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Older News Archivescom0116
NEWS   FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 2015   NEWS

WH: 'Taliban Is An Armed Insurgency,' Not A Terrorist Group
President Obama won't use the term "radical Islam," and his spokesman won't call the Taliban terrorists. At Wednesday's White House briefing, deputy spokesman Eric Schultz said, "The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don't make concessions to terrorist groups." The comment came after a reporter asked Schultz about the Jordanian government considering a prisoner swap -- exchanging a convicted terrorist for one of its pilots held hostage is ISIS/ISIL. "Our policy is that we don't pay ransom," Schultz said. "We don't give concessions to other -- to terrorist organizations." The reporter, ABC's Jon Karl, followed up: "You say the United States government does not give in to demands...does not pay ransom. But how is what the Jordanians are talking about doing any different than what the United States did" (when it swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay). CNS News
VOA VIEW: Obama coward double talk.

Clinton Camp Split On When To Launch Campaign
An internal debate among Hillary Clinton supporters about the timing of when she should launch her expected campaign for the presidency has erupted once again.
Several Democrats have told CNN that there is a desire on the part of Clinton and her innermost circle to go as late as possible. But the potential for a summer start to the official Clinton 2016 campaign, first reported this morning by Politico, is only one of the options on the table. The spring launch plan is still seen by most Clinton watchers as the most likely timing scenario. Under the spring scenario, Clinton could form an exploratory committee or other official vehicle, which has FEC-regulated restrictions for potential candidates, but would enable Clinton to publicly indicate her intentions and begin a new phase of the process without formally launching a full blown campaign until later in 2015. CNN

Legislation Could Put An End To Partisan Labor Board
Two Senate Republican leaders introduced a bill Wednesday in the hopes of reforming the National Labor Relations Board. “U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate labor committee, today introduced the NLRB Reform Act to turn the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from an advocate to an umpire and keep the general counsel from operating as an activist for one side or the other,” a press release detailed. The bill is designed to rein in the general counsel, end partisan advocacy by splitting board members between parties and encourage timely decision-making by including budgetary disincentives for gridlock. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Good move.

McCain Boots 'Low-Life Scum' From Hearing
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain had harsh words for protesters who shouted criticism at 91-year-old Henry Kissinger at a hearing Thursday.
"Get out of here, you low-life scum," the Arizona Republican told the protesters. Kissinger, the diplomat who was secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, as well as President Ronald Reagan secretary of state George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, were on hand for a hearing on global security challenges.As the hearing started, several protesters approached the table where Kissinger was seated, holding signs and shouting at him.
"I've been a member of this committee for many years and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place," McCain said. CNN

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Federal Judge Blasts DOJ Lawyers In Case Of ATF Whistle-Blower
A federal judge angrily accused Justice Department attorneys in newly unsealed documents of "fraud upon the court" by intimidating a witness in a case involving a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who alleges the agency trashed his reputation. Judge Francis Allegra, who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 1998 by President Bill Clinton, is presiding over a suit brought by former ATF agent Jay Dobyns against the government agency, which he claims retaliated against him and damaged his reputation. Dobyns infiltrated Hell's Angels and worked on cases involving the Aryan Brotherhood and MS-13 during his law enforcement career. A federal judge angrily accused Justice Department attorneys in newly unsealed documents of fraud upon the court by intimidating a witness in a case involving a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who alleges the agency trashed his reputation. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Rogue justice is bad news.

Boehner: 'It Is True,' Republicans Plan To Sue Obama Over Executive Amnesty
House Republicans are finalizing a plan to sue the Obama administration over its unilateral decision to defer deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. "It is true," House Speaker John Boehner told Fox News Wednesday night. "The president's overreach when he took executive action to -- to deal with the immigration problems in our country, frankly, in my view, is a violation of our Constitution, is -- it's a violation of his oath of office. "I said in December, we were going to do everything to try to stop it." CNS News

Obama Would Veto Bill For Congressional Approval Of Iran Deal
U.S. President Barack Obama would veto a bill crafted by U.S. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker that would require the administration to receive congressional approval for any deal it strikes with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday. The bill would set a "harmful precedent" that would "negatively impact" negotiations with Iran, Earnest said at a news briefing. Reuters

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U.S. Funding Impasse Blocks Secret Service Hires
The U.S. Secret Service cannot hire new agents for the next presidential election or make improvements at the agency until Congress settles a dispute over funding, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Thursday. Johnson said in a speech in Washington that uncertainty over the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which secures U.S. borders, airports and coastal waters and protects the president, had put security initiatives on hold. These included recommendations made in December by a review panel on the Secret Service, which has been plagued with a series of security lapses including a White House intruder and a drone that landed on the mansion's lawn early Monday. The agency's director stepped down in October. Reuters

For Democrats, Doubts Remain About Clinton On Both Policy And Politics
Hillary Clinton faces doubts from two different parts of the Democratic Party about her likely presidential run, even as she remains the overwhelming favorite to win the party's nomination. A camp of liberals, particularly those aligned with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are worried Clinton will be unwilling to embrace some progressive ideas, like increasing Social Security benefits and breaking up large banks. Another group of Democrats, particularly strong backers of President Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries, say they are worried about the perception that Clinton's potential candidacy has become too much about achieving her long-sought goal of being elected president rather than her vision for leading the country. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Clinton is the liberal media's darling.

