- Jeb Bush is spitting fire at Obama for touting climate-change efforts after Paris attacks
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 7:05 PM:)<>
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is hammering President Barack Obama for saying the upcoming climate-change talks in Paris will be a "powerful rebuke" to the same terrorists that recently attacked the city.
"The president said something that I found breathtaking in its naïveté, which is that the best way to show our differences with ISIS is to convene a meeting about climate change," Bush said Wednesday during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
The presidential candidate added sarcastically, "That'll show 'em. That'll show ISIS we mean business."
Bush and other Republicans have been critical of Obama's emphasis on curtailing man-made climate change amid the risk of terror attacks like the November 13 massacre in Paris, which left at least 130 people dead and was linked to the Islamic State jihadist group (also known as ISIS).
Obama held a press conference Tuesday with French President François Hollande to discuss the attack. While vowing to win the battle against terrorism, Obama also touted the upcoming climate talks in Paris.
"Next week, I will be joining President Hollande and world leaders in Paris for the global-climate conference," Obama said. "What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children."
During a Fox News interview on Wednesday, Bush again slammed Obama for the comment, as well as for the White House's broader argument about the relative threat that climate change poses compared to terrorism.
"Perhaps the most ludicrous comment I’ve ever heard, that climate change is a bigger threat to our country than radical Islamic terrorism," Bush said. "It's baffling to me that the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief of the greatest armed forces ever created would state that."
He added, "I think he is actually sincere, that he believes that climate change is a bigger threat to our country than these barbaric Islamic terrorists."
- The US government spent more than $20 billion on drugs for seniors in a year
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 7:01 PM:)<>
Between price gouging of older drugs and seriously expensive new treatments that have come to the market in the past few years, drug pricing is on the minds of everyone from politicians to health care providers.
A new study by the Government Accountability Office which looked into how the US government's health insurance program Medicare was spending its money found that in 2013, it spent $20.9 billion on drugs that fell under Medicare Part B, the program for seniors that has to do with drugs given by a doctor.
Here are the drugs Medicare spent the most money on in 2013:
Notably, four of the five top spenders were a kind of drug called a "biologic," or drugs made of living organisms (usually cells). Lucentis and Eylea are injections that treat macular degeneration, a disease that can cause people to lose their vision.
Drug companies are exploring these types of "living" drugs as alternatives to chemical-based drugs. The biologics are able to treat diseases in a much different way. For example, certain biologic cancer drugs are able to help the immune system fight cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone, a big difference from chemical-based chemotherapy drugs that attack both healthy and cancerous cells.
Of the new drug approvals between 2006 and 2013, more than 60% were biologics. And since a lot of them carry special instructions for how they must be combined, what temperature they need to be stored at, or need to be injected or delivered intravenously, a fair amount are given out by physicians.
They are more complicated to make and produce, which means companies can charge a lot more for them, hence the high sticker shock. And there are many more in development, which could send the amount Medicare Part B spends of these types of drugs skyrocketing.
- How the strange 'turkey pardon' tradition got started
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 6:53 PM:)<>
Every year, before the President of the United States can sit down and fully enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with his family, he must first go through the odd tradition of "pardoning" the turkey that won't be eaten.
While the reason why the tradition started is still a bit of a mystery, the White House traces it all the way back to President Lincoln in 1863.
As the story goes, Lincoln's son, Tad, may or may not have persuaded his father not to eat the turkey they purchased for Christmas dinner. They instead adopted it as a pet, naming the turkey Jack.
However, it would be more than 100 years until a President — John F. Kennedy —formally "pardoned" a turkey on the White House grounds.
In 2013, CNN investigated what happened to the turkeys after they were pardoned. Sadly, they found that the birds rarely lived longer than for a few months after they were saved from being eaten.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy received his Thanksgiving turkey from the Poultry and Egg National Board. He officially pardoned the bird by saying, "Let's keep him going."
In 1967, the pardoning ceremony took place inside. Senator Everett Dirksen and representatives from the poultry industry and farm organizations presented a turkey to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
An incredibly creepy legend about President Richard Nixon's bird was recently confirmed by the Washington Post. As the story goes, the turkey was especially rambunctious, and its feet had to be nailed down to the table.
Source: Washington Post
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
- Russia is already exacting its revenge on Turkey for downing a Russian warplane
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 6:48 PM:)<>
Just over 24 hours after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on after claiming the jet had violated Turkish airspace, Moscow is already exacting its revenge — albeit subtly.
"We're not going to wage a war against Turkey. ... But we will seriously reconsider our agreements with the Turkish government," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a press call on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
"Our attitude to the Turkish people hasn't changed," Lavrov continued. "We only have questions about the Turkish leadership."
Turkey defended its decision to down the plane on Tuesday, contending that the plane was in Turkish airspace and had been warned repeatedly before it was shot down by Turkish F-16 jets. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane was destroyed by a Turkish missile while flying in Syrian airspace, roughly a mile from the Turkish border.
By Wednesday morning, Russia had begun bombarding rebels — including Turkmen insurgents, who have ethnic ties to Turkey — in Syria's Latakia province, ignoring demands made by Turkey over the past week to end its military operations close to the Turkish border.
Russia also announced Wednesday that it would deploy state-of-the-art S-400 missile systems to the Russian Hemeimeem air base near Latakia, Syria — 30 miles south of the Turkish border, the AP reported. The missiles, which are able to hit a plane with extreme accuracy, are evidently meant to deter Turkish jets from shooting down Russian planes in the future.
Additionally, Russia issued an official travel warning advising its citizens against visiting Turkey. And Russian travel agencies announced on Wednesday that they will withdraw their business in Turkey until next year, according to a translation by Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC-based think tank.
