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Reid: Senate to Vote on Extending Jobless Benefits.


Image: Reid: Senate to Vote on Extending Jobless Benefits

The Senate will vote next Monday on temporarily extending federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

Reid, D-Nev., told The Associated Press he’s hopeful a bill co-sponsored by Nevada‘s Republican Sen. Dean Heller will be approved by the upper chamber, but he offered no prediction on whether it will pass muster in the House of Representatives.

“I don’t predict anything in the House,” Reid said Monday, describing the Republican-controlled House as a “black hole of legislation.”

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

But he praised Heller for the bipartisan bill he introduced with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island. The measure would continue the federal jobless program for three months while a compromise is sought.

“I hope we can get that done,” said Reid, who has often been at odds with the conservative Heller.

“I’m happy to see Dean has joined us,” Reid added. “He’s broken away from the tea party folks who don’t want to do anything.”

When he introduced the bill, Heller said, “Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government. As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs.”

A two-year budget deal reached earlier this month failed to include an extension of jobless benefits for people who have been unemployed longer than six months. About 17,000 Nevadans lost benefits when the program expired Saturday. Nationally, 1.3 million were cut off from receiving unemployment.

Nevada officials estimate 800 Nevadans will lose benefits each week as they exhaust their 26 weeks of state-paid unemployment insurance unless Congress extends the federal program that was enacted in 2008 at the height of the recession when unemployment soared. It allowed the long-term unemployed in hard hit states like Nevada to receive benefits for up to 99 weeks. The duration was cut to 73 weeks last year.

Looking ahead to 2014, Reid said one of his priorities will be addressing the wealth gap between the rich, poor and middle class.

“The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, the middle class is getting squeezed and it’s just not fair,” said Reid, adding that raising the minimum wage would be another top priority, along with extending jobless benefits.

He said he’s scheduled to appear on a Sunday news show to outline his legislative goals in the midterm election year.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Ted Cruz Hints He Might Vote for ‘Terrific’ Rick Perry in 2016.


Image: Ted Cruz Hints He Might Vote for 'Terrific' Rick Perry in 2016

By Lisa Barron

Sen. Ted Cruz says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is “terrific,” despite the Republican governor’s past swipes at the state’s junior senator for his involvement in the government shutdown, among other things.

Cruz told the Dallas Morning News in a recent interview that under Perry, the Lone Star State‘s economy has been “remarkable.” He even suggested he might vote for Perry in the GOP primary should the governor decide to repeat his 2012 bid for the White House in 2016.

“Rick Perry’s been a terrific governor,” he said, adding: “I can tell you this: as a voter, the person for whom I intend to vote in the 2016 Republican primary is whoever is standing up and leading, effectively fighting for free-market principles and the Constitution.”

Perry, who has not announced whether he will seek the presidency again, has insulted Cruz in recent months. During a trip to Israel and England in October, he called the government shutdown in October that was championed by his fellow Republican “political theater” and told the Washington Times that the senator’s name had not been mentioned overseas.

Cruz has also been mentioned as a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, but a November survey by Public Policy Polling found both good and bad news for the tea party favorite.

While he is by far the top choice of Texas Republicans to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2016, 50 percent of all Texans say Cruz has been bad for the state’s reputation, compared to 37 percent who think he’s been good for it.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

LIGNET: US Shift on Iran Forcing Saudis to Shore up Gulf Alliance.


Image: LIGNET: US Shift on Iran Forcing Saudis to Shore up Gulf Alliance

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdul Latif Al Zayani, left, and Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, Kuwait’s minister for foreign affairs, attend the last session of the 34th GCC summit in Kuwait on Dec. 11, 2013. (AP)

Iran’s recent diplomatic breakthrough with the United States has invaded the comfort zone of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and forced it to embrace unification of militaries as well as true political and economic union. Rising suspicion of the Saudi push for closer solidarity could be linked to aggressive Iranian lobbying of several Gulf countries in recent months.

Click here to read the full analysis from top intelligence experts at LIGNET.com.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Pope Denounces Discrimination, Violence Against Christians.


Image: Pope Denounces Discrimination, Violence Against Christians

VATICAN CITYPope Francis on Thursday denounced discrimination against Christians, including in countries where religious freedom is in theory guaranteed by law.

He delivered his traditional noon prayer and address to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on the day the Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. Stephen, its first martyr.

The 77-year-old Argentine pope asked the crowd for a moment of silent prayer for “Christians who are unjustly accused and are subjected to every type of violence.”

Francis, celebrating his first Christmas season as pope, said “limitations and discrimination” against Christians was taking place not only in countries that do not grant full religious freedom but also where “on paper, freedom and human rights are protected.”

“This injustice should be denounced and eliminated,” he said.

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 

Francis did not name any countries but the Vatican has long urged Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam’s holiest places, to lift a ban on Christians worshiping in public.This year there have been a number of incidents of intolerance and attacks against minority Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, and other countries where their rights are guaranteed by law.

Francis, departing from his prepared text, said he was sure that Christians suffering from either discrimination or violence were “more numerous today than in he early times of the Church.”

In the past, the Vatican has also expressed concern over what former Pope Benedict called “sophisticated forms of hostility” against Christians in rich countries, such as restricting use of religious symbols in public places.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Netanyahu: Any US Spying on Israel Is Not ‘Acceptable to Us’.


