- Rick Perry Just Released A 'Wanted' Shirt With His Mug Shot
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 8:45 PM:)<>
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) seems to be enjoying the spotlight that has come with pushing back to his recent indictment.
The latest move: His new political action committee unveiled a T-shirt featuring Perry's mug shot. The back of the shirt features the mug shot of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose character Perry has repeatedly tried to attack while making her the poster child of his pushback.
The caption under Perry's mug shot says he's "wanted" for "securing the border and defeating Democrats." Lehmberg's side says she's "wanted" for "driving while intoxicated and perversion of justice."
Perry has aggressively targeted Lehmberg after he was indicted on felony charges one week ago. Perry is being accused of abusing his office by threatening to veto funding for a state-level, Lehmberg-led public integrity unit after her arrest — unless she resigned. Perry has said Lehmberg's arrest gave him justification to push her out of office.
It should be noted, however, that a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, is pressing the felony charges against Perry.
Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has mixed his accusations of a political witch hunt with some lighthearted moves. Among other things, he cracked a slight smile in his mug shot and took a trip to a local ice cream stand after his booking.
- RAND PAUL: 'Let The Democrats Put Forward A War Hawk Like Hillary Clinton'
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 8:42 PM:)<>
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) seems itching to take on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.
Paul told NBC News in an interview that Democrats nominating a "war hawk" like Clinton would redefine the political balance between the two parties.
"If you want to see a transformational election, let the Democrats put forward a war hawk like Hillary Clinton, and you'll see a transformation like you've never seen," Paul said in an excerpt clip provided in advance of the Sunday airing of his interview on "Meet the Press."
Paul, a libertarian-leaning conservative, has staked out foreign policy positions less aggressive than many of his potential Republican rivals. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) have all backed President Barack Obama's ongoing airstrikes against jihadist forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq, but Paul said he had "mixed feelings" on the matter.
Meanwhile, Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, has said the administration wasn't aggressive enough in certain elements of its foreign policy. Notably, she argued Obama should have armed more moderate Syrians, which she said might have stymied the recent ISIS surge.
Paul gave the "Meet the Press" interview in Guatemala, where he is currently on a medical mission.
- Republicans Are Trying To Conquer Alaska For Its Oil
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 8:18 PM:)<>
If Barack Obama has to spend his final two years in office using his veto as often as his golf clubs, he will curse Alaska's primary voters. On August 19th Republicans picked Dan Sullivan to run for the US Senate, a safer choice than Joe Miller, who wants to do to government what lumberjacks do to trees.
Mr Miller's unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2010 tested the limits of Alaska's appetite for small-government populism, a cause that was not helped when his security team inadvertently handcuffed a reporter.
Fearing a repeat this year, the Republican National Committee and some munificent donors got behind Mr Sullivan instead. For the same reasons, Democrats spent close to $4m trying to put Republican primary voters off him. It did not work.
As in all the other competitive GOP Senate primaries this year, Republican voters took a pragmatic turn and picked the candidate with the best chance of winning in November. Paddy Power, a bookmaker, gives the Republicans a 73% chance of capturing the Senate (see chart).Mr Sullivan looks like a strong candidate: he has served as Alaska's attorney-general and natural resources commissioner and as a trade negotiator under George W. Bush. He faces Mark Begich, a Democrat who won only narrowly in 2008, even though his opponent, the late Ted Stevens, spent much of the campaign on trial for corruption. (Republicans are still furious that this trial probably tipped the result. Stevens was found guilty just before the election; the verdict was later struck down because rogue prosecutors had suppressed exculpatory evidence.)
On election night the Begich and Sullivan campaigns celebrated in rival pizza restaurants a block apart. Mr Begich told his supporters he was running to save Medicare, to protect the rights of women and to boost the minimum wage. Mr Sullivan was less talkative, though a spokesman said he would campaign on preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from stifling economic development.
In a state that is deep red in presidential elections, and in a tough year for Democrats nationally, this match-up ought to favour the GOP. Yet in Alaska, where the highest federal spending per person coexists with a suspicion of Washington's interference, the obvious thing does not always happen.
Mr Sullivan is a newcomer to electoral politics. Mr Begich is a better campaigner and benefits from his family's long political history in the state. His father was a member of the House of Representatives who died in office when a plane carrying him disappeared somewhere between Anchorage, the main commercial city, and Juneau, the capital.
