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  • Abortion fight continues to tie up the Senate, delay Lynch confirmation
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 10:17 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (3)

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Wednesday morning that Democrats would reject the latest Republican proposal to reach a deal on anti-abortion language that has prevented passage of a bill to help victims of human trafficking.

    Rejecting the GOP’s latest proposal would not only delay that bill, but it is also expected to delay consideration of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. Senate Republicans have said they won’t move to a vote on Lynch until the Senate finishes work on the trafficking bill.

    Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, center, pauses during a news conference following a Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Joining Cornyn are, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP Photo/Susan Walsh

    Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) offered a new proposal to end a fight over abortion language in the Senate, but Democrats indicated they still don’t support it. Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

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  • Harry Reid didn’t hold back when talking about the GOP field for 2016
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 8:54 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (87)

    The entire field of Republican presidential candidates running for the White House in 2016 is comprised of “losers,” according to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

    Reid is famous for the mean-spirited, unforgiving lines he uses against his political opponents, and he played to type in an interview with CNBC that aired Wednesday. When asked what he thinks about the GOP presidential field, he said:

    “I don’t really care. I think they’re all losers.”

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  • What the media did when Hillary Clinton arrived at an event in Iowa even left an MSNBC anchor surprised: ‘Wow!’
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm by Mike Opelka

    Comments (92)

    Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ only announced presidential candidate, arrived in Iowa Tuesday. A gaggle of reporters and photographers assembled in front of the Jones Regional Educational Center in Monticello, Iowa, where where she was set to speak. But when she threw them a curveball, even an MSNBC anchor was left playfully stunned.

    MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts tossed to Alex Seitz-Wald, who was covering the event for the network. As Seitz-Wald was reporting, Clinton’s van passed the front entrance and headed for the back of the building. The media members were initially all set up for her to arrive at the front. And that’s when the magic happened.

    Watch Seitz-Wald held his position as the rest of the press corps scurried, literally running, to get to the back of the building.

    Roberts was left exclaiming “wow” several times:

    The crew at the Washington Free Beacon took the video and produced this clever homage to the classic British comedy from Benny Hill:

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  • A Blaze Books exclusive excerpt from a sci-fi novel at the front line of the culture wars
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 11:37 am by Benjamin Weingarten

    Comments (1)

    Recently we featured an exclusive excerpt from Roy Griffis’ “The Big Bang,” the product of Liberty Island, a publishing house created by longtime industry executive Adam Bellow to help independent authors see their conservative and libertarian-themed fiction titles come to life. More on Liberty Island and its role in the conservative countercultural movement here.

    Today we bring you another exclusive excerpt from an intriguing book out of Liberty Island written by author Frank Fleming titled “Superego.” “Superego” is a science fiction novel centered on a genetically engineered psychopath working to save the world. Allow Fleming to tell you a bit about it below:

    Following in the footsteps of Fleming’s other works including “Punch Your Inner Hippie: Cut Your Hair, Get a Job, and Make America Awesome Again,” ”How to Fix Everything in America Forever: The Plan to Keep America Awesome” and “Obama: The Greatest President in the History of Everything,” the Pajamas Media columnist and founder of imao.us mixes satire and a sharp wit in his dark but humorous fictional debut.

    Check out an excerpt from “Superego” below.

    [A] lot of people consider thinking a giant killer robot is a god to be…ridiculous…I get that
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    Five sentients were firing energy weapons with crazed zeal, screaming something about a mechanized god. People around me fell, dead or wounded. I was right at the center of a terrorist attack. What were the chances?

    Not very high is the answer. But that was not my main concern at the moment.

    I was familiar with this group. They called themselves the Calabrai. Knowledge of the existence of other sentient species has been a problem for many religions, as most were formed before people even considered the possibility of life on other worlds (or knew that there were other worlds). Thus each religion is mostly confined to the particular species and home world of its origin, and adaptation to the new reality was hard. The Calabrai basically took religions from many different species — one “true” religion from each — and considered them all as having been based on the same true god. This one true god supposedly took form as a gigantic city-leveling robot called Calab. Calab is hidden on some unknown planet (though he is rumored to have been destroyed), and he keeps sending out commands to his followers to kill unbelievers.

