Rudy Giuliani. [...]
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In a few hours, at 12pm eastern, the Department of Justice will announce the findings of its investigation into alleged discrimination against Latinos by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. We'll bring you the details. [...]
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From Andy Cobb and our friends at Second City:
Newt Gingrich, ? who famously proclaimed that he would like to see Medicare ?wither on the vine? and has supported plans to privatize Medicare since at least 1995 — praised the bipartisan Medicare premium support proposal unveiled today by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) this morning. The plan would provide seniors with pre-determined premium support vouchers to purchase benefits through an exchange of private plans or the existing fee-for-service program. The government subsidy would ?rise or fall along with the actual cost of the policies,” but could still shift costs for some seniors and push beneficiaries into private insurance.
During an interview with the Des Moines Register this morning, Gingrich had this to say:
GINGRICH: We have today a very important breakthrough in that there is a Wyden/Ryan Medicare reform bill. It represents Senator Wyden, the Democrat from Oregon, Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. It is a bipartisan effort to really come to grips with one of the major entitlement challenges we face and to have that bill introduced and have them publicly together talking about this is really a healthy, maybe it’s the beginning of breaking up the log jam and starting to get Democrats and Republicans to talk with each other. And I think that Paul Ryan and Ron Wyden deserve some of the credit. I mean this is a very courageous thing for each of them to do. To reach out, come together and offer a genuinely bipartisan bill, given the atmosphere you have in Washington.
Gingrich has said that he would have voted for Ryan?s original plan to end traditional Medicare and even proposed kick-starting premium support ?this year?: ?I would offer on a voluntary basis, a supplement plan, a voucher?I wouldn?t call it a voucher?but some kind of support plan this year,? Gingrich told conservatives.
For more analysis on the Wyden/Ryan plan, click here.
Last night, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1905, The Iran Threat Reductions Act (PDF), by a 410 to 11 margin. The bill strengthens and requires the president to impose existing sanctions against Iran, but also contains a provision which constrains the administration should it seek to diplomatically engage the Islamic Republic.
The provision in Section 601(c), proposed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and added to the bill in her House Foreign Affairs Committee, says:
No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that?is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran, and… presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.
Yesterday, the White House also dropped a veto threat on a defense bill that includes sanctions aimed at Iran’s central bank. Taken together, said the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that advocates diplomacy, the moves “represent a major step in the wrong direction for the United States? Iran policy.” Policy director Jamal Abdi said, “By working to take diplomatic options off the table, the House is putting restrictions on the only tool available to prevent a nuclear Iran and prevent a disastrous military confrontation.?
Despite a waiver in the Threat Reduction Act that allows the president to suspend the ban when U.S. national security is at stake, the provision faced criticisms from advocates of engagement. Last week, 26 liberals groups sent a letter to Congress opposing the measure.
In November, former U.S ambassadors Thomas Pickering and William Luers wrote that this “preposterous law” barring contacts defies Sun Tzu?s famous maxim by “mak[ing] it illegal for the U.S. to know its enemy.” Noting that there have been virtually no contacts with Iran since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the two elder statesmen observed:
That ignorance of this powerful adversary dangerously weakens our ability to know how to achieve U.S. objectives and protect U.S. interests.
The most successful practitioners of Sun Tzu?s counsel have found that the more one knows about the adversary, the more likely it is that war can be won or, better yet, avoided altogether.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), though, noted in a “dear colleague” letter that the bill only bars contacts with those who are a “threat” to the U.S. or “affiliated with terrorist organizations.” She continued: “None of the persons with whom the United States would negotiate over the nuclear program fit into this category.”
A Senate version of the legislation remains stalled. Faced with signing the bill in the future, the administration would likely issue a signing statement exempting itself from Sec. 601(c) because, as Pickering and Luers point out, it “rais[es] serious constitutional issues over the separation of powers” by curbing the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy.
Other key stories below: U.S. Solar industry reports record third-quarter growth; For Haiti, climate change is more present fear than horrible imagining
* Solar power generation to hit 20 billion kWh in 2015
BEIJING, Dec 15 (Reuters) – China has further revised up its solar power development target for 2015 by 50 percent from its previous plan, state media reported on Thursday.
