The Ebola Crisis Keeps Getting Worse, Battling ISIS Around the World, The War On Drugs and America’s Wealth Gap Unsustainable

https://i0.wp.com/www.cartoonaday.com/images/cartoons/2014/08/Ebola-virus-cartoon-598x400.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8a/a8a87a88-0574-504a-85ba-4ab3d8439553/54068e0f8a7e4.image.jpghttp://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/drug-war-cartoon.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/m5.paperblog.com/i/61/615103/the-income-gap-is-still-growing-L-w6Xtui.jpegThe Ebola epidemic sweeping across Western Africa this summer shows no signs of slowing down as researchers say it’s about to get worse. According to AOL, Health officials say Ebola outbreak about to get worse, Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control, said: “It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, it’s going to get worse in the very near future.” The World Health Organization told officials to “prepare for an ‘exponential increase’ in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission.” The Who suspects that normal containment measures aren’t working due to Ebola victims and their communities mistrust of medical experts. The New York Times: “Now, armed gangs chase health workers away from villages while the sick hide.” As of Monday, The World Health Organization reports the virus has killed 2,105 people with half from Liberia and the rest from Guinea and Sierra Leone mostly. According to WHO: “The whole world is responsible and accountable to bring the Ebola threat under control. Let’s do it. Action, action, and action.” President Obama on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” announced the U.S. military would deploy its resources and logistical expertise to help aid workers on the ground. NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads … there is the prospect then that the virus mutates … and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.” Currently, 53 percent of the people diagnosed with Ebola die as there is no cure for it. On Sunday, the Guardian reported a potential breakthrough saying the human trials were underway for a vaccine that worked on monkeys. However, best case scenario if a vaccine works it will take months to deliver it to victims while victims and people try to help them are on their own. Eleanor Goldberg reports, More Women Than Men Are Dying From Ebola, the current Ebola outbreak may infect as many ads 20,000 people with a disproportionate number being women, experts say. According to UNICEF, more women than men are contracting the disease as they traditionally serve as health care workers and are the ones who take care of the sick in their families. Women account for 55 to 60 percent of the victims who die from Ebola in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Washington Post reported, health teams in Liberia recently reported that women made up 75 percent of victims infected with Ebola. Irin News reports the outbreak can be attributed to the consumption of infected bushmeat of wild animals which many rely on for their livelihood and main source of protein. Sia Nyama Koroma, first lady of Sierra Leone, told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.” Marpue Spear, executive director of the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia, told Foreign Policy: “If a man is sick, the woman can easily bathe him but the man cannot do so. Traditionally, women will take care of the men as compared to them taking care of the women.” Because of the confrontation associated with the disease due to military surrounding homes and healthcare workers not respecting a patient’s traditions, Ebola victims do not go to treatment centers. However, if these relationships can be mended, then these epidemics could be stopped before they spread to this level. Frankfurter wrote in a blog for Wellbody Alliance: “Health workers should acknowledge, publicly, how frightening this disease will be for affected communities and how difficult it is for families to part with loved ones to likely die in isolation wards. Such sympathetic gestures would serve to align the priorities of communities and the public health response.”