    There are a lot of obvious problems with giving this kind of robot artificial intelligence, but you can hardly blame people for failing to consider that it might become the basis for a violent new cult. And the Calabrai do follow its commands, though their efforts to kill the unbelievers never seem to amount to much more than huge annoyances to the targeted planets, as they aren’t a sophisticated enough force to topple governments. It made sense that they’d be interested in the expansion of powers of the Galactic Alliance and would attack Nar Valdum now, as one of the initial reasons most civilizations exist is to keep kill-happy barbarians at bay.

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    I try to avoid religious disputes. Well, I try to avoid people most of the time, but I especially have no interest in debating religion. One can point out that religion is just a bunch of superstitious, irrational beliefs; but is that any different from the beliefs of atheists? Everyone likes to think they’re logical and reasonable, but I find all people to be equally absurd and irrational. The main difference is that the religious tend to be a bit more organized in their irrationality. (more…)

  • John Boehner: Nothing ‘concrete’ in Obama’s nuke deal with Iran, just a deal to ‘keep talking’
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 10:58 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Obama administration made any real progress toward reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, and said the tentative deal announced on April 2 was nothing more than an agreement to keep negotiating until June.

    “From everything I’ve heard of the so-called framework, all it is is really an agreement to keep talking,” Boehner told reporters. “I haven’t seen anything concrete come out of this yet.”

    Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.49.31 AM

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated Tuesday that he thinks the tentative Iran nuclear deal is an empty vessel, and that Congress should approve it instead of trusting the Obama administration to assess and implement it. Image: AP

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  • Government watchdog: FBI, DEA violated the law by blocking investigation into sexual harassment cases
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 9:52 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The FBI and other branches of the Justice Department are completely ignoring a recently passed law that requires them to comply with investigations by the department’s Office of Inspector General, the OIG told Congress on Tuesday.

    Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was due to testify Tuesday morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, just a few weeks after the OIG released a report saying Drug Enforcement Agencies routinely held “sex parties” in Colombia with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels. That report outlined several other problems related to sexual harassment, including problems that various agencies have reporting these incidents up the chain of command.

     (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

    The FBI and other agencies under the Department of Justice were called out Tuesday for violating a law that requires them to cooperate with Inspector General investigations. Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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  • Hillary’s server: It’s not just about her hiding things from the American people
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm by Chris Salcedo

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    The very weekend that Hillary Clinton announced her second run for the White House, revelations have shed light on a little-talked about consequence of Clinton’s efforts to hide her mistakes from “We the People.”

    Richard Miniter, president of the American Media Institute, joined The Chris Salcedo Show this weekend to reveal the results an investigation AMI conducted. Miniter outlined interviews with intelligence officials, including some Democrats, who are concerned and even livid about Clinton’s use of a private server to conduct government business. The intelligence community worries about thousands of attempts made daily to breach American cybersecurity and points out that billions of taxpayer dollars are spent protecting America’s government from incursions by rogue states like China, Russia and Iran. Clinton’s server was provided by a commercial Internet service provider that could not approach the level of security offered to official government accounts. Not only do officials stress over foreign enemies gathering intelligence off the server, they also fret that they could have changed official documents that would have provided false data that caused then-Secretary of State Clinton to act on faulty information.

