On Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching Orders – NYTimes.com

On Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching Orders – NYTimes.com.


March 29, 2011, 12:30 PM

On a Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching Orders

Um, senators, ever heard of the mute button?

Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”

A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.

Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.

“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. Boxer, urging the House to compromise on the scale of spending cuts and to drop proposed amendments that would deny federal financing for Planned Parenthood and for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process.

How news is made . . .


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POLL-Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader – AlertNet

POLL-Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader – AlertNet.


POLL-Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader

24 Mar 2011 17:56

Source: Reuters // Reuters


* Just 17 percent call his military leadership “strong”

* 48 percent see Obama military leadership as “cautious”

* 79 percent of Americans think Gaddafi should be removed (Adds details)

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) – Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya.

Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters.

Obama was widely criticized in 2009 for his months-long consultations with senior aides and military chiefs on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. Critics called it dithering, but he said such a big decision required careful deliberation. He eventually dispatched 30,000 more troops.

But Obama is facing mounting discontent among opposition Republicans and from within his own Democratic Party over the fuzzy aims of the U.S.-led mission in Libya and the lack of a clearly spelled-out exit strategy for U.S. forces.

If the Libya mission becomes a foreign policy mess, mixed with perceptions Obama is a weak military leader, it could spell trouble for him in the 2012 presidential election.

The poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support the United States and its allies bombing Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said the United States and its allies should try to remove Gaddafi, who has ruled the oil-exporting North African country for more than four decades.

In the survey, conducted on March 22 from a nationally representative sample of 975 adults, only 7 percent supported deploying ground troops.

Of the 60 percent in favor of the Libya military action, 20 percent strongly supported it and 40 percent somewhat supported it. Twenty-five percent somewhat opposed it and 14 percent were strongly against.


The survey suggested Americans may see Obama in a very different light from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who launched the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with some allies but was widely seen as a go-it-alone leader.

Of those polled, 48 percent described Obama’s leadership as commander in chief as “cautious and consultative,” 36 percent as “indecisive and dithering,” and 17 percent as “strong and decisive” in a question that offered only those three choices.

“The data suggest he is perceived to be more consultative in his approach, which may distinguish him in the minds of the American public from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was not perceived to be,” said Ipsos Public Affairs Director Julia Clark, adding that the responses broke along political lines.

In a sign of political division, the top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, on Wednesday sharpened his criticism of Obama, saying he was “troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining … what the mission in Libya is and what America’s role is in achieving that mission.”

Obama secured U.N. Security Council sanctions as well as Arab support before beginning the military operation, whose objective is to protect civilians rather than to oust Gaddafi, the latest authoritarian Arab leader to face mass protests.

Clark said she was surprised by the strong majority — 79 percent — favoring removing Gaddafi from power, particularly at a time when the United States is gradually winding down the war in Iraq and still heavily deployed in Afghanistan.

“That’s pretty overwhelming,” she said, but noted support for the use of U.S. ground troops in Libya is minimal.

“Everybody thinks Gaddafi needs to go but there is absolutely no tolerance for the idea of sending in ground troops,” Clark said, citing U.S. fatigue with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “The idea of entering a third conflict like that garners very, very little support.”

For graphic on the poll click: http://r.reuters.com/xax68r

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Lawmakers, Executives Slam Obama for Boosting Brazil’s Offshore Drilling – FoxNews.com

Lawmakers, Executives Slam Obama for Boosting Brazil’s Offshore Drilling – FoxNews.com.


Lawmakers, Executives Slam Obama for Boosting Brazil’s Offshore Drilling

Published March 23, 2011

| FoxNews.com

Republican lawmakers and oil industry executives are slamming President Obama for offering to help Brazil expand offshore drilling while U.S. production struggles to get back on its feet in the wake of the BP spill.

The president, on the first leg of his trip to Latin America, said in Brazil over the weekend that his administration wants to assist the Brazilian government “with technology and support” in developing its oil reserves — a black gold mine he said could hold twice as much oil as U.S. deposits.

“And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers,” Obama said.

That message struck some at home as bizarre and misguided, considering the administration has stressed the need to wean the United States off foreign oil and move toward alternative fuels.

With U.S. oil exploration and drilling slowing to a crawl over the past year, they questioned why the president would throw U.S. weight behind Brazil, a country that also received a $2 billion loan for its state-owned oil company from the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

“We have abundant energy resources off Louisiana’s coast, but this administration has virtually shut down our offshore industry and instead is using Americans’ tax dollars to support drilling off the coast of Brazil,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said in a statement. “It’s ridiculous to ignore our own resources and continue going hat-in-hand to countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil to beg them to produce more oil.”

Fresh off a three-country visit to the region, Obama is trying to improve relations with the powerhouses of Latin America. Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski agreed it’s better to encourage production in more reliable Brazil than in the “inherently unstable” Middle East.

