Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pressure is Building Against Iran

Israel to focus on key Iran nuclear targets in any strike

Reuters — Should Israel attack Iranian nuclear facilities, it would probably carry out precision strikes while making every effort not to hit the oil sector or other civilian sites.

Past Israeli operations, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraq's Osirak atomic reactor and a similar sortie against Syria in 2007, suggest a strategy of one-off pinpoint raids, due both to military limitations and a desire to avoid wider war.
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Clinton: China to be 'involved' in Iran sanctions push

Agence France Presse — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said China will play a role in international efforts to pen sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, and that Beijing recognizes the threat of Iran's nuclear program.

"I think as the weeks go forward and we begin the hard work of trying to come up with a Security Council resolution, China will be involved," Clinton said Monday in an interview with Canadian television.
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Russia still support diplomatic means to resolve Iran's issue

UNN India — President Dmitry Medvedev said on Russia still supported diplomacy to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program but sanctions should not be ruled . We are convinced that the path of sanctions is not optimal,Medvedev said in a message to the Arab League conference in Sirte Libya.

At the same time, such a scenario cannot be excluded," he added, Russia which, together with China, had been reluctant to endorse broader sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, has softened its stance on punitive measures against the Islamic Republic in recent months.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

U.S. and Russia agree on Nuclear Arms Treaty

Russia claims breakthrough in historic nuclear reduction agreement with US

Guardian UK — Barack Obama's ambitious goal of freeing the world of nuclear weapons won a significant boost tonight when Russia indicated that it had reached agreement with the United States on a historic nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Kremlin officials said that a document to replace the 1991 Start treaty had been agreed with Washington. A signing ceremony between Obama and Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, is likely to take place early next month in the Czech capital Prague, they said.
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U.S. Senate to discuss arms treaty with Russia in April-May

RIA Novosti — The U.S. Senate plans to hold hearings on ratifying a new signed arms reduction deal with Russia in April-May, a leading U.S. senator has said.

A signed Russian-U.S. treaty has to be ratified by the two states' parliaments to go into effect.

"We intend to begin hearings between Easter [April 4] and Memorial Day [May 31] on the historical record of strategic arms control," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said in a statement.
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A START towards Undermining Our Nuclear Security

The Heritage Foundry — Yesterday the Kremlin announced that the Obama administration and Russia had reached agreement on a new nuclear arms agreement intended to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The declaration appeared to surprise the White House, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs could only confirm that the two sides were “close” to a treaty. But U.S. officials confirm that “all major obstacles” in negotiations with Moscow have been cleared.

Russian approval of a new START agreement has been the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s “long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons” policy. President Obama’s desire to appease Russia is why he began negotiations by unilaterally surrendering to Kremlin demands that the United States betray our Czech Republic and Polish allies by going back on our promise to build ballistic missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe. Russians took President Obama’s easy and early capitulation on missile defense as a sign of naivete and weakness and concluded that the Obama administration was far more desperate for a new nuclear treaty than they were and, as The Los Angeles Times reports, “used that fact in negotiations.”
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

People with Healthcare account for 45% of personal bankruptcies

New Study: Bankruptcy Tied To Medical Bills

Washington Post — Sixty-two percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses, according to a nationwide study released today by the American Journal of Medicine. That's nearly 20 percentage points higher than that pool of respondents reported were connected to medical costs in 2001.

Of those who filed for bankruptcy in 2007, nearly 80 percent had health insurance. Respondents who reported having insurance indicated average expenses of just under $18,000. Respondents who filed and lacked insurance had average medical bills of nearly $27,000.
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Health Care Without Bankruptcy, Please

Huffington Post — What kind of an America would we suddenly create if the President were to sign into law a health care bill with a mandate to buy private insurance? An America where millions would be covered, but bankrupt, broke, financially kaput. And unhealthy, too.


You guessed it. All the fever-pitched, media-amplified ranting about "death" that has dominated the health care debate has likely done little more than obscure the ultimate sticking point for many Americans: a bill that would mandate--require by law--all Americans to buy private health insurance.
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Health care related bankruptcy is on the rise, study says

Consumer Reports — Americans are increasingly at risk of financial ruin due to illness and medical expenses, according to a new study released yesterday by the American Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that illness or medical bills contributed to nearly two thirds, or 62 percent, of all bankruptcies in 2007—before the major impact of the housing collapse and current economic downturn. That’s a 50 percent increase over a similar survey in 2001 by the same researchers.

Most of the debtors are middle aged, middle class and have a college level education, and each of them has their own story. Take Donna, from Chicago (right) who told us her bankruptcy story during our Cover America Tour. Donna’s husband had already been diagnosed with a heart condition, and when she found out she had uterine cancer, their out-of-pocket costs shot up to $9,000 a year. When they fell behind on their bills, one of her doctors sued to garnish her wages, which forced her and her husband into bankruptcy. They ended up losing their house, she gave up her job at a newspaper, and they moved into their daughter’s basement until they could afford a small apartment.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Retired U.S. General links Gays in Military to Massacre in Bosnia.

