- Britain's Finances Are An Astonishing Mess Compared To The US
(Politics - October 21 2014 - 10:30 AM:)<>
Figures released a week ago show that the US government deficit is back below 3% of GDP, an amazing turnaround that went without much celebration. That is down to less than a third of the levels it reached during the worst of the recession.
In comparison, Britain's deficit-cutting has been awful: At 5.7% of GDP in the most recent fiscal year, the government has not even reduced borrowing by half. When the Coalition came into office, they expected to eliminate the deficit by 2015.
Just a few weeks ago, British Chancellor George Osborne said that the UK is the "most deficit reducing of any major advanced economy on earth". It wasn't true at the time, but sounds even more ludicrous today.
Borrowing disappointments have been one of the only constant and reliable things in the last few years in British politics. Crises come and go, but the government has almost constantly missed its own deficit targets.
So far, the UK's public sector has borrowed £58 billion ($94 billion) in the financial year between April and September. Despite the promising economic recovery, that is actually £5.4 billion ($8.7 billion) more than it did during the same period last year.
Even though Britain is now growing at an unexpectedly decent pace, public borrowing figures are still failing to see any significant improvement. Based on the first six months of this financial year, the deficit will actually be higher, not lower, than last year's.
Samuel Tombs at Capital Economics spells out the Treasury's problems in a note:
The poor performance relative to last year has largely reflected what should be temporary weakness in income tax receipts, due to lower than expected growth in average earnings... Nonetheless, borrowing would have to be a whopping 37% lower than last year in the remaining six months of the fiscal year for the annual total to match the OBR’s forecast. Accordingly, the Chancellor will be forced to acknowledge in December’s Autumn Statement that the fiscal consolidation is not going to plan, limiting his scope to announce pre-election sweeteners.
Britain was already set for a pretty dismal general election next year, but with an even more dismal outlook for the public finances, it looks like there'll be even less on offer from the major parties.
- Obama Might Try To Circumvent Congress On An Iran Deal — And He's Already Getting An Earful
(Politics - October 21 2014 - 9:41 AM:)<>
Anonymous Obama administration officials suggested that President Barack Obama might try to circumvent Congress on approval of any deal with Iran on its nuclear program, prompting bipartisan backlash from members of Congress and from pundits.
The New York Times' David Sanger reported Monday that if Iran and the six world powers do agree to a deal on its nuclear program by a Nov. 24 deadline, Obama will do "everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it."
The administration has concluded that Obama has the authority to suspend certain sanctions imposed on Iran under any deal, based on an unreleased study from the Treasury Department.
He does not, however, have the power to undo them. Only Congress has the authority to unravel the sanctions regime it created. But the Obama administration has concluded that it would lose a vote to end the sanctions, meaning they would likely postpone a vote on the agreement for as long as possible.
"By threatening to cut out Congress from the Iran nuclear deal, the administration is actually uniting Congress," said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), a key co-sponsor of bipartisan sanctions legislation.
"We will not support an Obama-Khamenei deal that condemns our children to a future where the Middle East is full of nuclear weapons," he added, referring to Iran's Supreme Leader.
The White House on Monday called The New York Times report "wrong." Principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters "the notion that we are trying to go around Congress on this is preposterous."
He said the story conflated two separate things and that it was too early to speculate on which sanctions could be lifted by Obama himself vs. only through the legislative process. He said the White House is consulting and will continue to consult with Congress on the Iran deal.
"Yes, I saw that story, too, and it’s wrong," Schultz said. "The administration believes that Congress has a very important role to play on the Iran nuclear issue. If you read it, our take was that the story conflated two separate issues: When and how congressional action will be needed to suspend and/or lift the sanctions, and whether we believe they should take up and up-or-down vote on the deal."
But the report left members of Congress concerned enough about being locked out of any deal that they threatened to intervene if necessary.
"The House is not going to sit idly by if and when the administration brokers a bad deal with Iran that compromises our principles and allows it to continue its nuclear ambitions," Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, told Business Insider.
The deadline to reach a long-term deal with Iran over its nuclear program is Nov. 24. Iran and the world powers are searching for a long-term solution to pare back Iran's atomic activities in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions imposed over the last decade.
But it's far from certain that any deal between Iran and the six world powers — the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China — will happen by the deadline. The interim agreement has already been extended once, and the possibility of a second extension has been floated.
At this point, it's likely any deal would face opposition from hardliners in Iran — including Khamenei, who has recently drawn up a new set of demands that would allow Iran to increase enrichment tenfold.
And it would face at least skepticism among the majority of members of Congress. Along with Kirk, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has sponsored legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran if the parties fail to agree on a deal by the deadline.
"The administration has been signaling for months that it will ignore Congress and impose a deal over their objections for one simple reason: The White House knows that any agreement it reaches with Iran will not meet the minimum bipartisan deal criteria set out in the Menendez-Kirk legislation that enjoys the support of 60 Democratic and Republican senators," Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider.
"The White House also is more interested in seducing Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with promises that Obama can deliver sanctions concessions without Congress. It's an interesting negotiation strategy — and one more likely to weaken your leverage — to be trying to seduce your opponent's bad cop while muzzling your own bad cop."
- Islamic State Militants Are Raking In $800 Million A Year From Black Market Oil Sales
(Politics - October 21 2014 - 7:20 AM:)<>
The Islamist State militant group now running a big chunk of northern Iraq and Syria is churning out more than $2 million worth of oil every day, or about $800 million per year, according to an analysis released by IHS.
