Thursday, January 27, 2011

HA! HA! HA! HA! Birthers!!!

HI Bill Would Give Anyone Obama Birth Info for Fee

HONOLULU (AP) — Anyone would be able to get a copy of President Barack Obama's birth records for a $100 fee under a bill introduced in the state Legislature that backers hope will finally dispel claims he was born elsewhere.

The bill would change a privacy law barring the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member.

The measure was introduced by five Democrats but has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing, a required step before it can move forward. A decision on considering the bill will be made by the House's Democratic leadership and committee chairmen.

The idea behind the measure is to end skepticism over Obama's birthplace while raising a little money for a government with a projected budget deficit exceeding $800 million over the next two years.

"If it passes, it will calm the birthers down," said the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Rida Cabanilla. "All these people are still doubting it because they don't want the birth certificate from Obama. They want it from our state office."

So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. Many of the skeptics question whether he was actually born in Kenya, his father's home country.

The Obama campaign issued a certification of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president's Aug. 4, 1961, birth date, his birth city and name, and his parents' names and races.

Hawaii's former health director also has said she verified Obama's original records. And notices were published in two local newspapers within days of his birth at a Honolulu hospital.

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama's parents and knew him as a child, said last month he wanted to release more of the state's birth information about Obama. But he ended the effort last week when the state attorney general told him that privacy laws bar disclosure of an individual's birth documentation without the person's consent.

The new legislation to release records may run into similar legal problems because of Hawaii's strong constitutional privacy protections, said Rep. John Mizuno, a co-sponsor of the bill.

"If people really want to confirm Barack Obama is born in Hawaii, that's fine," Mizuno said. "I don't have a problem with looking at innovative ways to bring revenue to the state. The taxpayers deserve a break."

The $100 fee would help offset the extra work by state employees who handle frequent phone calls and e-mails from people who believe Obama was born elsewhere, Cabanilla said.

But the number of birther requests has been declining from the 10 to 20 weekly inquiries received early last year, according to the Department of Health.

"Requests have decreased significantly over the years. Currently we receive anywhere from zero to five per week," said department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

The Health Department is still reviewing the bill, Okubo said.

House Health Committee Chairman Ryan Yamane didn't immediately return messages seeking comment on whether he would hold a hearing on the bill

The Club of 100 screw the people again! The PEOPLE lose 0-100!

Filibuster Lives: Senate Rejects Changes in Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The filibuster lives on. The Senate voted overwhelmingly late Thursday to reject efforts to change its rules to restrict the blockades that have sown gridlock and discord in recent years on Capitol Hill.

Instead, senators settled on a more modest measure to prevent single lawmakers from anonymously holding up legislation and nominations, and the parties' Senate leaders announced a handshake deal to conduct business in a more efficient and civilized way.

The two leaders, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, also endorsed legislation, to be drawn up later, to break the logjam of confirmations of presidential appointments by reducing by as much as a third the number of appointees subject to Senate approval.

Senators were emphatic in their votes against limiting the filibuster, a treasured right of minorities trying to prevent majorities from running roughshod over them. Many Democrats, while now in the majority, envisioned a day, perhaps as early as after the 2012 election, when they would return to the minority.

None of Thursday's series of votes would have eliminated all filibusters, which are used to stall action on bills or nominations and require 60 votes to override in the 100-member body. Instead, Democrats pushing for change sought to get rid of filibusters that specifically stop bills from being brought to the Senate floor, and to require senators imposing a filibuster to stay on the floor debating the issue. One proposal would have gradually reduced the 60-vote threshold to a simple majority of 51 as debate proceeded.

The votes were 84-12 against the proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa to gradually reduce the threshold and 51-44 to reject a proposal by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Harkin to end filibusters on motions to advance a bill to the floor, require those initiating filibusters to stay on the floor and to shorten debate time on nominations. A third resolution by Merkley that focused on requiring those filibustering to keep talking on the floor went down, 49-46. All the proposals to change Senate rules would have required two-thirds majorities for approval.

But recognizing the frustration of many senators over the delaying tactics and partisan battles that have paralyzed the Senate in recent years, Majority Leader Reid and Republican leader McConnell said they had agreed on non-binding steps to restore comity and cooperation in the Senate. Under the agreement, McConnell said minority Republicans would block fewer bills and nominations in exchange for a guarantee of more chances to amend legislation.

The Senate has been plagued in recent years by procedural delays, often the result of partisan differences, and public displeasure with Congress was a key factor in the fall midterm elections that saw Republicans recapture the House and increase their strength in the Senate. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 69 percent of the people disapprove of Congress and only 26 percent view it favorably.

