Archive for July 2009
H.R. 3200 – “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and to reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes“
- Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insured
- Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed
- Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
- Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
- Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
- Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
- Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
- Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (read: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
- Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.
- Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
- Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens
- * Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
- Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter
- Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
- Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.
- Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.
- Page 126: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.
- Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll
- Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll
- Page 167: Any individual who doesnt’ have acceptable healthcare (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income.
- Page 170: Any NON-RESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes (Americans will pay for them).
- Page 195: Officers and employees of Government Healthcare Bureaucracy will have access to ALL American financial and personal records.
- Page 203: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it really says that.
- Page 239: Bill will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors and the poor most affected.”
- Page 241: Doctors: no matter what speciality you have, you’ll all be paid the same (thanks, AMA!)
- Page 253: Government sets value of doctors’ time, their professional judgment, etc.
- Page 265: Government mandates and controls productivity for private healthcare industries.
- Page 268: Government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs.
- Page 272: Cancer patients: welcome to the wonderful world of rationing!
- Page 280: Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions.
- Page 298: Doctors: if you treat a patient during an initial admission that results in a readmission, you will be penalized by the government.
- Page 317: Doctors: you are now prohibited for owning and investing in healthcare companies!
- Page 318: Prohibition on hospital expansion. Hospitals cannot expand without government approval.
- Page 321: Hospital expansion hinges on “community” input: in other words, yet another payoff for ACORN.
- Page 335: Government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures: i.e., rationing.
- Page 341: Government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans, HMOs, etc.
- Page 354: Government will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals.
- Page 379: More bureaucracy: Telehealth Advisory Committee (healthcare by phone).
- Page 425: More bureaucracy: Advance Care Planning Consult: Senior Citizens, assisted suicide, euthanasia?
- Page 425: Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. Mandatory. Appears to lock in estate taxes ahead of time.
- Page 425: Goverment provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death.
- Page 427: Government mandates program that orders end-of-life treatment; government dictates how your life ends.
- Page 429: Advance Care Planning Consult will be used to dictate treatment as patient’s health deteriorates. This can include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. An ORDER from the GOVERNMENT.
- Page 430: Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at end-of-life.
- Page 469: Community-based Home Medical Services: more payoffs for ACORN.
- Page 472: Payments to Community-based organizations: more payoffs for ACORN.
- Page 489: Government will cover marriage and family therapy. Government intervenes in your marriage.
- Page 494: Government will cover mental health services: defining, creating and rationing those services.
Straight from Fox News: “Michael Vick was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday and could play in regular-season games as early as October.
Vick can immediately participate in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and can play in the final two preseason games — if he can find a team that will sign him. A number of teams have already said they would not.
“Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited,” Goodell said in a letter to Vick. “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”
Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback admitted bankrolling the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting operation. Goodell said then that Vick must show remorse and signs that he has changed before he would consider reinstating him.
“We worked with animal rights activist groups and medial professionals,” Goodell said at a news conference Monday evening. “Those tests didn’t indicate there were any reasons he couldn’t make that transition forward.”
Once the season begins, Vick may participate in all team activities except games, and Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19).
“He will have to earn it,” Goodell told reporters about the chance for full reinstatement. “It’s up to him now. “
Goodell said Vick will have some “big decisions off the field to make and how he will conduct himself.”
“Hopefully he will conduct himself in a more positive way,” Goodell said. “Playing in the NFL is a privilege. It is not a right to be an NFL player.”
that said, Goodell added, “Obviously, when you are dealing with 2,000 young men, you are going to have mistakes.”
Vick expressed his gratitude for his second chance.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League,” Vick said through agent Joel Segal. “I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.
“As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to re-evaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I have made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward.
“Again, I want to thank the commissioner for the chance to return to the game I love and the opportunity to become an example of positive change.”
The announcement came after a busy first week of freedom for Vick, who met with union leaders and Goodell on consecutive days last week. His 23-month federal sentence ended when an electronic monitor was removed from his ankle early on July 20 at his home in Hampton, Va.