Scarily, that’s far below the group’s potential output. IHS says Islamic State is probably only producing 50,000 barrels per day, but the territory it occupies is capable of producing 350,000.
It’s also selling the oil for less than $60 per barrel to smugglers, in comparison to an international price of more like $85 per barrel. If the group, previously called ISIS or ISIL, was producing at its full capacity and selling at market prices, it could rake in closer to $30 million every day.
IHS adds that how IS' oil production is going to progress depends mostly on the military campaign against them:
Future oil revenues growth for ISIL remains to be determined and will be heavily influenced by territories gained/lost in coming months... In light of ongoing US-led airstrikes against ISIL, it is also unclear if the terrorist group has enough refining capacity—which currently consists mostly of simple mobile refineries that can be loaded and transported by truck—to meet its own needs.
- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - October 21 2014 - 6:50 AM:)<>
Good morning! Here's what you need to know for Tuesday.
3. Turkey said it would facilitate the passage of Iraqi Kurdish to the Syrian town of Kobani to help fellow Kurds in the fight against Islamic State militants.
4. The Ukrainian Army allegedly fired cluster munitions, weapons that can scatter hundreds of smaller bombs when fired, in Donetsk city in early October, according to The New York Times. "If confirmed, the use of cluster bombs by the pro-Western government could complicate efforts to reunite the country, as residents of the east have grown increasingly bitter over the Ukrainian Army’s tactics to oust pro-Russian rebels," The Times writes.
5. China's economy grew last quarter at its slowest pace in nearly six years, although the results were slightly better than analysts were expecting.
6. In an interview with foreign media, Hong Kong's leader Leung Chun-ying said that free elections would allow poor people to dominate politics, Reuters reports. The statement comes shortly before talks are due to take place between student pro-democracy protestors and government officials.
7. Oscar Pistorius wil find out if he faces a prison term after being convicted of culpable homicide for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
8. A new Ebola study predicts the spread of the virus, projecting that up to three infected people fly overseas every month from the three worst-hit African countries, The Wall Street Journal reports.
9. The US Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines to health workers for treating Ebola victims, calling for more rigorous training and mandating that no skin is exposed when protective equipment is worn and that all workers are supervised.
- The Air Force's Mysterious Space Drone Is Part Of The Incredible 'X-Plane' Family Of Aircraft
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 9:19 PM:)<>
Boeing's X-37B, an unmanned and highly advanced space plane, just completed a nearly-two-long year Air Force mission whose purpose is still not currently known.
Whatever its mission, the plane comes from one of the most legendary pedigrees in all of aviation: the fabled X-series, the line of experimental aircraft that are responsible for some of the greatest milestones in the history of flight.
The X-Plane Program is an ongoing US government effort dating from the 1940s and involving a number of private-sector manufacturers. Its goal is to push the outer limits of aviation technology: The X-1 was the first plane to break the sound barrier. And the first human being to go to space twice did it in a high-flying X-15. The X-planes were used to test rocket engines and pioneer new methods of take-off and landing. They set records for range, speed, and altitude — some of which still stand.
Here's a look at the X-37B's illustrious predecessors — its fellow members of one of the greatest families of aircraft ever built.
The Bell X-1 was first tested in January 1946, just months after the end of World War II. In October of 1947, legendary pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the X-1, the first time an aircraft had reached that threshold in level flight.
The Bell X-2 would triple the X-1's feat by flying at three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3, in the mid '50s. In more than a dozen test flights, the colorfully nicknamed "Starbuster" also broke the existing record for altitude, flying at nearly 24 miles above the ground.
But the X-2 was also riddled with problems as it flew on the outer edge of the era's technological capabilities. Its maiden flight saw the plane's nose gear collapse upon landing. Its last flight would break the speed record, but at the cost of USAF pilot Milburn Apt's life.
The Bell X-5 first flew in 1951, earlier than the X-2. It pioneered variable-sweep wings, or "swing wings," which can be shifted back and tucked closer to the plane's body to allow greater flight speeds.
This design was inspired by the Messerschmitt P.1101, a German prototype designed for eventual service in World War II — but brought to and studied in the Bell factory in Buffalo, New York after the war.
The Convair X-6 was meant to test nuclear-powered flight on a modified bomber.
The project was canceled when president Kennedy pulled the plug on further research. "Nearly fifteen years and about $1 billion have been devoted to the attempted development of a nuclear-powered aircraft," Kennedy told Congress in 1961, "but the possibility of achieving a militarily useful aircraft in the foreseeable future is still very remote."
The X-6 never flew.
Ryan X-13 Vertijet
The Ryan X-13 Vertijet was meant to pioneer vertical takeoff in aircraft, though it didn't have the same approach as today's V-22 Osprey. Instead the X-13 was a "tailsitter," set up to launch like a space shuttle before tilting forward in flight.
The plane was technologically sophisticated, but of limited practical use — one of the only two X-13s ever built was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1960, just five years after the aircraft the model's first flight.
The real ancestor of today's vertical take-off and landing technology is the Hiller X-18, which used the tilt-wings we see in today's VSTOL-capable aircraft. This plane was extraordinarily ahead of its time: the X-18 debuted in 1957. The V-22 Osprey, whose design and appearance are strikingly similar to that of the X-18, wasn't introduced into US military service until 2007.
The X-18 was an experimental craft back in the '50s, but the Osprey is now one of the workhorse transport planes of the US military.
North American X-15
Among manned, powered aircraft, the North American X-15 still holds records for highest altitude (67 miles) and greatest speed (Mach 6.7) — and that was all the way back in the 1960s.
