Congress

Paul Ryan Went On Fox News To Defend Amtrak Safety Funding. It Didn’t Go Well.

Paul Ryan on Fox News Channel

Paul Ryan on Fox News Channel | CREDIT: FOX NEWS

THINK PROGRESS

At least seven people died and 200 were injured in Tuesday’s Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia — even though technology exists that could have prevented the tragedy. A day after his Republican colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to cut about one-fifth of Amtrak’s budget, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) incorrectly claimed that Congress had already funded implementing the safety system it mandated in 2008.

Positive Train Control (PTC) would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. Seven years ago, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015. Though Amtrak’s president has called PTC “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” the chronicallycash-strapped Amtrak has struggled to put in place its Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) PTC technology system on the timetable it planned and the section of track where Tuesday’s accident occurred lacks it. The train was reportedly traveling at more than 100 miles per hour in a 50 MPH zone. Robert Sumwalt, the National Transportation Safety Board official leading the investigation into Tuesday’s crash, made clear on Wednesday, “Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed on this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

Paul Ryan, who has made budget cuts a top priority, warned in a Fox News interview on Thursday that Congress cannot “rush to judgment and try doubling the size of government programs” in response to what he believes was “human error.”

Ryan noted that Congress had already “authorized and mandated the sort of speed control systems to be put in place,” though he noted “it wasn’t put in place here at this time.” Asked by Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade whether Congress had actually funded those systems, Ryan claimed that they had.

“Yes!” Ryan responded, “Yeah, we already passed an Amtrak funding, an authorization bill earlier this year. And the appropriations process is working its way through right now.”

Ryan did not note that this appropriation would be well below Amtrak’s request which had included millions for PTC — and below even the past several years’ funding levels. And if Congress had provided the necessary funds to install PTC across the country, there would be no need for a Senate bill filed just weeks ago to delay the implementation deadline from December 2015 to 2020.

Watch the video:

Ryan said he hoped “cooler heads can prevail” and “people won’t seize on political opportunities out of tragedies like this” to spend more money. Asked whether he thought rebuilding America’s infrastructure should be a priority, Ryan noted that the Highway Trust Fund goes bankrupt later this month but that he would not back tax increases for infrastructure improvement as “we can do better by saving more money [and] being more efficient.”

James Dobson: Gay Marriage Will Lead To Civil War

attribution: Erichaus.com

Probably not, Mr. Dobson…

 Right Wing Watch

James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right behemoth Focus on the Family, warned in a recent conference call with fellow anti-gay activists that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality could lead to a full-blown civil war.

After Janet Porter, the creator of a new “documentary” about how the gay rights movement will outlaw Christianity, discussed her “restraining order” campaign to convince Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to rule on marriage cases, Dobson said that his fellow activists “need to be realistic about what we’re up against here.”

He said that the gay rights issue has reached an unprecedented “level of intensity” and put the country on the brink of conflict: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.”

Dobson also claimed that marriage equality will lead to the collapse of the nation: “The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

He added that a “discouraged” congressman — whom he later identified as Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp — told him that his colleagues in Congress are “scared to death” about coming out against marriage equality. “We don’t have support really anywhere in government,” Dobson lamented.

“I agree with [Home School Legal Defense Association founder] Michael Farris that the only thing we can do is to have a state constitutional convention to re-examine the Constitution,” Dobson said. “I wish I could say I believe pouring a lot of opposition, which may not even be there now, onto the Supreme Court is going to make a big difference.”

Other activists appearing on the conference call included Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Rick Scarborough of Vision America and Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality.

Ted Cruz is Trying and Failing to Weasel Out of His Obamacare Duplicity

Texas-Ted-Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) | Attribution: none

Note: As other GOP Presidential candidates announce their intention to run, TFC will have less news on Ted Cruz.

Sen. Ted Cruz was the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the presidency, hence the incessant coverage from all news outlets…

Daily Banter

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a master at what Al Franken used to call “weasel words” — talking points that are carefully constructed to sound legitimate but really aren’t at all. Come to think of it, Stephen Colbert famously referred to this sort of thing as “truthiness.” Cruz is especially on his game when the topic of the complicated Affordable Care Act comes up because even top-shelf reporters don’t quite grasp all of the ins and outs of Obamacare and, frankly, the administration hasn’t been very strong at educating the public about what the law covers. And Cruz is exploiting every square mile of this supercolossal Obamacare ignorance gap.

