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Tea Party Test in Virginia Harbinger for 2014 Senate Race

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis - Nov 4, 2013

Call it a test case for the 2014 congressional elections. Tomorrow’s contest for Virginia’s next governor is drawing attention as a national harbinger, and it’s giving Republicans plenty to worry about.

Polls show Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the former national party chairman and fundraiser, ahead of Republican rival, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. If that’s the outcome of the race, McAuliffe would become the first candidate of a sitting president’s party in almost four decades to win election in the Old Dominion, a state that voted twice for both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

“As Republicans, we have to ask, is there a business model issue here?” said former Virginia Republican Representative Thomas M. Davis III, director of federal affairs for Deloitte Consulting LP. “We have a Republican who’s opted to go the Tea Party route, and it’s absolutely clear it’s a losing strategy -- that’s going to be the message of this” election.

The contest has taken on national significance in its closing days, with each candidate working to portray his opponent as a poster boy for all that is wrong with his party.

McAuliffe, 56, who campaigned with Obama yesterday and appears with Vice President Joe Biden today, is painting Cuccinelli as an ally of the small-government Tea Party movement that orchestrated last month’s 16-day federal government shutdown.



Feds: Navy Secrets Bought With Hookers, Gaga Tix

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Nicknamed "Fat Leonard," the gregarious Malaysian businessman is well known by U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, where his company has serviced warships for 25 years.

But prosecutors in court papers say Leonard Francis worked his connections to obtain military secrets by lining up hookers, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander, in a scandal reverberating across the Navy.

The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.

Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Francis' Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, according to the court documents.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, according to the criminal complaint. The firm overcharged the Navy millions for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, the prosecution alleges.



For Consumers Whose Health Premiums Will Go Up Under New Law, Sticker Shock Leads To Anger

Washington Post - 10 minutes ago
By Ariana Eunjung Cha and Lena H. Sun, Sunday, November 3

Americans who face higher ­insurance costs under President Obama’s health-care law are angrily complaining about “sticker shock,” threatening to become a new political force opposing the law even as the White House struggles to convince other consumers that they will benefit from it.

The growing backlash involves people whose plans are being discontinued because the policies don’t meet the law’s more-stringent standards. They’re finding that many alternative policies come with higher premiums and deductibles.

After receiving a letter from her insurer that her plan was being discontinued, Deborah Persico, a 58-year-old lawyer in the District, found a comparable plan on the city’s new health insurance exchange. But her monthly premium, now $297, would be $165 higher, and her maximum out-of-pocket costs would double.

That means she could end up paying at least $5,000 more a year than she does now. “That’s just not fair,” said Persico, who represents indigent criminal defendants. “This is ridiculous.”

If the poor, sick and uninsured are the winners under the Affordable Care Act, the losers appear to include some relatively healthy middle-income small-business owners, consultants, lawyers and other self-employed workers who buy their own insurance. Many make too much to qualify for new federal subsidies provided by the law but not enough to absorb the rising costs without hardship. Some are too old to go without insurance because they have children or have minor health issues, but they are too young for Medicare.



The Silent Axe: Driving Palestinian Olive Farmers Off Their Land

The daily terrorism directed against Palestinians in the West Bank is reliant on the despair Palestinians have for the Israeli justice system. A case in point: olive trees burned to the ground.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Amira Hass last week wrote about the “quiet terror attacks,” the ones Israelis don’t hear about. They occur on an almost daily basis and they are directed at Palestinian agriculture. Time after time, Palestinians’ trees are set on fire, uprooted or cut down. Time after time, it happens in an area that is under Israeli control. Time after time, it happens within spitting distance from Israeli settlements or outposts that are surrounded by soldiers, policemen, security cameras and more. Time after time, the people responsible evade justice.

Hass noted that the attacks are quiet, because the Israeli media and the IDF are in cahoots to cover up what, at best, is military incompetence of the first rank and, at worst, is aiding and abetting agricultural terrorism. But there’s another reason that these events fade into the background. Aside from the Israeli public’s disinterest in knowing what is happening in their name and with their tax shekels; and aside from the tendency of for-profit organizations who once were proud of saying that the public needs to know but nowadays just prefer to avoid angering the buyers of the ads they envelope in text, there is another factor: the fact that Palestinians despair of reporting the incidents. Here is a case in point.

