Clinton’s acceptance speech: (1:07:47)
— BY IGOR VOLSKY ON OCTOBER 6, 2013
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the nation would default on its debt later this month if President Obama does not agree to GOP’s demands to cut spending and change parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Boehner agreed that the risks of defaulting would be “catastrophic,” leading credit markets to freeze, the dollar to lose its value, and interest rates to skyrocket, precipitating another financial crisis. But, he insisted that “the president is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to have a conversation”:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Let me press that. There have been some reports that you have told your own members that you would be willing to put a debt limit on the floor that would pass with democratic votes, even if it didn’t get a majority of the republican caucus. Is that no longer true?
BOEHNER: My goal here is not to have the United States default on its debt. My goal is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and the debt up and the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He continues to refuse to negotiate, the country is going to default?
BOEHNER: That’s the path we’re on. The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assume — he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.
Since walking away from two so-called grand bargains in 2011 — which would have reduced the deficit by increasing revenue and lowering spending on certain entitlement programs — Boehner and other Congressional leaders met with Obama to discuss the standoff on Wednesday, though no deal was reached.
As Obama continues to insist that he will only negotiate with Republicans after they re-open the federal government by passing a clean continuing resolution and raise the debt ceiling, GOP lawmakers in battleground states are seeing their poll numbers drop and veteran Republican donors are becoming “increasingly alarmed by the defiant stance of hard-line conservatives.”
This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geo-spatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.
Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21
A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.
A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.
We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.
The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.
We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.
The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.
We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.
The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.
We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.
Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.
Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.
We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.
We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.
We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.
To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.
- Syria warns United States that it’s prepared to confront any aggression – @CNN (edition.cnn.com)
- Britain to release info on chemical weapons attack (cnn.com)
- Syria’s chemical weapons program was built to counter Israel (reuters.com)
- Obama “sure Syria behind chemical attack”..Putin to Cameron: “No evidence”..three new “chemical attacks” by rebels (seeker401.wordpress.com)
- Syria: UK intelligence blames Assad regime for chemical attacks (theguardian.com)
- U.S. Admits It Has No Idea WHO Carried Out Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack (washingtonsblog.com)
- Why Doesn’t the U.S. Wait for U.N. Test Results in Syria Before Striking? (sparkingtheleft.com)
President Obama took Wednesday morning to answer your questions on housing during an online interview, and it’s worth a watch. It’s part of his push for a more secure foundation for middle-class home ownership.
We want to make sure you’ve got the facts about President Obama’s plan, and the resources that are already available for homeowners.
Here’s what you need to know: The President’s plan involves simple, commonsense steps that folks on both sides of the aisle agree on. That means making it easier for families to refinance, reforming the system so families aren’t on the hook for the bad behavior of certain mortgage lenders, and helping folks who aren’t homeowners yet get affordable housing that’s right for them.
And while we need to do more, there are some resources we’ve already helped make available:
- MakingHomeAffordable.gov is there to help get you mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure. If you or someone you know needs assistance, they can help you find programs that can help — both online and through a free, 24/7 support line that can connect you with housing experts.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking out for homeowners who might be victims of predatory lending or unfair consumer practices. Find out how to get help, or submit a complaint if you believe you’ve been taken advantage of. They’ve also got a special section that can help walk you through mortgage jargon.
Take a minute to share this information with your family and friends, so that people who might not know about these resources can start getting help if they need it.
Help make the money in politics more transparent. Please sign this petition to ensure 501c4 organizations must devote their efforts “exclusively” to social welfare. That would force organizations like FreedomWorks, Crossroads, CrossroadsGPS, and yes, OFA (Organizing For America into tax-exempt categories where their donor contributions would need to be disclosed. No longer would they be able to say they’re “social welfare organizations” that do relatively nothing to promote “social welfare” but do pretty much everything to promote an ideological political agenda.
Currently, at whitehouse.gov, there is a petition on the We the People page titled:
The replacement by the IRS of the word “exclusively” in the original and still-extant pre-1959 501 c (4) statute, with the word “primarily” in the procedural ‘regulation’ manual,simply put, violates the law. At whatever cost to those who have ridden this loophole to the absolute corruption of our political system by money, the original wording of “exclusively social welfare” needs to be enforced.
As I write this post, that petition at whitehouse.gov has only 16,104 signatures. That means it needs 83,896 more signatures for President Obama to make good on his promise to address any petition which garners 100,000 signatures. I’m not sure that President Obama can actually take that action via Executive Order, or whether, since it’s an IRS Regulation, it would have to go through the process by which regulations are updated/changed, but needless to say, if nothing else we could force the President to force the IRS to amend their regulation and properly administer the long-standing statute.
If you don’t already have a logon for whitehouse.gov, you’ll need to create one so you can sign the petition (that’s how they ensure one person can’t sign a single petition thousands of times). But, PLEASE sign this petition!
After you’ve signed the petition, if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, make sure you share a link to your friends and followers. We can do this! It’s time to put some integrity back into our politics and finally know where all those campaign dollars are coming from.
