While the U.S. Senate Clears the Way for Homeland Security Funding and as the World Continues to Struggle with ISIS, Ukraine and Russia Continue to Struggle with Another Ceasefire

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Reuters reported on Thursday that the Senate moved Wednesday to advert a shutdown of U.S. domestic security agency this weekend by voting to clear the way for funding a funding bill that does not include the immigration issue. The vote came shortly after an appeal from the current and two former Security secretaries appealed to Congress to avoid the shutdown and give full funding for the department of Homeland Security this year. The final hurdle for passage will fall to the conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives who still oppose the bill and procedural negotiations that could delay the final vote beyond Friday’s funding deadline for the department. The agency set up after 9/11 coordinates domestic efforts to combat security threats like the recent Somali based Islamic militants against U.S. shopping malls and encompasses the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration as well as border, immigration and several other federal agencies. The original bill would of funded the agency with $39.7 billion until Republicans against Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive order lifted deportation threats of undocumented immigrants got in the way causing Republicans to approve the bill adding a provision to ban spending on the order. This in turn caused a deadlock that lasted weeks between Republicans and Democrats leading up to Wednesday’s vote. The 98-2 vote cleared the way to take out the House’s immigration provisions and leave the vote on immigration orders for a later date under the plan designed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to end the deadlock. The overwhelming bipartisan support for McConnell’s approach means there is strong support for drama free funding for Homeland Security. Democrats have called for a clean Homeland bill all along without any immigration restrictions as Obama had threatened to veto the House passed measure. House Speaker John Boehner declined to tell Reuters if he would put the bill to a House vote even thought the deadline ends at midnight Friday. If no deal is reached, then Homeland Security would be forced to furlough about 30,000 employees or 15 percent of its workforce. This translate to many of the essential personnel such as airport and border security agents would have to wait to be paid until new funding is approved. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and some of his predecessors pleaded at a news conference for Congress to swiftly pass the funding bill. A cut-off in funds also would suspend grants to states to support local counter-terrorism activities.

As security issues at home become increasingly worrisome, the White House has said President Barack Obama would be open to negotiating with Congress for new authorization for military force against Islamic State militants including a three year limit on U.S. military action and use of American troops, according to the AP’s Nedra Pickler, Obama open to changes to military authority against IS. After a weeklong holiday break, lawmakers returned to Washington Monday and have started to consider the proposal with some Republicans saying it is too restrictive for the mission to succeed and some Democrats wanting more limitations on Obama’s authority so the U.S. doesn’t sign on for another open ended war. Obama is open to discussing every aspect of his proposal but firmly opposed to any geographic restriction on where the U.S. military pursues ISIS with strongholds in Iraq and Syria but have been operating across international boundaries. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated, “I’m not at all going to be surprised if there are members of Congress who take a look at this legislation and decide, ‘Well, I think there are some things that we should tweak here, and if we do, we might be able to build some more support for. So I think it is fair for you to assume that this reflects a starting point in conversations.” Obama argues he doesn’t need new authority to legally pursue the militant group as he has been launching strikes based on authorizations given to President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, critics say Obama’s use of this authority is a stretch and the White House has taken a new position making it clear it doesn’t see reliance on this authorization as ideal. Once new authority is signed into law, the White House says Obama will mot longer rely on the 2001 approved authority to purse the group and rely solely on the new powers. The White House added that Congress could make that clear in the new authorization. The change also prevents any future president from interpreting the law the way Obama has since last year. On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrest of three men accused of planning or supporting ISIS in Syria, AP’s Deepti Hajela reports, Feds: 3 accused in Islamic State plot vocal about beliefs. Two men are charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group as evident by both online and personal conversations about their commitment and desire to join the extremists, federal authorities reported. Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to head to Syria, authorities said. Another man, 24-year-old Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said. The two were held without bail after a brief court appearance. A third defendant, Abror Habibov, 30, is accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts. He was ordered held without bail in Florida. If convicted, each faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said this was the first public case in New York involving possible fighters going to the Islamic State, but he hinted at other ongoing investigations. According to the federal complaint, Saidakhmetov said he intended to shoot police officers and FBI agents if his plan to join the IS group in Syria was thwarted. Loretta Lynch, who is Obama’s choice to be U.S. attorney general, said “The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies.” The Islamic State group largely consists of Sunni militants from Iraq and Syria but has also drawn fighters from across the Muslim world and Europe.