Abd Al-Razeq Mahmmoud Abd Al-Karim Amer is a farmer from Qaddum who is all too familiar with the dark side of the Israeli occupation. Every year his plot of land, situated near the settlement of Qedumim, is attacked on the eve of the olive harvest. He lodged several complaints with the Israeli police in the past, to no avail. In 2008, Amer saw the vandals who ran amok on his plot with his very own eyes; the police investigator told him that does not constitute evidence.

One night last September, Amer was asleep at home when his sons’ shouts awoke: from the house, they could see the fire and smoke arising from the plot of land. The sons and his neighbors called the fire brigade and tried to save what they could. The following morning they were able to assess the damage: 27 olive trees, estimated to be between 40 and 45 years old, were burned; 70 saplings, about three years old, were broken. Amer believes they were broken before the night of the fire.



Jordan Valley Fence Would Finalize The West Bank's Complete Enclosure

In what might be a shot to the heart of current peace negotiations, Netanyahu is reviving plans to build a ‘security fence’ in the Jordan Valley. If the fence follows the original route it will enclose any future Palestinian state, cement impossible Bantustan borders and give birth to a new map of Israel’s borders.

By Haggai Matar |Published November 4, 2013

Ten years after international pressure led Israel to scrap construction plans for the Jordan Valley section of the security/separation fence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to revive them. Two Ma’ariv – Makor Rishon correspondents on Sunday reported that several government ministries are already making preparations for the project and that Netanyahu himself will order the commencement of construction once the Egyptian border fence is completed. According to Ma’ariv, the official excuse for constructing the new segment is the fear that Syrian refugees now staying in Jordan might infiltrate — although there are no known reports of Syrians trying to make it to the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom — and “closing the Israeli border.”

However, the correspondents also mention the un-coincidental timing in which Netanyahu made his plans known: just as negotiations with Palestinians seem to be hitting a dead end, with the question of sovereignty in the Jordan Valley reportedly being one of the central obstacles. Just last week Netanyahu made clear at a Likud conference that he considers Israeli control of the Jordan Valley a key strategic issue and a red line for all future agreements.

It is still unclear where exactly Netanyahu plans to build his fence. When West Bank separation barrier maps were originally drawn about 11 years ago, however, they included plans for a fence that would separate most of mountain area, where the vast majority of Palestinians live, from the vast expenses of the Jordan Valley. American objections to that route led to its cancelation as early as 2003, as well as to the halt of construction of whole segments of the fence/wall east of Jerusalem and in the south Bethlehem/Gush Etzion areas, leaving large gaps in the planned route of the barrier to this day.



Rebels Lose Ground To Assad Forces In Syria War; Free Syrian Army Official Akaidi Resigns

Source: Washington Post

By Liz Sly, Sunday, November 3, 3:33 PM

KILIS, Turkey — Forces loyal to the Syrian government are taking advantage of deepening rifts among Syria’s feuding rebels to advance into rebel-held territory in the northern part of the country, overturning some long-held assumptions about the war.

The resignation on Sunday of a top leader in the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army further underscored the extent to which rebel infighting is undermining the effort not only to topple President Bashar al-Assad but also to hold on to territories won by the opposition in the past two years of conflict.

Col. Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, one of the chief recipients of what little American aid has been provided to the rebels, said he was standing down to protest the rebel bickering, which he blamed for the capture on Friday by Assad loyalists of the strategic town of Safira, southeast of the key city of Aleppo.