He met with DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, last Tuesday and, on Wednesday, he sat down with Goodell at a security firm in Allendale, N.J.
But Vick’s issues are far from over and he needs a team to call his own. So far, the owners of the New York Giants, Jets and Dallas Cowboys have said they had no interest in the 29-year-old quarterback. Neither do the Falcons, who officially released Vick in June.
Vick needs to find a team so he can get himself out of financial ruin. He filed for bankruptcy protection last July, listing assets of about $16 million and debts of more than $20 million, and has a hearing about his plan to repay his creditors on Friday in Norfolk, Va. That plan is built around his ability to make NFL-type money again.
He’s unlikely to command anything close to the 10-year, $130 million contract he once had with the Falcons, or to get endorsement deals after the grisly details of his involvement in the dogfighting ring.
Vick finally pleaded guilty after his three co-defendants had already done so. They told of how Vick participated in the killing of dogs that didn’t perform well in test fights by shooting, hanging, drowning or slamming them to the ground.
Vick’s appearances at federal court in Richmond, Va., all came with large groups of protestors outside. Many were with PETA and held signs depicting photographs of Pit Bulls ravaged in dogfights and decrying the brutality in the gruesome details that emerged in the case.
A smaller group came to show support for Vick wearing jerseys with his No. 7.
Vick has already taken some steps to begin rebuilding his image and showing remorse.
He met with the president of the Humane Society of the United States while serving the first 18 months of his federal sentence in the prison at Leavenworth, Kan. He plans to work with HSUS in a program designed to steer inner city youth away from dogfighting. He was not permitted to work with the program while in custody.
“It’s been a long process,” Segal said. “He’s thrilled for the opportunity to resume his playing career. He understands he has a lot to prove.”"
Democratic Leader Laughs at Idea That House Members Would Actually Read Health-Care Bill Before Voting On It
Straight from CNS News: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the health-care reform bill now pending in Congress would garner very few votes if lawmakers actually had to read the entire bill before voting on it.
“If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,” Hoyer told CNSNews.com at his regular weekly news conference.
Hoyer was responding to a question from CNSNews.com on whether he supported a pledge that asks members of the Congress to read the entire bill before voting on it and also make the full text of the bill available to the public for 72 hours before a vote.
In fact, Hoyer found the idea of the pledge humorous, laughing as he responded to the question. “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill,” he said.
“Members clearly–and staff and review boards, they read them in their entirety. They go over it with members, and members read substantial portions of the bill themselves, but the issue is–I don’t know who signed this (pledge), but frankly the opposition has been very vociferous, not of the verbiage and bill, but on the concept that it incorporates,” Hoyer said.
Let Freedom Ring, a Delaware-based conservative organization, is circulating a pledge that asks members of Congress to promise to read the entirety of the final text of a health-care reform bill before they vote on it. They also are asking that the full bill be made available for review by the public for 72 hours before Congress votes on it.
Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, said Hoyer’s comment is evidence that lawmakers in Congress are “off-track.”
“It tells the American people how off-track our legislative process has become,” Hanna said. “I think if the framers of our Constitution ever saw an entire legislative body vote on a 1,500-page bill that no one had read, they would shudder–if not go into fits of apoplexy.”
Hanna said the pledge to read the full health-care bill–and all future bills–is one way for lawmakers to show that they are not casual in their commitment to constituents.
“We think the American public expects their legislators to know what’s in a bill before they support it, and we’re urging legislators to sign a pledge to that effect,” Hanna told CNSNews.com.
By signing the “Responsible Health-care Reform Pledge,” lawmakers commit to reading the entire bill and making it available to the public for three days before they cast their votes.
The pledge says, “I, (Name inserted here), pledge to my constituents and to the American people that I will not vote to enact any health-care reform package that: 1) I have not read, personally, in its entirety; and, 2) Has not been available, in its entirety, to the American people on the Internet for at least 72 hours, so that they can read it too.”
