By Will Englund,
MOSCOW – Russia dramatically escalated its denunciations of American threats to attack Syrian military targets on Saturday, with President Vladimir Putin saying it would have been “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons as the Obama administration alleges.
The Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued before President Obama said he would seek congressional authorization before ordering strikes on Syria, said a U.S. attack would be a “gross violation” of international law.
Speaking out for the first time since an apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, Putin called on President Obama to find a nonviolent way out of the crisis.
“I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future casualties,” Putin told Russian news agencies in Vladivostok during a tour of the country’s flood-stricken Far East.
“Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision on an operation in Syria,” he said.
The White House argued Friday that intelligence shows more than 1,400 people died from exposure to chemical weapons in an attack carried out by the Syrian military.
Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al-Assad, he said, would have had no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.
Doing so, he said, would have been “utter nonsense’’ – with the clear implication that that is how he would characterize the American allegations.
On top of that, he said, the Obama administration’s “claims that proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody, are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners.”
Putin’s comments were soon underlined by a stern statement from the Foreign Ministry. After U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul had finished a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Saturday, the ministry declared, “Russia has expressed its conviction that any forceful action against Syria that the U.S. could carry out in circumvention of the U.N. Security Council would be an act of aggression and a gross violation of international law.”
Putin said he was surprised by the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Thursday not to join a U.S. attack on Syrian military targets. “It shows that there are people guided by common sense there,” he said.
Putin said he and Obama have not discussed Syria since the alleged chemical weapons attack occurred.
The Russian president is fond of needling his opponents, often adopting a tone of apparent reasonableness tinged with a considerable amount of condescension. A U.S. assault on Assad’s government would do nothing to hurt his standing, at home or in many countries abroad, where his contempt for Washington tends to play very well.
“The U.S. president and I certainly discussed this problem at the G-8” summit in June in Northern Ireland, Putin said Saturday. “And, by the way, we agreed then that we would jointly facilitate peace negotiations in Geneva, and the Americans committed themselves to bringing the armed opposition to these negotiations. I understand this is a difficult process, and it looks like they haven’t succeeded in this.”
Obama arrives in St. Petersburg for the G-20 meeting on Thursday and leaves on Friday. The purpose of the gathering is to discuss economic growth, but the White House acknowledges there will be plenty of conversation about Syria on the side. There are currently no plans for a one-on-one meeting between Putin and Obama, who earlier this month decided not to attend a Moscow summit with the Russian president.
On Friday, the head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of parliament, Alexei Pushkov, said the Nobel committee should strip Obama of his 2009 Peace Prize if he launches an attack on Syria.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the US military was ready to take action against the Syrian regime if ordered, but stressed that Washington was still evaluating claims of a chemical weapons attack. “President Obama has asked the Defense Department…
A prison break in Egypt has left nearly 40 people dead, as the head of the country’s armed forces urged supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi to integrate themselves into the political process.
The country’s interior ministry said the prisoners, who were being loaded into a vehicle to be taken to a prison on the outskirts of Cairo, had taken an officer hostage during an escape attempt and died after suffocating on tear gas.
“Thirty-six of the prisoners died of suffocation and crowding after tear gas was used to stop their escape,” the ministry said.
The official MENA news agency reported an “unknown gunman” had tried to aid prisoners in their escape.
More than 830 people have died in Egypt since last Wednesday in clashes pitting backers of the deposed Islamist president Morsi against security forces.
Police have said they have arrested more than 1,000 Brotherhood sympathisers in recent days as part of a broad crackdown aimed at ending weeks of political turmoil.
The call from General Abdel Fatah al Sisi was the military’s first public comments since last week’s violent crackdown.
The General says there is room for everyone in Egypt.
“The Egyptian people are free to choose whom they want to rule them, and we are the protectors of this free will,” he said.
He urged Brotherhood supporters to “revise their national position and realise that legitimacy belongs to the people to give it to whoever they want and take it from them whenever they want.”
West pushes forward with economic sanctions to stop violence
Meanwhile, in the United States, senior Republicans are calling on President Barack Obama to withdraw more than $1 billion in aid to the Egyptian military in the wake of last week’s killings.
Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham went to Egypt at President Obama’s request two weeks ago.
Senator McCain said standing by and watching the massacre happen is a violation of what the US stands for.
