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Posts tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Malaysia Prime Minister: ‘Deliberate Action’ Caused Jet to Disappear.


Investigators searched the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet Saturday as the probe focused on possible sabotage.

Officials now believe someone on board deliberately shut off its communications and tracking systems, turned the plane around, and flew for nearly seven hours after it vanished from radar, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday.

“These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” Razak said.

A Malaysian official, who was not named because he was not authorized to brief the press, went further, telling The Associated Press that hijacking was no longer a theory. “

“It is conclusive,” the official said.

The move on the pilot’s home came in after analysis of data indicating the plane made erratic changes in altitude and course — and that manual changes attempted to mask the jet’s location.

“Increasingly, it seems to be heading into the criminal arena,” Richard Healing, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, told the Wall Street Journal Friday.

The latest bits of information from the probe “indicate the emphasis is on determining if a hijacker or crew member diverted the plane,” he said.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press investigators are now examining whether the baffling disappearance may have been ‘‘an act of piracy.’’

The New York Times reported radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military show Flight 370 — which took off from Kuala Lumpur last Saturday with 279 people aboard — climbed to 45,000 feet soon after it disappeared from civilian radar, then made a sharp turn to the west.

The radar track showed the plane then dropping to just 23,000 feet as it approached the island of Penang, one of the country’s largest.

Military radar last recorded the plane flying at 29,500 feet some 200 miles northwest of Penang and headed toward India’s Andaman Islands, the Times reported.

An unidentified Malaysian official told The Associated Press only a skilled aviator could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea.

An Asia-based Boeing pilot told the Times flying above the plane’s service limit of 43,100 feet, along with a depressurized cabin, could have knocked out passengers and crew — and could have been a deliberate maneuver by a pilot or hijacker.

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The Journal reported investigators suspect two systems were shut off after the Beijing-bound plane took off: First, the plane’s transponders stopped functioning about an hour into the flight, making it difficult for air-traffic controllers to track the craft on radar.

Then, a second system sent a routine aircraft-monitoring message to a satellite indicating someone made a manual change in the plane’s heading that turned it sharply to the west, The Journal said.

The plane is now also believed to have continued flying for more than four hours after diverting its course — based on automated “pings” sent by onboard systems that try to connect with satellites.

One of the most chilling findings came from investigators examining data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines, showing the aircraft descending 40,000 feet in the space of a minute, the Times reported.

Investigators don’t believe it.

“A lot of stock cannot be put in the altitude data” sent from the engines, the Times quoted one unnamed official saying. “A lot of this doesn’t make sense.”

Aviation lecturer Cengiz Turkoglu of City University London said dramatic changes in altitude can happen because of a deliberate act in the cockpit, but that “it is extremely difficult for an aircraft to physically, however heavy it might be, to free fall,” the Times reported.

Initial fears, later discounted, were that terrorists might have brought the plane down after it disappeared.

Investigators also considered, but dismissed, the possibility that hijackers landed the plane somewhere for later use in a terrorist attack, the Times reported.

But one official told the Times that current information “leads them to believe that it either ran out of fuel or crashed right before it ran out of fuel.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported a classified analysis by the United States and Malaysian governments calculates the flight likely crashed into the Indian Ocean on one of two possible flight paths.

In one flight path scenario, the plane went down in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India; another scenario has the plane traveling southeast and crashing into the Indian Ocean.

Still another theory being considered has the plane coming down in the remote Andaman Islands.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

US Pledges $1 Billion in Aid to Ukraine.


The Obama administration has pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the strife-torn country, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The financial assistance was seen as an attempt by the United States to show solidarity with Ukraine, which has had its Crimea region invaded by Russian forces following the overthrow last month of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, “The United States is prepared to work with its bilateral and multilateral partners to provide as much support as Ukraine needs to restore financial stability and return to economic growth if the new government implements the necessary reforms.”