Record 9 Models Have Zero Driver Deaths, IIHS Says
The highway death toll has been plunging rapidly in recent years, and safety experts are crediting a number of factors, including improved roadways and a crackdown on drunk driving. But a new study puts the spotlight on vehicle design and improved technology for both preventing crashes and keeping motorists alive when they do occur. A record total of nine models sold during the 2011 model-year have had a death rate of zero, meaning no driver was killed in a crash involving those vehicles during the period studied by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. IIHS released a report on the findings Thursday. Significantly, these are not ultra-exotic products. They include mainstream models like the Honda Odyssey minivan and Subaru Legacy sedan, as well as the big Mercedes-Benz GL SUV. MSNBC

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Republicans To Open February With Vote To Repeal Obamacare
House Republicans will kick off February with a vote to repeal Obamacare, providing new members the chance to put their opposition on the record as the party chips away at the overhaul and devises some reforms of its own. “We will begin the month renewing our commitment to individual freedom and opportunity,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said Thursday in a memo previewing next week’s votes. The vote will also force Democrats in the minority to reassert their support for Obamacare or break with the White House. Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act since its passage in 2010. Washington Times

Obama Won’t Meet Castro’s Demands, But Doesn’t Regret Cuba Move
The Obama administration has no intention of meeting Cuban President Raul Castro’s various preconditions for normalizing diplomatic relations with the U.S., officials said Thursday. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the administration, while not entertaining the idea of, for example, returning the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, does not regret the historic decision to end 50 years of isolation and reopen diplomatic avenues with Havana. Washinton Times

Mitt Romney Pans Hillary Clinton's Record As "Timid"
As Mitt Romney eyes a third presidential bid in 2016, his detractors (and even some supporters) have pondered a pair of questions: Did Romney learn anything from his loss to President Obama in 2012? And is he prepared to take the fight to Hillary Clinton if he runs again in 2016? If his speech on Wednesday night at Mississippi State University is any indication, Romney is trying to answer both questions in the affirmative. Romney, who first ran for president in 2008 and was his party's nominee in 2012, said the U.S. is poised to rebound "with the right kind of leadership," according to the Washington Post. And that leadership, he suggested, is something Clinton won't be able to provide. CBS

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U.S. Lawmakers Seek To End Restrictions On Travel To Cuba
Eight Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to repeal all restrictions on U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba, the first step in Congress toward ending the U.S. embargo since President Barack Obama moved toward normal relations last month. The bill would end legal restrictions on travel to the island by U.S. citizens and legal residents, as well as on related banking transactions. The Obama administration announced some loosening of restrictions on travel last month, but Congress must vote to end them. Senators backing the bill include Republicans Jeff Flake, Jerry Moran, Michael Enzi and John Boozman, as well as Democrats Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse. Reuters

Obama To Propose Ending Sequestration Cuts
President Obama will seek to bust through spending limits for both domestic and defense programs, the White House said Thursday, negating the effects of across-the-board cuts agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans and signed by Mr. Obama into law. Mr. Obama's budget proposal to Congress will "fully reverse" the so-called sequestration cuts on the domestic side, while boosting national security programs by an equal amount, the White House said, as Mr. Obama prepared to meet with House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia. The budget will be "fully paid for with cuts to inefficient spending programs and closing tax loopholes," but taxpayers will have to wait until the budget is formally released Monday to find out exactly how. CBS

US Military Classifies Information About Afghanistan's Troops
Citing security concerns, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has now deemed as classified specific statistics about Afghanistan’s security forces that for years it routinely provided for public release to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says providing that kind of information could help the Taliban in planning attacks and creates security risks for the 10,600 U.S. troops serving as trainers in Afghanistan. For six years, the SIGAR has produced regular reports that track the progress of the $65 billion the United States has spent to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure, development and security forces. Those reports have included information about the Afghan security forces such as troop numbers, attrition rates, salaries, training and equipment. ABC

US Colleges Seek Economic Diversity In Students From China
Widely regarded overseas as places only for children of the rich and powerful, top American universities like Yale and Harvard are increasing efforts to attract the best international students, regardless of their financial backgrounds. With more undergraduates coming from abroad than ever, the Ivy League universities that have worked to overcome reputations for serving only children of the elite in the U.S. are trying to do the same the world over with travel, novel recruiting strategies and some help from the U.S. State Department. Yale sophomore Yupei Guo, for one, does not fit the mold of the traditional Ivy Leaguer from China: Her journalist parents are neither wealthy nor members of the governing elite. Although university grants cover much of her tuition, many people she meets around New Haven assume she came from a much different background to reach the campus of Gothic buildings. ABC