More importantly, Mr Begich is a pro-gun, pro-drilling sort of Democrat, the kind of political hybrid that Alaskans like. The state's other senator, Lisa Murkowski, is a rare pro-choice Republican and one of the few senators willing to buck her party.
Alaskans' love of combinations that would taste odd in the lower 48, as they call the rest of continental America, was also brought out by a ballot measure on taxing oil companies. Hydrocarbons provide the state with 90% of its annual budget.
The University of Alaska, Anchorage estimates that on average in 2010 a family of four gained $22,000 of benefits from Alaskan oil, in the form of tax relief, dividends from a fund that doles out petrodollars and more generous public services. This dependence goes along with some resentment of oil firms' influence on politics.
The state's revenues from oil, which track the price of crude, have remained buoyant but oil production has declined steadily since its peak in 1988. This has generated a long-running argument about whether the likes of ExxonMobil and BP should be taxed to squeeze as much revenue as possible from a dwindling asset or more lightly so as to encourage exploration that might boost production.
In 2007 the squeezers won when a proposal to increase taxes on oil firms was championed and signed by the then governor, Sarah Palin (pictured). This was later replaced with a tax rate that did not change with the oil price, a formula that oil firms prefer. The ballot measure, which would have brought back the old law, was narrowly defeated, though not before Mrs Palin found herself on the same side as the state's most progressive Democrats.
The fight was expensive: the oil companies spent $14m campaigning to persuade a population smaller than that of San Francisco to keep the law as it is.
Reporters spotted buses laid on by the firms to get workers to the polling booths. The industry's opponents spent only $500,000 but lost by just 7,000 votes. This is unlikely to settle the question: Alaska has made 19 substantial changes to the way oil production is taxed since 1973, says Gunnar Knapp of the University of Alaska, Anchorage. But the closeness of the campaign suggests that the Senate seat will be harder for Republicans to win than their strategists realise.
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- Here's How The Kremlin's English-Language Propaganda Organs Are Spinning Russia's Incursion Into Ukraine
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 8:09 PM:)<>
The current situation in Ukraine is reaching a head as Russian armor and aid trucks are freely flowing over the boarder, an act that Ukraine has called a "direct invasion."
For the first time in months of crisis, NATO accused Russia of directly intervening in Ukraine's restive east, where Kiev has been fighting Russian-supported separatists.
Separatists in the east of the country have routinely received arms and logistical support, at the least, from Russia. But this time, Russian personnel and military vehicles are coming over the border as well, threatening to inflame and already dangerous situation.
Reading through Russian state media, however, presents a mirror-opposite account of the realities on the ground.
We have collected some of the most bizarre headlines from Russian media during what's turning into one of the most anxious moments of the Ukraine crisis.
RT shifted the blame for the chaos in Ukraine to the government in Kiev, accusing them of a "bloody" campaign at the same time that Russia's incursion was in progress.
RT also ignored the violation of Ukraine's borders while covering the convoy.
Kremlin-linked news service ITAR-TASS took a combative note, accusing the West of ignoring "humanity" in their policies towards Ukraine.
Itar-Tass also reports how Russia is hoping for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to help distribute aid — despite the fact that Russia kept the ICRC out of the loop as much as possible in its attempted delivery of an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine last week.
Voice of Russia is currently running heavily militaristic headlines, proclaiming the separatists to be "self-defense fighters."
Voice of Russia is also continuing to feature a story from June on its front page declaring CIA-trained "killers" to be operating with Ukrainian government forces.
- White House: Russia Tried To Sneak Military Vehicles Into Ukraine By Painting Them Like Civilian Trucks
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 7:57 PM:)<>
The White House accused Russia of painting military vehicles to look like ordinary civilian trucks, as Ukraine claimed there was a "direct invasion" by a Russian convoy without its consent.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council, said on Friday that Russia was forcing its way into Ukraine. She said the move violates international law and will force additional "consequences" for Russia.
"Russia’s decision today to send in its vehicles and personnel without the [International Committee of the Red Cross] and without the express permission of the Ukrainian authorities only amplifies international concerns about Russia’s true intentions," Hayden said in a statement.
"It is important to remember that Russia is purporting to alleviate a humanitarian situation which Russia itself created — a situation that has caused the deaths of thousands, including 300 innocent passengers of flight MH17. If Russia really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies. This is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately."