While the U.S. fights to thwart and contain the Islamic State, the rest of the world has not been so lucky in keeping ISIS as bay. On Tuesday, AP’s Zeina Karam reported, Dozens of Christians abducted by Islamic militants in Syria, the Islamic State militants before dawn raided homes in a cluster of villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria abducting at least 70 Christians as thousands fled to safer areas. The captives’, mostly women and children, fate was unclear Tuesday as relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines were not working and heavy fighting in the area was reported. The Islamic State group has a history of killing captives, including foreign journalists, Syrian soldiers and Kurdish militiamen. Most recently, militants in Libya affiliated with the extremist group released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. While the U.S. and coalition of regional partners conduct airstrikes against the group, the group has repeatedly targeted religious minorities since taking a third of both Syria and Iraq. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights working with a network of activist in Syria have reported the number of Christians held by the group at 90. The extremists could use the Assyrian captives to try to arrange a prisoner swap with the Kurdish militias it is battling in northeastern Syria. Hassakeh province, where a majority of the captives come from, is strategically important due to sharing a border with Turkey and areas controlled by IS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, backed by the coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week. Heavy fighting broke out in the province Monday as Kurdish fighters and IS militants battled for control of villages near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The Kurds have been one of the most effective foes of IS, a reputation they burnished in recent months by repelling an assault by the extremists on the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. The coalition carried out hundreds of airstrikes that helped the Kurds break the siege in January.

As the world tries to get a grip on the seemingly phantom group called ISIS, the ongoing ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia seems once again to have fallen apart as fighting continues to rage and Russia refuses to loosen its grip on Ukraine. On Wednesday, AP reported Russian courts refused to release Ukrainian prisoners whose fate has attracted global attention as Moscow’s City Court turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Savchenko’s lawyers leaving her to remain behind bars pending an investigation, according to the article, Russian court refuses to release Ukrainian prisoner. Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine in June and put in custody in Russia, is awaiting trial on charges of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine. She denies the accusations. Russia claims Savchenko voluntarily crossed the border into Russia before she was detained, but she said she was dragged across the border into the Russian custody. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 13 demanding her release, and her lawyers on Wednesday voiced concern about her condition. More than 11,000 people including prominent cultural figures have petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin urging Savchenko’s release. Even while in jail, Savchenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament and named a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The European Union and the United States have urged her release. Pavel Polityuk and Anton Zverev reported, Kiev Says It Can’t Withdraw Weaponry As Attacks On Ukrainian Troops Persist, the Ukrainian military said Monday it could not leave the front line in the east as required by the ceasefire due to pro-Russian separatists who advanced last week were attacking its position making it difficult to withdraw heavy weaponry. A truce to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people appeared stillborn last week after rebels ignored it to capture the strategic town of Debaltseve in a punishing defeat for Kiev. Nevertheless, the peace deal’s European sponsors still hold out hope it can be salvaged, now that the Moscow-backed separatists have achieved that objective. Spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said in a televised briefing: “Given that the positions of Ukrainian servicemen continue to be shelled, there can not yet be any talk of pulling back weapons.” Anatoly Stelmakh, another military spokesman, said rebel forces had attacked the village of Shyrokyne overnight, along the coast on the road to Mariupol, a port of half a million that Kiev fears could be the next big rebel target. Rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied the fighters had launched any such attack, and said the situation was calm. Nearly a million people have been driven from their homes by the war between pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine and government forces. Last week’s ceasefire was reached after the rebels abandoned a previous truce to launch their advance, arguing that previous battle lines had left their civilians vulnerable to government shelling. Kiev says the rebels are reinforcing near Mariupol for a possible assault on the port, the biggest city in the two rebellious provinces still in government hands. Defense analyst Dmytro Tymchuk, who has close ties to the military, said rebels had brought 350 fighters and 20 armored vehicles including six tanks to the area.

