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Posts tagged ‘Tuesday’

War College Considers Removal of Confederate Portraits.

Image: War College Considers Removal of Confederate Portraits

By Melanie Batley

The U.S. Army War College is considering the possible removal of portraits depicting Confederate generals, including Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson, after an official questioned why the school honors those who fought against the United States.

The issue arose as the college conducts an inventory of all its paintings and photographs, with plans to re-hang them in historical themes to chronicle the military’s history, The Washington Times reported Tuesday.

“This person was struck by the fact we have quite a few Confederate images,” college spokeswoman Carol Kerr, told the Times. “[Lee] was certainly not good for the nation. This is the guy we faced on the battlefield whose entire purpose in life was to destroy the nation as it was then conceived . . . This is all part of an informed discussion.”

Army Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the commandment of the college, said that inaccurate rumors were spread about the removal of the portraits because a faculty member took them down as part of the inventory process. He nonetheless confirmed that changes would be made.

There will be change: over the years very fine artwork has been hung with care — but [with] little rationale or overall purpose,” he said Wednesday in a statement on the school’s website.

“I will . . . approach our historical narrative with keen awareness and adherence to the seriousness of several things: accurate capture of U.S. military history, good, bad and ugly; a Soldier’s life of selfless service to our Nation; and our collective solemn oath to defend the Constitution of the United States (not a person or a symbol, but a body of ideals). Those are the things I will be looking to reinforce with any changes to the artwork.”

Two portraits of Lee are on display at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and his portrait is also on the walls of other military institutions and government buildings, according to the Times.

The Army War College was established in 1901 in Carlisle, Pa. for the study of lessons in warfare, and the institution has been the making of future field generals. It graduates more than 300 U.S. officers, foreign students, and civilians in two classes each year, according to the Times.

Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Six months after surrendering to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lee swore allegiance to the Constitution and to the Union.

In 1975, Congress enacted a joint resolution reinstating Lee’s U.S. citizenship, stating, “This entire nation has long recognized the outstanding virtues of courage, patriotism and selfless devotion to duty of General R.E. Lee.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

McCain: Anti-Budget Colleagues Lack “Intellectual Integrity”.

Sen. John McCain rebuked Republican colleagues who plan to vote against the budget deal as lacking “intellectual integrity,” the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday.

“My only response to that is that I respect their vote but I’d like to know what we do in order to avoid another shutdown of the government,” the Arizona Republican said.

“I have concerns about the budget deal, everybody I think does because of the nature the way business is done, but to somehow vote against it without an alternative to keep the government from shutting down, then I think lacks some intellectual integrity.”

McCain said he would vote for the bipartisan budget bill, which has already been passed in the House.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cynthia Fagen

Graham: Ryan’s ‘Leadership’ on Budget Shows He Can be President.

Image: Graham: Ryan's 'Leadership' on Budget Shows He Can be President

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Rep. Paul Ryan‘s bipartisan budget proposal may anger some fiscal conservatives, but South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said it may boost the Wisconsin Republican’s chances at the presidency in 2016.

“From my point of view, he’s showing leadership,” Graham said Tuesday, according to The Huffington Post. “I mean, if you want to become president, maybe instead of trying to please every faction of your party, maybe you should show the country as a whole, ‘I can actually work with the other side on something important.'”

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, joined with Sen. Sen. Patty Murray, his counterpart in the Senate, in releasing their 2014 budget proposal that provides $63 billion in sequestration relief while increasing spending to $1.012 trillion. Fiscal conservatives immediately criticized the plan, saying they want to keep across-the-board sequestration cuts in place without trading off reductions in entitlement programs.

However, Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012 who has not yet announced his intentions for 2016, said he expects “great support” from his fellow Republicans. He called the plan “a step in the right direction.”

Ryan acknowledged Tuesday evening on Fox News’ “On the Record With Greta Van Susteren” that the new budget “isn’t the greatest agreement of all time.” But he insisted it holds to conservative principles, including deficit reduction and lower taxes.