In a statement earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a "column of more than 100 vehicles entered Ukrainian territory without a customs inspection, without border control or International Red Cross escort." He also accused Russia of violating international law.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen similarly condemned the unauthorized entry. For the first time, he also accused Russia of directly intervening in Ukraine, including direct artillery support both from across the border and within Ukraine.
In her statement, Hayden said Russia has continued to maintain a "sizeable" force of combat-ready troops along the border. She also charged that Russia is providing an "ever-increasing stream" of weapons and fighters to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, invoking Russia's initial denials of direct involvement in the region of Crimea as evidence they should not be trusted.
"As a result, the international community has been profoundly concerned that Russia’s actions today are nothing but a pretext for further Russian escalation of the conflict," Hayden said. "We recall that Russia denied its military was occupying Crimea until it later admitted its military role and attempted to annex this part of Ukraine."
- Russia's 'Eurasian Union' Shows Putin's Nostalgia For The Soviet Union
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 7:46 PM:)<>
"It is like you've been dating a girl for a long time," grins Pavel Andreev, an editor at a state-controlled broadcaster, Rossiya Segodnya, explaining why it has taken so long to press ahead with the Eurasian Union. "You've met the parents, you've spent a weekend with the families, and now you want to get engaged...Eurasian integration has been painfully slow, but it's moving forward."
Often seen as an artefact of Vladimir Putin's nostalgia for the Soviet Union, the Eurasian Union has been largely ignored in the West. Yet it is in the margins of a Eurasian Union summit in Minsk next week that Mr Putin will meet the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. And it was the decision by Mr Poroshenko's predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, to embrace the project, rejecting a deal with the European Union, which touched off last winter's protests in Kiev.
That decision was not simply a capitulation to Russian empire-building, for this is not what Russia wants. Rather, says Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, it chafes over the lack of a big group that gives it more standing with the EU.
The offices of the Eurasian Union, or the Eurasian Economic Commission as it is officially known, are in a swanky Moscow high-rise building festooned with gold letters. In the lobby, clocks showing the time in the union's three capitals--Moscow, Minsk, and Astana--cluster together, leaving plenty of room for more. Besides Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia is keen to add Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia's president, Serzh Sargsyan, has said he will join. But Mr Poroshenko is just an observer.
Russian officials tout the union's potential--trade could include everything from Belarus's heavy machinery to Kazakhstani beef (see "Kazakhstan: Steaks from the steppe"). Trade within the union has grown by over 30% since 2011, they say. Yet Mr Trenin says the economic benefits of expansion are questionable. Discounting the initial burst after the removal of trade barriers in early 2011, annual trade growth has been more like 1.5%. Some officials say it will pick up, as it did with the EU. But the union's own trade minister, Andrey Slepnev, does not think it will pull Russia's economy out of stagnation.
With expectations so low, you might wonder what the Eurasian Union is for. A former Armenian foreign minister, Alexander Arzoumanian, fears that Russia wants to dominate small countries and resurrect the Soviet Union. But Mr Slepnev insists that Russia has no control over others. In June Belarus and Kazakhstan vetoed a Russian effort to get the Eurasian Union to block duty-free imports from Ukraine. And Russia also dropped its plan for a Eurasian parliament after Kazakhstan objected.
According to Konstantin Sonin of Moscow's Higher School of Economics, it is the smaller members that will reap the economic benefits of integration, in the form of lower energy prices from Russian producers such as Gazprom and Rosneft. Without such carrots, he says, countries like Belarus would turn to the EU, just as Ukraine is now doing.
Mr Putin's desire for Eurasian integration despite its lack of economic benefits for Russia may seem odd. But some analysts argue that Russia seeks footholds in countries such as Ukraine and Armenia not to control them, but just to curtail Western influence. As with the clocks in the Eurasian Union's Moscow lobby, Russia wants not power so much as the appearance of power. Because it sees any gain for the West as a loss to itself, Russia will continue to promote its pet project.
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- White House Fires Back After A Government Watchdog Ruled The Bowe Bergdahl Swap Was Illegal
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 7:29 PM:)<>
The White House isn't backing down after the Government Accountability Office determined its high-profile prisoner swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl broke the law.
Asked about the GAO decision, which was revealed in a letter released Thursday, a spokesman for President Barack Obama said the administration "strongly" rejects the legal argument against it. Notably, the spokesman, Eric Schultz, said Obama's constitutional obligations as president trumped the GAO's concerns.