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance.

With many of the world’s nations falling into economic disrepair and fighting to stay afloat, the United States may come to the same fate come March 1. President Obama and congressional Republicans have no progress to head off the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that go into effect on Mar 1. Lacking a bipartisan deal to avoid catastrophe and hoping to put pressure on the GOP lawmakers, the administration revealed details about the cuts’ consequences including less secure U.S. embassies, trimmed defense contracts, and furloughed air traffic controllers. When a budget fight between President Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, some threats came true and others did not only because private groups stepping in and contractors working for IOUs. The budget impasse eventually ended before serious damage happened.

This time no government shutdown will occur but automatic cuts between March 1 and September 30 will occur which means a reduction of 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs according to the budget office. These cut and $1 trillion over the next decade were put into place two years ago when the administration and Congressional bargainers made them so harsh that everyone would be forced to compromise. This has not happened. According to the administration letters and testimony to Congress social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits are exempted. The cuts will be made over a seven month period and do not all take effect March 1. If a deal is reached anytime during this period the money could be restore either some or all. However left in effect the impact is not clear yet for each program. The law limits administration’s flexibility to protect initiatives, but the White House told agencies to avoid cutting those that present risk to life, safety or health and minimize harm to crucial services. Every agency will experience some effects from these budget cuts if they go into effect.

According to AOL Daily Finance these are the tentative cuts according to the administration letters and testimony to Congress:

-Defense: Troops at war would be protected, but there’d be fewer Air Force flying hours, less training for some Army units and cuts in naval forces. A $3 billion cut in the military’s Tricare health care system could diminish elective care for military families and retirees. And, in a warning to the private defense industry, the Pentagon said it would be “restructuring contracts to reduce their scope and cost.”

-Health: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion, trimming cancer research and drying up funds for hundreds of other research projects. Health departments would give 424,000 fewer tests for the AIDS virus. More than 373,000 people may not receive mental health services.

-Food and agriculture: About 600,000 low-income pregnant women and new mothers would lose food aid and nutrition education. Meat inspectors could be furloughed up to 15 days, shutting meatpacking plants intermittently and costing up to $10 billion in production losses.

-Homeland Security: Fewer border agents and facilities for detained illegal immigrants. Reduced Coast Guard air and sea operations, furloughed Secret Service agents and weakened efforts against cyberthreats to computer networks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund would lose more than $1 billion.

-Education: Seventy thousand Head Start pupils would be removed from the prekindergarten program. Layoffs of 10,000 teachers and thousands of other staffers because of cuts in federal dollars that state and local governments use for schools. Cuts for programs for disabled and other special-needs students.

-Transportation: Most of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 47,000 employees would face furloughs, including air traffic controllers, for an average of 11 days.

-Environment: Diminished Environmental Protection Agency monitoring of oil spills, air pollution and hazardous waste. The color-coded air quality forecasting system that keeps schoolchildren and others inside on bad-air days would be curtailed or eliminated. New models of cars and trucks could take longer to reach consumers because the EPA couldn’t quickly validate that they meet emissions standards.

-State Department: Slow security improvements at overseas facilities, cuts in economic aid in Afghanistan and malaria control in Africa.

-Internal Revenue Service: Furloughed workers would reduce the IRS’ ability to review returns, detect fraud and answer taxpayers’ questions. It offered no specifics.

-FBI: Furloughs and a hiring freeze would have the equivalent impact of cutting 2,285 employees, including 775 agents. Every FBI employee would be furloughed 14 workdays.

-Interior Department: Hours and service would be trimmed at all 398 national parks, and up to 128 wildlife refuges could be shuttered. Oil, gas and coal development on public lands and offshore waters would be diminished because the agency would be less able to issue permits, conduct environmental reviews and inspect facilities.

-Labor: More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would lose job counseling. Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer visits to work sites. One million fewer people would get help finding or preparing for new jobs.

-NASA: Nearly $900 million in cuts, including funds to help private companies build capsules to send astronauts to the International Space Station.

-Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development said about 125,000 poor households could lose benefits from the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher program and risk becoming homeless.

