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Oops: John Kerry Gaffes, Washington Backpedals

By Michael Crowley

John Kerry’s week began on a high note, with the resumption of Middle East peace talks after months of dogged effort on the Secretary of State’s part. But it’s closing on a more awkward one, as officials in Washington clean up after two apparent gaffes Kerry made yesterday in Pakistan yesterday.

The gaffes came in different flavors. One amounted to wishful thinking about American policy on drones. Another articulated U.S. policy towards Egypt with a bit too much candor.

First was Kerry’s answer to a question from a Pakistani reporter about America’s ongoing, and extremely unpopular, drone campaign in Pakistan, in which he suggested the drone strikes might be about to stop:

“I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,” Kerry said. “I think the President has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.” Was Kerry announcing a dramatic policy shift? Nope. Within hours a State Department spokesperson had walked back his comments, saying: “This was in no way indicating a change in policy…. I have no exact timeline to provide.”

(This, by the way, wasn’t the first time Kerry has spoken in somewhat wishful tones about drone program, says the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko. In late May Kerry, declared that “the only people that we fire on are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest levels after a great deal of vetting.” To which Zenko replies: “That’s not true.”)

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/02/oops-john-kerry-gaffes-washington-backpedals/#ixzz2apnrmE3J

Pro-Morsi Supporters Start New Vigil In Egyptian Capital, Clash With Police At Media City

Source: Associated Press

CAIRO - Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi have expanded their vigils in Cairo, starting a third near the capital's international airport. That's in defiance of threats from authorities to break-up their sit-ins.

The new vigil started Friday in the eastern Cairo neighbourhood of Heliopolis, close to the airport. Protester Hani el-Shafei said thousands of supporters already set up tents and blocked traffic. He said a military helicopter flew over the new sit-in.

On the other side of town, an official said security forces lobbed tear gas canisters at pro-Morsi supporters who tried to storm a complex housing most of Egypt's private television stations.
The expanding protests follow threats from authorities that they would besieged and break up pro-Morsi vigils, describing them a "threat to national security."

Read more: http://www.westernwheel.com/article/GB/20130802/CP01/308029919/-1/whe0802/pro-morsi-supporters-start-new-vigil-in-egyptian-capital-clash-with&template=whecpart

Even When Jobs Return, Detroit’s Workers Fall Short On Skills

By Reuters
Friday, August 2, 2013 7:19 EDT
By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) – Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has a long list of things to fix in the city and among them is one that may sound surprising: there are not enough skilled workers to fill job openings as they become available.

“Every problem in this city revolves around jobs,” said Lindsay Chalmers, vice president of non-profit Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. “That’s at the heart of the issue for Detroit.”

The decline of manufacturing jobs, above all in the automotive industry, has played a major role in the slide of the Motor City’s population to 700,000 from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s. Despite recent gains, Michigan has 350,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than in 2000.

Seismic shifts in the local labor market have left many unskilled workers behind.

“In the old days you could graduate on Friday, get hired at the Ford plant on Monday and they’d train you,” said Sheldon Danziger, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “But in Detroit as in other manufacturing cities, employers are demanding that workers come to jobs with more skills than they used to have.”



Germany Nixes Surveillance Pact With US, Britain

Source: Associated Press

FRANK JORDANS 2 hours ago

BERLIN (AP) — Germany canceled a Cold War-era surveillance pact with the United States and Britain on Friday in response to revelations by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden about those countries' alleged electronic eavesdropping operations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had raised the issue of alleged National Security Agency spying with President Barack Obama when he visited Berlin in June. But with weeks to go before national elections, opposition parties had demanded clarity about the extent to which her government knew of the intelligence gathering operations directed at Germany and German citizens.

Government officials have insisted that U.S. and British intelligence were never given permission to break Germany's strict privacy laws. But they conceded that an agreement dating back to the late 1960s gave the U.S., Britain and France the right to request German authorities to conduct surveillance operations within Germany to protect their troops stationed there.

"The cancellation of the administrative agreements, which we have pushed for in recent weeks, is a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy," Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/germany-nixes-surveillance-pact-us-britain-113557159.html

Camden, New Jersey Tent City

Camden, New Jersey (My9NJ) -
Tent cities have popped up across New Jersey including the state's poorest city.

Meg Baker chased the story of Camden's tent city. Residing off Route 38 at Wilson Boulevard under an overpass, through woods and down a path of trash lays a community of people living in tents. This particular community was relocated from Federal Street and it's inhabited by an array of people: addicts, people who have fallen on hard times and some with mental illness.

Baker took a tour of this run down community and the pictures show just how heart-wrenching this situation really is. Among the homes are decomposing food, broken furniture, and feral cats.

