Daily Archives: December 14, 2011

House Passes Tax Cut Extension with Pipeline Provision

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

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On Tuesday, the House of Representatives, led by Republicans, voted 234-192 to extend the payroll tax cut and speed the process for government approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Approval by the Senate appears unlikely given strong opposition from the Democratic majority.

President Obama said he would veto the measure, which attached pipeline approval to the payroll tax cut, setting up further brinkmanship before Congress‘s holiday recess begins.

Congress had debated the payroll tax cut extension and a spending bill that must pass to keep the government funded after Friday and avoid a shutdown.

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SAG Nominations Announced

Cover of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly C...

Cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominations were this morning, with Tate Taylor’s The Help leading the pack with four nominations.

There were many surprises this morning. The nominations propelled many dark horses in the Oscar race, and also dampened the chances of many thought as secured nominees.

The most surprising omissions were Michael Fassbender (Shame), Albert Brooks (Drive), Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).

In their place came Armie Hammer (J. Edgar), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and Demian Bichir ( Better Life).

Bridesmaids actress Melissa McCarthy went from dark horse to likely Oscar nominee with an inclusion in the supporting actress group and part of the nominated Bridesmaids ensemble. The latter was a big surprise because it beat out Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (both of which failed to receive a single nod).

Thanks to the cast group, France’s first lady and Midnight in Paris co-star Carla Bruni is a SAG nominee.

Last year, the SAGs perfectly mirrored Oscar, with Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo going home winners and The King’s Speech taking the award for best performance by a cast. They also went seventeen for twenty on the acting nominations. 

Check out a full list of all awards announcements so far this year here.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The Artist

Bridesmaids

The Descendants

The Help

Midnight in Paris

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir, A Better Life

George Clooney, The Descendants

Leonardo diCaprio, J. Edgar

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Viola Davis, The Help

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn

Armie Hammer, J.Edgar

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Octavia Spencer, The Help

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

The Adjustment Bureau

Cowboys and Aliens

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

X-Men: First Class

Via IndieWire.

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Women’s Health Advocates Angry with Plan B Decision

English: Kathleen Sebelius speaking after her ...

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Women’s health advocates are disappointed and angry after the Health and Human Services Department decided to keep Plan B from being sold over the counter.

The move overrules a decision from the Food and Drug Administration scientists. At least one former FDA official is calling on President Obama to reverse the decision.

“This is really unprecedented in terms of overturning a decision about a drug approval,” said Dr. Susan Wood, former FDA Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and a professor of at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services.

Dr. Wood resigned in 2005 over the delay in approving emergency over-the-counter contraception. She said this development “seems counter” to the 2009 memo Pres. Obama issued promising to restore “scientific integrity to government decision-making.”

Plan B is sold behind pharmacy counters and is available without a prescription for those seventeen or older. The FDA was going to lift the age limit and make Plan B available over the counter, but HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the decision.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed moving emergency contraception to drug store shelves years ago.

In 2009, a federal judge said the FDA  set the restrictions initially based on politics, not science, and ordered the agency to review its decision.

In a statement, Sec. Sebelius said she made the call because the maker of Plan B didn’t prove that all girls of a reproductive age would be able to understand how to use it without help from an adult.

Via CBS.

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“Unfit” Khmer Rouge First Lady to Stay in Detention

30 Aug 2011: Ieng Thirith during the second da...

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On Tuesday, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) ordered that Ieng Thirith, a Khmer Rouge defendant ruled unfit to stand trial, will stay detained to see if her mental condition improves.

The supreme court chamber reversed a lower chamber ruling that would have freed the seventy-nine-year-old whose doctors concluded has Alzheimer’s disease. Prosecutors appealed against her release. Ms. Ieng is facing charges for her role as the social affairs minister during the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.

The ruling came during the second week of testimony in the trial of three former Khmer Rouge senior officials. On trial is Ms. Ieng’s husband, Ieng Sary, who was the Khmer Rouge foreign minister.

The ECCC is seeking justice for two million people who died of execution, lack of medical care, or starvation under the Khmer Rouge. The defendants are charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide, religious persecution, and torture. All have pleaded innocent. Ms. Ieng claims to have always worked for the benefit of the people.

Ms. Ieng will remain in the ECCC’s detention center until she can be detained at a place to undergo medical treatment. After six months of treatment, she will undergo another examination so the Trial Chamber can make a new assessment of her fitness to stand trial.

Ms. Ieng is the sister-in-law of Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998.

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Michigan Senate Requires Women Buy an Extra Rider If They Plan to Have an Abortion

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Asking women to pay for extra health insurance covering abortions in advance won’t work because the procedures are in response to unplanned pregnancies.

