Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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Quote(s) of the Month

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
"There is an old saying that the Chinese invoke when they wish to avoid political discourse with the central powers in Beijing: 'The mountains are high and the Emperor is far away.' Well, ladies and gentlemen, this morning there are no mountains to shield us, as China's newest Emperor has just landed in Washington."

-- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, at a briefing on U.S.-China policy, 1/19/10.

The Chair also rejected attending the State Dinner tonight with Chinese dictator Hu Jintao, saying:
"I don't know if it's appropriate as a refugee of Communism to be sitting, with a lot of pomp and chit chat, with a leader who has instituted economic reforms but has not opened the political arena."

As for the State Dinner itself, she added: "There are so many leaders who are far more deserving than the leader of a repressive regime."

Obama Slaps Cuba's Political Prisoners

By Mike Gonzalez in Fox News:

Easing Cuban Travel Restrictions, Team Obama Slaps Cuba's Political Prisoners In the Face
It was a strange way to kick off the Martin Luther King weekend. But last Friday night, President Obama slapped hundreds of Cuba's political prisoners' right in the face.
That's when the administration announced it will make it easier for Americans who support Castro's government to send money there and visit the island for propaganda purposes. Travel restrictions will be lifted or relaxed, as will remittances and charter flights.

It's a deplorable change -- and totally unnecessary. After all, the Castro brothers' thugs do a good job making their victims miserable without help from the Oval Office.

Cuba's prison guards keep their prey in dank underground cells, the easier to dump urine and excrement on them when the whim strikes them, or for rats to scurry in and bite the prisoners while they sleep—which they have to do standing up. (Their cells are not big enough to lie down in.) If you're uncomfortable reading about these conditions, imagine what it's like for the prisoners who endure them.

These men and women—behind bars for years for such infractions as exercising their freedom of speech, assembly, religion or movement—are the few on that island Gulag who still refuse to give in to the communist regime. Cuba's other millions have learned the art of outwardly going along, lest they, too, get whisked away to one of the prison compounds that dot the island. Who can blame them? How many of us would not just surrender and practice what Orwell called "doublethink"?

The least we on the outside can do is stand up for the people of Cuba and do exactly what the prisoners do—refuse to cooperate with their tormentors. Unfortunately, President Obama has once again chosen to compromise and cooperate with Castro's Cuba corrupt regime.
The timing of the announcement betrays the shame that some in the administration must have felt. Late Friday before a holiday weekend is the time one selects to bury news you'd rather not see get much sunlight.

As Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla)., said in a statement Friday, "It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people."

Unthinkable not only because this decision throws a cash-starved regime some money, but because of the message it sends Cuba's prisoners—those actually behind (or in Cuba's case, under) bars and the millions others walking the streets, but prisoners nonetheless. The U.S. message at the moment is: You're utterly alone; we outside are accommodating your tyrants, why not you?
As former Soviet prisoner of conscience Nathan Sharansky has amply testified and written, support from outside nourishes those who languish inside communist borders; it helps them understand they're not crazy to continue opposing totalitarianism. Denouncing the regime and doing everything to deny it internationally legitimacy is a beacon of light shot inside the Gulag. The Obama administration just dimmed it.

Police Arrest ‘Suspicious’ Man At Miami International Airport

Jihadists Promote Theft to Fund War on West


Today Picture...

Hindu devotees offers prayers to the Sun as they ...

Hindu devotees offers prayers to Sun

Hindu devotees offers prayers to the Sun as they take holy dips during the month-long Magh Mela festival at the Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad, India, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims take dips during the Magh Mela in the hope of washing away their sins.… Read more »
(AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