For the last two days or so, Ted Cruz has repeatedly said that 1) as a member of the Senate, he’s required to have an Obamacare policy, 2) in spite of this requirement he was on his wife’s insurance policy until just recently, and 3) Congress is exempt from Obamacare because of an illegal move by the president. So, Obamacare is mandatory now, but it wasn’t before, and it’s actually not any more because of the allegedly “illegal” Obama exemption.

On Wednesday, Cruz sat down with a reporter from an outfit called The Daily Signal and delivered this troika of nonsense once again.

1) First, Cruz again described how for two years he’s been on his wife’s insurance — not an apparently mandatory congressional Obamacare plan.

When I announced the campaign, my wife also decided to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job. We have been for the past couple of years covered on my wife’s health insurance. When she took an unpaid leave of absence, it means that she’s also losing her benefits. And so we’re gonna do what anyone else would do, which is take their health insurance from their employer. So, in all likelihood, we’ll go on the exchange.

2) After discussing so-called “Obama subsidies,” Cruz then described why Obamacare is a requirement for members of Congress.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley introduced an amendment to Obamacare that said members of Congress have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies just like millions of Americans.

So, the “amendment” stipulates that members “have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies.” When he first mentioned this to CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday, he said it was “one of the great things about Obamacare.” Then why is he still not on the exchange? It’s because members of Congress really don’t “have to” use Obamacare — unless they choose employer-based health insurance from the government. If they do, the government’s plan is now the Healthcare.gov exchange rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. If members and staffers don’t want employer coverage, they can buy a plan directly from a provider or go without insurance. On top of all that, there’s absolutely nothing in the Affordable Care Act that says Congress isn’t permitted to receive subsidies or premium-sharing. Nothing. Cruz lied.

3) Next, even though he said he plans to follow the law (he hasn’t for two years now, but okay) which he claims features an Obamacare requirement, he goes on to say that Congress doesn’t have to use Obamacare after all because the White House carved out an exemption for Congress.

Now, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats when this passed were horrified. They didn’t wanna be under Obamacare. They went to Obama and said, “Give us a special exemption.” And Barack Obama did, and his administration ignored the plain text of the statute and created an illegal exemption. I have no intention of using that illegal exemption. I’m gonna follow the law.

Inexplicably, he wants viewers to think Congress is no longer mandated to be on Obamacare (it never was) — that Congress has an “illegal” waiver to get around Grassley’s amendment. In fact, the spirit of Grassley’s language is still intact and in effect. The “exemption” is, in reality, the Office of Personnel Management’s decision to continue to cover 72 percent of the premium costs for Congress and its staffers — just like both the government and private businesses alike always have. There was no “plain text of the statute” to ignore because, to repeat, there’s nothing in the law that says Congress can’t have a premium sharing employer benefit.

While we’re here, let’s get to the bottom of who lobbied the administration for this so-called “exemption.” Politico reported that it was a collaboration between Harry Reid and Senate Democrat John Boehner. Wait. Boehner’s not a Senate Democrat like Cruz said. He’s the Republican Speaker of the House. It was a completely bipartisan move that included both the White House and congressional leaders. Let’s clear another thing up. Grassley merely proposed an amendment that failed. The Democrats later resurrected and adapted the idea and wrote it into the body of the law. Grassley only deserves partial credit for the rule, since it was ultimately a Democratic decision.

More weasel words from Cruz:

So suddenly the media goes, “Hahahaha! Gotcha!” Because Cruz is now signing up for Obamacare. Listen, I have zero intention of take any government subsidy or Obama subsidy. Rather, what I’m gonna do is pay on the marketplace for health insurance for my family, just like millions of Americans.

Well, he won’t get a subsidy because he earns significantly more than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — the upper limit to receive premium subsidies. Notice, though, that he didn’t say “premium sharing” or “cost sharing” or “employer contribution.” He said “subsidy.” Why would he go on the Obamacare exchange, a politically dangerous move, other than for the better deal: comparable benefits and continued employer premium sharing, just like his wife’s old plan? If he intends, on the other hand, to pay his premium dues entirely out-of-pocket without any premium sharing, why didn’t he just enroll in COBRA through Goldman Sachs or buy insurance directly from a provider, sidestepping the political mess he’s in? Obviously because he wants the premium sharing, which technically isn’t a subsidy but rather a employee benefit — just like millions of Americans receive through their employers.

