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Posts tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

Poll: Americans Have Little Faith in Government.


Americans enter 2014 with a profoundly negative view of their government, expressing little hope that elected officials can or will solve the nation’s biggest problems, a new poll finds.

Half say America’s system of democracy needs either “a lot of changes” or a complete overhaul, according to the poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 1 in 20 says it works well and needs no changes.

Americans, who have a reputation for optimism, have a sharply pessimistic take on their government after years of disappointment in Washington.

The percentage of Americans saying the nation is heading in the right direction hasn’t topped 50 in about a decade. In the new poll, 70 percent lack confidence in the government’s ability “to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”

The poll comes about two months after partisan gridlock prompted the first government shutdown in 17 years.

People feel somewhat better about their personal lives. Most have at least some confidence that they’ll be able to handle their own problems in the coming year. A narrow majority say they’d do a better job running the country than today’s leaders in Washington.

Local and state governments inspire more faith than the federal government, according to the poll, with 45 percent at least moderately confident in their state government and 54 percent expressing that much confidence in their local government.

When asked to name up to 10 world or national problems they would “like the government to be working on” in 2014, Americans chiefly cite issues that have dominated — and often flummoxed — the White House and Congress for five years. Health care reform topped the list. It is likely, however, that those naming the issue include both opponents and supporters of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul.

Jobs and the economy were next, followed by the nation’s debt and deficit spending.

Some issues that draw ample media and campaign attention rank lower in the public’s priorities. No more than 3 percent of Americans listed gay rights, abortion or domestic spying as prime topics for government action.

Regardless of the issue, however, Americans express remarkably little confidence that the federal government can make real progress.

For instance, 86 percent of those who called health care reform a top priority said they want the government to put “a lot” or “a great deal” of effort into it. But about half of them (49 percent) are “not at all confident” there will be real progress, and 20 percent are only “slightly confident.”

This yawning gap between public desires and expectations is one of the poll’s most striking findings. Even on an issue completely within the federal government’s control, the budget and national debt, 65 percent of those who called it a priority say they have no confidence in the government’s ability to fix it. Another 20 percent are only “slightly confident.”

When it comes to the issues people cited as most important to them, 80 percent want the government to spend significant effort working on them. Yet 76 percent say they have little or no confidence the government will make real progress.

But asked generally about the role of government in society, the AP-NORC Center poll finds Americans divided on how active they want government to be. Half say “the less government the better.” However, almost as many (48 percent) say “there are more things that government should be doing.”

On the economy, an area historically driven by the private sector, the poll finds a clear public desire for active government. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say “we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems.”

Even among those who say “the less government the better,” 31 percent feel the nation needs a strong government to handle those complex problems.

Americans don’t feel terribly optimistic about their own economic opportunities. Although 49 percent say their standard of living surpasses their parents’, most are broadly pessimistic about the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. And they are mixed on whether people like them have a good chance to improve their standard of living.

Few are hopeful that the pieces are in place for the government to improve. About half are pessimistic about the country’s ability to produce strong leaders generally. And 61 percent are pessimistic about the system of government overall and the way leaders are chosen.

Kathy Wooters of Houston’s Kingwood community is among those who think the federal government should just get out of the way.

“We have too big of a government. I’d like it to be less in control of our lives,” said Wooters, 57, a mother of four and grandmother of nine. “We are adults,” she said. “We can make wise decisions with our money,” rather than have the federal government dictate insurance choices and dole out more assistance to those who “want everything for free.”

Wooters, a Republican and tea party supporter, said she taught her children to fend for themselves and avoid debt.

The AP-NORC Center poll was conducted online Dec. 12-16 among a random national sample of 1,141 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for all respondents.

The survey was conducted by GfK using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based Internet panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly, using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

 

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

Source: Newsmax.com

John Bolton: China Sees US on ‘Path of Decline’.


harshly worded editorial by the official Chinese news agency called for a “de-Americanized world,” and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton says he knows why they are upset.

The Xinua editorial published Sunday shows what’s going on in minds of top Chinese officials, Bolton told Fox News Channel’s “Your World.”

China holds a large amount of U.S. debt, so the country is right to be worried about what is going to happen to its value.