The plane took off from the bomb bay of a B-52 (see the above photo). The X-15 achieved spaceflight twice according to international standards, making it the first re-usable manned spacecraft in history.
The X-20 Dyna-Soar only lived as a concept in the '50s and '60s, but its approach to space exploration has proven viable today. After spaceflight, the X-20 was meant to return to Earth and land on an airstrip, much like NASA's iconic Space Shuttle or Virgin Galactic's private endeavors. Even if it never actually flew, the X-20 represented an attempt at working towards aviation technology that was decades in the future at the time — but was eventually firmly proven.
The McDonnell-Douglas X-36 was an experiment in minimalism, "designed to fly without the traditional tail surfaces common on most aircraft" according to NASA, which contributed to the project.
The X-36 was built to prove that a tail-less fighter jet could have improved maneuverability compared to more traditional designs. The unmanned prototypes, which flew the first of several dozen test-flights in 1997, were built on a 28% scale compared to a "theoretical advanced fighter aircraft configuration," according to NASA.
That full-sized plane was never built. In that respect, the X-36 fits a pattern in the X-planes' history. It's a line that's proven that even the most extreme aeronautical feats are possible — even if they don't always result in aircraft that can be put to any widespread, practical use.
- An American Warden Visited A Norwegian Prison, And He Couldn't Believe What He Saw
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 8:47 PM:)<>
Retired superintendent James Conway is a 38-year veteran of the Attica Correctional Facility in New York. He spent none of that time pitying his inmates.
"It was your actions that put yourself here," he said, referring to the prisoners. "Who cares how they feel?"
Well, Conway experienced quite a shock when he visited Halden Prison, one of the newest correctional facilities in Norway.
In an excerpt from a made-for-TV documentary called "The Norden," Jan Stromnes, deputy head of the prison, takes Conway on a tour of the premises — and he couldn't believe what he saw.
"I'm having a hard time believing that I'm in a prison," Conway said in the documentary, reported on by the blog Finansakrobat.
First, Conway (left) took a tour of the prison grounds. "Jan, it would appear that you've chosen to construct your prison in a forest and in a mountain area. Can you offer any explanation as to why that would be?" Conway inquired.
The architect suggested that the prison "keep as much of the nature as possible," Stromnes (right) explained. That way, inmates could serve under normal conditions — one of the key principles in the Norwegian prison system.
Conway had no response.
Next, the team traveled to Unit C, a building with 84 inmates.
There, Conway learned that 10 inmates share a living room complete with a television, dartboard, and ... knives for cooking.
He looked sad and confused.
"I'm surprised to see metal silverware in a high-security facility," he said. "It's a very well-equipped kitchen."
Even the cupboards were stocked with dishes, porcelain ones to boot. "Very functional — however very sharp," Conway mused.
At Halden, the inmates even have access to tools.
"You don't have to bake 'em in a cake," Conway joked, holding a large file.
The presence of hangers in closets surprised Conway, too. He explained an inmate could fashion the top into an "ice-pick-type weapon." But "if there is a steel knife in the drawer around the corner, why would you need metal from a hanger?"
Aside from potentially unsafe objects, the Norwegian facility included downright luxury items, like an Xbox.
Oh, and a recording studio.
"I know there's a lot of education and vocational programmings to prepare inmates for work on the outside, but I must say I've never seen anything like this," Conway admits. "This may be a little over the top."
He wondered what kind of career a recording studio prepares inmates for. For example, he normally helps inmates learn woodworking or study for their GEDs.
Stromnes admitted that the recording studio does raise a lot of questions. The room functions as a part of the music teaching program at Halden, which officials hope will lead to less crime, he explained.
"Everyone is leaving ... prison one day," Stromnes said. "And we have to focus on life afterward."
If Conway sat inmates at Attica down, he explained, and asked them to design the prison of their dreams, it would look a lot like Halden.
"This is prison utopia," he said. "I don't think you can go any more liberal — other than giving the inmates the keys."
Note the interior locks on the prison doors, below.
For some context, Norway has an incarceration rate of 70 per 100,000, totaling 3, 571 inmates for the entire country.
The US rate is more than 10 times Norway's — 707 per 100,000, or 2,228,424 people behind bars.
Watch the full excerpt below.
- Marco Rubio Plans To Introduce A Bill To Ban Visas From Countries Affected By The Ebola Epidemic
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 7:47 PM:)<>
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) plans to introduce legislation that would ban new visas for people from the three countries affected by the Ebola epidemic; Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In a statement from his office on Monday, Rubio described a visa ban as a "common sense" restriction.
"While Ebola’s deadly reach has proven to be a complex and unique international challenge, the many uncertainties surrounding this virus continue to threaten U.S. national security," Rubio said. "Our biggest priority is ensuring that sufficient safeguards are in place to limit the spread of Ebola, contain it at the source, and protect Americans."
Many health experts and officials have come out against imposing travel restrictions on the three nations that are the epicenter of the epidemic. Opponents of travel restrictions have argued isolating the countries battling the most new cases of the virus would actually worsen the situation there. President Barack Obama opposes travel restrictions, but a growing number of lawmakers have called for them.
In his statement, Rubio argued a visa ban would not result in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone being "completely" cut off.
"We must take any and all necessary precautions to contain this virus – and common sense restrictions on travel from countries now confronting this epidemic is an important step," said Rubio. "The most effective way to combat this deadly virus is to address it at its source. This ban on issuance of visas does not mean we will be completely cutting off the affected countries from the outside world. We must continue to increase our assistance to those countries as they struggle to contain this outbreak. That is, ultimately, the only way we will be able to stop this outbreak and keep Americans safe from this horrible disease."