    To hear real investigative journalism, something the Brian Williams Press forgets how to do during Democratic administrations, cue to 1:35:35:

  • More ‘concerns’ from State Dept., this time over Russia’s sale of missiles to Iran
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 2:30 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (5)

    Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday expressed his “concerns” that Russia has agreed to ship Iran a missile system capable of hitting targets 125 miles away, according to Acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

    But Harf gave no indication that Kerry said anything more than that.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before the start of their meeting at the Russian Ambassador's residence about the situation in Ukraine, in Paris Sunday March 30, 2014. Kerry traveled to Paris for a last minute meeting with Lavrov. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before a meeting on Ukraine last month. On Monday, the two spoke by phone, and Kerry said the U.S. had ‘concerns’ about the sale of missiles to Iran. Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

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  • Legal immigration poised to add the equivalent of seven major U.S. cities to the population
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 1:15 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The United States is on pace to legally admit 10 million immigrants over the next decade, an amount equal to the current populations of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles and St. Louis combined, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

    And that’s just legal immigration, which doesn’t count the addition of illegal immigrants, including those who might be drawn by the promise of a further relaxation of U.S. immigration laws.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 12.34.20 PM

    Image: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

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  • LISTEN: A leading national security advisor and Islamic law expert explains how and why America is losing to jihadists
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 11:10 am by Benjamin Weingarten

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    Major Stephen Coughlin (Ret.), a decorated intelligence officer known as the Pentagon’s leading expert on Islamic law has authored a forthcoming book, “Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of the Jihad,” that serves as a damning indictment of America’s national security establishment in the face of the global jihad, and provides a chilling message to the American people.

    We had the opportunity to discuss Coughlin’s new book in a wide-ranging interview that you can find below.

    During our discussion, Coughlin goes into great depth on the thesis of his book, providing keen insights into the nature and doctrinal basis of the threat posed by Islamic supremacists, America’s conscious purging of the very lexicon necessary to describe the nature of the threat on its own terms, and as a result of postmodernism, political correctness and the pervasiveness of what Coughlin describes as culturally Marxist narratives — along with the gentle prodding of Muslim Brotherhood influences on our media and other core institutions — the ignorance, incoherence and willful blindness of America’s “stupid” national security establishment.

    The end result that Coughlin sees is a completely compromised security situation in which America is able to win in military engagements, while completely losing — to the degree to which it is even fighting — on the ideological warfare battleground where the Muslim Brotherhood and its Western proxies devote a significant amount of their efforts.

    This civilizational jihad effort, and Western ignorance of principles like jihad, abrogation and dawah, which Coughlin describes during our interview, evidences itself in everything from what Coughlin sees as the disastrous policy of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), to the Fort Hood shooting, to Iranian nuclear negotiations, which we examine through the lens of the 7th century Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.

    Below are several of the more critical portions of our interview, but for those concerned about the state of national security as it relates to the global jihad, we urge you to listen to the conversation in full.

    The Three Words the National Security Establishment Won’t Use Essential to Understanding the Enemy

    How the Muslim Brotherhood is Working Its Way Towards Civilizational Jihad in America

    How CVE Supports the Postmodernist Narrative, and Deems Veterans Returning from War a Threat

    The Derelection of Duty of America’s National Security Establishment (more…)
  • Here’s the line from 2008 that Rand Paul says spells big trouble for Hillary Clinton
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 9:05 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) predicted on Sunday that one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest hurdles to winning the White House in 2016 will be one of her most famous lines from her 2008 campaign — the one about being ready to handle an international crisis in the middle of the night.

    “I think precisely what some will say is her strength is actually her weakness: her tenure as secretary of state,” Paul said on CBS. “There’s one thing that people want as commander in chief: they want someone who will defend the country.”

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  • From the NRA convention: Girls + guns = growth
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 9:01 am by Mike Opelka

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    It’s no secret, the National Rifle Association has been targeting females for the past few years. In fact, the NRA is openly pushing new programs and offering membership discounts and incentives to women, hoping to match the group’s five million male members with five million females.

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    This strategy appears to be paying off. The NRA reports a spike in female membership enrollment. Casually observing the packed exhibit hall at the convention, it was evident to this reporter that women make up a strong 25 to 30 percent of all attendees.

