Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter health tips

Now that the cold and snow are getting here make sure you are taking care of yourself and your house in a healthy way.

If it snows and you're going to be shoveling make sure you are shoveling correctly.

Shovel with your legs, lifting from your knees and upper legs when you shovel.

Don't use your back as it can lead to strains.

Take breaks as cold weather puts extra strain on the heart.

Also make sure you dress warmly, using layers of clothing helps to avoid hypothermia.

Lastly watch out for ice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found many cold weather injuries result from falls on ice covered walkways.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Connecticut gunman had hundreds of rounds; Obama to console Newtown

Residents and visitors streamed past a police roadblock to add to it. One woman knelt down and sobbed violently.

As children walked down the street in the rain, carrying their toys and signs, a man sat on the back of his parked car playing a mournful tune on a violin to accompany them.

"This is a time to come together," said Carina Bandhaver, 43, who lives in nearby Southbury.

The children who survived will not have to return to the scene of the massacre. They will attend classes at an unused school in a Connecticut town about 7 miles away, school officials said. Classes elsewhere in the town will resume on Tuesday, except at Sandy Hook.


Several Democratic lawmakers called for a new push for U.S. gun restrictions on Sunday, including a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the author of an assault-weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, said she would introduce new legislation this week.

"I think we could be at a tipping point ... where we might get something done," New York's Charles Schumer, another top Senate Democrat, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Gun rights advocates have countered that Connecticut already has among the strictest gun laws in the nation.
Obama's appearance will be watched closely for clues as to what he meant when he called for "meaningful action" to prevent such tragedies.

The president arrived in Connecticut on Sunday afternoon, a day after authorities released the names of the dead and more details emerged about the victims, the gunman and the rampage.

Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary as a child, according to former classmates.

Police were trying to establish the relationship between Adam Lanza, Nancy Lanza and the school, and whether the mother and her sons were frequent visitors to gun ranges, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

In addition to the military-style Bushmaster assault rifle, a civilian version of the weapon used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, police said Lanza carried Glock 10 mm and Sig Sauer 9 mm handguns into the school.

Nancy Lanza legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock, handguns commonly used by police, in addition to the long gun, according to law enforcement officials.

Lanza had struggled at times to fit into the community and his mother pulled him out of school for several years to home-school him, said Louise Tambascio, the owner of My Place Restaurant, where his mother was a long-time patron.

Officials said they were concerned misinformation and threats about the case were being spread on social media websites. Police said a telephone bomb threat forced the evacuation of the St. Rose church. It was searched and declared clear.

David Fein, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, issued a stern warning that harassment of victims or their relatives could be prosecuted. "Harassment not only includes in-person contact, but also contact via the Internet, social media and telephone," he said.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pushing G.O.P. to Negotiate, Obama Ends Giving In

Amid demands from Republicans that President Obama propose detailed new spending cuts to avert the year-end fiscal crisis, his answer boils down to this: you first. 

Mr. Obama, scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator in the past week or two, sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table. 

Disciplined and unyielding, he argues for raising taxes on the wealthy while offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs beyond what was on the table last year. Until Republicans offer their own new plan, Mr. Obama will not alter his. In effect, he is trying to leverage what he claims as an election mandate to force Republicans to take ownership of the difficult choices ahead. 

His approach is born of painful experience. In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want. 

Either way, the two sides were left at loggerheads over the weekend with less than a month until a series of painful tax increases and spending cuts automatically take effect, risking what economists say would be a new recession. 

Mr. Obama refuses to propose more spending cuts until Republicans accept higher tax rates on the wealthy, and Republicans refuse to accept higher tax rates on the wealthy while asking for more spending cuts.
“I’m puzzled why Republicans are locking into a principle that’s not sustainable and why Democrats aren’t taking the moment to put forward their own vision of entitlement reform,” said Peter R. Orszag, a former White House budget director for Mr. Obama. 