The Wall Street Journal, in a review of the Ryan-Murray bill, called it the “least bad” of many budget options because it includes modest entitlement reforms and no new tax increases and possibly helps to avoid another government shutdown.

But the Journal noted that the two-year deal will break the 2011 Budget Control Act‘s discretionary spending caps that were set for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 by $63 billion over two years. The newspaper said spending would rise again in 2016 to the current $1.016 trillion, which the newspaper described as a victory for Senate Democrats in the budget negotiations.

Meanwhile, the new budget — and the controversy over it — is returning the spotlight to Ryan for the first time since his 2012 campaign with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, CNN reports. Ryan was picked for the ticket last year because his ideas and work on curbing federal spending was well-known and widely applauded by his fellow Republicans. He had quickly become one of the most prominent GOP figures on the national stage.

But his budget proposal this time was not received as well as his previous proposals, especially by Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who could end up challenging him for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016. Rubio was quick to say on Tuesday that he does not support the Ryan-Murray proposal.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obamacare Backlash Pushes President’s Disapproval to All-Time High.

Image: Obamacare Backlash Pushes President's Disapproval to All-Time High

By Melanie Batley

A number of prominent national polls have found that more than half of Americans now disapprove of the job President Barack Obama is doing, hitting all-time highs as opposition mounts to the new healthcare law.

Wall Street Journal/ NBC Poll conducted Dec. 4-8, found that 54 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed now disapprove of the job the president is doing, with 60 percent citing the Affordable Care Act as the main factor shaping their view of the president.

Forty-three percent still give him a positive approval rating.

Exactly half the public says they think Obamacare is a bad idea, according to the poll, compared to just 34 percent who think it’s a good idea, also marking a record high.

poll by CBS News/ New York Times released Tuesday put the figure even higher, with 54 percent saying they disapprove of the new healthcare law.

“The president is being weighed down by one issue, his healthcare law,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who helped direct the Journal/NBC poll. “It’s probably fair to say that as goes healthcare, so goes the Obama presidency for the next year.”

Other polls released Tuesday also show that the president’s disapproval ratings have escalated to their worst levels.

Quinnipiac University Poll conducted Dec. 3 – 9, found that 57 percent of the 2,692 registered voters surveyed disapprove of the president, compared to 38 percent who approve. The disapproval figures mark an all-time high for the poll, and a three point increase in just one month since November.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released Tuesday indicated almost identical findings, with 58 percent of those surveyed giving the president a negative job approval rating compared to 42 percent who approve.

In addition, the Marist College/ McClatchy newspapersPew Research Center/ USA Today, and Bloomberg polls show the president’s disapproval ratings over 50 percent, as well.

But the president has plenty of company, apparently, when it comes to low job performance ratings. The newly-released polls found major disapproval with the job Congress is doing.

In the Journal/ NBC poll, 79 percent said the performance of 113th Congress is one of the worst ever. The AP poll put the figure even higher with 86 percent of adults saying they disapprove of Congress. The CBS/ Times poll, meanwhile found 83 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

US Mulls Limits on Homemade Plastic Guns.

Lawmakers, divided over how to regulate home-made firearms, moved Tuesday to extend restrictions on guns that can slip past metal detectors into secure areas like passenger planes.

Some Republicans opposed to new gun-control measures nevertheless want to extend a decades-old law in order to prevent a lapse in a ban on weapons that can evade detection and pose nightmares for law enforcement.

But many Democrats want to go further to address the increasing concern of homemade plastic guns, whose production has been made possible by 3-D printing technology.

Debate about home-made guns took off earlier this year when a Texas-based group, Defense Distributed, posted its blueprints for a fully functional, 3D-printed firearm, a single-shot pistol made almost entirely out of hard polymer plastic.

The existing law, which bans firearms that have no metal, expires next week, and the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved by voice vote a 10-year extension.

“In 1988, when we passed the Undetectable Firearms Act, the notion of a 3-D printed plastic firearm slipped through metal detectors onto our planes and secure environments was a matter of science fiction,” said Democrat Steve Israel.