Russian tourists account for a huge portion of Turkey's tourism industry — 3.3 million Russian tourists visited Turkey in 2014, the second-largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany and around 12% of total visitors, according to Reuters.
And in a largely symbolic gesture on Wednesday, the Russian parliament proposed a five-year jail term for anyone who denies that the mass killings of Armenians that began under Ottoman rule in 1915 constituted a "genocide," according to an article translated by Foreign Policy columnist and Russia commentator Julia Ioffe.
Use of the word remains a charged issue in Turkey, which staunchly objects to such a characterization. Eastern Armenia remained part of the Russian Empire until its collapse in 1917.
And there is one other way that Russia could retaliate against Turkey more directly: Namely, by drawing attention to the NATO ally's suspected ties to the Islamic State in Syria.
'Accomplices of terrorists'
Western officials have long harbored suspicions about Turkey's links to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh. One official told The Guardian's Martin Chulov in July that a US-led raid on the compound housing ISIS' "chief financial officer" produced "undeniable" evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIS members — namely, by purchasing oil from them.
Separately, experts, Kurds, and even US Vice President Joe Biden have suggested in the past that Turkey has helped enable ISIS by turning a blind eye to the vast smuggling networks of weapons and fighters during the ongoing Syrian war.
For his part, Biden charged that countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were so focused on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they did not properly vet the opposition groups to which they sent money and weapons. (He later apologized.)
Turkey joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in late July, after a suicide bomber with links to the terrorist group killed 32 activists in the southeastern border town of Suruc. Still, lingering suspicions remained about Turkey's commitment to fighting ISIS, as it embarked on a dual campaign to wipe out a Kurdish insurgency in its southeast.
Those suspicions were all but put to rest last month when an ISIS-linked suicide bomber killed more than 150 people at a peace rally in Ankara — the deadliest terror attack in Turkey's recent history.
But one day after Turkey downed its warplane, Russia has already begun to bring Turkey's murky history with the group back into focus in order to discredit Ankara's role in the anti-ISIS coalition — and legitimize its own.
"Turkey has demonstrated that it is protecting ISIS," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday on Twitter, adding that the damage from "Turkey's criminal actions ... will be hard to repair."
Medvedev was seemingly echoing a statement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, when he referred to Turkey as "accomplices of terrorists."
"We established a long time ago that large quantities of oil and oil products from territory captured by the Islamic State have been arriving on Turkish territory," Putin said from the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi before a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah.
Lavrov added on Wednesday morning that "terrorists" have been using Turkish territory to plot attacks on other countries, the AP reported. He claimed that the Russian warplane Turkey shot down had been targeting the extremists' oil infrastructure in Syria.
In any case, this war of words may be as far as Russia is willing to go — for now.
"Putin's initial reaction — calling the incident 'a stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices' — is about as bellicose as could be imagined. But Putin is no stranger to harsh rhetoric, and he has broader interests to play for," geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Tuesday.
Bremmer noted, however, that the "huge egos" of Turkish President Erdogan and Putin certainly won't help future efforts to mend Turkish-Russian relations.
The Soufan Group largely agreed.
"The most unfortunate consequence will be that Russia will now roll back from its apparent willingness to consider solutions for Syria that do not depend on Assad remaining in power," the group said. "This is a key demand for Turkey, and in the macho world occupied by Erdogan and Putin, neither will want to appear to have blinked first."
- OBAMA: There are no credible threats on the US right now
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 6:28 PM:)<>
In a brief news conference before Thanksgiving Day, President Obama reaffirmed that there was no "specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland."
Video courtesy of The White House
Produced by Lamar Salter
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- Seth Meyers shreds Donald Trump: He's no longer funny, he's dangerous
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 6:26 PM:)<>
"Late Night" host Seth Meyers has had enough of Donald Trump's inability to admit when he's wrong, especially as his rhetoric has become increasingly racist.
In recent days, the presidential candidate has been spreading incorrect information. But instead of apologizing, he has been doubling down. And Meyers believes that he's gone too far and is now even "quadrupling down."
First, Trump claimed that he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11. When he was called out on it, he said he saw it on television.
"So Trump says he saw this event that never happened on television," Meyers said during his "A Closer Look" segment on Tuesday. "But let's remember Trump also said that he met Vladimir Putin when they were on the same episode of '60 Minutes' even though they filmed their segments 'thousands of miles apart.' So Trump's understanding of how TV works is not 100% trustworthy."
Trump then read from a Washington Post article during a rally that stated law enforcement detained people who were allegedly celebrating the 9/11 attacks. The problem is that fact was later debunked by both of the journalists behind the article.
"But Trump doesn't care about that," Meyers said. "When confronted about his lies, he doubles down. And much like the KFC Double Down, each one is getting harder to digest."
Finally, Trump retweeted a chart with incorrect crime statistics organized by race. One statistic, for example, stated that the percentage of murders of white people committed by black people is 81%, when it's actually 15%.
When called out on the chart, Trump avoided accepting fault by saying he didn't tweet it, he retweeted it.
"What's scary is that Trump has crossed the threshold," Meyers said. "The threshold from fun wild-card candidate who said crazy things and made debates watchable to someone who's spreading dangerous rhetoric."
He ended by comparing Trump to a tilt-a-whirl ride that he wants to get off and hopes breaks down.
Watch Meyers' entire "A Closer Look" segment below:
- Some of the most memorable and outspoken people we met on the trail with Trump
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 6:12 PM:)<>
Business Insider's Henry Blodget recently spent a week on the campaign trail with Donald Trump, spending time with New Yorkers as well as voters in the Northeast and Midwest.
Our full report, Trump Nation, is here.
Meanwhile, here is a selection of some of the most outspoken and memorable people we met on the trail.