Mr. Orszag’s former White House colleagues said they had grown tired of making unilateral concessions only to see Republicans moving the goal posts, as they see it. “The president is not going to negotiate with himself,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “He’s laid out his position, and Republicans have to come to the table.” 

Republican strategists argue that in resorting to campaign-style events to take his fiscal message to voters, Mr. Obama is overplaying his hand, much as President George W. Bush did after his re-election when he barnstormed the country in favor of a Social Security restructuring plan that he never successfully sold to leaders on Capitol Hill. 

“He is overreading his mandate,” said John Feehery, a former adviser to top House Republicans. “By doing the campaign thing, he is making the same mistake Bush made in 2005.” Eventually, he said, Democratic and Republican leaders “are going to cut the deal, and Obama is going to be on the outside looking in.” 

The difference might be that Mr. Obama ran more explicitly on the idea of letting Mr. Bush’s tax cuts expire for incomes over $250,000, while Mr. Bush’s re-election was fought more on grounds of national security than Social Security. But both presidents emerged from relatively narrow popular-vote victories determined to impose their will on a balky Congress resisting their leadership. 

Mr. Obama seemed to defy the Republican House last week when Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner delivered a plan calling for $1.6 trillion in additional taxes from the wealthy over 10 years, as well as $50 billion in short-term stimulus spending and $612 billion in recycled cuts first put on the table during last year’s failed debt talks. 

Republicans erupted in outrage, though they produced no specific alternative. Instead, they noted they had expressed newfound willingness since the election to increase tax revenue by limiting deductions for the wealthy, though not by raising rates. 

The administration laid out its latest plan in less formal ways a couple of weeks earlier, according to a senior official who declined to be identified discussing private deliberations. But the message was that Speaker John A. Boehner could not move yet. After waiting with no further response, the administration decided to have Mr. Geithner deliver the proposal on paper knowing it would be provocative but thinking it was needed to move the process along. 

Instead, the process has collapsed, at least for now. The depth of disagreement played out on the Sunday morning talk shows, even as Mr. Obama went golfing with former President Bill Clinton in a session that White House officials presumed would include trading notes about the fiscal crisis. 

“We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved,” Mr. Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They have actually asked for more revenue than they’ve been asking for the whole entire time.” 

Mr. Geithner said it was up to Republicans to outline more spending cuts than Mr. Obama had previously put on the table. “Some Republicans apparently want to go beyond that, but what they have to do is tell us what they’re prepared to do,” Mr. Geithner told Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And what we can’t do, Bob, is sit here trying to guess what works for them.” 

That represents something of a shift for Mr. Obama, who did try to guess what worked for Republicans in his first term. When he crafted a stimulus spending program to bolster the economy shortly after taking office, Mr. Obama devoted roughly a third of the money to tax cuts that he assumed Republicans would like. They did not. Likewise, his framework for universal health care included free-market elements that he thought Republicans would embrace. They did not. 

While Republicans argued that the overall programs overshadowed any palatable aspects, Mr. Obama came to believe he had made a mistake in offering concessions up front. In an interview in September 2010, he said he had learned “that if you already have a third of the package as tax cuts, then the Republicans, who traditionally are more comfortable with tax cuts, may just pocket that and attack the other components of the program.” 

Aides said Mr. Obama came to the same conclusion after his clash with Republicans over raising the nation’s borrowing limit last year. “We put all these things on the table, and the reason we couldn’t do a deal is because Republicans couldn’t do revenues,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “So our view here is the president won’t sign a deal that doesn’t have higher rates for the wealthy. Until they cross that bridge, nothing else is relevant.” 

Yet there is risk in that. Republicans now understand that higher tax rates on the wealthy is Mr. Obama’s No. 1 priority, so rather than give in, some strategists say they should hold out to leverage those to shape other aspects of a final deal. 

“He only cares about one detail: raising rates on the top two brackets,” said Tony Fratto, a former White House and Treasury Department official under Mr. Bush. “Everything else is secondary. That’s why if that is going to happen, it will be last if Republicans can hold out. I think it’s pretty clear Obama will sacrifice just about anything to get that. It’s the only win for him.” 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Obama will be visiting a more open and hopeful Burma

RANGOON, Burma — From businessmen chasing new markets to basketball players serving as sports envoys, the past year has seen an unprecedented wave of American visitors to the once-pariah state of Burma. 