The government has set a target for installed solar power generating capacity to reach 15 gigawatts by 2015 and wind power capacity to hit 100 GW, China National Radio reported, citing an announcement from the National Energy Administration.
The ambitious move may have been encouraged by a rapid increase in solar power installation in recent months after the government unified grid feed-in tariffs for solar projects for the first time in July, and offered a higher price for projects that would be put into operation before the year end.
China had doubled its 2015 solar power goal to 10 GW after the Japanese nuclear power crisis.
Installed solar power capacity at the end of 2010 was less than 1 GW in China, the world’s largest exporter of photovoltaic products and home to some of the industry’s top players, such as Trina Solar, JA Solar, Suntech Power and LDK Solar.
For a detailed analysis of China’s renewables strategy, see the recent post by Melanie Hart, CAP’s Policy Analyst on China Energy and Climate Policy “China?s New Plan for Solar Power Supremacy.” Here’s more from Reuters:
Annual solar power output will reach 20 billion kilowatt hours by 2015 and wind power output 190 billion kWh, China National Radio said in a text report posted on its website (www.cnr.cn).
Of the planned 100 GW wind power capacity in 2015, 5 GW will be built in the ocean, it said.
Solar power is a booming business in the U.S., with more domestic solar installations completed in the third quarter of this year than during all of 2009, according to a report released Wednesday by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Assn.
“The U.S. solar industry is on a roll, with unprecedented growth in 2011,” said Rhone Resch, chief executive of the solar group. “Solar is now an economic force in dozens of states, creating jobs across America.” The Solar Energy Industries Assn. is the national trade group for the U.S. solar energy industry, and it has 1,100 member companies.
Some 449 megawatts of power were installed in various parts of the U.S. in the third quarter in a variety of projects that ranged in size from small residential systems to large, utility-scale facilities, the report said. One megawatt is the equivalent of 1 million watts of power.
For people in the UK, a weak deal at Durban on climate change may be disappointing, but it is not something that will affect their everyday life ? at least not for some years to come.
In Haiti, though, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and unpredictable. In 2008, the summer before the earthquake, Haiti endured four tropical storms in a row. Our fourth largest city, Gonaives, was inundated for months.
It is not just the strength and frequency of rain, but the particular vulnerability of Haitian terrain. The same storms can pound the neighbouring Dominican Republic, or nearby Jamaica, and do far less damage. Haiti is almost completely denuded of trees, with less than 2% of its original forest cover still standing. So when storms hit, landslides almost invariably occur, as the topsoil has few tree roots binding it together and holding it in place.
Haiti has been progressively losing its lush woodland ever since 1804, when the country was forced to start chopping down its old growth mahogany forests to help pay the “reparations” imposed by its former French colonialists following independence….
It is not just excessive rain combined with poor forest cover that causes problems for the population, but the unpredictability of the rains. Some areas in the far north west of Haiti have been experiencing unseasonable droughts in recent years, causing pastures to dry up and crops to fail.
A Brazilian lawsuit that seeks to halt Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) operations after an oil spill would reduce the country?s offshore drilling at a time when it wants to double output in ten years.
Federal prosecutors in Campos, in the oil region of Rio de Janeiro state, are suing both companies for 20 billion reais ($10.6 billion) in environmental and social damages and asked a court to suspend their operations, according to a statement yesterday. Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, and Transocean, based in Vernier, Switzerland, said they haven?t been notified and are cooperating with authorities.
The case imperils Brazil?s plan to boost crude output because Transocean operates 10 out of the 61 rigs working in the country and it would be hard to replace them in a tight market for oil equipment, said Judson Bailey, an analyst at Jefferies & Co Inc. Brazilian oil production growth has slowed after the country increased safety requirements following the spill at BP Plc?s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
Just days before the three-year anniversary of the devastating dike failure at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, the Environmental Protection Agency still has little authority to regulate the storage of toxic coal ash produced as a byproduct of coal power.
A new report released Tuesday shows coal ash’s harmful environmental effects are more widespread than previously understood. Meanwhile, a bill proposed by a bipartisan coalition of coal-state senators would strip away the federal government’s power to do anything about it.
