Review Category : Poltics

Despite Cameo, Ted Cruz Not a “True Blood” Fan

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — He may have landed a cameo on the hit show, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is apparently not a fan of HBO’s True Blood.

Following a particularly grisly episode featuring Republicans murdered at a Ted Cruz fundraiser, the Tea Party darling blasted the show as “misogynist and profanity-ridden.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends,” Cruz wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

The episode, laced with tasteless (but admittedly creative) nicknames for Republicans, depicts guests cowering behind a Cruz poster dramatically ripped down by flying bullets.

The senator went even further on Twitter:

Then again, I guess I never had a chance w/ the vampire vote since the dead tend to vote overwhelmingly for Dems: https://t.co/U6uCqsRpuS

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 22, 2014

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Why Kerry Could Fly into Tel Aviv Despite FAA Flight Ban

State Department photo/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) — Just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a temporary Federal Aviation Administration ban on U.S. flights to Tel Aviv was in the best interest of Americans, Kerry himself flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

The FAA’s prohibition does not apply to military aircraft, including the 757 Kerry is flying on. Plus, Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and others as part of his efforts to bring about a cease-fire to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“Secretary Kerry is on the ground to continue his efforts to achieve a ceasefire and bring an end to the rocket attacks that led to the FAA notice,” she wrote in a statement.

The U.S. flight ban for Ben Gurion Airport went into effect Tuesday after a rocket from Hamas struck ground about a mile from the airport. It only affects U.S. carriers and has no effect on foreign airlines, but after the U.S. announcement, numerous foreign air carriers announced they would also suspend flights into the Israeli airport.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Kerry Tuesday night and urged him to help call off the ban. But according to Psaki, Kerry explained that the ban was intended only to keep Americans safe, not to discourage anyone from traveling to Israel.

“The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens,” Psaki said.

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Ready for Warren? Senator Says She’s Not Ready to Run

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Are you ready for Warren?

That’s the question supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren are asking with the recent formation of a Ready for Warren Super PAC, which is taking a page from Ready for Hillary in laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign should the Massachusetts Democrat decide to run in 2016.

Though many of her fans are cheering “Run, Liz, Run,” Warren is putting the brakes on such enthusiasm.

“I am not running,” Warren told ABC News when asked if she’s mulling the idea of a presidential bid. It’s the same answer she always gives — in the present tense. She doesn’t rule out whether she would ever run.

“I am focused on the 2014 elections,” she said. “We’ve got an election coming up … just a few months away — that’s what we need to work on.”

As for her admirers calling for her to get in the race, Warren is keeping her distance.

“I do not support this,” she said.

To make clear that her focus is on the 2014 midterm elections, Warren has been crisscrossing the nation in recent months, campaigning on behalf of Democratic candidates who wish to align themselves with her populist message calling for economic reforms on behalf of the middle class.

The Massachusetts Democrat has ventured into some deeply conservative states, including West Virginia and Kentucky. But Warren dismisses the suggestion that her message fires up only liberals.

“The kinds of economic issues that I’m talking about, it’s not Republican or Democrat,” she said. “People are getting hammered everywhere, and they care about these central ways that we can rebuild America’s middle class: equal pay for equal work, reduce the interest rate on student loans, raise the minimum wage. … And I love being in Kentucky to talk about this and to be in West Virginia, standing up with great candidates like Natalie Tennant and Alison Lundergan Grimes.“

Though Warren has been an outspoken critic of the way business is done in Washington — even ways that are critical of her own party — she denies that her tough talk is causing tensions within the Democratic Party.

“I’ll tell you where the tensions are, the tensions are with the Republicans,” Warren said. “We want working people to earn more, we want to reduce the interest rate on student loans, we want to stitch up the loop holes that let millionaires and billionaires pay at lower tax rates than their secretaries; that’s the stuff we’re working on, and Republicans have filibustered every single piece of it.”

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Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health Care Law

ABC News (WASHINGTON) — After a brief hiatus, the hot debate over the Affordable Care Act was renewed once again Tuesday because of two opposite verdicts on subsidies.