- GOP Congressional Candidate: Gay Couples Are 'Gremlins' That 'Will Destroy Our Way Of Life'
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 6:51 PM:)<>
A Republican running against Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) recently wrote an extensive warning about the dangers of gay marriage that compared same-sex couples to the monsters in the 1984 horror movie "Gremlins."
"Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life," Anthony Culler wrote in an Oct. 14 Facebook post flagged Monday by Talking Points Memo and The Hill.
In the post, Culler also called same-sex marriage an "evil" and a "pestilence that has descended on our society against our will."
He indicated he knew the comments would be controversial.
"These people are bullies and now that they are winning their true and hateful nature is much easier to see and hear," he added. "(Watch the response to this post.)"
Clyburn's district is overwhelmingly Democratic and Culler is likely a long-shot in the November election. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the post.
View his full post below:
Same-sex "marriage" is a pestilence that has descended on our society, against our will, by those in the courts and government that do not value the traditional family. These people, like my opponent SC-6 Congressman Jim Clyburn who OPENLY supports same-sex "marriage," seek to destroy the traditional family and the values we cherish.
This has been allowed to happen because the groups and individuals pushing this evil are louder, bolder, more organized and determined than the individuals and groups that believe in tradition families.
Same-sex "marriage" has become "legal" because the mass majority of citizens, those of us that believe in traditional families and marriage being between one man and one woman, have ALLOWED this to happen due to our ignorance and apathy. (Sound familiar...look at what our government has become due in no small part to our apathy and non-involvement!)
For years this insidious plan has been in the works and it has been systematically implemented with the principals paying little attention to set-backs and delays. They have demonstrated a stronger resolve and THEY HAVE WON!
If you believe in traditional families and that marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman then I ask that you start acting like it and START VOTING like it! Do not buy the "cuteness" and "What will it hurt?" arguments whispered in your ears and marketed to our children. Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life.
These people are bullies and now that they are winning their true and hateful nature is much easier to see and hear. (Watch the response to this post.)
Do not condone same-sex "marriage" or their self-destructive (they also have a strong tendency for substance abuse), alternate lifestyle. Do not attend the "over the top" and "anything goes" ceremonies or parties that these people revel in. Look away from this scourge on society and condemn it. Starve it out and actively stand against this movement and those pushing it. Seek the dismissal of all those in the judiciary and legislature that support and seek to legalize same-sex "marriage."
My opponent for the Sixth District, Congressman Jim Clyburn, openly supports same-sex "marriage" even though the people of the Sixth District (that he was elected to represent but has chosen instead to abandon and ignore) are MORE AGAINST same-sex "marriage" than ANY other district in the State of South Carolina!
We have the numbers. We need the determination. If you cannot be actively involved then be one of the silent majority that does not aid same-sex "marriage" or it's advocates in ANY form. Stand against this and we will reverse it and drive it back into the darkness.
Voice your opinion with your vote on November 4th. Tell SC-6 Congressman Jim Clyburn that we stand against his support of same-sex "marriage" and the destruction of the traditional family and our values.
Vote Anthony Culler on November 4!
- Separatist 'Prime Minister': The Ceasefire In Ukraine Is Over
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 6:49 PM:)<>
The self-declared "prime minister" of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) has declared on Twitter that the month-old ceasefire between Ukraine and the separatist republic has ended.
Granted, this was the sort of cease-fire during which heavy combat was frequent, including fighting that destroyed much of the Donetsk airport. But on Monday, DNR leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko admitted what has been obvious for some time, and tweeted the following after a period of particularly heavy fighting in Donetsk:
После сегодняшнего обстрела ракетами Донецка перемирие даже формальное, надо считать прекращенным— Александр Захарченко (@government_dnr) October 20, 2014
Час назад укры нанесли удар в район старого терминала, после чего наши артиллеристы нанесли удар по позициям укропов в районе Песок.— Александр Захарченко (@government_dnr) October 20, 2014
According to a translation provided by The Interpreter, the first tweet says "after today's shelling of Donetsk with rockets, the ceasefire, even formally, has to be considered abandoned."
In Zakharchenko's second tweet, the prime minister conveyed a more combative message.
He wrote "an hour ago, the [Ukrainians] carried out a strike near the old terminal, after which our artillery carried out a strike on the dillweeds' positions near Peski."
Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country had reached a ceasefire in September during a round of peace talks in Minsk. The ceasefire, which would last throughout the duration of the still-ongoing peace talks, essentially froze the conflict's front lines — but without providing any actual cessation of hostilities.
Fighting between the Ukrainian government and the separatists has been particularly fierce around the city of Donetsk and the often-contested city's airport. Both sides have exchanged artillery fire, leading to civilian deaths and the almost complete destruction of the airport's infrastructure.
On Monday, a huge explosion sent shock waves that rattled significant portions of Donetsk.
DNR separatists claimed that the explosion was the result of a Ukrainian rocket hitting a rebel stronghold in the city. The Ukrainians have denied that they were responsible for the strike.
Regardless, the DNR has seized on the explosion as reason enough to declare that the barely holding ceasefire has come to an all-too-predictable close.
- Watch Giant Robots In Beijing Battle To Celebrate Diplomatic Relations With France
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 6:44 PM:)<>
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi attended an open-air show on Sunday to honor the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. And they did it in a very interesting way.Produced by Matt Johnston. Video courtesy of Associated Press.Follow BI Video: On Facebook
- Andrew Cuomo: My Brother Chris Cuomo Is One Of The Only Reporters 'I Can Trust'
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 4:13 PM:)<>
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) spends much of his new memoir "All Things Possible" raging against the media industry.