Earlier CNSNews.com stories revealed that few – if any –congressmen read the 1,550-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 or the 1,071-page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 before voting on the bills.”
Straight from Fox News: “Al Gore on Tuesday compared the battle against climate change with the struggle against the Nazis.
The former vice president said the world lacked the political will to act and invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill by encouraging leaders to unite their nations to fight climate change.
He also accused politicians around the world of exploiting ignorance about the dangers of global warming to avoid difficult decisions.
Speaking at Britain’s Oxford University at the Smith School World Forum on Enterprise and the Environment, sponsored by the Times of London, Gore said, “Winston Churchill aroused this nation in heroic fashion to save civilization in World War II.”
He added, “We have everything we need except political will, but political will is a renewable resource.”
Gore admitted that it was difficult to persuade the public that the threat from climate change was as urgent as the threat from Nazi Germany.”
Straight from Fox News: “The Taliban leader of the Swat Valley area, Maulana Fazullah, is critically injured from an air strike, a Pakistani military official confirmed to FOX News.
Suspected U.S. drones launched two missile attacks on Taliban targets in the South Waziristan tribal region on Wednesday, killing at least 45 militants in the latest in a barrage of strikes close to the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.
South Waziristan lies close to the Afghan border and is the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
Pakistan’s military is also bombing and firing mortars at insurgent targets in the region, saying it is chipping away at Mehsud’s resistance before launching a ground offensive there to eliminate him. Mehsud is blamed for many of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in nuclear-armed Pakistan in recent years.
The first strike took place before dawn. A suspected U.S. drone fired six missiles at a mountaintop training camp in the Karwan Manza area of South Waziristan, killing 10 militants, the intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. The nationalities and the identities of the slain men were not immediately known.
Hours later, 12 miles to the east, missiles believed fired from a U.S. drone hit four vehicles carrying Taliban militants, killing at least 35, including a key Taliban commander, one intelligence official said. He did not disclose the commander’s identity.
Other intelligence officials put the death toll as high as 50.
Independent verification of the casualties and the target was not possible because the region is remote, dangerous and largely inaccessible to journalists. U.S. officials do not publicly comment on the strikes.
The latest strike brings to six the number of suspected American missile attacks in South Waziristan in just over two weeks, an uptick that suggests Washington is also trying to kill or weaken Mehsud and his followers in the run-up to the Pakistani campaign.
Despite the apparent convergence of interests, Pakistan’s army insists it is not coordinating with the U.S. It says the American missile attacks are hurting its attempts to kill or capture Mehsud because they alienate local tribesman they are trying to enlist in their campaign against him.
The United States is believed to have launched more than 40 missile strikes against targets in the border area since last August that have killed several hundred people, according to a count by The Associated Press based on figures given by intelligence officials.
The Pakistani government routinely protests the strikes as violation of the country’s sovereignty and has publicly asked the United States to give them the technology to launch their own attacks. But many analysts suspect the government — which has received billions of dollars a year from the United States in aid since 2001 — secretly cooperates with them.
Pakistan launched the Swat Valley offensive more than two months ago after militants led by Maulana Fazlullah violated the terms of a peace deal. It claims to have nearly cleared the valley of militants, killing more than 1,500.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Wednesday that according to “credible information” Fazlullah was wounded in a recent airstrike. Fazlullah’s capture or killing would be a major symbolic victory for the army and give a psychological boost to local residents fearful that the Taliban could re-emerge in Swat.
Abbas gave no more information about the circumstances involving Fazlullah’s wounding. A militant spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.”
Straight from Fox News: “The revolution will not be televised: it’s been blinking along on a giant bakery sign in St. Louis, Mo., instead.
Fed up with his congressman’s vote on a sweeping climate-change bill that passed the House of Representatives in late June, the proprietor of McArthur’s Bakery took to his street sign and posted a clear message to all passersby:
“Russ Carnahan voted to … close us and other … small business.”
