SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Officials say President Barack Obama has urged Bosnia not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Security Council.
A statement from the cabinet of the Serb member of the country's three-member Presidency said Thursday that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker personally handed over Obama's letter on Wednesday.
Bosnia – a non-permanent member of the Security Council – and its three leaders are currently split over the issue. The Bosniak president supports the Palestinian bid, the Serb member is pro-Israeli and the Croat has not made clear his position.
Each of the three have to support a decision in order for Bosnia to vote, otherwise it must abstain.
The Palestinians claim they already secured eight votes and counted on Bosnia to give them the ninth.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will be in Chicago early Thursday to address Chicago's Union League Club -- and Occupy Chicago protesters plan to meet him there.
Walker, who made many enemies by stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights, faces a potential recall and dwindling approval ratings in his home state, but he still has some powerful fans.
From the Union League Club's invitation:
Faced with mounting deficits and busted budgets, the freshman Governor took on powerful political interests â and won. In this talk, Governor Walker will review the challenges confronting Wisconsin (hint: they will sound familiar to Illinois residents), and what he proposes to overcome them. New realities are overtaking established institutions -- meet one of the young governors who is shaping the future of states in our federal system.
The breakfast program starts at 7:30 a.m., and protesters from the Occupy Chicago Labor Committee plan to meet outside the Union League Club at 7:15 a.m.
"Confront Scott Walker with the truth: His attacks on the middle class arenât welcome in Illinois," the Occupy Chicago Labor Committee says on its Facebook page. "When Walker tried to take away collective bargaining rights and divide Wisconsin workers, it was Illinois that took in Wisconsin Democratic Senators with open arms. We say NO to Governor Walker!"
More than 150 protesters showed up outside a political fundraiser in West Des Moines, Iowa last week, where Walker was the keynote speaker. Reporters were not allowed into the Iowa event, but were later sent a statement through the Wisconsin Republican Party explaining that Walker was in Iowa to discuss the âsuccessesâ of his ârecently enacted budget reforms.â
Last Friday, a Bosnian Muslim named Mevlid Jasarevic walked up to the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo with a rifle and opened fire, terrorizing the city center until he was wounded by a police sharpshooter. Media reports identified him as a “radical Islamist.” What made him an “Islamist”? The fact that he shot up the embassy. On Thursday, Mevlid Jasarevic was simply a Muslim. He became an Islamist with the first shot from his Kalashnikov.
To be sure, the media have also identified Jasarevic as a Wahhabi — but that signifier likewise offered no clue before Friday as to what he was going to do on that day. After all, Wahhabi Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, and no one thinks that every last Saudi citizen is likely one day to start firing at infidel embassies.
Keep reading this post . . .
Last Thursday the Kaiser Family Foundation released its annual study on Medicaid spending and finances.
The report reveals state spending on the program, which provides health coverage for 68.2 million poor and disabled Americans, will increase 28.7 percent this year. That surge is despite numerous cost-cutting measures by states. (The Obama Administration recently approved a California plan to its Medicaid spending.) According to The Washington Post, about half of U.S. states say there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll have a shortfall in their Medicaid programs this year. To compensate, states like California are cutting benefits and reducing payments to doctors and hospitals.
The situation doesn’t look much better in the future. The Kaiser study says, “[M]edicaid is poised to play a greater role in health care coverage … and to remain front and center in state and federal budget discussions.” Furthermore, as The Post notes, “The 2010 health-care overhaul law bars states from tightening their eligibility rules for Medicaid through 2014, when the program will be expanded to cover a larger share of the poor, almost entirely at the federal government’s expense.”
The cost-cutting changes states are making are necessary, but made under duress. The Kaiser Foundation blames the recession and an end to the 2009 stimulus for the shortfalls, but Medicaid has been in need of reform for a long time. Entitlement programs, including Medicaid, are on an unsustainable path.
Cutting and reforming spending programs is in vogue inside and outside Washington these days. Still, few have come up with credible, viable plans to reform entitlement programs.
The U.S. is now facing a national debt that is, by some estimates, so large that it equals 100 percent of the U.S. total economy. Clearly, our federal government has a spending problem and has had one for awhile. Congress must get serious about reforming and reining in entitlement programs like Medicaid – Kaiser’s study yesterday is only the latest evidence to this fact.
It’s time Washington reforms Medicaid and other entitlement programs to make these programs work better for states and their recipients.
Thursday in Pittsburgh, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared to shift his position on climate change. Speaking at the Consol Energy Center, he said, "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet." In his book No Apology and in earlier public appearances, Romney has said that he believes climate change is occurring — and that humans are a contributing factor. At a campaign appearance in New Hampshire back in August, Romney emphasized questions about the extent of the human role. But his remarks in Pittsburgh represent a clear shirt toward a skeptical position on the causes of climate change.