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Lindsey Graham 2016: Now John McCain-Approved
Arizona Senator John McCain looked overjoyed to see reporters blocking his path to Thursday's Republican lunch. "I know what you're going to ask about!" said McCain. Indeed: The press wanted to talk to McCain about South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's launch of a presidential exploratory committee. McCain, who considered Graham as a 2008 running mate before picking Sarah Palin, had "strongly encouraged" Graham to run. He also credited his friend fully with the decision, and started warning 2016 rivals of what was coming.  Bloomberg

Your Next Doctor's Visit Could Get Crowded
In a typical doctor's visit, you wait around for a while, get your vitals checked, and spend a few minutes alone in a room with a physician. It's private and short. Some doctors, frustrated by a relentless schedule of 15-minute, one-on-one visits, are experimenting with appointments that are neither. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, around 10 percent of family doctors already offer shared medical appointments, sessions that bring together a dozen or more patients with similar medical conditions to meet with a doctor for 90 minutes. With pressure from the government and insurers to bring down the cost of care while treating the increasing number of people with health insurance, patients can expect group visits to become more common. "It’s efficient. It’s economical. It’s high-quality care when it’s done right," says Edward Noffsinger, a California psychologist who created the model in the 1990s at Kaiser Permanente, the state's largest health maintenance organization (HMO). Bloomberg

Obama To Seek To Bust Spending Limits By $74 Billion
President Barack Obama will ask Congress to boost government spending by roughly 7 percent above current spending limits, the White House said Thursday, setting up a certain clash with Republicans who insist that federal spending must be held in check. Obama's budget, to be formally released Monday, will call for $74 billion more than the levels frozen in place by across-the-board cuts agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans and signed by Obama into law. The White House said his new budget proposals will "fully reverse" the so-called sequestration cuts by increasing spending on the domestic side and by boosting spending on the country's defense by a similar amount. Under Obama's proposal, national security programs would see an increase of $38 billion over current spending limits, raising the military budget to $561 billion. On the domestic side, Obama is calling for $530 billion in spending — an increase of $37 billion. Las Vegas Sun

Attorney General Nominee Moves Closer To Confirmation
Attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch is moving closer Thursday toward an expected confirmation, with a series of witnesses set to testify on her nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During a daylong hearing before the committee on Wednesday, Lynch testified to her independence from President Barack Obama and willingness to work with the Republican-led Congress. In her first appearance before the Republican-led committee, Lynch offered support for some controversial Obama administration policies, including the president's unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. But she also suggested she would provide a fresh departure from Attorney General Eric Holder, who is deeply unpopular among some Republicans. Las Vegas Sun

Canadian Dollar Sinks Below 80 U.S. Cents
The Canadian dollar fell to 79.64 cents against the U.S. dollar Thursday, its lowest point in six years, as crude oil prices fell as well. Known as the loonie for its depiction of a Canadian loon on its one-dollar coin, the Canadian dollar crossed the 80-cent barrier Wednesday. An unexpected cut in the Bank of Canada's benchmark interest rate last week, and Wednesday's announcement by the U.S. Federal Reserve that no rate hike in the United States should be expected before June because of the relatively strong U.S. economy, set off a decline in the loonie's value. UPI News

Pentagon Selects Boeing Plane To Replace Air Force One
The Pentagon announced Wednesday it has chosen the Boeing 747-8 as the plane to replace the current Air Force One as it nears retirement. The current planes are Boeing 747-200s and are set to hit their 30-year retirement in 2017. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the plane is the only aircraft, "manufactured in the United States [that] when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the President of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest." In addition to living and working quarters for the president and his staff, it will be outfitted with advanced communications equipment and security measures including antimissile devices. UPI News

Democrats In Congress Suggest Postponing Netanyahu's Address
Democrats in the House of Representatives are suggesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postpone his speech to a joint session of Congress until after the Israeli election on March 17. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said it was "not appropriate" for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to invite Netanyahu without first notifying the White House-- a move that angered the Obama administration. Netanyahu is expected to advocate for a different policy on Iran that the president has thus far pursued. "Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance," Pelosi said. She spoke with Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday. Jerusalem Post
VOA VIEW: Tough - Republicans rule.