It’s one thing to abide by a law you don’t like, which happens all the time, but it’s another thing entirely to abide by a law you don’t like even though you have numerous alternative options to choose from. Instead, he chose Obamacare, which he hates, and, worse, he clearly plans to accept the premium sharing “exemption” that he keeps saying was an illegal plot by the Senate Democrats. Why is he doing this? Because it’s a fantastic deal and, financially, he’d be insane not to take it. Politically, however, it was a massive blunder. You know why the press is saying “gotcha!” right now? Because Cruz just blindly derped his way into a gigantic bear trap — an unforced error — and now he’s trying to weasel out of it.

10 things you need to know today: March 3, 2015

Getty Images

The Week

1.Netanyahu says he means no disrespect to Obama with speech
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his Tuesday speech to Congress was not intended to be a show of disrespect to President Obama, but that he felt a “moral obligation” to speak out against Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu was invited by Republican leaders who control Congress, not by Obama, in what the White House has called a breach of diplomatic protocol. The president has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during the trip, because that could be seen as interference in Israel’s looming elections.

Source: Reuters

2.Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account at State Department
During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used only her personal email account, rather than a government one, The New York Timesreports. This may have violated the Federal Records Act, which requires preserving officials’ emails on department servers so Congress, journalists, and historians can find them, with some exceptions for sensitive material. Clinton’s advisers gave 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department two months ago, and a spokesman said she is adhering to the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Sen. Barbara Mikulski announces her retirement
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced Monday that she would not seek reelection in 2016, ending a congressional career that has spanned 10 years in the House and 30 years in the Senate. Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, rose to the powerful position of Senate Appropriations Committee chair before losing the position when Republicans took over control of the Senate this year.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

4.Judge rules Nebraska’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional
A federal judge on Monday struck down Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment to the state’s constitution to outlaw gay marriage in 2000. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled in favor of several plaintiffs who challenged the ban, but he put his decision on hold pending the hearing of an appeal Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R) filed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has similar cases in Missouri, Arkansas, and South Dakota before it.

Source: The Washington Post

5.Georgia delays woman’s execution
Georgia halted the execution of the state’s only female death-row inmate on Monday, due to problems with the lethal combination of drugs with which she was to be injected. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was condemned to die for plotting with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband in 1997. She was scheduled to become the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945. The Georgia Supreme Court turned down her request for a stay, but prison officials delayed the execution because the drugs appeared cloudy.

Source: Reuters

6.Thieves steal $4 million in gold from truck in N.C.
Three men stole three barrels of gold valued at $4 million from a truck in North Carolina, authorities said Monday. The truck’s two security guards, who worked for the Miami firm Transvalue, said they pulled over on Interstate 95 due to mechanical trouble on the way from Miami to Massachusetts. The three armed men pulled up in a white van and made the guards lie down, then bound their hands behind their backs and left them in the woods. The robbers then took the gold and fled.

Source: NBC News

7.ISIS threatens Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey
Islamic State militants on Monday threatened to kill Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey because the microblogging service has blocked ISIS-linked accounts. A message posted online also threatened Twitter with “real war.” The threat was posted on Pastebin and attributed to ISIS, although its authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Twitter said it had contacted authorities and that its security team was investigating the threats.

Source: PC Magazine

8.Mommy blogger Lacey Spears convicted in her son’s death
Parenting blogger Lacey Spears was convicted Monday of second degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old son, Garnett. The child died in January 2014 after high levels of sodium in his system led to swelling of his brain. Prosecutors said Garnett poisoned her son by injecting salt through a feeding tube, calling it “torture” she did for attention as she blogged about his health problems. Defense attorneys said there was no evidence against Spears, 27. She faces 15 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in April.

Source: The Journal News

9. Clinton’s portrait included reference to Monica Lewinsky scandal, artist says
The artist who painted President Clinton’s portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., told Philly.com that the work includes a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The painter, Nelson Shanks, said he included a shadow in the image meant to have been cast by Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress. Shanks said it was “a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” cast by Clinton’s affair with his then-intern.

