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Bill USA

Bill USA's Journal
Bill USA's Journal
May 30, 2013

Syria's deepening sectarian war bleeds across borders

[font size="3"]"The longer this conflict goes on the more chances it has of spilling over," [/font]


AMMAN, Jordan — The Syrian civil war is increasingly drawing in nations across the Middle East, a regionwide conflict that threatens to pit world powers against each other.


...Israel warned Russia it may use airstrikes to prevent Syria from activating sophisticated missile systems that Moscow says it is sending to Syria, home of Russia's only port on the Mediterranean. Early Thursday, Lebanese TV quoted Assad as saying the first shipment of Russian missiles has arrived in Syria. He made the comments in an exclusive interview, which was to air later in the day on Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV.


President Obama said two years ago that Assad "must go." Yet the Obama administration's reliance on diplomacy without arming rebel fighters has helped put Russia, which for decades has been a minor player in the Middle East, in a position of expanding influence.


The Obama administration's stated goal, to negotiate Assad's departure, without giving aggressive lethal aid to the rebels or striking regime assets, such as air fields, "is premised on a fantasy," Badran says. Assad "is not going to leave voluntarily."
May 30, 2013

Immigrants subsidize Medicare recipients, Harvard Medical School study says


WASHINGTON — Immigrants contributed about $115 billion more from their paychecks to the Medicare Trust Fund than they took out over a seven-year period in the past decade, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School.

As the Senate debates a new immigration bill and House Republicans work toward a bill that restricts access to government services for unauthorized immigrants who become legal citizens, the researchers concluded in a study released Wednesday that restricting immigration could deplete the fund.

Researchers looked at data from 2002 to 2009.

"The assumption that immigrants are just a drain has been a part of the argument that people should be denied services," said Leah Zallman, lead researcher and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "Immigration policy has been closely linked to Medicare's finances."

Studies had shown that immigrants use less health care than U.S.-born people, including in government programs, but no one had looked at their contributions to those programs.
May 29, 2013

Bills That Would Gut Wall Street Reform Overwhelmingly Pass House Committee


Erika Eichelberger May 8, 2013

On Tuesday, three bills that would gut the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill passed the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) in decisive fashion, with just six members of the 61-member committee voting against all of them.

The three bills passed over serious objections from the Obama administration. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote a letter to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the chairman of the committee, urging "members to oppose these bills and others like [them] that would weaken the important regulatory changes that Wall Street Reform has made to the derivatives market." A year ago, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made a similar statement against a slate of nearly identical bills.
[font size="+1"]
Financial reform advocates say that the three bills would do serious damage to parts of Dodd-Frank that deal with derivatives, which are financial products with values based on underlying numbers, like crop prices or interest rates.[/font]

Only six of the 28 Democrats on the committee voted against all three of the bills—Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the senior Democratic member of the committee; Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.); Mike Capuano (D-Mass.); Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.); Al Green (D-Tex.); and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). Another six Democrats voted against some of the bills. Sixteen Dems voted in favor of all three bills. Thirty-one of the 33 Republicans on the committee voted for all the bills; Reps. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) abstained on two of the bills.

House Financial Services Committee members received some $14.8 million in contributions from the financial services and banking sectors during the last election cycle.
May 29, 2013

Chinese hack design files of over 2 doz major weapon systems - congrats to the modern Ghengis Khans

800 hundred years ago Ghengis Khan lead his forces out of Asia along the silk road to lay waste to many European cities and ride off with all the treasure they could carry. Now, the Chinese are raiding the West again using the internet for their course/means of attack with the intellectual property of U.S. defense contractors as their current targets of interest.

(please don't bother to point out that Ghengis Khan was a mongol leader. I know that. In this case, it's a distinction without a difference)


Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.

Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.

A list of the compromised U.S. weapons designs and technologies

The systems named in a report by the Defense Science Board includes some critical to U.S. missile defense.

Experts warn that the electronic intrusions gave China access to advanced technology that could accelerate the development of its weapons systems and weaken the U.S. military advantage in a future conflict.

The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs. But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against U.S. defense contractors
May 22, 2013

Spending by Politically Active Tax-Exempt Groups, by type of group & by political point of view


The Center for Responsive Politics has been intensively researching and writing about politically active nonprofits -- also known as 501(c)(4) organizations, or, more colloquially, "dark money" groups -- for more than a year. Since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision freed them to participate more directly in electoral politics, they have been used to pour money into the system at an unprecedented rate.

There has been an explosion of spending by nonprofit groups over the last three election cycles, from less than $17 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in 2012.

These groups, unlike the more commonly known super PACs, are not required to divulge the names of their donors, and much of their spending is unreported, too. Their annual tax filings with the IRS list how much money they have, who their officers are and the recipients of any grants they may have made.

But when they spend their money directly in support of or opposition to a candidate, they must report to the Federal Election Commission. FEC data collected and analyzed by OpenSecrets.org shows that in the 2012 election alone, politically active nonprofits reported spending more than $308 million. Many millions more were likely spent on "issue ads" that escaped reported rules.


May 22, 2013

Stop celebrating our falling deficits - Ezra Klein, WaPo


It’s time to stop celebrating last week’s Congressional Budget Office report. Our deficits aren’t dropping because we’re doing something right. They’re dropping because we’re doing everything wrong.

My initial piece on the CBO report led with the surprising news that the agency had knocked more than $600 billion off its projections for the deficit over the next decade. But as I wrote then, the deficit is following a weird path. It’s not a gradual decline. It’s not a temporary uptick as we spend to create jobs followed by a sharper decline as the economy recovers. It’s a sharp decline followed by a gradual rise — it looks a bit like a Nike Swoosh.

