newtown," he said. "Both of those positions can't be correct."
Obama administration officials have tried to explain to U.S. opponents of the arms trade pact that the treaty under discussion would not affect domestic gun sales and ownership.
"Our objectives for the ATT (arms trade treaty) have not changed," a U.S. official told Reuters. "We seek a treaty that fights illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have articulated throughout."

"In particular, we will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to bear arms," the official added.
Supporters of the treaty also worry that major arms producers like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and others could seek to render the treaty toothless by including loopholes and making key provisions voluntary, rather than mandatory.

The United States, like all other U.N. member states, can effectively veto the treaty since the negotiations will be conducted on the basis of consensus. That means the treaty must receive unanimous support in order to be approved in March.

But if it fails in March, U.N. delegations can put it to a vote in the 193-nation General Assembly, where diplomats say it would likely secure the required two-thirds majority.

December 26, 2012

House Approves Bill Authorizing $633 Billion in Defense Spending Including 1.7 Pay Increase for Military Personnel

Between 2001 and 2009, per capita spending on three major components (basic pay and allowances for housing and subsistence) of cash compensation for active military personnel rose by 37 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

House approves bill authorizing $633 billion in defense spending

December 20, 2012

Reuters - The U.S. House of Representatives approved the final version of the annual defense policy bill on Thursday, authorizing $633.3 billion in defense spending for 2013, easing limits on satellite exports and providing more Marines for embassy security.

The Republican-controlled House approved the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 315-107. The measure must still be approved by the Senate before it can go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The measure authorizes a Pentagon base budget of $527.5 billion, plus $88.5 billion for overseas operations, primarily the war in Afghanistan. The base budget includes $17.4 billion for defense-related nuclear programs at the Energy Department.

The NDAA sets defense policy for the year. While it authorizes spending levels for different military programs, it does not appropriate the money. That is done under separate legislation in the House and Senate.

In addition to authorizing the size of the military budget, the bill approved a 1.7 pay increase for military personnel and blocked a Pentagon effort to offset rising healthcare costs for retirees by raising some health insurance fees.

The measure eases restrictions on the export of satellites to help U.S. manufacturers, who have seen their global share of the market shrink to less than 25 percent from 65 percent 15 years ago, said Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
"The cumbersome nature of that regime has significantly harmed U.S. satellite industry," Smith said during debate on the measure. "Getting back to a competitive place with that industry is critical to our national security."
The measure directs Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to develop and implement a plan to increase the number of Marines assigned to embassy and consulate security by up to 1,000.

The move aims to bolster diplomatic security following the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The final bill also allows the Pentagon to continue its efforts to develop biofuels, rejecting a House attempt to prevent the purchase of fuels that are more expensive than petroleum and to place limits on military assistance to companies trying to build commercial scale biofuel refineries.

December 25, 2012

Israel Fast-tracks the Building of 942 More Homes in Territory Palestinians Claims as Their Capital

Israel to build 942 more homes in east Jerusalem

December 25, 2012

AP - Israel has advanced the process of building 942 more settler homes in east Jerusalem closer, under a new fast-track plan to tighten its grip on the territory, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.

A government planning committee on Monday moved the project to the advanced stage of asking contractors to submit bids to build them, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Once a bid is awarded, construction can begin on the project in the Gilo area, though it can take months, if not longer, to reach that point.

An additional 300 units can be built after further planning, said attorney Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem construction who sees the building as an obstacle to peacemaking. About 40,000 Israelis live in Gilo.

The homes are among more than 5,000 new settler homes in east Jerusalem that Israel pressed ahead over the past week. Palestinians do not recognize Israel's 1967 annexation of the territory and say any Israeli construction there undermines their claims to it.

The international community has not recognized Israel's 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a settlement construction push to punish the Palestinians after the United Nations recognized a de facto Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last month. Israel says the Palestinians can achieve a state only through negotiations with the Israeli government, and regards the U.N. bid as a maneuver to sidestep talks.

The Palestinians have said they hope the upgraded status will allow them to return to the negotiating table with a stronger hand. Talks stalled four years ago, primarily over settlement construction.

The construction push in east Jerusalem has drawn international condemnation, as have plans to build thousands of more settler homes in the adjacent West Bank.

Israel captured both areas and Gaza in 1967.

It withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, but blocks most access to the territory and retains control over the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Obamacare Tax Hikes Starting in 2013

Health care tax hikes for 2013 may be just a start

December 25, 2012

AP - New taxes are coming Jan. 1 to help finance President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Most people may not notice. But they will pay attention if Congress decides to start taxing employer-sponsored health insurance, one of the options in play if lawmakers can ever agree on a budget deal to reduce federal deficits.

