Saturday, October 26, 2013

How Obamacare Hurts You If You’re Looking for a Job Amy Payne October 23, 2013 at 6:30 am (38) America is hurting for jobs. And if you’re looking for one, here’s how Obamacare is hurting you. Obamacare is keeping businesses from hiring. We already knew that many employers plan to cut workers’ hours to stay under the threshold of Obamacare mandates. This makes full-time jobs—much less full-time jobs with health benefits—harder to come by. It’s more difficult to track the phantom jobs that just don’t exist today because of Obamacare’s strain on employers. But the latest report from the Federal Reserve confirms that they are all too real. The Federal Reserve collects feedback from businesses and issues reports about the economic outlook. Its latest report directly links Obamacare to a lack of hiring. In fact, it cites Obamacare’s mandates and regulations 10 times. Examples from the report (emphasis added): “Many contacts also commented on reluctance to expand due to uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act; some employers cut hours or employees.” “A number of contacts voiced concern about the uncertainty surrounding future employer and employee healthcare costs.” “There is anxiety about rising health insurance premiums [among manufacturers], which was attributed to the Affordable Care Act.” This lines up with a recent Gallup survey reporting two-fifths of small business owners have held off on hiring because of Obamacare. As Heritage expert James Sherk summarizes: “For the next several years, Obamacare will also make it harder for workers who want jobs to find them.” Not just today—the “next several years.” For Americans seeing their premiums go up or their health coverage dropped, trouble finding a job would be a double whammy. Read the Morning Bell and more en espaƱol every day at Heritage Libertad. Quick Hits: Washington is going to spend and borrow as much as it possibly can before Feb. 7. Tired of this “Groundhog Day” cycle on debt? Turns out the builders of the Obamacare website warned of red flags for months before the launch. In fact, the website failed a major test before launch. In a new poll, just 12 percent think the Obamacare rollout is “going well.” And you might think Jon Stewart is a progressive’s best friend—but now he might be President Obama’s biggest problem. Why is Congress taking a field trip to Florida via military planes? At noon today, tune into Heritage’s Bloggers Briefing with Ann Coulter! Posted in Economics, Front Page, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy] Print This Post Print This Post
Time to reform surveillance state': Massive 'Stop Watching Us' rally challenges NSA spying Published time: October 26, 2013 23:49 Get short URL A demonstarator holds up a sign at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst) A demonstarator holds up a sign at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst) Share on tumblr Trends NSA leaks Tags Hacking, Information Technology, Intelligence, Internet, Politics, Protest, Snowden Twelve years after Americans were stripped of their rights in the name of fighting terrorism, thousands have gathered in Washington DC to protest unconstitutional NSA spying programs revealed by Edward Snowden, and call for repeal of the Patriot Act. Stop Watching Us campaign demands reform of “Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the US is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court.” RT's TIMELINE of the 'Stop Watching Us' event Protesters also demand the creation of an investigative committee charged with reporting the extent of domestic spying and enact regulatory reform. Organizers also want to hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for “unconstitutional surveillance.” United under a banner reading “Thank You Snowden” thousands lined the Capitol to hear a statement by former NSA contractor read out. “Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong,” Snowden said in a statement read out by Former US Department of Justice ethics adviser, Jesselyn Radack. “This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind government to stop them. It’s about our right to know, to associate freely, and to live in an open society,” Snowden said. Twelve large boxes of 575,000 petition signatures were shown to the crowd at the foot of the US Capitol. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who worked with Edward Snowden to expose many of the NSA’s surveillance procedures attended the rally. “It is very important that people speak out, take action, march, rally demonstrate against these practices of the government,” anti-war activist Richard Becker told RT. “What can really bring a change is the actions of the people,” he said, stressing that “none of the progressive changes” in the history of the US have ever been “originated inside the Congress or in the White House”. Congressional representative Justin Amash told the crowd that bringing his anti-NSA bill in July to Congress was his proudest moment as an elected official. “We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to pass something to rein in the NSA,” he said, adding that the “NSA is fighting back, the establishment is fighting back.” Demonstarators carry signs at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst) Demonstarators carry signs at the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst) Former politicians Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson also attended the anti-NSA protest. "The government has granted itself power that it does not have," said Johnson. "We have to stand against this." “Our own government has become a threat to freedom, at home and abroad,” said former Congressman, Dennis Kucinich. Whistleblower Thomas Drake in addressing the crowd said that he was fortunate not end up in prison. “The last thing a free and open society needs is a digital fence around us,” Drake said. He called for the restoration of the Fourth Amendment and said that NSA surveillance "engenders fear and erodes our freedom." Two