- 2 days after massive terror alert, Obama says there's no 'credible' threat to US
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 5:47 PM:)<>
In a pre-Thanksgiving statement, President Barack Obama assured Americans that the US has no "specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland."
Obama spoke Wednesday from the White House after a meeting with his national-security team.
He emphasized that Americans should go about their usual activities during the holiday weekend, adding that if there was a credible threat of an attack, Americans would be notified.
"Right now, we know of no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland," Obama said. "That is based on the latest information I just received in the Situation Room. It’s similar to the briefing that I received on Saturday before I left on my trip last week."
Obama also noted that law enforcement, counterterrorism, and Homeland Security officials are working "overtime" this week to monitor potential threats, noting that the US is "equipped to prevent attacks."
Obama's brief statement comes nearly two weeks after terrorists associated with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh) took hostages, detonated suicide vests, and shot victims in attacks across Paris, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds more injured.
"It’s understandable that people worry something similar could happen here," Obama said. "As we go into Thanksgiving weekend, I want the American people to know that we are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe."
Despite Obama's message, the State Department earlier this week issued a worldwide travel alert because of "increased terrorist threats." The threats are linked to terrorist groups including ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and others. It expires on February 24, 2016.
"Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Daesh return from Syria and Iraq," the alert noted. "Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis."
The alert warned Americans to "exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation" and be particularly cautious "during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events."
- A popular messaging app just dealt a potential blow to ISIS
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 4:56 PM:)<>
A popular messaging app that ISIS uses to communicate and disseminate propaganda has introduced a new feature that will make it easier for users to get the terrorist group off the app.
Telegram channels now have a "report" button on their profiles that allow any subscriber to alert the company to inappropriate channels. When you click the button, a pop-up appears that asks the user to provide a reason — spam, violence, pornography, or "other."
ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) uses Telegram channels — which allow users to broadcast messages to an unlimited number of subscribers — to spread its propaganda, including images, audio messages, videos, and official statements. Telegram is similar to WhatsApp but is known for its high level of encryption and broadcasting channels.
Telegram has previously been reluctant to suspend ISIS channels, but that seems to be changing. The new "report" button will make it easier for users to flag channels that violate Telegram's policies.
Here's what channel profiles looked like before:
And what they look like now:
Last week, Telegram shut down 78 ISIS-related channels after terror attacks rocked Paris and opened up questions about how terrorists use encryption to prevent their communications from being intercepted.
But ISIS is already figuring out ways to outsmart the app, using new tactics to advertise its channels to ISIS supporters and curious observers.
One of the top distributors of ISIS propaganda, which posts official ISIS releases in English, found its way back onto the app on Tuesday. An invite link to the channel started showing up on Twitter on Tuesday morning along with tweets telling users to join quickly before the invite link was changed. The link didn't include a username, which allow people to find a channel even if they don't have a specific link.
It seems that instead of providing usernames that allow people to find channels more easily, ISIS affiliates have started using Telegram's invite links. This way, rather than just knowing the channel's username, a person would have to also have the correct link to access the channel. These links were originally conceived to allow users to migrate existing group chats from other apps to Telegram.
Channels have also sent out tips for subscribers on how to help keep the channel from getting suspended.
Telegram has about 62 million monthly active users.
- How a then-24-year-old filmmaker exposed the Taser industry in a bombshell new documentary
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 4:55 PM:)<>
Nick Berardini was in his senior year at the University of Missouri in 2008 and working the late shift at the local TV station when a call on the police scanner changed his life.
Berardini got word of an in-custody death by the Moberly Police Department and was one of the first reporters on the scene.
Witnesses told him 23-year-old Stanley Harlan had been pulled over by the Moberly police in front of his house. Harlan got out of his car, had a conversation with the officer who pulled him over for speeding or drunken driving (it's still not clear why he was pulled over), and was allowed to call his mother. But when other officers arrived all hell broke loose.
"The second officer on the scene didn't understand [Harlan] was allowed to use his phone," Berardini told Business Insider of what witnesses told him that night. "He tried to take it from [Harlan], and Harlan backed up with his hands in the air and said something like, 'Why are you going to tase me?'"
The officer used a Taser stun gun on Harlan's chest three times for a total of 31 seconds, according to Berardini's reporting. Harlan went into cardiac arrest and died on the scene in front of his mother and stepfather.
"That seemed so aggressive to me and such an obvious misuse of force that I became really sympathetic towards the family," said Berardini, who at the time of Harlan's death was 24 years old and aspiring to be a filmmaker.
Six months after Harlan's death, Berardini got the dash-cam video of the incident and saw the entire altercation. It not only verified what the witnesses told him that evening, but it also motivated him to make a film that would show how an event like this could fracture a small community.
The journey in telling that story led him to the doors of Taser International, the multimillion-dollar company that manufactures Tasers for law enforcement in the US.
Suddenly, the film became much bigger.
Berardini's documentary, "Killing Them Safely" (previously titled "Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle," opens in select theaters on Friday), premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival and is the first of its kind. Never before had a film looked in great detail at the stun-gun industry, which is dominated by Taser International, and given an objective view of its effect on society and law enforcement.
The film heavily uses archival footage to explore how Taser International founders Tom and Rick Smith created the Taser, which they then sold to police departments across the country with the promise that it was a safer alternative to firearms. (According to Taser International, "suspect injuries have been shown to be reduced by as much as 60% when alternative means of force are deployed.")
In 2012, Taser International said the risk of death from the electrical effects of devices like Tasers had not been "conclusively demonstrated" by a reputable scientific study. (In the US, 17,800 police departments currently carry Tasers.) But with hundreds of apparent Taser-related deaths in the country since Taster International's Taser was created in 1993, criticism of the weapon has grown stronger, and some departments have even decided to stop using Tasers. In 2009, Taser International updated its training guides by stating that officers should not aim for the chest.
