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Purveyor's Journal
Purveyor's Journal
December 3, 2013

Chrysler and GM Gains Drive Best U.S. Auto Sales Rate Since 2007

Source: Bloomberg

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC gains led November U.S. auto sales that accelerated to the fastest pace in more than five years as dealers stepped up promotion of year-end offers to try to control rising inventory.

Deliveries of cars and light trucks rose 16 percent for Chrysler, 14 percent for GM and more than 10 percent for Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. The carmakers led a rise in the industry’s monthly annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, to 16.4 million, the highest since February 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Automakers entered a year-end sales push last month with their biggest supply of cars and trucks in eight years, a buildup that was poised to test the industry’s newfound pricing discipline. Dealers introduced more aggressive year-end marketing campaigns than in past years to try to draw shoppers to showrooms with Black Friday promotions and cheap financing.

“Dealers were seeing the opportunity to piggyback on this shopping phenomenon,” said Dave Winslow, chief digital strategist at Dealer.com, which provides digital advertising and marketing services. “When you compound that with the high inventory levels, it’s a good opportunity for them to really reduce those in the final few weeks of the year.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Chrysler-and-GM-Gains-Drive-Best-U-S-Auto-Sales-5031772.php

December 3, 2013

UN: 'Modest Progress' In Getting Aid Into Syria

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief says she has seen no progress in reaching the estimated 250,000 people in besieged communities in Syria who remain beyond the scope of aid.

Valerie Amos on Tuesday reported "modest progress" to the Security Council simply in getting aid into Syria but none at all in the major issues of protecting civilians and demilitarizing schools and hospitals.

Amos says 50 visas are being granted for U.N. staff and others, three more humanitarian hubs will open inside Syria, and aid coming in over the Iraqi border won't need routing through Damascus. Aid from other neighbors will.

The Syrian government approved nine aid convoys last month, up from the usual three.



December 3, 2013

Treasury Inspector Warns Health Care Subsidies Vulnerable To Fraud, Suggesting Future Problems

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON - More troubles for the health care overhaul. Subsidies to help people buy insurance under the law may be vulnerable to fraud, a Treasury Department watchdog said Tuesday in a report suggesting that concerns about the law are far from over.

The rollout of the law has been hurt by cancelled policies and problems with the federal website used by people to enrol in health plans, causing political headaches for President Barack Obama and for Democrats in Congress. The new problems concern subsidies that are available to low- and medium-income people who buy health insurance through state-based exchanges that opened in October.

Those subsidies are administered by the Internal Revenue Service in the form of tax credits, and that's where the trouble arises.

"The IRS' existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying (Affordable Care Act) refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds," said the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Read more: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/131203/treasury-inspector-warns-health-care-subsidies-vulnerable-fr

December 3, 2013

All Is Not Lost: Three Reasons Not To Count President Obama Out

By Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian

The roll-out of the Affordable Care Act has hatched a spasm of obituaries for Obama’s second term, and more than a few for Liberalism as We Know It. That’s right, Error 404: Ideology Not Found. At best, pundits have surmised that Obama’s popularity will never recover. Comparisons between the implementation of insurance exchanges and the Iraq War or Katrina, as infuriating as they are (how many times do we have to say it: Bush lied, people died; website crashed, people complained on Twitter) do suggest that a mid-term catastrophic failure can derail an entire presidential agenda. Charlie Cook, writing in The National Journal, had the most concise rebuttal of this theory: it’s way too early to tell. Or, put as a critique of the logic behind the death notices: pundits tend to think that any given political situation is static, but the truth is that a variety of circumstances can change either voters’ perspective or the real impact of presidential actions. Here’s a few things that could lift Obama out of his slump.

1. Wait until you see the other guy

Obama benefits when he can function in full campaign mode and present an “apples to apples” comparison to voters. When the GOP primary ramps up, he’ll get a chance to do this again. His last sustained high in approval came in November 2012; that 56% high-water mark was in the week after the Newtown shootings and many attributed it to a “rally around the flag” surge in patriotism, but the week previous – in the direct aftermath of the elections – it had been at 54%. In fact, Obama sporadic surges throughout 2012 all came after voters were given a chance to think about another specific politician doing the same specific job, most notably after the Democratic and Republican conventions in late summer.