Reid defended the central premise of the filibuster, saying debate without time limits was "in our DNA" in the Senate. But he also said, "We have to act because when abuses keep us from doing our work, they deter us from working together and they stop us from working for the American people."

He said he and McConnell would both avoid use of the so-called "constitutional option" where the majority could change filibuster and other Senate rules with a simple 51-vote majority in the 100-member chamber.

McConnell said he was optimistic that he and Reid could "convince our colleagues that we ought to get back to operating the Senate the way we did as recently as three or four years ago, when bills came up and they were open for amendment, and we voted on amendments, and at some point the bill would be completed."

Republicans have defended their use of the filibuster, saying it was in response to Democrats limiting the number of amendments they could offer to bills.

The leaders' deal focuses only on filibusters pertaining to "motions to proceed," or attempts to bring a bill or a nomination to the Senate floor. The compromise did not extend to filibusters that block efforts to cut off debate and bring a bill to a final vote.

Reid said that in the past Congress Republicans forced 26 votes just to get bills to the floor, often with the primary goal, he said, of stalling Senate activities. Some, he said, were on non-controversial bills that eventually passed by overwhelming majorities. It can take weeks to get a bill to a final vote if the minority uses all its filibuster authority.

Merkley, who has helped lead the anti-filibuster campaign with Udall and Harkin, applauded what he called the "modest" steps taken by the two leaders. But he said it removed only one of three walls that now stand in the way of getting legislation through the Senate. In addition to the 60 votes needed to overcome filibusters on motions to proceed, there can also be filibusters on amendments and on ending debate.

"How much will it really change for this Senate?" he asked.

Reid and McConnell said the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would be asked to put together legislation on reducing appointments subject to Senate confirmation, now about 1,400, by about one-third. The confirmation process can take months, subject nominees to exhausting investigations, eat up Senate time and be used by senators as leverage to advance other causes.

They also agreed that the practice of disgruntled senators forcing the reading clerk to read out amendments in their entirety, a delaying tactic that can take hours, will be done away with as long as lawmakers have advance access to the amendment. A resolution offered by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to enact that change passed 81-15.

The resolution to effectively end the practice of secret "holds," where a single senator, without revealing his or her name or motive, can block votes on legislation or nominations, passed 92-4.

Under the proposal long pushed by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and also sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., senators would have to make public their objections within 48 hours of placing them and could no longer baton-pass their holds to other senators to avoid having to reveal themselves.

Holds, which require 60 votes to overcome, have become a common practice by senators trying either to block nominations or push some political point.

Udall vowed to continue pressing the filibuster issue. "Reform is not for the short-winded," he said. "I'm committed to making sure the Senate is more than just a graveyard for good ideas."

TNT Pregame Show to Halt With 'Salute' to Sarah Palin

Someone said something shocking on a TNT NBA studio show Thursday night. No shock there, not with Charles Barkley as one of the analysts.

Except, the stunning statement didn't happen in a studio, but rather on the floor of Madison Square Garden. And it wasn't said by Barkley, but by comedian Tracy Morgan, who made the startling declaration that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was attractive.

Really, really attractive.

Here's the set-up: Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson were conducting business at MSG in advance of the Miami Heat-New York Knicks game, which TNT televised. The trio were discussing the pending NBA All-Star Game and Thursday's announcement of the Eastern and Western Conference starters, when Morgan, who stars in the NBC sitcom "30 Rock" happened by their makeshift set.

Barkley and Smith asked Morgan whom he thought merited inclusion on the All-Star roster. Then Morgan was asked to choose between Palin and Tina Fey, who created "30 Rock," and has impersonated Palin on "SNL."

That's when Morgan said that Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee was "good masturbation material." It may have marked one of the few times that the normally loquacious Barkley has ever been speechless.

TNT, however, recovered quickly, issuing a statement from spokesman Jeff Pomeroy that read: "It's unfortunate Mr. Morgan showed a lack of judgment on our air with his inappropriate comments."

Race Played Role in GOP's 2010 Wins

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia is saying his party's November election losses were partly due to voter antagonism toward a black president.

Moran, a 20-year House veteran, made the remarks Tuesday to the Arab television network Alhurra (ahl-HUR'-ruh) after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Referring to widespread Republican wins in congressional and state contests, Moran said "a lot of people in this country, I believe, don't want to be governed by an African-American." He said that was particularly true of a liberal president.

As some groups criticized the remarks, Moran's spokeswoman Anne Hughes issued a statement defending him, saying it's no secret the U.S. "continues to struggle with racial equality." She says Moran thinks it's better to discuss than to ignore such issues.