On Monday, President Obama arrived.

"This is not an endorsement of the Burmese government," Obama said Sunday in Bangkok, the first stop on a three-nation tour that also takes him to Cambodia Monday night. "This is an acknowledgment that there is a process underway inside that country that even a year and a half, two years ago, nobody foresaw," he said.
Obama's day trip Monday to Burma — when he will meet with President Thein Sein, a former army general, and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi — represents the first visit to Burma by a sitting U.S. president. The U.S. government recently began rolling back economic sanctions against Burma, also known as Myanmar, to recognize its transition from military rule toward a more democratic system.

Obama will set out his message for Burma's future and "extend the hand of friendship" today in a speech Monday at the University of Rangoon, which authorities shuttered for years after student protests against the regime.

"Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected," the president said in speech excerpts released by the White House. "Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress."

U Kyi Win, a lawyer for Suu Kyi and her formerly banned party, the National League for Democracy, noted the significance of Obama's visit.

"In the past, foreign governments didn't care about our country; we were treated with very low status on the world political stage," he said. "Now Western countries deal with us on the same level, and this comes from the co-operation between Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi to solve (Burma's) problems," he said Sunday.
Plenty of challenges remain, including longstanding conflicts in border areas, ethnic violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities, and the continued jailing of political prisoners. Several human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and U.S. Campaign for Burma, have criticized the presidential visit as premature.

Residents of Rangoon, Burma's largest city and former capital, were ready to welcome the U.S. president.
"Many Burmese like Obama. After he comes, there should be more development here," said Aye Nyein San, 26, a receptionist at telecom firm Yatanarpon. 

"He can encourage the political changes here, and the conflicts in Rakhine state and Kachin state can be solved with his support," she said. Rakhine and Kachin are border areas where violence has escalated in recent months. 

Graffiti artist Arker Kyaw recently sprayed a wall mural to welcome Obama in downtown Rangoon, also known as Yangon. Video producer Thu Myat, also a graffiti artist, said the fast growth of street art and slogans reflected the political and social changes here. He disapproved of Kyaw's stunt as too respectful of hierarchy — "I believe police let him do it; it's weird he was not arrested" — but he is confident the lifting of sanctions and Obama's visit will bring benefits. "Obama showed the green light to every country," he said. "Now Burmese people must grab the opportunity for themselves."

Sandy and Bill Hitchcock from Laguna Beach, Calif., flew into Rangoon on Sunday for a nine-day tour. Two other couples they will meet later, in Cambodia, declined to join them in Burma. 

"They don't like the political regime here," said Sandy Hitchcock, 63. "I want to see it before it becomes the next big tourist trap," she said. 

The tide of visitors already threatens to overwhelm Burma's limited capacity for tourism. "The airport now receives twice as many visitors as it was built for," Khin Mi Mi Tin, of the tourism ministry, said Sunday at the Rangoon airport. "We are building more hotels, but even the new hotels are fully booked." 

"All of Myanmar likes Obama," she said. "He is interested in Asia and can help push us further towards democracy."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Exit poll: Union voters power Obama in Wisconsin

The polls have just closed in Wisconsin, which CBS News is reporting leans toward President Obama. The exit poll shows that he has union households to thank: While the candidates are split among non-union households, Mr. Obama has a 66 percent to 33 percent lead among the one in five voters who say someone in their household belongs to a labor union.

There is a big gender gap in Wisconsin: The president leads by 11 points among women, while Romney leads by four percentage points among men. Eighty-seven percent of voters in Wisconsin are white, and Romney is winning them 52 percent to 47 percent. But Mr. Obama holds huge leads among the seven percent of voters who are black (93 percent to 6 percent) and the three percent who are Latino (63 percent to 35 percent).
Thirty-six percent of voters identify as Democrat, 33 percent as Republican, and 31 percent as independent. The two candidates are evenly splitting independent voters. 

