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US: House Votes to Repeal Part of Healthcare Law

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© unknown
The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal a provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul setting up a home-care program for the elderly and disabled that regulators said was unworkable.

The Republican-led House voted 267-159 for the bill that would terminate the Community Living Assistance Services(CLASS) Act that was supposed to create a voluntary insurance program to help the elderly and disabled pay for home care.

Republicans called it a step toward achieving their goal of dismantling the healthcare overhaul Obama signed into law nearly two years ago.

The legislation is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate even though Republicans are expected to push for a vote on it.

"There is no doubt that the president's healthcare plan is killing jobs," said Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling. "House Republicans have repealed it in its totality. It has been blocked by the president, by Democrats and so if we can't do it in its totality we'll do it piecemeal. We need to start out by repealing the CLASS Act."

Dollar

How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis

Don't blame American appetites, rising oil prices, or genetically modified crops for rising food prices. Wall Street's at fault for the spiraling cost of food.
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© Foreign Policy

Demand and supply certainly matter. But there's another reason why food across the world has become so expensive: Wall Street greed.

It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there's value, there's money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI).

For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle, as bankers remained more interested in risk and collateralized debt than in anything that could be literally sowed or reaped. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. All of a sudden, bankers could take as large a position in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had, since the Great Depression, only been available to those who actually had something to do with the production of our food.

Change was coming to the great grain exchanges of Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City -- which for 150 years had helped to moderate the peaks and valleys of global food prices. Farming may seem bucolic, but it is an inherently volatile industry, subject to the vicissitudes of weather, disease, and disaster. The grain futures trading system pioneered after the American Civil War by the founders of Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Pillsbury helped to establish America as a financial juggernaut to rival and eventually surpass Europe.

The grain markets also insulated American farmers and millers from the inherent risks of their profession. The basic idea was the "forward contract," an agreement between sellers and buyers of wheat for a reasonable bushel price -- even before that bushel had been grown. Not only did a grain "future" help to keep the price of a loaf of bread at the bakery -- or later, the supermarket -- stable, but the market allowed farmers to hedge against lean times, and to invest in their farms and businesses. The result: Over the course of the 20th century, the real price of wheat decreased (despite a hiccup or two, particularly during the 1970s inflationary spiral), spurring the development of American agribusiness. After World War II, the United States was routinely producing a grain surplus, which became an essential element of its Cold War political, economic, and humanitarian strategies -- not to mention the fact that American grain fed millions of hungry people across the world.

Dollar

Saudi Arabia Says it Can Cover Any Oil Shortages

  • Oil minister says can respond to shortages due to investment
  • Growing domestic demand won't crimp ability to export
  • To rely more heavily on gas for rising domestic demand (Adds detail, comment throughout)
Saudi Arabia can meet any future world oil shortages thanks to massive investment, and its rising gas output will mean crude exports will not be affected by booming domestic energy demand, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Monday.

Growing tension between Iran and the West over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme has led to fears of a disruption in oil supplies from the Middle East Gulf.

The United States and European Union have raised pressure on Iran with sanctions and a ban on Iranian oil, while Tehran has said it may cut off supplies to some unspecified countries.

Vader

Obama: Not Cool, Just Cold-Blooded

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© Unknown
A Black Agenda Radio commentary:

"The United States is waging a terroristic war against at least four nations," but its president is somehow perceived as "cool." Obama's fans, the corporate media and, apparently, the commander-in-chief himself see no contradiction between coolness and international criminality. "Barack Obama has surpassed George Bush in lawlessness." He's "cool like Jesse James."


"When the U.S. president arrogates to himself the right to bomb and kill at will, he makes himself an outlaw."

President Obama thinks killing people around the globe with drones is as cool as singing Al Green at the Apollo. In a live Web interview, Obama assured his audience that the U.S. unmanned drone force - now thought to number in the thousands and ranging from deadly Predators and Reapers to aircraft the size of small birds - was "kept on a very tight leash." So, here we have a secret weapons program that violates other countries' airspace and kills their citizens at will - and even kills American citizens without charge or trial - and Obama thinks that all he is obligated to do is give assurances that the weapons are on a "tight leash."

The issue is not whether the American commander-in-chief has made sure that the drones are under his control, but that the United States is waging a terroristic war against at least four nations - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and possibly more - with not the slightest justification under international law.

Magic Hat

Iran: This Is What Propaganda Looks Like

Iran threat
© ABC News
Alarmist corporate media coverage of the "threat" from Iran is everywhere, thanks to a Senate appearance yesterday by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

But Clapper said very little in his remarks that would justify the propagandistic coverage we're seeing. His main point was that Iran could launch attacks if it felt threatened. It is hard to see how this is particularly surprising. Clapper pointed to the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. as evidence that Iran seems more eager to assert itself, perhaps even inside the United States. But there were many people who raised serious questions about that rather implausible scenario (which involved hiring a Mexican drug gang to carry out the assassination).