“We have no credibility,” he said.
“We do have influence but when you don’t use that influence then you don’t have that influence.”
Senator Graham also favours cutting aid and other forms of economic pressure.
“Even though the Brotherhood overplaying their hand started this we can’t support what the military is doing in response.”
President Obama has so far delayed delivering fighter jets and postponed a joint military exercise and is being backed by senior Democrat senators.
European Union governments will this week question how to best use their economic ties with Egypt to pressure Cairo’s army-backed rulers into finding a peaceful compromise with Morsi supporters.
At stake could be a $7.2 billion package of grants and loans promised by the EU, its member governments and international financial institutions last year, as well as various trade incentives, EU officials and experts say.
(CNSNews.com) – At a joint news conference with his Brazilian counterpart on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry praised Brazil for its commitment to climate change initiatives, and he promised that the Obama administration also is determined to do something about it.”So the challenge is ahead of us, for all of us, and I know that the United States has a great commitment under President Obama to take our own initiatives, not even to wait for congressional action, but to move administratively in order to do our part. I know we can continue to work with Brazil on this issue of climate, and we look forward to doing so.”President Obama repeatedly has said he won’t wait for Congress to act — on jobs, recess appointments, immigration, gun control, and other issues — where “we can act administratively without additional congressional authorization, and just get it done,” as he said in October 2011.Congressional Republicans have done little more than complain about the president exceeding his constitutional authority. One of the most vocal critics is Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who told Fox News on Monday that he agrees with those who say that Republicans should sue the president to check his executive overreach:”I would sue,” Paul told Sean Hannity. “We did sue over the recess appointments (to the National Labor Relations Board). Remember, the president declared a (congressional) recess even though we said we weren’t in recess? And the court has rebuked him severely on this. When it goes to the Supreme Court, I think they’re going to once again say he usurped power that’s not his. We should do the same thing here,” Paul said, referring to Obama’s decision to delay various elements of the new health care law.On Tuesday, Sen. Paul told Fox News, “The way our country works is, legislation is written by Congress, passed by your representatives. The president doesn’t get to write legislation. And it’s illegal and unconstitutional for him to try to change legislation by himself.” -
See more at: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/kerry-obama-will-act-climate-change-without-congressional-approval#sthash.VWQ9vVAf.dpuf
A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday reached a deal that, if passed, would fix the big jump in interest rates for federally backed student loans, sources told NBC News.
On July 1, rates went for new subsided Stafford loans doubled from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have decried the hike and have been working to figure out a deal before students return to campus this fall.
The tentative deal reached Wednesday evening would base future fixed-interest rates for student loans on the ten-year Treasury note plus an additional percentage, according to the sources.
Under the proposed deal, undergraduates this fall would be able access loans at a projected rate of 3.86 percent. Graduate students could borrow at 5.4 percent and parents could borrow at 6.4 percent. The cap was a key provision for Senate Democrats to agree to the deal.
And the agreement would set a long-term cap on undergraduate student loans at 8.25 percent, graduate students at 9.25 percent and parents’ rate could be as high as 10.5 percent.
Still, interest rates, which are based on financial markets, will continue to increase as the economy improves. That means loan rates may again rise above 6 percent in as soon as three years, according to senate projections.
However the rates will ultimately be capped, a key provision that Senate Democrats wanted in the final deal.
Announcement of a deal comes one day after a group of senators from both sides of aisle met with President Obama at the White House.
President Obama offered a defiant defense of government funding for Planned Parenthood Friday and urged the group’s members to help his administration sign up more women for benefits under his besieged health-care law.
The first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, Mr. Obama accused conservative politicians of trying to “roll back the clock” on abortion rights and health-care services for women.
“They’ve been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health,” Mr. Obama told the group’s annual convention in Washington. “When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they’re not just talking about you, they’re talking about the millions of women who you serve. And when they talk about cutting off your funding, let’s be clear, they’re talking about telling many of those women, ‘You’re own your own.’ “
The president’s address was delayed for a day. He was initially scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the group’s gala Thursday night, but postponed it to attend a memorial service in West, Texas, for victims of a deadly fertilizer plant explosion.
“We’ve gone through a pretty tough week and a half, and I was down in Texas letting the people in West, Texas, know that we all love them and care about them in their time of grieving,” Mr. Obama said.