Image: Netanyahu: Any US Spying on Israel Is Not 'Acceptable to Us'

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on allegations the United States had spied on Israel’s leaders, said on Monday such activity was unacceptable and had no place in the allies’ close relationship.Documents leaked on Friday by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ had in 2009 targeted an email address listed as belonging to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and monitored emails of senior defense officials.

“With regard to things published in the past few days, I have asked for an examination of the matter,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, in a clear reference to the alleged espionage.

He did not elaborate on whether Israel intended to ask Washington for clarifications.

“In the close ties between Israel and the United States, there are things that must not be done and that are not acceptable to us,” Netanyahu said, speaking to legislators from his right-wing Likud party.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 
On Sunday, several Israeli Cabinet members and lawmakers said disclosure of U.S. spying on Israel was an opportunity to press Washington to free jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced to a life term in 1987 in the United States for spying for Israel. A succession of U.S. presidents have spurned Israeli calls for his pardon.

In what appeared to be an attempt to calm the clamor, Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel had constantly sought Pollard’s release and did not need any “special occasion” to discuss his case with Washington.

Israeli officials have played down the importance of any information the United States may have gleaned from its alleged espionage activities.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel had always assumed that even its allies spied on it.

A statement issued by Olmert’s office, said the reports, if accurate, referred to a public email address and that chances that any security or intelligence damage had been caused were minuscule.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Israel Police Blame Palestinian Militants for Bus Blast Near Tel Aviv.


Image: Israel Police Blame Palestinian Militants for Bus Blast Near Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM — A pipe bomb believed to have been planted by Palestinian militants exploded on board a bus in central Israel just moments after it had been evacuated, police said, in the most serious attack inside Israel in more than a year.

The explosion came at a sensitive time in Mideast peace efforts. Israel and the Palestinians resumed talks last summer for the first time in nearly five years, and the U.S.-brokered negotiations have made little visible progress. The explosion threatened to further poison what has become a tense and negative atmosphere.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were no injuries in the blast, which took place in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. The explosion blew windows out of the bus and charred the sides of the vehicle.

“Based on the findings at the scene by bomb disposal experts, it was a terrorist attack,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re continuing to search the area for suspects.”

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?
Rosenfeld said the nature of the target and the nature of the device led authorities to determine that militants, not criminals, were behind the bombing. He declined to elaborate, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

He said the bomb was discovered in a bag on the bus. The driver quickly ordered passengers to get off, and the bomb exploded shortly after as a bomb squad expert was inspecting it. The police sapper was not injured but was taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

It was the most serious attack inside Israel since a bomb explosion wounded more than 20 people in Tel Aviv in November 2012. At the time, Israel was involved in heavy fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

A decade ago, Israel experienced a rash of Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and in other public spaces. More than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died in several years of fighting.

But tensions have subsided in recent years. The neighboring West Bank, however, has seen a recent uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence, thought senior Israeli officials believe the various incidents there have not been connected to each other.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

President on Obamacare: ‘We Screwed It Up’.


Image: President on Obamacare: 'We Screwed It Up'

President Barack Obama on Friday defended his administration’s decision to delay for some people the requirement to buy medical insurance under his healthcare law, explaining that the rollout of his signature domestic policy is a “messy process” — and admitting “we screwed it up.”

Officials said late Thursday that people whose insurance plans were canceled because of new standards under the law may be able to claim a “hardship exemption” to the requirement that all Americans must have coverage by March 31, or face a penalty.

The sudden change came four days before the deadline to sign up for coverage, which starts on Jan. 1 under Obamacare. It threatened to further dampen enthusiasm for the law, which has suffered a chaotic rollout that has driven Obama’s public approval numbers to historic lows.

Republicans seized on the latest announcement as further proof that Obamacare is unworkable, but Obama said it was just a bump in the road.

“I’ve said before, this is a messy process,” Obama said during a news conference before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays. “When you try to do something this big, affecting this many people, it’s going to be hard.”

Obama also pointed to a surge in enrollment, after the disastrous launch of the glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov website resulted in fewer than 27,000 people signing up through the federal marketplace in October.

Officials said that more than 1 million people have signed up so far for new coverage under Obamacare through state and federal marketplaces.

Still, there are lingering problems. Consumers were unable to access HealthCare.gov for a few hours during the middle of the day Friday, a critical time before the Dec. 23 deadline. Officials said they needed to repair a website error that occurred overnight.

The rocky rollout of the law since Oct. 1 has been embarrassing and politically damaging. Obama again accepted blame, saying: “Since I’m in charge, obviously we screwed it up.”

Part of the recent backlash came when millions of people received policy cancellation notices, forcing Obama to apologize for a promise he made that people who liked their insurance policies could keep them under the reforms.

Officials estimated that fewer than 500,000 people would be affected by this delay in the so-called individual mandate. The mandate is a core part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that aims to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

However, the announcement raises fairness questions, as it gives a subset of Americans relief from the requirement to buy insurance. “It is the beginning of the end of the individual mandate,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Republicans have opposed the healthcare law as an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.

An insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, criticized the change that could divert more consumers away from the new plans offered under Obamacare.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in a statement.
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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