As Capital New York noted last week, Cuomo's book offers page after page of snarky comments toward the press, which he repeatedly describes as often ideological and unfair.
However, Cuomo, who is thought to have national ambitions, nevertheless said there was "at least one reporter" he could trust: CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, his younger brother.
"And a special thank-you to my brother, Chris, who has great advice and laughs for his older brother, and who showed me that there is at least one reporter whom I can trust," Cuomo wrote in the final, acknowledgments section of his book.
Cuomo's rocky relationship with the press apparently began back when he was working with his father, ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo (D), decades ago. Still, in the book, Cuomo contrasted the modern media landscape unfavorably with a reporter and a columnist who worked with his father early on his political career.
"Their articles often forced the government to remedy whatever problem they focused on — a far cry from some of today’s 'news outlets,' which are just proxies for knee-jerk ideological perspectives," he wrote.
Later, Cuomo panned "media outlets, which have become pitchmen for ideologies, creating their own echo chamber ... for those with similar political positions ... The competition places a premium on speed, not accuracy."
When Business Insider started noticing how often Cuomo took shots at the media in his book, we started marking the pages critical of the press. You can see just how many there were in the photo on the right.
In other parts of the book, Cuomo noted the "Albany media dubbed" him as "Darth Vader" and the "Prince of Darkness" after he told numerous state workers they were losing their jobs in his father's new administration. The "Albany media loves to foment 'scandals,'" Cuomo remarked later. After Cuomo's 2002 campaign for governor crashed, he wrote: "I was horrified to be negatively portrayed in the newspapers again ... Coming after the campaign loss, the papers and my political enemies enjoyed throwing dirt on the grave."
Cuomo, a former HUD secretary in the Clinton administration, further described the conservative Washington Times as an unforgiving nemesis. He also said a "nasty" New York Times reporter "knew what he was doing" when he allegedly quoted Cuomo out of context and helped create a controversy. Cuomo even accused a Daily News reporter of breaking the law when an aide accidentally let the journalist listen in on a 2010 campaign meeting.
Cuomo also described repeatedly battling the New York Post, which he accused of running "propaganda" against his father in their campaigns against former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (D).
"[A] New York Post poll showed us down by 18 points. I knew the poll was wrong, and I suspect they did, too," he wrote of the news organization, "but it was their last piece of propaganda to dispirit our supporters."
- Monica Lewinsky Gives Tearful Speech About Falling 'In Love' With Bill Clinton And Being Shamed Online
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 3:24 PM:)<>
Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky gave an emotional speech about her role in one of the world's most infamous sex scandals on Monday in Philadelphia at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.
According to multiple tweets from audience members, Lewinsky began by saying she fell "in love" with President Bill Clinton and that their affair was her "everything."
The main theme of Lewinsky's speech was public humiliation and privacy in the age of the internet. Multiple attendees say Lewinksy teared up as she discussed her "shame."
She described herself as the first person to be the center of negative attention in the modern digital-media cycle.
"Overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was patient zero," Lewinsky said.
She reportedly discussed celebrity nude-photo hacking and said the recent theft of private photos from several famous actresses shows "anyone can be next."
Lewinsky spent years out of the spotlight following the scandal that erupted after her affair with Clinton. However, she has recently begun a return to public life. Prior to taking the stage at the Forbes Summit, Lewinsky launched her Twitter account.
In July, she began contributing to Vanity Fair, where she has also made online "shaming" a focus of her work.
Forbes has posted a recap of the speech here. You can also read some quotes and reviews from Lewinsky's remarks below.
This post was updated with additional links at 11:35 a.m.
- We're About To Find Out China's Threshold For Pain
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 3:20 PM:)<>
Stay laser focused on China for the next 60 hours.
What happens over that time period could significantly shift what happens in that country both economically and politically.
On the economic side, the country will release data on three crucial metrics — GDP, retail sales, and industrial production. This is key in understanding whether the Chinese economy is staying its rough course to normalization, or veering off the rails.
Politically, Communist party leaders are gathering for the Fourth Plenum. In this meeting they'll discuss the legal future of the country — or, as the party put it, issues related to 'governing the country according to law.'
The numbers will come out at or around 10:00 PM EST. If they're generally good, expect the Communist Party to continue to allow the country's economy to slow as it has been. It means that the 2014 7.5% GDP growth target is still within reach and there's nothing to see here. Move along.
But there plenty of reason to believe these numbers won't be good. In September, China got its worst data dump since 2008. Retail sales, property, foreign investment — everything was incredibly weak. Add to that a cash crunch for already flailing Chinese corporations — flailing due to thinning margins and deflating producer-price index — and banks that are sidled with tons of debt.
It's not a pretty picture.
So far the Chinese government has maintained that it will only engage in "targeted easing" measures — like pumping a measly $32 billion into banks. If things are bad, that won't be enough. Societe Generale analyst Wei Yao argues that what's really needed is a full-scale restructuring of the corporate sector, not a few dozen cash injection band-aids.
But restructuring isn't really on the table here. What is on the table is a return to what China was doing before, lowering interest rates and turning on the money spigot to keep cash flowing through the economy.
In other words — we're going to get a sense of China's threshold for pain.
On the political side, we're about to get into something even deeper — China's sense of self.
