Friday, August 3, 2012

Romney: Reid's claim about unpaid taxes 'untrue'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Put up or shut up, says Mitt Romney. Just sayin', retorts Harry Reid. For both men, it's a taxing situation.
Romney demanded Thursday that the Democratic Senate leader back up the story he's been passing around this week that an investor with Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, has told him that Romney didn't pay any taxes for 10 years.
Reid offers no evidence to substantiate the claim — he even says he's not sure it's true — and won't reveal who made it. For the Nevada Democrat, the claim explains why Romney is adamant about not releasing more than a year or two of his tax returns.
Romney went on conservative radio host Sean Hannity's show Thursday morning to brand the claim untrue.
"Well, it's time for Harry to put up or shut up," Romney said. "Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with because of course, that's totally and completely wrong."
Romney added: "It's untrue, dishonest, and inaccurate. It's wrong. So I'm looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources and we'll probably find out it's the White House. Look, the Obama campaign is going to do everything in its power to try and talk about anything besides the president's record."
Reid repeated the claim on the Senate floor. Following Romney's response, he released a statement saying that "it's clear Romney is hiding something."
"When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up," Reid said. "But as a presidential candidate, it's his obligation to put up, and release several years' worth of tax returns just like nominees of both parties have done for decades."
Romney has released his 2010 federal tax return and a summary of his 2011 return. In 2010, he paid 13.9 percent tax on income of $21.6 million. Most of Romney's income came from investment gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than earned income.
His wealth estimated at $250 million, Romney has said that his critics will distort and use against him any additional tax information he releases.

Cuba must stop ‘cat-and-mouse game’ with political activists

José Daniel Ferrer García has been detained on numerous occasions for his peaceful activism in Cuba.José Daniel Ferrer García has been detained on numerous occasions for his peaceful activism in Cuba.

“The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García continues the Cuban authorities’ cat-and-mouse game with political dissidents and human rights activists
”James Burke, Campaigner on the Caribbean at Amnesty International
Thu, 02/08/2012
The Cuban authorities must end their ongoing harassment of political and human rights activists, Amnesty International said today after a former prisoner of conscience was released following his latest arrest and detention in a police station for 36 hours.

José Daniel Ferrer García, coordinator of the organization Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), was set free on Wednesday, two days after police arrested him in the eastern province of Holguín.

He was not charged with any crime. His family had no idea of his whereabouts until he was returned home by the authorities on Wednesday afternoon.

Ferrer’s latest arrest follows three days he spent in detention after being arrested in Havana in February 2012 and a 27-day detention for “public disorder” in Santiago de Cuba two months later. These repeated, short detentions are in line with a pattern of harassment by the Cuban authorities against UNPACU members and other political dissidents.

“The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García continues the Cuban authorities’ cat-and-mouse game with political dissidents and human rights activists,” said James Burke, Campaigner on the Caribbean at Amnesty International.

“This practice – used as a form of harassment and intimidation to repress legitimate, peaceful activism and freedom of expression – must come to a halt.”

UNPACU was formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba who seek democratic change by non-violent means.

Since its creation, the Cuban authorities have used arbitrary detention and other measures to harass and intimidate its members. One member, Wilman Villar Mendoza – whom Amnesty International named a prisoner of conscience – died last January on a hunger strike to protest his four-year prison sentence after a summary trial.

UNPACU coordinator Ferrer García served eight years of a 25-year jail sentence for his political activism before being granted conditional release in March 2011.

He was among 75 Cuban dissidents arrested during the so-called “Black Spring” crackdown in March 2003. Amnesty International adopted all 75 as prisoners of conscience after they were jailed for the peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government.

Ferrer García was among those targeted in part for his participation in the Varela Project, which called for a national referendum on democratic reforms in Cuba.

Following his conditional release last year, police in Santiago de Cuba re-arrested Ferrer García on 2 April 2012 along with 42 other activists – most of them UNPACU members.

All the rest were set free, but police held Ferrer García on a “public disorder” charge for a further 27 days, before releasing him on the condition that he renounce his political activism.

Following his release, José Daniel Ferrer García told Amnesty International that the authorities had arrested him to prevent him from travelling to the capital, Havana where he had planned to hold meetings with other government critics who are peacefully seeking greater respect for civil and political rights in Cuba.

He said the ongoing campaign of harassment would not deter him or his colleagues from continuing with their activism: “Our goal in Cuba is to establish true rule of law in Cuba where freedom of expression, freedom of association – all fundamental freedoms – are respected, and until we do so, we will continue our peaceful struggle.”