Despite formidable efforts to disenfranchise African Americans in 2012, a larger percentage of black voters than white voters turned out at the polls to assure Obama’s victory on Election Day.
By Marc Morial
It’s official: African Americans are the nation’s most important swing state.
Last summer, I predicted that the African American vote would tip the scales in the 2012 election of Barack Obama. My organization, the National Urban League, foresaw a continuation of a trend that proved to be a decisive factor in Obama’s 2008 campaign.
The Census Bureau has now confirmed our analysis. Not only did the 2012 black vote make the difference in several key swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the biggest prize of all, Ohio, but black voters turned out a higher rate than white voters.
Since 1996, black voter turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points, and the number of blacks who voted in 2012 rose by about 1.7 million over 2008. This is even more remarkable given that overall voting among eligible citizens declined last year.
This boost in turnout also demonstrates that, in the face of a widespread voter suppression campaign, a record number of blacks heeded the National Urban League’s call to “Occupy the Vote” — a campaign that reached 10 million people through traditional and social media, phone banking, and grassroots and community outreach. In fact, all Census divisions where voting rates of blacks exceeded those of whites included states that introduced major voter suppression tactics in the year leading up to the election.
While the National Urban League doesn’t endorse individual candidates, we do encourage civic engagement, and our affiliates have always played leading roles in voter registration drives. That’s why we are also pleased that African Americans registered in record numbers last year. The registration rate for blacks rose from 69.7 percent in 2008 to 73.1 percent in 2012 — the highest registration rate ever recorded.
In Ohio, where Obama won 96 percent of the African-American vote, the black registration rate was 74.4 percent. In North Carolina, a state he lost this time around, African-American registration increased from 71 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2012 with 80.2 percent of eligible black voters going to the polls, up from 68.1 percent four years ago.
The increase in black voter participation is a turning point for several reasons.
First, it’s clear that Mitt Romney would have eked out a victory in 2012 if voters had turned out at 2004 levels. White turnout was higher and black turnout was lower in that presidential election.
Second, due to an increase in overall minority voting, people of color will be wielding even more electoral clout in the coming years. According to the demographer William Frey, “by 2024, their vote will be essential to victory.”
Third, this demographic shift is prodding both major political parties to increase their outreach and appeal to minority voters and to reassess the impact their policies are having on those communities.
As the Associated Press put it, “The findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of American history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.”
There’s no doubt that the opportunity to re-elect America’s first black president contributed to record black turnout last year. But, no matter who is on the ballot in 2014 and 2016, we must continue to exercise our voice and Occupy the Vote.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League and the former mayor of New Orleans. http://www.nul.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
— by Chris Kang, Senior Counsel to the President, May 17, 2013
Yesterday, President Obama demonstrated his continued commitment to increasing the diversity of our federal judiciary, so that it better reflects the nation it serves. He nominated four distinguished women to serve on four different courts—women who not only have the necessary intellect, integrity and fair-mindedness to serve as federal judges, but whose nominations also represent important “firsts” in their state or district:
- If confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Carolyn McHugh would be the first woman from Utah to serve on that court. Currently, the Tenth Circuit only has one woman judge serving among its nine active members.
- Pamela Reeves and Elizabeth Wolford would be the first women to serve as district court judges in the Eastern District of Tennessee and Western District of New York, respectively, if confirmed.
- Debra Brown would be the first African-American district court judge to serve in the Northern District of Mississippi and the first African-American woman to serve as an Article III judge in the entire state of Mississippi, if confirmed.
President Obama’s judicial nominees already have broken the gender barrier in circuit courts in six states, as well as nine district courts, and have shattered dozens of glass ceilings for minorities. And on Monday, the Senate will consider the nomination of Michael McShane to be a district court judge in Oregon; if confirmed, he would be the fifth openly gay judge appointed by President Obama, compared to only one in history before.
These “firsts” are important, not because these judges will consider cases differently, but because a judiciary that better resembles our nation instills even greater confidence in our justice system, and because these judges will serve as role models for generations of lawyers to come.
Finally, I wanted to note another “first” yesterday: for the first time, President Obama has nominated more district court judges than President George W. Bush had at the same point in his presidency. While a faster pace of judicial retirements has led to a greater number of vacancies—many still without nominees—this record demonstrates the strength of the President’s commitment to addressing the judicial vacancy crisis in our country. He will continue to work with home state Senators from both parties to identify and consider candidates for the federal judiciary. We urge the Senate to consider yesterday’s nominees—and all judicial nominees—without unnecessary delay.
In related news:
If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to what’s been going on in the Senate, the GOP (Goons Opposing Progress) have found a new way of obstructing nominations from moving forward for a vote — at the committee level — by failing to show up for committee meetings so quorums aren’t met. That was the case for nominations to fill EPA and Labor. But finally, on Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA on a party-line vote, 10-8. On the same day, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee voted 12-10, also along party lines, to advance Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez.
The number of vacancies in the Judiciary has reached crisis mode and the GOP is doing their darnedest to prevent the President from filling any openings with “Liberal” justices.