Still, he called Obama’s announcement “puzzling,” even “humorous.”

“More oil that is not concentrated in the Mideast is good for the world and good for America. It would be a lot better if we had the drilling here,” Petrowski told Fox News. “And it seems a double standard and it seems somewhat hypocritical to a country that desperately needs jobs … that we’re encouraging other countries to create the jobs that we need.”

Furor over drilling, or lack thereof, has returned to Capitol Hill in full force over the past couple months as the price of a gallon of gas nears the $4 mark. Democrats say the rising prices, destabilized in part by the turmoil in several Arab nations, are yet another reminder why the United States needs to pursue alternative sources of energy and improve energy efficiency.

Republicans say the United States needs to develop all resources available, but emphasize domestic drilling and exploration.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., complained that, with his comments in Brazil, Obama is pushing to deepen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“He appears to believe the answer is to shift our foreign energy dependence from one part of the world to another,” he said.

Democrats in oil-rich states have also chimed in. “President Obama didn’t have to go all the way to Brazil to find a ‘new, safe and stable’ source of oil. Energy opportunities are right here in Alaska,” said Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

But the Obama administration stressed that Brazil’s emerging energy industry makes the country a vital partner. These are boom times for Brazilian energy exploration — recently discovered deepwater deposits of oil buried below thick salt layers are estimated to contain tens of billions of barrels.

Obama adviser Mike Froman told BBC Brasil that the discoveries make the country a “key actor in global energy markets.”

The administration launched what it called a “strategic energy dialogue” with Brazil. According to the White House, the cooperation will entail an upcoming meeting between Brazilian officials and U.S. Department of Interior representatives; a trade mission at the end of May; and workshops starting in the fall on deepwater production and environmental management.

The administration has recently inched forward on approving oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued the first deepwater drilling permit since the BP spill last spring.

Then the administration announced Monday that it approved a deepwater exploration plan for Shell Offshore Inc., the first such plan since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion last April.

But Shane Guidry, CEO of rig towing company Harvey Gulf International Marine, said that, at a time of economic stress, the U.S. government should concentrate its energy investment inside the United States rather than Brazil.

“If you’re going to do something for one country, why not do it for yours?” he told Fox News.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/23/lawmakers-execs-slam-obama-boosting-brazils-offshore-drilling/#ixzz1HSQSHXA0


Waivers: ObamaCare’s Worst Feature?

Waivers: ObamaCare’s Worst Feature?.


Waivers: ObamaCare’s Worst Feature?
By David Hogberg
Mon., March 21, 2011 12:31 AM ET

As we close in on the one-year anniversary of ObamaCare, it’s worth asking what has been the worst feature of this 2,000-plus page law. There are lots of unworthy contenders. But a good case can be made for Section 2711 waivers.

Those are the waivers granted to companies, unions, associations and other lucky duckies so that their current health insurance plans do not run afoul of ObamaCare regulations. Last September news broke that McDonald’s (MCD) would drop some of its health plans without a waiver. A few days later the Department of Health and Human Services announced it had granted 29 such waivers to different entities. At the time, one ObamaCare supporter dismissed the problem as a “big nothingburger.

Well, it has since grown into a Hardee’s Monster Thick Burger, with the waivers now totaling 1,040.

Here are the various ways in which Section 2711 Waiver may be the worst feature of ObamaCare:

* Deceptive: It pretty much gives the lie to President Obama’s claim that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” Adding “as long as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says it’s OK” would have made it more accurate.

* Politicizes Health Insurance: Want to keep your health care plan even though it runs afoul of ObamaCare regulations? Better hope that your company hasn’t upset the Obama Administration. The Administration denies that its waivers are political. Uh-huh. Perhaps that’s why close to 40% of the employees exempted via the waivers belong to labor union health plans.

* Rank Hypocrisy: How many unions applied for a waiver after lobbying hard for passage of ObamaCare? Quite a fewapparently. Actually following the laws that you advocate is for suckers anyway.

* Laughable: And we’re not talking about joyous laughter, but rather the absurd, almost “sick joke” kind. The headline announcing the waivers on the government website is Orwellian:“Helping Americans Keep the Coverage They Have and Promoting Transparency.”

What makes that headline ever more of a joke is that getting to that website, which is at the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, takes about seven clicks from the HHS home page. (Start here and see how long it takes you; IBD wishes you luck). Transparency, indeed.

Whether Section 2711 waivers are the worst feature of ObamaCare is a matter of debate. They are undoubtedly a big sign that the law is unworkable.

Related: How ObamaCare does nothing to address the chronic problem of hospital inefficiency.

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Helen Thomas to Playboy: Jews ‘own the White House’ – On Media – POLITICO.com

Helen Thomas to Playboy: Jews ‘own the White House’ – On Media – POLITICO.com.


March 18, 2011

Helen Thomas to Playboy: Jews ‘own the White House’

Helen Thomas is not sorry, nor were the comments that ended her career accidental.