The tax hikes already on the books, taking effect in 2013, fall mainly on people who make lots of money and on the health care industry. But about half of Americans benefit from the tax-free status of employer health insurance.  

Workers pay no income or payroll taxes on what their employer contributes for health insurance, and in most cases on their own share of premiums as well. It's the single biggest tax break allowed by the government, outstripping the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for charitable giving and other better-known benefits. If the value of job-based health insurance were taxed like regular income, it would raise nearly $150 billion in revenue in 2013, according to congressional estimates. By comparison, wiping away the mortgage interest deduction would bring in only about $90 billion.
"If you are looking to raise revenue to pay for tax reform, that is the biggest pot of money of all," said Martin Sullivan, chief economist with Tax Analysts, a nonpartisan publisher of tax information.
It's hard to see how lawmakers can avoid touching health insurance if they want to eliminate loopholes and curtail deductions so as to raise revenue and lower tax rates. Congress probably wouldn't do away with the health care tax break, but limit it in some form. Such limits could be keyed to the cost of a particular health insurance plan, the income level of taxpayers, or a combination.

Many economists think some kind of limit would be a good thing, because it would force consumers to watch costs, and that could help keep health care spending in check. Obama's health law took a tentative step toward limits by imposing a tax on high-value health insurance plans. But that doesn't start until 2018.

Next spring will be three years since Congress passed the health care overhaul, but because of a long phase-in, many of the taxes to finance the plan are only now coming into effect. Medicare spending cuts that help pay for covering the uninsured have started to take effect, but they also are staggered. The law's main benefit, coverage for 30 million uninsured people, will take a little longer. It doesn't start until Jan. 1, 2014.

The biggest tax hike from the health care law has a bit of mystery to it. The legislation calls it a "Medicare contribution," but none of the revenue will go to the Medicare trust fund. Instead, it's funneled into the government's general fund, which does pay the lion's share of Medicare outpatient and prescription costs, but also covers most other things the government does.

The new tax is a 3.8 percent levy on investment income that applies to individuals making more than $200,000 or married couples above $250,000. Projected to raise $123 billion from 2013-2019, it comes on top of other taxes on investment income. And while it does apply to profits from home sales, the vast majority of sellers will not have to worry since another law allows individuals to shield up to $250,000 in gains on their home from taxation. (Married couples can exclude up to $500,000 in home sale gains.)

Investors have already been taking steps to avoid the tax, selling assets this year before it takes effect. The impact of the investment tax will be compounded if Obama and Republicans can't stave off the automatic tax increases scheduled at the end of the year if there's no budget agreement.

High earners will face another new tax under the health care law Jan. 1. It's an additional Medicare payroll tax of 0.9 percent on wage income above $200,000 for an individual or $250,000 for couples. This one does go to the Medicare trust fund.

Donald Marron, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, calls the health care law tax increases medium-sized by historical standards. The center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, provides in-depth analysis on tax issues.

They also foreshadow the current debate about raising taxes on people with high incomes. 
"These were an example of the president winning, and raising taxes on upper-income people," said Marron. "They are going to happen."
Other health care law tax increases taking effect Jan. 1:

A 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices used by hospitals and doctors. Industry is trying to delay or repeal the tax, saying it will lead to a loss of jobs. Several economists say manufacturers should be able to pass on most of the cost.

A limit on the amount employees can contribute to tax-free flexible spending accounts for medical expenses. It's set at $2,500 for 2013, and indexed thereafter for inflation.

U.S. Votes 'Yes,' as It Did in the UN Disarmament Committee in November 2012, to Restart UN Negotiations for International Arms Trade Treaty (Final Round in March 2013)

U.N. approves new debate on arms treaty opposed by U.S. gun lobby

December 25, 2012

Reuters - The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to restart negotiations on a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms, a pact the powerful U.S. National Rifle Association has been lobbying hard against.

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because U.S. President Barack Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge U.S. officials have denied.

The NRA, which has come under intense criticism for its reaction to the December 15 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, opposes the idea of an arms trade treaty and has pressured Obama to reject it.

But after Obama's re-election last month, his administration joined other members of a U.N. committee in supporting the resumption of negotiations on the treaty.

That move was set in stone on Monday when the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to hold a final round of negotiations on March 18-28 in New York.