Source: Philly.com, U

10.Google confirms plan to start small wireless service
Google plans to offer a small-scale wireless service, but it is designed to show off technological innovations rather than compete with the nation’s leading carriers, Google Android executive Sundar Pichai said at an industry conference in Barcelona. The move could complicate Google’s relationship with the big carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Google counts on them to promote Android phones, but its efforts to improve connections by tapping WiFi networks could reduce data traffic — and income — for carriers.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

10 things you need to know today: March 2, 2015

(Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

The Week

1.Netanyahu arrives ahead of controversial address to Congress
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to the United States on Sunday ahead of a Tuesday address to Congress on Iran. Netanyahu was invited by GOP leaders in Congress who share his opposition to the Obama administration’s attempt to negotiate a deal with Iran to curb its controversial nuclear program. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has called Netanyahu’s address “destructive,” but Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Netanyahu was “welcome” and that U.S.-Israel security ties remained close.

Source: Reuters

2.Shooting of homeless man by L.A. police caught on video
Dozens of people gathered Sunday night at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to protest the shooting death of a man in the city’s skid row area earlier in the day. The shooting was caught on camera by a witness, and posted to Facebook. Police said officers responding to a 911 call about a possible robbery approached the man, and he “began fighting and physically resisting.” There was a struggle over an officer’s weapon, police said, before two officers and a sergeant shot the man.

Source: Los Angeles Times

3.Boston braces for another winter record
Another snowstorm barreled toward Boston overnight on Sunday, adding to record snowfall in the month of February. The city has already weathered its second snowiest season every with 102 inches, just 5.6 inches below the record 1995-1996 season. The latest storm is expected to pile on as much as another six inches by early Monday, which would make this the city’s snowiest winter. This winter blast should be brief, though. Forecasters expect the storm to clear out of the Northeast by late morning.

Source: ABC News

4.DOJ report to detail alleged racial bias in Ferguson traffic stops
A nearly complete Justice Department report will accuse Ferguson, Missouri, police of discriminating against African Americans in traffic stops, according to law enforcement officials. The disproportionate ticketing and arrests of black drivers allegedly contributed to racial tensions that led up to last year’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white officer. The report is expected to be released as early as this week. Ferguson officials will either have to negotiate a settlement or face a civil rights lawsuit.

Source: The New York Times

5.Iraq launches offensive to retake Tikrit from ISIS
A large-scale military operation by Iraqi government forces to take back Tikrit from ISIS is underway, Iraqi state television reports. They are backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets, and militants are said to have been forced out of some areas outside of the city 80 miles north of Baghdad. Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, fell to ISIS last summer, and before the operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Sunni fighters that if they left ISIS, they would be pardoned.

Source: The Associated Press

6.Astronauts take third spacewalk to prepare for new crew capsules
Astronauts conducted their third spacewalk in a week on Sunday to install 400 feet of power and data cable, and two antennas at the International Space Station. The equipment is needed for docking ports to accommodate new crew capsules being built for NASA by Boeing and SpaceX. Two docking ports will be flown to the station later this year, and the capsules are expected to start flying up with astronauts on board in 2017. NASA has not had such a busy flurry of spacewalks since it retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Source: Fox News

7.Man identified as “Jihadi John” described as cold loner
Details continue to emerge about Mohammed Emwazi, the London-raised man identified as the masked killer shown in Islamic State videos of the beheadings of Western hostages in Syria. A former teacher said that before Emwazi, 26, became known as “Jihadi John” he was a “hard-working, aspirational” student who was once bullied by classmates. A former ISIS militant described Emwazi as a cold loner who kept to himself. “He didn’t talk much,” the man, Abu Ayman, said. “He wouldn’t join us in prayer.”

Source: BBC News

8.Bangladesh police arrest suspect in U.S. blogger’s murder
Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested a suspect in last week’s gruesome murder of Avijit Roy, an American atheist blogger who has been an outspoken critic of Islamist extremists. The suspect, Farabi Shafiur Rahman, is a Muslim blogger who has denounced atheism and threatened Roy on Facebook. In one post, a police spokesman said, Rahman wrote, “Avijit Roy lives in America, so it’s not possible to kill him right now. But he will be killed when he comes back.”