“I knew exactly what I was doing – I was going for broke,” she told Playboy in the magazine’s April interview. “I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”

Thomas, of course, left her perch as the dean of the White House press corps last year after telling a rabbi and blogger that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to “Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.” Her family is Lebanese and she grew up in the Detroit area, home to one of the country’s densest populations of Arab Americans.

She spoke to Playboy at length about the situation in Palestine, her feelings on American support of Israel, and her take on Jews.

But her most controversial comments echoed ones she’s made before about the influence of Jews in American life, which have contributed to her name beingstripped from journalism awards.

“[The Jews are] using their power, and they have power in every direction,” she told Playboy. “Power over the White House, power over Congress … Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There’s total control … It isn’t the 2 percent. It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion. Of course they have power. [To the interviewer] You don’t deny that. You’re Jewish, aren’t you?”

She also had some controversial views about memorializing the Holocaust.

“There’s nothing wrong with remembering it, but why do we have to constantly remember?” she said. “We’re not at fault. I mean, if they’re going to put a Holocaust museum in every city in Germany, that’s fine with me. But we didn’t do this to the Jews. Why do we have to keep paying the price and why do they keep oppressing the Palestinians? Do the Jews ever look at themselves? Why are they always right? Because they have been oppressed throughout history, I know. And they have this persecution. That’s true, but they shouldn’t use that to dominate.”

Posted by Keach Hagey 03:22 PM

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State monitor orders Asbury’s Barack Obama School closed | The Asbury Park Press | APP.com

State monitor orders Asbury’s Barack Obama School closed | The Asbury Park Press | APP.com.


The Barack Obama School was known as Bangs Avenue Elementary until it was named for the president in February 2010.

The Barack Obama School was known as Bangs Avenue Elementary until it was named for the president in February 2010. / PRESS FILE PHOTO

— The century-old Bangs Avenue School … renamed for President Barack Obama just a year ago … will be closed as a neighborhood school this summer, largely because of a steep slide in the district’s total enrollment the past decade.

Bruce N. Rodman, the state-appointed monitor who oversees the district’s finances, Thursday ordered that elementary students be reassigned to the city’s two other elementary schools as of July 1.


According to a plan presented at a community meeting Monday night, all kindergarten-through-fourth-grade students living west of Comstock Street would go to Bradley Elementary School at 1100 Third Ave., and those east of Comstock would attend Thurgood Marshall Elementary at 600 Monroe Ave.


Fifth-graders would be moved to the middle school.


The Obama school closing is expected to result in 470 students enrolled at Bradley and 540 at Thurgood Marshall.


The fiscal monitor had indicated some action was imminent after Superintendent of Schools Denise Lowe could not get the Board of Education’s backing Wednesday night for an alternative plan to create two pre-kindergarten-to-third-grade learning centers at two elementary schools and send all fourth- and fifth-graders to the third school, thereby keeping all three schools open.


“Look, a decision had to be made to either support the superintendent’s grade reconfiguration or close down one of the buildings as a fulltime educational facility,” said board member Garrett Giberson, who released information about the school closing that came to him from the state monitor. “It’s unfortunate the Board of
Education couldn’t come together where jobs could be saved.


“The fiscal monitor gave the board every opportunity to make a decision,” Giberson added. “Last night (Wednesday) the Board of Education forced the state monitor’s hand.”


Rodman said in a letter to district officials that he concluded the closing of the Obama school to be the best option. He cited a 35 percent drop in enrollment the past 10 years.

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Petrobras gets permit for U.S. deep waters – Science – World – Dalje.com

(reblogger’s note: Petrobas is a company based in Brazil)


Petrobras gets permit for U.S. deep waters – Science – World – Dalje.com.



MARCH 18 2011 14:25h

Petrobras gets permit for U.S. deep waters








WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) — Washington has given Petrobras America Inc. permission to start oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, a regulator said.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement gave Petrobras approval to use a floating production storage offloading facility at its Cascade-Chinook project in the Gulf of Mexico.

The approval marks the first time FPSO technology will be used in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil and gas project is about 165 miles off the coast of Louisiana in 8,200 feet of water. The FPSO has a production capacity of 80,000 barrels of oil and 16 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

The BOEMRE approved the production safety system permit and a supplemental deep-water operating plan from Petrobras. The regulatory agency said it was satisfied that operations would be safe from hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“These regulatory approvals pave the way for safe, new production of oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico,” BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich said in a statement.

Noble Energy in early March was awarded a BOEMRE permit to drill in the Mississippi Canyon block about 70 miles south of the Louisiana coast.

The permit was for what the BOEMRE described as a bypass well meant to drill around a mechanical problem in the original hole.

Deep-water exploration is under scrutiny following the April oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. government lifted a moratorium on deep-water drilling in October, six months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico.

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