“The problem is that today it is a reality,” added the congressman, who has introduced legislation that expands the law to prohibit removing metal components of a firearm even if they are not essential to the weapon’s use.

Some Republicans have expressed concern that any tweaking of the law could be used to tighten other gun legislation down the road.

“The House bill is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough,” said Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer on Monday as he called for closing a loophole that allows “anyone to legally make a gun that could be rendered invisible by the easy removal of its metal part.”

Lawmakers will need to act quickly, something a divided Congress has difficulty doing. While the House is in session this week, the Senate does not return until December 9, the day the law expires.

The National Rifle Association has not taken a public position on the issue.

A smaller group, Gun Owners of America, argues against extending or updating the law, arguing that the blueprints have already been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of potential makers.

“That genie is out of the bottle,” Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for the group, told AFP.

He said people who intend to wreak havoc with a firearm likely would not turn to such weapons or care about violating the plastic gun ban.

He also noted that existing law already makes it a crime to build a gun that is not in the traditional shape of a firearm, which means airport security will be able to see and recognize guns even if made of plastic.

The House move comes days before the one-year anniversary of the massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults with a semi-automatic rifle.

© AFP 2013

Judge: Detroit Eligible for Bankruptcy Protection.

Image: Judge: Detroit Eligible for Bankruptcy Protection(Landov)

Detroit is eligible for the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history because the city is broke and negotiations with its thousands of creditors were unfeasible, a federal judge said on Tuesday in a wide-ranging ruling that also said the city could cut retiree pensions.The ruling by U.S. Judge Steven Rhodes marks a watershed in the history of Detroit, once the cradle of the U.S. auto industry and now a symbol of urban decay and mismanagement.

Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, had painted bankruptcy as Detroit’s best bet for a return to financial stability, and Rhodes’ ruling will now give Orr and other civic leaders an opportunity to test that argument.

“It is indeed a momentous day,” Rhodes said as he read aloud for more than an hour from a written statement in a packed courtroom. “We have here a judicial finding that this once-proud and prosperous city cannot pay its debts. It’s insolvent. It’s eligible for bankruptcy. At the same time it has an opportunity for a fresh start.”

Detroit’s labor unions, retirees and pension funds, all of which likely will bear the brunt of austerity measures Orr plans to impose, had argued against the city’s bankruptcy in a nine-day eligibility trial. Orr has said he plans to impose a restructuring plan by the end of the year.

Rhodes also said that the city could cut pensions as part of the restructuring, despite the argument that Michigan‘s constitution protects them from being slashed. However, Rhodes warned he will not rubber-stamp any pension cuts.

“Nobody should interpret this holding, that pension rights are contract rights, to mean that this court will necessarily confirm any plan of adjustment to impair pensions. It will not casually or lightly exercise the power under federal bankruptcy law to impair pensions,” Rhodes said.

He declined to stay the bankruptcy proceedings as potential appeals proceed through the courts. He also turned down an effort to allow any appeals of his ruling to go directly to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Rhodes declared that motions to appeal the case must first be filed in bankruptcy court. Rhodes previously stayed all state court action in the case.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 filed a notice of appeal of Rhodes’ ruling in the bankruptcy court.

In his lead-up to the ruling, Rhodes went through key arguments made by the city’s labor unions, retirees and pension funds opposed to the bankruptcy. He found that Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code is constitutional and while Michigan’s constitution protects public pension benefits as contracts, those contracts can be impaired in a municipal bankruptcy.

The judge also found that the 2012 Michigan law that allowed the city to file for bankruptcy with the governor’s authorization was constitutional.

Tuesday’s ruling begins a new chapter in the case that first arrived in federal court with Detroit’s July 18 bankruptcy petition. As emergency manager Orr works toward submitting a plan to readjust Detroit’s more than $18 billion in debt – to be accomplished chiefly by forcing creditors to take a discount on what the city owes them – an appeals process will begin in the federal courts.


Detroit is burdened by $18.5 billion in debt as it struggles to provide even the most basic services to the city’s 700,000 residents. About 40 percent of the city’s streetlights do not work and about 78,000 abandoned buildings litter the city, whose population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950.