His address to Planned Parenthood came in the midst of a trial in Philadelphia involving an abortionist accused of murder and other charges for performing illegal late-term abortions. While Mr. Obama said in an interview last week he was following the case, he didn’t mention it at the Planned Parenthood meeting.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said Mr. Obama should have reproached Planned Parenthood officials for not doing more to stop the alleged violations at the clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Planned Parenthood officials in Philadelphia said they encouraged patients who complained to them about the clinic to report it to state authorities.
“President Obama blatantly ignored this inconvenient truth about the abortion industry’s horrific lack of oversight, and disparaged the pro-life advocates who wake up each morning with the goal of saving the lives of unborn children and women from the pain of abortion,” Ms. Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Instead, the president decried efforts across the country to limit women’s access to abortion services.
“After decades of progress, there are still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than to the 21st century,” Mr. Obama said. “Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman’s right to choose — laws that would make it harder for women to get the contraceptive care they need. Laws that would cut off access to cancer screenings and end educational programs that help prevent teen pregnancy.”
He added, “You want to check the calendar, you want to make sure it’s still 2013.”
The president singled out a new law in North Dakota, which bans most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.
“A woman may not even know that she’s pregnant at six weeks,” Mr. Obama said.
With implementation of his signature health-care law under fire from lawmakers in his own party, the president devoted a good portion of his address to urging Planned Parenthood members to sign up their patients for benefits under the law’s health-insurance exchanges. Some top Democrats are angry at Mr. Obama’s decision to take money from public-health prevention programs and use it to publicize the new law, which mandates insurance marketplaces in every state.
“I’m here to also ask for your help, because we need to get the word out,” Mr. Obama said. “We need you to tell your patients, your friends, your neighbors, your family members what the health-care law means for them. Make sure that they know that there are plans out there right now that cover the costs of contraception and preventive care free-of-charge.”
High-ranking federal employees will not be required to disclose financial information online, after President Obama signed an amendment to a bill that was meant to put an end to insider trading among members of Congress and government staffers.
The provisions to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act were quietly approved by both chambers of Congress at the end of last week before being passed onto the president’s desk. The bill had previously been delayed several times before the White House announced on Monday that Obama had approved the changes.
The original STOCK Act was signed by the Obama administration last year in a highly publicized ceremony, during which he said the new law would restore the American public’s faith in the Washington elite. Congressional lawmakers have long been accused of profiting from stock information derived as a result of their position. A civilian moving money based on information gained in a similar fashion would be breaking the law.
“It’s a good first step,” Obama said after the passage last year. “And in the months ahead, Congress should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people.”
Last week, both chambers unanimously voted in favor of the amendments that will shield them from having to make such disclosures. In addition to the obvious implications of politicians giving themselves the option to omit financial information, the decision is notable in that it came among Congress’ least-productive session on record.
In a delay earlier this year, Congress approved a study by the National Academy of Public Administration, which determined an online database would threaten the safety of public officials and make running for office less appealing for people working in the private sector.
Roughly 28,000 government officials would have been forced to make their financial records publicly available, according to The Hill, although that stipulation has drawn the ire of federal government employee unions.
Other, albeit less visible, reporting methods will still pertain to the president, vice president, members of Congress and candidates for Congress starting in 2014.
Perhaps most damaging to the STOCK Act, according to government transparency watchdog Open Secrets, was the removal of the following two provisions:
“Creation of the searchable, sortable, disclosure of the information contained in reports even for Congress, the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet and congressional candidates,” in addition to “Required electronic filing for Congress, the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet and congressional candidates, as well as high-level executive and congressional branch employees
A House Foreign Affairs hearing on “Benghazi and Beyond” quickly turned into a shouting and accusations forum.
It began when Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said this: “What is clear is that this administration, including the president himself, has intentionally misinformed, read that LIED, to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy. Now President Obama has the gall to float the name as possibly secretary of State, the name of the person who is the actual vehicle used to misinform the American people during this crisis.”