Also, Bolton said, China is tired of being accused by the U.S. government of manipulating their currency when the the United States is doing same thing with quantitative easing, a form of electronic money-printing.

“I think the Chinese are fed up with that,” Bolton said. “And let’s face it, they’d love to bring the U.S. dollar down as the world’s reserve currency.”

The editorial suggested a new reserve currency “so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.”

The Obama administration is seen as weak, Bolton said, and the budget and debt ceiling crisis in Washington is seen as proof “we’ve lost our way.” China is watching Obama institute policies it knows from own experience are going to hobble America’s economy, he said.

“They thought we understood how to keep the economy strong,” Bolton said. “They see us heading on a path toward Europe – that is a path of decline, and they are going to try and take advantage of it.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Six Dead, at Least Four Injured in Shootings at Washington Navy Yard.


At least one gunman opened fire inside a building at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning, and officials said six people were killed and at least four were wounded, including at least one law enforcement officer.

Police were looking for two other potential gunmen wearing military-style uniforms, including one who had on a beret, chief Cathy Lanier said. One had a long gun and the other was also armed, she said. One of the three gunmen had died, though Lanier didn’t say how.

Ed Zeigler, director of public affairs for Naval District Washington, said two suspected shooters are “down.” The shootings occurred about 8:20 a.m.

President Barack Obama, in remarks Monday afternoon, called the shooting victims “patriots.” Targeting military personnel and civilians, he said, was a “cowardly” act. He described the shootings as an act of “unimaginable violence.”

Witnesses described a gunman opening fire from the fourth floor, aiming down on people in the first-floor cafeteria. Others said a gunman fired at them in a third-floor hallway.

As witnesses emerged from the building, a helicopter hovered over the building, schools were on lockdown and airplanes at nearby Reagan National Airport were briefly grounded.

CNN reported an increase in security at the Pentagon and other military installations in the Washington area.

Less than 2 miles away, security was beefed up at the Capitol, but officials said there was no known threat there. President Barack Obama was getting frequent briefings on the shooting.

The exact number of people killed and the conditions of those wounded was not immediately known. About 3,000 people work at the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, which builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and combat systems.

Todd Brundidge, an executive assistant with Navy Sea Systems Command, said he and other co-workers encountered a gunman in a long hallway of their building on the third floor. The gunman was wearing all blue, he said.

“He just turned and started firing,” Brundidge said.

Terrie Durham, an executive assistant with the same agency, said she also saw the gunman firing toward her and Brundidge.

“He aimed high and missed,” she said. “He said nothing. As soon as I realized he was shooting, we just said, ‘Get out of the building.'”

Rick Mason, a program management analyst who is a civilian with the U.S. Navy, said a gunman was shooting from a fourth floor overlook in the hallway outside his office. He said the gunman was aiming down at people in the building’s cafeteria on the first floor. Mason said he could hear the shots but could not see a gunman.

Shortly after the gunfire, Mason said someone on an overhead speaker told workers to seek shelter and later to head for the gates at the complex.

Patricia Ward, a logistics management specialist, said she was in the cafeteria and heard shots. They sounded like “pop, pop, pop,” she said. After a few seconds, there were more shots.

“Everybody just panicked at first,” she said. “It was just people running, running, running.”

Ward said security officers started directing people out of the building with guns drawn.

Police and federal agents from multiple law enforcement agencies responded. Ambulances were parked outside, streets in the area were closed and departures from Reagan National Airport were temporarily halted for security reasons.

Among the wounded was a D.C. police officer, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

A U.S. Park Police helicopter hovered over the building and appeared to drop a basket with a person onto the roof.

Officials at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said three shooting victims had been brought there and were in critical condition..

District of Columbia schools officials said six schools and one administrative building in the vicinity of the Navy Yard were placed on lockdown. The action was taken out an abundance of caution, schools spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said.

Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands and accounts for a quarter of the Navy’s entire budget. It builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems.

The Navy Yard is part of a fast-growing neighborhood on the banks of the Anacostia River in southeast Washington, just blocks from Nationals Park and about 1 ½ miles southeast of the U.S. Capitol.

