Obama and Congress Facing New Challenges, While the Auto Industry is Dealt Another Blow

https://i2.wp.com/media.cagle.com/50/2010/11/03/85188_600.jpg

Officials on Tuesday said the Obama administration is trying to find ways to sidestep Congress in order to prevent American companies from reincorporating overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes, Josh Lederman reports, Obama Seeks Executive Ways To Limit Tax Inversions. President Barack Obama has condemned so called tax inversions as unpatriotic and urged Congress to stop them, but Republicans and Democrats disagree about the best solution making congressional action unlikely. Messing with inversions without Congressional approval would further open up Obama to charges he’s unilaterally rewriting tax codes as House Republicans are already suing Obama for exceeding his authorities. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, last month, stated that the administration had examined the tax code and without new laws its option were limited. However, on Tuesday, the Treasury Department said in a statement: “Treasury is reviewing a broad range of authorities for possible administrative actions that could limit the ability of companies to engage in inversions, as well as approaches that could meaningfully reduce the tax benefits after inversions take place.” As Lederman explains it, “In an inversion, a U.S. business merges with or is acquired by a foreign company in a country with a lower tax rate, allowing the company to lower its tax bill. Frequently the companies maintain their U.S. headquarters and operations, and the U.S. entity often maintains control of the company. Obama argues that amounts to companies attempting to choose which tax laws they want to follow — a luxury not granted to individual taxpayers.” Both parties generally agree that inversions are a problem, but do not agree on the causes and the solutions. While Democrats want to make it harder for U.S. firms to reincorporate overseas, Republicans argue that Congress needs to lower the corporate tax rate to keep businesses in the U.S. The united States has the highest corporate tax rate at 35 percent in the industrialized world and taxes income that’s earned overseas and brought back to the U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the three Senator Democrats who wrote to Obama Tuesday urging him to take immediate executive action on inversions, stated, “It would be an important first step toward treating companies that renounce America the same way we treat people who renounce America — as freeloaders who get cut off from other benefits.” A House Speaker John Boehner spokesman said Tuesday that Obama should work with Congress on adding inversions rather than action on his own, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that actions taken by Obama could make the situation worse. The Congressional Research Service confirmed that 50 U.S. based companies have merged with or acquired foreign businesses over the past decade in inversions.

Meanwhile, Congress according to a Washington Post/ ABC News poll released Tuesday, found that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of their own congressional representative, Ariel Edwards Levy reports, A Record Number Of Americans Don’t Like Their Own Member Of Congress. This is the first time in a quarter century that the poll has had a disapproval rating higher than 50 percent and even higher than the 47 percent disapproval rating of last year’s government shutdown. Terrible ratings are nothing new since Congress has an average approval rating of under 12 percent, however, in the past, Americans approved more of their district’s representative than the legislative branch as a whole, but that number took a dive as well. In June before Republicans took back the House in 2010, 40 percent of Americans told Gallup their represented didn’t deserve to be re-elected, yet 85 percent of members seeking re-election held their seat. The poll also found among the 1,029 adults from both parties surveyed via phone between July 30 and Aug. 3 disapproved of their representative equally at 46 Democrats and 44 percent Republicans. This also differs from the past two midterms as polls found higher anti-incumbent sentiments among the party that would go on to win the House.

An even bigger threat to Congress and the White House, according to what U.S. officials told CNN, is a new leaker that exposed national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Evan Perez reports, New leaker disclosing U.S. secrets, government concludes. The Intercept, a news site launched by Glenn Greenwald who also published Snowden’s leaks, published Tuesday a news story based on national security documents shows proof of the newest leak. The article focuses on the growth in the U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration citing documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013 which was after Snowden left the U.S. to avoid criminal charges. Government officials are trying to find out the identity of the person, while Greenwald, in a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved. I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.” It is not clear how many documents the new leakers shared or how much damage it caused as the documents shard are labeled “Secret” and “NOFORN” which means it was not shared with foreign government. That’s a lower classification than most of the documents leaked by Snowden. Government officials said he stole 1.7 million classified documents many of which were labeled “Top Secret” a higher classification for most important government secrets.

On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has proposed a new bill called the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act aimed to improve automotive safety following the high profile recalls of General Motors and Toyota, Autoblog reports, Senator Pushes For Up To Life Sentence For Auto Execs Found To Delay Recalls. The plan includes doubling the budget for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the next six years, removing the $35-million limit for fining automakers, and most importantly a provision to punish auto executives who knowingly delay recalls with a life sentence. McCaskill’s office told the Detroit News: “(The bill) gives federal prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal prosecutions for auto safety violations and increases the possible penalties, including up to life in prison for violations that result in death.” If a delayed recall ends in serous injuries, execs could face a 15 year stint behind bars. By removing the limit on per-vehicle fines, the fine structure can be increased from $5,000 to $25,000 e.g. GM could have been hooked for $55 billion in fines for its ignition switch recall rather than just $35 million. According to The News, McCaskill said: “With millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we’ve got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe. Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers’ safety. For too long, auto safety resources have remained virtually stagnant while cars and the safety challenges they present have become more complex.”