Source: The Associated Press

9. North Korea fires missiles ahead of U.S.-South Korea drills
North Korea fired two short-range Scud ballistic missiles into the sea to protest annual South Korea-U.S. military drills that start Monday. South Korea called the launches “foolhardy and provocative,” saying they violated United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korean missile programs. North Korea has called for the U.S. and South Korea to cancel the drills, calling them a rehearsal for a “nuclear war of invasion.” The allies say the drills are necessary for South Korea’s defense.

Source: The Korea Herald

10.White Sox legend Minnie Minoso dies at age 90
Former Chicago White Sox star Minnie Minoso — the city’s first black Major League Baseball player — died Sunday at age 90. Minoso had attended a friend’s birthday party and apparently fell ill. He was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his car at a gas station. Minoso, who was born in Cuba, hit a two-run homer in his first at bat when he joined the team in 1951 after two seasons in Cleveland. President Obama expressed his condolences to the family in a statement, saying Minoso “will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.'”

Source: ESPN

10 things you need to know today: December 10, 2014

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report's findings a "stain on the nation's history."

Senate Intelligence Committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called the torture report’s findings a “stain on the nation’s history.” | (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Week

A Senate report says CIA torture was ineffective, Congress reaches a spending deal to avert a shutdown, and more

1. Torture report slams the CIA
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a highly critical report on the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The five-year investigation found that agency medical personnel warned of “a series of near drowning by waterboarding.” The report also rejected claims that torturing detainees helped find Osama bin Laden. The CIA pushed back, saying that so-called enhanced interrogations were effective in foiling al Qaeda plots. [The Washington Post, ABC News]

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2. Congress strikes a $1.1 trillion spending deal to avoid a government shutdown
Republicans and Democrats in Congress reached an agreement Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would delay a fight over funding President Obama’s executive order on immigration and avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped to bring the deal to a vote on Thursday, when the federal government is due to run short of money. The bill gives most of the government money for the next fiscal year, but only funds the Homeland Security Department, which will carry out Obama’s immigration policies, into early next year. [The Associated Press]

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3. World Food Program raises money to resume aid to Syrian refugees
The United Nations’ World Food Program announced Tuesday that it has raised more than enough money through a social media campaign to resume a food voucher program for 1.7 million refugees from Syria’s civil war. WFP officials had said they needed $64 million to get the program back on track, and the 72-hour Dollar for Syrian Refugees campaign last week raised $80 million. The agency will now be able to give about $30 to average families for use in local shops. [United Nations]

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4. Gruber apologizes for “insulting” remarks on ObamaCare passage
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped shape the Affordable Care Act, apologized Tuesday for what he called his “glib, thoughtless, and sometimes downright insulting comments” about how supporters got the law passed. In a recently surfaced video, Gruber said supporters relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” to mask the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance as something other than a tax. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Gruber’s initial comments inadvertently revealed how Democrats pushed ObamaCare through Congress. [The Washington Times]

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5. California DAs accuse Uber of misleading customers
District attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles are suing ride-sharing service Uber for allegedly misleading customers and charging bogus fees. The DAs say Uber misleads customers about the quality of its background checks on drivers, and operates out of airports without proper authorization. Uber said it was cooperating with authorities and was “an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State.” Uber competitor Lyft settled a similar case, agreeing to pay $250,000 and be more open with passengers. [San Jose Mercury News]

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6. Korean Air Lines executive resigns after delaying flight over bag of nuts
A top Korean Air Lines official resigned Tuesday after facing intense criticism for delaying the departure of a flight from New York to South Korea because she was served macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate. The official, Cho Hyun-ah, is the eldest daughter of the company’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho. The younger Cho served as the airline’s executive vice president of cabin service, and she had ordered a senior crew member off the plane, forcing it to return to the gate. [The Associated Press]

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7. Projected gas prices drop
The Energy Department on Tuesday lowered the projected average gasoline price by 35 cents to $2.60 per gallon, 23 percent below this year’s average. The decline would amount to a $100 billion savings for drivers in 2015 based on current levels of consumption. It comes as crude oil prices have fallen to $66 per barrel from $115 in June due to a glut in global supply. Next year’s predicted gas price would be the lowest yearly average since 2009. [USA Today]

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8. Freed hostage returns to France
The last French hostage held by Islamists, Serge Lazarevic, returned home Wednesday after being held for three years by al Qaeda’s North African branch. Lazarevic was released days after the release of two al Qaeda fighters from a prison in Mali. He thanked French President Francois Hollande “for having done everything to free me.” The deal revived debate over negotiating with hostage takers. Hollande said France did not pay ransoms or exchange prisoners, but that other countries have, “to help us.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