Is China going to remain a country dominated by the elite of the party — or, even more increasingly, dominated by those connected to President Xi Jinping — or is there going to be a legitimate move toward an equitable rule of law.
Here's how the party put it in a statement:
"Governing according to law holds the key to the CPC's leadership, the people's well-being, deepening reform and long-term stability". Moreover, it emphasized that "Governing according to law has become more significant in the entire agenda of the Party and the nation, due to new circumstances, and the rule of law is crucial to modern governance".
"China enters a critical phase in realizing a moderately prosperous society, and as reform sails into uncharted waters, the CPC is confronted with unprecedented challenges, risks and conflicts, above all, the balancing of reform, development and stability". The CPC should "pool social resources, balance social interests, readjust social relations and streamline social activities, so that society will be orderly and thrive while undergoing profound changes" according to the statement.
Whether this happens or not is a story that will take a long to play out, but China-watchers have noticed some troubling trends. The must-read China piece of the weekend was written by Fordham Professor Carl Minzner for the LA Times. It was called 'China Is Turning In On Itself.'
In it, Minzner details a significant shift in the Chinese political dialectic, indicating the regime's intention to change the country's identity from the top down. The shift is a return to embracing Chinese tradition ancient legal culture.
Yes, the country will continue to embrace capitalism (think: former market-friendly ruler Deng Xiaoping) but foreigners — and foreign ideas — will not have the same place in China.
"China is again slowly turning in on itself," Minzner wrote. "New party slogans stress “traditional” culture and values. The language of Confucianism is increasingly being invoked to legitimize a new dynasty of red emperors. Windows are being shut. State researchers are being warned against foreign collaboration. Archives previously open to Western scholars are being closed off. And Beijing is reaching for a fly swatter — or a hammer — to deal with influences it perceives as threats. Liberal public interest lawyers are being subjected to a chilling crackdown; Christian churches in Zhejiang province to a selective demolition campaign; Hong Kong pro-democracy media to increasing intimidation."
Xi's China is one of "corruption" crackdowns, but will this concern for the rule of law serve to put these "red emperors" on more equal footing with the masses, or simply thing their ranks to those who agree with Xi and only Xi?
Hold that thought.
- How The US Military Should Cope With The Mental-Health Effects Of A Decade At War
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 3:05 PM:)<>
Foreign Policy's managing editor, Yochi Dreazen, has had an accomplished career as a conflict journalist and spent five years reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. But his first book, "The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War," spends relatively little time on the battlefield.
It's about the psychological traumas of war — and what the US military is and isn't doing to assist soldiers affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues.
The book tells the story of the efforts of two-star general Mark Graham and his wife, Carol, to change the Army's attitudes toward mental health after losing both of their sons in a few short months.
Jeffrey Graham, a second lieutenant in the Army, was killed by a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. His brother, Kevin, a promising Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, killed himself months earlier, and had gone off of his antidepressants because he feared discovery of his depression would lead to the end of his military career.
The Grahams succeeded in pushing for antisuicide and mental-health reforms in the military. But the first half of 2014 saw an uptick in the military's already troubling active-duty suicide rate.
And as Dreazen explained in an exclusive interview with Business Insider, there's still a lot of work to be done.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can read an excerpt from "The Invisible Front" here.
BI: Most Americans aren't veterans and haven’t served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Do you think the American public really has an adequate understanding of what veterans have been through and what the military as a whole has been through in the past decade-plus?
Yochi Dreazen: I don’t. I think in some ways the military doesn’t understand the civilian world and the civilian world doesn’t understand the military. I think the gap between the two is really heartbreaking and potentially kind of dangerous in the long term.
Part of it is that only 1% of the country serves. But part of it is that that 1% doesn’t live in the major cities, for the most part. It’s clustered in the South or in the Midwest. The bulk of the country that lives in cities probably will never meet somebody who serves, or, if they meet them, they won’t have them as a close friend or family member.
So when we’re in the airport and we see somebody walk by in uniform and people thank them for their service or they applaud, that’s a wonderful thing compared to post-Vietnam, when that wasn’t the case. But paired with that is a complete lack of connection or understanding …
You have the civilian bubble, and the military bubble and oftentimes people don’t go from one to the other.
BI: Not only does the civilian world not have an adequate idea of what the people in the military have gone through, but the military world hasn’t been able to integrate some of the attitudes of the civilian world toward certain issues like mental health. How optimistic are you that this can change?
Yochi Dreazen: I think it’s changing, but very slowly.
The military obviously is the definition of a hierarchy. You have people at the top who are talking about stigma and the importance of seeking help [for PTSD], and saying that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness. There’s a ton of money and hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by the military on the issue.
What’s tough is that to really change something you have to have someone at the top not simply say in a general sense “go seek help, it won’t harm your career” but in a very specific sense say, “I sought help and it didn’t harm my career.”
Over the course of the book I interviewed close to a dozen generals, people I had personally known from Iraq and Afghanistan. When we were talking — off-record at first — they were telling me about how they couldn’t sleep or they had anger flashes or their family didn’t recognize them. Most of them did not use the phrase PTSD, but they were clearly talking about PTSD.
When I said to them, general so-and-so, it would be valuable for me to use that in the book, and it would really help a lot of people to know that somebody could go as far as you’ve gone with the issues you’ve wrestled with. And, with one exception, they all said no.
So when we’re talking about how to change a culture, if the people at the top who are the people everyone else in that culture looks to. If they won’t talk about it, it won’t change. And right now they won’t talk about it.
BI: The book concludes that the problems around PTSD are only going to get worse, and it notes that there are still tens of thousands of World War II veterans being treated for it. What can we do to make sure that the problem doesn’t substantially worsen in the future?