    Gun companies also recognize the opportunity to increase their profits by attracting more women customers. Female shooters are now being given a great deal of attention, especially from the biggest names in the business.

    Smith and Wesson teamed up with the NRA to present a program about women shooters called “Armed and Fabulous.”

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    In the middle of the Remington booth, you can’t miss the “Ladies Zone” — a section dedicated to promoting shooting sports to women.

    Image source: TheBlaze

    Image source: TheBlaze

    Inside the “Ladies Zone” there is a display blatantly telling men, this is not for you.

    Image source: TheBlaze

    Image source: TheBlaze

    Also in the “Ladies Zone,” we also found a booth for an all-women’s shooting league called “A Girl & A Gun.” The for-profit, national network is the brainchild of an Austin, Texas woman named Julianna Crowder.

    Image source: TheBlaze

    Image source: TheBlaze

    It was just about four years ago that Crowder invited a few of her girlfriends to come to the shooting range for a “girls’ night out.” She told TheBlaze, “They loved it, and ‘A Girl & A Gun’ was born.”

    Today, “A Girl & A Gun” has grown substantially, with 2,500 members and chapters in eighty-five cities.

    Crowder, an NRA-certified instructor told TheBlaze the group does more than just teach women to shoot and participate in competitive events. “We are building friendships, we’re building a support system,” said Crowder. “We’re taking somebody who may be afraid or just doesn’t know where to look for guidance, and we’re showing them the right way to do this the first time.”

    Watch our interview with Julianna Crowder.

    See more videos from the NRA’s “Armed and Fabulous” series here.

    Update: This post was edited to clarify that “A Girl & A Gun” is for-profit organization and not a non-profit as originally listed.

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  • R. Lee Ermey sums up his new ‘Gunny Time’ show: ‘If you can’t shoot it, drive it or fly it, blow the d*** thing up!’
    Posted April 11, 2015 at 10:28 am by Mike Opelka

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    Actor, television host and former Marine R. Lee Ermey is most often recognized as “Sgt. Gunny” from the iconic film “Full Metal Jacket.” Ermey’s portrayal of that gritty character has made him a popular host of shows about the military and weapons.

    Ermey’s latest show, “Gunny Time,” premieres on the Outdoor Channel on Wednesday.

    Image source: YouTube

    Image source: YouTube

    At the NRA Convention in Nashville, TheBlaze interviewed Ermey about the show, his favorite guns and asked him to name best war movies ever made.

    In terms of his favorite military-themed movies, Ermey goes with the classics — films from John Wayne. “M.A.S.H.” (the television series) was also something he “never missed.”

     

    When asked if he or other Marines were offended by the 1960s TV show “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” Ermey laughed and called Gomer Pyle an “icon.”

     

    Explaining his upcoming show, Ermey was clear on what people should expect.

     

    During the interview with TheBlaze, Ermey talked about the wide variety of weapons featured on the show, including a lever-action 1875 Winchester rifle. The Glock spokesman also revealed something about how he treats his favorite Glock – something he said he “should be ashamed of.”

    Listen to the entire interview here.

    Watch a preview of “Gunny Time” from Outdoor Channel.

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  • From the NRA Convention: Bobby Jindal on gun laws, Pope Francis and a possible 2016 run
    Posted April 11, 2015 at 8:12 am by Mike Opelka

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    Before addressing the massive crowd gathered for the NRA’s Leadership Forum on Friday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal spoke with TheBlaze.

    Image source: Shannon Bates

    Image source: Shannon Bates

    Jindal is frequently mentioned among the growing list of potential GOP presidential candidates for 2016. Is he running? If so, when will he announce? In his brief answer, the governor sounded like a candidate when he spoke about America needing “a major course correction to get our country back on the right path — not incremental change — big change.” He added, “We’ll be making our decision after the legislative session, after June 11.”