While the world fights to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa, the U.S. and other world leaders are discussing plans to rid the world of another political and social disease, ISIS. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance at a conference on defense innovation Wednesday that unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups are acquiring destructive weapons and Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their armed services including electronic warfare and special operations capabilities, Lolita C. Baldor reports, Chuck Hagel: U.S. Needs To Maintain Military Superiority. Hagel said: “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space — not to mention cyberspace — can no longer be taken for granted. And while the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given. We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority. This will not only require active investment by both government and industry — it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation” in how American buys and develops new technologies. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq’s Shiite Leader to give more power to Sunnis or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group as Iraq’s new government has finally been put in place and the threat of ISIS increases, the Associate Press reports, Kerry to meet with new Iraqi Prime Minister. Kerry’s arrival happened just two days after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in and seated his top government ministers. The trip marks the first high level U.S. meeting with the new prime minister and symbolizes the Obama administration’s support for Iraq three years after the U.S. left. However, it also signals to the Shiite Muslim leader that the U.S. is watching to make sure he gives Iraqi Sunnis more control over local power structures and security forces. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will “meet with Iraqi government officials to welcome them on the successful formation of a new government” and “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat ISIL and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world.” Kerry’s trip comes on the eve of a meeting win Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he and Arab leaders across the Mideast will discuss what nations can contribute to the fight against ISIS. Officials hope to have a strategic blueprint against ISIS with specific steps nations are willing to take by the opening of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month. White House official said Tuesday that Obama will ask Congress to authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign off from lawmaker on a broader military and political effort to combat the Islamic State. The president’s broader strategy could include more wide ranging airstrikes against Iraq and Syria and hinges on military and political commitment from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. A senior U.S. official said the conference participants will discuss how to dry up foreign funding for the Islamic State and counter propaganda used to recruit people into the extremist group. In addition, al-Abadi promised to create a national guard of local fighters to secure Iraq’s 18 provinces run by a governor. This would ensure the Iraqi army and its mostly Shiite forces would not be in charge of security in Sunni regions along for salaried jobs, government pensions and other benefits to areas of Iraq where al-Maliki, the former prime minister, denied for years. Zeina Karam reports, UN Aid Reaches Record Number Of Syrians, the World Food Program has assisted 4.1 million Syrians in the last month reaching more of those in need with shipments traversing borders and front lines on Tuesday. Syria’s civil war has touched off a massive humanitarian crisis, with some 10.8 million people in need of assistance, including 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas, according to the U.N. Previously, humanitarian aid was block without Syrian government approval first ensuring the rebel held areas remained off limits, but in July, the U.N. Security Council authorized movement of humanitarian aid to Syrians in opposition areas without government approval. IN a statement Tuesday, the World Food Program said over the last six weeks it and its partners have reached more than 580,000 people with deliveries crossing battle lines. The August figures include five cross-border convoys that delivered rice, lentils, oil, pasta and other staples for 69,500 in difficult zones to reach in Aleppo, Idlib, Quneitra and Daraa provinces. Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Syria, said: “We are reaching more people every day with urgently needed food assistance — many of them have been going hungry for months. We will build on these gains in the coming weeks and months and hope that all parties to the conflict will continue to facilitate our access to the women, children and families that remain out of our reach behind conflict lines.” The U.N. agency said fighting and security concerns continue to hamper access to many areas, particularly in Hassakeh, Deir el-Zour and Raqqa provinces.

Meanwhile, the war on drugs, which has had little if any success, has left hundreds of thousands dead and fleeing, leading to demands to completely overhaul the drug policies around the world including legalization of psychoactive substances like marijuana. Matt Ferner reports, World Leaders Condemn Failed Drug War, Call For Global Reform, on Tuesday in New York City, 10 members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy urged all governments to embrace models that include decriminalization of consumption, legal regulation of drug markets and strategic refocusing of criminal enforcement. Sound policy, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said, “does not allow human rights to be put aside in order to extend the repression of drugs.” The commission consists of 21 former presidents and other prominent individuals who are trying to advance “humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.” Its members include Cardoso; former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss; former Colombian President César Gaviria; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; Louise Arbour, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Cardoso believes the new approach should stress public health and ensure drug users have access to health care. Gaviria argues the legalization of marijuana and other illicit substances “strengthens the fight against cartels.” Cardoso said the world’s governments must put pressure on the Untied Nations before the United Nations before the 2016 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) to begin incremental change in the “inadequate” strategies of the “war on drugs” found in current international conventions. Zedillo points out the current U.N. system of prohibition has led to increase in consumption and “created a disaster, not a world free of drugs.” Cardoso said: “We cannot abolish the use of drugs. So we need cultural modification.” Zedillo accuses the U.N. of straitjacketing the effort to adopt new policies, adding: “2016 is an opportunity to start a new international regime where governments can really control this drug problem. Our objective is to have a framework that empowers governments to pursue more rational policies. The specifics of those policies are to be defined by those governments and their civil societies.” The report comes as punished for drug oriented crimes around the world are already being reconsidered and in some countries reshaped. Cardoso said there were experiments going on all around the world with great reform success in the United States, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Uruguay. he said: “We have experiences in Portugal since 1991, where they have decriminalized the use of drugs. Users get treatment assistance but are not put in jail. It has been very effective in Portugal; the results are quite clear.” In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to approve legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. While the U.S. government bans the use, some states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of the drug and 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in an interview with The Huffington Post, said: “These world leaders have seen, from their own experience, how the failed war on drugs harms countries and populations. I have no doubt that President Obama will evolve and join this group and the majority of Americans in at least endorsing the legalization of marijuana, just as he did with marriage equality. The only question is if this evolution will occur before or after his term as president ends. I’m sure the global commission’s members would welcome him to their ranks as one more former head of state on the record for legalization, but it’ll be a lot more impactful if he undergoes this transformation while he still has the power to change failed policies that harm people every day.”