House votes to repeal Obama's health care law

Republicans Overturn Health Care Reform Bill Play Video CBS4 Miami  – Republicans Overturn Health Care Reform Bill
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John Boehner, Dr. Nan Hayworth, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Kevin McCarthy, Jeb Hensarling AP – House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, speaks about the upcoming vote to repeal the health care …
WASHINGTON – Swiftly honoring a campaign pledge, newly empowered Republicans pushed legislation to repeal the nation's year-old health care overhaul through the House Wednesday night, brushing aside implacable opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama.
The 245-189 vote was largely along party lines, and cleared the way for the second phase of the "repeal and replace" promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall. GOP officials said that in the coming months, congressional committees will propose changes to the existing legislation, calling for elimination of a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage, for example, and recommending curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits.
Republicans also intend to try to reverse many of the changes Democrats made to Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to the traditional government-run health care program for seniors.
Like the repeal bill itself, these other measures will require Senate approval and a presidential signature to take effect, and the prospect is for months of maneuvering on the issue.
Debate across two days leading to the vote was markedly restrained, as lawmakers in both political parties observed self-imposed vows of civility in the wake of the shooting rampage in Arizona that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded.
But there was no mistaking the significance many first-term Republican lawmakers attached to a day they had long waited for, finally getting a chance to speak and then vote on the House floor against a law they had campaigned for months to repeal.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. said the legislation produced by Obama and congressional Democrats was a "job-killing, socialistic" approach to health care. Rep. Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, who defeated a Democratic incumbent last fall, said it was misguided, needing repeal.
"The American people have soundly, soundly rejected the Democrats' government takeover of health care," said Rep. Sandy Adams of Florida.
Rep. Steve Southerland, also of Florida, said the law imposes a crushing tax burden on businesses, and he predicted "1.6 million jobs will be lost by 2014 due to this mandate" to require many businesses to provide coverage for employees.
Both Floridians won their seats by turning out Democratic incumbents.
"This is not symbolic. This is why we were sent here," added Rep. Michelle Bachman, of Minnesota, a third-term conservative with strong support among tea party activists.
On the short end of the vote, Democrats challenged Republican claims and highlighted politically popular elements of the bill that would be wiped out if repeal took effect.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., accused some Republicans of "the height of hypocrisy" by voting to repeal a vast expansion of health care at the same time they had signed up for coverage for their families through a government-organized program available to lawmakers.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said that despite claims of employment loss, the economy had added jobs in each of the past 10 months.
In one of the most animated speeches of two days of debate, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said repeal would return power to insurance companies. "Has anybody, any family in America, any single mother, any spouse, any child, any grandparent met a more bureaucratic system than the American health insurance system? There is no more bureaucratic system."
Three Democrats voted with Republicans on the repeal measure: Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Mike Ross of Arkansas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the legislation will not see the light of day there, but the GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said bluntly, "I assure you we will" have a vote on it. He did not predict the repeal would pass, but even a vote could present a difficult choice for Democrats facing re-election campaigns in swing states in 2012.
Separately, Republicans are expected to try to cut off the flow of funds needed to implement provisions on the bill.
The law faces another challenge, well beyond the reach of Obama's veto pen. More than half the states have filed suits against it, and while some judges have upheld the legislation, one recently ruled it was unconstitutional to require individuals to purchase insurance. The Supreme Court is widely expected to have the final word.
The Obama administration has made a major effort in recent days to emphasize parts of the bill that have met with public approval, including one that permits children to age 26 to remain on their parents' policies if they do not have on-the-job coverage of their own. Democrats also argue that repeal would short-circuit other changes yet to take effect, including a ban on the insurance industry's practice of denying coverage or charging sharply higher premiums on the basis of a pre-existing medical condition.
Republicans intend to address the same issues with legislation they say they will bring to the House floor in the coming months, according to officials who have been involved in discussions on the issue, but no details were immediately available.
Last year, for example, the Republicans proposed a 10-year, $25 billion program to help states fund programs in which high-risk individuals could receive affordable coverage.
GOP leaders are working on the assumption that the repeal legislation will not become law, and they intend to draft future bills as changes to the structure that Obama and Democrats put into place.
On one point, they conceded no change was warranted. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters on Tuesday seniors would be permitted to keep the $250 they have been promised to help defray the cost of drugs under the Medicare prescription benefit.
The legislation Obama signed last year was sweeping in its scope.
The Congressional Budget Office said at the time that when fully enacted, it would spread coverage to tens of millions who now lack it and - in a forecast rejected by Republicans - reduce federal deficits over the next decade.
Beginning in 2014, millions of Americans would be required to carry health insurance, whether through an employer, a government program, or their own purchase. New insurance marketplaces called exchanges would open in each state, enabling individuals and small businesses to pick from menus of private plans that met government standards. Federal subsidies would help defray the costs.
Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

