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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

Orders to U.S. Factories Rose in June Pointing to Growth Pickup

By Michelle Jamrisko - Aug 2, 2013
Orders placed with U.S. factories rose in June, pointing to further stabilization in manufacturing that may help lift second-half growth.

The 1.5 percent gain in bookings followed a revised 3 percent advance the prior month that was larger than initially reported, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The median forecast of 60 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 2.3 percent increase. Demand for durable goods, those meant to last at least three years, rose 3.9 percent, down from figures reported last week.

Higher sales of automobiles and sustained demand in the housing industry, even as mortgage rates rise, are helping factories overcome weakness in orders from overseas. More progress in the labor market that added 162,000 jobs last month may be needed to convince consumers to spend more, supporting manufacturing and the expansion through the end of the year.

“Demand for manufactured goods has started to pick up in recent months, allaying concerns that manufacturing activity could be stalling,” Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, said in a research note before the report. The recent rise in orders is “pointing to stronger activity in the months ahead.”



Putin Shows Global Mojo to Russians as U.S. Fumes Over Snowden

Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing his gamesmanship on a global stage by giving his voters what they want with the asylum granted to ex-U.S. contractor Edward Snowden, while leaving the White House flustered.

The decision is backed by almost twice as many Russians as those against it and those who view Snowden’s role as positive outnumber negative assessments three to one. While the case risks derailing U.S.-Russian relations, it gives Putin a chance to rally support at home and deflect attention from his own human-rights record, said Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin adviser who heads the Effective Policy Foundation in Moscow.

“Domestically, he got what he can,”Pavlovsky said by phone yesterday. “His main propaganda message domestically will be that things are similar everywhere: the CIA and the FBI violate human rights just like everybody else.”

Putin, who used Russia’s oil-powered wealth accumulation to build support for his 13-year rule, is facing an economy that threatens to slide into recession. Over the past two years, he also stared down the biggest opposition rallies since he came to power and has been the target of criticism for cracking down on protest leaders.



With Snowden Now Free In Russia, U.S. Has Few Options

WASHINGTON The world’s most closely watched layover ended on Thursday as Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the accused intelligence leaker who’d been holed up in a Moscow airport’s transit lounge since June 23.

The Obama administration, which for weeks had issued only muted criticism of Russia as it implored President Vladimir Putin’s government to “do the right thing,” lashed out at the decision to offer Snowden a haven but didn’t dwell on possible repercussions.

Members of Congress fumed, calling on President Barack Obama to respond firmly. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the affront was a “game changer” for U.S.-Russia relations. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said “Russia has stabbed us in the back” and asked Obama to recommend moving the G-20 economic summit, which is scheduled for next month in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

But relations with Russia already are so frayed, analysts say, that there’s little the U.S. could do to punish Putin for taking in Snowden, who’s regarded by many here and abroad as a whistleblower for revealing a top-secret government spy program.

As dramatic as Snowden’s revelations are, his hiding out in Russia may not even be the worst snag in bilateral relations, which have deteriorated over the past 18 months and killed Obama’s goal of a “reset.” Other strains include disagreements over Syria, Russia’s freeze on U.S. adoptions of Russian children, and Congress’ approval of a law barring several Russian officials from entering the U.S.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/08/01/4207480/with-snowden-now-free-in-russia.html#storylink=cpy

Democratic Divide Over NSA Could Pose Problem For Obama

By Aaron Blake and Scott Wilson, Thursday, August 1, 8:08 PM

Lost in all the rancor among Republicans over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs has been this: A similar ideological divide has been exposed in the Democratic Party that could pose even more political difficulties for President Obama.

Several Democrats from the party’s civil liberties wing — the mirror image of the Republicans’ rising libertarian strain — met with Obama and Republican lawmakers Thursday at the White House to discuss concerns about the NSA’s phone data collection program and elements of the administration’s broader surveillance effort.

Among them were Democratic Sens. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.), the lawmaker who earlier Thursday proposed legislation that would, in addition to other measures, add a privacy and civil liberties advocate to the secret court proceedings when the government requests national security warrants.

Now government lawyers make the case for warrants before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has turned down only 11 of the government’s nearly 34,000 warrant requests over the past three decades.



Netanyahu To Arab MKs: You Weren't In Israel Before Us

Arabs were not in Israel before the Jewish people, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted early Thursday morning before the Knesset vote on the referendum bill.


The bill passed in its first reading with 66 MKs in favor and 45 opposed. The legislation reinforces existing law by upgrading it to a Basic Law, which means it would have constitutional status in the eyes of the Supreme Court. The current law requires a referendum on any concession of sovereign territory, in a peace treaty or as a unilateral move. Sovereign territory does not include Judea and Samaria, but it includes all of Jerusalem and any land swaps.

During the debate, MK Mordechai Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said “the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” and MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) responded: “We were here before you and we’ll be here after you.”

In an unusual move, Netanyahu asked to take the podium and said to Zahalka: “The first part isn’t true, and the second won’t be.”



Activists Rally Across Israel, West Bank Against Plans To Relocate Beduin

Some 20 Israeli-Arab activists arrested as demonstrations take place nationwide against Prawer-Begin plan, IDF evacuation of 1,300 homes in South Hebron Hills; demonstration south of Rahat draws one thousand people.

08/01/2013 22:25

Two police officers were lightly injured and 20 Israeli Arabs were arrested in a Wadi Arra demonstration on Thursday that was part of a day of rage against Israeli plans to relocate Beduin.

While the demonstrations were mostly geared toward the Prawer-Begin plan to relocate at 40,000 Beduin in the Negev, activists who participated also protested against an IDF plan to evacuate 1,300 homes in the South Hebron Hills from an area known as Firing Zone 918.

The largest demonstration at the Lahavim junction south of Rahat drew 1,000 people. Other demonstrations took place in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and Gaza. According to activists rallied also occurred in Amman, Beirut, Morocco, Mauritania, Amsterdam, Dublin, Washington DC and Brazil.

Most of the demonstrations passed peacefully, according to police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. But the Wadi Arra demonstration turned violent after protesters tried to block the road, he said.



Knesset Approves Bill That Could Push Arab Parties Out

During the last session of the Knesset before its summer recess, the coalition was able to pass a first reading of the “governance legislation,” – an amendment to Israel’s Basic Laws – which would make it more difficult for the opposition to topple the government and for smaller fractions to enter the Knesset. Those who will be most hurt by these amendments are the parties representing the Palestinian public – Balad, Hadash and Raam-Ta’al. The legislation, which could see all of those parties eliminated in the next elections, is considered a major step in the attempt to limit Palestinian representation in Israeli politics.

After the bill was approved in its first reading Wednesday night, Arab Knesset members and several left-wing MKs protested it by standing in silence on the Knesset podium. A unique moment took place when ultra-Orthodox Knesset member Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) made a short statement against “the persecution of the Arab and the ultra-Orthodox by the government.” Eichler ended his words in Arabic – “we are with you in your struggle for democracy” (video below, 1:14 and then again 1:31 min) – before using the rest of his time to join the silent protest.

Both Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are now part of the opposition.


The new legislation is a joint initiative of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu. According to an amendment to the Basic Law on Government (one of several laws which are the Israeli equivalent of a constitution, and can only be changed by an absolute majority), the government will not fall following a no-confidence vote, unless a new collation is presented within three weeks. The government will also stay in power even when it cannot pass a budget (today, such an event leads to new elections).


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