"It’s not going to surprise you to know that we strongly disagree with GAO’s conclusion and we reject the implication that the administration acted unlawfully. The president has the constitutional responsibility to protect the lives of Americans abroad and specifically to protect U.S. service members. It’s important for everyone here to understand that the GAO report expressly does not address the lawfulness of the administration's actions as a matter of constitutional law," Schultz told reporters at a Friday media briefing.
The administration drew considerable criticism in early June when it secured the release of Bergdahl, who was held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years, in exchange for five Taliban-affiliated detainees who were being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.
At the time, some senators insisted Obama had broke the law by not properly notifying Congress in advance of the exchange — an argument at least partially validated by the GAO. Additionally, some questioned whether the U.S. was hurting national security interests by releasing those five prisoners. Still others accused Bergdahl of deserting his unit before he was captured.
But Schultz said the president is always going to prioritize protecting U.S. military personnel — no matter what.
"The president was very clear that our commitment to men and women serving oversees — to leave none of them behind — is a bedrock principle for him," he said. "One that doesn’t come with caveats."
- The White House Just Gave Its Strongest Hint Yet That The Fight Against ISIS Could Expand
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 6:49 PM:)<>
The White House continued to ratchet up its rhetoric against the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), calling the group's brutal execution of American journalist James Foley a "terrorist attack" against the United States.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, told reporters Friday that the U.S. would not be "restricted to borders" in responding to terror threats emerging from the group. He hinted that any long-term strategy to confront ISIS has to "deal with both sides of the border" of Iraq and Syria.
"When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack. That represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen," Rhodes said in a press conference from Martha's Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing through the weekend.
"If you come after Americans, we're going to come after you wherever you are," he added.
Rhodes' comments were the latest signal the U.S. could consider going after the group across the border in Syria. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the group "beyond anything we've seen" in terms of its military sophistication and funding.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the U.S.'s top military general, said the group would need to be confronted in Syria as part of any long-term strategy to "contain" ISIS.
"This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no."
Rhodes said, as of now, that Obama has not been presented with military options aside from the U.S.'s ongoing campaign in Iraq, but did not rule out military action there.
"We're actively considering what is necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders," Rhodes said.
On Friday, U.S. Central Command said three more airstrikes had been carried out near the key strategic stronghold of the Mosul Dam, bringing the total number of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq to 93 over the past two weeks.
The Obama administration has clearly stiffened its rhetoric against ISIS over the past few weeks, as the group has made gains in Iraq and after the brutal murder of Foley. In a statement on Foley's death Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the group would be "crushed." Obama compared the group on Wednesday to a "cancer" that had "no place in the 21st century."
- BREMMER: Putin Just Called Ukraine's Bluff
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 5:27 PM:)<>
By pushing an "aid" convoy across the border without the consent of Ukrainian authorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Ukraine's and the West's bluff, Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer said.
NATO harshly condemned the aid convoy's unauthorized entry into Ukraine, and it said for the first time that it had evidence of direct Russian military involvement in Ukraine. The European Union commission urged Russia to "reverse its decision." The Pentagon told Russia to "remove its vehicles immediately."
But the "or else" threats from the West have been piling up for months in the Ukrainian crisis. And Putin suspects that Ukraine will not fire on the convoy, which would give Russia a pretext for more direct intervention.
Putin also knows the European Union and U.S. are unlikely to directly intervene, as they are looking to calm tensions in the region and for a possible cease-fire. Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko are scheduled to meet next week in Minsk, Belarus, the first time the two will have met face-to-face since June. It's the best chance in a while that European leaders have seen to defuse the crisis.
"Meanwhile, Russia has been losing on the military front in southeast Ukraine. So the advantage to Russia is to get the humanitarian convoy in and sit there, making it much more difficult for the Ukrainian government to defeat the separatists. The separatists, in turn, can take the time to rearm and reorganize," Bremmer told Business Insider in an email.
"Putin just called Ukraine's bluff ... and Ukraine (wisely, in my view) has chosen not to attack the convoy," Bremmer added. "But that means what we've known all along. Putin was never going to allow Ukraine to 'win' this conflict. We're back to the long game."
And the long game, for Putin, is maintaining a direct influence over Kiev without a direct invasion. It includes continuing to train and arm the pro-Russian separatists to keep up the military pressure on Ukraine while its economy continues to teeter on the brink of collapse. A Russian military invasion continues to be "Plan B."