In the end, it was Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France against the European banking establishment "” and the bankers blinked.It was approaching 2 a.m. Thursday, not long before the Asian markets would open, and the two leaders were desperately trying to nail down the last component of a complex deal to save the euro: forcing the banks to pay a greater share of Greece's effective default.
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Three doctors who perform abortions in Kansas will challenge new regulations for their clinics even after the rules were revised to placate the physicians, their attorneys said Thursday, arguing that the rules still impose unreasonable and "irrational" requirements.
The physicians – Dr. Herbert Hodes, his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, and Dr. Ronald Yeomans – already persuaded a federal judge to block the earlier version of the rules. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Hodes and Nauser, and Cheryl Pilate, who represents Yeomans, both said Thursday that they would sue over the revised regulations.
Hodes and Nauser perform abortions and other services at their medical offices in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and Yeomans performs abortions at a Kansas City, Kan., clinic.
The first version of the rules told providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and set minimum size requirements for procedure and recovery rooms. The department recently revised the rules, paring down the list of drugs and equipment required and dropping specific sizes for rooms. The state published the revised regulations Thursday and they are set to take effect Nov. 14.
A federal judge blocked enforcement of the original regulations until a trial of the doctors' lawsuit. Learning last week that revised regulations would take effect next month, the judge ordered the parties in the lawsuit to analyze the differences between the two sets of rules.
"They made some important changes, which is good, but unfortunately, they have left a lot in that is unacceptable," Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the center, said during a telephone interview. "They're still extremely burdensome in multiple ways, so they still do need to be challenged."
The revised regulations retain a rule allowing only a physician to dispense drugs, which Jones said would prevent a physician's assistant from giving over-the-counter pain medication. Also kept was a requirement that providers make all records available for review by the health department, something critics predict will invade patients' privacy.
Pilate also cited a requirement that patients remain in recovery rooms for up to an hour after a procedure, based on how far along their pregnancy was. The original rules specified a two-hour wait, but Pilate said even the revised version is onerous. She said the new rules still have "medically unnecessary restrictions."
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office declined comment. Schmidt is a defendant in the existing lawsuit, as are two county prosecutors in the Kansas City area and the state's secretary of health and environment.
Health department spokeswoman Miranda Steele said the agency had not seen the center's announcement. "KDHE will move forward as we can legally, however we need to do our jobs within the rule of law," she added.
The health department wrote both sets of regulations under a law enacted this year requiring clinics, hospitals and doctors' offices performing five or more elective abortions a month to obtain a special, annual license. It was part of a wave of anti-abortion measures enacted this year across the nation, as abortion opponents capitalized on the election of new, sympathetic Republican governors such as Kansas' Sam Brownback.
The original regulations were temporary because the health department skipped a public hearing to get them in place by July 1, which they said the law required. The revised set was published after a public hearing in September.
Both Yeomans' clinic, Aid for Women, and Hodes' and Nauser's office failed to obtain a license, saying their buildings would need extensive renovations under the original rules. The third abortion provider in Kansas, a Planned Parenthood clinic, also in Overland Park, received a license.
Abortion rights supporters argue the rules are meant to be burdensome enough to discourage doctors and clinics from terminating pregnancies. Abortion opponents argue the rules will protect patients.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said the original rules were "reasonable and state of the art," and abortion providers have no legitimate complaints after their concerns were considered.
NEW YORK -- A union representing 5,000 New York City Police Department sergeants blasted Occupy Wall Street protesters on Thursday and threatened to sue them should they injure police.
"New York's police officers are working around the clock as the already overburdened economy in New York is being drained by 'occupiers' who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police," said Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. Although sergeants are higher in rank than patrol officers, they do not wear the white shirts of some of the more senior officers.
Protesters have at times played confrontational cat-and-mouse games with the police, but incidents of serious violence directed against the NYPD by protesters in New York have been extremely rare.
Mullins vowed to pursue the "harshest possible civil sanctions" against violent individuals. He made particular reference to "recent events in Oakland" as a trigger for his warning, which inflamed a lawyer working on Occupy Wall Street's legal defense team.
Journalists who witnessed events in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday night did report protesters throwing bottles at the police. Law enforcement responded with a barrage of tear gas canisters, bean bags and other projectiles -- one of which hit a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran in the head, fracturing his skull.
"The fact that the SBA would cite the violence of Oakland, in which the police viciously shot an Iraq war veteran in the head with a tear gas canister, sending him to the hospital in critical condition, and then shot at those trying to give aid to the wounded, says it all," retorted Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the National Lawyers Guild.
"This is an old tried-and-true trick to make the criminal look like the victim and the victim look like the criminal," she added. "NYPD officers have carried out illegal, felonious assaults on demonstrators for weeks. Who has the power and the will to arrest and prosecute them?"