Yochi Dreazen: I think there are three things that can be done. They’re difficult but I think they are doable ...
One is having people at the very top, having generals who have had this disorder talk about it so that people at the bottom can see that if they can seek help, their career will not end, they can still be promoted up, and they can still be a success in the military. I can’t overstate how important that would be.
Number two — and in some ways this is a much more practical one, but it’s gigantic — is simply to make it harder for a person to get a gun. Ninety percent of military suicides, if not higher, are with handguns. And a lot of times these are handguns that were issued to the person, but a lot of the time they were personal weapons.
Israel had a case for a while where they noticed a giant spike of military suicides. And when the Israelis looked into it what they realized is that for decades when soldiers went home on leave they took their weapons with them. It was a safety thing, and part of the culture of the Israeli military.
So they did the logical thing, which was take those weapons away and say, if you’re leaving on a Friday, you leave your gun and your pick it up on a Monday. And the suicide rate plummeted.
There are little things we know from the civilian world that can help. Trigger guards make it so you have to unlock a gun to be able to use it. It’s an easy thing to do. They cost about $2 to put in. Giving one to every soldier would help, but it’s not being done.
The third thing — and this is something that we as a culture can do — is that it’s very easy for us to just say that we support the troops.
The hard thing to do is to actually meet someone who’s served and try to actually talk to them. And they’ll be somewhat reluctant because they might say, you’re a civilian, you can’t understand, how could you possibly know?
But it will open up, and it will change, and it will help the people who come back and feel lonely and think the rest of the world doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about them. Even just that little human connection can make an enormous difference.
- This Proposed British Tax Cut Is The Stupidest Idea Ever
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 2:40 PM:)<>
A small coalition of business leaders and Conservative Party members of parliament are calling for a tax cut for Britain's tourism industry to undercut support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain's seaside towns.
The 87 MPs who support the Cut Tourism VAT campaign want to lower the rate of value added tax on tourism from the current 20% to just 5%. Supporters claim that even though the plan would initially hurt government tax revenues, it would eventually supply as much as 80,000 new jobs and an estimated £2.6 billion to the Treasury in the next 10 years.
At the same time, the group has suggested that the tax cut offers a route for the government to counteract a surge in support for UKIP in Britain's tourist-centered seaside retreats. Graham Wason, chairman of the campaign, told the FT:
Dismissing tourism in coastal towns that rely on the industry is likely to lose the Conservatives more seats. Britain’s VAT rate on accommodation and attractions is one of the highest in the EU, putting British tourism at a serious competitive disadvantage.
The Conservative leadership may be forced to consider the plan, but here are the many reasons they should reject both the campaign's analysis of the problem and its solution:
People who support UKIP don't list tax as a major concern.
In fact, according to a YouGov poll in February self-declared UKIP supporters are less likely to rank tax as one of the most important issues facing the country than the population as a whole. Only 6% of UKIP respondents put tax as one of the top three issues facing the UK, compared to 10% of all respondents.
Instead, the survey suggests that the issues that appear to motivate UKIP supporters are immigration and asylum, the economy and Europe. This is somewhat unsurprising for a party that campaigns on promises to leave the European Union (EU) and take back powers over Britain's borders.
Moreover, even if voters in Britain's struggling seaside towns were minded to be brutally pragmatic they might be more concerned by the impact that leaving the EU could have on the tourism trade rather than what tax rate those visitors may have to pay. Here the Conservative Party's pledge of an in/out referendum if they win a majority in the General Election next year would hardly be reassuring.
What it strongly suggests is that a tax cut is unlikely to sway large sections of the electorate in areas where UKIP has been gaining ground.
Promising a VAT cut for a particular industry in order to buy votes could backfire badly.
Even if the giveaway did work in fending off the UKIP threat, the government would be giving up tax revenue just as it attempts to undergo "one of the biggest deficit reduction programmes seen in any advanced economy since World War II."
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that reducing VAT to 5% for all catering services provided by restaurants, pubs, cafes and canteens would cost the Exchequer between £9 billion and £10 billion a year. Cutting VAT to 5% for accommodation would cost the Exchequer an estimated £2 billion a year.
Gauke said that the government had concluded, contrary to the Cut Tourism VAT campaign claims, that "a VAT cut would not produce sufficient economic growth to outweigh the revenue shortfall." That is, it would amount to an unfunded giveaway that is highly unlikely to add to growth (at least for the period 2015-2020 in which the government is attempting to close Britain's budget deficit).
Rather than galvanizing support, such a move could anger traditional Tory voters who tend to be hostile to such examples of state largesse.
It muddies the waters of the tax cut debate.
Those who support tax cuts as they believe higher taxes have a negative effect on economic growth could find their position substantially weakened by opportunistic giveaways that are, at best, likely to have a marginal impact.
There may well be a case for reducing VAT in the UK. The flat tax hits the poorest hardest as companies pass on the cost to customers by raising prices.
The fear is that selectively cutting it in certain sectors for political gain could undermine the broader debate over regressive indirect taxation in the country.
- Monica Lewinsky Has Joined Twitter
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 1:50 PM:)<>
Monica Lewsinky, the former White House intern whose affair with President Bill Clinton led to a major scandal, began using Twitter on Monday.
Though her account is not yet verified, Vanity Fair seemed to confirm is authenticity with a message posted on the magazine's official account. Vanity Fair did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Lewinsky isn't following anyone yet, but within her first hour on Twitter, she has already amassed more than 500 followers.