"'Killing Them Safely' highlights the ineptitude not only of Taser International but also of the governing bodies and police departments that have allowed this organization to essentially have a monopoly over the training and safety of the device," wrote BI's Brett Arnold and Amanda Macias in their review of the film.
Here's a portion of the statement Taser International sent to Business Insider in regard to the risk of death by being stunned by a Taser (see full statement at the bottom of this story):
TASER® technology is the most extensively researched less-lethal weapon with more than 500 related reports and medical studies. These studies consistently have found that the TASER is generally safe and effective as a response to resistance option ... However, it is still a 'weapon' and it is not risk free and TASER provides in depth warnings to law enforcement to that effect; including that the weapon may cause death or serious injury.
But it took years for Berardini to realize the story he was telling was not about the awful death of Harlan but about the weapon that killed him.
In fall 2009, Berardini began having a conversation with Taser International about filming one of its executives for his film.
"I was 24, impressionable, didn't know a lot, and potentially had a platform of a 90-minute film," Berardini said of why he thought the company would agree to talk to him.
He also got to Taser International at an interesting time in the company's history.
"They were starting to lose lawsuits for the first time," Berardini said. "And internally, they felt the weight of that and wanted to speak from their own perspective."
Six months of talks with Taser International finally led the company to allow Berardini to come to its headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2010 and film an interview with the company's vice president of strategic communications, Steve Tuttle. Berardini was also invited to record footage of the factory where Tasers are assembled.
At the time, Berardini was working alone on the project. So he got a cameraman from the Missouri TV station he worked at to come along to shoot and a friend to be his production assistant.
"I think they expected me to come there and be converted by this Orwellian headquarters they have," Berardini said. "Because that is what works for police officers."
Berardini said he didn't have any "gotcha" questions for Tuttle. "I expected them to not play a big role" in the film, he acknowledged. But he was hoping that at least Tuttle would acknowledge that Tasers could be dangerous if used excessively.
That didn't happen.
In the film, Tuttle seems unsympathetic to any of the Taser-related deaths and stays on message with the company motto, "Protecting life. Protecting truth."
Tuttle's firm stance during the interview that Tasers could never cause deaths "honestly blew me away," Berardini said.
Berardini left the Taser headquarters three hours later having grown more suspicious of Taser International. He began to research the company, talking to reporters who had covered it and speaking to lawyers who had taken it to court.
He also brought on producers Jamie Goncalves and Brock Williams. They found that Berardini was essentially editing two films, one on Taser and one on Harlan.
"He was still really focused on telling this story on Stanley Harlan," Williams said. "But the thing that I immediately was drawn to was this bigger [Taser International] story and this great [Tuttle] interview."
Around Christmas 2011, Berardini finally came to terms that the Harlan story could not be the main focus of the movie.
"I met Brock for lunch and we were exhausted, and I said, 'We have to start over,'" Berardini said.
What put him over the edge was all the material he got from his research, including Taser International training DVDs, manuals, and over 120 hours of deposition footage. It all gave Berardini a clearer picture of what he viewed as negligence by Taser International in how it made its device attractive to police departments. He had to make that the focus.
The Harlan story would now be in the film as one of the chilling examples of the excessive use of Tasers by police.
By the time Berardini had a rough cut of "Killing Them Safely" last October, he said, Taser International was already trying to stop the film from being released.
Berardini said the company attempted to subpoena the film after the Harlans' lawsuit against Taser International. The filmmakers caught a break, however, because the "discovery period" of the lawsuit had passed, meaning Taser International could not subpoena them. The Harlans' suit against Taser International was dismissed by an appeals court in 2014. The officers on the scene of Harlan's death were not criminally liable because, according to Berardini, there was nothing in the Taser International manual used by the police department that would suggest the use of the Taser could cause a fatality. But the Harlans did get a $2.4 million settlement from the city of Moberly.
All the people involved with the film were convinced Taser International would continue to come after them. But according to Berardini, the company has been quiet since the film was announced to play at the Tribeca Film Festival. And to Berardini's knowledge, no one at the company has seen the film yet.
Tuttle issued this statement to Business Insider, which we have included below in full, regarding the risk of death to those stunned by a Taser:
TASER® technology is the most extensively researched less-lethal weapon with more than 500 related reports and medical studies. These studies consistently have found that the TASER is generally safe and effective as a response to resistance option. In a 5-year TASER safety study by the US Department of Justice 'an expert panel of medical professionals concludes that the use of conducted energy devices by police officers on healthy adults does not present a high risk of death or serious injury.' A US DOJ funded study by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that in 1201 randomly selected incidents, 99.75 percent of individuals subjected to a TASER device as part of an arrest procedure received no significant injury. The American Medical Association assessed that TASER devices are a 'safe and effective tool' and 'can save lives during interventions' when used appropriately. However, it is still a 'weapon' and it is not risk free and TASER provides in depth warnings to law enforcement to that effect; including that the weapon may cause death or serious injury.
Tuttle told Business Insider he had not seen the film.
But screenings of the film at Tribeca may have affected Taser International's bottom line. After the world premiere of the film, the company's stock began to fall. (Though, recently the stock has surged.)
Berardini and his team are shopping offers for distribution of the film. One of their hopes — especially with the influx of recent stories of officers using excessive force — is that they will get the film shown at police departments that use Tasers.
"The police still get the message from one source, Taser International," he said. "Police need to see this film so when they go out on the street they will think about what the consequences are of using the device."
"Killing Them Safely" opens in select theaters on Friday.