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom - the countries that drafted the resolution - issued a joint statement welcoming the decision to resume negotiations on the pact.
"This was a clear sign that the vast majority of U.N. member states support a strong, balanced and effective treaty, which would set the highest possible common global standards for the international transfer of conventional arms," they said.
There were 133 votes in favour, none against and 17 abstentions. A number of countries did not attend, which U.N. diplomats said was due to the Christmas Eve holiday.

The exact voting record was not immediately available, though diplomats said the United States voted 'yes,' as it did in the U.N. disarmament committee last month. Countries that abstained from last month's vote included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran.

Among the top six arms-exporting nations, Russia cast the only abstention in last month's vote. Britain, France and Germany joined China and the United States in the disarmament committee in support of the same resolution approved by the General Assembly on Monday.


The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States - the world's biggest arms trader, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global transfers in conventional arms - reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

Obama administration officials have tried to explain to U.S. opponents of the arms trade pact that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on gun sales and ownership inside the United States because it would apply only to exports.

But NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told U.N. delegations in July that his group opposed the pact and there are no indications that it has changed that position.
"Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition," LaPierre said, according to the website of the NRA's lobbying wing, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).
LaPierre's speech to the U.N. delegations in July was later supported by letters from a majority of U.S. senators and 130 congressional representatives, who told Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they opposed the treaty, according to the NRA-ILA.

It is not clear whether the NRA would have the same level of support from U.S. legislators after the Newtown massacre.

U.S. officials say they want a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation but protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade.
"We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms," a U.S. official told Reuters last month.
The United States, like all other U.N. member states, can effectively veto the treaty since the negotiations will be conducted on the basis of consensus. That means the treaty must receive unanimous support in order to be approved in March.

Arms control activists say it is far from clear that the Obama administration truly wants a strong treaty. Any treaty agreed in March would also need to be ratified by the parliaments of individual signatory nations before it could come into force.

December 24, 2012

Agenda 21 Is Being Rammed Down the Throats of Local Communities All Over America

Agenda 21 Is Being Rammed Down The Throats Of Local Communities All Over America

December 24, 2012

Economic Collapse - Have you ever heard of Agenda 21?  If not, don’t feel bad, because most Americans haven’t.  It is essentially a blueprint for a “sustainable world” that was introduced at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.  Since then, it has been adopted by more than 200 countries and it has been modified and updated at other UN environmental summits.

The philosophy behind Agenda 21 is that our environmental problems are the number one problem that we are facing, and that those problems are being caused by human activity.  Therefore, according to Agenda 21, human activity needs to be tightly monitored, regulated and controlled for the greater good.  Individual liberties and freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the planet.

If you are thinking that this sounds like it is exactly the opposite of what our founding fathers intended when they established this nation, you would be on the right track.  Those that promote the philosophy underlying Agenda 21 believe that human activity must be “managed” and that letting people make their own decisions is “destructive” and “dangerous”.

Sadly, the principles behind Agenda 21 are being rammed down the throats of local communities all over America, and most of the people living in those communities don’t even realize it.

So how is this being done?  Well, after Agenda 21 was adopted, an international organization known as the “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives” (ICLEI) was established to help implement the goals of Agenda 21 in local communities.

One thing that they learned very quickly was that the “Agenda 21″ label was a red flag for a lot of people.  It tended to create quite a bit of opposition on the local level. As they try to implement their goals, they very rarely use the term “Agenda 21″ anymore.  Instead, they use much more harmless sounding labels such as “smart growth”, “comprehensive land use planning” and especially “sustainable development”.

So just because something does not carry the Agenda 21 label does not mean that it is not promoting the goals of Agenda 21.

The goals of Agenda 21 are not only being implemented in the United States.  This is a massive worldwide effort that is being coordinated by the United Nations.  An article that was posted on discussed some of the history of Agenda 21…
In simplified terms, Agenda 21 is a master blueprint, or guidelines, for constructing “sustainable” communities. Agenda 21 was put forth by the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development, and was adopted by over 200 countries (signed into “soft law” by George Bush Sr.) at the United Nations Rio Conference in 1992. In 1994 the President’s Council for Sustainable Development was created via Executive Order by Bill Clinton to begin coordinating efforts at the Federal level to make the US Agenda 21 compliant.
The same year that Bill Clinton established the President’s Council for Sustainable Development, the International Code Council was also created.