34 people killed today by guns in the USA. 12 times the average in Europe!

NYC Mayor responds to NRA critics

Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his fight for stricter gun control laws in the Spring of 2006. Nearly five years later, and after the deadly shooting in Tucson, Mayor Bloomberg has renewed his commitment to that mission.

In an exclusive interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, the New York City Mayor and co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns shot back at his NRA critics.

“The truth of the matter is they don't pay any attention,” said Bloomberg. “The Constitution says you have a right to bear arms, the Constitution talks about a well-regulated militia. A well-regulated militia isn't a bunch of people that have clips that hold 38 bullets for their Glock handgun in their home.”

NRA Political Director Chuck Cunningham recently referred to him as “Mayor Blame,” saying he finds fault in everything from “violent crime in New York City” to “Mother Nature for his recent problems with snow removal.” Cunningham warned, “He's not after illegal guns, he's after your guns.”

Bloomberg maintains he’s a defender of the Second Amendment. “You know, in New York, what the NRA misses, we have brought crime down so low, it is one of the safest big cities in the country, it's one of the safest cities period, regardless of size. We have had less than 600 murders on a basis of 8.4 million people.” He credits the drop in crime to taking weapons off streets through stricter gun control laws.

Bloomberg called the NRA’s fierce lobbying operation and Congress’ general unwillingness to stand up to them “quite mind-boggling.”

Guns and ammunition were two words that did not show up in President Obama's State of the Union Address either. Senior adviser David Plouffe promised the President will address the issue of gun control at a later date. But, many gun control advocates say Obama lost out on a great chance to bring up the issue, including Bloomberg.

“I think the president missed an opportunity, but I am encouraged,” said Bloomberg. “Presidents don't have a problem in fighting wars overseas. Congress doesn't have a problem in funding wars overseas. But we have a war on the streets of our cities, big and small. And we have to do something about that.”

White House picks Jay Carney as new press secretary

President Obama has chosen former journalist Jay Carney to replace press secretary Robert Gibbs, a longtime loyalist, when he leaves the post in mid-February.

Carney, now the communications director for Vice President Biden, is the marquee move as he will assume perhaps the most high profile staff job in the White House.

He came to the Administration in 2008 after a long career in journalism that included serving as Washington bureau chief of Time magazine. Carney is married to ABC News' correspondent Claire Shipman.

Rush Limbaugh´s Racist Commentary Leads to Death Threats (If you listen to this JACKwagon you're brain dead!)

California State Sen. Leland Yee has received death threats after he called on Rush Limbaugh to apologize for mocking the Chinese language while commenting on a Fox News broadcast of a speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Saying networks normally translate every few words, Limbaugh added "but Hu Jintao was just going chin chong, chin chong cha..." Limbaugh continued with his gibberish mimic-Chinese for almost 20 seconds.

After Yee demanded Limbaugh apologize, he received death threats and racist messages via e-mail, text message and fax, such as a fax calling him a Marxist and saying, "Rush Limbaugh will kick your Ch**k ass and expose you for the fool you are."

Filibuster Reform Likely

Some Filibuster Reform Likely, But 60-Vote Threshold in Senate to Continue

Despite the best efforts of a group of Democratic senators, it looks like the Senate filibuster rule will largely stay intact.

Because of the filibuster, it takes 60 votes (and up to three days of precious Senate time) to pass nearly anything through the 100-member Senate, not just a simple majority. Had the filibuster rule not existed in the last Congress, health care reform legislation would have passed easily - and may have included the public option.
The Wall Street reform bill would have been stronger. The DREAM Act providing a path to citizenship for upstanding young people brought to American illegally would now be law. And that's just for starters - the threat of the filibuster means that virtually every piece of legislation before the Senate needs 60 votes to become law.

Three Democratic senators - Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall - have been pushing for the filibuster rule to be changed. One of their proposals would have gradually reduced the number of votes to break a filibuster - after a certain amount of time, for example, it would have only taken 55 votes to break one, and then, eventually, a simple majority.

After negotiating with colleagues, the three senators then put forth a relatively-modest proposal that would not eliminate the filibuster, but would mandate that it can't be used on procedural motions and require that senators actually remain on the floor to filibuster, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"-style.

It appears that was too much change for senators, however. Instead, a deal has been worked out that does include some minor changes to the system but leaves the filibuster rule largely in place.