Mr. Obama is winning the 43 percent of voters making less than $50,000 by 62 percent to 36 percent. Romney is winning the 21 percent of voters making $100,000 or more 63 percent to 35 percent. 

One in two Wisconsin voters favor increasing income tax rates on those making over $250,000 per year, as Mr. Obama proposes. One in three do not want those taxes increased. 

Seven in 10 voters say the nation's economy is in not so good or poor condition, though more than half blame George W. Bush for the nation's current economic problems. 

Fifty-two percent of voters say they have positive feelings about the Obama administration. Fifty percent of voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of Mitt Romney, and 52 percent say his policies would favor the rich. Fifty-four percent say they approve of Republican Scott Walker's performance as governor. 

Ten percent of voters made up their minds in the past few days. Wisconsin is the home state of Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. 

This is an early exit poll and does not reflect the final exit poll. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obama signs order implementing tougher sanctions on Iran

President Obama on Tuesday signed an executive order tightening sanctions on Iran over its nuclear-enrichment program.

The order implements a new Iran sanctions law enacted in August.

The White House said the administration’s actions “have created unprecedented pressure on Iran’s economy.”

“The onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations with respect to its nuclear program. If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to tighten our sanctions and impose increasing consequences,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. 

Iran policy has become a focus of the presidential election this year. During a speech Monday at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.,  GOP candidate Mitt Romney repeated accusations that Obama is too soft on Iran and too distant from Israel, which views Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence. 
Romney has called on Obama to draw a clearer red line to warn Iran that the United States will not tolerate it gaining nuclear weapons. Critics of this view warn that it could bind the U.S. and force an armed intervention.

The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act expands the list of those targeted by Iran sanctions, closes loopholes and enhances penalties. 

Those targeted include anyone who works in Iran's petroleum sectors or provides goods, services, infrastructure, or technology to Iran's oil and natural gas sector, those who insure or re-insure investments in Iran's oil sector and those who transport refined petroleum to Iran. It also targets Iranian and Syrian officials involved in human-rights abuses. 

This law also tries to stop Iran from repatriating revenue from oil, to further destabilize its currency and make more sanctions mandatory.

Obama and Romney will answer a mix of domestic and foreign policy questions during their second debate, next Tuesday in Hempstead, N.Y. The third presidential debate, dedicated to foreign policy, is scheduled for Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama takes world stage to fend off Romney attacks

Taking a detour from the campaign trail to the world stage, President Barack Obama sought on Tuesday to counter attacks on his foreign policy record from Republican rival Mitt Romney on everything from the Iranian nuclear standoff to U.S.-Israeli relations to the Arab Spring.

At the podium of the cavernous U.N. General Assembly hall six weeks before the U.S. election, Obama addressed both American voters and world leaders, as he defended his approach to global challenges that have started piling up in the final stretch of a close presidential race.

Obama's stern warning to Iran over its nuclear program was meant not only for the mullahs in Tehran and for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pressed Washington to take a tougher tack, but also for pro-Israel voters who could help sway the election in battleground states like Florida and Ohio.

His challenge to the fast-changing Arab world to embrace democratic values of free speech and tolerance and reject the kind of anti-U.S. violence that has swept the region in recent weeks was a clear rebuttal to Republican accusations that he has apologized for America and weakened its global standing.

"I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day," Obama said, in a comment that could be read as referring to both flag-burning protesters in Islamabad and political opponents at home. "And I will defend their right to do so."

The line drew laughter from an audience that otherwise sat in mostly polite but stoic silence.

With Obama headed to battleground Ohio on Wednesday, and Romney arriving there on Tuesday for a bus tour with vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, both presidential campaigns are likely to return to bread-and-butter economic messages.

But foreign policy and America's world standing have become more of a factor in the campaign during the last two weeks, as the Muslim world has been roiled by protests over a film mocking the Prophet Mohammed. The issues dominated the day.