While the war on drugs seems to be making some headway in the world, the socioeconomic war being fought between classes, namely the wealthy and poor, has grown. Reuters reports, America’s Wealth Gap ‘Unsustainable’ According To Harvard Study, Harvard Business School released a study Monday titled “An Economy Doing Half its Job” said American companies were showing signs of recovering their competitive edge in the world market since the financial crisis, but workers keep struggling to demand better pay and benefits. The report says “such a divergence is unsustainable” based on a survey of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni around the world highlighting the problem with the U.S. education system, transport infrastructure, and the effectiveness of the political system. Some 47 percent said the next three years they expect U.S. companies to be both less competitive internationally and less able to pay higher wages and benefits versus 33 percent who though the opposite. According to the survey, the results are an improvement from a 2012 Harvard Business School survey of its alumni showing 58 percent expected a decline in U.S. competitiveness. However, Harvard wrote the respondents of the 2014 survey “were much more hopeful about the future competitive success of America’s firms than they were about the future pay of America’s workers.” Harvard called on corporate leaders to help solve America’s wealth gap by working to buttress the kindergarten-to-12th-grade education system, skills-training programs, and transportation infrastructure, among other things. The report said: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy whose firms win in global markets without lifting U.S. living standards. But any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American. Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro-business policies. Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box.” Meanwhile, in a speech given at the Urban Institute Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put U.S. companies using tax inversion on notice, according to CNBC: “This practice allows the corporation to avoid their civic responsibilities, while continuing to benefit from everything that makes America the best place in the world to do business. … This may be legal, but it’s wrong. And our laws should change.” Lew urged Congress to address the problem through comprehensive tax reform, but also warned the Treasury would act independently to crack down on inversions in the very near future. Tax inversion, which involves a company relocating its headquarters to a low tax nation while still maintaining their U.S. operations, has become common practice over the last year with Burger King being the latest corporation accused of inversion after merging with Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook says the Treasury’s options are limited: “They have several ideas on the table, I’m told, at the Treasury Department. They haven’t decided on one single fix. But Lew’s message this morning was: we can only do this at the margins. Only Congress can have a real, long-term fix here.” The Obama adminsitration estimates there are dozens of inversion in the works which have not been announced, but Lew urges Congress to make any legislative fix for inversion retroactive to all deals since May including the Burger King-Tim Hortons merger. According to Ryan Gorman, Amid tax backlash, Burger King acquires Tim Horton’s but keeps US HQ, Berger King announced Tuesday it purchased Tim Hortons but will keep its headquarters in the U.S. after speculation that the it would move north to avoid taxes. In a Facebook post, Burger King said: “We hear you. We’re not moving, we’re just growing and finding ways to serve you better. Our headquarters will remain in Miami where we were founded more than 60 years ago and… BKC will continue to pay all of our federal, state and local U.S. taxes.” According to Congressional Research Service data complied by the Post earlier this year, Burger King would have been the 48th company to immigrate abroad with more than 70 making the move since 1983.

Republican Border Bill Passes, Court Deals Blow to Unions, Ebola Comes to the U.S. and the U.S. Fails Internationally

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Late Friday, House Republicans passed a bill to address the U.S. Mexico border crisis by sending migrant youths back home without hearings meaning that more than half a million immigrants could be deported even though the Obama administration granted temporary work permits, according to Erica Werner, House OKs bill to address border crisis. President Barack Obama condemned the Republican action saying he would act unilaterally as best he could. The new bill, which tea party lawmakers enthusiastically support, provides $694 million and carries a companion measure to shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids. The second bill prevents the more than 700,00 people who’ve already gotten work permits under the program from renewing them making them subject to deportation. The sending bill passed Friday 223-189 with four Republicans voting no and one Democrat voting yes. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. explained, “It’s dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country. And we got to yes.” While Obama said no adding, “They’re not even trying to solve the problem. I’m going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources.” The move in the House came as the first day of lawmakers’ five week summer recess happened and Senators had already left Washington after killing their own legislation on the crisis. Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said, “It would be irresponsible and unstatesmanlike to head home for the month without passing a bill to address this serious, present crisis on the border.” According to Werner: “In the end Republicans only lost four of the most conservative members on the vote: Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Paul Broun of Georgia, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina. The only Democrat to support the bill was moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.”The GOP plans met with protest from immigration advocates and Democrats with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., saying, “If you tell people that you think they’re criminals, that you think they’re simply bringing diseases, that they’re bringing drugs, then you treat them as invaders, they kind of think you don’t like them. They’re going to believe you don’t like them, and they’re not going to vote for you.” The bill adds $35 million more for the National Guard as well as increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American kids to be sent back home without deportation hearings.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court upheld the 2011 law that ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence, Scott Walker reports, Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Collective Bargaining Law. Thursday’s 5-2 ruling is a victory for Walker who is considering a 2016 run for president and re-election this year and marks the end of a three year legal fight over union laws prohibiting public worker unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeal court twice upheld the law as constitutional and the high court ruled in a lawsuit, filed by Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers, that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection. Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011 causing teachers, public workers and their supporters to flood the Capitol for weeks in order to block the passage. In addition, Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage. The law bars automatic withdrawal from members’ checks, require annual elections to see if members want their unions to represent them and requires public employees to contribute to their health insurance and pension costs, which help local governments and schools save money to deal with cuts to balance the state’s shortfall, according to Walker. Walker faced a recall in 2012, but became the first governor ever in U.S. history to defeat a recall. The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but withstood them all. The state Supreme Court decided to take the case on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portion were unconstitutional.