As the Wall Street Journal reported (one of the few corporate outlets I saw pushing back against the official alarmism):
There is still widespread doubt that an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador was authorized at the highest levels in Tehran, said Karim Sadjadpour, a Middle East analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"If that's the only data point, I think it's a stretch to conclude that the regime is now looking to commit acts of terror on U.S. soil," he said.

Black Cat

Political Analyst Says 'West Could Target Russia, China Next'



A senior political analyst says Moscow and Beijing should not just sit by and watch the current anti-Iran threats and moves by the West as they are bound to be the next targets, Press TV reports.

"People like Russia and China had better figure out that if they just sit there and let these things happen, eventually they'll be next," Webster Griffin Tarpley, author and historian, said in an exclusive interview with Press TV.

"And by the time they (Russia and China) are next, there'll be nobody else left standing," Tarpley stressed.

The political analyst further warned that the US and UK are currently reenacting their agenda in the run up to the Iraq War, this time against Iran.

Bad Guys

US: Romney: 'I'm Not Concerned About the Very Poor'

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© The Raw Story

Florida GOP presidential primary winner Mitt Romney displayed his apathy towards America's impoverished on CNN Wednesday morning.

"I'm in this race because I care about America," he said. "I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there, if we need to repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who are struggling, and I'll continue to take that message across the country."

Host Soledad O'Brien was surprised by Romney's comments.
"You just said said, 'I'm not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net,'" O'Brien said. "But I think there are a lot of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, 'That sounds odd.' Can you explain that?"

"Finish the sentence Soledad," Romney replied. "I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them."

"The challenge right now - we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor. And there's no question it's not good being poor. And we have a safety net to help those that are very poor, but my campaign is focused is on middle-income Americans."

Arrow Down

Egypt: Americans Take Shelter in Cairo Embassy

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© EPA
Some US citizens staying at US embassy while waiting to leave country, says Egypt department spokesperson
Rare move to offer diplomatic refuge comes after travel ban imposed on US citizens working with NGOs in Egypt.

A number of Americans have taken refuge in the embassy in Cairo after a crackdown on US-funded non-governmental organisations, the state department said on Monday.

"We can confirm that a handful of US citizens have opted to stay in the embassy compound in Cairo while waiting for permission to depart Egypt," Kate Starr, a state department spokesperson, said.

The rare move by the embassy to offer its citizens diplomatic refuge follows a crackdown by Egypt's military-led government on NGOs, including several funded by the US government, which saw travel bans imposed on six American staffers including a son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Egyptian police first raided the groups in late December as part of an investigation into foreign funding of 17 NGOs, part of what civil society groups say has been a broader crackdown on critics of the army's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with continued protests against military rule.

Attention

Desperate Portugal Family, Evicted From Trailer, Sets Home on Fire

Austerity in Europe, the increase in taxes and slashing of social services several national governments there have been forced to undertake as a result of the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, has been protested in many forms.

The United Kingdom saw a massive general strike in November. Unruly crowds have unleashed mayhem on the streets of Rome and Athens. Spanish youth gather in public plazas there on a near-daily basis to give speeches, sing protest songs and make their presence as the self-proclaimed "indignant" heard.

Perhaps no recent protest, however, has been as personal as that of Mateus and Leonor Silva, of Lisbon, Portugal. The unemployed couple had been living in a parking lot trailer for 21 months, they told Reuters, because they had no money to pay rent and could not receive other assistance. With their two school-age daughters, they lived an unpretentious existence, covering the roof of their home with a tarp and drying their laundry on its side. Then on Jan. 25, they were evicted by city police and left.

Until last week. In an act of protest and defiance, the couple came back to the spot where the shell of their former home was still standing. In full view of police, Mateus started throwing rocks at the trailer. Friends help the couple overturn the small structure. Then Leonor set it on fire.

The pictures speak for themselves.

Syringe

US-CIA Heroin Transit Base Proven

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© n/a
"A Nazi & a Drug Lord in Charge of Police in Osh?"

Today Turkish Weekly ran an investigative piece on the newly appointed chief of police in Osh-Kyrgyzstan. The new police chief Suyun Omurzakov, who used to be a deputy minister of interior, has been known as a highly influential drug lord, a leader of organized criminal groups, and he was the subject of a criminal investigation in the past:
In October 2009, the Kyrgyznews.com published an article pointing to a direct link between the then Osh city deputy chief of police S. Omurzakov and organized criminal groups engaged into drug trafficking, referring to this person as one of the most influential drug lords in the south of Kyrgyzstan.

Another report that investigates the June 2010 events developed by a coalition of Kyrgyz and Uzbek human right defenders "Oshskaya Initsiativa" (Osh Initiative) speaks of Omurzakov as a leader of an organized Kyrgyz criminal group, along with the mayor of Osh Melis Myrzakmatov, and crime bosses Almanbet Manapiyaev and Kadyr Dusanov ("Jengo"), etc., who were directly involved into plotting, leading, financing and participating in anti-Uzbek pogroms and distributing arms and ammunition among Kyrgyz militia. ...