Sensing an opening, Romney and Ryan have escalated their attacks on the president's handling of world events.

And after Obama's U.N. address, the Republican camp made clear they weren't letting up.
Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, said Obama's foreign policy is "rudderless."

Paula Dobriansky, a Romney foreign policy adviser, was more specific.

"President Obama listed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Syria, and Iran as major challenges facing the international community," she said. "But those are three vital issues on which President Obama has unfortunately made no progress. The rhetoric doesn't match the policy."


Before returning to the campaign trail, Romney and Obama observed a brief ceasefire in New York, with both men delivering statesmanlike speeches to Bill Clinton's global charity.

Romney told the Clinton Global Initiative, a foundation set up by the former Democratic president, that the United States should do more to encourage free enterprise as a way of creating jobs in the developing world.
The Republican largely avoided criticizing Obama in front of an audience that included many prominent Democrats. But his message that U.S. foreign aid frequently supplants private enterprise reflected one of his central complaints against the Obama administration.

"A temporary aid package can jolt an economy. It can fund some projects. It can pay some bills. It can employ some people some of the time," Romney said. "But it can't sustain an economy — not for long."
Speaking at the same venue a few hours later, Obama outlined new steps to fight human trafficking.
Neither Romney nor Obama are likely to talk about foreign aid or human trafficking when they return to Ohio, a politically divided state that will be crucial in determining who wins the November 6 election.
With only six weeks until the vote, Romney is running out of time to gain ground on the incumbent president.
Obama widened his lead in the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll to 7 percentage points over Romney, up 1 point from Monday. Obama now leads among likely voters 49 to 42 percent.


At the United Nations, Obama made his case in a statesmanlike way that struck a sharp contrast with the festive back-and-forth of campaign rallies that have come to occupy much of his time. But his message was still deeply infused with election-year politics.

Obama's annual visit followed protests over the anti-Islam video made in California that posed a huge dilemma for a U.S. leader who took office promising a "new beginning" with the Muslim world. He has also had to grapple with an escalating crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations over Iran's nuclear program and bloodshed in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad remains in power despite Obama's demand that he step down.
Honing in on Iran, Obama warned that United States will "do what we must" to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon and said time was running short for diplomacy.

That pledge fell far short of Netanyahu's demand that Obama set a "red line" that Tehran must not cross if it is to avoid military action, and it was unclear whether it would be enough to placate Netanyahu.
There was no immediate reaction to Obama's comments from Israeli leaders, with the country closed down for the holiest Jewish day of the year, Yom Kippur.

Obama also sought to reassure U.S. voters that he is doing everything he can to head off more violence like the recent September 11 attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three of his colleagues.
Americans were stunned by recent images of U.S. flags again burning in the Muslim world, the focus of intense personal diplomacy by the president at the start of his term.

In his speech, he faced the delicate task of articulating U.S. distaste for insults to any religion while at the same time insisting there is no excuse for a violent reaction - a distinction rejected by many Muslims.
Obama defended his approach to the Arab Spring but offered no detailed solutions to an array of crises that threaten to chip away at a foreign policy record that his aides hoped would be immune from Republican attack during the run-up to Election Day.

Despite Obama's international woes, administration officials are heartened by Romney's own recent foreign policy stumbles and doubt that the president's critics will gain traction in a campaign that remains focused mainly on the U.S. economy.

With pressures building in the presidential race, Obama's brief final turn on the world stage left little doubt about his immediate priorities.

He skipped the customary one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts but went ahead with the taping of a campaign-style appearance on ABC's popular television talk-show "The View."

However, after coming under Republican criticism for the tradeoff, the White House said Obama did meet briefly with Yemen's new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Obama dropped in on talks he was having with a senior U.S. aide and thanked him for helping protect U.S. diplomats during recent unrest in the country.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Australian Classic Takes Top NSW Design Award

Award-winning architecture is often characterised as the most modern, cutting edge and innovative of the built realm. While these three elements often come together the create highly acclaimed architecture, the Building Designers Australia NSW Chapter has proven that this is not always the case.