David McArthur, vice president of the 52-year-old family operation, a Gateway City institution, is one of a growing number of business owners and taxpayers nationwide who are mobilizing against the so-called cap-and-trade bill, which would levy harsh fines on energy consumption that harms the environment.
McArthur told FOXNews.com that every aspect of his business relies on the forms of energy targeted by the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and that his congressman, Carnahan, was supporting “a direct tax increase on small business” by voting for it.
“We make (our product) with electricity, we bake it with gas, we refrigerate and freeze it with electricity and we distribute it with gas and oil,” said McArthur, who said he worries that high prices could cost his company up to $15,000 a year in an industry with a very tight margin for profit.
The legislation requires that the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. Big energy plants and producers would have a cap on emissions like carbon dioxide, but could purchase “credits” from other companies that have met their reduction goals. The Obama administration says it will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the plan would have a minimal effect on most taxpayers, costing an average family about 25 cents a day in its first years of implementation.
But the effect on small businesses could be wide-reaching.
“He’s killing small business — he’s killing us,” McArthur said of Carnahan, who was one of a majority of Democrats who voted for the bill in a closely fought 219-212 vote.
McArthur, who penned a scathing letter to Carnahan, is not alone in taking the message directly to his congressman. Dozens of small protests were organized at the end of June at federal buildings and outside the offices of national lawmakers who voted for the bill.
Mike Wilson, who led a protest in Cincinnati of about 100 people on June 27 across from the offices of Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, said he was appalled by the 1,500-page legislation, which was fast-tracked by House leaders for a vote Friday. A 310-page amendment was slapped onto the bill Friday morning.
“It was, quite frankly, criminal passing a bill that you didn’t read,” said Wilson, founder of the anti-tax group Cincinnati Tea Party.
Wilson says he is part of a national movement opposed to the bill that was organizing protests from Napa to Nashville, and that will continue to assert pressure as the Senate prepares to vote on the bill later this year.
Crowds were not as large as those at the April 15 anti-tax Tea Party protests, from which the base of these rallies is being formed.
But the protesters aren’t the only ones monitoring how members of Congress are voting on the issue.
The National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors announced they have started a public scorecard on how lawmakers vote on priority legislation for business owners — and are keeping a close eye on all the congressmen who have supported cap-and-trade.
The NFIB says escalating fuel costs are the second-biggest problem small business owners face, and argued that the legislation is putting a premium on alternative energy sources without considering the needs of entrepreneurs.
“At a time when our nation faces near 10 percent unemployment and stalled economic growth, now is not the time to impose an $846 billion energy tax on small business,” wrote Susan Eckerly, senior vice president for public policy at the NFIB.
In the days since McArthur flashed his feelings on the bakery’s electronic billboard, he was contacted by Carnahan’s office and agreed to take the message down. He is happy to have a new line of communication to Carnahan, but he said that the current crisis is putting enough pressure on his business without added pressure from the bill.
“We have not had the ability to make money for the last three years,” McArthur said. “Another year and a 50-year icon in St. Louis is gone.”"
Straight from the Washington Times: “This weekend’s Fourth of July festivities celebrated the birth of representative government in America. As the Declaration of Independence set forth 233 years ago, our government derives its power from the consent of the governed. Such consent does not exist when legislation is purposely rammed through Congress so quickly that congressmen — let alone citizens — do not have time even to read it.
Welcome to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives. The “people’s House” is now a place where bills are voted on not only before legislators or the public have read them, but also before parts of the bills even have been written. Such was the case with a 300-page amendment to the cap-and-trade bill the House passed on June 26. The House leadership could not even produce this amendment on paper, in final form, before it was voted on.
In response to that and other recent outrageous infringements of real representative democracy, a group called Let Freedom Ring is pushing all 435 members of Congress and 100 senators to sign a pledge against such shenanigans on any health care reform bill Congress considers.
All 535 of them ought to do so.