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9. Former Miss America and actress Mary Ann Mobley dies at 75
Mary Ann Mobley Collins, a former Miss America who appeared in movies with Elvis Presley, died Tuesday in Beverly Hills. She was 75. Collins won the Miss America crown in 1958, and moved on to acting a few years later. Her credits included TV shows, including General Hospital and Perry Mason. She appeared with Elvis in Girl Happy, and with Jerry Lewis in Three on a Couch, the job during which she met her late husband, Gary Collins, who died two years ago. [The Associated Press]

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10. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in Oslo to accept Nobel Peace Prize
Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot by a Taliban gunman, and fellow education advocate Kailash Satyarthi are in Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday. Malala, 17, will be the youngest person ever to receive the award. “We are not here just to accept our award, get this medal, and go back home,” the Pakistani teen said at a press conference before the ceremony. “We are here to tell children especially that you need to stand up, you need to speak up for your rights … It is you who can change the world.” [Agence France Presse]

Congressmen Blasting Obama For Special Immigration Exceptions Have Made Special Immigration Exceptions

Tom Cotton (R-AR) | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DANNY JOHNSTON

Think Progress

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearingwith the less-than-impartial title, “President Obama’s Executive Overreach on Immigration.” But many of the same members of Congress who are decrying the president’s unilateral decision to halt the deportations of some undocumented immigrants are using their own unilateral power to effectively halt deportation of individuals of their own choosing.

Sunday, Senator-Elect and current Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), sharply criticized last month’s executive action. “The president just lost an election, in no small measure because wages for working families are declining and unemployment is still too high in too many places, and the first big action he took after the election was to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get jobs, not for working families to get jobs,” he told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. In earlier interviews, he threatened to defund such action and suggested the possibility of blocking judicial nominees to retaliate for what he termed “President Obama’s lawless actions.”

But a little-noticed bill filed by Cotton in June would grant similar protections to a trio of non-citizens, “Notwithstanding subsections (a) and (b) of section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” His bill would have allowed Meriam Yahya Ibrahim (a Sudanese woman later granted asylum after being sentenced to death for apostasy after converting to Christianity) and her children eligibility “for issuance of an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence upon filing an application for issuance of an immigrant visa.” While the House never acted on Cotton’s bill, it was not necessary.

Here’s why: any individual U.S. senator or representative can file a “private bill,” proposing relief for a person who has not been granted asylum or citizenship, but still wants to live in the United States. The bill gets assigned to a committee, but almost never comes up for a vote. While in committee, the administration is asked to weigh in on the merits of the person in question. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) almost always allows the individual to stay in the country under “deferred action,” as long as the bill is technically pending in Congress. The end result is that sponsor is unilaterally able to do much the same thing as the “deferred action” granted by President Obama and his predecessors in both parties. At the start of the next Congress, the bill’s sponsor simply re-files the bill, restarting the process.

Similarly, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) filed a private bill in 2012 to grant relief to Dr. Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. capture Osama Bin Laden. But after President Obama’s executive action, Rohrabacher decried it as “autocratic contempt for our democratic governing system” a “naked power grab,” and and a “lawless action.” A spokesman for Rohrabacher told ThinkProgress that he sees “no contradiction” between the positions as the “executive action was an attempt to defy the will of Congress,” while the private bill effort “defines congressional will.”

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) has also been a vocal critic of the executive action, likening his bypassing of Congress to a “grenade” from the president. A private bill he filed in January to grant relief to John Cheruiyot Kemboi and Winnie Njeri Kemboi, a married Kenyan couple who had sought asylum. A Tiberi spokeswoman told ThinkProgress that one of their children, a U.S. citizen, has health problems and the Kembois want to stay in the country to care for him. “If anything the Kemboi family situation is yet another example of our broken immigration system,” she explained, and “Congressman Tiberi believes that the president should work with Congress to fix the nation’s immigration problems, not just issue mandates from the Oval Office.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blasted President Obama’s executive action as “unconstitutional” and designed to divide the GOP. His own “private bills” have spared Alemseghed Mussie Tesfamical from deportaiton back to Eritrea for the past several Congresses. And Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who opined that “the President’s ‘go it alone’ approach drives a political wedge into ongoing reform efforts and recklessly disregards our nation’s lawmaking process,” filed a private bill last year to assist Ibrahim Parlak, a controversialKurdish immigrant.