Internationally, on Thursday and Saturday, hospital officials said a U.S. humanitarian aid worker and two American doctors who contracted Ebola in West Africa will be transferred to the United States and treated in a special high security ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Reuters reports, US aid worker infected with Ebola to be moved to Atlanta hospital: official. The aid worker will be moved in the next several days to a special isolation unit set up in collaboration with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one of only four in the United States. An American doctor infected with Ebola arrived in Atlanta on Saturday landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base then took to the isolation unit at Emory, Ray Henry reports, US doctor with Ebola arrives in Atlanta for treatment. it marks the first time a patient with Ebola has entered the country for treatment with a second American aid workers expected to arrive at Emory in days. U.S. based Samaritan’s Purse paid for the transport and confirmed to the Associated Press the patient was Dr. Kent Brantly. The ambulance took him to the hospital among a wide open Interstate with no traffic flanked by SUVs and police cars then the patient was taken into the building at Emory by people in white protective clothing. The hospital is down the hill from the CDC. Dr. Jay Varney, an infectious disease specialist at Emory charged with Brantley’s care, said the hospital’s isolation unit is well equipped to handle patients with the disease. He added, “Ebola is only transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Unlike the flu, like influenza, which we deal with every winter, Ebola cannot be spread through the air.” Ebola has no cure. Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the CDC’s disease detectives program, said Friday: “That’s all we can do for such a patient. We can make them feel comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus.”

While treatment for the infected begins, the U.S. has issued a travel warning for Americans going to the three West African countries hit by the Ebola outbreak and the World Health Organization deals with the spread in West Africa. On Thursday, U.S. health officials warned Americans not to travel to the area, Mike Stobbe reports, US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries. The advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the warning, said “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa” adding that Ebola is “a tragic, dreadful and merciless virus.” The purpose of the warning is to limit U.S. travelers use of overburdened hospitals and clinics for injuries or other illnesses. Stobbe reports that the outbreak has a 60 percent fatality rate so far with no vaccines or specific treatment available. The CDC has 20 staffers at U.S. airports and border crossing to evaluate any traveler showing signs of dangerous infectious diseases, and isolate them when necessary. The agency is prepared to increase that staffing if needed, he said. Back in West Africa, World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan said Friday that the outbreak is out of control but can be stopped, Tom Miles reports, Ebola Out Of Control But Can Be Stopped: WHO Chief. Chan told the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast at a meeting in Guinea’s capital Conakry: “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.” The death toll so far is at 729 including 60 healthcare workers and 1,323 cases overall. Chan added that “Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises. Moreover, public attitudes can create a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence.” The reason for the quick spread is due to cultural practices such as traditional burials and deep seated beliefs.

In Washington, while the CDC tackles a potential international debacle, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Friday that the United States conducted torture in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks, the AOL article reports, Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’ After 9/11 And We Have To Take Responsibility For It. Obama said, “I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. We crossed the line and that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so we don’t do it in the future.” In addition, Obama told reporters at the White House that a Senate investigation into interrogation techniques used by thew CIA would be declassified in August. According to the new CIA Inspector General’s Office report, agency employees in 2009 hacked Senate computers used to compile the investigation leading many lawmakers on the Hill to call for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignations over the matter.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton confessed he could of killed Osama bin Laden, but decided against it due to the number of civilians who also would be killed just hours before the 9/11 attacks, Mollie Reilly reports, Bill Clinton, Hours Before 9/11 Attack, Said He ‘Could Have Killed’ Bin Laden. On Wednesday, Sky News host Paul Murray released a previously unreleased audio recording of Clinton talking to Australian businessmen on September 10, 2001: “Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once,” Clinton says in the tape, answering a question about terrorism. “I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.” The 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 identifies several operations targeting bin Laden in the 90s which prompted critics to accuse Clinton of not doing enough. During a 2006 interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Clinton defended his administration’s efforts saying: “I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops [in Afghanistan] trying to kill him.”