The pledge, which can be found at http://www.pledgetoread.com, reads in part as follows: “I pledge to my constituents and the American people that I will not vote to enact any healthcare reform package that: 1) I have not read, personally, in its entirety; and 2) Has not been available, in its entirety, to the American people on the Internet for at least 72 hours, so that they can read it too.”
No simpler requirement for good government could be imagined. When what is at stake is a revolutionary change in the entire organization of 17 percent of the economy – not to mention the delivery of services that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Americans each year – it is basic common sense to insist that our lawmakers know and understand what they are voting on – and that includes the fine print.
As it was put by Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, “there is no rational reason for not signing the pledge.”
Unfortunately, Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say they can’t be bothered with such essentials. On June 25, both declined to promise to give the public a week to review any major health care reform. Mrs. Pelosi did not even respond to a question posed at a press briefing by Cybercast News Service about whether the Congressional Budget Office would have time to “score” the bill’s final price tag.
Such an attitude represents the height — or, rather, the depth — of irresponsibility.
It is an axiom in criminal court that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” There certainly is no excuse for lawmakers to be ignorant of the laws they would force on the rest of us. That sounds almost criminal to us.”
Ben Bernanke: Federal Reserve audit would constitute “takeover” by Congress, threaten the “financial system, dollar and economy”
Straight from the Denver Post: “Emblematic of the problems buried in the flawed “cap and trade” bill is a provision that only came to light in the final moments of the House debate.
A last-minute amendment, inserted in the early morning hours on the day of the vote, would tax goods that we import from countries that are unwilling to adopt carbon-reducing measures. So, the question becomes: Should our nation really levy trade penalties on countries that don’t agree to limit their carbon emissions?
The provision is fraught with potential negative consequences. Some fear it’s the return of the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised tariffs on imported goods to record levels in the 1930s. Others, however, argue the provision is absolutely necessary should the bill, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., become law.
President Barack Obama, who pushed hard for the Waxman-Markey legislation, has rejected the trade penalty measure. “At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there,” Obama said.
We are inclined to agree with the president on this issue.
But if Obama thinks the provision could harm global trade, he also ought to realize the competitive disadvantage that Waxman-Markey creates at home. Because if it does become law, the U.S. may have no choice but to levy a carbon tariff.
Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman argues that Obama is making a mistake by rejecting what he calls “the border adjustment.”
The economist, a fierce advocate for “cap and trade,” says that without the tax, the environmental benefits of the bill will be undermined.
Companies, he argues, would stop buying U.S.-made goods, which would cost more due to the demands to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the production process. Instead, they would buy goods produced by countries that are not saddled with the extra expense and regulation.
“The truth is that there’s perfectly sound economics behind border adjustments,” Krugman argues, claiming that imposing tariffs for non-economic reasons, such as cutting carbon dioxide emissions, isn’t protectionism, but is simply leveling the playing field.
The argument, added to fears from industry that overseas competition would benefit at America’s expense as a result of cap and trade, should be a key part of the upcoming Senate debate on this bill.
Waxman-Markey’s tariff provision, as written, would begin imposing the tax in 2020. The president can waive the tariffs, but only if Congress approves the waivers.
Observers say the House bill wouldn’t have passed without the tariff, because industrial state lawmakers feared job losses.
Now that it’s out in the open, we hope the Senate can evaluate it carefully.
We oppose the bill because it relies far too much on theoretical clean-energy technology break-throughs to achieve the desired drops in greenhouse gas emissions. It also creates a new, complicated market for trading emissions that is susceptible to abuse.
It’s a hugely transformative measure — which would lower global CO2 emissions by only a few percentage points — that risks crippling our economy.“
Straight from Fox News: “A barrage of ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired over the weekend may have included a new type of a Scud with an extended range and improved accuracy that poses a threat to Japan, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday.
Pyongyang launched seven missiles into waters off its east coast Saturday in a show of force that defied U.N. resolutions and drew international condemnation.
On Monday, South Korea’s mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported the launches were believed to have included three Scud-ER missiles with a range of up to 620 miles.