International Conflicts Rage On As Russia Sparks Gun Buying in the U.S. and More Planes Meet Disaster

https://i0.wp.com/otherwords.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/obama-no-exit-military-strategy-cartoon.jpg

No one can deny the fact that this year have been the worst in the history of aviation especially the past week with a cluster of disaster spanning three continents including 300 passengers killed on a plane shot out of the sky, suspension of flights to Israel’s largest airport due to rocket attacks, and airliner crashing in a storm and another disappears. According to the AOL article, Very bad week: Airline disasters come in a cluster, industry analysts and safety experts have concluded their is no common theme with these disasters as they all seem random tragedies and do not think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe. The International Air Transportation Association reported that less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident where the plane was damaged. John Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia, a non-profit promoting global aviation safety, said: “One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way.” Beatty added that because of the growth in the industry especially in the developing world that more accidents could potentially happen. Malaysia Flight 17 shot down on July 18 in Eastern Ukraine killed 298 people and Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people in March adding up to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year which was the safest year on record with 163 fatalities in 2013. ON Wednesday, seven days after Flight 17 met disaster, a TransAsia plane crashed in Taiwan due to stormy weather killing 48 people injuring 10 others and crew and injuring five more people on the ground. The next day an Air Algerie flight with 116 people disappeared in a rainstorm which the wreckage was later found in Mali, a Burkina Faso official said late Thursday. Together, the disasters may push the fatalities over 700 for this year, the most since 2010, and 2014 is still only half over. According to Robert W. Mann Jr., an aviation industry analyst: “They’re all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory and it’s highly localized to their home markets where they fly. The places where these things are happening, 99 percent of passengers never go to or fly to. … This isn’t a headline issue for most people, and that’s why people continue to fly despite the headlines.”

While aviation industry faces a tough year, Russia and Pro-Russian separatists face new accusations regarding Ukraine. According to Catherine Taibi, CNN Freelancer Abducted By Pro-Russian Separatists In Ukraine, a CNN freelance journalist has been detained in eastern Ukraine since Tuesday after being abducted by pro-Russian separatists as reported by the network Thursday. Anton Skiba was taken from his hotel in Donetsk after covering days of the MH17 crash site and the network chose not to report the incident for safety concerns. CNN reports that several press freedom groups and organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have called for Skiba’s immediate release. Skiba was accused of “terrorism” and “of posting cash rewards for the killing of separatist fighters on his Facebook page.” The Unites States on Thursday accused Russia of firing artillery across the border in to Ukraine to target Ukrainian military positions, Reuters reports Russia Fired On Ukraine, U.S. Says. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf explained: “We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions.” Ukraine’s Security Council said on Wednesday that preliminary information indicated that missiles were fired from Russia that took down two government fighter jets over Eastern Ukraine. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Thursday dismissed this saying it is an attempt to mislead the public, according to Interfax news agency reports citing a defense ministry official. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., after new sanction imposed by the Obama administration last week against Russia included several companies such as Kalashnikov Concern, who makes the most popular weapon in the world, the Ak-47. As Hunter Stuart reports, Russian Sanctions Spark AK-47 Buying Frenzy In U.S., the move has sent Americans in to a buying frenzy seeking to buy AK-47s that are already for sale in the U.S. Gun sellers around the country say they are seeing big business in AK-47s and other Russian firearms. The Treasury Department says people and businesses who own Kalashnikov guns can still sell them in the U.S. as the Kalashnikov company does not benefit.

While Russia and the pro-Russian rebels deal with the fallout of the alleged allegations, Israel elected a new president amid the violence and destruction. Newly elected president Reuven Rivlin, a legislator from the hawkish Likud Party, took over the reigns from Nobel Prize Laureate Shimon Peres whose presidency ended on Thursday, according to the Associated Press report Israel swears in new president amid Gaza war. During his handover ceremony, Peres, 90, said: “I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families” and blaming the Islamic militant group Hamas for starting the war by firing at Israel, but emphasized that “Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza.” Rivlin’s speech was similar saying: “We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam. We are fighting against terrorism.” However, unlike Peres, Rivlin has long been an opponent of efforts to establish a Palestinian state, the Associated Press reports. Peres spent his last days of his seven year term dealing with grieving families of soldiers killed din the two weeks of fighting. So far, 30 have died and three civilians on the Israeli side, while more than 700 Palestinians with most being civilians have died. Israel’s president is meant to be a unifying figure and moral compass, while executive power rest with the prime minister who is currently the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu. This week, Peres met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try and broker a ceasefire. Rivlin, 74, a stalwart in Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said he will turn his priorities inward focusing on domestic issue such as rising living costs and affordable housing, while Peres said ,once out of office, he will facilitate investments in education, health care, agriculture and technology throughout the Middle East.