When asked how long a woman had lived there, she only answered, "Too long."

Many of the people who live in the Camden tent city walk down to Cathedral Kitchen. The chef says he feeds about a hundred people a day from the tent city.



Republicans Set Stage For Government Shutdown By Blocking Transportation Bill

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A battle in Congress expected this fall over the budget and a potential government shutdown broke out early on Thursday as Republicans in the U.S. Senate effectively killed a $54 billion spending bill for transportation and housing projects.

All but one Republican voted against the measure, denying it the 60 votes it needed to advance past a procedural hurdle.

Blockage of the Senate’s first appropriations bill, along with a decision on Wednesday by Republicans in the House of Representatives to halt consideration of their own transportation funding measure, sends Congress back to the drawing board to find a way to agree on spending and taxes.

It marked the failure of a much-touted return to normal budgeting practices in Congress as a way to try to overcome deep fiscal divisions between the two parties.

When Congress returns from a five-week recess in September, lawmakers will have just nine legislative days to craft a stop-gap funding measure to keep government agencies from shutting down as the new fiscal year gets under way on October 1.



Iran’s Ahmadinejad Warns Israel Will Be ‘Uprooted’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, August 2, 2013 7:21 EDT

Iran’s outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned arch-foe Israel Friday in one of his last public speeches that a regional storm was brewing that would “uproot” the Jewish state.

“I will inform you with God as my witness, a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism,” Ahmadinejad said in Quds (Jerusalem) Day remarks broadcast on state television.

In a parting shot against Israel, which he has consistently targeted in public comments during eight years in power, Ahmadinejad said it “has no place in this region”.

He was speaking ahead of Hassan Rowhani assuming the presidency of the Islamic republic this weekend.

Iran staged massive rallies to mark annual Quds Day, with speeches and sermons supporting the Palestinian cause and condemning Israel.



Freshman Democrats Defy Nancy Pelosi On Key Votes


Nancy Pelosi has worked overtime to help elect Democrats like Dan Maffei in order to grow her party’s House ranks — and get herself back in the speaker’s chair.

So how has Maffei thanked the House minority leader and other top Democrats now that he’s back in Washington?

By voting less with House Democrats than any other member of the 50-member Democratic freshmen class, according to a survey of all 436 House votes this year. On a recent bill to delay for one year the employer and individual mandates outlined in Obamacare — Pelosi and President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment — Maffei crossed the aisle and voted with Republicans.

Maffei wasn’t the only freshman Democrat to defy Pelosi on the health care votes. Fourteen Democratic freshmen joined with dozens of their veteran Democratic colleagues and Republicans in calling for a one-year delay in both the employer and individual mandates. These defections came despite repeated — and sometimes emotional — lobbying by Pelosi, who accused these Democrats of “undermining” her and Obamacare, said several lawmakers and aides.

Maffei, a former House staffer, is unrepentant. “What my constituents tell me and what best helps the community I represent is how I decide to vote,” Maffei said in a statement to POLITICO. “The people of Central New York have made it clear to me that the most important issues are growing our middle class, spurring our local economy, and creating more jobs across the region.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/freshmen-democrats-nancy-pelosi-dan-maffei-key-votes-95103.html#ixzz2apHyB8QK

Consumer Spending Ticks Up Despite Less Income

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers increased their spending in June at the fastest pace in four months even though their income growth slowed.

Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in June compared with May, when spending was up 0.2 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the best gain since a 0.7 percent rise in February.

Income growth slowed to a 0.3 percent rise in June, weaker than May's 0.4 percent gain.

The hope is that strong consumer spending will help boost a lackluster economy to faster growth in the second half of this year. But for that to happen, economists say income growth needs to accelerate.

Spending on non-durable goods was up 1.3 percent, reflecting in part rising gas prices, while demand for durable goods rose 0.8 percent, reflecting strength in auto sales.

The combination of faster spending and slower income growth pushed the savings rate down slightly in June to 4.4 percent of after-tax income. It had been at 4.6 percent of after-tax income in May. The savings rate stood at 5.6 percent for all of 2012, indicating that consumers are trimming their savings to finance spending in the face of weak income growth.



State Department Issues New Worldwide Travel Alert on Terror

Source: Bloomberg

By Nicole Gaouette - Aug 2, 2013

The U.S. State Department has issued a new worldwide alert to citizens warning of potential terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

The department, which said yesterday that embassies in a number of countries would be closed Sunday, said the attacks are seen as possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.

“Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond,” the alert said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-02/state-department-issues-new-worldwide-travel-alert-on-terror.html
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