The key question in the aftermath of the aid convoy's unauthorized entry is whether the EU and the U.S. will be willing to increase sanctions on Russia. Bremmer does not expect them to do so before Tuesday, when Putin and Poroshenko are scheduled to meet.
"You have a meeting planned in a few days between Putin and Poroshenko," Bremmer said. "The Europeans seriously want to de-escalate the crisis if they can, and that's the best opportunity they've seen.
"Granted, Russia has ignored all of the West's warnings to date — sending more military material and now pushing their humanitarian convoy into Ukraine without international agreement. The U.S., Europe, and NATO have all warned Russia not to do that 'or else,' but the 'or else' has gotten them precisely nothing to date."
- Harry Reid Apologizes For Saying Asians Aren't 'Smarter Than Anybody Else'
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 5:13 PM:)<>
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) apologized Friday after making at least two jokes about the Asian-Americans at an event the day before.
"I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are," Reid told the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, according to video posted by Time magazine.
At the same event, Reid also quipped, "One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight."
Both jokes elicited laughter from the crowd. But, after Time published the video, Reid nevertheless apologized and said they were "in extremely poor taste."
"My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize," Reid said. "Sometimes I say the wrong thing."
As The Washington Post noted, Reid has a history of making colorful and sometimes controversial remarks. He once reportedly said President Barack Obama had "no Negro dialect — unless he wanted to have one," for example, and has called Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) "the hottest member" of the Senate.
- A Maryland Mayor Set Up A Ridiculous Tent After Being Evicted From City Hall
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 3:57 PM:)<>
The mayor of the small Maryland city of Seat Pleasant has set up a tent for his new office space after the City Council evicted him from City Hall.
Mayor Eugene Grant faced complaints about his "harsh language and treatment of city employees," according to CBS, prompting local lawmakers to vote for the eviction last week.
But Grant, who admitted to raising his voice to city employees but denied doing anything improper, isn't going to accept the decision quietly.
"I will set up a table and a chair and I will have my meetings," he told Fox 5 after the vote.
Grant also said he wasn't planning to run for re-election in 2016, but now that the City Council has escalated the situation, he will seek to stay in office.
"I wasn't going to run, but after this, I have got no other choice," he said.
Update (1:45 p.m.): The Seat Pleasant City Council reached out to Business Insider with a statement in response to the mayor's new tent: "The City Council simply voted to revoke Mayor Grant’s privilege of having full-time office space at City Hall, a privilege that is not enjoyed by any other elected official of the City. Mayor Grant has not been barred from using office space at City Hall to meet with constituents; indeed, Mayor Grant has keys to City Hall and has continued to meet with constituents inside City Hall."
- Yellen Takes Dead Aim At A GOP Movement To Rein In The Federal Reserve (DIA, SPX, SPY, QQQ)
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 3:55 PM:)<>
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen doesn't want to follow anyone's rules.
On Friday at the Jackson Hole economic symposium, Yellen spoke on the state of the labor market and how these dynamics effect monetary policy.
In addition to noting that there still remains "significant" underutilization of labor resources, Yellen said she expects the Fed's understanding of labor markets and their impact on inflation will remain "far from perfect" while emphasizing that "monetary policy is not a preset course."
"As a consequence, monetary policy ultimately must be conducted in a pragmatic manner that relies not on any particular indicator or model," Yellen said, "but instead reflects an ongoing assessment of a wide range of information in the context of our ever-evolving understanding of the economy."
These comments can on the one hand be read as the careful words of a policy maker. On the other hand, Yellen is fighting off a movement in the House seeking more oversight of the Fed.
In July, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the proposed Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act, or FRAT Act.
In comments at this hearing, Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said:
"Let me make one thing clear at the outset. We do not suggest for a moment that Congress, much less the White House or Treasury, should conduct monetary policy operations. We continue to respect the Federal Reserve’s independence in monetary policy. But that independence and discretion must be paired with appropriate transparency and accountability. What we require today in this legislation is that the Fed use a clear map of its own choosing to set the course for monetary policy and share that map with the rest of us."
Basically, the GOP wants the Fed to implement some version of the Taylor Rule.
The Taylor Rule is a formula that provides "recommendations" for where the Fed should set short-term interest rates.