It houses a museum, the residence of the chief of naval operations and is responsible for weapons development, among other functions.

About 3,000 people work at the Navy Yard, the Navy said in a statement.

President Barack Obama has been updated on the incident throughout the morning, and is expected to speak within the hour.

Washington police and the FBI said an “active shooter” still was on the grounds. The shooting occurred inside Naval Sea System Command headquarters, according to CNN. U.S. Capitol police and officers from numerous other agencies in the Washington area were assisting in the search.

No other Navy installations have been locked down because of what’s going on in Washington, the Navy said.

A Navy spokesman tweeted at 9:35 a.m. that four people were killed, eight injured, and that one shooter was “down.” DC police also reported four killed and eight wounded, and said there may be more than one shooter.

Story continues below video.

The Washington Post reported there were up to three shooters, one dressed in military fatigues.

The Post reported that gunfire was heard about 11 a.m., and also that one of the heavily armed shooters was “down.” One shooter reportedly was dressed in black and was armed with an assault rifle.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Newsmax Wires

Pentagon Giving Same-Sex Newlyweds Special Taxpayer-Funded Bonuses.


Gay military wedding
Todd Saunders (left) and U.S. Army Capt. Michael Potoczniak (right), partners of 10 years, take their marriage oath at City Hall in San Francisco, June 29, 2013. The Pentagon is attempting to award special benefits to gay military couples not available to heterosexuals. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year said the federal government must give equal treatment to same-sex couples who have legally “married.” But now the Pentagon wants to give a special, taxpayer-funded bonus to such couples—including a benefit that is not even available to heterosexual couples.

In the recent case of United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down as unconstitutional one section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 of DOMA defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all purposes of federal law, regardless of a state’s definition of marriage.

On the face of it, all this ruling meant was that same-sex couples who 1) have already gotten legally “married” in a state or country that permits such “marriages” and 2) now live in a state that recognizes such couples as “married” must be granted the same benefits from the federal government that opposite-sex couples receive.

Now, however, the Department of Defense has gone much further. In a pair of memos released on Aug. 13, it announced that a service member who wants to enter a same-sex “marriage” but is posted more than 100 miles from a state that allows same-sex “marriages,” will be granted seven days of extra paid leave (10 days if posted outside the continental United States) just to travel to their wedding.

This special leave—only for destination weddings of homosexual couples—is above and beyond the regular annual leave granted to every service member. How much does this cost the American taxpayer? For 10 days’ work, a captain (with six years’ experience) earns $1,787.20 in base pay alone—that’s not even accounting for benefits like housing allowance, health care, etc. And this special taxpayer-funded leave is only available for same-sex “weddings”—heterosexuals need not apply!

This special treatment is not required by the repeal of the 1993 law on homosexuality in the military referred to as “don’t ask, don’t tell”; it is not required by the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision; and it is fundamentally unequal and unfair. In a time of sequestration and severe cuts to the military, the Pentagon should be in the business of strengthening our troops, not in the business of same-sex “wedding” planning.

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2014, which would fund these unfair bonuses, now awaits action in the U.S. Senate. Contact your senators today, and urge them to amend the bill to remove any unequal treatment from it—in this case, a taxpayer-funded wedding bonus from the Pentagon afforded on the basis of sexual orientation.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature, where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

Abortion Cover for Congress Under Obamacare?.


It’s an issue lawmakers may not want to have to explain at town hall meetings back home:

An attempt to fix a problem with the new health care law has created a situation in which members of Congress and their staffers could gain access to abortion coverage, something that currently is denied to federal employees who get health insurance through the government’s plan.

Abortion opponents say the Obama administration needs to fix it; abortion rights supporters say the concern is overblown.

Editor’s Note: Should ObamaCare Be Repealed? Vote in Urgent National Poll 

The abortion complication is a new headache for the administration as it tries to shoehorn members of Congress and certain staffers into insurance markets coming later this year under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. An amendment by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — who opposes both the health care overhaul and abortion — requires lawmakers and their personal staff to get private coverage through the same markets that uninsured Americans will use.