Offering their top award to an Australian classic, the building design authority has emphasised the point that great design comes in any form, old or new, with a new spin on a traditional favourite often creating a winning mix.

James Cooper of Sanctum Design’s Manly Beach House, a modernised interpretation of the quintessential 1950s beach house, was selected as the winner of Premier’s Award for Design Excellence for new residential buildings over 450 square metres.

While the classic design creates a strong sense of nostalgia, the modern features peppered throughout the suburban beach side residential dwelling truly allow it to stand out. These include an outdoor shower and ‘sand room’ that act as functional spaces for post-beach activities.

The house itself focuses on optimising natural flow and and natural lighting, creating a space catered to the beach suburban lifestyle and all it has to offer.

Art House One by Kylie Mitchell Designs took home the New Residential Buildings up to 250 square metres award as well as the Penultimate Award or the Paul Dass Memorial Award.

While both of these developments fall into the residential sector, this is as far as their similarities go.

While Manly Beach house focuses on the reinterpretation of a classic design developed in response to a popular local lifestyle, the latter is a design piece that blurs the lines between architecture and artistry.

According to Mitchell, the house simply reflects her own desire to ‘create a living, breathing artwork, an artwork that you can actually live in.’

“For a long time I had wanted to combine the art and the building design, because they operate quite separately,” she says. “With building design, you have a number of regulations and codes that you have to work with whereas with the art I can do whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.”

With award winners varying greatly in their design motivations and interpretations, there is no one key element common to all. If these particular awards exemplify anything, it is that great design does not come in any one distinct form, and that it can be delivered across a wide range of genres.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Foreign spy 'stole' Australian secrets

AN ALLEGED Canadian spy compromised Australian intelligence information in an espionage case that has sent shock waves through Western security agencies.

The alleged sale of top secret intelligence to Russian agents by naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle has been the subject of high-level consultation between the Australian and Canadian governments and was discussed at a secret international conference of Western security agencies in New Zealand this year. 

Australian security sources have privately acknowledged that the massive security breach compromised intelligence information and capabilities in Western intelligence agencies, especially the US and Canada but including Australia's top secret Defence Signals Directorate and Defence Intelligence Organisation. 

Information released under Australian freedom of information legislation shows the high commissioner to Canada, Louise Hand, discussed the case with Stephen Rigby, the national security adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, soon after Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's arrest on January 14. 

Her cabled report, classified "secret - sensitive" and sent to Canberra on January 30, has been redacted in full on security grounds. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was briefed on the case through liaison with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. 

Sub-Lieutenant Delisle worked at the Royal Canadian Navy's Trinity intelligence and communications centre at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Much of the information he allegedly sold was much more highly classified than the WikiLeaks cables and included top secret signals intelligence collected by the ''Five Eyes'' intelligence community of the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

Sub-Lieutenant Delisle was arrested after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concluded he was passing classified information to operatives, believed to be members of the Russian military intelligence service. 

The Canadian government has, for diplomatic reasons, avoided publicly identifying Russia as the foreign power involved but several Russian diplomats were recalled to Moscow before the end of their postings. 

Precisely what type of information was allegedly passed has not been publicly disclosed. But intelligence sources in Canada and the US have been reported as privately confirming it involved top secret signals intelligence. 

Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's access reportedly covered signals intelligence produced by the US National Security Agency, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, Canada's Communications Security Establishment, Australia's Defence Signals and New Zealand's Communications Security Bureau.
Australian security sources told the Herald his access was "apparently very wide" and that "Australian reporting was inevitably compromised". 

"The signals intelligence community is very close. We share our intelligence overwhelmingly with the US, UK and Canada - often more people read Australian reporting overseas than here in Australia," one former Defence Signals Directorate officer said. "So it's perhaps no surprise that a junior officer in faraway Halifax can compromise our material.'' 

Australian security sources have suggested the Russians would have been interested in a wide range of material, not only relating to the US and Canada, but to China, North Korea, Pakistan and Afghanistan - ''all areas that DSD makes a contribution towards covering". 