Retired general links gays in Dutch military to massacre

CNN — A retired U.S. general said Thursday that the Dutch policy of allowing openly gay soldiers to serve in its military led, in part, to its failure to halt the massacre of Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

Immediately afterward, the Dutch ambassador to the United States issued a sharp denial.
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Dutch fuming at retired US general's gay comment

The Washington Post — The Dutch prime minister Friday denounced as "irresponsible" a claim by a retired U.S. general that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for allowing Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Dutch officials, from the Cabinet to the military, were outraged by retired Gen. John Sheehan's remarks at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
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Netherlands to Gen. John Sheehan: You're Stupid, Stop Talking

Queerty — It's not like U.S. military forces are necessarily "scared" of the Dutch military, but former NATO Commander Gen. John Sheehan's comments at yesterday's Don't Ask Don't Tell hearings, where he blamed the Netherlands' military's supposed failure in Bosnia in 1995 on their allowance of openly gay soldiers, is a thing of ridiculousness so grand, even the Pentagon should be furious over Sheehan's remarks.

For now, though, it's the Dutch administration responding: Stop talking, you fool.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health Insurance - Losing Coverage

Utahns paying a lot more for much less health insurance

Deseret News — Utahns are losing their workplace-based insurance at a faster rate than most Americans, and those who manage to keep it are paying a lot more and getting markedly less, a new state-by-state report released Wednesday shows.

Looking at data between 2000 and 2008 and slicing it 10 different ways, the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "Barely Hanging On: Middle-Class and Uninsured" statistically verifies what most working Americans already know: Health care insurance premiums are eating away household and employer incomes, and it's only going to get worse.
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Middle-class Texans slammed by loss of health insurance

Texas Star-Telegram — The number of middle-class Texans without health insurance increased 41 percent between 2000 and 2008, with nearly 500,000 middle-class workers no longer covered through their job or private insurance, according to a study released today by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Texans made up about 1 in 5 middle-class Americans who lost health insurance during that period, according to the study.
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About 1 in 4 in California lack health insurance, a UCLA study finds

Los Angeles Times — Nearly 1 in 4 Californians under age 65 had no health insurance last year, according to a new report, as soaring unemployment propelled vast numbers of once-covered workers into the ranks of the uninsured.

The state's uninsured population jumped to 8.2 million in 2009, up from 6.4 million in 2007, marking the highest number over the last decade, investigators from UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research said.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Child Sex Scandals - Is Celibacy Over?

German Catholics fume at pope's 'silence'

Sydney Morning Herald — German Catholic groups have hit out at the pope's silence over a snowballing paedophilia priest scandal rocking his native country's Church.

The scandal "affects people, whether they are religious or not," said Dirk Taenzler, head of the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), in the Berliner Zeitung daily.

"The Holy Father should make a statement about this."
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Churches acted 'decisively' in child sex scandals: Vatican

Taiwan News — Vatican officials moved to stem the rising tide of anger as details emerged of separate paedophilia scandals involving Catholic priests in several European countries.

Spokesman Federico Lombardi defended the response of churches to paedophile priest scandals emerging in Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and elsewhere, saying Roman Catholic leaders had reacted swiftly and decisively.
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German bishops call for end to celibacy mandate

Deutche Welle — Few if any Catholic priests or bishops are likely to say their church's vow of celibacy for priests is a direct cause of child sexual abuse. Yet the most recent wave of abuse allegations across Germany and Europe has reignited an ongoing debate in the Church over whether priests should be allowed to marry.

Hamburg Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke told the daily newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt on Saturday that coexistence between celibate and married priests should be possible. He added that while he saw no direct connection between the large number of abuse cases and priest celibacy, "the celibate lifestyle can attract people who have an abnormal sexuality."
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Seeds, Food Prices, Monsanto, Anti-Trust, Seed Banks

Rising food prices may start with seeds

Los Angeles Times — For 40 years, farmer Todd Leake and his family have battled bitter cold, hungry pests and a short growing season to coax soybeans out of their fields in eastern North Dakota.

The one thing they never had to fight for, though, was their seeds.
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Monsanto’s Seed Patents May Trump Antitrust Claims, Lawyers Say

Business Week — Monsanto Co., facing antitrust probes into its genetically modified seeds, may benefit from previous court rulings in which intellectual property rights trumped competition concerns, antitrust lawyers say.

The Department of Justice and seven state attorneys general are investigating whether the world’s largest seed company is using gene licenses to keep competing technologies off the market. At issue is how the St. Louis-based company sells and licenses its patented trait that allows farmers to kill weeds with Roundup herbicide while leaving crops unharmed. The company’s Roundup Ready gene was in 93 percent of U.S. soybeans last year.
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Arctic Seed Vault largest in the world

Norway Post — Just days after celebrating its second anniversary, the Svalbard “Doomsday” Global Seed Vault has this week received thousands of new seeds that will push its collection to more than half a million unique samples.

This makes the Svalbard Seed Vault the most diverse assemblage of crop diversity ever amassed anywhere in the world, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Does Israel Want Peace?