That’s a disaster.

Let’s stop talking about the deficit for a minute and simply talk about the demand the government creates for goods and services. The CBO is saying that the federal government will be pulling demand out of the economy in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It will then start adding demand back in again — meaning we’ll be increasing the deficit — from 2016 through 2023, and presumably beyond.

That is literally the opposite of what we should want. Textbook economics says the government should add demand when the economy is weak and pull back when the economy is strong. The economy — and particularly the labor market — will remain weaker than we’d like in 2013, 2014 and 2015. That’s when the government should be helping, or at least making sure not to hurt too fast. It should be much stronger from 2016 to 2023. That’s when the government should be backing off.
May 21, 2013

Conservative Groups Granted Exemption Vastly Outspent Liberal Ones - OpenSecrets.org


Conservative nonprofits that received tax-exempt status since the beginning of 2010 and also filed election spending reports with the Federal Election Commission overwhelmed liberal groups in terms of money spent on politics, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service and FEC records shows.

Of the 21 organizations that received rulings from the IRS after January 1, 2010, and filed FEC reports in 2010 or 2012, 13 were conservative. They outspent the liberal groups in that category by a factor of nearly 34-to-1, the Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows.

By far the largest driver of the disparity was American Action Network, whose $30.6 million in spending reported to the FEC in 2010 and 2012 mades up 94 percent of the conservative total. However, even without American Action Network, spending by conservative groups approved after 2010 was nearly quadruple that of liberal groups receiving exempt status in the same period.

American Action Network, whose co-founder and chairman is former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, received exempt status in April of 2010 -- two months after originally filing its application -- according to IRS records. Its application was filed just weeks after the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision, which loosened political spending rules for corporations, including nonprofits.

Groups don't need to have their status approved by the IRS in order to operate. But they must report to the FEC any spending on communications that urge a vote for or a vote against a candidate, and any spending on "issue ads" -- slightly less overt political messages -- that occurs in the weeks just before an election.

May 21, 2013

Tea Party "Working The Refs" in IRS Scandal



In the spirit of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, the mainstream and conservative media have glommed onto the IRS "Scandal," trying to link it with the Benghazi screw up (but no conspiracy), and the Justice Department's chilling efforts to spy on journalists, and are reveling in calling it Obama's Scandal Trifecta.

While the crux of the scandal is seen as the IRS being overzealous when looking into Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, the real scandal might be how ill-equipped the IRS has been to actually ferret out groups that are have been doing political work, not social welfare work as required by the IRS to receive 501(c)(4) status.

A new report by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) titled "The Tea Party And The IRS 'Scandal': The Actual Facts Of The Case," approaches the IRS kerfuffle with an attempt to ferret out truth from fiction.

According to the IREHR report, "A May 14 draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that none of the 296 questionable applicants had been denied, 'For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).'"

May 21, 2013

What “Social Welfare” Work Do Tea Party Groups Perform? Does Karl Rove hold bake sales?


President Obama demanded and received the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS on Wednesday. The agency gave special scrutiny to conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, which is reserved for “social welfare” organizations. Many Explainer readers have asked the obvious question: What social welfare functions do Tea Party groups perform?

They educate you on the dangers of big government. In its application for 501(c)(4) status, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS claimed it would spend 20 percent of its resources on research, 30 percent to influence policy, and 50 percent on educating the public on such issues as the national debt, health care, and pension reform. The conservative Center for Individual Freedom told the IRS its education efforts would focus on “promoting individual freedom and constitutional protection.” Liberal 501(c)(4)s also claim to be primarily educational. America’s Families First, for example, claims to educate the public on “creating jobs for the middle class” and “improving public education.”

Public education, even regarding political issues, constitutes social welfare as the IRS understands the term. The agency doesn’t require 501(c)(4) groups to hold bake sales for the school marching band or walks for cancer research. Those sorts of activities are undertaken by charities, which typically organize under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. By the agency’s own admission, social welfare is a “very broad category,” and it undoubtedly includes issue advocacy. In the IRS’s view, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups are both working to improve public welfare.


The challenge is determining when public education efforts become electioneering, which is not considered social welfare work and can constitute only a minor portion of a 501(c)(4) group’s activities. The IRS has a multi-prong test, including such factors as whether the advocacy occurs close to an election, whether an advertisement mentions a candidate by name, and whether the group has a long-standing position on an issue. (Christian churches, which are typically 501(c)(3) organizations and barred from political advocacy, are allowed to engage in anti-abortion campaigning, for example, because their opposition didn’t emerge simply for purposes of defeating individual political candidates.)

May 20, 2013

Syrian rebel leader: U.S. will Act When War Widens


The leader of the Syrian opposition says the conflict engulfing the country will draw in neighboring states before international players such as the U.S. move in to help bring about its end.


"Now there is one country with 23 million people involved," he said. "In time, if the situation continues, there will be five countries and 80 million people involved in this conflict. When this happens, and when Israel is involved, then America will act."


The conflict has already destabilized fragile political activities in neighboring Lebanon, and last week 51 people were killed in two car bombs in Turkey that officials blamed on supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Sunni-Shiite divisions in the region have been exacerbated by the role played by the Shiite-Lebanese group Hezbollah, which experts say is fighting on the side of the Syrian regime in the western part of the country.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two Sunni monarchies, have been instrumental in providing cash and weapons to the mostly Sunni rebel groups fighting the Syrian government. With Assad backed by Iran and Hezbollah, and rebels by Gulf states, Sabra says he believes a long, sectarian war involving all sides may be imminent.

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About Bill USA

Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that

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