Australia has said it will not comment on the case and it is its usual practice not to do so.
Sub-Lieutenant Delisle will appear before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for a preliminary hearing in October. He is charged with communicating classified information to an unnamed foreign entity over nearly five years - between July 6, 2007, and January 13, 2012, when he was arrested. He faces possible life imprisonment if convicted. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prometheus strikes at Australian box office

PROMETHEUS has enjoyed the year's third-biggest opening at the Australian box office, taking $6.8 million.
With early previews, Ridley Scott's return to the Alien franchise already has grossed $7.2 million.

The movie starring Charlize Theron bumps Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows out of 2012's Top 3 openings to sit behind The Avengers with $13.3 million and The Hunger Games with $9 million.
In the UK, Prometheus held on to No.1 for a second weekend and has grossed over $25 million.
It couldn't manage a top spot debut in the US - coming in behind the animated Madagascar 3 ($60.9 million) - but its $51.5 million puts it among the best second-placed debuts in US history.
Prometheus has already grossed $144 million worldwide. The sci-fi film stars Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace as a team sent into deep space to find aliens who left messages on Earth thousands of years ago.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Obama takes action against colleges preying on military, veterans

President Obama will sign an executive order Friday aimed at rooting out fraud and abuse of federal programs aimed at helping members of the military, veterans and their families go to college.

Obama will travel to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., to take steps to “ensure that service members and veterans and their families have the critical information they need to make informed decisions that protect them from aggressive and deceptive targeting by education institutions,” a senior administration official said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. He'll be joined by first lady Michelle Obama, who has made military families a priority with her Joining Forces initiative.

It’s been well-documented that some institutions – particularly for-profit colleges – target military and veteran students in their recruitment efforts without taking into account the readiness of those students for college-level classes, all in the interest of drawing in federal financial aid dollars and not necessarily in the interest of students.

The Education Department has already taken dramatic action aimed to rein in abuses of the for-profit colleges, with regulations on gainful employment and incentive compensation that have begun to take effect, but those rules are not enough when it comes to oversight of benefits for current members of the military, their spouses and veterans receiving support through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Provisions in the order include:

-Requiring that colleges make provide the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Know Before You Owe financial aid form to all students participating in the Department of Defense’s tuition assistance program, which includes 2,000 institutions. The order also directs roughly 6,000 colleges participating in the VA’s programs to send the form to students.

-Keeping aggressive recruiters off military installations by requiring the Defense Department to establish rules for how educational institutions gain access to military facilities so that institutions with a history of bad practices are kept out.

-Cracking down on improper online recruiting, in part by having the VA begin the process of trademarking the term “GI Bill” so it can’t be used by misleading recruitment websites.
-Creating a centralized complaint system for service members and veterans to approach with their grievances against institutions.

-Collecting data from colleges on how much of their revenue comes from military and VA programs.
-Boosting enforcement of existing rules meant to protect students, including the Education Department’s regulations on gainful employment and incentive compensation.

During the 2010-11academic year, the Department of Veterans Affairs paid out more than $4.4 billion in grants to veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and provided hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.
The Defense Department gave active duty service members $280 million to be used for tuition assistance in fiscal 2011, plus about $25 million for military spouses.

Eight of the top 10 institutions receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits between 2009 and 2011 were for-profit colleges, and six had withdrawal rates above 50 percent, meaning that much of the federal money flowing into their coffers never led students to a degree. And service members and military spouses are also disproportionately enrolled at for-profit institutions, which enroll about 10 percent of post-secondary students nationwide.

For nearly two years, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has led an aggressive investigation of for-profit colleges and student outcomes. In a statement, he applauded the executive order as a “decisive step toward addressing the widespread problems” that his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has identified.

The order, he added, “sends a strong message to those who over-promise, under-deliver, and over-charge our veterans in order to profit off their hard-earned GI Bill benefits.” Moving forward, he and other congressional colleagues plan to advance legislation that will build on the order.