With Obama, Hu concedes China's rights need help

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Hu Jintao, Barack Obama AP – President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with China's President Hu Jintao, Wednesday, …
WASHINGTON – In a rare concession on a highly sensitive issue, Chinese President Hu Jintao used his White House visit on Wednesday to acknowledge "a lot still needs to be done" to improve human rights in his nation accused of repressing its people. President Barack Obama pushed China to adopt fundamental freedoms but assured Hu the U.S. considers the communist nation a friend and vital economic partner.
Hu's comments met with immediate skepticism from human rights advocates, who dismissed them as words backed by no real history of action. Hu contended his country has "made enormous progress" but provided no specifics.
Still, his remarks seemed to hearten and surprise U.S. officials, coming during an elaborate visit that centered on boosting trade and trust between the world's two largest economies.
More broadly, Hu and Obama sought to show off a more mature and respectful relationship, not the one often defined by disputes over currency, sovereignty and freedoms. Hu said he wanted even closer contact with Obama; Obama sought again to embrace China's rise, and the two men shared some unexpected laughs.
The Chinese president was treated lavishly, granted the honor of the third state dinner of Obama's presidency. He was welcomed in the morning to the sounds of military bands and the smiles of children on the South Lawn; he was capping the evening at a black-tie White House gala of jazz musicians and all-American food.
Eager to show progress, particularly with the unemployment weighing down his country, Obama said the nations sealed business deals that would mean $45 billion in U.S. exports and create roughly 235,000 jobs. The package included moves by China to expand U.S. investment and curtail theft of intellectual property.
China's human rights record is poor and worsening, with abuses ranging from censorship to illegal detention of dissidents to executions without due process, according to the U.S. government. In a packed news conference — one designed to underscore the freedom of speech on Obama's home turf — Hu was pressed to defend his country's treatment of its people. He initially did not answer, saying he never heard the question translated, although the White House said that it was.
When prodded a second time, Hu defended his country's promotion of human rights. But then he added that China is enduring challenges as it develops and "a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights." He said China stood to gain from other countries' input, saying: "We're also willing to learn."
For his part, Obama had to find a balance, standing up for freedoms while not overstepping Hu during the uncommon honor of a state visit. Obama said his nation's relationship with China is bettering the world's economy and security, and that it cannot stop over "tension" about human rights fairness.
Pressing for a more cautious long view, Obama said: "I want to suggest that there has been an evolution in China over the last 30 years since the first normalization over relations between the United States and China. And my expectation is that, 30 years from now, we will have seen further evolution."
Laced in their comments, however, were reminders that no amount of cooperation would trump each country's core interests.
Charles Freeman, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Hu's comments on human rights were a minor concession to U.S. concerns. "They have learned over the years that throwing a bone to the Americans is a pretty good way to shut them up," Freeman said.
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said China had issued similar rhetoric before but that it added up to little more than a public relations exercise.
Earlier, as Hu's visit was just beginning, Obama was blunt about human rights. "History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful, and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld," he said.
White House officials said Hu, privately to Obama, expressed the same sentiment about China's need to do more on human rights. They expressed surprise that Hu made the statement publicly and while overseas. Chinese leaders have typically argued that how the country handles human rights is an internal matter.
In private, Obama specifically inquired about the case of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, a jailed dissident who was prevented from attending the Dec. 10 prize ceremony in the Norwegian capital. Obama, who himself won the prize last year, did not mention Liu in his public comments on Wednesday.
On another contentious issue, Obama said that the United States continues to believe that China's currency is undervalued, making Chinese imports cheaper in the United States and U.S. goods more expensive in China. He said Hu has been moving toward a market-based system, "but it's not as fast as we want."
"President Hu's concerned, understandably, about how rapid this transition takes and the disruptions that may occur," Obama said as his Chinese counterpart stood beside him in an elegant East Room crammed with media and dignitaries. "But I'm confident that it's the right thing to do."
The U.S. president said it was time to stop viewing every issue of the China-U.S. relationship through the lens of rivalry. He made the case that as China grows and expands the living standard of its people, that benefit is not just humanitarian, but economic. And by that he meant good for U.S. companies.
"We want to sell you all kinds of stuff," Obama said to his Chinese guests, prompting laughter. "We want to sell you planes. We want to sell you cars. We want to sell you software." He also made clear: "I absolutely believe that China's peaceful rise is good for the world and it's good for America."
Mindful of protocol gaffes five years ago, when Hu visited President George W. Bush, the White House seemed to host the state visit without a hitch — that is, except for translation problems that made the news conference long and at times confusing. Hu walked with Obama around the South Lawn grounds during the arrival ceremony and spent time shaking the hands of smiling children, even sharing a moment with the U.S. president's youngest daughter, 9-year-old Sasha.
Associated Press writers Matthew Pennington, Jim Kuhnhenn, Tom Raum, Donna Cassata, Julie Pace, Erica Werner, Darlene Superville and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.


State dinner 
AP/Carolyn Kaster

LPP Archive - Empty Promises? ...

Obama's Hesitant Embrace of Human Rights
by Kenneth Roth

February 24, 2010

Obama's refusal to end the use of military commissions and detention without trial risks perpetuating the spirit of Guantánamo even after the physical facility has been shut.
Kenneth Roth
After eight years of the Bush administration, with its torture of suspected terrorists and disregard for international law, Barack Obama's victory in the November 2008 U.S. presidential election seemed a breath of fresh air to human rights activists. Obama took office at a moment when the world desperately needed renewed U.S. leadership. In his inaugural address, Obama immediately signaled that, unlike Bush, he would reject as false "the choice between our safety and our ideals."
Obama faces the challenge of restoring the United States' credibility at a time when repressive governments -- emboldened by the increasing influence of authoritarian powers such as China and Russia -- seek to undermine the enforcement of international human rights standards. As he put it when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the United States cannot "insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves." His Nobel speech in Oslo also affirmed the U.S. government's respect for the Geneva Conventions. "Even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules," Obama argued, "I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength."
When it comes to promoting human rights at home and abroad, there has undoubtedly been a marked improvement in presidential rhetoric. However, the translation of those words into deeds remains incomplete.