    Since this is the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, we wondered where the governor stood on the Obama administration’s ongoing push to expand background checks, and propose changes in laws that would put more limits on gun owners. Jindal, a strong supporter of legal gun ownership, responded without hesitation, “I think we need to make the current system work.”

    Listen to Jindal explain his concerns with the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to limit access to guns and ammunition.

     

    We also asked Governor Jindal, an outspoken Catholic, if he was pushing for the Vatican to add his state to the list of those lined up for a visit from Pope Francis in September.

     

    Watch Jindal’s speech to the NRA.

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  • More fighting over Loretta Lynch expected in the Senate next week
    Posted April 10, 2015 at 5:03 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (3)

    The Senate will return to work Monday after a two week break that does not appear to have led to any progress toward confirming Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

    By the time the Senate went away for Easter recess, Republicans had tried several times to force Democrats to accept anti-abortion language in a bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking. Democrats blocked that bill several times, and said they would only allow it to move ahead if the anti-abortion language were dropped.

    FILE- In this June 17, 2013 file photo, Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Attorney's office in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Lynch could be on a list of contenders to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. If selected, Lynch would make history as the first black woman to lead the Justice Department. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

    Republicans continue to say they won’t allow a vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch until another bill passes that includes anti-abortion language. Democrats have said the GOP is holding up Lynch for political reasons. AP Photo/John Minchillo

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  • Hard sell: State Dept. pitches Iran deal to Tom Cotton, Chuck Schumer
    Posted April 10, 2015 at 3:52 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The Obama administration this week started its uphill effort to sell the Iran nuclear agreement to Congress, beginning with two of its toughest critics: Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

    “Undersecretary [Wendy] Sherman briefed Sens. Schumer and Cotton yesterday, and we remain in contact,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

    Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., attends the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013. Credit: AP

    Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is one of the senators who has criticized the Iran nuclear agreement to have talked to the State Department about the deal. Image: AP

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  • State Dept. has no plan to plan to punish Pakistan for releasing terrorist ‘mastermind’
    Posted April 10, 2015 at 1:53 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The State Department said Friday that it’s not sure if the Obama administration will impose any consequences on Pakistan after that country released a suspect who is thought to be behind a 2008 bombing in India that killed six Americans and 160 others.

    Pakistan on Friday released Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who’s been described as the “mastermind” behind 2008′s attack in Mumbai, India. Lakhvi had been held in Pakistan, but in December he was approved for release on bail, and his actual release took place Friday.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 1.49.26 PM

    Alleged terrorist mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, center, was released by Pakistan on Friday, but the State Department said it is still trying to decide if Pakistan should suffer any consequences for this decision. Image: AP

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  • GOP plans vote on extension of controversial PATRIOT Act later this month
    Posted April 10, 2015 at 9:51 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    Republican leaders say the House could consider legislation as early as this month to reauthorize key parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a decision that once again sets up a fight between members who want to significantly curtail the government’s ability to spy on its own citizens, and those who say that surveillance is needed to defend the country from terrorist threats.

    GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled that members may have to decide where they stand on issues such as bulk collection of phone data from millions of Americans in the next few weeks.

    In this June 6, 2013 file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. The NSA considered abandoning its secret program to collect and store American calling records in the months before leaker Edward Snowden revealed the practice, current and former intelligence officials say, because some officials believed the costs outweighed its meager counter terrorism benefits. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

    The House is planning votes later this month to reauthorize key authorities of the National Security Agency to collect bulk phone data on millions of Americans. While many members want that authority curtailed, others say it’s needed to keep America safe. Image: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

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  • Dems, GOP demand Obama administration investigation into U.S. jobs stolen by foreigners with H-1B visas
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    A bipartisan group of 10 senators has called on the Obama administration to investigate reports that the H-1B visa program is being used to push foreign workers into jobs now held by Americans at companies like Southern California Edison.

    In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the senators cited reports saying that power company and many others are using H-1B visas to permanently replace American workers. That goes against the intent of the program, which is bring in foreign workers that are needed because they have hard-to-find skills.