Former Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.), the president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said that the major for-profit college trade group is "disappointed" that the president chose to take executive action on issues that the industry was discussing with Congress.

"Two-thirds of the active-duty military and two-thirds of their spouses and dependents have also chosen to pursue their education through our institutions because we offer focused academic delivery and flexible scheduling that meets their individual needs," Gunderson said. "Career-oriented institutions proudly serve military and veteran populations, and work with congressional leaders in a bipartisan manner to address concerns about veteran education across all sectors of higher education."


Monday, March 19, 2012

GOP appointees will swing health care ruling

Here’s a thought that can’t comfort President Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.

His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against.

But the good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law’s crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty.

Lawyers with opposing views of the issue agree that the four Democratic-appointed justices, including Obama’s two picks, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, will have no trouble concluding that Congress did not overstep its authority in adopting the requirement that is aimed at sharply reducing the 50 million people without insurance.

On the other side, Thomas has made clear in several cases that he does not take an expansive view of Congress’ powers.

Both the Obama administration and the health care law’s challengers believe they can attract the other four Republicans to their side. The group includes Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the two appointees of President George W. Bush who have swung the court to the right in a number of areas; conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia; and the less doctrinaire Anthony Kennedy.

There is no consensus in the legal and academic worlds as to which way the court will go or even how each of those four justices will vote.

The legal challenge, once seen as improbable at best, has everyone’s attention, partly because the justices find it weighty enough to devote six hours over three days to hearing the case, beginning March 26. That is the most time for any issue in more than 45 years.

“Arguments that once seemed outlandish don’t seem quite so outlandish anymore,’’ said University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley, a health law expert who says the law should be upheld.

The fight over the law has played out in starkly partisan terms. It passed Congress without a Republican vote. All the GOP presidential candidates have called for its repeal.

Some supporters of the law worry about the high court’s decision because a similar partisan split, with a few important exceptions, has emerged in the lower courts.

“I think as a constitutional matter, this should be an easy case,’’ said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. “But every judge appointed by a Republican president, with two exceptions, has voted to strike the law down. And every judge appointed by a Democratic president, with one exception, has voted to uphold the law.’’

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Obama declines to make a Super Bowl pick

It's an election year with fans (and voters) on both sides of the issue, so it's not exactly a surprise that President Obama declined Sunday to pick a winner between the Patriots and Giants in his pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC's Matt Lauer.

"It's going to be a great game," the president said. "What the Giants have done, coming back from that tough situation in the middle of the season, has been pretty remarkable. (Patriots coach Bill) Belilchick and (quarterback Tom) Brady, they're always tough, so it's going to be a tough game."

Hearkening back to the Giants' win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in which David Tyree made a remarkable catch to keep the Giants' winning drive alive, the president said of Sunday's game, "I can't call it. It's going to be one of those (games) when it comes down to a turnover or some ball on somebody's helmet."

Lauer noted that the president didn't hesitate in picking the Steelers over the Cardinals in 2009, and he replied, "I think this is going to be a tough game. Both teams have their weaknesses. They're not as strong as they were, I think, a couple of years ago. When you look at the Patriots, their defense is a little shaky. The Giants have just come back (from a midseason slump). I can't tell you who is going to win this one."

Lauer noted that the Patriots win in 2004, followed by President Bush's re-election, and the Giants won in 2008, the year in which he was elected. He asked the president again for a prediction, and he laughed and said, "You're not going to get me. You're not going to get me. I'm going to look for a great game."

During his five-minute interview with Lauer, the president also discussed tensions between Israel and Iran, adding, "My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel, and we are going to continue to work in lockstep as proceed to try to solve this, hopefully diplomatically."

He said he does not believe Iran has the "intentions or capabilities" to launch attacks within the United States and said the U.S. would take no options off the table while preferring a diplomatic solution.

Lauer also hearkened back to a 2009 pre-Super Bowl conversation in which the president said that if the economy were not up and rolling in three years that he could be a one-term president.

"I deserve a second term, but we're not done," Obama said.