View the tweets from Lewinsky and Vanity Fair below.
- John Oliver Replaced Supreme Court Justices With Adorable Dogs — And It Was Amazing
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 1:20 PM:)<>
Comedian John Oliver devoted an entire segment of his Sunday night show to lampooning the Supreme Court for its policy banning video cameras in the courtroom.
However, because audio recordings are allowed, Oliver had more than enough material for his show, "Last Week Tonight."
Oliver noted the popularity of the "Keyboard Cat" YouTube video and decided to do the same thing with the US' highest court. His staff dressed up a bunch of dogs as judges and lawyers and then had them re-enact Supreme Court proceedings using the actual audio.
"As a public service, we are releasing raw video," Oliver announced. "We are inviting all news networks to use this footage to make Supreme Court arguments more compelling to watch."
He proceeded to offer a number of specific clips for newscasts.
"You need Alito covering his ears with his paws, or banging a gavel, or humping Elena Kagan?" he asked. "We have all of those things!"
Watch the full segment below.
- The US Is Taking Full Advantage Of ISIS Fighters Gathering Around Kobani
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 12:25 PM:)<>
Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to switch his position on the Syrian town of Kobani on Monday, declaring it "irresponsible" to not help the Kurds there fighting the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS or ISIL), according to the Associated Press.
"We have undertaken a coalition effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, and ISIL is presenting itself in major numbers in this place called Kobani," Kerry said during a trip to Indonesia. "It would be irresponsible of us, as well [as] morally very difficult, to turn your back on a community fighting ISIL as hard as it is at this particular moment."
Earlier in October, Kerry was much more dismissive toward Kobani. He urged the public to take a broader view of the conflict and to not simply focus on the town, which he said was not strategically important.
"Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centers, the infrastructure," he said then, according to Reuters. "We are trying to deprive the (Islamic State) of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani but throughout Syria and into Iraq."
The US announced Sunday night that it started airdropping weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies in Kobani. A senior administration official said the Islamic State had prioritized the city, shifting significant numbers of fighters and weapons there. So the US decided to prioritize it as well.
"ISIS decided Kobani was important to them. This provided us with an opportunity," the official said. Another official later added that ISIS would "suffer significant losses for its focus on Kobani."
The US has spent the past week pummeling ISIS targets in Kobani. Central Command said the US military had conducted 135 total airstrikes in Kobani to date, killing "hundreds" of fighters while slowing the group's advances into the city.
At the same time, however, Kerry noted that it was a "momentary effort" and made it "very, very clear" to Turkey "that this is not a shift in policy by the United States."
Still, the US military warned in a press release that the city remained in danger of falling to the jihadists.
"However, the security situation in Kobani remains fragile as ISIL continues to threaten the city and Kurdish forces continue to resist," it said. "As the US Central Command commander has noted, Kobani could still fall."
- POLL: Key Voters Say US 'Out Of Control Right Now'
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 11:52 AM:)<>
A new poll of competitive House and Senate districts found a strong majority — 64% — of likely voters says the US is "out of control right now" when asked how they feel about their country.
In comparison, only 36% of respondents in the the Politico survey agreed with the statement: "I'm confident that the US is in a good position to meet its economic and national security challenges."
Multiple challenges are contributing to this sense of being out of control. The US is locked in an extended battle with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in the Middle East, the epicenter of several other hotspots of instability. The Ebola virus has whipped up new fears. And voters showed mixed feelings about President Barack Obama's managerial skills and his signature healthcare policy.
"If it's not one thing, it's another that’s coming up," Elizabeth Ivey, a Florida insurance agent, told the pollster, according to Politico. "I am worried about ISIS; I think it's something that we need to keep over, away from our country. I do support us going over there and fighting in the Middle East."
The poll, conducted by the research firm GfK, found individual Democratic and Republican candidates neck-and-neck in those same competitive districts for the November midterm election. The Democratic nominees held 44% of the respondents' total support, compared with 41% for the Republicans, after the likely voters were pressed on whom they preferred.
View the full survey below.
- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - October 20 2014 - 6:46 AM:)<>
Welcome back from the weekend! Here's what you need to know for Monday.
1. Two female Japanese ministers resigned on Monday. "Yuko Obuchi, trade and industry minister, resigned over allegations of improper use of political funds, and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima, 58, quit over claims she breached election laws," Bloomberg reports.
2. Dozens of people in Dallas who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient from Liberia who died from Ebola, have been declared risk-free of contracting the virus, The New York Times reports.
3. The 44-year-old Spanish nurse who was the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa has also tested negative for the virus.
4. The Carnival Magic cruise ship carrying a Dallas health worker who reportedly handled specimens from Duncan returned to its home port of Galveston, Texas, early Sunday morning, after the lab technician tested negative for the virus.
5. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled major economic reforms on Sunday including "a deregulation of diesel prices and a hike in natural gas prices," CNBC reports.
6. The pro-democracy protests that have gripped Hong Kong for roughly a month are becoming "increasingly violent," according to the South China Morning Post, especially after attempts by police to clear the main Mong Kok demonstration site.
7. The United States airdropped weapons and medical supplies to Kurdish forces in the Syrian town of Kobani on Sunday in an effort to help combat Islamic State militants.
8. Lufthansa pilots announced a strike on Monday and lasting into Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of 1,450 flights.
9. Canada is shipping 800 vials of an experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization in Geneva on Monday.
10. Comet Siding Spring passed within 87,000 miles of Mars on Sunday, an event that won't happen again for another one million years.
And finally ...