The paper said the Scud-ER has a longer range and better accuracy compared with previous Scud series so is “particularly a threat to Japan.”
The Chosun Ilbo, citing a government source it did not name, said the other four missiles were two Scud-C missiles with a range of 310 miles and two medium-range Rodong missiles that can travel up to 810 miles.
Five of the seven missiles flew about 260 miles from an eastern coastal launch site and landed in one area, meaning their accuracy has improved, the paper said.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report, saying details of the launches were still under investigation.
One Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press on Sunday that the missiles were likely capable of striking key government and military facilities in South Korea, and that they appeared to have traveled about 250 miles. The official spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy.
The launches on July 4 — the U.S. Independence Day holiday — also appeared to be a poke at Washington as it moves to enforce U.N. as well as its own sanctions against the isolated regime for its May 25 nuclear test.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned they were “very destabilizing, potentially.”
But Vice President Joe Biden indicated the U.S. would not be baited by attacks on the day Americans celebrated their independence. On ABC, he described the flurry of rockets as “attention-seeking behavior.”
He added: “I don’t want to give the attention.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is concerned about the missile tests, which defied Security Council resolutions. He told reporters Sunday that North Korea’s communist regime has closed all doors to communication and dialogue.
Officials at South Korea’s unification and defense ministries said Monday that Ban appeared to be emphasizing the launches would further deepen the North’s isolation. Nevertheless, the two Koreas have not severed all contact despite increasingly strained ties. They have held several rounds of talks on their joint factory park, the latest last week, and are still connected by several hot lines.
North Korean state media have not specifically mentioned the launches but boasted Sunday that the country’s military could impose “merciless punishment” on those who provoke it.
“Our revolutionary forces have grown up today as the strong army that can impose merciless punishment against those who offend us,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The North has engaged in a series of acts this year widely seen as provocative. It fired a long-range rocket it said was a satellite in early April, and in late May it carried out its second underground nuclear test following the first in late 2006.
Another defense official said Monday that no signs of additional North Korean launches have been detected but that the South Korean military was closely monitoring the North’s military. He also spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy.
The North has warned ships to stay away from a large area off the east coast until July 10, leading to concerns more missiles could be fired.”
Straight from Fox News: “Iran is ready to take “real and decisive” action if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities, a senior Iranian parliamentary official said Monday.
The remarks by Alaeddin Broujerdi, the head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, came after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden signaled that Washington would not try to prevent any such Israeli assault.
“Both the U.S. and Israel are aware of the consequence of an erroneous decision,” Broujerdi told reporters at the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo.
“I believe our response will be real and decisive,” Broujerdi said. He declined to elaborate.
Israel fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons to target the Jewish state. Iran denies it is pursuing an atomic arsenal, saying it only wants to produce nuclear power.
Israel’s government has said it would prefer to see Iran’s nuclear program stopped through diplomacy, but that it cannot rule out a military strike.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Biden was asked whether the U.S. would stand in the way if Israel — viewing the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb as a threat to the existence of the Jewish state — decided to launch a military attack.
“Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do,” he said.
Broujerdi also defended a recent crackdown on protesters following Iran’s presidential election.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has said the June 12 election, in which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared winner, was illegitimate and marred with fraud. Riots and protests have followed, although Iran’s restrictions on media coverage have made it difficult to confirm some reports.
Broujerdi said Iranian police had merely acted to restore order, and accused Mousavi of instigating the protests.
“There is no confusion. It is (now) a totally peaceful situation in Iran,” he said. Broujerdi is visiting Japan as chairman of the Iran-Japan Parliamentary Friendship League.
The Guardian Council, Iran’s top electoral oversight body, pronounced the election results valid last week. Ahmadinejad is set to be sworn in later this month for a second four-year term.”
Straight from Fox News: “The Obama White House has made clear in the past its impatience with North Korea for the communist country’s provocative rhetoric and displays of firepower, but so far Saturday, the administration — possibly by design — has remained silent on Korea’s latest missile barrage.