Last week, the White House Office of Personnel Management said the government would keep paying its share of premiums for lawmakers and affected staffers who must leave the federal employee health care system by Jan. 1. That eased a major anxiety for several thousand staffers accustomed to getting the same benefits as other federal employees.

But the proposed regulation did not explicitly address abortion coverage. Under the health care law, insurance plans in the new markets may cover abortion unless a state passes a law prohibiting them from doing so. Plans offering coverage for abortion, however, may not use federal funds to pay for it and must collect a separate premium from enrollees. Federal tax credits to help the uninsured afford coverage must also be kept apart.

Abortion opponents say the proposal from the personnel office would circumvent a longstanding law that bars the use of taxpayer funds for “administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Unlike many private corporate plans, federal employee plans only cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

“Under this scheme (the government) will be paying the administrative costs,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., author of abortion funding ban for federal employee plans. “It’s a radical deviation and departure from current federal law, and it’s not for all federal employees, but for a subset: Congress. Us.”

Smith is calling on the personnel office to specify that lawmakers and staffers must choose a plan that does not cover abortions. The funding ban even bears his name: It’s known as the Smith amendment.

The personnel office refused to answer questions about the issue on the record. Instead, its media office released a generic statement, saying: “Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is endangered. All plans available in the marketplaces will comply with the law.”

Obama, who supports abortion rights, previously has said he does not want his health care overhaul to change existing laws on abortion.

A leading independent expert on the federal employee plan said abortion opponents appear to have raised a legitimate question, but the applicable laws are so arcane that it’s hard to tell whether they’re right.

“This goes into a legal thicket the complexity of which I can’t begin to fathom,” said Walton Francis, lead author of an annual guide to federal health benefits. “It would take lawyers hours to decipher the interrelationship between these statutes, and they would probably come to different conclusions.”

It’s even legally murky whether the government can continue to pay its regular share of the premiums for lawmakers and staffers, he added.

Abortion opponents say the longstanding ban on “administrative expenses” related to abortion coverage precludes the personnel office from dealing with health plans that cover abortion.

“To comply with the Smith amendment, they would have to advise members and congressional staff that they can only choose plans that do not cover abortions,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. “And, of course, they would have to enforce it.”

Abortion remains a legal medical procedure in most places, but it’s subject to increasing restrictions in many states. So far, 23 states have barred or restricted abortion coverage by plans in the new health insurance markets. But the other 27 states and Washington, D.C., have not. Under the health care law, every state must have at least one plan that does not cover abortion.

Judy Waxman, a leading attorney for the National Women’s Law Center, said the outcry from abortion opponents is overblown.

In the new insurance markets under Obama’s law, states decide whether abortion can be offered, she explained. If it’s allowed, insurers decide whether they want to offer the coverage. But they have to make sure funds to pay for it are segregated from federal money.

“No federal money will go to abortion,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Should ObamaCare Be Repealed? Vote in Urgent National Poll 

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

GOP: New Obama Economic Plan Same Old ‘Song and Dance’.


Image: GOP: New Obama Economic Plan Same Old 'Song and Dance'

If President Barack Obama’s new focus on the economy sounds familiar, that’s because he’s done it before.

Since the first year of his presidency, Obama has been launching — and re-launching — initiatives on the economy. Some came with new policy proposals, others with catchy slogans.

Remember 2011’s “Winning the Future” campaign? Or the “We Can’t Wait” initiatives that followed later that year? Just a few months ago, Obama was headlining the “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.”

So far there’s no slogan attached to the White House‘s latest initiative, which kicks off Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill. The president’s advisers are billing his remarks as a major address on the economy, though no new initiatives are expected to be announced. However, aides say there will be some fresh policy proposals in a series of follow-up speeches planned through September, most of which will be narrowly targeted on issues like housing, retirement security and expanding access to education.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s repeated attempts to orient his public agenda on the economy should serve as a reminder that “the president has always been focused on these issues.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue to remind people that improving the economic situation in America is the principle reason why our fellow citizens elect and send people to Washington,” Carney said.

But congressional Republicans, who continue to be a roadblock for many of the president’s economic proposals, dismissed the White House’s new public relations push as a retread of old ideas.

