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Thousands March In ‘Asia’s Largest LGBT Pride Parade’ In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, October 26, 2013 11:27 ED

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Taiwan on Saturday in Asia’s largest gay parade, organisers said, as the island’s parliament was set to review a bill on same-sex marriages.

Holding rainbow flags, colourful placards and balloons, participants from Taiwan, several Asian countries, the United States and Europe marched the streets in a bustling business district in Taipei for the 11th annual parade, organisers said.

“This year’s theme is ‘The voice of sexual sufferer’, which was the main appeal for our very first parade. We want to show support for those who are still suffering or being discriminated against for their sexualities,” said Albert Yang, a spokesman for the event.

The rally came as Taiwan’s parliament on Friday decided to begin reviewing a bill to amend the Civil Code in order to allow same-sex marriages. The bill, proposed by opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, will be discussed by the parliament’s judiciary committee.

“For me legalising same-sex marriages is the most important issue because it will mean a big step forwards for equal rights. I hope the parliament will pass the bill soon,” said Chang Hsiao-mao, a 24-year-old service industry worker who came with 200 others he met on Facebook.



GOP Hopes Obama Heath Care Woes Have Staying Power

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For nearly five years, Republicans have struggled to make a scandal stick to President Barack Obama's White House. One by one, the controversies - with shorthand names such as Solyndra, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious - hit a fever pitch, then faded away.

But some Republicans see the disastrous rollout of Obama's health law as a problem with the kind of staying power they have sought.

The health care failures are tangible for millions of Americans and can be experienced by anyone with Internet access. The law itself is more closely associated with Obama personally and long has been unpopular with the majority of the American people.

The longer the technical problems persist, the more likely they are to affect the delicate balance of enrollees needed in the insurance marketplace in order to keep costs down.

"There's no question the issue has legs, in part because it affects so many Americans very directly and in part because the glitches with the website are simply one of many fundamental problems with this law," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said.



A Year After Sandy, A Slow Recovery For Thousands

NEW YORK (AP) -- A year after Superstorm Sandy catastrophically flooded hundreds of miles of eastern U.S. coastline, thousands of people still trying to fix their soaked and surf-battered homes are being stymied by bureaucracy, insurance disputes and uncertainty over whether they can even afford to rebuild.

Billions of dollars in federal aid appropriated months ago by Congress have yet to reach homeowners who need that money to move on. Many have found flood insurance checks weren't nearly enough to cover the damage.

And worse, new federal rules mean many in high-risk flood zones may have to either jack their houses up on stilts or pilings - an expensive, sometimes impossible task - or face new insurance rates that hit $10,000 or more per year.

"It's just been such a terrible burden," said Gina Maxwell, whose home in Little Egg Harbor, N.J., is still a wreck after filling with 4 feet of water. Contractors say it will cost $270,000 to rebuild - about double what the insurance paid out. The family doesn't have the money.

"What do we do with this house? Just give them the deed back?" she said. "My son is 11. He has a little piggy bank in his room. He said, `Take it, mom.'"



WHITE HOUSE: The Obamacare Website Will 'Work Smoothly' By The End Of November

Source: Business Insider

Jeff Zients, the official appointed to lead the "tech surge" to fix HealthCare.gov, said on a conference call Friday that the website will be fully operational by the end of November.

"Let me be clear: HealthCare.gov is fixable," Zients said on a conference call with reporters. He said that it would "work smoothly" by the end of November.

Zients also announced that the Department of Human and Health Services is bringing in a general contractor, Quality Software Systems Inc., to manage the fixes.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/obamacare-website-glitches-jeff-zients-november-2013-10

Student Homelessness Hits Record High


The number of homeless students in U.S. public schools is at an all-time high, according to new data.

There were 1.2 million homeless students during the 2011-12 academic year, from preschool all the way through high school. That's up 10% from last year and 72% from the start of the recession, according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Homeless Education, which is funded by the Department of Education.

Advocacy groups say continuing economic struggles are causing more students to end up homeless, meaning that they live in shelters, motels, or are staying temporarily with someone else because they have nowhere to live.

"The recession isn't over for America's poorest families," said Barbara Duffield, Policy Director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. "There's a gap between what jobs are available, what those jobs pay and what affordable housing is available."

She said school employees -- from teachers to bus drivers to cafeteria workers -- have been getting better at identifying homelessness, a factor that may also be contributing to the greater number of homeless students.



Most Americans Accumulating Debt Faster Than They’re Saving For Retirement

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.

Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” according to the report released Thursday, meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.

The imbalance is expanding even as policymakers are encouraging people to set aside more by offering generous tax breaks and automatically enrolling workers in retirement accounts that in some cases automatically escalate the amount of money over time.

Currently, workers with retirement savings accounts put aside more than 11 percent of their pay for retirement — 5 percent in their own accounts, and 6.2 percent in Social Security.

