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Panel Investigating Chris Christie Bridge Scandal Votes To Compel Insiders To Produce Records

Source: NJ.com

TRENTON — The state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal today voted to compel Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien to produce the documents they have refused to provide by citing their Fifth Amendment rights against incrimination and other objections.

The committee voted 8-0 with all four Republicans abstaining to reject the objections raised by the two, to set a new due date for documents and to authorize its special counsel, Reid Schar, to "take all necessary steps" to enforce the subpoenas.

A co-chairman of the committee, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), said after the meeting that new subpoenas would be issued tonight or Tuesday morning. He declined to specify how many were issued or to whom, but said it was more than a dozen.

The developments came after the panel met for more than 90 minutes behind closed doors to receive advice from Schar. Republicans on the panel said they were abstaining because they were only provided information about the actions taken when they arrived today for the hearing.

Read more: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/02/panel_investigating_chris_christie_bridge_scandal_issues_xx_new_subpoenas.html

Oklahoma Restaurant That Won’t Serve ‘F*ggots’ Gets Internet Push As ‘Best Gay Bar’

The owner of an Oklahoma restaurant who declared last week that he won’t serve “freaks,” “f*ggots,” the disabled, or people on welfare now finds himself the victim of an online campaign to brand his establishment the “Best Gay Club” in Oklahoma City.

Gary James of Gary’s Chicaros restaurant told KFOR last week that “I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

The “gays” have responded on Yelp and Facebook by declaring James’s establishment the “est place for hot man sex!”

Another reviewer notes that “Gary does’t serve tube steak. He asks for yours when you walk in the door. But don’t ask to use his backdoor, he saves that for minorities.”

The restaurant’s official t-shirt proudly threatens violence against minorities.



Boomers Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out of U.S. Labor Force

When Robin McLane’s generation hit public schools in the 1950s, there were never enough classrooms or teachers to accommodate the bulge, she said. So she’s not surprised about the latest shock that boomers are delivering to the U.S. economy.

“People all around me, relatives and friends, are either retiring, or they’re finding it’s very difficult to find work anywhere from 55 on,” said the 65-year-old, who lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and retired from her job as a high school literacy specialist in June. “For me, I was ready to move on.”

The share of Americans in the labor force, known as the participation rate, is hovering around an almost four-decade low as the population ages and discouraged job seekers give up looking for work. Federal Reserve research shows retirees are at the forefront of the recent exodus, which blunts the impact of policy aimed at boosting the economy and workforce.

In the two years ended 2013, 80 percent of the decrease in labor force participation was due to retirement, according to calculations by Shigeru Fujita, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. And while the number of discouraged workers rose sharply during and after the recession, the group’s ranks have been roughly unchanged since 2011.

That tilts the debate on whether the participation rate can fully rebound alongside the improving economy, as retired workers are unlikely to re-enter the workforce, said Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc., in Stamford, Connecticut. A tighter supply of workers means wage pressures would build faster than otherwise, something Fed Chairman Janet Yellen may watch as a leading indicator of inflation, Girard said.



U.S. Winter Storm Seen Spreading Snow, Sleet Across South

By Brian K. Sullivan Feb 10, 2014

Georgia’s governor declared a state of emergency for 45 counties and Atlanta canceled classes for tomorrow and the next day as a winter storm neared, less than two weeks after a system stranded thousands of people in cars, buses and schools.

The region may get 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimeters) of snow and ice over the next three days as the storm moves from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. Sleet and snow will begin falling late today or early tomorrow, the agency said.

“There is the potential for a major ice storm from northern Georgia to central and upstate South Carolina to central North Carolina Tuesday night and Wednesday,” Mark Mancuso, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania, said on the company’s website.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal extended an emergency declaration today from 14 counties in the northern part of the state to 45. Public schools will close in Atlanta and Marietta and in DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton counties, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Winter storm alerts extend from Texas to North Carolina, covering parts of nine states, the weather service said.



Chrysler Pays UAW Trust $5 Billion to End Bankruptcy Chapter

Source: Bloomberg

Chrysler Group LLC, the American carmaker owned by Fiat SpA (F), will pay $5 billion to a United Auto Workers trust, completing the final payments that the company owed as a result of its bankruptcy.

Chrysler today closed a bond sale to reimburse the UAW health-care trust for a note it provided five years ago as part of the automaker’s financial rescue, the U.S. manufacturer said in a statement.

Fiat last month bought the 41.5 percent Chrysler stake held by the trust, which was created to pay medical bills for union retirees, to gain full control of the U.S. business. The combination creates the world’s seventh-largest auto manufacturer. Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, 61, wants to transform the company with a scale that can challenge the likes of General Motors Co. (GM) and Volkswagen AG.

“Getting full control of Chrysler is a big step but only a first step,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s business and law schools, said in an e-mail. “Now he will have to display world-class operating skills to integrate the companies and compete globally,” he said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-10/chrysler-pays-uaw-trust-5-billion-to-close-bankruptcy-chapter.html

Eyeing 2016 Campaign, Liberals Are Watching Hillary Clinton For Signs On How She Might Govern


WASHINGTON (AP) — As Hillary Rodham Clinton mulls a second presidential bid, liberals are closely watching whether the onetime supporter of the Iraq war moves to the left or straddles the center.

Democrats say economic issues such as raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security have become paramount for anyone aiming to lead the party after years of tough economic times.