Got fewer than 50 followers on Twitter? You probably support Obama

When it comes to preferences in the 2012 presidential campaign, Twitter follows a familiar political narrative. The Democrat, Barack Obama, draws his support from large numbers of people with limited influence, while the Republican, Mitt Romney, relies on tweets from a smaller, more powerful set of people.
And by power, of course, we mean one's number of Twitter followers.
A Yahoo News analysis of 80,000 political tweets from Wednesday, Aug. 1, determined that 62 percent of the tweets that expressed an opinion about Obama were positive. By contrast, only 39 percent of the tweets that took a position on Romney were positive.
This itself is not surprising, given demographic assumptions about the tweeting class. Twitter's new political index, which it unveiled Wednesday, found a similar differential in tweet support for the two candidates.
We divided the data by the number of followers each Twitter user in the sample has, to better tease out the dynamics of political expression on the service. The data was provided by Attensity, a company that specializes in analyzing social media on a large scale.
Obama, we found, draws his greatest support from people with 50 followers or fewer, whose tweets garner the president a favorability rating over 70 percent. But his support declines from there until you reach Twitter users with at least 10,000 followers—when his tweet favorability rating begins to rise again. (There aren't enough users with 25,000 followers or more to determine which candidate wins the tweets of the 1 percent.)
Romney, by contrast, draws a favorability rating below 40 percent from tweets issued by people with fewer than 500 followers. Then his tweet ratings start to rise, and he almost catches Obama among tweets from users with 2,500 to 4,900 followers. But once you hit power users with at least 5,000 followers, Romney's support starts to fall once more.
Twitter support by followers
This type of distribution of support is common in politics. If you replace "Twitter followers" with "income," you see a similar picture of party preference.
In 2008, Obama won his greatest support with those in the lowest income ranges, exit poll data shows, while John McCain fared better among voters who made between $100,000 and $200,000.
But Obama began edging out McCain again once income levels reached $200,000—just as his Twitter approval stops falling among the 10,000-followers-and-up crowd at the end of the spectrum.
Like most things in politics, Twitter sentiment follows the money.

Clinton urges Sudan, South Sudan reconciliation

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is visiting the world's newest country, South Sudan, to press its leaders and their counterparts in the north to resolve festering differences that threaten to re-ignite civil war.
Clinton arrived Friday in South Sudan's capital of Juba for a brief visit to congratulate the nascent nation on its anniversary and offer U.S. support, but, more importantly, to stress the urgency of ending disputes with Sudan over oil and territory. Those disputes have led to clashes between the two countries which many fear could crater the 2005 peace deal that ended what was then Africa's longest-running civil war.
The two sides had faced a Thursday U.N. Security Council deadline to reach agreement on the issues or face possible sanctions, but the council deferred action until at least Wednesday.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Clinton would express concern about a "lack of movement" in resolving the situation but also reaffirm America's strong support for South Sudan. The U.S. was instrumental in helping to negotiate the 2005 peace agreement, and the official said Washington is "heavily invested" in its success.
The disputes, particularly over oil revenue, have led to severe economic problems in both Sudan and South Sudan. But the South, which celebrated its first year as an independent nation last month, is in a more precarious situation as it is more heavily dependent on outside assistance.
The mostly black African tribes of South Sudan and the mainly Arab north battled two civil wars over more than five decades, and some 2 million died in the latest war, from 1983-2005. It ended with the 2005 peace pact that led to last year's independence declaration for South Sudan.
Though the breakup was peaceful, hostilities flared earlier this year.
South Sudan inherited about three-quarters of the region's oil, but shut down its oil industry in January after accusing Sudan of stealing oil that the South must pump through Sudan's pipelines. That decision has cost both governments dearly in lost revenue.
In April, the two countries' militaries fought over the disputed, oil-rich region of Heglig. South Sudan troops took over the town from Sudanese forces, but that offensive maneuver was condemned by world leaders. South Sudan says it then retreated from Heglig, though Sudan says its forces pushed the South out.

Syria's Assad urges his army to step up fight

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad urged his armed forces Wednesday to step up the fight against rebels as the U.N. reported a significant escalation in the civil war with the military using warplanes to fire on opposition fighters in the battle for Aleppo.
Sausan Ghosheh, the spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Syria, said that international observers had witnessed warplanes firing in Syria's largest city, where intense fighting has been raging for 12 days. She said the situation in Aleppo was dire, with "heavy use of heavy weapons" including tanks, which the rebels now possess as well.
"Yesterday, for the first time, our observers saw firing from a fighter aircraft. We also now have confirmation that the opposition is in a position of having heavy weapons, including tanks," she said. "There is a shortage of food, fuel, water and gas."
Aleppo has been wracked by violence since rebels attempted to take it over and succeeded in holding several neighborhoods despite daily assaults by regime tanks, helicopters and warplanes.
Assad pushed his armed forces to redouble their efforts in the fight in his speech, which was not televised but only appeared in the army's magazine.
"Today you are invited to increase your readiness and willingness for the armed forces to be the shield, wall and fortress of our nation," he said.
The regime has characterized the rebellion as the work of foreign terrorists, and Assad claimed "internal agents" are collaborating with them.
"Our battle is against a multi-faceted enemy with clear goals. This battle will determine the destiny of our people and the nation's past, present and future," he said.
Assad has not spoken in public since a bomb on July 18 killed four of his top security officials during a rebel assault on Damascus.
Syria's powerful military, which has largely held together over the course of the uprising, is vital to keeping Assad in power. The pace of defections has been rising recently, however. Neighboring Turkey reports that 28 generals have already crossed the border.
In recent weeks, the military has unleashed heavy weapons against the increasingly bold rebels who have brought the fight to the country's two largest cities. The military managed to drive the rebels out of the capital Damascus a week after their assault with fierce bombardments of neighborhoods followed by house-to-house searches.
Minor clashes with the rebels around Damascus continue, however, and in the early hours of the morning Wednesday residents of the Christian neighborhood of Bab Touma in Damascus' old city reported a half-hour gun battle.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus contributed to this report.