The money was expected to shore up the country’s troubled economy and to help Ukraine finance purchases of energy imports while the former Soviet republic seeks a larger bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

A senior administration official with Kerry told the Journal, “You’re seeing already a response from the United States that is isolating Russia politically and diplomatically and offering strong support for the new Ukrainian government.”

American technical experts will be sent to Ukraine to help sort out the country’s growing financial and energy problems, sources said. U.S. advisers will also help Kiev uncover assets believed to have been stolen by Yanukovych’s government.

The Journal also reported that experts will also be sent to help Ukraine prepare for its May 25 general elections.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Obamacare Pressures Insurers to Extend Doctor Choice.


The federal government is stepping up the pressure on healthcare insurance companies to provide a wider range of top-class hospitals and specialty doctors in their plans.

In an attempt to keep down the cost of coverage under Obamacare, federal officials have put forward proposals for stricter reviews of doctors and medical centers for plans being sold next year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But the government proposals to extend doctor and hospital choice have already come under fire from America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s largest insurance group.

A spokesman for the company told the Journal that plans with fewer healthcare providers are “one way health plans can help to preserve benefits and mitigate cost increases for consumers” under the new reform law.

Insurance companies say they can suppress costs to the patients in part by agreeing to reduced fees in exchange for a greater amount of business with fewer competitors.

The proposed shake-up has come after a series of complaints by consumers that their current plans do not offer the best doctors and leading academic hospitals because health networks leave them out of their coverage due to their higher fees.

Patients have complained that under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law they are forced to change doctors and hospitals, which means that they are not getting the best possible healthcare treatment.

According to the Journal, insurance companies have been dumping a long list of doctors and prestigious health network facilities from the private Medicare Advantage program due to their expensive billing.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that the current guidelines for what doctors and hospitals are included in various plans are based on reviews by state health regulators and independent organizations.

But under the federal proposals for next year, insurance companies selling plans in the federal marketplace would have to submit a complete list of health providers to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before their plans are approved. There would also be new federal standards for the amount of providers in each plan.

The changes would mean the federal government getting even more involved in arranging patient healthcare, says Pollitz. “It’s a substantial change,” she said. “It’s much more specific, and it’s going to involve a lot more direct federal oversight.”

Under the proposals for next year, plans in the federal exchanges would include a greater number of “essential community providers,” which are hospitals and clinics used by lower-income people.

A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that it is “working to strengthen the network adequacy requirements that took effect for this year.”

Some states, including Pennsylvania and Mississippi, are also mulling over legislation that will force the health insurance companies to make changes in their coverage to add top-class physicians and health facilities. And states like Washington and New Hampshire are planning to review their standards to help increase patient access to potentially better health providers.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said his agency is planning to upgrade its hospital and doctor choices to “make sure when people purchase health insurance, they have reasonable access to health-care providers.”

The American Medical Association is supporting the planned changes in federal and state exchanges, saying it planned “to implement proactive solutions we believe can enhance the public health and welfare by eliminating inadequate networks.

The AMA added that narrower provider networks could “endanger patients’ health if they cannot access timely, convenient, quality care.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Proposed IRS Regs Threaten GOP’s 2014 Senate Push.


Proposed new IRS regulations, combined with the intense ongoing scrutiny of grass-roots conservative groups, could suppress their get-out-the-vote activity enough to hand Democrats the one or two races they need to keep control of the Senate, conservative leaders warn.

“Once caught red-handed,” American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Senior Counsel David French said, “the administration didn’t change its goal [of] suppressing the free speech of these conservative groups.

”It’s just shifted methods. The ends are the same, only the means have changed,” he says.

Of the 41 grassroots groups named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) — a case alleging widespread abuses of the First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech by the Obama administration and the IRS — 13 still have not yet received an adjudication on their request for non-profit status.

The oldest of those 13 pending applications to the IRS for nonprofit status dates back to December 2009, French says. That would mean at least one group has been sidelined through two election cycles, with a third rapidly approaching.