Despite that — and despite the $2.5 trillion the report says employers have poured into defined contribution accounts from 1992 to 2012 — the retirement readiness of most Americans has been slipping, according to the report by HelloWallet, a D.C. firm that offers technology-based financial advice to workers and conducts research of economic behavior.



Koch Brothers’ Arizona Allies Fined $1 Million Over Hiding California Campaign Funding

Two dark money groups linked to conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have paid a record $1 million in fines to California to settle allegations that the combined $15 million they spent on two ballot proposals in the state was not properly disclosed.

The civil settlement, announced Thursday afternoon in Sacramento, caps a year of investigation into the activities of the two Arizona groups, Americans for Responsible Leadership and the Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The settlement disclosed new details in the case, including how the money was raised and how the Center to Protect Patient Rights disguised its two contributions to two California political committees. As part of the settlement, the Center to Protect Patient Rights conceded it was responsible for funneling $11 million through Americans for Responsible Leadership to a political committee spending money to fight a tax-hike measure and to support a proposition restricting unions’ political power.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights also gave an additional $4 million to another dark money group, the American Future Fund, which gave the money to another political committee spending on the anti-union measure.

“What is the takeaway from this trail of dark money?” asked Ann Ravel, the outgoing head of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which investigated the groups along with the state attorney general’s office. “This is a nationwide issue. These groups exploit loopholes in the law to undermine the clear purpose of the law, to give essential information to the public.”



Oil’s $5 Trillion Permian Boom Threatened by $70 Crude

By Joe Carroll and Edward Klump - Oct 25, 2013

Bryan Sheffield, a third-generation oil wildcatter in Texas’s Permian Basin, knows what he’ll do if crude drops to $80 a barrel: shut down half his drilling rigs and go on a takeover hunt for weaker rivals.

Sheffield is among producers who’ve together invested $150 billion in the Permian since 2010 seeking their piece of an oil trove estimated to be worth as much as $5 trillion. As the money pours in, risks are mounting of a bust as analysts including Marshall Adkins of Raymond James & Associates Inc. forecast crude is heading down to $70 a barrel next year, a price that would slow drilling in the most expensive U.S. shale formation.

While traditional wells have been drilled in the Permian since the 1920s, shale producers have become giddy over the potential of the region’s vast overlapping layers of oil-soaked shale rock. Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (PXD) estimated the remaining yield at the equivalent of 50 billion barrels, more than any field on Earth except Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar. The varied geology, though, makes it more costly to explore and develop.

“That’s the double-edged sword,” said Benjamin Shattuck, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston. Multiple oil zones layered one atop another provide ample potential for riches, “but you also have to be a knowledgeable and good operator in order to drill economic wells out there.”

If oil drops another 18 percent to $80 a barrel, wells in some parts of the Permian that sprawls beneath Texas and New Mexico will become money-losers, said Tim Rezvan, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. in New York.



Obama Joins Putin War as Syria Jihadists Stalk Olympics

President Vladimir Putin is turning to Barack Obama for help protecting the costliest Winter Games ever from attacks by Islamic extremists, including hundreds of battle-hardened jihadists now fighting in Syria.

About 400 Russian nationals, mainly from the North Caucasus, are currently battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria and their return poses a “big threat,” according to Sergei Smirnov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the Soviet KGB.

“Many of our compatriots are fighting on the side of al-Qaeda in Syria,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who’s in charge of preparations for the Feb. 7-23 event, said in an interview in Moscow on Oct. 21. “We understand this is a global threat and we can only prevent it through joint efforts.”

As Russia prepares to seal off Sochi, a Black Sea resort of 345,000 people, it’s reaching out to the U.S. and about 80 other nations for help identifying potential threats from abroad, Alexei Lavrishchev, a senior FSB official, said Oct. 2.

At the top of the list are the Russian militants in Syria, whose numbers may be triple what the FSB is saying publicly, according to the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies in Moscow, which expects a third of those fighters to return home.



If New York Freezes in January Blame Siberian Snow Now

By Brian K. Sullivan - Oct 25, 2013

Snow falling over Siberia is raising the prospect for frigid temperatures in New York come January.

The weather half a world from Central Park can set off atmospheric events that result in icy air descending from the North Pole in December and January, driving U.S. temperatures down and natural gas and heating oil use up, according to Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmosphere & Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts.

“It’s the best winter predictor that we have,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “We haven’t made a forecast yet, but we’re watching it closely and the snow cover has definitely been above normal so far.”

The more ground covered by snow across northern Europe and Asia at the end of October, the greater the chances of triggering a phenomenon known as the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. That would flood North America, Europe and East Asia with polar air and possibly erect a blocking effect in the North Atlantic that would bottle up the cold in the U.S.

In September, 2.36 million square kilometers (911,000 square miles) of northern Europe and Asia were covered by snow, according to the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. That compared with the 1981-2010 mean of 1.5 million.


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