Review Category : Poltics

Five Things to Watch for During President Obama’s Asia Trip

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(BEIJING) — Fresh off the bruising midterm loss, President Obama is shifting his focus to a host of foreign policy challenges during a dizzying week-long Asia trip.

In eight days, Obama will visit three countries (China, Myanmar and Australia), attend three different summits with world leaders and cross 16 time zones. Here’s a preview of what’s to come:

1. The Pivot That Wasn’t

It’s been three years since the Obama administration announced it would “pivot to Asia” as American troops pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, after a host of other crises pulled the administration’s attention away from the region, this trip presents the best, final chance for the president to cement his foreign policy legacy in Asia. During stops in Beijing, Myanmar and Australia, Obama is expected to try to kick-start his “rebalance” and reiterate his commitment to the region. In addition, the president will have to dispel the notion that his political power is waning in the wake of the Democrats’ midterm loss, especially to the increasingly assertive Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is on a charm offensive of his own as he hosts regional powers in Beijing this week.

2. Walking a Fine Line in Myanmar

Obama makes his second trip to Myanmar as president later this week, but the timing is tricky. Obama considers the opening of Myanmar to be one of his major diplomatic achievements, but the fledgling democracy appears to be sliding backward and reforms are languishing. He will have to walk a fine line as he meets with President Thein Sein and presses him on the pace of reforms and growing human rights issues like the increased violence targeted at Myanmar’s Muslim minorities, especially the Rohingya, who the Myanmar/Burma government refuses to recognize officially.

“The United States recognizes the progress that Burma has made but notes that real challenges remain and missteps have been made in the course of this transition,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters at the White House ahead of the trip. “We will stress that our engagement is helping to keep reforms on track, and we’re prepared to continue the support … the government as it confronts its remaining challenges.”

3. Aung San Suu Kyi For President?

After attending the East Asia Security summit in Naypyidaw, President Obama will meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. Though her party is very popular, Suu Kyi is unable to run for president because of a constitutional provision that bans people with foreign spouses or children from holding the office (her husband and children are British). All eyes are on whether or not Obama may call for the government to amend its constitution. He hinted at it in a recent call with Suu Kyi, during which they discussed “how the United States can support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment,” according to the White House.

4. Skateboarding in Naypyidaw

Obama’s first stop in Myanmar will be to the newly-built capital city of Naypyidaw. The city was inaugurated as the new capital just eight years ago and is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, although much of it remains empty or under construction. It will be a sight to see the president’s motorcade drive down the massive 20-lane road leading up to the parliament building, as Obama becomes the first American president to visit the new capital.

“For those of you who are skateboarders, it’s sort of a paradise for you; there’s 10-lane roads that have no cars on them; you’d really enjoy that,” Ernest Bower, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joked while previewing the trip.

5. Possible Putin Run-In

There’s nothing formal on the schedule, but President Obama and Russian President Putin will likely come face-to-face on the sidelines of APEC in Beijing or the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, at the end of the week. Amid disputes over Ukraine, U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War.

“I imagine, as in the past, that there will be an opportunity for the G-20 leaders to engage informally on the margins. There is no formal bilateral meeting scheduled or planned, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they had some informal communication,” Rice said.

As always, it was be interesting to see how the political foes interact (cue the body-language experts).

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How SCOTUS Could ‘Blow a Big Hole’ in Obama’s Legacy (or Not)

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — “The highest court in the land has now spoken,” an elated and relieved President Obama said after the Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

Not so fast.

Now the law — a centerpiece of Obama’s presidency — is before the Court again after the justices announced last Friday that they would hear a fresh challenge to an important part of Obamacare.

“Health Care is the most important part of the president’s legacy, and the most unstable part of his legacy,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Clearly the Court can have an impact on one of the pillars of his presidency in a negative fashion.”

To be sure, the 2012 case was different.

It was a constitutional challenge to the individual mandate that required most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. The Court upheld the Affordable Care Act when Chief Justice John Roberts stunned conservatives by casting his vote with the liberals.

“Had the conservative justices picked up the vote of Chief Justice John Roberts they would have thrown out the entire Affordable Care Act including the Medicaid expansion and the Medicare reforms,” said Timothy S. Jost, an expert on health law at Washington and Lee School of Law.