Of the 13 groups in limbo, two sought 501c3 non-profit status and the other 11 sought 501c4 status as “social welfare” organizations, French said.

According to the ACLJ, five other groups joined the lawsuit after withdrawing their nonprofit applications due to frustration over the IRS approval process. Also, two of the plaintiffs refused to answer IRS questions that they considered unconstitutional, which led to the IRS closing their nonprofit applications without further consideration.

The proposed new IRS regulations seek to limit 501c4 groups’ activities. Conservative activists say the rules have exacerbated their sense of uncertainty and intimidation.

“Of course that has a chilling effect,” says French. “And until it is decisively and emphatically stopped through public, legal accountability, that chilling effect is likely to linger.”

Washington GOP super lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who represents grass-roots conservative activists not included in the ACLJ lawsuit, recently echoed the view that conservative groups continue to be singled out in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

“The IRS is still, very deliberately targeting conservative organizations and subjecting them to additional intense and burdensome scrutiny — and this has not stopped,” she said. “This is still ongoing.”

According to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, the new proposed IRS regulations, which were first unveiled in November, appear to single out as political activity the precise sorts of programs tea party organizations typically run: Candidate forums, voter registration drives, and distributions of voter guides.

In a column published in the February edition of Newsmax Magazine, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel contends that conservative groups are much more likely to become ensnared in the new proposed limitations.

She notes that neither unions, which conduct most of their activities as 501c5 groups, nor 501c3 organizations such as the liberal League of Women Voters Education Fund, are affected. That’s because the rules were not written to apply to those types of nonprofits.

The reaction of conservative activists has grown increasingly strident. Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the grass-roots National Liberty Federation organization, tells Newsmax: “Never before have we seen such attitudes and actions taken in America by an administration or government body.

“They are intentionally trying to silence the voices of millions of Americans, who all they want is to be heard.”

Wilkinson said his organization is closely following nine critical Senate races that could flip either way. But the fear of some that they could become targets of the IRS is having an impact, he says.

“Through this intimidation a lot of people have said, ‘I don’t know if I want to risk the IRS or the Treasury Department or whoever they’re going to send after me,’” he says.

Recent remarks by Democrats appear to have exacerbated conservatives’ concern that the IRS has been politicized.

In January, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer urged the IRS to “redouble [its] efforts immediately” to constrain the tea parties.

During his Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, President Obama said there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” involved. This despite the fact that the FBI has yet to release the findings of its investigation.

Such remarks appear aimed at energizing a Democratic base that has seen tea party nonprofits as fair game ever since the Citizens United ruling made it easier for corporations to get involved in politics.

Curiously, the IRS targeting has had relatively little impact on the major activist groups that raise millions of dollars each year.

A recent New York Times story reported that four major conservative organizations — FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, the Club for Growth Action Fund, and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are actually outraising their more establishment GOP counterparts such as Crossroads GPS.

But unlike the big groups that can afford to “lawyer up,” it is the smaller activist organizations all over the country — with names like Linchpins of Liberty, Colorado 9/12 Project, First State Patriots, Mid-South Tea Party, and American Patriots Against Government Excess — who have been ensnared by the long arm of the IRS. Those smaller organizations are believed to play a key role in getting out the vote in local neighborhoods.

Wilkinson praises the myriad local tea parties as “the most effective system out there, compared to the Republican consulting groups that get millions of dollars in TV ads and radio ads.

“They put every dollar they have in, and their heart and soul. They’re getting people to the polls for maybe pennies on the dollar.”

How those groups will fare as the tax laws they must comply with grow increasingly complex and demanding is open to question.

French says the proposed IRS rules will mean “an enormous amount of activity undertaken on the basis of issues, is now re-characterized as political, and now subject to limits.

“That essentially takes a group’s ability to engage in issue advocacy and then completely neuters it in the days and the weeks leading up to an election, by defining political activity so very broadly,” he adds.

When the targeting controversy first broke last May, President Obama said the IRS targeting was “inexcusable,” and added: “I’m angry about it.”