    Holder carousel

    Attorney General Eric Holder and other top Obama administration officials have been asked by Republicans and Democrats to investigate reports that foreigners with H-1B visas are stealing jobs from Americans.

    “A number of U.S. employers, including some large, well-known, publicly traded corporations, have reportedly laid off thousands of American workers and replaced them with H-1B visa holders,” they wrote. “To add insult to injury, many of the replaced American employees report that they have been forced to train the foreign workers who are taking their jobs.”

    The letter said this practice appears to be catching on with companies, and raises several questions, including whether the government is doing enough to make sure the H-1B visa process isn’t being abused.

    “We respectfully request that you investigate the unacceptable replacement of American workers by H-1B workers to ascertain whether SCE or any other U.S. companies that have engaged in this practice, or the IT consulting companies supplying those companies with H-1B workers, have violated the law,” they wrote.

    While Republicans have been vocal critics about the Obama administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws, the letter was signed by those on the right and the left. Democrats Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) joined Republicans like Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an independent who is functionally a Democrat, also signed the letter.

    Read their letter here:

  • John Boehner: Panama violence raises ‘serious questions’ about Obama’s effort to court Cuba
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday argued that the violence seen in Panama this week, allegedly instigated by supporters of the Cuban government, calls into question plans by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba and drop trade and travel restrictions against the island.

    “The assault on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City, including Jorge Luis García Pérez – who attended the State of the Union as my guest this year – is an outrage and a reminder of the brutal character of the Castro regime,” Boehner said.

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: Speaker of the House John Boehner looks on as U.S. President Barack Obama meets with bipartisian congressional leadership in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House November 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about the positive economic news and what priorities his administration will be focused on after last Tuesday's election, where the Republicans won a decisive victory in local, state and national races. Credit Pool/Getty Images

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has his doubts about President Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba, especially after Cuban agents turned violent against pro-democracy demonstrators in Panama City on Wednesday. Image: Pool/Getty Images

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  • After a U.S. citizen is beaten along with a Cuban dissident in Panama, State Dept. tweets that it is ‘concerned’
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 11:29 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (1)

    The State Department on Thursday put out a tweet — but no formal statement — that said it’s “deeply concerned” about an episode Wednesday in which at least a few U.S. citizens and Cuban dissidents were beaten in Panama City, Panama, apparently by agents of the Castro regime in Cuba.

    Orlando Gutierrez, an American, and Jorge Luis Garcia Pérez, a Cuban dissident known as Antúnez, were beaten after participating in a pro-democracy event in Panama, just a day before the Summit of the Americas was set to start. President Barack Obama will be in Panama starting Thursday for the summit.

    Antúnez was a guest of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at this year’s State of the Union address.

    A video shows the two men and others being attacked as they tried to leave the scene in a vehicle:

    As of late Thursday morning, the State Department’s only response was a quick tweet sent out by Acting spokeswoman Marie Harf. But that tweet didn’t mention anyone by name, or the fact that a few U.S. citizens were involved.

    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) issued a statement Wednesday condemning the attack, and reiterated her opposition to the attack by “Castro regime thugs” again on Thursday:

  • One year later, lawmaker says the broken VA still suffers from a ‘widespread lack of accountability’
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 10:54 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said Thursday that a full year after the extent of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care scandal was revealed to Congress, the VA is still a total mess when it comes to holding its employees accountable for that scandal.

    “VA’s chief problem – a widespread lack of accountability among failed employees – is as prevalent today as it was a year ago,” Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said Thursday. “In fact, in the wake of the biggest scandal in VA history, which centered on appointment wait time manipulation, not a single VA senior executive has been fired for wait time issues.”