The International Code Council has developed a large number of “international codes” which are intended to replace existing building codes all over the United States.  The following is a list of these codes from Wikipedia
  • International Building Code
  • International Residential Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Plumbing Code
  • International Mechanical Code
  • International Fuel Gas Code
  • International Energy Conservation Code
  • ICC Performance Code
  • International Wildland Urban Interface Code
  • International Existing Building Code
  • International Property Maintenance Code
  • International Private Sewage Disposal Code
  • International Zoning Code
  • International Green Construction Code
These codes are very long and exceedingly boring, and those that write them know that hardly anyone will ever read them. And for the most part, they contain a lot of things that are contained in existing building codes or that are common sense. But a lot of poison has also been inserted into these codes.  If you read them carefully, the influence of Agenda 21 is painfully obvious.

Unfortunately, even most of the local politicians that are adopting these codes don’t take the time to read them.  Most of them just assume that they are “updating” their existing building codes.

So what often happens is that there will be fights in local communities between citizens that are concerned about the encroachment of Agenda 21 and local politicians who regard such talk as nonsense.  The following is an example of what is happening all over the nation
Summit Hill Borough Council last night unanimously adopted the “2012 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code,” but not before some audience members expressed vehement opposition to it.

An overflow crowd of 34 people attended the meeting, with some there to specifically voice their displeasure.
Sandy Dellicker, a borough resident, said she was against using an “international” maintenance code, arguing that it falls under the plan of Agenda 21 of the United Nations; an agenda for the 21st Century.

She said, “UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the action plan to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all information, all energy, and all human beings in the world.”
“This is not a conspiracy theory,” she told the council. “This is for real.”
She said the International Property Maintenance Code had been adopted in Montgomery County, but the county “has already gotten rid of it” because of its dictatorial direction.
“This is not what Summit Hill and the United States is about,” she said.
Council members pooh-poohed her assessment. “In my opinion, the International Property Maintenance Code is to protect citizens,” said Council President Michael Kokinda.
It would be great if these codes were just about public safety.  But that is simply not the case.  Sadly, these codes are often used to fine or even imprison homeowners that haven’t done anything wrong.  Sometimes “code violations” are even used as justification to legally steal property from law-abiding homeowners.  A post on the Freedom Reigns Radio blog detailed some of the things that are often done in the name of “code enforcement”…
1) The ‘Code Official’ – anybody the jurisdiction calls – a ‘Code Official’ – is the sole interpreter – no due process – Gestapo!

2) Every day an offense occurs is a separate mandatory misdemeanor – $555/day and/or a month in jail in Charleston, W.Va. They can fine you out of your home and jail you at their whim!

3) Anything the ‘Code Official’ says is not in good working condition – sticky window, dented or plugged gutter, torn window screen – whatever he says is not in good working order – hundreds of dollars of fines per day and/or jail time – usually a month – for every day the offense occurs.

4) Any unsanitary condition – whatever the ‘Code Official’ says is an ‘unsanitary condition’ – empty pop cans – puddles – dog droppings on your property – same deal – same fines and/or jail time – every day.

5) Any plant that the ‘Code Official’ says is a ‘noxious weed’ – same deal – same fines and/or jail time – every day. He can steal raw land.

6) He can fine you out of your home and jail you with no due process. Any court proceedings are window dressing as there is no remedy associated with this ‘code.’

7) It can be ‘adopted’ – just by an ‘administrative decree.’


1) Enter your house whenever he – the sole interpreter – deems reasonable.
2) Prevent you from entering your house.
3) Tear your house down with your stuff in it.
4) Bill you for the demolition.
5) Place a lien on it for fines and/or demolition charges – steal it.
6) And ‘best’ of all, no insurance I know of will cover your losses.

You’re left w/a house and your ‘stuff’ in a landfill – and any remaining unpaid mortgage, any remaining fines, any remaining taxes, and any remaining demolition charges after they steal your property
These codes restrict what homeowners can do with their own properties in thousands of different ways.  If you rebel against one of the codes, the penalties can be extremely harsh.

And there is often “selective enforcement” of these codes.  That means that they will leave most people alone but they will come down really hard on people that they do not like.  You could even end up with a SWAT team on your doorstep.

Just ask some of the people who have been through this kind of thing.

Even if you have your mortgage completely paid off, that doesn’t mean that you really “own” your property.  If you don’t pay your taxes and obey the “codes”, you could lose your property very rapidly.

The philosophy behind all of this is the same philosophy behind Agenda 21.  The elite believe that you cannot be trusted to do the “right thing” with your own property and that your activity must be “managed” for the greater good.  They believe that by controlling you and restricting your liberties that they are “saving the planet”.