The “social welfare” and issue-advocacy 501c4 organizations have received special attention in part because their donors’ names generally do not have to be disclosed.

The controversy over IRS targeting dates back to May 2013. That’s when former IRS executive Lois Lerner revealed that IRS personnel had acted in what she called an “absolutely inappropriate” way by holding up the non-profit applications of groups with the terms “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” in their names.

The IRS asked the targeted groups to answer intrusive questionnaires regarding their activities — ranging from information on their members’ employers, donors lists, and even in one case how much time a particular organization spent “on prayer groups.”

At the time, GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, received several complaints. He wrote a letter of inquiry to then-acting IRS Commissioner Stephen T. Miller.

Miller wrote back with assurances that no conservative groups were being targeted. But not long after Lerner’s disclosure, Miller was asked to resign.

The Obama administration has portrayed the IRS affair as a limited imbroglio involving a few rogue agents in the IRS’s Cincinnati office.

But Mitchell says several of her clients were told a final decision on their applications would be handed down from IRS offices in Washington, D.C.

Not every grass-roots leader is concerned that conservative activists’ IRS problems will work to Democrats’ advantage, however. Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer is among those predicting it will backfire.

“When all this came out about the IRS targeting, it made people mad,” she tells Newsmax. “It made them mad as hell.

“…You get these individuals, under whatever local group, they don’t care: They’re going to go out there, and work their hearts and souls out for the cause.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By David A. Patten

Use of Biometric Security Technology at Airports Raises Concerns.


Image: Use of Biometric Security Technology at Airports Raises Concerns

By Courtney Coren

As airports around the world move to more automated airport security functions, concerns are increasing over whether computers will rise to the challenge of actually identifying potential terrorists.

“If you’re sweating profusely, for example, the person checking your ID would notice,” says Arnold Barnett, an aviation-security expert and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor. “But that computer taking an iris scan wouldn’t.”

Part of keeping travelers safe is “looking at all kinds of things that can’t be captured by an algorithm,” Barnett told  The Wall Street Journal.

About 28 percent of airports around the world are using biometric technology as part of their airport security, which allows airports to streamline the screening process using machines that can verify identities by scanning faces, irises, or fingerprints. Advocates say the technology could make boarding passes obsolete.

London Gatwick Airport conducted an experiment this year with 3,000 British Airways passengers using biometric scanners instead of boarding passes. The machines scanned the irises of the passengers’ eyes when they first checked in, which allowed cameras to identify the travelers at security checkpoints and gates automatically.

While advocates of the technology say that automating some of these processes would free up security personnel to focus on monitoring travelers for suspicious behavior, other experts like Barnett worry that screeners will become too dependent on the technology and it will only serve to dull their senses.

European airports have been much quicker to embrace the biometric technology than American airports, the Journal reported. However, the Transportation Security Administration does currently use the technology for checking employees into some areas and for travelers enrolled in its PreCheck program. It is also used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at U.S. airports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Chinese Recycling Tycoon Wants to Buy New York Times.


Image: Chinese Recycling Tycoon Wants to Buy New York TimesChinese billionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao jumps on the roofs of new cars which he bought in Beijing as presents to the 43 owners of Japanese cars that were damaged during nationwide anti-Japan protests.
An eccentric Chinese recycling magnate said on Tuesday he was preparing to open negotiations to buy the New York Times Co..Chen Guangbiao, a well-known philanthropist, is something of a celebrity in China. During a particularly murky bout of pollution in January, the ebullient and tireless self-promoter handed out free cans of “fresh air”.But Chen says he is perfectly serious in his bid to buy the Times, which he said he had been contemplating for more than two years. He said he expected to discuss the matter on Jan. 5, when he is due to meet a “leading shareholder” in New York.

“There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” Chen told Reuters.

It is unlikely that the Times, which has long been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, would sell to Chen.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times, contacted after initial Chinese media reports about Chen’s offer, said the company did not comment on rumours.