The White House’s attempts to push non-ACA stories is clearly an attempt to take advantage of this strength. Whereas the ACA has made it possible for the GOP to simply point at the mess and not necessarily offer solutions, when it comes to immigration reform or foreign policy, Obama has a chance to define himself against an existing set of competing ideas. Think of that situation as judging two applicants for a position: Obama interviews better. Contrast this to what happens when, say, you have two teams on a field playing a penalty-ridden scoreless game (such as during the budget negotiations): spectators are disgusted by both sides. (Some strategists in the GOP seem to believe that such chaos has at least short-term benefits for their side, hence their glee in perpetuating it.)

2. The Republican Party is fighting itself

The GOP’s fraught internal battles have fractured it severely, perhaps irreparably (considering that many are asserting the demise of liberalism, I should probably make clear here that I’m sureconservatism will do just fine). While most commentators, including myself, have adopted the shorthand of “The Tea Party versus the establishment”, the schisms range across ideological, attitudinal, generational and even regional lines. There is no reason to believe that that the debates will stay civil; indeed, they’ve already gotten pretty ugly. Some fist fights have broken through at the national level (Rand Paul versus Chris Christie, Ted Cruz versus John McCain, Boehner versus his caucus). Those simmering at the state level threaten party unity just as much, especially the split in Iowa GOP between a libertarian faction that gained control in 2012 and a legacy cohort that wants to regain the advantage and steer the First-in-the-Nation Caucus to anyone not named Rand Paul. Imagine a primary battle that starts with a drawn-out slugfest among Cruz, Rand and Christie.

In Ohio, Governor John Kaisch, once lauded as a lauded 2016 GOP presidential contender, now faces a barrage of criticism for his embrace of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. As long as the ACA stays symbol of all that’s wrong with “big government”, the message is damaging. But it could backfire if Kaisch gains re-election (as it looks like he will) using a defense of the Medicaid changes that, with the exception of a single word, could just as easily come from Elizabeth Warren as a Republican: “I think its critical that we’re able to help people to help themselves to get them to work. … Conservatism means that you help people so they can help themselves and so they can enter in the economic strength of our country.”



December 3, 2013

Critics Say Dallas Policy Will Allow Police To Make Up Cover Stories For Officer-Involved Shootings

Critics say new Dallas policy will allow police to make up cover stories for officer-involved shootings

The Dallas Police Department will require any officer who’s involved in a police shooting to wait 72 hours before giving a statement about the shooting.

Chief David Brown quietly issued the policy change last month, several weeks after surveillance video was released that showed an officer shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason, contradicting another officer’s testimony that led to a felony charge against the victim.

“It is my belief that this decision will improve the investigation of our most critical incidents,” said Brown in an email statement.

Under the new policy, officers who fire their weapon or witness the gunfire may watch any available videos before giving their statements – and they must wait at least three full days to do that.

Previously, officers who witnessed a shooting would typically be required to speak with police investigator within hours of the incident and officers who fired their guns usually spoke right away, although they weren’t required to do so.


December 3, 2013

Three Black Students Waiting For Bus Arrested After Cops Order Them To ‘Disperse’

Three African-American students who were waiting for a school bus in Rochester, New York were arrested on Wednesday morning when police officer told them to “disperse,” even though witnesses said they did nothing wrong.

According to WROC, basketball coach Jacob Scott had arranged for a school bus to pick up the boys to take them to a scrimmage on a day when school was closed.

A police report claimed that the boys were blocking “pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk…preventing free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store…Your complainant gave several lawful clear and concise orders for the group to disperse and leave the area without complaince [sic].”

But the students and the coach dispute the police version of events.

“We didn’t do nothing,” student Raliek Redd explained. “We was just trying to go to our scrimmage.” “We was just waiting for our bus and he started arrested us,” student Wan’Tauhjs Weathers added.