Sen. Charles Schumer described part of the deal that has been worked out this way, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery: "The Leaders, as you heard earlier today, have agreed between themselves to minimize filibusters on motions to proceed, and to allow the introduction of more amendments - something which should make this Congress function much differently than the last one." (This is, it appears, a "gentlemen's agreement," not an official rule change. Republicans wanted to be allowed to introduce more amendments to legislation, and Democrats said they would let them so long as they filibuster fewer bills and nominations.
A motions to proceed is a move to bring a bill to the floor; other filibusters - such as before a final vote or to end debate - will continue.)

Schumer said institution of the so-called "talking filibuster" - a rule that you actually have to filibuster when you filibuster - was not part of the deal.

In a statement released yesterday, Udall expressed his disappointment that his effort did not result in "meaningful" reform.

"While I'm disappointed this body lacks the necessary will to enact truly substantive reforms, we have certainly succeeded in bringing reform to the forefront and shining a light on the sources of our dysfunction," he said.
"In the long term, this fight is far from over and I'm committed making sure the Senate is more than just a graveyard for good ideas and we are able to address the challenges we face as a nation."

The deal does include some substantive changes: Most notably, it will mandate that senators can no longer secretly block nominations or can no longer secretly block votes on nominations.
It will also reduce by one third the number of presidential appointees that the Senate must confirm. (Many nominees have been held up for months in the Senate even though they have the support of the vast majority of senators, thanks in part to secret holds.)
The deal also would end the stalling-tactic of requesting that amendments be read aloud in their entirely. A vote on these proposals is expected later today.

Some Senate Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing significant limits to the filibuster rule, which defenders say ensures that one party cannot more too aggressively in passing legislation.

Futurist Volkswagen XL1 gets 261 miles a gallon

The Volkswagen concept has an aero design to reduce drag and increase gas mileage.CAPTIONVolkswagenDelivering both stunning looks and high fuel economy, Volkswagen has unveiled a streamlined diesel plug-in hybrid XL1 concept in the Mideast nation at the Qatar Motor Show.

The fuel mileage works out to about 261 miles a gallon, says Automotive News. VW calls it the most efficient car in the world.

The new Volkswagen XL1 combines light weight and a low aerodynamic drag to get the most out of its hybrid system. The system has a two-cylinder diesel engine and a seven-speed transmission.

Although the car has amazing looks, VW insists its also practical. It has side-by-side seating, gull-wing doors and has lots of carbon-fiber parts.

It can accelerate from a stop to 62 miles an hour in 11.9 seconds and has a top speed higher than 85 miles per hour.

Sarah Palin harshly criticizes Obama's State of the Union address (WHY?)

Positioning herself more and more like a presidential candidate, Sarah Palin issued a lengthy and blistering response to President Obama's State of the Union address late Wednesday, saying that the president had lost the trust of the American people.

"Real leadership is more than just words; it's deeds," the former Alaska governor said in a message published on Facebook. "The president's deeds don't lend confidence that we can trust his words spoken" Tuesday night.

Like many Republicans, Palin equated Obama's call for renewed investment in education, infrastructure and technology as a mandate for ramped-up federal spending. Echoing President Clinton's State of the Union address in 1996, Palin said Obama was telling the public: "The era of big government is here as long as I am, so help me pay for it."

And adding a touch of snark, she said, Obama "dubbed it a "Winning The Future" speech, but the title's acronym seemed more accurate than much of the content."

Palin largely had been silent on the national stage since she posted a video response earlier this month to critics who tied her firearm-flavored campaign rhetoric to the shootings in Tucson. Those remarks then drew further criticism from some who said that she appeared too defensive and unconcerned with the victims, while also drawing the condemnation of some Jewish leaders for using the term "blood libel" to describe the attacks on her.

But her 1,700-word response to Obama's speech suggests that Palin is assuming a role as one of Obama's central antagonists. In it, she also accuses the president of not paying enough attention to the federal debt.

"Our country's future is at stake, and we're rapidly reaching a crisis point," Palin said. "Our government is spending too much, borrowing too much, and growing too much. Debt is stifling our private sector growth, and millions of Americans are desperately looking for work."

And she went to great pains to distinguish her oft-repeated view of "American exceptionalism" from Obama's: "He couched his proposals to grow government and increase spending in the language of 'national greatness,' Palin said. "This seems to be the Obama administration's version of American exceptionalism – an 'exceptionally big government,' in which a centralized government declares that we shall be great and innovative and competitive, not by individual initiative, but by government decree. Where once he used words like 'hope' and 'change,' the president may now talk about 'innovation' and 'competition'; but the audacity of his recycled rhetoric no longer inspires hope."

Palin made passing mention of the "tea party" -- and firmly embraced that movement's populist persona, saying that Obama is allied with big business and that everyday Americans would suffer as a result."It's basically a corporatist agenda – it's the collaboration between big government and the big businesses that have powerful friends in D.C. and can afford to hire big lobbyists," she said, labeling that collaboration "crony capitalism."