In comments during Yellen's July testimony on Capitol Hill, Hensarling went a step further, claiming that, "Had a clear, predictable monetary policy rule like the Taylor Rule been in place throughout the last decade, it is likely the financial crisis would have been avoided in the first place, or at least downgraded to a garden variety recession."
Hensarling said the FRAT ACT "no way, shape or form dictates monetary policy," but in her testimony on Capitol Hill, Yellen clearly chafed at the idea of following the Taylor Rule or a similar formulation.
During that testimony, Yellen said, "It would be a grave mistake for the Fed to commit to conduct monetary policy according to a mathematical rule."
On Friday, Yellen again sought to give the Fed maximum flexibility for the course of its monetary policy.
With respect to the Fed's forward guidance, Yellen said, "the reformulated forward guidance reaffirms the FOMC's view that policy decisions will not be based on any single indicator, but will instead take into account a wide range of information on the labor market, as well as inflation and financial developments."
In December 2012, the Fed dropped a 6.5% unemployment rate goal from its forward guidance, and since then has opted for language like, "This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments."
The overall tone of Yellen's remarks on Friday are being interpreted as something short of hawkish, but not as dovish as they could've been.
Yellen, however, clearly remains focused on giving herself and the FOMC as much flexibility as possible with respect to when and where interest rates go, and part of this flexibility also likely depends on the Fed maintaining its current relationship with Congress: independent.
SEE ALSO: JANET YELLEN: We're Not There Yet
- Protests Rock Indonesia As Tens Of Thousands Protest Election Result
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 3:42 PM:)<>
Thousands of protesters in Indonesia's capital Jakarta clashed with upwards of 50,000 police and military personnel as the nation's highest court supported the outcome of last month's presidential election.
The losing presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, alleged that the election was plagued with fraud that he had been cheated out of victory. Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled against Subianto's claim, confirming Joko Widodo as Indonesia's president-elect.
Indonesia is Southeast Asia's largest economy. It is also a fledgling democracy, having been ruled by for 31 years, until 1998, by Suharto.
In the run up to the constitutional court's announcement of its ruling, thousands peacefully protested in support of Prabowo Subianto.
However, as it became apparent that Subianto was determined to have lost the elections, the protests quickly turned violent.
Demonstrators used four trucks to try to ram through barriers prompting a police response and a lockdown of several neighborhoods in Jakarta.
Many of the protesters are alleged to be paid professionals bussed into the city to give the impression of a public outcry.
As the protests escalated, the police and military had to resort to using tear gas and mass arrests to maintain order.
President-elect Widobo is seen as a reformer in the country newly dedicated to rooting out corruption. He is the first politician in Indonesia not to have ties to the past dictatorship.
- The New Yorker's Ferguson Cover Is Perfectly Eerie
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 3:42 PM:)<>
We've seen some pretty powerful newspaper front pages during coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, but the New Yorker's September cover perfectly captures the sinister nature of police militarization in a way that a photo couldn't.
Artist Eric Drooker noted that he feels a personal connection to Ferguson because a black friend of his was killed by a cop in Manhattan in 1991 and he witnessed police militarization on the Lower East Side as he was growing up.
Here's the cover:
What resonates so well here is the approaching tank that's towering over shadowy figures in a tear-gas-like haze with their hands raised (and a middle finger from the figure on the right, perhaps?).
Drooker said of the cover:
"Of course, rubber bullets, tear gas, and Tasers have been used for a while—on nonviolent anti-war protests at the dawn of the Iraq invasion, not to mention Occupy—but the U.S. media has often chosen to ignore these images. Now that billions have been spent and the equipment is in place throughout the country, the intensive militarization of America’s police forces is finally being acknowledged after the horrors of Ferguson."
Police militarization has been a major focus of the Ferguson protest coverage. Local police departments have been armed with tanks and military-grade rifles through government programs, and the necessity of this equipment has been called into question by those who are concerned that it could escalate tense situations instead of diffuse them.
The protests in Ferguson followed the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was stopped by police for walking in the middle of the street with a friend.
- NATO: Russia Just Significantly Escalated The Crisis In Ukraine
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 3:33 PM:)<>
NATO on Friday condemned the entry of a Russian "humanitarian" convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of Ukrainian authorities, an event Ukraine charged was a "direct invasion."