In order to meet federal eligibility requirements, Detroit had to prove that it is insolvent, it was authorized to file for bankruptcy and that it negotiated with creditors in good faith or that negotiations were impractical.

City unions, retirees and pension funds had objected in court to Detroit’s filing, contending during a nine-day trial in November that Orr did not negotiate in good faith and drove the city into bankruptcy court instead. Orr, a former bankruptcy lawyer, was appointed in March by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican.

Opponents also argued that Michigan’s constitution protects pensions from being slashed and that the city has other assets it can sell to pay down its debts, including the works of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Orr has brought in auction house Christie’s to place a value on some pieces in the museum’s collection.

In June, Orr put forward an initial proposal on how Detroit should deal with its $18.5 billion in debt and liabilities that offered unsecured creditors only pennies on the dollar to settle their claims. Orr raised eyebrows by declaring that holders of most of Detroit’s general obligation bonds would be treated as unsecured creditors who would be part of a group that would receive pro-rata shares of $2 billion in notes to settle their $11.5 billion in claims.

Detroit says about half its liabilities stem from retiree benefits, with $5.7 billion in liabilities relating to retiree healthcare and another $3.5 billion from pensions.

Likely cuts to retiree pensions and changes in healthcare benefits have been at the heart of the objections from the city’s unions, pension funds and retirees. Orr drew pointed questions from Rhodes over possible cuts during his time on the witness stand in the eligibility trial last month.

“The state and the EM have had a lot of time to steer the course and plot the direction they’re going in,” said Brendan Milewski, a 34-year-old retired Detroit firefighter who was paralyzed in 2010 while battling a fire.

In some respects the Detroit Institute of Arts has become symbolic of the costs of allowing Detroit to fall into bankruptcy. Last week, a group of the largest creditors asked Rhodes to order an independent valuation of the museum’s 66,000-piece collection. One of the city’s most prized cultural assets, the museum includes paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse, an original cast of Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker,” and a fresco mural by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Christie’s has not yet issued its valuation of the museum’s collection.

Bill Nowling, Orr’s spokesman, said in an email last week that the city disagrees with the creditors’ filing, but the move helps “illustrate the lengths they are willing to go to ensure they receive payment.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Cuba’s Catholic Church Calls for Accelerated Reforms.

HAVANA — Cuba‘s Catholic Church urged the government Tuesday to move more swiftly on reforming the communist-ruled island’s Soviet-style economy.

“We cannot hope to build a prosperous country and society without prosperous citizens and without opening the doors to financial sources that generate prosperity,” Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, wrote in an article published in the church’s “Palabra Nueva” journal.

Cuba has tinkered with pro-market economic change since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

But playing off the communist regime’s “slowly, but surely” slogan, Marquez said the government needed to move more quickly to stay ahead of demographic trends that show a bulging elderly population and not enough young people to support them.

In 2030, “30 percent of the population will be more than 60 years old,” he said, calling for “the creation of conditions that spur birth and discourage emigration of young people who would be ready to work and invest their capital and know-how in Cuba, including Cuban emigres willing to return.”

“It’s a waste of time to constantly insist on the long-proven ineffectiveness of state control on all production and services,” Marquez said, insisting that “our country’s technological backwardness puts us in a difficult situation in light of our need to join the global economy.”

“Accelerating reforms and generating wealth would be the best way to stop then reverse the deterioration of our society’s two most important sectors: health and education,” Marquez said.

In the absence of a legal opposition, the Catholic Church has emerged over the past three years as the sole organization with the standing to negotiate politically with the Havana government on social and economic issues.

© AFP 2013

Iran Says US Misrepresents Nuclear Deal.

Iran‘s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday slammed the White House for misrepresenting an interim nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — calling a U.S. fact sheet about the deal “a one-sided interpretation,” the Fars news agency reported.

“Some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action, and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said in Tehran.

Iran and the P5+1 nations — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — reached an interim deal Sunday in which Iran agreed to curb much of its nuclear activity for six months, during which time the sides will negotiate a final agreement.