Mishaps galore as Israel tries to welcome U.S. Vice President

Haaretz — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Jerusalem Tuesday was not free of embarrassing moments.

The first occurred at the President's Residence, at the start of a meeting between Biden and President Shimon Peres. The plan called for brief remarks, which usually means a few minutes. But Peres spoke for no less than 25 minutes.
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Israeli minister apologizes for bad timing of East Jerusalem expansion plan

Xinhua — Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai Wednesday apologized for the raging storm generated by his ministry's approval for 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, saying that he had no intention to embarrass visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview with local Israel Radio, Yishai said he was not informed beforehand of the decision, announced Tuesday night by the ministry's district committee, and that the matter was only a routine and technical procedure of the building plan which has been in the works for over three years.
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Biden holds Palestinian talks after condemning Israel

ABC News — The US vice-president Joe Biden is holding talks with Palestinian leaders, a day after condemning Israel's announcement of 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem.

Israel's announcement coincided with Mr Biden's arrival and came days after Palestinians agreed to re-enter indirect peace talks with Israel.
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Biden, Israel, Palestine = Peace?

US reassures Israel over security

Aljazeera — Joe Biden, the US vice-president, and Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, have held talks over the percieved threat posed by Iran and on reviving the Middle East peace process.

After the meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Biden reassured Israel that the US stood alongside them in terms of security.
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Biden: US to prevent nuclear Iran

Jerusalem Post — US Vice President Joe Biden expressed America's "absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel' security" at a press conference in Jerusalem following a meeting with Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu Monday morning.

As such, Biden said, Washington was "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and we are working with many countries around the world to convince Iran to meet its international obligations to cease and desist."
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Joe Biden: Israel and Palestine peace talks at 'moment of opportunity'

UK Telegraph — Mr Biden was meeting top Israeli officials today and throwing his weight behind a renewal of Middle East peace talks more than a year after negotiations shuddered to a halt.

He said: "I hope the beginning of what is referred to as indirect or proximity talks, I hope it is a vehicle, a vehicle by which we can begin to allay that layer of mistrust that has built up in the last several years," Biden said as he went into a meeting with President Shimon Peres. "I think we are at a moment of real opportunity and I think that the interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, if everybody stops and takes a deep breath, are actually more in line than they are opposites," he said.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

D Representative Eric Massa Ousted!

Eric Massa: Democrats ousted me over health care

Politico — Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) says the House ethics committee is investigating him for inappropriate comments he made to a male staffer on New Year's Eve — and that he's the victim of a power play by Democratic leaders who want him out of Congress because he's a "no" vote on health care reform.

"Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill," Massa, who on Friday announced his intention to resign, said during a long monologue on radio station WKPQ. "And this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they've gotten rid of me, and it will pass. You connect the dots."
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Massa Details 'Salty' Comment That Led to Resignation, Slams Dem Leaders

Fox News — A "salty" comment made in the company of drunken staff members at a wedding reception on New Year's Eve was all the Democratic "forces that be" needed to push him out of the House of Representatives and prevent him from possibly casting the vote that would kill health care reform, says outgoing New York Rep. Eric Massa.

Massa, while acknowledging he made an "inappropriate" remark, defended himself Sunday against the firestorm of criticism he's endured since it was revealed last week that he was the subject of a House ethics probe. Speaking on his local radio show on WKPQ-FM, he accused House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of lying and the Democratic Party of pushing him out of Congress over sexual harassment allegations in order to pass health care reform.
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Massa Details Sexual Harassment Complaint

The Advocate — Congressman Eric Massa of New York took to the airwaves Sunday to explain charges that he sexually harassed a male staffer, which prompted his resignation from the House effective Monday afternoon.

The first-term Democrat announced Wednesday that he would not seek reelection because of health considerations, but afterward, news of the sexual harassment complaint broke. According to City Hall News, during his final weekly radio show Sunday morning, Massa claimed the sequence of events represented a conspiracy on behalf of Democratic leadership, which wanted to remove him before reconciliation votes on health care reform because he voted against the bill in November.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage in D.C.

Businesses cash in on D.C.’s gay marriages

Washington Business Journal — Throngs of same-sex couples streamed into the District of Columbia’s marriage bureau on Wednesday, eager to be among the first to claim marriage licenses under D.C.’s new same-sex marriage law.

They were besieged by dozens of reporters, a small clump of vocal opponents and a handful of D.C. businesses offering their support and discounts.
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High Court Denies Request to Block D.C. Gay Marriage

The Christian Post — Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday denied a last-minute request by traditional marriage supporters to stop Washington, D.C.'s same-sex marriage law from taking effect.

As a "matter of judicial policy," Roberts said in an opinion that it has been the practice of the U.S. Supreme Court not to intervene in local matters.
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In DC, blacks were crucial to gay marriage debate

Associated Press — Gay and lesbian couples will soon be able to marry in Washington, but the debate over same-sex marriage has sounded different here, with references to interracial marriage and Martin Luther King.

Over the past year, both sides have courted the support of Washington's black community, a majority of the city's 600,000 residents and one traditionally perceived as opposed to same-sex marriage.
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