Unfortunately, you can probably expect this to get a whole lot worse in the years ahead.  Our society is shifting from one that cherishes individual liberties and freedoms to one that is fully embracing collectivism.  So our politicians will likely be making even more of our decisions for us as the years move forward.

Do any of you out there have any “code violation horror stories” to share?  If so, please share them with us by posting a comment below…

United Nations Small Arms Treaty Set for Senate Ratification in March -- It Hands Control of the Second Amendment to the Foreign-run UN

Petition to Deport Piers Morgan Achieves Target For White House Response

December 24, 2012 - The petition to deport Piers Morgan over his repeated attacks against the second amendment has surpassed the number of signatures required to mandate a White House response, as the CNN host labeled the originator of the petition Alex Jones a “goon” for calling for Morgan to be kicked out of the country.
The petition currently has over 31,500 signatures, easily reaching the 25,000 benchmark that will now mandate the Obama administration to issue some kind of formal response.

The petition demands that Morgan, “Be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”

As we explained yesterday, as a British citizen Morgan’s speech is not protected under the first amendment and his ceaseless rhetorical assaults on the Constitution allied with his position as a prime time host on CNN clearly represent an act of subversion that should be punished accordingly.

After initially joking about the petition to deport him, Morgan’s tone became increasingly antagonistic as the issue received more media attention, leading to Morgan labeling the originator of the petition Alex Jones a “goon” on his Twitter feed yesterday.

In a tweet this morning, Morgan remarked, “If I do get deported from America for wanting fewer gun murders, are there any other countries that will have me?”

The Supreme Court decision in the case of Kleindienst v. Mandel establishes the legal precedent for foreigners to be barred from entry or deported if they espouse anti-American ideologies that are anathema to the U.S. Constitution.

In a response to Morgan’s complaint, when he tweeted, “Ironic U.S. gun rights campaign to deport me for ‘attacking 2nd Amendment rights’ – is my opinion not protected under 1st Amendment rights?,” Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto responded, “Your opinion is protected, your presence in the U.S. is not. See Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972).”

While it will be interesting to see how the White House responds to the petition, expecting to see Morgan  deported would be a long shot given that he fraternizes with Barack Obama on a regular basis.

Infowars launched the petition to draw attention to the fact that a foreigner, Piers Morgan, is trying to dictate the internal laws and affairs of the United States. Alex Jones also intended to use Morgan’s arrogance to illustrate that the United States is completely overrun by globalists and that the United Nations small arms treaty, set for Senate ratification in March, hands control of the second amendment to the foreign-run UN.

Ex-TSA Screener: Officers 'Laughing' at Your Naked Image

Ex-TSA Screener: Officers 'Laughing' At Your Naked Image

Whistleblower launches blog to expose federal agency’s ridiculous policies

December 24, 2012 - A former TSA screener turned blogger who is now causing embarrassment for the federal agency has revealed that TSA officers routinely laugh at and make fun of passengers’ nude body scanner images in back rooms.
In a blog entitled Taking Sense Away, the anonymous ex-TSA worker reveals how he, “Witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers.”

The revelation was in response to a reader who asked, “Tell us, please, what really happens in that private room and why the TSA does not want it seen in public nor recorded.”
The ex-TSA screener also ridiculed the existence of I.O. rooms (image operator rooms) where naked images produced by body scanners are viewed by TSA agents.
“The most ridiculous thing is that these I.O. rooms even exist, to begin with. The backscatter machines are useless, as I and many, many others have previously pointed out. They should never have been put into use to begin with; TSA officers should never have been viewing nude, radiation-rendered images of passengers in those private rooms, period,” he writes.

“That’s why there are federal lawsuits pending against TSA (Ralph Nader, Bruce Schneier, et al) and why TSA is trying to backpedal and sweep the radiation scanners under the rug away from oversight committees and the public at large, as quickly as possible, right now. The entire thing was, as usual, a hare-brained, tax payer money-wasting, disaster of an idea.”
In a separate blog post, the whistleblower explains how TSA higher-ups are fully aware of the public’s disdain for the agency and that, the, “TSA is the laughing stock of America’s security apparatus,” with most employees desperate to transfer into a more respected government agency.

The whistleblower also highlights how TSA screeners would punish passengers who displayed a bad attitude by subjecting them to pointless bag searches with zero justification.