Republicans Suing Obama and Visa Versa, Democrats Fight Republican Border Bill and the U.S. Government Hinders the Economy

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A divided House voted Wednesday 225 to 201 to approved a Republican plan to launch a campaign season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding his limit to constitutional authority, with only one day left before lawmakers go on their five week summer recess, according to the Associated Press, Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead. Five conservative republicans voted with Democrats in opposing the lawsuit: Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Steve Stockman of Texas. No Democrats voted for it. Obama and other Democrats see the effort as a political stunt to appease conservative voters. The Republican legal action will focus on Obama’s implementation of his health care overhaul and prevent a further presidential power grab and how to enforce laws. John Boehner, R-Ohio, declared, “No member needs to be reminded about the bonds of trust that have been frayed or the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., address the Democrats claims that the lawsuit is frivolous: “What price do you place on the continuation of our system of checks and balances? What price do you put on the Constitution of the United States? My answer to each is ‘priceless.'” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and other Democrats said the lawsuit was designed to encourage conservatives to votes in this November’s congressional elections and will go nowhere: “The lawsuit is a drumbeat pushing members of the Republican Party to impeachment.” In fact, the Democrats have already used that argument to garner campaign contributions with House Democrats emailing one fundraiser solicitation as debate was underway and another after the vote writing: “The GOP is chomping at the bit to impeach the president. We’ve got to get the president’s back.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Impeachment is off the table. Why hasn’t the speaker said that.” On the road in Kansas City, Missouri, Obama called the lawsuit a distraction from public priorities saying, “Every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.” He urged Republicans to “stop just hating all the time.” The Associated Press reports that Republicans accuse Obama of exceeding his power in a range of areas including “not notifying Congress before releasing five Taliban members from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, blocking the deportation of some children who are in the U.S. illegally and waiving some provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law.” Democrats say Obama has acted legally and used his authorities given to him as chief executive, while the timetable to file the suit has not been laid out by Republicans even though Obama leaves office in January of 2017. Meanwhile, Obama addressed supporters in Kansas City regarding the vote: “I know they’re not that happy that I’m president. I’ve only got a couple of years left. Come on, let’s get some work done. Then you can be mad at the next president.”

