Daily Archives: February 12, 2012

Greek Lawmakers Approve Round of Austerity Measures

English: The Hellenic Parliament building in A...

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Lawmakers in Greece have voted to approve another round of austerity measures, sought in return for a new eurozone bailout of the debt-stricken country.

As lawmakers debated, police turned tear gas and stun grenades on protesters outside Greece’s Parliament. Several buildings, including a bank, were ablaze in Athens.

The package, which includes cuts in government spending, wages and pensions, will pave the way for eurozone finance ministers to sign off on the new 130 billion euro bailout deal.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had also urged approval of the deal, warning in a speech to the Cabinet on Saturday evening of “social explosion, chaos” if it failed.

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Filed under Economy, World

Arab League Proposes Peacekeeping Force in Syria

Administrative divisions in the Arab League

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The Arab League will propose a “peacekeeping joint force” with the United Nations to oversee the aftermath of a proposed cease-fire in Syria.

The proposal was one of many points offered in a statement from the league, which met Sunday to discuss Syria.

Syria has indicated it is not on board with the plan offered by the Arab League. Denying accusations that its forces have killed thousands of civilians in a crackdown on popular unrest, the government has consistently blamed “armed terrorist groups.”

The international political maneuvering comes as reports continue to stream in about the violence in Syria.

U.N. officials estimate 6,000 people have died since protests seeking President Bashar al-Assad‘s ouster began nearly a year ago.

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Whitney Houston Dead at 48


English: Whitney Houston talking to the audien...

Whitney Houston, the singer who emerged in the 1980s as one of her generation’s greatest R&B voices, died on Saturday in Beverly Hills, California She was forty-eight.

Her death came as the music industry descended on Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards.

Ms. Houston was found in a hotel room at 3:55 p.m. Paramedics spent twenty minutes trying to revive her. Authorities said there were no signs of foul play.

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Filed under Entertainment, Notable Passings

Romney Not Embarrassed in Maine


English: Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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Mitt Romney averted embarrassment on Saturday when he was declared the winner of a Presidential straw poll in Maine’s nonbinding caucuses.

He won 39% of the vote, edging out Representative Ron Paul of Texas, the only other Republican candidate to campaign actively in the state. Mr. Paul drew 36%.

Rick Santorum won 18%, and Newt Gingrich won 6%.

Mr. Romney scraped by Mr. Paul by just 194 votes. Fewer than 6,000 votes were cast, about 2% of registered Republicans.

The vote had no substantive meaning in terms of delegates, but losing it could have created a political headache for Mr. Romney and extended a storyline building since last week when he lost Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri to Mr. Santorum.

Those losses increased the importance of Maine’s caucuses, and an additional loss on Saturday would have magnified concerns that he cannot seal the deal with voters.

Mr. Romney also won the straw poll of activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. He took 38% of the votes, compared with 31% for Mr. Santorum, 15% for Mr. Gingrich, and 12% for Mr. Paul.

Mr. Romney was among those who had ignored Maine, until he arrived Friday night. In the face of tough questioning at a town-hall-style meeting in Portland and the evidence of strong organization by Mr. Paul, Mr. Romney campaigned at caucus sites.

Mr. Paul made a foray to the state last month and also visited caucus sites on Saturday.

It was not clear how much the late activity helped either candidate because many people had already voted in the rolling caucuses, which began on January 29.

Mr. Romney easily won the low-turnout caucuses four years ago, with Mr. Paul coming in third.

This time around, Maine offered a rare opportunity for Mr. Paul, a libertarian, to plant his flag.

New England Republicans are generally more moderate than the party’s supporters elsewhere, but the Maine members are fiercely independent, and the state has become a cauldron of activity for Tea Party supporters, fiscal conservatives, and libertarians.

Mr. Romney still leads the field in number of delegates, but Maine did not add any. The state’s twenty-four delegates will not be picked until a convention in May.

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“Today Show” Airs Black Market Gun Expose

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NBC’s Today Show aired a seven-minute exposé of the online black market for guns. This investigation was inspired by a recent New York City undercover probe of illegal online sales.

Investigators met a gun seller and bought a military-grade, 50-caliber sniper rifle powerful enough to take down a helicopter, with no background check and no questions asked.

We can no longer allow guns to get into the hands of dangerous people without a simple, instant background check. It’s time to demand answers.

Watch NBC’s exposé of the black market for deadly guns and sign the Fix Gun Checks petition to demand answers of Congress.

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Filed under Activism, Sick Sad World

Those Who Criticize Government Programs Rely on It Most

Many residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient and as opponents of government largess are drawing deeply on the government.

Benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each person in the county in 2009, a 69% increase from 2000. The government provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income.

The government safety net was created to keep Americans from poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive most of the government benefits. The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54% in 1979 to 36% in 2007.

As more middle-class families land in the safety net, anger at the government has increased. People are angry because the government is giving money to people who do not deserve it, but more than that, they are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it, and resent the government for providing it.

Government benefits are an issue in the Presidential campaign. Rick Santorum has warned of “the narcotic of government dependency.” Newt Gingrich has compared the safety net to a spider web. Mitt Romney has said the nation must choose between an “entitlement society” and an “opportunity society.” All the candidates, including Ron Paul, have promised to cut spending and cut taxes.

Politicians have expanded the safety net without an increase in revenues, expanding the government’s mushrooming debt. In 2000, federal and state governments spent about 37 cents on the safety net from every dollar they collected in revenue. A decade later, after one Medicare expansion, two recessions, and three rounds of tax cuts, spending on the safety net consumed nearly 66 cents of every dollar of revenue.

Americans are divided about the way forward. Seventy percent of respondents to a New York Times poll said the government should raise taxes, 56% supported cuts in Medicare and Social Security, and 44% favored both.

Via The New York Times.

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Filed under Economy, National, Politics, Stupid Is As Stupid Does