Mullins also claimed that "over twenty police officers have been injured in 'Occupy Wall Street' related incidents," but he did not provide more details. The Sergeants Benevolent Association did not return a request for more information.
Protesters have said that aggressive police tactics -- like the pepper-spraying of two women caught on tape on Sept. 24 -- have galvanized popular support for their movement. In Oakland, authorities have seemingly admitted that their forceful crackdown on protesters was a mistake.
CORRECTION: This article originally incorrectly stated the age of the Iraq war veteran. He is 24.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown is set to propose sweeping rollbacks to public employee pension benefits, including raising the retirement age to 67 for new employees who are not public safety workers and requiring employees to pay more toward their retirement and health care.
A draft proposal of the plan obtained by The Associated Press late Wednesday says the governor will also propose a mandatory "hybrid" system in which future retirees would get their retirement from a guaranteed benefit as well as a 401(k)-style plan subject to market whims.
The plan being unveiled Thursday also would end so-called pension "spiking" that lets employees boost their payouts by including overtime and other benefits, and end the practice of buying additional service credits.
The administration estimates its proposal would save about $900 million annually.
WASHINGTON -- The family of Gabe Zimmerman, the congressional aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was killed in the Tucson shootings in January, sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday urging him to allow a House vote on a stalled resolution that would name a room in the Capitol Visitor Center after Gabe.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), has more than 350 cosponsors and doesn't cost taxpayers anything, save the costs of hanging a sign outside of a room. Still, it hasn't moved since it was filed in July for reasons that remain unclear to just about anyone.
In their letter to Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Zimmerman family asks that the GOP leaders bring the resolution to a floor vote not just to honor Gabe's service, but to pay tribute to congressional staffers everywhere for their dedication to their constituents and communities. The letter highlights the work that Gabe was doing -- he was Giffords' community outreach director -- and notes that he is the first congressional aide ever killed in the line of duty.
The letter is signed by Gabe's parents, his brother Ben, and Kelly O'Brien, who was Gabe's fiance.
"We are so proud to see 85 percent of the House of Representatives and all members of the Arizona delegation are supporting a resolution to honor Gabe," Ben later told The Huffington Post in a statement. "We miss him very much and we hope to see his commitment to public service recognized in our nation's Capitol before the one year anniversary of his murder."
"We also hope that this can serve as a way to honor the hard work of congressional staff people who are dedicated to making a difference through service to their communities and to their country. We want to thank the 380 Members and counting who have co-sponsored this resolution. We also thank Gabby's husband, Mark Kelly, who spoke to Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor today expressing our support for this room naming," Ben said.
Kelly delivered the family's letter in person to Boehner and Cantor during a private meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday.
"Gabby and I were touched by how the country came together after the tragic shooting at her constituent event in Tucson," Kelly said later in a statement to The Huffington Post.
"And we're likewise touched that 85 percent of the House--Republicans and Democrats--have come together to support naming a humble but meaningful corner of the Capitol after Gabe Zimmerman, who is the only Congressional staffer slain in the line of duty and who died performing a public service. With the number of legislative days before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy dwindling, I hope and expect the resolution will be scheduled for House approval soon," Kelly said.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said GOP leaders have other ideas for honoring Gabe, though he would give no details about what they had in mind.
"The Speaker and other House officials have been working for months on a prominent and permanent memorial to Mr. Zimmerman," Steel said in a statement. "In fact, he [Boehner] met this morning with Rep. Gifford's husband, Captain Mark Kelly. While we're finalizing the last few details and are not ready to announce plans publicly at this point, any Member of Congress interested in this issue has had ample opportunity to discuss it with the Speaker."
Despite broad bipartisan support, the resolution has had a bumpy path over the past few months.
In addition to inexplicably stalling for months in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where the bulk of members on the committee are cosponsors of the resolution, supporters of the measure have also been unsuccessful in their attempts to move it through Congress through other means.
Back in August, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), one of the bill's cosponsors, told The Huffington Post that he was caught off guard when the House Rules Committee rejected an otherwise agreed-to request to attach the resolution to a related spending bill ready for a vote and on its way to the House floor. The 2012 Legislative Branch spending bill was before the committee, and backers of the resolution thought they had found a window for expediting the measure to the floor.
"I actually spoke to a number of members of the Rules Committee," Schweikert said of the hearing that took place in late July. "A number of those folks looked me in the eye and said, 'I think it should be fine.' They said it beforehand."
The committee ultimately rejected the move, however, and Schweikert said he never got a clear reason from Republican leaders as to why.
"One of my staffers thinks it was technical, not personal," he said at the time. "I haven't heard anything. But then again, I'm not one of the favored children."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is set to testify about Solyndra on Nov. 17 before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, an Obama administration source said Thursday evening.