The new challenge has to do with a different part of the law concerning subsidies granted to low and moderate income Americans who seek to obtain affordable insurance from market places called “exchanges.” Millions of Americans take advantage of the subsidies.

Sixteen states have established exchanges of their own while about 34 states rely on exchanges run by the federal government.

Challengers say the language of the law makes clear that only those living in the states with state-run exchanges can receive the tax credits. That would disqualify millions of individuals who rely on the federally-created exchanges. Democrats involved in drafting the law say such an interpretation thwarts Congress’ fundamental purpose of making insurance affordable to all Americans.

“While a victory for the challengers here would not destroy the whole law,” Jost said, “it would blow a big hole in it.”

A judgment for the challengers would lead to widespread destabilization of the individual insurance market, he added: “Insurance will simply be far less accessible in two thirds of the states to anyone who does not have insurance through their employer or a government program.”

In the next few weeks briefs will start rolling into the Court and legal observers will study Chief Justice John Roberts, who likely holds a big chunk of the president’s legacy in his hands.

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Democrat Warns of Cyber Threat to US Infrastructure

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Last week, the Department of Homeland Security revealed that a “Trojan Horse” malware program has penetrated software that runs much of the nation’s critical infrastructure and could set off an economic catastrophe.

On ABC This Week Sunday, Rhode Island Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin warned that the threat is very real and potentially devastating.

According to the lawmaker, “You could see a whole sector of the country without electricity for a period of not just days or weeks, but potentially months, because these generators are large. They’re not just like batteries that are sitting on a shelf, that you can take one out and plug another one in. These generators take months to build, ship and install.”

As of now, nation states, such as Russia, have cyber weapons and the know-how to launch these attacks but they likely won’t.

However, Langevin says the real concern is al Qaeda or the Islamic State getting their hands on these weapons because they wouldn’t hesitate to use them.

At best, Langevin says it’s a problem that can really only be managed, rather than solved. One important step Congress can take, he said, is passing an information-sharing bill that “would allow classified threat information to be passed to the private sector and for the private sector to pass the threats…or the attacks that they’re experiencing back to the government so that information could be more widely shared.”

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Rep. Darrell Issa: Iraqi Government ‘Delusional’ About Impact From ISIS

issa.house.gov(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said on This Week that the Iraqi government is “delusional” about the impact of ISIS, and he would back a new congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq to combat the threat from the Islamic militant group.

“The fact is we’re already there. We’ve had to be there,” Issa told This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. “The government in Baghdad is still quite delusional, if you will, about what the real impact is. They’re still talking about long-term training before they’re ready to fight.”

“So the fact is that if we’re to protect the gains we made against Islamic extremism, my Marines from Camp Pendleton and others are going to have to go back again,” Issa added, speaking of forces based in Issa’s home district in California.

The White House announced Friday that an additional 1,500 U.S. forces will be deployed to Iraq, effectively doubling the troop levels on the ground. The Obama administration says the soldiers will still be in an advisory capacity, training and advising Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers.

“Iraqis should fight for their country… They’ve been trained and they should do it. The fact is the Kurds are willing to do it, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Kurds will fight, and all they need is our air support and our technical know-how,” said Issa, who has traveled to Baghdad and Erbil in northern Iraq since August.

The outgoing chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also echoed many of his Republican colleagues in criticizing President Obama’s promise to move forward on executive action on immigration reform before the end of the year, saying such action without Congress during the lame duck session would lead to “lost opportunities.”

“I’m hoping the president will delay and have a real comprehensive discussion about what’s possible because a great deal is possible on immigration reform,” Issa said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and likely incoming Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said this week if President Obama decides to take action on his own, it will effectively “poison the well” for bipartisan efforts on other issues in the new Congress.

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President Obama Nominates Loretta Lynch as Next Attorney General

US Dept of Justice(WASHINGTON) — On Saturday President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as next Attorney General of the United States.

Lynch, who is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will be the first African American woman to be Attorney General.

At the nomination Saturday, Obama first thanked Holder for his service and commitment to justice.

He said, “I couldn’t be prouder today I can announce somebody who shares that fierce commitment to equal justice under the law as my nominee as the next attorney general, U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch.”

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GOP Weekly Address: Boehner Outlines Goals After Republicans Take Control of Senate

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Speak of the House John Boehner delivered the Republican Weekly Address this week, outlining what his Republican party aims to accomplish now that they have claimed control of the Senate in Tuesday’s election.