- Here's the real reason George Osborne just scrapped Tax Credit changes
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 4:54 PM:)<>
The big news from Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Autumn Statement on Wednesday is that he is doing a massive U-turn on his plans to cut tax credits.
The Chancellor said that he had listened to people's concerns and wouldn't make any cuts to in-work benefits. What he didn't say, is that he didn't want to cut tax credits in the first place.
The story of the tax credit cuts goes back to this year's General Election. The polls said that the results were going to be tight and the Conservatives were convinced that there was very little chance that they would win an overall majority. It did, however, seem likely that they would get enough votes to form a minority government if they could strike a deal with the Liberal Democrats again.
Because they expected to have to negotiate with the Lib Dems, the Conservatives promised to do things in their election manifesto that were a little more extreme than what they actually wanted to do. This made sense. If they went into negotiations without overstating the things that they wanted to do, they wouldn't have anything to compromise on.
One of the over-stated promises in the manifesto was that they would cut £12 billion from the welfare budget.
Despite the polls, the Conservatives did win the General Election outright and all of a sudden had to figure out how they would meet this promise. There were plenty of cuts that they wanted to make to the welfare budget, but they were still a few billion pounds short. This is where tax credits come in.
The Government gives quite a lot of money to working people with low wages in the form of tax credits; far more than they give to unemployed people on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Four-and-a-half million people claim the credits at a cost to the taxpayer of around £30 billion a year. Osborne felt he had no choice but to announce cuts to tax credit payouts that would save £5.37 billion a year by the 2020 election.
Privately, many in the Conservative party were horrified by the decision. "We f***** up. We didn't mean to cut tax credits, it was a complete accident," an advisor to a Cabinet Minister told Business Insider UK last month.
It soon became very clear that the cuts were going to become a huge issue for Osborne. The Sun newspaper, which is broadly supportive of the Conservative government, published an editorial demanding that the prime minister step in to stop the cuts, and Conservative MP Heidi Allen dramatically used her first speech in Parliament to call the cuts "out of touch."
Fortunately for Osborne, the Office for Budget Responsibility recently forecast that the Government would have to borrow £8 billion less than had been originally predicted over the course of this Parliament. This gave Osborne the wiggle room he needed to make today's U-turn.
- This is America's new $13 billion warship
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 4:01 PM:)<>
The US Navy is just months away from adding the most expensive warship in history to its fleet, the $13 billion USS Gerald Ford.
The USS Ford, the lead ship of the new Ford-class aircraft-carrier series, is expected to join the US Navy in early 2016, according to CNN. Once deployed, the ship will be among the largest carriers ever to ply the seas and will feature a number of changes and advancements over the US' current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Here's a look at this multibillion-dollar beast:
The USS Gerald Ford is expected to cost upward of $13 billion by the time it is deployed.
The Ford, and the Ford-class of aircraft carrier, is intended to relieve stress and overdeployment within the US Navy. Currently, the Navy operates 10 carriers but wants an additional vessel to take pressure off of the rest of the fleet.
The ship will feature a host of changes over the Nimitz-class carrier. Ford-class carriers will be capable of generating three times more electrical power than the older carrier classes, for example.
This increased power supply allows the Ford to run more cutting-edge hardware. The newly designed Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) will allow the vessel to launch 25% more aircraft a day than the previous steam-powered launch systems.
The amount of electricity onboard also makes Ford-class carriers ideal candidates to field laser and directed-energy weapons in the future, like rail guns and missile interceptors.
Once launched, the Ford will be among the largest warships in the world. It will be 1,092 feet long and displace upward of 100,000 tons.
This size will allow the carrier to house about 4,400 staff and personnel while carrying more than 75 aircraft.
The Ford is expected to carry F-35s and, and carrier-based drone aircraft once they become available.
But for all the advances within the Ford-class carrier group, some have questioned the wisdom of continuing an astronomically expensive carrier-heavy naval strategy in a time when interstate warfare is rare and nations like China are working on potentially carrier-killing long-range antiship cruise missiles.
- This interactive timeline tracks Russo-Turkish tensions
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 3:42 PM:)<>
The following report is a joint presentation by the Institute for the Study of War and the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.
Russia and Turkey have long been at odds over Syria, with Moscow backing President Bashar al Assad and Ankara supporting the opposition to overthrow him.
Tensions increased dramatically with the start of the Russian air campaign on September 30.
The Turkish shoot-down of a Russian combat aircraft on November 24 is an escalation in this tense stand-off between Russia and a NATO member.
Although both sides may refrain from additional aggressive activities at once, tensions between Russia and Turkey have been continuously growing and are likely to expand, further testing the strength of the US commitment to its NATO partner. These tensions will also severely hinder efforts to build a "grand coalition" including Turkey and Russia.
Turkey's decision to fire on a Russian Su-24 that briefly violated its airspace resulted from more than concerns about the integrity of its borders. Russian airstrikes have been helping Assad, Hezbollah, and Iranian proxy forces advance in Turkmen areas near the Turkish border in recent days.
Turkey claims that those airstrikes hit Turkmen villages. Turkey regards the Turkmen of Iraq and Syria as kin, works to protect and advance their interests, and tries to defend them. The Turkish shoot-down is probably intended to deter Putin from continuing to provide air support to Assad operations against them, among other things.
The incident highlights the grand strategic implications of American policy in Syria, moreover. The West, led by France, has been drifting in the direction of cooperating if not allying with Putin, whom many wrongly believe is in Syria to fight ISIS. That drift empowers Putin and overlooks the larger objectives of Putin’s maneuvers, as Leon Aron points out.
Putin aims to disrupt NATO fundamentally as part of a larger effort to recoup Russia’s losses following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He has been deliberately and aggressively prodding Turkey from his airbase in Syria, just as he has been consistently violating the airspace of US allies in the Baltics and US partners in Scandinavia. He is counting on Washington to remain so myopically focused on the fight against ISIS that it overlooks and tacitly accepts these assaults on the Western alliance structure. It would be an enormous mistake if we did so.