And for the first time, NATO accused Russia of directly intervening in Ukraine, as Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russian artillery support was being employed against Ukrainian forces in eastern regions in which fighting has raged for months.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said it was an "unauthorized entry" and told Russia to "remove its vehicles immediately."
Rasmussen said the Russian convoy had entered into Ukraine without its government's consent and without any involvement from the Red Cross. He warned it would only escalate the crisis in the region to worrying levels, and he suggested it threw into question whether Russia's true purpose for providing the "humanitarian" aid was to supply arms to pro-Russian separatists.
"This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia," Rasmussen said. "It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel. The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists."
In a statement earlier on Friday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said "a column of more than 100 vehicles entered Ukrainian territory without a customs inspection, without border control or International Red Cross escort, which is a flagrant violation of international law."
Rasmussen also said NATO has observed a "major escalation" in Russian military involvement in the region over the past handful of days, including direct artillery support both from across the border and within Ukraine.
"These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces. In addition, Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces," Rasmussen said.
"We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming buildup of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine."
Separately, a U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr that Russia now has up to 18,000 "combat-ready" troops near the Ukrainian border.
This post has been updated with additional comment from U.S. officials.
- JAMES FOLEY'S BROTHER: The US Should Have Done More To Save His Life
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 2:41 PM:)<>
The brother of murdered American photojournalist James Foley believes President Barack Obama's administration should have done more to save Foley's life since he was kidnapped in Syria two years ago.
"There’s more that could have been done directly on Jim’s behalf," Michael Foley told Yahoo's Katie Couric on Friday morning.
James Foley was beheaded by ISIS jihadists in a video released earlier this week. It was subsequently reported that the militant group had demanded $132 million for his release and that the U.S. once attempted a rescue mission on his behalf.
Michael Foley told Couric he hoped his brother's death would motivate the U.S. to rethink its hostage policy and consider agreeing to at least some demands to free its citizens. It's difficult for the U.S. to refuse to pay for the release of its hostages, he argued, when European countries do exactly that.
"The thing that I'm really, really frustrated by, Katie — and I don’t know if I even should get into this — but … the United States could have done more on behalf of the American and Western hostages over there," he said. "I really, really, really hope that, in some way, Jim’s death pushes us to take another look at our approach, our policy, to terrorists and hostage negotiations and rethink that. Because if the United States is doing it one way and Europe is doing it another way, by definition it won’t work."
U.S. officials argue that giving into ransom demands inevitably backfires and keeps terrorist organizations well-funded. According to The New York Times, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have earned $125 million in the past five years alone from such payments.
Foley's parents, Diane and John Foley, also gave an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday morning.
View the Yahoo interview below.
Updated (11:15 a.m.): With additional details on U.S. ransom policy.
- James Foley's Parents: 'He Wanted The World To Know How People Were Suffering'
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 12:57 PM:)<>
The parents of slain American photojournalist James Foley went on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday, where they discussed the life their son lived before his brutal beheading earlier this week.
Diane Foley, his mother, recalled when Foley visited them shortly before his kidnapping in Syria. Foley promised them he would be home for Christmas; he was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day.
"He was home in October of 2012 for his birthday and he just looked so good and I just said, 'Jim, just can't you stay home through Christmas?' He says, 'Oh ma, I have to go back. But I will be home for Christmas,'" she said.
Both parents praised their son as genuinely loving and deeply committed to his work.
"He was just was so committed to the people whose suffering he was trying to humanize. And he wanted the world to know how people were suffering — particularly the children touched him so much," his mother said.
John Foley, the father, echoed that sentiment.
"His soul and heart grew and grew and grew and grew all those people who needed help, needed their stories told," he remembered. "He began to love all and that was his biggest gift to the people he met: his love and his help."
View the segment below.
- Tor Director Claims Some Government Agents Are Secretly Helping Him, Undermining Intelligence Operations
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 12:40 PM:)<>
The director of anonymous web network Tor says his team gets seems to get tips from government agents meant to undermine other government attempts to penetrate the network.
"There are plenty of people in [the NSA or British intelligence agency GCHQ] who can anonymously leak data to us to say — maybe you should look here, maybe you should look at this to fix this," Lewman told the BBC. "And they have."
Lewman admits that he has no way confirm where the anonymous reports come from, except that the tips originate from a group of people with strong technical understanding of the Tor software:
"You have to think about the type of people who would be able to do this and have the expertise and time to read Tor source code from scratch for hours, for weeks, for months, and find and elucidate these super subtle bugs or other things that they probably don't get to see in most commercial software," he says.