During the 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama, Clinton was hurt by her stand on the Iraq war while she was a senator. But she burnished her image among party loyalists during four years at the State Department in the Obama administration. Now liberals want to see how she might carry the torch from Obama.

"We're going to see income inequality play the same role that the war in Iraq played in 2008," said Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group. "This is less about what she did before. The issue landscape right now is very different than in 2008."

Whether a viable Clinton alternative emerges for the 2016 campaign remains a looming question.



US Blames China For Rising Tensions In South China Sea

By Geoff Dyer in Washington

The Obama administration has significantly sharpened its rhetoric about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea over the last week amid growing pressure from allies in the region for Washington to take a firmer line.

In public statements in recent days, senior US officials placed the blame for tensions in the region solely on China and warned that the US could move more forces to the western Pacific if Beijing were to declare a new air defence zone in the South China Sea.

Although President Barack Obama is due to visit the region in April, several Asia governments have complained privately that the administration has become distracted in the Middle East and has left the way open for China to pursue its claims with greater confidence.

“They [the administration] are definitely trying to turn up the volume about China,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “This is as close as the Obama administration has come to saying that the nine-dash line is illegal. It is quite significant because they previously danced around the issue.” The nine-dash line is a map produced by China which appears to claim that the bulk of the South China Sea is under Chinese control.

China is involved in a series of increasingly tense territorial disputes in the East China Sea with Japan and in the South China Sea with Vietnam and the Philippines. The US, along with several other governments in the region, believes that China is pushing these claims as part of a broader strategy to exert greater control over large areas of the western Pacific.



The Illusion of AIPAC's Invincibility

The defeat of AIPAC's ill-advised push for new sanctions on Iran in the midst of successful negotiations is nothing short of historic. The powerful and hawkish pro-Israeli lobby's defeats are rare and seldom public. But in the last year, it has suffered three major public setbacks, of which the sanctions defeat is the most important one.

AIPAC's first defeat was over the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. In spite of a major campaign defaming Hagel, even accusing him of anti-Semitism, his nomination won approval in the Senate.

The second was over President Barack Obama's push for military action against Syria. AIPAC announced that it would send hundreds of citizen lobbyists to the Hill to help secure approval for authorization of the use of force. But AIPAC and Obama were met with stiff resistance. The American people quickly mobilized and ferociously opposed the idea of yet another war in the Middle East. By some accounts, AIPAC failed to secure the support of a single member of Congress.

The third defeat was over new Iran sanctions. Now, AIPAC and the president were on opposite sides. The interim nuclear agreements from November of last year, explicitly stated that no new sanctions could be imposed. Yet, backed by Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez, AIPAC pushed for new sanctions, arguing that it would enhance America's negotiating position. The White House strongly disagreed, fearing that new sanctions would cause the collapse of diplomacy and make America look like the intransigent party. The international coalition the president had carefully put together against Iran would fall apart, and the US and Iran would once again find themselves on a path towards military confrontation.

But AIPAC insisted. Its immense lobbying activities secured 59 cosponsors for the bill, including 16 Democrats. Its aim was first to reach over 60 cosponsors to force the bill to the floor, and then more than 67 cosponsors to make it veto proof.



Hardline Israeli Attacks on John Kerry Find Public Favor(with israelis), Surveys Show

By Joshua Mitnick

Two Israeli surveys published on Friday indicate that the recent attacks by hardline Israeli politicians on Secretary of State John Kerry over the peace process seem to be resonating with Israelis, and that the U.S. appears to be losing the battle to galvanize public backing for a deal.

Mr. Kerry’s warning that Israel may face rising boycotts if the negotiations with the Palestinians fail was attacked as “hurtful’ and “unacceptable,’’ last week by a minister close to Mr. Netanyahu. Another government minister said he was “not balanced enough.’’

According to a poll by the Israel Hayom newspaper, generally regarded as “pro-Netanyahu”, some 61 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that the Secretary of State meant to threaten Israel with the remarks, compared with 21 percent that believe the remarks were made out of concern for Israel.

More broadly, close to 70 percent of Jewish Israelis don’t trust the Obama administration to safeguard Israel’s security interests under the framework agreement, according to a survey by the weekly Sof Hashavua newspaper.

The Secretary of State asserted in an interview with the Washington Post that his warning about a boycott was taken out of context by opponents of the creation of a Palestinian state.



Forty Koch Brothers Donors Exposed After Document Left at Hotel by Mistake Is Leaked

The confidential spreadsheet contains a who's who of far-right, mega-rich donors

Sunday, 09 February 2014 09:59

A new document providing rare insight into the political machine of the Koch Brothers has surfaced revealing the names of up to 40 donors, as well as senior Koch officials, Washington Post reported.

The list, published by Mother Jones, was mistakenly left behind at a donor conference and includes various corporate executives, real-estate and hedge fund billionaires and GOP financiers.

The list also includes Papa John pizza chain founder and hard-core Republican John Schnatter, Kenneth Griffin, the chief executive of Citadel, Silicon Valley real estate investor Carl Berg (worth $1.1 billion) and owner of Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym.

What’s more, it appears Charles Koch was scheduled to hold private meetings with at least nine of the contributors including private equity investor John Childs and TRT Holding co-founder Robert Rowling who is worth around $4.9 billion.

Those in attendance also contributed to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, with Rowling directing $3.5 million to the cause.


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