This timeline is a joint presentation by the Institute for the Study of War and the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. The text is drawn from daily media tracking and analysis conducted by the superb analytical teams at ISW and CTP.
The Syria Team at ISW includes Jennifer Cafarella, Christopher Kozak, and Genevieve Casagrande. The Ukraine/Russia Team is headed by Hugo Spaulding. This presentation was created by Frederick W. Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project (firstname.lastname@example.org). ISW analysts can be reached at email@example.com.
- POWER RANKINGS: Here's who has the best chance at being our next president
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 3:33 PM:)<>
In fewer than 70 days, the first votes of the 2016 presidential primary will be cast.
The last month in the respective Republican and Democratic primaries have taken distinctly different turns.
Since Vice President Joe Biden declined to enter the race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cemented herself as the clear Democratic front-runner.
The Republican field, meanwhile, has something of a "free-for-all" feel. A man who was long expected to fade by now, real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, continues to lead almost every single national and early-state polls.
Behind him is fellow political "outsider" Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, and three other, more experienced candidates — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). The feeling is that a slew of candidates in the still-crowded field can win.
So with less than a year until Election Day 2016, here's another look at who has the best chance of making it to the White House to succeed President Barack Obama.
Our rankings are based on the Real Clear Politics averages of national polls and those in the first-voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. We also factor in candidates' fundraising prowess and their momentum (or lack thereof) over the past few weeks, especially after each party's debates earlier this month.
Here's a look at where all the candidates stand.
(All poll results as of Monday.)
15. Rick Santorum, Republican, former senator from Pennsylvania
It's sometimes to forget that Santorum won 11 states in his 2012 primary matchup with Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee — including the Iowa caucus.
That's because, still, he hasn't been even a blip on the radar in the 2016 race.
He is facing much stauncher competition this time around, and he has not solved his biggest problem from 2012: money. He raised less than $400,000 in the latest fundraising quarter and had just more than $200,000 cash on hand, the kind of money that doesn't bode well for staying power in a crowded field.
The state that provided his biggest win in 2012, Iowa, also hasn't given him the same kind of love. Despite focusing on the Hawkeye State, he still barely registers in polling there, placing 11th in an average of recent polls. He has lingered around that level since he entered the race.
National polling average among Republican voters: 0.5% (12th)
Iowa: 1.3% (11th)
New Hampshire: 0.6% (12th)
South Carolina: 0.5% (12th)
Last month: 16
14. Lindsey Graham, Republican, senator from South Carolina
Despite seemingly increased exasperation at some of the names ahead of him, Graham continues to be an afterthought in the race.
He hardly registers in Iowa. He barely shows up in New Hampshire polling. In his home state of South Carolina, he's just seventh in a crowded field.
The Republican base has soured on Graham's support of immigration reform. and his distinct split from Trump on the topic. Far more voters, as polls have shown, have instead rallied around Trump.
"Donald Trump is the most uninformed person I've ever met running for president when it comes to foreign policy," Graham said recently. "He has no clue of what he's talking about. He doesn't understand how to destroy ISIL. … President Obama doesn't have a clue of what he's doing. Don't replace President Obama with Donald Trump. It will get worse, not better."
National polling average among Republican voters: 0.8% (T-11th)
Iowa: 0.7% (12th)
New Hampshire: 0.8% (11th)
South Carolina: 2.3% (7th)
Last month: 14
13. Martin O'Malley, Democrat, former Maryland governor
O'Malley has watched as Bernie Sanders has entrenched himself as the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, outflanking O'Malley's attempts to outflank Clinton from the left.
Despite a vigorous campaign schedule, O'Malley still not well known nationally, and he has been unable to boost his poll numbers even in a three-way race.
O'Malley has an accomplished progressive record as governor, with achievements — on immigration, criminal justice, gay marriage, and healthcare, among others — that he can legitimately tout to Democratic voters.
But he hasn't been able to break out of the doldrums, even with solid performances in the first two Democratic presidential debate. O'Malley recently shifted more of his campaign staff to Iowa, where he'll need a strong showing to continue on the trail.
National polling average among Democratic voters: 4.4% (3rd)
Iowa: 4.5% (3rd)
New Hampshire: 3.7% (3rd)
South Carolina: 2.7% (3rd)
Last month: 13
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
- Inside ISIS' mind-blowing network of underground tunnels, filled with drugs and ammunition
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 3:01 PM:)<>
Over the past year, ISIS has constructed an astonishing network of underground tunnels in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, which they seized in 2014.
The Associated Press obtained remarkable footage of the tunnels, which were packed with US-made ammunition, prescription drugs, and copies of the Quran.
Thirty to 40 tunnels were found in total, each wired with electricity and each with their own sleeping quarters. The extremist group had carved out a small community in its underground network of tunnels.
The tunnels were discovered by Kurdish forces who retook Sinjar, Iraq, earlier this month, more than a year after it fell into ISIS' control.
Much of the town now looks like this, with no signs of human life. ISIS killed and captured thousands of the town's Yazidi residents, and it's thought many of them are still being held captive.
Inside the tunnels is everything the militants needed to survive underground for prolonged periods of time.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
- The shadow chancellor just threw Mao's Little Red Book at George Osborne
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 2:37 PM:)<>
John McDonnell, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, just did something that doesn't happen very often in the House of Commons. He quoted former communist dictator Chairman Mao Zedong.
In his response to chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement speech, McDonnell took the bizarre step of reading from Mao's Little Red Book, before throwing it across the Commons despatch box towards Osborne, and prime minister David Cameron.