    House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., holds up two pages of resource requests from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014, as he questions Department of Veterans Affairs acting secretary Sloan Gibson on how to restore trust to the beleaguered agency. (AP Photo) AP Photo

    House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) says that a full year after Congress first had solid confirmation of major problems at the VA, very little has been done to hold top VA officials accountable. AP Photo

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  • Obamacare spending leads to a higher budget deficit so far in 2015
    Posted April 9, 2015 at 9:37 am by Pete Kasperowicz

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    The Congressional Budget Office reported Wednesday that the federal government saw a higher budget deficit in the first half of fiscal year 2015 compared to 2014, and said higher spending due to Obamacare is part of the reason.

    CBO said the budget deficit was $430 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2015, a $17 billion increase. While there were several contributing factors to that increase, CBO said spending on Obamacare was a significant change from 2014 to 2015.

    A draft copy of the 21-page of a Health and Human Services Department form proposed for use to apply for low-cost insurance from Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program is photographed in Washington, Tuesday March 12, 2013. The government's application for health insurance, which uninsured people will use to get taxpayer subsidized coverage starting next year. Applying could get complicated, with multiple questions about income, household composition, employer coverage and even race and ethnicity. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

    Obamacare spending, including new Medicaid benefits and health insurance subsidies, has increased, and has contributed to a higher budget deficit so far this year. AP Photo/J. David Ake

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  • State Dept. spokeswoman dismisses Kissinger-Schultz Iran critique as ‘big words and big thoughts’
    Posted April 8, 2015 at 4:42 pm by Pete Kasperowicz

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    Acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Wednesday dismissed a critique of the Iran nuclear agreement from former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, by saying their comments amount to “big words” and that the two secretaries don’t live in the real world.

    Kissinger, who was secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Schultz, who served under President Reagan, wrote an assessment of the Iran nuclear deal for the Wall Street Journal that said the agreement essentially ends the U.S. demand that Iran never obtain a nuclear weapon. They also sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying the failure to link Iran’s support for terrorism in the deal means the U.S. is accepting Iran’s dominance in the region.

    Marie Harf

    Acting State Department spokesman rejected an analysis of the Iran nuclear agreement as “big words” from two former secretaries of State.

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  • One of advertising’s most famous and hilarious voices has passed away
    Posted April 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm by Mike Opelka

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    Stan Freberg, one of the most respected names in advertising and a beloved comedic voice, has passed away. He was 88.

    For decades, Freberg’s work entertained consumers and inspired Madison Avenue ad execs and comedians.

    “John and Marsha,” Freberg’s 1951 spoof of soap operas, was released as a single by Capitol Records and became a hit:

    This piece of “Frebergian” comic genius was also honored on AMC’s “Mad Men.” The season four premiere included a brief homage to the classic sketch, performed by “Peggy” and “Joey”:

    Freberg’s mash-up of the popular radio drama “Dragnet” and the tale of St. George and the Dragon produced “St. George and the Dragonet.”

    In 1957, as Harry Belafonte’s hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” was in the top five on Billboard’s Hot 100, Freberg released his version, “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” poking fun at the music industry’s latest craze, calypso.

    Freberg’s mockery of Belafonte’s hit was played on radio and became a smash, peaking at number 25 on the Billboard chart:

    In 1958, Freberg released “Green Christmas,” a highly-produced slam to the commercialization of Christmas. Fifty-seven years later, “Green Christmas” still rings true with those who believe the real meaning of the season has been drowned out by retailers and the focus on gift-giving:


    One of Freberg’s most famous series of commercials was for the Sunsweet company. He was tasked with making prunes more palatable to the mass market.

    The spots used the tag line “Sunsweet Marches On” and regularly made fun of the wrinkled nature of the fruits. In 1969, Freberg managed to convince science fiction author Ray Bradury to appear in a Sunsweet spot:

    Recognized as the ad man who brought comedy to television and radio advertising over the course of his career, Freberg’s work earned 21 of the advertising industry’s coveted Clio Awards.

    Freberg ultimately died of pneumonia in a Santa Monica, California, hospital.

    __

    Follow Mike Opelka (@Stuntbrain) on Twitter.

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