“We’ve seen this song and dance before,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Whether it’s his health care law, his job-destroying energy policies, or the mountain of regulations piling up, it’s the president’s own policies that are responsible for this new normal of weak economic growth and high unemployment.”

Still, the timing of Obama’s latest economic initiative underscores the degree to which jobs and growth have been overshadowed in Washington since the president began his second term. That’s been driven in part by the White House, which has invested significant time on other areas of the president’s agenda, including the failed effort to enact stricter gun laws and the push for immigration reform, which succeeded in the Senate but faces an uncertain future in the House.

A series of foreign policy crises, like the Syrian civil war and Egyptian coup, have also competed for the White House’s attention. So have a flurry of recent controversies, including the Internal Revenue Service‘s targeting of political groups, the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records, and renewed attention on the investigation into the deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

All the while, the economy has slowly but steadily improved. The housing market is coming back, the stock market is on the rise and consumer confidence is near its highest levels of Obama’s presidency. Nationwide unemployment is also falling, though at 7.6 percent, it still remains high.

But a new round of fiscal deadlines threaten to upend that progress, adding urgency to the White House’s desire to get the economy back on Washington’s radar — while at the same time trying to get the public to side with the president’s economic vision.

The potential fiscal showdown in September will focus on the debt ceiling and the automatic federal budget cuts that kicked in earlier this year. Obama wants to end the cuts before they extend into the next fiscal year. And some Republicans want more deficit reduction in exchange for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, a bargain Obama says he would not back.

Obama’s aides say that while Wednesday’s address and subsequent events will touch on the looming fiscal fights, they say they do not see the speech as a legislative negotiating tactic. Nor will the president lay out an economic “to-do” list for Congress, reflecting the White House’s recognition that many of the president’s proposals would almost certainly face opposition on Capitol Hill, particularly in the Republican-led House.

And that dynamic, just like Obama’s repeated economic PR campaigns, may again leave the public with a feeling that they’ve been here before.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Gay Couples Now Due to Receive Benefits Under Obamacare.


The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday that same-sex couples are eligible for federal benefits will mean more gays and lesbians can reap the benefits of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul that take effect Jan. 1, advocates say.

In a landmark decision, the court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in California and struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples federal benefits such as healthcare.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act already bans discrimination in health coverage based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law, known as “Obamacare,” was passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court nearly a year ago.

With the Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples who live in states that recognize them can apply for the law’s tax subsidies, meant to offset healthcare costs, as a couple rather than as two individuals, said Tim Jost, a health law expert and law professor at Washington and Lee University. This will help the law reach more people, he added.

Some couples will be newly eligible for spousal protections under Medicaid, a federally funded program that provides care to low-income parents, children, seniors and people with disabilities. It covers more than 62 million Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If couples decide to file taxes jointly, though, they may no longer qualify for Medicaid or tax credits because their combined income will put them above the level for eligibility.

In the District of Columbia or one of 12 states that have legalized gay marriage – where about 40 percent of same-sex couples live – applying for health coverage through federal employers and the exchanges will be as simple for them as it is for heterosexual couples, said Kellan Baker, associate director for LGBT progress at the liberal Center for American Progress.

But outside of those borders, it is more complicated.

“We know from the IRS there’s a lack of clarity about how exactly marriages are recognized across state lines,” Baker said. “There’s the legal question of, does the IRS consider you married if you’re living outside of the state that recognized your marriage?”

Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the court did not take up, does not require states to recognize gay marriages that took place in other states.

Despite the uncertainty, many advocacy groups lauded the court’s decision because it will improve access to healthcare for many gay couples.

Obamacare establishes state and federal exchanges so people can explore all of their health coverage options in one place.

States that run their own exchange programs decide who qualifies as family members, but the court ruling means that now the 26 federally run exchanges “have no bar to recognizing and including same-sex spouses as protected family members,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Supreme Court ruling will also enable older same-sex couples to receive marital benefits under Social Security and Medicare, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders said in a statement.

“Many of these federal benefits, from Social Security to Medicare, are founded on the presumption of marriage,” the group said, “yet (the Defense of Marriage Act) denied access to these benefits even to legally married same-sex couples.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

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