National Intelligence Director James Clapper arrives for a closed door hearing conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence November 15, 2012 on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat also from California, called the attacks on Rice “unfair” and leveled that Colin Powell testified that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, because that’s the information that was given to him.
by Eica Ritz
The United Nations and its affiliates have been weighing in on U.S. elections with increasing frequency lately– and it’s understandable, considering a wildly disproportionate amount of its funding comes from the United States. In the most recent event, the U.N. special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights raised what he considers to be the “alarming” implications of a Republican victory.
Ben Emmerson lamented Mitt Romney’s position on waterboarding: “There is no doubt that the Romney administration would be able to claim…a democratic mandate for torture…That would put Romney as the first world leader in history to be able to claim [that].”
While he also objected to the secrecy surrounding President Obama’s drastically expanded use of drones, he apparently considers them a preferable alternative.
Emmerson says he plans to voice his concerns about a Republican victory at an upcoming U.N. meeting, but is not being quiet in the meantime.
The Canadian Press relates:
Emmerson, who was in Toronto to attend a symposium on the negative impacts post-9/11 security measures have had on human rights, said Obama had begun to realign U.S. policy with international law and the universal abhorrence of torture.
Romney’s approach was now threatening to undermine that progress, he said.
“The re-introduction of torture under a Romney administration would significantly increase the threat levels to (Americans) at home and abroad,” Emmerson said.
“Such a policy, if adopted, would expose the American people to risks the Obama administration is not currently exposing them to.” [Emphasis added]
The third debate between President Obama and Governor Romney will focus on foreign policy, where such issues are likely to come up.
However, Twitchy captured a number of tweets from Twitter users already weighing in on the topic. “It seems that most Americans don’t really like the United Nations telling them what to do,” they summarize.
One commenter concluded: “Defund and deport this useless nuisance.”
The Obama administration has joined with Planned Parenthood in a suit intended to stop an Arizona law that defunds the abortion giant. The Whole Woman’s Healthcare Funding Prioritization Act, signed into law last May by Republican Governor Jan Brewer (pictured with Obama), defunds abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood. The law offers the state family planning funds instead to entities that provide comprehensive healthcare without an abortion option.
On October 4, Obama’s Department of Justice filed a brief in the suit, claiming that the state of Arizona is not permitted to decide which groups will receive Medicare money it gets from the federal government. But Arizona Solicitor General David Cole pointed out that federal law allows states to establish “meaningful provider qualifications” for Medicare recipients, giving the state the authority to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood and other “health care” providers that perform abortions. “Cole said Planned Parenthood could get family planning funds if it divorces its family planning services from its abortion business,” reported LifeNews.com, a path Planned Parenthood is unlikely to take as long as it has such a solid ally in the White House.
In signing the defunding measure, Brewer called it a “common-sense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly.” When the bill was passed, Cathy Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy explained that cutting funding to the abortion giant meant that more funding would now be available to groups that don’t rely on the deadly procedure for revenue. “The grants will be made to community health centers,” Herrod said of the former Planned Parenthood funding, adding that “there are many providers out there providing these services able to pick up the slack.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, which, along with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) provided the model legislation for the bill, said that when Arizona state lawmakers passed the measure, they were acting on behalf of the state’s citizens, who “do not want their tax dollars going to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which performs more than 330,000 abortions a year.”
Dannenfelser noted that the Obama administration’s actions in filing the suit through the DOJ are on behalf of one of the president’s staunches allies. “While Planned Parenthood spends millions to re-elect President Obama and even sends its president, Cecile Richards, to campaign in Iowa this week,” she said, “the Obama Administration once again is stepping in to protect the bottom line of its top political ally and the nation’s largest abortion provider.”
She added that in spite of nearly non-stop scandals on the part of Planned Parenthood, “including allegations of the waste, abuse and potential fraud of millions of taxpayer dollars, President Obama has refused to allow a single tax dollar to be cut from Planned Parenthood at the federal level. When the states take matters into their own hands to protect taxpayers from the abortion industry, Obama’s Administration promptly intervenes on the abortion businesses’ behalf.”
ADF Senior Counsel Steven Aden said that the Arizona bill is worded in a way that allows the state “to be good stewards of the people’s money in this regard. It’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood would oppose that in light of their ongoing thirst for taxpayer dollars.”
Arizona is the third state the Obama administration has sued for defunding Planned Parenthood, following Indiana and Texas. Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Carolina have also passed laws to defund the abortion giant, and all face lawsuits over the legislation.