In the first decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the federal government cannot subsidize policies through federally run insurance exchanges.

Later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia said that subsidies set up in dozens of states that didn’t set up marketplaces under the ACA are indeed legal.

While the conflicting decisions put the future of the health care law, called “Obamacare” by its detractors, into question, the 4.5 million people who qualified for subsidies are still eligible for benefits while the White House appeals the D.C. court ruling.

More than eight million Americans signed up for the ACA. Those who did so through state exchanges won’t be affected by either ruling.

Meanwhile, the law’s opponents seized on the first court’s decision as proof that the ACA will ultimately fail. House Speaker John Boehner said, “Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s health care law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed.”

However, proponents like Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, says the second ruling got it right, adding, “The available tax credits are essential to filling the Affordable Care Act’s primary goals of assuring widespread coverage in the health care market and that Congress was fully aware of this when drafting the bill.”

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Run the Government Like a Business, Most Say

Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) — Americans haven’t exactly been thrilled with Big Business since the Great Recession, but when push comes to shove, most would rather see people with business experience run the country than career politicians.

A new Gallup poll says that just over eight in ten Americans feel that way. Meanwhile, 63 percent believe that the U.S. would be better governed if there were more women holding political office.

As for how to burst the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for years, 63 percent of the respondents believe it is more important to compromise, while 56 percent think that holding firm to principles should be the top priority.

In terms of ideology, about 60 percent say electing political moderates is the way to go, with 47 percent preferring conservatives and only a third choosing liberals.

Putting the Tea Party in charge ranked slightly higher than liberals, although 48 percent say that they would make things even worse.

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Intelligence Officials Present Evidence for How Malaysian Plane Was Shot Down

(WASHINGTON) — Senior United States intelligence officials presented evidence on Tuesday that they say makes a “solid case” as to why the U.S. believes a Russian made SA-11 missile fired from separatist-held eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week.

While the leading theory is that Russian separatists brought down the plane, the U.S. intelligence community still cannot determine who pulled the trigger or why. The officials pointed the finger at Russia for having “created the conditions” behind the shoot-down and labeled as “not plausible” new Russian claims that the plane may have been brought down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.

In a briefing with reporters, senior intelligence officials pointed to a variety of evidence, including the detection of a surface-to-air missile launch from a separatist-held area of eastern Ukraine. They cited Russian training of separatists in air defense systems, though not necessarily the SA-11, and Russian separatists having used other air defense systems to bring down 12 aircraft in recent months.

They also noted images posted on social media showing an SA-11 missile system near the area of that launch and one system headed towards Russia missing at least one missile in the hours after the shoot down.

Though the images are not independently verifiable, the officials say they complement their intelligence. The officials also pointed to postings to social media in which separatists bragged about the shoot-down and which were quickly deleted.

One of the officials said photographs taken at the crash site show damage to the plane’s skin that is “consistent” with that seen from shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile system.

Another official said the evidence made, “a solid case it was an SA-11 fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions created by Russia.”

The leading theory is that Russian separatists were behind the launch, probably by mistake by an “ill-trained crew,” officials said, they are still trying to determine precisely who fired the missile.

“We don’t know the rank, we don’t know the name, we don’t know the nationality of the individual who pulled the trigger or why they did it,” said the official.

The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to determine whether the trigger-puller was a Russian, a separatist trained by Russia, or possibly a volunteer familiar with the missile system from the Ukrainian military and who may have joined the separatists.

The officials discounted as “not plausible” a new Russian narrative released Monday that presented the possibility that a nearby Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet may have downed the airliner.

One official said the fighter is a ground-attack aircraft not equipped with air-to-air missiles and was flying too far away from the plane at the time. The official added that the plane would have had to travel a great distance to track the plane and then would have had to persuade Russian separatists to brag on social media that they had shot the plane down. The official described the Russian narrative as, “a classic case of blaming the victims.”

The officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence did not know until the day of the shoot-down that Russian separatists were in possession of an SA-11 system. The U.S. was aware that separatists had received air defense training at a large training facility in southwestern Russia outside of Rostov, but it was not specific to the SA-11 system.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Schumer Have Found Something to Agree On

Nathaniel Chadwick/NBC(NEW YORK) — Seems like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former movie star and Republican governor of California, and Chuck Schumer, the long-time Democratic senator from New York, wouldn’t have much in common.

Turns out, they both see eye to eye on at least one issue: Open primaries.

Schwarzenegger publicly tweeted his support for Schumer on Wednesday after the senator penned an Op-Ed for The New York Times suggesting that the country should adopt a Congressional open primary election system to reduce the polarization currently plaguing Congress.

On Twitter, Schwarzenegger appaluded Schumer’s stance, writing “I couldn’t agree more” and “Fantastic to see @SenSchumer supporting top-two primary. Let’s get it done & break up the status quo of gridlock.”

What exactly was it about Schumer’s piece that caught Schwarzenegger’s attention?

The New York Democrat outlined what he believes to be the direct effects of the current primary election system and floated this recommendation:

“We need a national movement to adopt the ‘top-two’ primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.”

Schwarzenegger’s home state of California has used the non-partisan, open primary system since 2010. Washington State uses an open primary election system too, along with Louisiana where the system is sometimes referred to as a “jungle primary.”

According to Schumer, California was virtually a magnetic field for political polarization until voters decided to adopt the open primary system in 2010. He wrote, “The move has had a moderating influence on both parties and a salutary effect on the political system and its ability to govern.”

And Schumer later tweeted back his appreciation for Schwarzenegger’s endorsement.

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Joe Biden’s DJ Nephew Is Taking the Music Industry by Storm

The White House(NEW YORK) — An up-and-coming New York D.J. happens to be the nephew of the vice president.

Jamie Biden, 32, spins at Montauk hotspot the Surf Lodge, Hamptons parties hosted by club promoter Ronnie Flynn, and Saturday Night Live after-parties.

The New York Times reported that in addition to D.J. gigs on the New York circuit, he is working on an album.

The long-haired Biden, who was once described as “more White Stripes than White House,” is also the lead guitarist for rock band Bloody Social.

Vice President Joe Biden is the brother of his father, James Biden Sr.

The vice president’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Jamie Biden’s music career.

Biden, 32, said that although he attended his uncle’s inauguration, he has yet to play for him.

“He has more important things to do, at the moment, than coming to see me play, for now,” he told the Times.

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Obama Meets with Apollo 11 Crew 45 Years After Lunar Landing

NASA/Bill Ingalls(WASHINGTON) — Legendary moonwalker Buzz Aldrin may have been “out of town” when the world celebrated Apollo 11’s lunar landing, but he marked the anniversary on Tuesday with a presidential handshake and a meeting in the Oval Office — the same spot from whence President Nixon made that famous interplanetary telephone call to the moon 45 years ago.

Nixon called July 20, 1969 — the day Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module and onto the moon — the “proudest day of our lives.”

“For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this Earth are truly one — one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth,” Nixon said during his satellite conversation with Armstrong.

Four months later — following a 21-day quarantine procedure designed to shield Earth from possible lunar pathogens and a 24-country “good will tour” meant to demonstrate the United States’ willingness to share its lunar expertise — the Apollo 11 team visited the president at the White House.

Since then, the astronauts have met with Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush — and now Obama.

Aldrin and Michael Collins (who remained in the orbiter during the moon walk) — along with Neil Armstrong’s wife, Carol, and current NASA administrator Charles Bolden — returned to the White House on Tuesday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their moon landing.

It’s not known what the group discussed.

Before his death, Armstrong lambasted Obama for cancelling NASA’s moon return project “Constellation,” calling the U.S. spaceflight program “lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable.”

“A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain,” the astronaut told Congress.

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Labor Officials Promise to Fix Program for Coal Miners with Black Lung

Dr. Paul Wheeler of Johns Hopkins examines lung X-rays. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) — Federal labor officials told lawmakers Tuesday that they have notified dozens of coal workers they should re-apply for black lung benefits because their claims were denied in part based on medical reviews by a controversial Johns Hopkins physician.