It seems not only the Republicans have a beef to settle since the Obama administration decided Wednesday to join two ongoing suits against voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, according to the AOL article, Obama Administration Joins Suits Against GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions In Wisconsin, Ohio. In the filings, the Justice Department argues that a federal judge was right to strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law and Ohio is incorrectly interpreting its duties under the Voting Rights Act provision. Attorney General Eric Holder explained the filings in an interview with ABC earlier in the month saying in a statement Wednesday that they “are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy. These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box. The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American. And we will keep using every available tool at our disposal to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.” The Justice Department in an amicus brief filed in the 7th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals argues a federal judge correctly decided that Wisconsin’s voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act due to its discriminatory impact on black and Hispanic voters and violates the 14th amendment by placing unjustified burden on a large group of voters. In addition, DOJ lawyers argue that Ohio is mistaken about its duties under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In the year since the Supreme Court killed a key provision of the Voting Rights Act preventing certain states from changing their voting practices without clearance from the DOJ or federal court, the Department of Justice has used another portion of the act to oppose voting laws in North Carolina and Texas which are ongoing cases. In Wisconsin, the state is appealing a federal judge’s decision to strike down a GOP backed law imposing ID requirements on voters in the state, while the DOJ’s filing encourages the appeals court to look at the “totality of circumstances,” including examining whether “social, political, and historical conditions in Wisconsin hinder minorities’ political participation.” In Ohio, civil rights groups are challenging a law passed by the Republican led legislature earlier this year to eliminate a six day period for voters to register and cast an early ballot at the same time. Connected with a suit filed b the Obama campaign leading up to the 2012 elections, a federal judge ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to restore early voting o the final three days ahead of the elections. However, the lawsuit DOJ got involved in Wednesday revolves around cuts made earlier this year which brought the total number of early voting days to 29 from 35.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are urging members to oppose a GOP authored bill to address the border crisis with Republican senators voicing their own opposition to the House bill and Senate Democratic alternative, Elise Foley and Sam Stein report, House Democrats Fighting Hard Against Republicans’ Border Bill. The Senate voted and passed, 63 to 33, a bill Wednesday to provide $2.7 billion to deal with the crisis of 57,500 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally since October, while the House plans to vote Thursday on a package to provide $659 million in funding with a number of provision that most Democrats oppose. One Democratic leadership aide said, “We’re still in the process of talking to members, but it won’t be many [who vote for the bill].” On Tuesday in a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., explained the opposition to the House plan: “We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children. While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal.” The same day, Senate Republican Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama criticized the House bill saying, “That the House leaders’ border package includes no language on executive actions is surrender to a lawless president. And it is a submission to the subordination of congressional power.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested Tuesday that comprehensive immigration reform attached to the bill could scare many Republicans who are already wary of voting in favor, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to pass a bill before the August recess but remains uncertain. While the House struggles to get support for their bill, the Senate’s bill passed on Wednesday morning and now up for debate on legislation faces a huge hurdle among Democrats. The bill must get 60 votes to end the debate and amendment process, unfortunately, as of Wednesday morning, a Senate leadership aid said that do not expect to reach that goal. If nothing passes before the August recess, it would represent the political futility taking place in Congress and both sides would be open to political attacks. According to Foley and Stein, as of 3:40 p.m., the White House issued a formal veto threat Wednesday afternoon on the House Republicans’ funding bill for the border crisis:
“Republicans have had more than a year to comprehensively fix the Nation’s broken immigration system, but instead of working toward a real, lasting solution, Republicans released patchwork legislation that will only put more arbitrary and unrealistic demands on an already broken system. H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better. By setting arbitrary timelines for the processing of cases, this bill could create backlogs that could ultimately shift resources away from priority public safety goals, like deporting known criminals. This bill will undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries. In addition, the limited resources provided in H.R. 5230 are not designated as emergency, but rather come at the expense of other Government functions.”

As the bickering seems to be at an all time high in Washington, the U.S. economy certainly reflects the lack of action and inappropriate spending done by government. While the U.S. economy has changed for the good and appears to be on an upswing, federal government spending seems to alway be the giant turd in the economy’s punch bowl, Mark Gongloff reports, The U.S. Government Has Hurt The Economy In 11 Of The Past 12 Quarters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday that the U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter which has drastically increased from a 2.1 percent GDP collapse in the first quarter. Everything was up in the quarter including consumer spending, business spending, housing, imports and exports, but federal government spending fell for the 7th quarter in a row. In fact, federal spending has cut into the GDP 11 out of the past 12 quarters meaning the U.S. government has dragged the economy for the past three years coinciding with congressional Republicans holding the government hostage in exchange for austerity measure. The big spending drags, according to Gongloff, began hitting the economy in the fourth quarter of 2010 when Republicans won control of the House of Representative which set the stage for the budget fights to come. However, all of this could change a month from now, but one thing remains constant which is the drag of weak federal spending.

Relief for the VA, Paul Ryan Rants, Saving Chicago, DC Gun Laws and Fast Food Worker’s Rights

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After six weeks of negotiations, House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a compromise to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays and deaths. Matthew Daly reports, After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care, the chairman of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon to unveil a plan to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. An agreement Sunday by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House panel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate veterans panel chair, was reached after many private meetings, no shows and public spats with only days left until Congress goes on a five week recess. A partisan impasse loomed which both sides hoped to avoid what Miller called the “sort of bickering and name-calling for which Washington has become infamous.” Three days later, via telephone from Florida and Vermont, Miller and Sanders were on the same page. The tentative deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators and a full vote in the House and Senate. The plan announced Monday, according to Miller and Sanders, is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.” Luis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said on Sunday: “There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about.” Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “It’s about time they’re doing their jobs. You don’t get a medal for doing your job.” An updated audit by the VA this month shows 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still wait 30 days for an appointment with 46,000 veterans waiting at least three months for an initial appointment and an additional 7,00 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade that never got them. The Senate and House are set to adjourn at the end of the week until September and lawmakers from both parties see the VA bill as a top priority. Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

While one problem may potentially be resolved this week, on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned the federal government’s approach to poverty reduction claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the system that “perpetuates poverty” in America, according to Ashley Alman’s article Paul Ryan Accuses Obama Administration Of System That ‘Perpetuates Poverty.’ On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Ryan came to discuss his new poverty proposal involving consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps and housing vouchers into one program coordinated by each state. Host David Gregory commented that Ryan sounded like he had little “sympathy” for impoverished Americans. Ryan responded by saying: “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. The federal government’s approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty, in many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. Able-bodied people should go to work, and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential.” Ryan announced his poverty proposal Thursday saying it is an opportunity for reform that would be “budget neutral.” However, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) disagrees: “The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles. If you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the Ryan-Republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling families.”