Quoting President Reagan, Palin said, 'You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy." President Obama's proposals [Tuesday] night stick the little guy with the bill, while big government and its big corporate partners prosper."

Palin wasn't the only possible presidential candidate to respond to the president's speech. Mitt Romney, appearing on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News on Wednesday evening, called Obama "misguided."

"He's trying awfully hard," the former Massachusetts governor said. "The problem is that he really doesn't know what to do."

Like Palin, Romney said that the president failed to offer specific plans to reduce unemployment and government spending. "He starts off by saying the right things," Romney said. "He doesn't understand that the entrepreneurial spirit of free men and women unfettered from an excessive government regulatory and taxation environment is the right way to create jobs and to build the new enterprises that frankly have powered us in the past and can power us in the future."

"It's sad to watch in some respects," Romney said.

Despite not formally announcing presidential bids, both potential candidates have been raising money at a furious pace through their political action committees. As reported earlier by The Times Romney has raised more than $9 million over last two years and Palin has raised more than $5.5 million.

A formal declaration of candidacy from either Palin or Romney could still be months away.


Eli Lilly 4Q Profit Rises 28 Percent

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Drugmaker Eli Lilly says its fourth-quarter profit rose 28 percent on higher sales volume and prices for key drugs.

The Indianapolis company says it earned $1.17 billion, or $1.05 per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That's up from the $915.4 million, or 83 cents per share, Lilly earned in the final quarter of 2009. Revenue rose 4 percent to $6.19 billion.

Excluding charges, the company earned $1.11 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected profit of $1.09 per share on $5.99 billion in revenue.

Sales for Lilly's best-selling drug, the antipsychotics Zyprexa, fell 2 percent to $1.34 billion while revenue from its second-best seller, the antidepressant Cymbalta, rose 19 percent to $984.6 million.

Hong Kong 10-year-olds pass UK high school exams

HONG KONG (AFP) – Two Hong Kong 10-year-olds reared on a punishing schedule of study and swimming have sailed through British high school exams, fuelling debate over the "Tiger Mother" approach to parenting.

Twins Estephe and Perrine Corlin scored straight "As" in the maths papers of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education exams, which are normally taken by 16-year-olds.

The boy and girl's Malaysian-born mother Rosalind Corlin said their achievement was down to a gruelling schedule tailor-made for success -- echoing Amy Chua, the Chinese-American author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".

The Yale University law professor has sparked worldwide debate with her book extolling the benefits of no-nonsense parenting over the more relaxed style of child-rearing common in the West.

Corlin insists that her twins enjoy their daily grind, which starts at 5:30 am with 90 minutes of swim practice.

"They love it. They want to do it, they enjoy being with other friends at the extra-curricular activities," she told AFP in a telephone interview.

Their businessman father, who is French, is less enthusiastic, lamenting the lack of leisure time he has with his busy offspring, Corlin said.

But Corlin, once a member of the Malaysian national swim team who left a job in the finance industry to focus on her family, said the twins are "very competitive themselves and they like to excel".

Corlin's approach differs in one major respect to Chua's, who sees no point to sport. Apart from their swimming, Estephe and Perrine also hold brown belts in judo, and are proficient in sailing and chess.

After their early-morning visit to the pool, "they then have time to squeeze in half an hour of maths or physics revision before heading to school at 8:30 am", Corlin said.

"The kids would resume swim practice after school at 5:00 pm," she said. "We study (schoolwork) for 45 minutes during weekdays and longer during weekends."

In her book, Chua recounts an ultra-strict regime of piano lessons and homework for her daughters, arguing that for Asian immigrant families in the United States, pushing children hard is the key to getting ahead.

Links to an excerpt published this month in the Wall Street Journal have been shared countless times on Facebook and Twitter, triggering a debate over cultural values at a time of concern in the West about falling behind China.

"The solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child," Chua wrote.

"All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that."

Chua said she had called one of her children "garbage", and made one of her daughters stand out in the cold for falling short on piano practice, comments that have attracted emailed death threats.

Corlin has a more balanced approach to work and play for her own children, but agrees that failure is not an option.

After their success in the maths papers, whose results came out this week, Estephe and Perrine plan to take higher-level physics and chemistry exams.

"What she does seems extreme," Corlin said of Chua, in a separate interview with the South China Morning Post, "but she's right in the sense that self-discipline is important".

"Kids themselves don't really want to do it. Letting them do what they want now is not really a good approach."

by Joyce Woo Joyce Woo