North Korea launched seven mid-range missiles off its eastern coast, presumably timed to coincide with the United States’ Independence Day. It was a show of firepower that echoed a North Korea’s missile launch three years ago that also fell on the Fourth of July holiday.
U.S. officials have said they don’t expect a launch anytime soon of long-range missiles capable of hitting U.S. soil. Even so, the latest round of missiles is in violation of a U.N. resolution and drew global expressions of condemnation and concern.
In Washington, the White House had no immediate comment. But two senior officials in President Barack Obama’s administration, speaking in advance of the launches, told the Associated Press that any reaction was likely to be muted to avoid giving attention to Pyongyang or antagonize it. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Washington, however, continues to move to enforce U.N. as well as its own sanctions against the isolated regime for its May 25 nuclear test.
The number of missiles launched Saturday was the same as in the 2006 launch, though back then, North Korea also launched a long-range rocket that broke apart and fell into the ocean less than a minute after liftoff.
South Korea said Saturday’s missiles likely flew more than 250 miles, apparently landing in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. South Korean officials the launches came throughout the day and were part of military exercises. The North, which had warned ships to stay away from waters off the east coast through July 10, also fired what are believed to have been four short-range cruise missiles Thursday.
Speculation had been building for weeks that the launches were coming. The key question has been whether the North might fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, as it vowed to do in late April.
South Korea and Japan both condemned the launches, with Tokyo calling them a “serious act of provocation.” Britain and France issued similar statements.
Russia and China, both close to North Korea, expressed concern over an “escalation of tension in the region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a meeting in Moscow.
North Korea has engaged in a series of acts this year widely seen as provocative. It fired a long-range rocket it said was a satellite in early April, and in late May it carried out its second underground nuclear test following the first in late 2006.
The country has also stoked tensions with rival South Korea and last month threatened “thousand-fold” military retaliation against the U.S. and its allies if provoked.
In addition, North Korea convicted two American journalists last month and sentenced them to 12 years hard labor for illegally entering the country. It is also holding a South Korean worker for allegedly denouncing its political system.
The secretive communist country is believed undergoing a political transition in which 67-year-old leader Kim Jong Il appears to be laying the groundwork to transfer power to one of his sons. Kim himself took over from his late father, the country’s founder.
Despite a Japanese newspaper report last month that one might be launched toward Hawaii in early July, U.S. officials have noted no such preparations, which are complex, usually take days and are often observable by spy satellites. Still, that hasn’t stopped Washington from boosting missile defenses as a precaution.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency suggested launch activity may be winding down, at least for now. It reported late Saturday, citing an unidentified military official, that the North was pulling personnel from its missile launch site and allowing ships to sail again off the coast. The Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report.
North Korea’s state news agency did not mention the launches, so it was hard to grasp Pyongyang’s true intentions. Officials and analysts, however, said they showed the country remains happy to stand up to the international community and appears unwilling to give in to efforts to punish it.
“I think it’s a demonstration of their defiance and rejection of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, for one thing, and to demonstrate their military power capabilities to any potential adversaries” as well as potential customers for its weapons, said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst for the International Crisis Group think tank.
Pinkston also said that there was “certainly a political aspect connected” to the launches and that July 4 was perhaps a “symbolic date,” suggesting the timing was not a coincidence.
Resolution 1874, which was approved last month and which condemned the North’s nuclear test, was the third to be passed by the U.N. Security Council against the country since 2006. All three ban North Korea from launching ballistic missiles.
A senior official in South Korea’s presidential office said that while the launches were part of military exercises, “North Korea also appeared to have sent a message to the U.S.,” though he did not elaborate.
Analysts have said North Korea’s saber rattling is partially aimed at pressuring Washington to engage in direct negotiations. North Korea is believed to desire diplomatic relations and a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
Obama’s administration has offered dialogue, but it says North Korea must return to stalled international talks on its denuclearization and stop engaging in what Washington sees as provocative behavior threatening allies South Korea and Japan.