As families to continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, cities are not only struggling to keep people working, but keep gun violence to a minimum. Glenn Minnis reports, Can Noah’s Arc save streets of Chicago?, Joakim Noah, an NBA All Star Center, on Friday spoke to a room full of teens and adolescents at a Major Adams Community Center room about gun and gang violence culture so out of control it has brought his hometown of Chicago to its knees. Noah spoke of his motivation to start his “Stand up Chicago” campaign: “It’s very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that’s going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that’s going on on the West Side. This is a Chicago problem.” Noah also enlisted the help of teammate and Chi-town native Derrick Rose who appeared on a 60 second PSA for his initiative. Join by rapper and Chicago native Common, he states in the PSA: “I stand for my city.” In a statement on his Noah’s Arc Foundation site, Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, called on all Chicagoans to “take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity.” Over the first seven months of the year, 207 homicides have taken place in Chicago with the most recent incident on July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reported at least 16 people killed and 82 injured over three and half days. In response, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness, according to Minnis. Noah summed up the goal of his organization by saying: “As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I’m somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important. The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some hope, change and support to the community. We have to find a way together, whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together. To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship.”

Meanwhile, gun advocates in Washington, D.C. this weekend celebrate following a federal judge ruling that struck down the city’s ban on handguns in public, the AOL article, D.C.’s gun laws take another hit in handgun carry ruling, explains. District Judge Frederick Scullin reached the conclusion many other district courts reached in similar cases: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” The ruling prevents D.C. officials from enforcing public gun bans until licensing regulations are put in place. In 2008 a Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, overturned the city’s total ban on handguns ruling the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own weapons for self-defense, AOL reports. The latest decision comes from an Aug. 2009 lawsuit that, according to SCOTUSblog notes, got tangled up in the D.C. district’s legal red tape for five years frustrating the plaintiffs. “The challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.” In addition, Congress is challenging gun control in D.C. House Republicans approved an amendment to the district’s funding bill that would prevent D.C. from enforcing their gun laws. However, it will still be illegal to bring to a gun into a federal building. D.C. officials have yet to announce plans to appeal the ruling, but a spokesman told reporters the city is looking into options.

As the gun fight rages on, on Saturday, fast food workers across the nation voted to escalate efforts for $15 an hour pay and union membership using nonviolent civil disobedience. More than 1,300 workers came together at a convention center in Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign to spread to dozens of cities in less than two years, Tammy Webber reports, Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience. The Service Employee International Union provides financial and organizational support to fast food protests. They began in 2012 in New York City including daylong strikes and peaceful demonstrations outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting where 130 protestors were arrested for stepping onto company property. Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included session on civil disobedience and leadership training. Rev.William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said: “People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed. This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages. If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.” The movement comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats try to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wage which stands at $7.25 an hour for federal wages or about $15,000 per year for40 hours a week. Obama and others want to increase it to $10.10. The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage would lead to business closing and job cuts. According to Webber: “The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.” Scott DeFife, the association;s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters are “demonizing” an industry that employs all ages, backgrounds and skill levels instead of focusing on policies to increase education and job training. Unfortunately, many workers say that people stay in these jobs for years because they are the only ones available. Barber believes that “this movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country.”