Fiscal Cliff Deal Cuts Average Workers’ Paycheck By $1,000

payroll tax hike with fiscal cliff deal

The tax package that Congress passed in the final hour of New Year’s Day will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, but almost every person will still see a hit to their paychecks. That’s because the legislation did nothing to prevent a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring. Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent tax on wages, with employers paying half and workers paying the other half. That was reduced to 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, saving a typical family about $1,000 a year. In the deal, that tax break — always intended as a temporary tax holiday — was allowed to expire.

Great just what we needed more mini-cliffs uncovered. The only reason they intentionally or accidentally let this expire is because Social Security went bankrupt 3 years earlier than it was suppose to, so all you people about my age and younger will be footing the bill and may never see any of this money. Thank you America! According to AOL jobs, workers earning the national average salary of $41,000 will be $820 poorer next year, with the cut greater the higher the salary up to $113,700. The people who make lower than this will really feel the pain, so I am sure we will see a rise in the division between classes the rich get richer and the poor get poorer as well as an increase in homeless.

Chris Christie On Sandy Aid: House Republicans Were ‘Disappointing And Disgusting To Watch’ (VIDEO)

Chris Christie On Sandy Aid: House Republicans Were ‘Disappointing And Disgusting To Watch’ (VIDEO)

I am glad someone is finally talking about this because it can only be avoided for so long and two months is too long. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had a few choice words for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Republicans Wednesday for not holding a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill:

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”

The Senate has approved a $60.4 billion aid package to help New York and New Jersey recover from the storm, while the House Appropriations Committee has approved a $27 billion measure. Christie said at the conference that he would not accept the smaller package. A vote will be held Wednesday on two different measure involving the package now split into two. Many republicans were outrage over the house speaker not voting on this sooner and moving it to the back burner. If it is not voted on soon, then they would have to start all over.

Good for Christie and I do agree for once with this governor. Again our government not just Obama can’t seem to think of others before themselves. Anyone remember Katrina same thing there too. For being such an advanced civilization, we are really in the stone age. This should be the easiest decision we make as a country but our leaders can’t seem to get anything done.

Ari Fleischer Says He’ll Give Less To Charity Because Of New Limits On Tax Breaks

Ari Fleischer Charity Tax Break

And we thought we avoided the fiscal cliff. Well we avoided the major cliff but now we have some mini cliffs to deal with one to address is charitable donations. Legislation passed by the Senate late Tuesday night will limit the amount wealthy people can claim for charitable deductions on their taxes. While some say donors shouldn’t be motivated by the amount of money they can write off, others –- including some nervous nonprofits –- argue that tax breaks for charitable giving should have been left untouched in the deal.

This is ridiculous since if you want to help help without exceptions like a higher tax write off. Is this guy going to feel the crunch if he can’t deduct as much? It appears not just our government is selfish but other special interest like non-profits and the wealthy are trying to get in on the act. These people again need to realize that the people who are going to get hurt in this scenario are those people who need the help and let’s be frank the people these kind of people make money off of everyday.

Health Care Industry Anxiously Awaiting Fiscal Cliff Outcome With Medicare, Medicaid Cuts On The Line

Health Care Industry Anxiously Awaiting Fiscal Cliff Outcome With Medicare, Medicaid Cuts On The Line.

It is about time they get nervous but in the end they might take a hit and find more ways to nickel and dime you for their services. The American people especially the older variety should be extremely worried about what happens when they can no longer afford the much needed healthcare. It is time we reform the whole system instead of bits and pieces. Universal healthcare anyone?

Fiscal Cliff Tax Hikes Are Not The Only Scary Thing That Could Happen To You On January 1

Fiscal Cliff Tax Hikes Are Not The Only Scary Thing That Could Happen To You On January 1.

Really really important you read this article because we are all about to be screwed over by our so called government. This article will explain 10 ways your money will be affected if our government doesn’t come to a deal before Dec 31. Good luck to everyone because we are going to need it if no deal is made. The selfishness of certain government officials will affect the young to the old, the taxes you pay, the size of your paycheck, unemployment benefits, jobs, and government aid. I encourage everyone to get involved because this is what happens when we let the government dictate our lives and the only interest they have is their own.