days before the march the US Department of Defense published a YouTube interview with NSA Director and CYCOM Commander General Keith Alexander trying to justify the agency's programs. So far less than 2 percent of viewers agree with Alexander’s reasoning for the need for total surveillance and spying on own citizens to protect national security. A day after the release, the website for the US National Security Agency suddenly went offline in what some claimed was an Anonymous DDoS attack. Twelve hours later the NSA however said it was due to a technical problem during a routine software update, denying it was under attack. The Edward Snowden leaks have exposed that NSA not only spied on public records but also on data mined from personal communications of world leaders, including Latin American presidents and European leaders - even those who are considered to be US allies, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was on NSA spy list since 2002, according to latest revelations. The Stop Watching Us rally comes as twenty-one countries, including US allies France and Mexico, have joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring. Other countries involved in the talks reportedly include Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Paraguay, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and Venezuela. Demonstarators carry a parachute during the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst) Demonstarators carry a parachute during the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
Reagan revived as US delegation defends Al-Sisi Ben White Friday, 25 October 2013 16:51 120 157 5 313 General Sisi Paul Vallely and Patrick Sookhdeo meeting Al-Sisi in Egypt. Source: Stand Up America US In late September, retired senior U.S. military officials were part of a delegation that went to Egypt on a visit organized by Virginia-based think tank the Westminster Institute (WI), returning to D.C. to hail the Egyptian military's intervention and deny there had been a coup. Delegates, many linked to conservative think tanks and Christian organisations, spent two days conducting various meetings, including a two hour-long audience with Al-Sisi, as well as Amr Moussa, Tamarod leaders, Coptic Church head Pope Tawadros II, and "local businessmen". The post-trip press conference was held at the Press Club in D.C., where delegates expressed excitement and enthusiasm about the military takeover, with one participant hailing Al-Sisi as "almost Washingtonian". The WI delegation urged the U.S. administration to fully support the Egyptian military so as not to lose a crucial American ally in the region. Yet in August, Human Rights Watch condemned Egyptian security forces' "rapid and massive use of lethal force to disperse sit-ins", which the international organisation called "the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history". In October, Amnesty International cited "excessive and unwarranted lethal force" by security forces. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the military crackdown, with some 2,000 detained. The WI delegation was co-led by retired Major General Paul Vallely and Patrick Sookhdeo, Chairman of the Board of the WI and International Director of UK-based Christian charity Barnabas Fund (for whom he wrote an article about the trip titled 'Rejecting Islamic Extremism Abroad - And At Home'). Vallely is the founder of 'Stand Up America US' (which also publicised the delegations' findings) and is involved with a number of right-wing initiatives. He has defended force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay, questioned if President Obama is a "natural-born citizen", and spoke at the 'Jerusalem Summit' which sees Israel at the centre of a war for "Judeo-Christian civilization". Other delegates included retired Col. Ken Allard, contributing editor at Family Security Matters, Intelligence Support Activity- veteran Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and Sebastian Gorka of Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The Michele Bachmann connection According to Vallely, the delegation's meetings were set up by Tera Dahl, described as a "Westminster Institute congressional fellow", and who, in a piece published in August, is also named as Stand Up America US's "Senior Middle East Correspondent". Interestingly, Dahl has worked as personal assistant to Christian right-favourite Rep. Michele Bachmann, who went on a much ridiculed visit to Egypt where she expressed gratitude to the Egyptian military and linked the Muslim Brotherhood to 9/11. More recently, Bachmann has claimed that Obama's policy on Syria is a sign of the Biblical 'End Times'. Bachmann has been an enthusiastic proponent of investigating alleged "deep penetration" in the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood, efforts in which Tera Dahl apparently played a key role, and for which she was praised by S. Gorka for her "incredible work". What Salon called Bachmann's "Muslim witch hunt" prompted the Anti-Defamation League to urge those responsible to stop "trafficking in anti-Muslim conspiracy theories." In an article on Michele Bachmann's trip to Egypt in The New York Times, political scientist at the University of Oklahoma Samer Shehata noted "a confluence of interests among the coup leaders in Egypt and Islamophobes in the Congress". The Westminster Institute But what of the Westminster Institute itself? Founded in 2009, its mission is to promote "individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world by sponsoring high-quality independent research with a particular focus on the threats from extremism and radical ideologies". Beginning with a first year income of just over US $20,000, the WI's income has since risen to a total income of US $289,649 in 2012. The only member of staff listed on its website is Executive Director Katharine Gorka, wife of Sebastian. K. Gorka's recent work includes co-editing a book with Patrick Sookhdeo on 'Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism'. The book was hailed