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Peres On Netanyahu Speech: When The US President Tells You Not To Come To US, You Don't Go
Former president Shimon Peres on Thursday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his upcoming speech before the US Congress that was arranged without the knowledge of US President Barack Obama. Speaking at a memorial ceremony for former prime minister Ariel Sharon in the Negev, Peres said, "Bibi [Netanyahu] can make speeches at any place or date, but when the President of the United States asks him not to come before elections, he must respect that request." Peres also addressed the tension between Israel and Hezbollah after an attack that killed two IDF soldiers on Wednesday, saying that "both sides understand that there is no choice but to cease their fire." Jerusalem Post
VOA VIEW: Obama is no friend of Israel - he is pro Muslim.

Hezbollah 'Sends Anti-Escalation Message' To Israel
Israel says it has received a message from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah saying it does not want a further escalation after border clashes on Wednesday that killed three people. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said the message was passed by the UN mission, but Israeli troops remained "prepared". The two Israeli soldiers killed in the exchange were buried on Thursday. A Spanish UN peacekeeper was also killed. Hezbollah and Israel fought a deadly war in 2006, which ended in stalemate. That conflict lasted a month and caused death, destruction and disruption on both sides of the border. The feeling now is that neither Hezbollah nor Israel has much interest in an escalation to that point, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut. BBC

Human Rights Watch: 'Ignoring Abuses Will Fuel IS'
Governments' tendencies to ignore human rights in the face of security threats is not just wrong, but also counter-productive, Human Rights Watch says. The organisation's annual world report said the rise of Islamic State (IS) "did not emerge in a vacuum" but was the result of regional abuses. It said Iraq's and Syria's governments had created fertile ground for IS. It also blamed the US for ignoring the abuses and concentrating solely on its military battle against IS militants. "Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating most of today's crises," argued Kenneth Roth, director of the US-based watchdog, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) unveiled its 660-page World Report 2015. BBC

Obama Must Finally End NSA Phone Record Collection
The US government’s privacy board is calling out President Barack Obama for continuing to collect Americans’ phone data in bulk, a year after it urged an end to the controversial National Security Agency program. The Obama administration could cease the mass acquisition of US phone records “at any time”, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said in an assessment it issued on Thursday. The PCLOB’s assessment comes amid uncertainty over the fate of legislation to cease that collection. An effort intended to stop it, known as the USA Freedom Act, failed in the Senate in November. While the administration said after its defeat that Obama would push for a new bill, it has yet to do so in the new Congress, and the president has thus far pledged in his State of the Union address only to update the public on how the bulk-surveillance program now works in practice. Guardian

FCC Raises Threshold For High-Speed Internet As Service Providers Cry Foul
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday changed the definition of broadband to increase the threshold speed – a move that has already angered cable companies. In a 3-2 vote, the commission approved a measure that increases the minimum standard for broadband speed, giving the agency more power to force internet service providers to improve their service. The definition of broadband is set to be raised from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps to 3Mbps for uploads. Guardian

North Korea Demanded $10bn In Cash And Food To Attend Talks With South
North Korea demanded $10 billion in cash and half a million tons of food in 2009 as a precondition of holding a summit with the South, former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak said, adding that he refused to pay anything for holding talks. A predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, held the first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and was credited with bringing in a period of warming ties, an achievement that was tarnished later by a revelation that he helped channel $500 million to the North. The two Koreas remain technically at war because their 1950-53 war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Telegraph

One Glass Of Wine Increases Stroke Risk By Third
Middle aged drinkers who down just one large glass of wine a day increase their risk of stroke by a third, warns a new study. The mass study, which tracked more than 11,000 twins over 43 years, found that otherwise healthy people who drank at such levels had a higher risk of stroke than others with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The study, published in the journal Stroke, followed 11,644 twins over 43 years. The results showed drinkers in their fifties and sixties who had at least two alcoholic drinks a day - the equivalent of one large glass of wine, or pint of strong lager - had a 34 per cent greater risk of stroke than those who consumed just under half the amount. Telegraph

With Recorded Ebola Cases Reaching New Lows
This week, the number of Ebola cases in West Africa has fallen below 100 for the first time in seven months, the World Health Organization reported today as it announced that the battle against the deadly virus has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic. “To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials, and community engagement is used as effectively as possible,” WHO said in its latest update containing data up to 25 January 2015. UN News

As Fallen Peacekeeper Is Remembered In Lebanon, UN Expresses Concern Over Security Situation
A  memorial service was held this morning at Lebanon’s International Airport in Beirut in honour of a peacekeeper from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who lost his life yesterday in the line of duty in the southern part of the country. Lance Corporal Francisco Javier Soria Toledo of Spain was killed while deployed at a UN position near Ghajar during the serious fighting incident yesterday along the border with Israel on the “Blue Line,” a UN spokesman said. Reporting on the incident yesterday, UNIFIL said that at around 11:30 a.m. it had observed six rockets launched towards Israel from the vicinity of Wazzani north of Maysat in the UNIFIL area of operations. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) returned artillery fire in the same general area. During the course of the developments, Mr. Soria Toledo sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death. UN News

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