The new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project identified 19 coal ash dump sites in nine states where heavy concentrations of arsenic, boron, manganese and other pollutants contaminate the groundwater nearby. At some of those sites, the EPA had noted only “potential” contamination, but when the EIP did its own tests, it found chemicals had leached into the ground.
A record number of Americans, nearly 50 percent, are either in poverty or considered low-income, according to Census data released this week. The data show a shrinking middle class beset by years of stagnant wages, high unemployment, rising health care and living costs, and a fraying government social safety net. “The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” Sheldon Danziger, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan, told the AP. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”
The sooner these Bluedogs let the door hit them in the arse on the way out, the better. They're more trouble than they're worth these days. I realize we live in a country with a great diversity of opinion, but when you call yourself a Democrat while behaving like a Republican with a grudge, don't expect me to cry big salt tears when you retire.
Personally, I welcome Dennis Cardoza's retirement, and would like for it to be sooner rather than later. Cardoza is the co-chair of the rapidly-dwindling and dying Congressional Bluedog caucus, and he has a bit of a sad that our current President isn't a glad-handing, schmoozing idiot who has a few beers with Congress and cuts deals.
In an op-ed for The Hill, Cardoza let loose with a big foot-stomping temper tantrum at the President. Personally, it sounds like more of an audition for Fox News, given that Cardoza did everything but use the word uppity in his rant. He came close, calling him an arrogant professor who never listens to any real people.
Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what Cardoza's point is. While it's certainly true that the President hasn't been all buddy-buddy with Congress, he's hardly an isolated elitist looking down on the American people from some ivory tower. What was he expecting?
The LA Times speculates:
The White House had no comment on Cardoza's criticism. The Californian has been at odds with the administration for a while. In announcing his retirement on the House floor, he slammed the White House?s handling of the housing crisis. Cardoza?s Central Valley district, which runs from Stockton to Fresno, has been hammered by foreclosures.
Moreover, the former co-chairman of the Democratic Blue Dog coalition in the House saw his colleagues in the caucus eviscerated in the 2010 midterm election, many undone they believed because of Obama administration?s policies on healthcare and greenhouse gas emissions.
Awwww. The Blue Doggie didn't like being forced to behave according to his party's stated, written, voted-upon and adopted platform? Then goodbye and good riddance to him.
It's the most popular high-yielding stock owned by members of Congress.
And they might be on to something. Right now this stock yields 5.9%… and it's one of the most stable dividend-payers in the United States. During the recession, dividends stayed steady, but in the past five years, investors have enjoyed five annual dividend increases.
At last count, 57 members of Congress — 20 Democrats and 37 Republicans — owned shares of this company. I'll tell you more in a moment. But first, I think you should understand why it's important to know why Congress members own the shares at all…
A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes finally blew the lid off the entire thing.
To make . . . → Read More: Congress’ Favorite Dividend Stock
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The White House, perhaps in an attempt to defuse one of the time bombs set to go off this week, released a statement last night hinting that it would reject the House inclusions in the omnibus spending bill, and urging Congress to do a simple short-term funding bill.
The President continues to have significant concerns about a number of provisions that have been reported to be in the Republican agreement on the omnibus. This includes provisions that would undermine Wall Street reforms, enact extreme social and ideological riders, undercut environmental protections, and threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the President. Given the magnitude of the legislation?providing over $1 trillion dollars in funding?coupled with the unresolved payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution as it has seven times already this year so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year.
And the House, of course, released its budget with most of those objectionable things, although they weren't able to completely gut the Environmental Protection Agency Rules or cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. They settled for blocking energy efficiency standards for light bulbs (seriously, this obsession is just bizarre) and punishing low-income women in D.C., making abortion more difficult (totally predictable). And to reinforce the point that they were drug into the 21st century kicking and screaming, they are clinging to Cold War restrictions on Cuba.
And there's this.
The underlying bill has bipartisan backing but could encounter turbulence with tea party lawmakers seeking far more significant cuts to government agencies. The measure funds the day-to-day operating budgets of 10 Cabinet departments and programs ranging from border security to flood control to combating AIDS and famine in Africa.
It could still do all those things and not get the tea party on board because it leaves a scrap of funding for education and the safety net. Which means that it needs Democratic support. Which means that Democrats actually do still have leverage, they just need to realize that they have it and actually exert it.