Letters and calls to 83 miners in recent weeks were part of a raft of remedies lawmakers said would help “level the playing field” for miners suffering from black lung disease.

“Let me reassure you, the Department of Labor is committed to improving the effectiveness of these programs,” said Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor, at a Senate hearing convened to look at reforms to the government’s black lung benefit program.

The hearings and the Labor Department action came after troubling questions about the federal black lung program were raised in a year-long ABC News investigation with the Center for Public Integrity. The reports focused on the difficulties coal miners faced collecting benefits from coal companies that were intended to help miners and their families if they contracted the deadly and debilitating lung disease.

Sen. Robert Casey said at the hearing that he was appalled to learn that sick miners were being turned down for those benefits based in part on the medical opinions of a leading Johns Hopkins doctor. He noted that the news reports demonstrated examples of miners who were denied benefits based on doctors’ conclusions that they did not have severe black lung, only to have autopsies prove — after their deaths — that they had the disease.

“I am pleased with the Department of Labor’s efforts to begin leveling the playing field for black lung claimants, but there is still more that needs to be done,” Casey said.

Labor officials said they would begin to address an enormous backlog of unresolved black lung cases — believed to be more than 14,000 of them — by adding more than $2.7 million to the program’s budget. Casey urged them to seek a $10 million increase in the next federal budget “to not only stop the backlog from growing, but to actually begin reducing the number of backlogged cases.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also attended the hearing, and described the pain he experienced watching coal miners, including his father, suffering from what then was only known as the “miners’ cough.”

“After years of hard, dirty work powering our country, the least we can do in return is make sure that we give the miners a fair shot at accessing earned benefits,” Harkin said in a prepared statement. “But that fair shot has been out of reach for many of those miners.”

The most significant moves described by Labor Department officials Tuesday involved actions they had taken to address the possibility that X-ray readings by Dr. Paul S. Wheeler of Johns Hopkins — who was hired by coal companies to read films in black lung cases — had skewed hundreds of cases against the miners.

The ABC News/CPI report found that Wheeler had not reported a single instance of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 claims that the news outlets reviewed going back to the year 2000. Labor department officials said they were unaware of Wheeler’s record until the ABC News report was broadcast.

In court testimony in 2009, Wheeler said the last time he recalled finding a case of severe black lung, a finding that would automatically qualify a miner for benefits under a special federal program, was in “the 1970’s or the early 80’s.”

Labor Department Solicitor Patricia Smith called those findings “shocking.”

At the hearing, Lu told the lawmakers that his department had identified 83 claims that had been denied within the past year and sent a letter to those claimants alerting them to the “new guidance on Dr. Wheeler’s X-ray readings.”

“The letter informed the claimants that they could request reopening of their claims, included the date by which they had to make the request, and told them that the request could be made either by telephoning or writing,” Lu said in testimony he submitted to the senate committee. “In four instances, the one-year modification deadline was quickly approaching, so [the department] telephoned the claimants in addition to sending the letter. To date, 13 claimants have sought modification in response to OWCP’s letter.”

Lu added that the department had identified approximately 1,000 claims filed by miners between 2001 and 2013 that contained Wheeler X-ray interpretations. In those cases, miners were encouraged to file a new claim.

Hopkins suspended Wheeler’s black lung unit a few days after the ABC News/CPI report was broadcast and posted online. Hopkins said it would conduct its own internal investigation, which a spokesperson said remains ongoing.

“We take these allegations very seriously and are still conducting the investigation into the [black lung] program,” Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said in a June email. “While our investigation is ongoing, nobody at Hopkins — including Dr. Wheeler — is performing” black lung X-ray readings.

Reached by phone in June, Wheeler said he hopes to be cleared by the internal Hopkins investigation — which he said is being conducted by the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs.

“The hospital still believes in my approach,” he said.

Wheeler told ABC News then he was unmoved by the Labor Department bulletin.

“They’re not doctors,” he said. “If they were from qualified medical institutions, I would be very unhappy.”

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