The company’s chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said recently that the Times was not for sale.

Chen believes the Times is worth $1 billion, but said he would be willing to negotiate.

He said that because his funds were limited, he had persuaded a Hong Kong tycoon to put in $600 million while he would pay the rest. He said the tycoon was not ready to reveal his identity.

“If we act in sincerity and good faith, I believe the Times chairman will change his way of thinking,” he said.

Chen said if he was unable to buy the New York Times, he would settle for becoming a controlling stakeholder, and failing that, would simply buy a stake.

Hurun’s Rich List of China’s super-wealthy put the magnate’s wealth at about $740 million in 2012. Chen said he would not hesitate to sell off most of his assets if it enabled him to buy the Times.

Chen said his aim was not to push any political agenda, but rather his personal ideals of “peace on earth, protecting the environment and philanthropy”.

He attracted attention in August 2012 when he bought a half-page advertisement in the New York Times stating that an island chain at the centre of a dispute with Japan had belonged to China since antiquity.

“After that, I realised that the Times’ influence all over the world is incredibly vast,” he said. “Every government and embassy, all around the world, pays attention to the New York Times.”

The Times earned the ire of the Chinese government in 2012 with a report about the wealth of former Premier Wen Jiabao. The Times website has been blocked since then.

Chen said it was natural for the government to block the site because the report on Wen “contained biased and negative things that were not verified”.

“If I acquire the Times, the paper will only report the truth and must verify all information,” he said, adding that he would like every Chinese household to subscribe to the paper.

If his offer failed, Chen said he would extend offers to CNN, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal.

“As long as they have some influence, I’m still willing to consider buying lesser media outlets,” he said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Coburn: 2013 Marked ‘Unwinding of Country’s Founding Principles´.


Image: Coburn: 2013 Marked 'Unwinding of Country's Founding Principles'

By Courtney Coren

Sen. Tom Coburn says the power grab by Democratic leaders in Congress, not to mention the Obama administration’s apparent disdain for the rule of law, made 2013 one of the nation’s worst years.

“In both the executive branch and Congress, Americans witnessed an unwinding of the country’s founding principles and of their government’s most basic responsibilities,”Coburn wrote Monday in an op-ed piece carried in The Wall Street Journal.

“The rule of law gave way to the rule of rulers. And the rule of reality . . . gave way to some politicians’ belief that they were entitled to both their own opinions and their own facts.”

“It’s no wonder the institutions of government barely function,” the Oklahoma Republican added.

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Coburn described the launching of Obamacare as one of the most devastating blows to the rule of law and he accused President Barack Obama of changing his signature achievement “according to whim” without regard to any legal or constitutional constraints that might be involved. He also wrote that the most troubling aspect of the president’s behavior in pushing the law on the American public was his promise that people would be able to keep their current insurance plans and doctors.

“We now know that the administration was aware that these claims were false, yet Mr. Obama continued to make them, repeatedly,” Coburn said.

Even though the president “apologized in part for his statements,” it sent a message to politicians that “message discipline” is the name-of-the-game if it helps “to win an election or achieve a short-term political goal.”

“When a misleading message ultimately clashes with reality, the result is dissonance and conflict,” the Oklahoma senator argued. “In a republic, deception is destructive.”

Coburn took a hard swipe at Democrats in Congress as well, calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s successful effort to do away with the 60-vote threshold for moving most presidential nominations an outright power grab “to undo 200 years of precedent that requires a supermajority to change Senate rules.”

“To speed the approval of executive appointments and judicial nominations, Sen. Reid resorted to raw political power, forcing a vote (52-48) that allows the Senate majority to change the rules whenever it wants,” Coburn complained. “In a republic, if majorities can change laws or rules however they please, you’re on the road to life with no rules and no laws.”

Coburn concluded by noting that if Americans are truly fed up, as he is, with the way Washington works these days, then they should make use of the elections this year to make some changes.

“If you don’t like the rulers you have, you don’t have to keep them,” he wrote.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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