In a series of “confessions,” the former TSA screener also rails against the federal agency’s more ridiculous policies, including the ban on snow globes.
“The entire ban on snow globes was just another of the many intelligence-insulting rules that I was often forced to follow during my time at TSA. Imagine having to look, year after year, into the faces of innocent children and tell them and their parents that their Pretty-Princess-in-a-Blizzard snow globe has to go into the trash. “But why,” little Angie would ask, puppy dog pouting, tears trembling,” he writes.

Government Security is Just Another Kind of Violence

Government Security is Just Another Kind of Violence

December 24, 2012

Ron Paul - The senseless and horrific killings last week in Newtown, Connecticut reminded us that a determined individual or group of individuals can cause great harm no matter what laws are in place. Connecticut already has restrictive gun laws relative to other states, including restrictions on fully automatic, so-called “assault” rifles and gun-free zones.

Predictably, the political left responded to the tragedy with emotional calls for increased gun control. This is understandable, but misguided. The impulse to have government “do something” to protect us in the wake national tragedies is reflexive and often well intentioned. Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented. But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.

The political right, unfortunately, has fallen into the same trap in its calls for quick legislative solutions to gun violence. If only we put armed police or armed teachers in schools, we’re told, would-be school shooters will be dissuaded or stopped.

While I certainly agree that more guns equals less crime and that private gun ownership prevents many shootings, I don’t agree that conservatives and libertarians should view government legislation, especially at the federal level, as the solution to violence. Real change can happen only when we commit ourselves to rebuilding civil society in America, meaning a society based on family, religion, civic and social institutions, and peaceful cooperation through markets. We cannot reverse decades of moral and intellectual decline by snapping our fingers and passing laws.

Let’s not forget that our own government policies often undermine civil society, cheapen life, and encourage immorality. The president and other government officials denounce school violence, yet still advocate for endless undeclared wars abroad and easy abortion at home. U.S. drone strikes kill thousands, but nobody in America holds vigils or devotes much news coverage to those victims, many of which are children, albeit, of a different color.

Obviously I don’t want to conflate complex issues of foreign policy and war with the Sandy Hook shooting, but it is important to make the broader point that our federal government has zero moral authority to legislate against violence.

Furthermore, do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches?

We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided “security,” a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.

Do we really believe government can provide total security? Do we want to involuntarily commit every disaffected, disturbed, or alienated person who fantasizes about violence? Or can we accept that liberty is more important than the illusion of state-provided security? Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another. Government role is to protect liberty, not to pursue unobtainable safety.

Our freedoms as Americans preceded gun control laws, the TSA, or the Department of Homeland Security. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference, not by safety. It is easy to clamor for government security when terrible things happen; but liberty is given true meaning when we support it without exception, and we will be safer for it.

December 23, 2012

Iran Claims It Has Overcome UN/US Sanctions

Iran Claims It Has Overcome Sanctions

December 23, 2012

ABC News - Iran oil minister claimed Sunday his country has successfully overcome sanctions on the sale of its oil, state TV reported.

The U.N. and West have imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran to try to persuade it to stop its uranium enrichment project, including a ban by the EU on oil imports, but Iran remains defiant.

Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi that the industry was in "bad shape" about two months ago because of the oil embargo, "but resorting to planning in the oil industry, we left the bottleneck behind, almost." The EU imposed its embargo in July.

Ghasemi said Iran's oil sector would be able to export its oil to the "farthest spots" around the world. In contrast, China, India and Korea recently announced that they have cut back their oil imports from Iran to comply with international sanctions.

Ghasemi also said that Iran has set up its own insurance for oil tankers after Western companies refused to cover them.
"By revoking insurance, the West disrupted transportation of oil, the most important part" of trade, Ghasemi was quoted as saying.
He said since a large portion of Iran's revenue comes from oil exports, "the embargo is a very important issue."

Iran's oil exports have fallen by about half in recent months due to the punitive oil and banking measures enacted by the U.S. and Europe over concerns Tehran might pursue production of nuclear weapons. Iran denies that it is developing weapons, saying its nuclear activities are aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.

Before the fall of exports, some 80 percent of Iran's foreign revenue had come from oil sales. The drop has contributed to a plummet in the country's currency has plummeted to less than half its former value.
Due to longstanding U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry, the country has been suffering from lack of technology and equipment in its oil sector, but a senior official said that problem, too, is being solved.

Ahmad Qalehbani, head of state-owned National Iranian Oil Company, told the semi-official ISNA news agency that the country is capable of producing its own equipment for 85 percent of its needs in the oil industry.