Paik Hak-soon, an expert on North Korea at the Sejong Institute, a think tank near Seoul, rejected the idea that the North chose July 4 to confront or annoy the U.S. on its national day.
He said the launches were more likely a warning to the international community against enforcing U.N. sanctions, which call for searches of North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned items, such as nuclear or missile parts.
He said North Korea will continue to carry out more missile and nuclear tests in the future, as long as relations with the U.S. and South Korea remain tense.
“The structure of confrontation is there, intact,” he said.”
Straight from Fox News: “The Obama administration “misread” the depth of the economic troubles it inherited and still expects more new jobs in the long term as the spending pace from the $787 billion stimulus plan quickens, Vice President Joe Biden said.
Republican congressional leaders expressed disappointment about the impact of stimulus spending. “I’m very skeptical that the spending binge that we’re on is going to produce much good and, even if it does, anytime soon,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement Sunday.
“I think the economy is just as likely to begin to recover on its own, wholly aside from this, before much of this has an impact.”
Biden, in an interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week,” said the 9.5 percent unemployment rate is “much too high.” The administration had predicted unemployment would stay below 8 percent with its stimulus plan.
“The figures we worked off of in January were the consensus figures and most of the blue chip indexes out there,” Biden said. “We misread how bad the economy was, but we are now only about 120 days into the recovery package.”
He cited the economic conditions inherited from the Bush administration. “It’s now our responsibility. So the second question becomes … is it the right package given the circumstances we’re in? And we believe it is the right package given the circumstances we’re in.”
While Biden argued that more jobs will be created in the coming months, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said the GOP had wanted the bill to focus on small businesses and helping people keep more of what they earned.
“This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs and jobs. And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy,” Boehner said.
Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said no one is satisfied with the results of the stimulus so far. “But we believe the stimulus was absolutely essential,” he said.
Biden noted that the plan was set up to spend the money over 18 months. Major programs will take effect in September, including $7.5 billion for broadband Internet service, plus new money for high-speed rail and the nation’s electrical grid, he said.
Biden said it’s premature to say whether the country will need a second stimulus package.
Other issues Biden discussed during his ABC interview:
–Asked whether the United States would put the lives of U.S. troops on the line should violence flare up again in Iraq, he said “no.” The U.S. still plans to withdraw all troops by 2011, Biden said. “We believe the Iraqis will be fully capable of maintaining their own security.”
–Biden said if the Iranian government seeks to engage in a dialogue with the United States, the U.S. will engage. “The offer’s on the table.”
–Biden said Israel has the right to pursue a different course of action on Iran than the U.S. does. “Look, Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.”
–On North Korea’s Saturday launch of missiles, he said such actions appear to be efforts to seek attention. “The question is, is there anything that we should do about it?” Arguing that the U.S. policy has been correct so far, he said, “We have succeeded in uniting the most important and critical countries to North Korea on a common path of further isolating North Korea.”
–The Obama administration is “well on the way” to resolving a dispute between CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, Biden said. The conflict centers on Blair’s effort to choose his own representatives at U.S. embassies instead of relying only on CIA station chiefs. “He declined to give details.”
Straight from Fox News: “Patrick Best, after serving with the Army for two tours in Iraq, brought home an American flag that once flew over his base near Mosul, but he wasn’t sure what to do with it — until he heard about Ed Jordan.
Jordan, who served in the Marines in the 1950s, had displayed an American flag in front of his Dallas home until Monday, when it was torched by vandals, according to local media reports. When Best heard about the vandalism, he knew his flag should go to Jordan.
“It needed a home, and he had a home that needed a flag. So it was just very simple to connect the two together,” Best told WFAA.
Jordan said he’d been planning on getting a replacement but didn’t expect one like this.
“It has that much more meaning to know that somebody you’ve been praying for, this flag was flying over them,” Jordan told WFAA.
Best’s new mission is to spend time in Coppell, Texas, with his family, the station reported — and Jordan’s new mission is to find a bigger flag pole.”