White House and Congress: The Great Economic Divide

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden called for Republican and Democratic governors to lead the nation out of the mess that has crippled Washington and insist that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country’s aging infrastructure. The Associate Press reports (Vice President Joe Biden calls on governors to lead nation), during a meeting of the National Governors Association, Biden explained: “The way things have gotten today, and I’m not singling out any party or any group of people – the politics, the culture in Washington, it’s become too personal, it’s too corrosive. I think you’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in.” The three day conference held this year in Nashville gathers state leaders from both parties to collaborate despite partisan differences on immigration, health care and education. Even with the bipartisan tone, many governors face midterm election in a season where the balance of power in the statehouses could potentially be decided and ending some presidential campaigns before they begin. Biden, a potential presidential contender himself, said the political climate in Washington was less divisive when he began serving in the Senate three decades ago at a time when white segregationists served openly in Congress. In addition, he said Republicans and Democrats have long agreed on the need to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure and workforce development, however the current climate even with needed spending has been bogged down by politics. The main concern for governors right now is the deadline for Congress to pay for the federal Highway Trust Fund that allows states to maintain their transportation infrastructure. While a short term bill will most likely pass in Congress, governors want a long term plan. Unfortunately, many governors are reluctant to give any suggestion on how to fund their infrastructure in the long term. As for right now, fuel taxes are the main revenue source, but they have not been raised in 21 years and aren’t keeping pace with spending. In addition, the bipartisan Senate proposal to increase the federal gas tax has failed. It is hard to say whether infrastructure issues will play a role in the coming elections, although Washington’s struggles with what was long a bipartisan issues is emblematic of voters’ overall view of Congress, which as the Associate Press puts it is at an all time low.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the Treasury Department on Friday said the June surplus totaled $71 billion, following a $130 billion deficit in May, putting it on course to record the lowest annual deficit since 2008. The Associate Press reports that the government also ran a surplus in June 2013 due in part to dividends from Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant under federal conservatorship for the past six years. For the first nine months of this budget year, the deficit totals $366 billion, down 28 percent from the same period last year 2013, while tax receipts are up 8 percent compared to the prior year and spending increased 1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year ending Sept. 30.

While strides are being made to cut the deficit, Congress still struggles to get their act together. On Friday, as Michael McAuliff reports, House Votes For Tax Breaks To Add $287 Billion More To Deficit, the GOP led House of Representatives voted to make a former stimulus measure permanent along with another related tax cut adding $287 billion to the deficit over the next 10 year. The largest part worth $263 billion is making permanent so called bonus depreciation which allows businesses to write off the cost of capital investments and improvements much quicker. The stimulus was used twice during the Bush Administration and expired last year. The idea is that if lawmakers give businesses a break during tough times then they will speed up major equipment purchases and stimulate the economy. Those who support it believe it would allow business to plan their investments, while opponents mock the idea stating that the Congressional Research Service reports found the break to be a weak stimulus and the stimulus effect will likely fall further if it becomes permanent. According to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a member of the Ways and Means Committee: “Even as a stimulus, the analysis shows that for every dollar that is invested we get 20 cents of growth.  A fellow could go bankrupt with that kind of economics, and that’s exactly what they would have the country doing and not meeting its other needs while funding something that doesn’t work.” In addition, Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) added: “Yesterday, the Ways and Means Committee was working on a markup of legislation for another short-term extension of the highway trust fund — you know, the transportation infrastructure investment we desperately need in this country. We were scratching and clawing to try to find an additional $10 billion over the next 10 months to try to keep some of these projects moving forward, and yet here today, we have another permanent change to the tax code at a cost of $287 billion over the next 10 years and not a nickel of it paid for.” Kind noted that his committee passed 14 permanent tax cut bills at a cost of $900 billion. Unfortunately, Friday’s full house vote allowed for two thirds of the committee’s cuts to pass. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the sponsor of the cuts, said that bonus depreciation has been going on since 2002 off and on without being paid for, so it might as well be permanent. He added, “Bad policy. Even though we are giving for the first time certainty, predictability to people who actually create jobs in America, who must have a business plan and must make those big purchases. Amazing.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill along with permanent cuts and additionally the Senate will weight the cuts, but only plan for short term extensions.

While Congress and the White House try to find common ground, three of the world’s richest men are calling for Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Igor Bobic article, Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, And Bill Gates Chastise House GOP On Immigration, explains the Casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adselson along with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates criticized the House Republicans for their failure to address the current policy. In a New York Times op-ed piece published Thursday, they wrote: “Whatever the precise provisions of a law, it’s time for the House to draft and pass a bill that reflects both our country’s humanity and its self-interest.” However, the chance of any immigration reform bill moving through the House is unlikely with the unwillingness of conservative members and Speaker John Boehner to bring to the floor without overwhelming support from his caucus. Despite the obstacles, Bobic reports the three men are unphased urging Republicans to listen to reason. They added: “A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don’t act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us…Signs of a more productive attitude in Washington — which passage of a well-designed immigration bill would provide — might well lift spirits and thereby stimulate the economy. It’s time for 535 of America’s citizens to remember what they owe to the 318 million who employ them.”