December 3, 2013

Tests Show U.S. Teens Trail Many Countries In Academic Performance

Source: NBC

Posted: Dec 03, 2013 12:15 PM EST
by NBC News

Students in the United States made scant headway on recent global achievement exams and slipped deeper in the international rankings amid fast-growing competition abroad, according to test resultsreleased Tuesday.

American teens scored below the international average in math and roughly average in science and reading, compared against dozens of other countries that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was administered last fall.

Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China's largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a "picture of educational stagnation."

Read more: http://www.wncn.com/story/24123432/tests-show-us-teens-lag-behind-many-countries-in-academic-performance

December 3, 2013

Syrians Eat Leaves as Combatants Block Food Supplies: HRW

By Francis Harris - Dec 3, 2013

Syrians in besieged communities are being denied food by both government forces and some opposition groups, leaving poorly nourished civilians to scavenge to stay alive, according to Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based group interviewed activists and residents in districts of Damascus, communities close to the capital and in the city of Homs, it said in a report today. A total of 288,000 people are estimated by the United Nations to be living under siege in these areas.

“The only food we have left is olives, some basic vegetables, and we eat the leaves off the trees,” the advocacy group quoted an activist in Moadamiya, near Damascus, as saying. “Sometimes we cook soup using some of the vegetables, add salt and pepper and olive oil, but it tastes like nothing and it provides little nutrition.”

Syria’s two-year civil war has claimed at least 125,000 lives, about half of them civilians, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday. Fighting in Syria has spilled into neighboring Lebanon, Israel and Turkey even as the UN Security Council has often split over a possible international response.

“Access to besieged communities is a litmus test for real change in the relief effort, and the Security Council should make clear that Syria is failing that test,” HRW’s Philippe Bolopion said in the report.



December 3, 2013

Wisconsin Tries to Follow Texas in Reviving an Abortion Law

By Andrew Harris - Dec 3, 2013

One month after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott won a U.S. appeals court ruling overriding a decision to block abortion restrictions in his state, Wisconsin’s top lawyer is aiming for a similar result.

Both states have laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of their clinic. Advocates argue the provision protects women’s health. Opponents say it’s medically unnecessary and would force facilities to close, burdening a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion.

The office of Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, today will ask an appellate panel to overturn U.S. District Judge William M. Conley’s Aug. 2 decision blocking that state’s law pending a trial on the merits of a challenge by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

“Act 37 does not create an undue burden on abortion-seeking women,” Van Hollen said, referencing the 2013 law by its legislative name in Sept. 16 filing with U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. “Although Act 37 may result in the closure of one or two clinics in Wisconsin, it will not have the effect of depriving a significant number of women in Wisconsin of their choice to have an abortion.”

Legal battles over almost identical 30-mile rules are under way in at least three other states.



December 3, 2013

Biden in Tokyo Conveys U.S. Concern Over China Air Zone

By Isabel Reynolds - Dec 3, 2013

Vice President Joseph Biden expressed U.S. opposition to China’s declaration of a new air defense zone and sought to assure Japan of American support.

The U.S. is “deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea,” Biden said yesterday in Tokyo as he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “This action has raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.”

The vice president’s trip, originally intended to focus on pinning down a trade deal and a renewed U.S. emphasis on Asia, has been overshadowed by China’s extension of the defense zone into airspace over islands claimed by both China and Japan. The move has strained relations between the world’s second and third-largest economies and raised the risk of a confrontation in the East China Sea.

Biden departs for Beijing today, where he is scheduled to meet with Chinese officials to seek clarity about their intentions surrounding the zone even as he seeks to smooth ties.

Commercial air carriers have been thrust into the middle of the dispute, with U.S. airlines notifying China before flying into the zone as Japan tells its carriers not to supply such data. China has said it hopes civilian airlines will notify authorities when they fly through the zone, though it’s backed down from tougher demands for compliance made when the zone was announced Nov. 23.



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