If these leaks do come from employees within intelligence agencies, it might be an indication that there's a bigger concern than we realize over centralized attempts to track users who want to remain anonymous on the Internet.
Leaked NSA presentations from Snowden's cache of files reveal that the agency actively searches for and then uses bugs and loopholes in Tor to track browser traffic. Tor is a target because of its reputation for facilitating illegal activity.
News of alleged leaks follows the apparent emergence of a second Edward Snowden-type who the U.S. government believes is leaking national security secrets.
- Mitt Romney Mocks Hillary Clinton's 'Most Embarrassing' Foreign Policy Mistake
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 11:46 AM:)<>
Two-time Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney went out of his way to criticize expected 2016 Democratic White House contender Hillary Clinton in an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Thursday night.
Romney, asked about President Barack Obama's foreign policy towards Russia, pivoted to mock Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, for presenting a literal "reset button" to Russia's foreign minister in 2009. Relations between the U.S. and Russia have since sharply deteriorated.
"I worry about the country," Romney said. "The president got those things wrong. Unfortunately he underestimated Russia. This whole 'reset policy' with Hillary Clinton — smiling ear from ear, pressing a red reset button — I think is one of the most embarrassing incidents in American foreign policy."
In July, Clinton defended the "reset" policy, insisting it worked at the time.
"The reset worked," Clinton said, according to CNN. "It was an effort to try to obtain Russian cooperation on some key objectives while Medvedev was president."
At another point in the Fox interview, Romney also went after Clinton for her recent statements separating herself from Obama's foreign policy. Among other things, Clinton appeared to dismiss Obama's "don't do stupid stuff" philosophy. But Romney argued Clinton can't separate herself from Obama's blunders overseas.
"I can't begin to explain the president's foreign policy. I think Hillary Clinton tried to explain it by saying there wasn't a foreign policy, in effect. Rarely did I agree with what Hillary Clinton had to say but on that topic, I think we agreed. I think it's interesting that she tries to distance herself from the president's foreign policy, given the fact that she was his secretary of state for four years," Romney said.
There is speculation swirling that Romney is interested in taking another shot at the White House in 2016. However, Romney, appearing with his former vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), suggested Ryan should run instead.
"I had my turn. It’s his turn now," Romney said.
"You should do it," Ryan replied.
- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - August 22 2014 - 8:46 AM:)<>
Happy Friday! Here's what you need to know today.
1. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called ISIS an "imminent" threat. "They are as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They're beyond just a terrorist group," Hagel said at a press briefing. "We must prepare for everything," he added.
2. GlobalPost, the website that employed American journalist James Foley, released the last email militants from the ISIS group sent to Foley's family before they executed him.
3. The National Guard is withdrawing troops from Ferguson, Missouri, as protests in the St. Louis suburb seem to have simmered down after two weeks of heated riots. The demonstrations were in response to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer.
4. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak on Friday at the Jackson Hole economic conference. According to Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal: "The overwhelming consensus is that she will acknowledge some improvement in the labor market but will identify enough "slack" in the system so as to warrant continued easy policy from the Fed."
5. Bank of America has agreed to pay $16.65 billion to settle accusations that the bank and the companies it acquired misled investors into buying trouble mortgage securities.
6. A day of mourning is being held in Malaysia as the first bodies of victims from the MH17 crash, the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine last month, arrive in Kuala Lumpur.
7. Kent Brantly, the American doctor who received an experimental drug after being infected with Ebola, appears to have made a full recovery, although it was "unclear whether the drug or a blood transfusion Brantly got from a young Ebola survivor in Africa was helpful," the Associated Press said.
8. A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid was seen crossing into eastern Ukraine by an Associated Press reporter early Friday. This follows "more than a week's delay amid suspicions the mission was being used as a cover for an invasion by Moscow," the AP said.
9. The death toll from destructive landslides in Japan is rising, with officials doubling the number to 39 on Friday, while 52 people were still missing. Heavy rain brings the risk of further landslides.
10. Former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds died at age 81 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. Reynolds is remembered for the key role he played in "delivering peace to Northern Ireland," the AP said.
Nick Cannon has confirmed to The Insider With Yahoo that he and singer Mariah Carey are "living apart" after six years of marriage. The couple have 3-year-old twins together.