Boehner quoted scripture, saying that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” and adding that “Republicans are humbled by the trust the American people have placed in us.” The speaker said that his party bears the responsibility of making the American people’s priorities their political priorities.

Boehner says his part will focus on helping middle-class families, vote on numerous jobs bills passed by the House, work to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, advance the hiring of veterans and “take on ObamaCare regulations that threaten the 40-hour workweek and the pay and peace of mind of so many Americans.”

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

This is the time of year when we pause to pay tribute to America’s veterans – the ones who gave all a person can give so that we may live free.

As we consider their sacrifices, let us vow to live up to the promises that we’ve made to them and their families.

We cannot rest until our veterans have the 21st-century health care system they deserve.

It is the least a grateful nation can do.

This is also a time to consider the line in Scripture that says, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Republicans are humbled by the trust the American people have placed in us.

We’ll honor that trust by listening to you, by making your priorities our priorities.

That means focusing first on helping middle-class families still struggling to pay the bills and find good-paying jobs.

We’ll start by debating and voting on the many jobs bills the House has acted on with bipartisan support.

We’ll work to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers.

We’ll advance the Hire More Heroes Act, which will encourage employers to hire more of our nation’s veterans.

And we’ll take on ObamaCare regulations that threaten the 40-hour workweek and the pay and peace of mind of so many Americans.

These types of common-sense solutions, so long ignored by the outgoing Senate majority, offer a good starting point.

They’ll help break the logjam here in Washington, and establish a foundation of certainty and stability that both parties can build on.

From there, more good ideas will follow, and with them, a chance to address some of the most pressing challenges that we face, whether it’s a broken tax code that’s driving jobs overseas, health care costs that continue to rise, or an education system that leaves too many of our young people unprepared for the future.

This is a time for solutions to get our economy moving again, and we’re eager to get to work.

Your priorities will be our priorities. That’s our pledge to you, the people we serve.

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GOP Weekly Address: Boehner Outlines Goals After Republicans Take Control of Senate

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Speak of the House John Boehner delivered the Republican Weekly Address this week, outlining what his Republican party aims to accomplish now that they have claimed control of the Senate in Tuesday’s election.

Boehner quoted scripture, saying that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” and adding that “Republicans are humbled by the trust the American people have placed in us.” The speaker said that his party bears the responsibility of making the American people’s priorities their political priorities.

Boehner says his part will focus on helping middle-class families, vote on numerous jobs bills passed by the House, work to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, advance the hiring of veterans and “take on ObamaCare regulations that threaten the 40-hour workweek and the pay and peace of mind of so many Americans.”

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

This is the time of year when we pause to pay tribute to America’s veterans – the ones who gave all a person can give so that we may live free.

As we consider their sacrifices, let us vow to live up to the promises that we’ve made to them and their families.

We cannot rest until our veterans have the 21st-century health care system they deserve.

It is the least a grateful nation can do.

This is also a time to consider the line in Scripture that says, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Republicans are humbled by the trust the American people have placed in us.

We’ll honor that trust by listening to you, by making your priorities our priorities.

That means focusing first on helping middle-class families still struggling to pay the bills and find good-paying jobs.

We’ll start by debating and voting on the many jobs bills the House has acted on with bipartisan support.

We’ll work to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers.

We’ll advance the Hire More Heroes Act, which will encourage employers to hire more of our nation’s veterans.

And we’ll take on ObamaCare regulations that threaten the 40-hour workweek and the pay and peace of mind of so many Americans.

These types of common-sense solutions, so long ignored by the outgoing Senate majority, offer a good starting point.

They’ll help break the logjam here in Washington, and establish a foundation of certainty and stability that both parties can build on.

From there, more good ideas will follow, and with them, a chance to address some of the most pressing challenges that we face, whether it’s a broken tax code that’s driving jobs overseas, health care costs that continue to rise, or an education system that leaves too many of our young people unprepared for the future.

This is a time for solutions to get our economy moving again, and we’re eager to get to work.

Your priorities will be our priorities. That’s our pledge to you, the people we serve.