How the Confirmation Process Works
- The confirmation process begins when the President selects a nominee for a vacant judgeship. Traditionally, the President selects a nominee in consultation with the Senators who represent the state in which the judge will serve. Senators typically have their own methods of evaluating potential nominees, and can signal their approval or disapproval of a nominee through the blue slip process.
- The President then refers the nominee to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee evaluates the nominee by gathering information, running a background check, and reviewing the record and qualifications of the nominee.
- The Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee. Witnesses present testimony on the nominee. Some of the witnesses favor and others oppose the nomination. The nominee also answers questions from the Committee. Senators who oppose a nominee can attempt to delay or derail a nomination by requesting additional information or additional time as a hearing approaches.
- The Judiciary Committee votes on whether to report the nominee to the full Senate. If the Committee does report the nominee, they can submit the nomination with a favorable recommendation, an unfavorable recommendation, or no recommendation at all. Senators who oppose the nomination can attempt to delay a nomination by using procedural tactics to prevent a committee vote.
- The full Senate has the opportunity to debate the nomination. The Senate debates until a Senator asks for unanimous consent to end debate and move to a vote on the nominee. If unanimous consent is granted, the Senate votes on the nominee, with a majority vote required for confirmation. Any Senator can refuse to grant unanimous consent. This situation is known as a hold.
- If any Senator objects to unanimous consent, then a cloture motion must be filed in order to end debate and move to a vote. A cloture motion requires 60 votes to pass. If 60 Senators support cloture, the full Senate will vote on the nomination, with a majority required for confirmation. If fewer than 60 Senators support cloture, debate continues and a confirmation vote cannot occur. This is known as a filibuster.
- Once the Senate holds a confirmation vote, with a majority voting to confirm, the nominee becomes a Federal Judge.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has been in the news of late complaining that too many judicial openings have gone vacant for far too long in Texas. Well, maybe Sen. Cornyn should take a look at a look in the mirror. Refer to step one above, the process for approving a new district court judge, per longstanding tradition, begins with a senator forwarding recommendations from his or her state to the president. Sen. Cornyn has failed to take any such action for years.
So as you can see, in the case of the Judiciary, there are three opportunities to gum up the works: (1) Shrug off their duty to propose any judiciary candidates to the President, (2) Fail to show up for committee meetings such that the committee has no quorum to allow a vote, and (3) if all else fails, just filibuster whoever does manage to make it out of committee.
It will take more than President Barack Obama’s tenure to vanquish American prejudice and racial injustice.
Having an African-American president is convenient. It boosts U.S. credibility in the Global South and makes us look like we’re making progress toward wiping out racism when we’re not.
But it will take more than President Barack Obama’s tenure to vanquish American prejudice and racial injustice. Four years after he took office, it remains perilous to be black or brown. Racial profiling remains rampant. Schools are, if anything, becoming even more segregated. The Voting Rights Act, under attack at the Supreme Court, is as necessary as ever.
And our growing poverty falls most heavily, as usual, on people of color.
Obama didn’t personally cause this decline. He surely craves its reversal as much as the rest of us. But how much political capital can a black president afford to spend on trying to turn around social prejudices in an all-too-racist society? Not much, it seems.
New York and Chicago police officers and Southern sheriffs may dominate as iconic perpetrators of stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, but for law enforcers everywhere, this tactic remains a national pastime. Since black and Latino drivers are pulled over out of proportion to their numbers, they face much more frequent arrest, even in San Francisco and other liberal bastions.
A recent ruling by a federal judge may, however, put a stop to New York City’s overzealous stop-and-frisk practices, which can have the same impact on pedestrians of color.
The once-dominant white majority now comprises just over half the nation’s public school students, yet school segregation remains entrenched. Consider what the Civil Rights Project, a research group based at the University of California, terms “intense segregation.” It’s becoming the norm at our public schools. Today, more than one-third of Latino and African-American students attend schools where whites comprise less than 10 percent of their classmates.
This kind of extreme segregation is far more common today for Latino children than it was in 1968. And more than one in seven African-American and Latino kids attend what the Civil Rights Project calls “apartheid” schools, where fewer than 1 percent of their classmates are white.
Unfortunately, traditional integration techniques won’t fix this entrenched problem.Boston’s public school system, for example, retains only 13 percent white students. How do you integrate that?
Meanwhile, the Boston-based group United for a Fair Economy reports that the nationwide incarceration rate is six times higher for blacks than whites, that blacks and Latinos endure a median family income only 57 percent as high as whites, and that African-American unemployment is roughly double the Caucasian rate.
You can’t run a successful society with such stark inequality.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org
“The Pentagon announced an end to the ban on women in combat, finally allowing our military to fully benefit from the talents of women who want to serve and defend our great nation. When we as a nation lift restrictions and allow people to serve based on their performance, we benefit from it. That was true when President Truman desegregated the military, allowing African-Americans to serve as equals. It was true when President Obama ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing our gay and lesbian service members to serve openly. And it is true now for women. As a Veteran who saw combat action, I know firsthand that America’s daughters are just as capable of defending liberty as her sons. Allowing our women in uniform to serve fully is a win for our nation. ” — Rep. Tammy Duckworth