In exchange, the West agreed to give Tehran some relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including its ability to enrich uranium, a key step in making bombs, remains intact.

Afkham said the White House fact sheet “modified” key details. Iran’s Foreign Ministry released its own version, which the Fars news agency published in its report.

The Washington Free Beacon reported the White House confirmed that the final details have yet to be worked out, telling the newspaper: “The P5+1 and Iran are working on what the time frame is.”

The White House couldn’t provide additional details Tuesday, the newspaper said.

But as the details are finalized, Iran will have the ability to continue its most controversial enrichment program, drawing criticism from proponents of tough nuclear restrictions, the Free Beacon reported.

“The six-month clock should have started early Sunday morning,” said former Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of United Against a Nuclear Iran. “If this is a serious agreement, the P5+1 must ensure that these negotiations do not become a tool for Iran to further increase its enrichment abilities.”

Christians United for Israel Executive Director David Brog said he fears the White House may have been taken advantage of by the Iranians.

“This may prove to be yet another worrisome sign that the Obama administration was played by the Iranians,” he said. “Their concessions were either illusory or meaningless, while ours will resuscitate the Iranian economy.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel.

Image: Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel

By Todd Beamon

Proposed changes in how the IRS evaluates the political activity of 501(c)(4)social welfare” groups have split the top two members of the House Ways and Means Committee — and they represent the same state.

The committee chairman, Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration should not issue the new guidelines, Roll Call reports.

“This smacks of the administration trying to shut down potential critics,” Camp said.

He was referring to those who have attacked the IRS for singling out tea party, conservative, and religious groups for special scrutiny in their applications for 501(c)(4) status.

The status allows the organizations to keep their donors private. Such groups spent “tens of millions” of dollars in the last election, Roll Call reports.

“There continues to be an ongoing investigation, with many documents yet to be uncovered, into how the IRS systematically targeted and abused conservative-leaning groups,” Camp said, according to Roll Call.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first — something they could achieve by fully cooperating with Congress in the investigation.”

But the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sandy Levin, who also represents the Wolverine State, called the proposed rules “a good first step,” Roll Call reports.

“As we plainly saw in the investigations into the failings within the IRS tax-exempt division, the lack of clear guidance on defining and measuring political activities under current law led to mismanagement and delays in the processing of exemption applications from progressive and conservative organizations,” Levin told Roll Call.

“The proposal for a ‘candidate-related political activity’ is a reasonable starting place, but the details will be important, for example, in an area as critical as voter registration drives,” Levin said.

At issue is whether an organization may obtain tax-exempt status through promoting the “social welfare.”

Political groups have loosely interpreted the IRS rules to participate in a wide range of political activities, ranging from educating voters to coaching potential candidates for office, Roll Call reports.

The proposed new guidelines, however, would bar organizations seeking the exempt status from “candidate-related political activity.”

Levin called the work of 501(c)(4) groups “vital in communities across the country,” adding that it was “important that there be clear guidelines between promoting social welfare and engaging in political activity for organizations seeking this tax exemption.”

The Democrat said the proposed changes would help remove the “ambiguity” from the current IRS evaluation system, Roll Call reports.

Acknowledging that “gross mismanagement of the tax-exempt division” had occurred, Levin said clearer guidelines were needed to prevent future mistakes, Roll Call reports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Va. State Sen. Deeds: ‘Some Wounds Won’t Heal’.

Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, who was stabbed in his home Tuesday, tweeted his first words since  the attack after being released from a Virginia hospital, Politico reports.

“I am alive so must live. Some wounds won’t heal,” the Democrat, a former candidate for governor, tweeted. Deeds had been in intensive care following the stabbing, when he suffered wounds to his head and torso. Police believe his son was responsible; the youth turned a rifle on himself in an apparent suicide.

Deeds finished saying: “Your prayers and your friendship are important to me.”

Authorities are still investigating what happened between Creigh Deeds and his son, 24-year-old Gus, who had suffered from mental illness.

Fox News reports that an emergency custody order was issued for Gus but that there were no psychiatric beds were available.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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