While most of the critics have been Republicans, a handful of Democrats have also objected to the executive action. One, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) warned that executive action would “cause more problems” than it it would solve. But he filed a private bill to help Corina de Chalup Turcinovic, a French-born widow.

The offices of Reps. Cotton, King, Lipinski, and Upton did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the bills and the apparent contradiction.

Seen on the Interent – 11-8-2014

This will be just the beginning of the Idiocracy Nightmare Reign of the GOP in both houses from 2015 to 2017 for Congress and 2021 for Senators elected in this past election.

Prepare for a two year setback on vital measures that will come before Congress such as immigration, Gay rights, civil rights, climate change and more. The goodness is that President Obama, although a “lame duck” in political term, still has the power of the veto pen…for now.

 

 

 

Jon Stewart slams Congress for cravenly ducking debate on ISIS

Jon Stewart | The Daily Show

The Week

Maybe you’re not surprised that Congress is ducking a debate on the war against ISIS for what appears to be purely political reasons, and at this point, maybe you’re not even taken aback. Jon Stewart wants you to be taken aback. On Monday night’s Daily Show, he unfavorably compared Congress to Britain’s Parliament, which was called back into session by Prime Minister David Cameron last week to have a vigorous debate over whether the UK should join America’s ISIS bombing campaign.

Stewart doesn’t go into the differences between Britain’s parliamentary system and America’s separately elected legislative and executive branches — this is a comedy TV show, after all, not a seminar on comparative politics — but his point largely stands: America’s “legislators refuse to debate publicly one of the most crucial issues of our time, for fear that we will hear them.” He singles out House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who warns about President Obama’s handling of the imminent threat of ISIS “barbarians” but won’t call the House back to tackle that threat.

Congress’ excuse is that Obama didn’t ask them to debate the ISIS battle — Stewart isn’t buying it (as he mockingly notes in his Lindsey Graham voice, for some reason, before breaking out a pink magic wand). And the only person in Congress willing to explain the real, brazenly political motives is Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who lost a GOP primary and won’t be returning to Congress next year. “You know what, the rest of you motherf—kers either get back to Washington and debate and vote on this thing, or maybe it’s time to tell ‘mom’ we’re coming home,” Stewart concluded, pointing to a photo of Queen Elizabeth II.

Watch the episode here…

Gun nuts meet their match: Why Gabby Giffords isn’t playing nice anymore

Gun nuts meet their match: Why Gabby Giffords isn't playing nice anymore

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords | (Credit: Reuters/Samantha Sais)

Salon

A few years back someone walked up to then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, and shot her in the head. The shooter, Jared Loughner, killed six and injured a dozen or so others. In 2012, another nut shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Illinois. Later that year, a shooter walked into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and murdered 20 children. These are only a few high-profile examples of the dozens of mass shootings that have taken place in the last several years.

After Newtown, President Obama and many members of Congress finally felt compelled to make the first serious push for gun control legislation in decades. Their demands were eventually whittled down to some modest measures, such as expanding background checks for gun buyers. But even that effort, pushed hard by then-former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and backed by vast majorities of the American people, failed to overcome a Republican Senate filibuster.

Oddly enough, it strains certain imaginations that the above sequence of events is something that people could get really, really angry about it. That masses of people, including members of Congress, movie-theater patrons, and children could get shot, and that members of Congress — mostly Republicans, with a handful of conservative Democrats — wouldn’t even accede a minimal piece of legislation shoring up the country’s porous background check laws. It’s horrifying and enraging, and those public figures who work to maintain or even loosen what we might generously called the “loopholed” status quo of American gun law should expect to be treated as accomplices to this farce.

As Giffords herself recovered, retired from Congress and became an ardent advocate for stricter background checks, she first tried to play nice. She implored members of both parties to work together to pass common-sense gun regulations, like those closing background check loopholes for private sales on the Internet and at gun shows. The advocacy commercials she and/or her husband appeared in were mostly to urge action, not to attack. As we know, that didn’t work very well.

So this cycle, Giffords’ super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is getting “mean.” That’s how Politico describes the group’s tactics this cycle.

Continue reading here…