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Democratic Leaders Call for Government Inquiry into Takata Airbags

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — A half dozen Democratic leaders on Friday issued calls for governmental inquiries into the Takata airbag issue that has caused millions of vehicles to be recalled.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-California; Diana DeGette, D-Colorado; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois all spoke out on Friday, after The New York Times reported that the Japanese airbag manufacturer had tested the airbags in 2004 and may have known that they were defective.

McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate panel on Consumer Protection issued a statement Friday, saying that “if these reports are true,” Takata appears to be “a company more concerned with profits than the lives of consumers — a company that needs to be held fully accountable.” She suggests that Takata not only face financial penalties but criminal charges as well.

“I trust that safety regulators and Justice Department officials are looking closely at these accusations and considering every tool available under the law,” McCaskill’s statement read.

Earlier this year, the Missouri Senator led the Senate investigation into recalls at General Motors.

Blumenthal and Markey, both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, called for clearer guidelines from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration last month in regards to how drivers should handle vehicles with potentially-defective Takata airbags. “Reports that Takata concealed and destroyed test results revealing fatal air bag defects, along with other evidence that the company was aware of these deadly problems,” their joint statement read, “clearly require a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.”

The two Senators voiced their concern, saying that if the reports are true, “the company must be held accountable for the horrific deaths and injuries that its wrongdoing caused.” Their statement also called for a “prompt and aggressive criminal probe.”

Also on Friday, Reps. Waxman, DeGette, and Schakowsky sent a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, requesting a hearing and an investigation into the safety risks posed by Takata’s airbags. Calling the allegations “deeply troubling,” the trio of Reps. urged Congress to “move forward rapidly and work together in bipartisan fashion on the investigation and on motor vehicle safety legislation to respond to its findings.”

Takata’s faulty airbags prompted an international recall of over 14 million vehicles. The defect has been linked to at least four deaths and 139 injuries.

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Ed Gillespie Concedes Virginia Senate Race to Mark Warner

(L) US SENATE / (C) ED FOR SENATOR / (R) SARVIS FOR SENATE(SPRINGFIELD, Va.) — Three days after the midterm elections, the Virginia Senate race finally has a winner.

Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie conceded to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner on Friday, telling supporters and reporters in a press conference that the “numbers just aren’t there.”

“Canvassing is just about complete and the official tally is more than 16,700 votes — larger than it was on election night,” Gillespie said. “I’ve called Mark Warner this morning to congratulate him on his reelection.”

With Warner’s seat secure, Democrats currently have 44 seats in the Senate, plus two Independents in their caucus. Republicans have 52 Senate seats, while two races — Alaska and Louisiana — remain undecided.

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CIA Tweets Its Version of “Argo” Rescue in Iran

The Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) — The CIA used the 35th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis to dispel some of the dramatic license in the Academy Award-winning film Argo, which told the story of the rescue of Americans who eluded capture but were stuck in Iran.

The 2012 movie, directed by Ben Affleck, centered around the mission to get six Americans who had hidden in the Canadian embassy out of Iran by using a ruse of a fake film crew.

The anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis came earlier this week since the crisis started on Nov. 4, 1981, but the Central Intelligence Agency’s social media team waited until Friday to inundate their followers with some behind-the-scenes trivia.

“We love #Argo, @TheAcademy award winning film by @BenAffleck. Today we tell you what’s ‘reel’ vs. ‘real,'” the CIA said through their official Twitter account.

They gave Affleck, who won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film, a second shout out before launching into the facts of the story.

You can read the secretive agency’s side of the story here:

We love #Argo, @TheAcademy award winning film by @BenAffleck. Today we tell you what’s “reel” vs. “real”. pic.twitter.com/QgFC014kUe

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

Reel #Argo: When the US Embassy is overtaken the 6 US diplomats go right to the Canadian ambassador’s residence to live for the 3 months.

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

Real #Argo: 5 of them went to many different places until they ended up at the homes of the Canadian Ambassador & the Dep. Chief of Mission.

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

Reel #Argo: The CIA officer and the six diplomats go into town to scout locations. pic.twitter.com/2gx2sHjPBO

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

Real #Argo: They never went to the marketplace to scout a location. The six hid in the Canadian’s homes for 79 days. pic.twitter.com/szTgt9stvb

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

Real #Argo: There was an hour long mechanical delay, other than that the escape could not have gone better. #nochase pic.twitter.com/a0TnVeBgBt

— CIA (@CIA) November 7, 2014

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