Getting the book out, McDonnell said (Mao's quote in bold): "Let's quote from Mao. Rarely done in this chamber. We must learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are. We must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously, but we must not pertain to know what we do not know. I thought it would come in handy for him [Osborne]."
You can see McDonnell taking the book out here:
And here he is casually tossing it at George Osborne:
It's safe to say that people were a little bit confused by what McDonnell was doing:
John McDonnell actually reading from Mao's red book at the despatch box. "Let's quote from Mao".— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) November 25, 2015
Now Osborne waves John McDonnell's personal signed copy of Mao's book— Isabel Hardman (@IsabelHardman) November 25, 2015
Quoting Mao in a budget response, picture of McDonnell waving a little red book around. Yes, lets make it even more difficult for ourselves.— Meg Evans (@CaptainMeg) November 25, 2015
£5 for the first person to spot a genuine “The way the media are going on about the Little Red Book shows they must be rattled” tweet— Martin Belam (@MartinBelam) November 25, 2015
I've got a little red book at home..but one defaced by dissidents. Never thought it wd be quoted by a shadow chancellor in House of Commons— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) November 25, 2015
Brilliant. All future Tory broadcasts will contain genuine footage of John McDonnell holding the Little Red Book saying "Let's quote Mao"— Michael Deacon (@MichaelPDeacon) November 25, 2015
McDonnell actually read from Mao's little red book, and threw it at Osborne. Get this guy off the stage.— Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) November 25, 2015
JM I've brought along Mao's Little Red Book, quotes from it. (Is he taking the piss? Who from? Tories cry "more")— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) November 25, 2015
I hope that Little Red Book is put into the National Archives as an important part of our political history.— Ned Donovan (@Ned_Donovan) November 25, 2015
- There's one major reason Putin wouldn't want to seriously escalate the situation with Turkey
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 2:35 PM:)<>
The downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces on Tuesday has had tensions running high.
Moscow is calling it a "planned provocation." Turkey, a member of NATO, has said it had a right to defend its airspace.
But there's a big reason Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, would choose against severely escalating the situation in response: the many economic ties between the two countries.
"Putin's ability to be pragmatic economically should not be underestimated," geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider in an email.
"Let's keep in mind, Russia is still providing gas to Ukraine … and that's after they invaded," Bremmer said. "And also, Putin doesn't want to create more antagonism with NATO just as he's making progress with the Europeans — France in particular — in turning back the US-led Western 'isolation' of the Russians.
"There's a very significant economic relationship between the two sides — tourism, trade, and most importantly energy — that neither Putin nor Erdogan want to interfere with," Bremmer added, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to Reuters, Turkey, along with Egypt, is among the largest buyers of Russian wheat, and it is a significant purchaser of Russian semifinished steel products. In 2014, 4% of Turkish exports — mainly textiles and food worth about $6 billion — went to Russia.
Tourism is also heavy between the two countries. In 2014, 3.3 million Russian tourists ventured to Turkey — the second-largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany, Reuters reports.
But the energy relationship between the two is indeed the most consequential for both countries.
Turkey strongly depends on Russia for its natural-gas imports. According to The New York Times, Russia provides more than half of Turkey's natural gas.
But Russia also depends on Turkey to transport its natural gas into Europe, especially since its ongoing conflict with Ukraine — which lies on another gas-transport route — doesn't show any signs of slowing.
Both countries are in talks over a natural-gas pipeline project that would enable Russia to transport its natural gas into the EU. When the project was announced in December 2014, while Putin was visiting Ankara, both leaders were presented in the media as uniting together against the West, with whom both have their issues.
Turkey also has a $20 billion deal with a Russian state-owned firm to build a nuclear power plant in the country.
"Putin's initial reaction — 'a stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices' — is about as bellicose as could be imagined," Bremmer said. "But Putin is no stranger to harsh rhetoric, and he has broader interests to play for."
Relations between Putin and Erdogan have been deteriorating, especially since the start of Russia's intervention in Syria. Russia has primarily been targeting rebels in Syria unaffiliated with the Islamic State group that are supported by Turkey and other countries.
But common interests between the countries remain, as well as their dependence toward each other.
Erdogan has threatened that Turkey will get its gas from somewhere else and that another country could "come and build" the nuclear plant. And though a different country could indeed come build the plant, getting gas from somewhere else might prove much more difficult.
Russia provides gas to Turkey primarily through two pipelines, one that runs through the northwestern region of Thrace and another through the Black Sea, Reuters reports.
Though Turkey also receives gas from Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, the country could not receive the amount of gas it obtains from Russia through that infrastructure.
Russia is also wary of angering its sole hope at the moment to bring its gas more easily to the EU, especially after the South Stream pipeline through Europe was scrapped.
Turkey is the second-biggest exporter of Russian gas after Germany. Considering the state of the Russian economy, it can hardly afford to lose a partner that buys 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year.
Said Bremmer: "I don't think it fundamentally derails the Russia-Turkey relationship, seriously escalates tensions between Russia and NATO, or dramatically changes the dynamics of coalition building around Syria."
- Britain's government just made a landmark move on tampon tax — but the public isn't happy
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 1:53 PM:)<>
Britain's Chancellor George Osborne just made a landmark move regarding the tax on tampons — all the money is going to go to charity.
In his Autumn Statement, he revealed that the government is also "committed" to getting the European Union to scrap the existing 5% tax rate but, in the meantime, all the money raised through the tax will go towards women's charities.
This is what he said:
300,000 people have signed a petition arguing that no VAT should be charged on sanitary products. We already charge the lowest 5% rate allowable under European law and we're committed to getting the EU rules changed.