The fall of Safira restored a vital supply link between Damascus and government forces holding out in the divided northern city and put regime loyalists on track to challenge other opposition strongholds in the province, almost all of which has been under rebel control for more than a year. Rebel commanders said the town fell after Islamist brigades failed to respond to a call for reinforcements by the Tawheed Brigade, Aleppo’s biggest battalion, which was forced to flee under a withering aerial bombardment inflicted by the Syrian air force.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/rebels-lose-ground-to-assad-forces-in-syria-war-free-syrian-army-official-akaidi-resigns/2013/11/03/e3ecbf44-44bb-11e3-95a9-3f15b5618ba8_story.html

Bipartisan House Gives In To Wall Street, Passes Dodd-Frank Rollback Drafted By Citigroup Lobbyists

A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives rolled back one of the key elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown.

The House voted 292-122 to pass Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act, which repeals a provision in the law that required big banks to move some derivatives trading into separate units that aren’t backed by the government’s insurance fund.

The vote followed months of heavy lobbying by Wall Street banks, and The New York Times reviewed emails that showed Citigroup lobbyists drafted at least 70 of the House bill’s 85 lines.

In addition, a MapLight analysis showed Citigroup had showered House members who voted for the bill with campaign cash in the three years since Dodd-Frank was passed.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT), has received more than $66,000 from the bank, more than any other House member, and the bill’s co-sponsors received an average of 16.8 times more money from Citigroup than other House members.



ADL National Director Foxman Confirms: Jewish Groups To Take 'Time Out' In Iran Sanctions Campaign

ADL leader says they won’t lobby for or against new sanctions until two more meetings of P5+1 forum - but 'we still support sanctions.'

By Chemi Shalev | Nov. 2, 2013 | 9:48 PM

ADL National Director Abe Foxman has confirmed that leaders of major Jewish organizations have agreed on a limited “time out” during which they will not push for stronger sanctions on Iran.

“That means that we are not lobbying for additional sanctions and we are not lobbying for less sanctions,” Foxman told Haaretz as well as other U.S. media outlets.

Foxman was responding to a report in Haaretz on Friday that cited understandings reached among the leaders of four major Jewish organizations who participated in a Monday meeting at the White House with a group of senior White House officials led by National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Immediately after the meeting, the newly established, ad hoc “quartet” of important Jewish organizations agreed to accede to the Administration’s request and to refrain from campaigning on behalf of stronger sanctions at this time.

The Haaretz revelation of the understandings reached among representatives of the Conference of Presidents, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC and Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League, which were meant to be kept secret, sparked a flurry of denials from outside groups that had been kept out of the White House meeting - but also from others who were well aware of its outcome but were nonetheless miffed or embarrassed by its exposure.



Employers Wariness Thwarts Many Blind Jobseekers

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Back in the late 1980s, when Maura Mazzocca was a human resources administrator with a Boston-area firm, a blind man showed up to apply for a job. Today, she remembers the encounter ruefully.

"What I kept thinking about was, `How can this man work in a manufacturing company?'" Mazzocca recalled, saying she looked past his abilities and saw only his disability.

"I wish now I'd given him a chance."

That reflectiveness is heartfelt. Mazzocca lost her own eyesight in 1994 through complications related to diabetes. Now as a jobseeker herself, she knows firsthand the many hurdles the blind must overcome in pursuit of full-time work.

At a job fair last month for blind and low-vision people, there she was going table to table, with a sighted volunteer by her side. Some of the other 80 jobseekers carried white canes, a few had guide dogs.



Obama's Health Law Finally Gets Real For America

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Now is when Americans start figuring out that President Barack Obama's health care law goes beyond political talk, and really does affect them and people they know.

With a cranky federal website complicating access to new coverage and some consumers being notified their existing plans are going away, the potential for winners and losers is creating anxiety and confusion.

"I've had questions like, `Are they going to put me in jail if I don't buy insurance? Because nobody will sell it to me,'" said Bonnie Burns, a longtime community-level insurance counselor from California. "We have family members who are violently opposed to `Obamacare' and they are on Medicaid - they don't understand that they're already covered by taxpayer benefits.

"And then there is a young man with lupus who would have never been insurable," Burns continued. "He is on his parents' plan and he'll be able to buy his own coverage. They are very relieved."

A poll just out from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation documents shifts in the country in the month since insurance sign-ups began.


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