Nonetheless, Michigan Health Policy Committee members sent to the full Senate two bills that would require health insurance policies to not cover abortions unless women buy an extra rider on their policies.

The bills were approved 7-1. State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) was the sole vote in opposition.

The bills were denounced by choice advocates and a leader of the Michigan National Organization for Women, who called the legislation “sexist.”

Jean Doss, a consultant for Planned Parenthood Advocates, said it’s not likely that women would buy the extra rider because they don’t start a year intending to have the procedure. “No woman plans on having an abortion,” she said.

Ms. Doss said abortions are typically the result of failed contraception, rape or incest, or something going wrong with a pregnancy. “The outcome will be that women are going to shoulder the burden, they’re going to delay services and delay the health care that can lead to serious problems down the line,” she said. “The public is sick of this issue. They want to look at a way to prevent abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies.”

Mary Pollock, legislative vice president for the Michigan National Organization for Women, called the bills discriminatory and questioned whether the lawmakers would take such steps for procedures faced only by men.

The bills also don’t make sense considering lawmakers aren’t requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of contraception, which could limit the number of abortions.

Via mlive.com.

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Low Income Parents Lose Childcare Subsidies

Newly revamped childcare options at Hannam Vil...

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Low-income working parents face a paradox. As they have to work longer hours, they are losing access to a government subsidy that helps pay for child care.

The subsidy, a mix of federal and state funds that reimburses child care providers for families, is critical to the lives of poor women. It has been eaten away over the years by inflation, growing need, and state budget cuts.

At least two states, Arizona and Utah, are no longer appropriating state general funds for child care at all.

According to a recent report, families in thirty-seven states were worse off this year than last year as waiting lists grew, co-payments rose, and eligibility tightened.

President Obama had recommended an increase in the subsidy in the 2011 budget, but it has not been approved by Congress. Stimulus money is now gone.

Advocates for poor women question whether the social contract that emerged during the 1990s welfare overhaul (women work in exchange for help with child care) is fraying.

Via The New York Times.

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Filed under Economy, Family, Sick Sad World

Trump Decides Not to Hold Debate After All

Donald Trump

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Donald J. Trump has dropped plans to moderate a presidential debate.

Mr. Trump’s statement on Tuesday that he was bowing out of the Newsmax debate seemed certain to open the door to another round of “I just might …” threats from the real estate mogul.

“It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama administration,” Mr. Trump said. “But if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an independent candidate.”

Mr. Trump drew criticism from the Republican establishment for moderating a Presidential debate while saying that he might still run if displeased with the candidates. Rather than go ahead with the debate and declare that he will not run, he chose to drop the debate.

Mr. Trump was facing an awkward task: moderating a debate with only two candidates. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were the only two Republicans who agreed to take part. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and Ron Paul declined.

Mr. Trump issued the following exclamation-point laden statement through his lawyer.

The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of “The Apprentice,” on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for president of the United States as an independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for Dec. 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!

I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!

Via The New York Times.

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On This Day…

In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967.

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Saudi Woman Executed for Witchcraft

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi woman was beheaded after being convicted of practicing “witchcraft and sorcery,” at least the second such execution for sorcery this year.

The woman, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was executed in the northern Saudi province of al-Jawf on Monday.

Authorities who searched Ms. Nassar’s home found a book about witchcraft, thirty-five veils, and glass bottles full of “an unknown liquid used for sorcery” among her possessions. Authorities said Nassar claimed to be a healer and would sell a veil and three bottles for 1500 riyals, or about $400.

Ms. Nassar’s death sentence was upheld by an appeals court and the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council.

Philip Luther, the interim direct of Amnesty International‘s Middle East and North Africa program, condemned her killing, calling it “deeply shocking.”

“The charges of ‘witchcraft and sorcery’ are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia and to use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling,” Luther said.

Mr. Luther said that a charge of sorcery is often used by the Saudi government as a smokescreen under which they punish people for exercising freedom of speech.

In September, a Sudanese man was publicly decapitated with a sword in Medina after he was found guilty of the same crime.

At least seventy-nine people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011. Amnesty International condemned the kingdom’s reliance on capital punishment.

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BREAKING: Afghan Woman Imprisoned for Being Raped Set Free

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets with Secre...

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An Afghan woman whose plight gained international attention when she was imprisoned for adultery after a relative raped her has been freed.

The woman was sentenced to prison for twelve years after she reported that her cousin’s husband raped her two years ago. President Hamid Karzai intervened on her behalf.

The woman is staying at a women’s shelter in Kabul with her daughter, whose father is the attacker.

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