Until that happens, I'm going to use the £15 million a year raised from the Tampon Tax to fund women's health and support charities. The first £5 million will be distributed between the Eve Appeal, SafeLives and Women's Aid, and The Haven - and I invite bids from other such good causes.
The tax on the female health product makes the UK £15 million ($22.7 million) a year and protestors have campaigned for decades over how the tax should be scrapped. This is because women don't choose to be the only sex to have a period, nor do they choose whether they want to use tampons or not.
However, under European Union classifications, tampons are put under the "non-essential luxury items" category — meaning that they are subject to tax.
The only way to scrap the tampon tax is for EU politicians to vote this change in. The British government cannot cut the tax. While the Labour government managed to get the tax on tampons reduced from 17.5% to 5% in 2000, it could not scrap the tax outright because it would breach EU rules.
People on social media seemed to be mixed over the declaration despite the government not being able to do anything about the tax rate at the moment:
15 million to womens charities from tampon tax. Labour didn't know how to react to that one. Lots of nods. But some sure to complain.— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) November 25, 2015
Oh no. #tampontax being used to fund women's shelters. Wrong, of course. We shouldn't be charged for sanitary wear much less taxed for it.— Sonia Poulton (@SoniaPoulton) November 25, 2015
Women's health charities should be in a position to GIVE AWAY free tampons. Not depend on a #tampontax to get basic funding. GRAAARHGHHHH.— Sara Barnard (@saramegan) November 25, 2015
£15m yr raised from tampon tax to be spent on women's health. How does that compare with amount slashed from budgets for #women's services ?— jane martinson (@janemartinson) November 25, 2015
- Inequality is bad for everyone – even the rich – and here's the Morgan Stanley report to prove it
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 1:47 PM:)<>
Yes, inequality is getting worse. Yes, it is bad for economic growth, because it stunts consumer demand.
And yes, even the rich ought to worry about the way they are taking an ever-increasing share of society's wealth and income, according to a weighty new analysis of inequality in the richest, developed economies from Morgan Stanley.
It's not all gloom, according to Morgan Stanley senior economist Carmen Nuzzo. (This is an investment bank, of course, so they're looking for opportunities as well as dysfunction.)
But the report contains a gloomy thread for those who worry that Thomas Piketty might be right. Nuzzo et al. write:
... protracted, inequality can disrupt business models, fuel political discontent and trigger policy missteps. This could damage the growth potential. This risk is high in DM [developed markets], where inequality within countries is increasing, in contrast to inequality between countries globally, which is diminishing.
Here is Morgan Stanley's new ranking of the most-equal, and least-equal, rich countries:
- Inequality in the US is about the same as Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain — countries that in Europe are regarded as economic basket cases.
- There is a wide gulf between Germany and France, the two big economies that neighbour each other at the heart of Europe. The UK sits between them.
- Those cliches about Northern Europe and Scandinavia? Basically true.
- Internet access is a good proxy for inequality. The more people have it, the more equal a society is likely to be.
Inequality has become worse more recently, Morgan Stanley says:
Here is how much the top 10% take of each nation's total wealth and annual income:
Morgan Stanley says that increasing inequality in the rich countries is killing off their middle classes. "Faced with stagnant wages, high debt and rising costs, the middle class is eroded by rising inequality," the authors write.
They cite increasing childcare costs and payments for health and retirement as the main factors that hurt middle-class wealth retention.
- George Osborne's house building plans are straight out of 1951
(Politics - November 25 2015 - 1:45 PM:)<>
Britain's Chancellor George Osborne is staking his reputation on a plan to build 400,000 new homes by 2020.
It's a massive gamble, but it's one that isn't without precedent. Back in 1951, the then Conservative Minister of Housing, Harold Macmillan, did something very similar. Six years later, Macmillan was Prime Minister.
Osborne announced in Wednesday's Autumn Statement spending review that he plans to build 400,000 new "affordable" homes in England over the next five years.
Around £4 billion of government cash will be used to help public and private house builders construct 135,000 homes that will be sold into shared ownership. A further £2.3 billion will ensure that 200,000 homes will be built for first-time buyers and sold to them at a discount. Additional funding will be put towards the construction of specialist homes for the elderly and those with disabilities.
Ploughing so much public cash into property development might seem like a weird thing for a Conservative government to be doing, but it has worked out very well for them before.
Ahead of the 1951 General Election, the Winston Churchill led Conservative party found themselves pledging, almost by accident, to build 300,000 houses a year. One of their MPs had suggested the figure at that year's party conference and it proved so popular that Churchill thought he had no choice but to adopt the policy.
The Conservative's duly made the housing pledge central to their election campaign. Here is an excerpt from their 1951 manifesto:
Housing is the first of the social services. It is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health, and education are all undermined by crowded houses. Therefore, a Conservative and Unionist Government will give housing a priority second only to national defence.
They won the election and Churchill tasked an unwilling Macmillan with overseeing the building. In his diary Macmillan wrote:
Churchill says it is a gamble – make or mar my political career. But every humble home will bless my name, if I succeed. On the whole it seems impossible to refuse – but, oh dear, it is not my cup of tea
Churchill was right, if Macmillan succeeded it would make his career. With the backing of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Macmillan set about making the 300,000 house pledge a reality. In 1954, he actually surpassed the target, overseeing the construction of 350,000 homes.
Osborne will be aware of Macmillan's success and very aware of what happened next. The Conservative Party's popularity increased - they stayed in power to 1964, and Macmillan was lauded for his success. He was promoted to Defense Minister, then Foreign Secretary, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. By 1957, he was Prime Minister.
Osborne is in the running to succeed David Cameron as the next leader of the Conservative party. If his house building gamble pays off, he will be hoping that like Macmillan, he will be able to use his new found popularity to move from Chancellor to Prime Minister.