Archives for FUBAR

Lots of debate, little compromise on immigration

To hear congressional Republicans tell it, Democrats are so eager to grant work permits to immigrants in the U.S. illegally that they’d risk funding for the Homeland Security Department to do it. Democrats counter that it’s Republicans who are jeopardizing the Homeland Security budget in their zeal to deport immigrants brought here illegally as children. Those two opposing sides are in a high-stakes drama underway on Capitol Hill as lawmakers wrangle over a $39.7 billion House-passed bill that funds the department for the remainder of the budget year while overturning President Barack Obama’s executive actions limiting deportations for millions here
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U.S. begins destroying largest stockpile of chemical weapons

The United States is about to begin destroying its largest remaining stockpile of chemical-laden artillery shells, marking a milestone in the global campaign to eradicate a debilitating weapon that still creeps into modern wars. The Pueblo Chemical Depot in southern Colorado plans to start neutralizing 2,600 tons of aging mustard agent in March as the U.S. moves toward complying with a 1997 treaty banning all chemical weapons. “The start of Pueblo is an enormous step forward to a world free of chemical weapons,” said Paul Walker, who has tracked chemical warfare for more than 20 years, first as a U.S.
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U.S. must walk fine line in relations with Cuba

The Obama administration’s lead negotiator with Cuba is vowing to maintain U.S. support for democracy and human rights activists there as she pushes to restore embassies between the countries after a half-century interruption. An Associated Press-GfK poll finds broad support in the United States for warmer ties with Cuba. Forty-five percent of those surveyed backed the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Cold War foes, with only 15 percent opposing. Sixty percent backed the end of the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, with 35 percent supporting its continuation. Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs,
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Taking another look at pot use during pregnancy

Colorado lawmakers struggling to make sense of incomplete scientific evidence about marijuana use by pregnant and nursing women have scrapped a bill to add warnings in pot shops about maternal marijuana use. Lawmakers rejected a bill that would have required dispensaries to post signs warning about “dangers to fetuses caused by smoking or ingesting marijuana while pregnant.” They heard testimony from women who used marijuana to treat nausea during pregnancy, but also from doctors who called for additional warnings. Republican Rep. Jack Tate vowed to try again to craft additional warnings after hearing of pregnant women using marijuana. “It is
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Obama budget targets high cost of prescription drugs

With patients facing greater exposure to the high cost of new medications, President Barack Obama on Monday called for government to use its buying power to squeeze drug companies for lower prices. Obama’s budget asks Congress to authorize Medicare to negotiate on behalf of its beneficiaries for so-called “specialty” drugs that require hefty copayments from patients. They include biologics, which are medications derived from natural substances, ranging from insulin to some of the latest cancer treatments. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said the proposal aims to both control costs and improve patient care. It’s expected to be
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So, who gets the biggest slice of the federal budget pie?

Who gets what share of the federal budget pie has shifted over the decades, with the military taking less and entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid getting far more. Education, housing and labor are also coping with smaller shares. Forget the raw dollar amounts — it is hard because the numbers are so gigantic. The government’s priorities in spending can be seen in percentages by federal agencies with data going back to 1976 and you don’t have to adjust for inflation. Think of the president’s proposed $4 trillion dollar budget proposal as just a $100 bill, here’s how
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Science knows best: Vaccinate your children

Amid the measles outbreak stemming from California, the White House is telling parents that science indicates they should vaccinate their children. President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Friday that decisions about vaccinations should be left to parents, but the science on vaccinations “is really clear.” Some parents continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism and refuse vaccinate their children. “I’m not going stand up here and dispense medical advice,” Earnest said when asked whether the president supports parents who choose not to vaccinate. “But I am going to suggest that the president’s view is that people should
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Struggling with the language of terrorism

Twice this month, the White House has publicly grappled with the politically fraught language of terrorism. In the days after a deadly terror spree in Paris, President Barack Obama was criticized for purposely avoiding calling the attacks an example of “Islamic extremism,” settling for the more generic “violent extremism.” This week, the White House struggled to explain why the administration sometimes classifies the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist organization — and sometimes does not. The rhetorical wrangling underscores the extent to which a president who pledged to end his predecessor’s war on terror is still navigating how to explain the
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Lower gas prices fuel economic growth

The U.S. economy likely grew at a brisk clip in the fourth quarter as lower gasoline prices buoyed consumer spending, in a show of resilience despite a darkening global outlook. Gross domestic product probably expanded at a 3 percent annual pace, according to a Reuters survey of economists. While that would be a step down from the third quarter’s breakneck 5 percent rate, it would be the fifth quarter out of the last six that the economy has grown at or above a 3 percent pace. “The consumer did the heavy lifting and I don’t think there is any reason
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Red ink? What red ink? Let’s spend more

The deficit is dead. Long live the deficit. As the nation’s ledger adjusts to decreasing levels of deficit spending, the voices in Washington calling for austerity are barely audible. Republicans want more defense spending. Democrats want more domestic spending. And President Barack Obama wants both. For the first time since the 2011 Budget Control Act put in place a series of automatic spending cuts, Obama might be in the best bargaining position to move the debate his way. And that’s with Republicans in charge of Congress. Obama on Thursday called for a 7 percent boost in government spending that would
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