in The Washington Times as possibly "the most important one you will read this year" by Peter Hannaford, a public relations professional who worked with Ronald Reagan. WI events and speakers have included a September day conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Centre on 'Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood: A New American Strategy', where Sookhdeo reportedly told delegates America must "'rediscover an identity' in 'Judeo-Christian' faith-based freedom and virtue". Other past WI speakers have presented on 'Countering Subversion' and described the U.S. as "the last bastion of freedom and the hope of all man living under tyranny". Egypt delegation participant Sebastian Gorka has also contributed to the think tank's output. S. Gorka is connected to different right-wing groups, including the pro-Israel Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). At their 2012 seminar on U.S. foreign policy featuring Gorka and others, the WI was recommended to the audience alongside groups like ACT! For America as a means of "telling the truth" on Capitol Hill. The Barnabas Fund A look at the WI's board of trustees sheds further light on the think tank's agenda and connections. Board member Robert Reilly worked in the Reagan White House, and is the author of 'The Closing of the Muslim Mind'. Reilly is a board member of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and believes "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people". In a recent interview with Frank Gaffney (who praised the WI as one of his "all-time favourite organizations in Washington"), Reilly attacked "multiculturalism" and stressed the need to "regain your faith" to "fight this Islamist onslaught". Reilly spoke of "spiritual warfare", and cited Britain as an example where "the Muslims in that country...are a problem" despite being only 3% of the population, due to "the loss of faith in Great Britain in their own religion and institutions and ideals". However Reilly aside, the WI's board is dominated by individuals closely associated with UK-based Christian charity Barnabas Fund. The Barnabas Fund's remit is to "support Christians where they are in a minority and suffer discrimination, oppression and persecution as a consequence of their faith". It has organised a petition on halal, "Say No to the Islamisation of Our Food", which it claims "is being used as an underhanded way of furthering the Islamisation of the country". The most high profile individual connecting the BF and WI is, of course, the former's International Director and the latter's Chair of the Board, Patrick Sookhdeo. Writing just days after 9/11, Sookhdeo asserted that Islam "justifies the use of all forms of violence" and that "the World Trade Centre attack cannot be dismissed as merely the work of a small group of extremists". Sookhdeo believes "the brutality of contemporary Islamic terrorists...obviously harks back to such paradigmatic examples from Muhammad's life", while talking to a Christian website, Sookhdeo said "we must be thankful that today there are more Muslims becoming Christians than ever before in history". Sookhdeo is a signatory to the US-based "Coalition to Stop Shariah", alongside many other familiar names and groups. The WI's board also includes Patrick Sookhdeo's wife Rosemary Sookhdeo, author of 'Secrets Behind The Burqa'. Other WI board members Albrecht Hauser and Caroline Kerslake are also board members of the Barnabas Fund (UK) and Barnabas Aid (U.S. non-profit) respectively. Another WI board member Brenda Dobbs is wife of Julian Dobbs, board member for Barnabas Aid, with the WI website featuring a sermon by the latter on "One Lord Or Many Gods? Can the God of the Bible and the God of the Koran be the same?" J. Dobbs has previously warned of "a growing Islamic ideology in the U.S. that clearly wants to see Sharia law applied here". Past "Senior Fellow" at the WI Marshall Sana was working at the Barnabas Fund at the same time, following a position at the Discovery Institute. Aside from the personal connections, the WI is based at a property owned by the Barnabas Fund. While the WI contact information gives a street address of 6729 Curran St., Mclean, VA, event information has given an address of 6731 Curran St. Barnabas Aid lists its address as 6731, while Isaac Publishing - publishing house for many Sookhdeo books -as well as the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity - of which Sookhdeo is the director - both have the same street address: 6729 Curran St. When I asked Katharine Gorka to clarify the relationship between the WI and the Barnabas Fund, in light of the strong links in personnel, property, and board members, she said that "the two organizations are close" but are "legally separate and with different missions. Barnabas is a charity. Westminster is a think tank." Reviving Reagan to face the Green Menace The support for the Egyptian military and attacks on Islamism by the Westminster Institute and its fellow travellers comes across as a revival of Reagan-era style conservative politics and foreign policy, a comparison made by a number of the people mentioned in this article. In fact, an upcoming event at the WI will see Kenneth deGraffenreid, Senior Director of Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council during Reagan's presidency, discuss "Information Warfare and the Muslim Brotherhood". Comparing Al-Jazeera to "Nazi and Soviet broadcasts", WI head Katharine Gorka has recommended the creation of a new Active Measures Working Group, a Reagan-era propaganda initiative. The common cause for the Christian right and these so-called security experts is support for bloody, undemocratic repression abroad, and the targeting of Muslim groups at home - and indeed making the link between the two. At a WI lecture, Sebastian Gorka cites Frank Gaffney and asks the question "if the Egyptian people can reject the Brotherhood there why can't we reject them in America?" Al-Sisi seems to have given 'Fear, Inc.'-style politics a new lease of life. - See more at: