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Obama Addresses the G20 Leaders

Thursday, April 02, 2009


'Shameful' GOP Budget Would Cause a Depression

By David Edwards and Rachel Oswald
The Raw Story

House Democrats have been nothing but dismissive of Republicans’ proposed replacement budget to President Obama’s since it was unveiled Wednesday. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has let loose a storm of vitriol to describe the GOP plan, which she says would take the country from merely a recession to a full-blown depression.

In a Wednesday night appearance on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” Waters described the budget as “shameful” and “laughable” and said it would do “nothing but rehash the same old Bush policies and those are the policies that drove us into this recession that we’re in.”

In introducing the budget, Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican Budget Committee member, tried to get ahead of predictable criticism of the GOP budget as just more “class-warfare.”...(Click for remainder).

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Stewart to Limbaugh: 'Get the f**k out' of NYC

By David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
The Raw Story

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has been treated like a GOP leader since Obama's election, didn't mince words when it came to pontificating on a new New York tax plan which aims at the state's highest earners.

Limbaugh entitled his rant 'El Rushbo to New York: Drop Dead,' and said on his radio show Monday, "I'm going to get out of there totally, 'cause this is just absurd, and it's ridiculous."

But Limbaugh isn't the only one who doesn't mince words.

"Finally!" Jon Stewart shouted in relief on Wednesday's edition of Comedy Central's Daily Show before "revealing" the long-running conspiracy aimed at getting the conservative to leave the city.

"For years, for years, for years, New Yorkers have done everything in our power to get this guy to leave town," Stewarts joked. "We passed laws making it tougher for hot dog vendors to sell along the streets. We hold gay pride parades and there are barely any gay people in the city so we shipped them in."...(Click for remainder).

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
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Inside Israel's (Possible) Strike on Iran

By Nathan Hodge
Danger Room @

Everyone from General Petraeus to Israel's new prime minister is warning that Jerusalem will do whatever it takes, to keep Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb. But could the Israelis really pull it off?

"It's not a technical problem," an Israeli government advisor told Danger Room in January. "If we want to do it, we can do it." American assistance would not be required, he claimed.

"The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action," another advisor tells The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg.

Abdullah Toucan, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, prepared a detailed assessment of what would an Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities might look like. It studies possible flight paths, the number of sorties to be flown, and the kind of damage that would need to be inflicted on "hardened" nuclear facilities.

The study explores two scenarios: An intricately orchestrated strike by Israeli air force jets (à la Osirak), or an Israelli ballistic missile attack against Iranian facilities. Iran's nuclear program is geographically dispersed, but there are at least three key targets here: a nuclear research center and uranium conversion facility at Esfahan; an enrichment facility at Natanz; and a heavy water plant at Arak. Destroying or damaging those three, the CSIS report reckons, "could either destroy the program or delay for some years."

In recent months, Israel has demonstrated that it can strike targets in places like Sudan and Syria; that seems to have given the Israelis some measure of confidence in their capabilities. But Iran poses a serious challenge of distance. Looking at the map, crossing into northern Iran means transiting Iraqi or Turkish airspace; flying to central Iran means crossing Syrian and Iraqi territory; taking the southern route involves going over Saudi Arabia and Iraq. All paths in would require pilots to hug international boundaries and avoid detection....(Click for remainder).


Secret Trade Pact Between U.S., Europe Could Void Local Laws on Chemical, Gas Storage

Bush Administration classified deal as national security risk to thwart public disclosure

By Ed Brayton
The Colorado Independent

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative under the Bush administration struck a secret deal with the European Union that could open up a door for foreign ownership of liquefied natural gas terminals and other dangerous chemical and energy facilities. The agreement could also create conditions in which federal, state and local regulations affecting those facilities could be challenged as barriers to international trade.

Details of the negotiations came to light after a Freedom of Information Act request by our sister site, Michigan Messenger, was denied by the Bush administration on grounds that the deal was “classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.”

Michigan Messenger’s inquiry has lasted more than a year and involved a federal lawsuit seeking disclosure of the agreement. As a federal judge was considering the merits of the case, USTR declassified the document the week before last November’s elections. Trade law experts from Global Trade Watch, a division of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, assisted Michigan Messenger in the analysis of the agreement and in the federal lawsuit.

“It was important to get this document because it shows that the Bush administration was using the [World Trade Organization] process to sell out U.S. public safety and give foreign firms new rights and privileges here even as state authorities were trying to regulate these dangerous LNG facilities,” said Lori Wallach, a trade attorney and director of Global Trade Watch. “Now the public and state officials have the information to stop this proposal from becoming a new binding U.S. WTO commitment.”...(Click for remainder).


Medvedev Says U.S. Can Move on Missile Shield

By Guy Faulconbridge and Dmitry Solovyov

LONDON (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that the United States was ready to discuss different ideas on the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in Europe, which Moscow strongly opposes.

"As for the missile defense issue, this is one of the most complicated issues," Medvedev told a news briefing in London, a day after holding his first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We touched upon this issue and we agreed that our contacts and discussions on this issue would be continued," he said.

"I got an impression that at least on this issue our (U.S.) partners do not hold a primitive position but are rather ready to discuss various ideas. And this is already crucial."

Under Obama's predecessor George W. Bush, relations between Moscow and Washington plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War. The missile shield was one of the main stumbling blocks....(Click for remainder).


Republicans in Line with France and Germany on Stimulus

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive

It’s odd, but the Europeans are lining up with the know-nothing Republicans on the central question of the hour: which is how to revive the global economy.

I’m not surprised by the Republicans. Their answer to everything for the past 100 years has been tax cuts for the rich and slash government spending.

On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican with the good hair but not much underneath it, unveiled their budget finally, with this unbelievable proposal: to freeze domestic spending for five years.

Unbelievable because to follow that advice would send the U.S. economy straight into double-digit unemployment, where it would stay for years to come. (For the best single article on the Great Depression and today's crisis, go to James Galbraith's cover story in Washington Monthly.)

But not Ryan and the Republicans.

And surprisingly, not France or Germany, either....(Click for remainder).


House Votes to Grant FDA Authority Over Tobacco

By Lisa Richwine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A measure giving the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

The legislation, passed by a 298-112 vote, must win the Senate's approval before going to President Barack Obama for his signature. The White House supports the effort.

The bill would give the FDA a range of authorities over the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry. It could restrict advertising to children, require larger package warnings and force companies to lower -- but not eliminate -- nicotine content.

Industry reaction has been mixed.

The nation's largest cigarette maker, Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, supports the bill. Some smaller companies also back it, but Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco unit and others say it would burden manufacturers by making them register with the FDA and keep various records....(Click for remainder).


G20: Why support the IMF?

The IMF failed to warn of the dangers posed by the US housing bubble. The G20 is wrong to give it more money and power

By Dean Baker
The Guardian UK

The G20 countries have come to agreement on a number of important steps to foster a recovery from the recession. However, since we always knew that they would come to "agreement", the substance of the deal is not entirely clear at this point.

There are two areas where the nature of the agreement seems clearest: clamping down on tax havens and increased funding for the IMF.

The clampdown on tax havens is a restoration of an agenda that had been gaining momentum in the 1990s but was then derailed by the Bush administration. While outwardly committed to preventing tax fraud, the Bush administration worked to undermine any substantive measures intended to accomplish this goal.

The G20 seem to be in agreement that tax havens must be closed, with the first step being the public identification of the rogue states. This naming will be followed by sanctions if these states continue to support tax evasion.

A crackdown on tax havens may be viewed as unambiguously positive, but the promise of increased support for the IMF is less encouraging. The G20 committed to tripling the resources available to the IMF to $750bn. It is not clear that giving additional power to the IMF is a step forward. The IMF failed to warn of the growing dangers posed by the housing bubble in the United States and the shaky credit system that supported it. It's not obvious why this failure should rewarded by giving the institution even more responsibility....(Click for remainder).


Survey Cites Denver as on of the Country's Least-Wasteful Cities

By Ernest Luning
The Colorado Independent

Celebrating something called Earth Day Month, plastic container manufacturer Nalgene reveals Denver is the sixth least-wasteful American city according to a survey conducted among residents of the country’s 25 largest metro areas. San Francisco ranks first and Atlanta pulls up the rear in a tally examining how well residents adhere to 23 waste-oriented behaviors, from taking public transportation to collecting rainwater and visiting the library.

Also better at being less wasteful than Denver? New York, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles.

According to the survey, Denver residents come in second when it comes to turning off the water when brushing those teeth, rank fifth for buying secondhand items, and are seventh-best in the country when it comes to carrying home groceries in reusable bags.

Not so good: Denverites rank 19th among the 25 largest cities in composting and collecting water in rain barrels; 20th when it comes to participating in the city’s sustainability programs and using reusable containers to store food; and 21st for recycling.

Residents of San Francisco earn least wasteful cred by winning or placing second in a number of categories: first in recycling, turning off water while brushing, using energy-efficient light bulbs, buying food in bulk, reusing wrapping paper and reusing aluminum foil. The Sustainable City by the Bay scores poorly in only one category: when it comes to limiting showers to less than five minutes, San Franciscans rank 12th.

At the other end of the spectrum, Atlanta residents show their contempt for Mother Earth by being the worst at recycling, borrowing library books, using energy-efficient light bulbs and by tossing more than two bags of trash every week. Not surprisingly, Atlantans are very bad at saving leftovers from meals and buying bottled water. They also use an unusual amount of Ziploc bags to store the leftovers they do save....(Click for remainder).
  1. San Francisco, CA    1025.45
  2. New York City, NY    1004.01
  3. Portland, OR    1001.66
  4. Seattle, WA    985.03
  5. Los Angeles, CA    960.46
  6. Denver, CO    943.77
  7. Minneapolis, MN    943.17
  8. Washington, D.C.    941.81
  9. Boston, MA    941.29
  10. Philadelphia, PA    932.59
  11. Chicago, IL    931.03
  12. Baltimore, MD    927.26
  13. Detroit, MI    911.59
  14. Pittsburgh, PA    909.42
  15. Orlando, FL    901.71
  16. Cleveland, OH    900.77
  17. Sacramento, CA    899.78
  18. Miami, FL    898.49
  19. Tampa, FL    896.01
  20. Phoenix, AZ    887.48
  21. St. Louis, MO    883.38
  22. Houston, TX    879.16
  23. Indianapolis, IN    872.75
  24. Dallas, TX    860.60
  25. Atlanta, GA    857.51


Sweden: Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal

By The Associated Press
Via The New York Times

Sweden has become the fifth European country to allow same-sex marriage. Parliament on Wednesday adopted a new law, to take effect May 1, that gives same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Spain also allow same-sex marriages....(Click for original).


E.U. Carbon Trading System Shows Signs of Working

By James Kanter
The New York Times

BRUSSELS — Europe’s controversial trading system to cut carbon emissions is showing faint signs of working, according to analysis of preliminary figures released Wednesday by the European Commission.

Emissions among industries covered by the E.U. system fell between 4 percent and 6 percent during 2008 compared with increases of roughly 1 percent in the two previous years, according to analysts who reviewed the figures.

Most of the decline was from falling industrial and electricity production linked to the economic slump. Even so, the size of the decline compared with the increases in previous years showed that some businesses were becoming marginally cleaner as a result of the system, these analysts said.

“What we’re seeing today is that it is easier to meet the emissions targets in the short term because of lower economic activity in the world, but it doesn’t change the fact that carbon markets do work,” said Henrik Hasselknippe, the global head of carbon analysis at Point Carbon, a research company....(Click for remainder).


G20 Agrees $1.1 Billion to Fight Crisis

By Daniel Pimlott
The Financial Times

World leaders on Thursday agreed to “fight back” against the global recession with $1,100bn in funding for the International Monetary Fund, regional development banks and international trade finance, but did not commit themselves to a new round of fiscal stimulus.

“This is the day that the world came together, to fight back against the global recession,” Gordon Brown, UK prime minister and host of the London summit, told a news conference at the end of the G20 summit of leaders of advanced and emerging economies. “We will do what is necessary to restore growth [and save jobs].”

A total of $1,100bn could be made available to fight the international financial crisis, including $750bn in funding for the International Monetary Fund, $250bn for trade finance and $100bn for multilateral development banks, according to the communiqué issued at the end of the summit.

On top of the funding measures, G20 leaders pledged to crack down on tax havens, extend regulation of the financial system to large hedge funds, set tougher pay rules in the financial services and oversee credit ratings agencies.

But there was no agreement for a new global round of fiscal stimulus, upsetting hopes in the US, UK and Japan after Germany and France pressed for an emphasis on tougher regulation to prevent future crises....(Click for remainder).


Walgreens Offering Free Healthcare For Jobless, Uninsured

By Associated Press
Via The Huffington Post

NEW YORK — Drugstore operator Walgreen will offer free clinic visits to the unemployed and uninsured for the rest of the year, providing tests and routine treatment for minor ailments through its walk-in clinics _ though patients will still pay for precriptions.

Walgreen said patients who lose their job and health insurance after March 31 will be able to get free treatment at its in-store Take Care clinics for respiratory problems, allergies, infections and skin conditions, among other ailments. Typically those treatments cost $59 or more for patients with no insurance.

Hal Rosenbluth, chairman of the Take Care Health Systems division, described the plan as something close to an experiment: He said Walgreen isn't sure of patient demand or how much providing the services might cost the company.

It's likely to generate more attention for the clinics, however. Rosenbluth said a typical Take Care patient tells eight other people about his or her experience. So far, about 30 percent of Take Care patients were new customers to Walgreen.

The program is expected to last through the end of 2009. Walgreen runs 341 Take Care clinics in 35 markets around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Cleveland....(Click for remainder).


Where Does President Obama Stand?

By Aubrey Sarvis
The Huffington Post

Elaine Donnelly is at it again. Yesterday she trotted out former commandant of the Marine Corps Carl E. Mundy Jr. and a thousand (she says; we didn't count them) other retired flag and general officers to warn President Obama that they are firmly behind the 1993 law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The letterhead - "Flag & General Officers for the Military" - indicates it emanated from the same suite 650 on L Street that she and a number of other organizations use as a Washington drop box. The office has a conference room for hire that they can call their own and occasionally do.

Well, no surprise about Elaine. No surprise about General Mundy, either. He was one of the Joint Chiefs to let President Clinton know who was boss when the former president - who, like Ms. Donnelly, never served - said he was going to issue an executive order to end the ban on gays. No gays in the showers on the Mundy watch, by golly. To the barricades, men! We've got to keep the military safe for straights!

Yes, well, General Mundy, now 73 and retired since 1995, has been down the road reserved for bigots before. In an October 31, 1993, appearance on 60 Minutes, the general noted that in regard to military skills "we find that the minority officers do not shoot as well as the non-minorities. They don't swim as well. And when you give them a compass and send them across the terrain at night in a land navigation exercise, they don't do as well at that sort of thing."...(Click for remainder).


Limbaugh: If Gordon Brown Keeps "Slobbering" Over Obama, He'll "Come Down with Anal Poisoning and May Die From It"

By Media Matters


Fox Accuses Obama of Trying to Impose Sharia Law

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke: Fox is seriously accusing the Obama administration of seeking to impose Islamic Sharia law in the United States.

Needless to say, the accusation totally false and just another example of the hate-filled insanity and paranoia of Foxaganda, America's most-watched cable news network.

The entirety of Fox’s claim is based on an e-mail posted on March 21, 2007 in National Review’s blog claiming that Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh — now an appointee to the State Department — had indicated that Sharia could apply in the U.S.

According to White House spokesman Reid Cherlin, the allegations contained in the e-mail are false. Moreover, in an article buried on its website, Fox conceded that that it has been unable to reach the author of the e-mail posted by National Review.

But that didn’t stop Fox from quoting from the e-mail’s account and claiming that the e-mail was a direct quote from Koh, and it didn’t stop Fox from making the absurd claim that the Obama administration is seeking to impose Sharia law upon the U.S.

There’s no question about Fox’s agenda here: they are trying to fan the flames of hysterical anger against the Obama administration for their own partisan purposes....(Click for remainder).


Grayson Says Vote On His Bill Will Show Which Republicans Are "On The Take"

By Howie Klein
Crooks and Liars

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Right-wing reactionaries (see, for example, Greta van Susteren and Byron York last night on Fox) are trying to paint Alan Grayson's bill as the government setting your salary-- as if you were a policeman or a teacher or a member of the Obama cabinet. But Grayson's "Pay for Performance Act of 2009" sailed right through the House Financial Services Committee, 38-22, with the backing of every single Democrat including a whole pack of Blue Dogs and two conservative Republicans. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). The bill, which gives the government power to determine compensation for employees of companies taking government bailouts, is likely to meet stiff resistance in the House next week.

It may get some impetus from revelations that Merrill Lynch gave away 35% of the $10 billion in taxpayer funds it got as bonuses to the 6 and 7-figure management insiders who caused the company to collapse. Grayson is adamant that "you should not get rich off public money, and you should not get rich off of abject failure."

"This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they're willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable," Grayson said. "We'll find out who are the people who understand that the public's money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street."

Grayson has gotten less campaign donations from the financial services industry than anyone else on the Financial Services Committee and, in fact, less than any other member of Congress. The main opponents to his legislation have taken immense amounts of bribes from the banksters, especially ranking Republican Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $3,789,474), Scott Garrett (R-NJ- $1,156,599), GOP House whip Eric Cantor (R-VA- $3,121,188), GOP minority leader John Boehner (R-OH- $3,045,809), GOP lunatic fringe caucus head Jeb Hensarling (R-TX- $2,111,371), Jim Gerlach (R-PA- $1,578,152), Paul Ryan (R-WI- $1,555,321), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN- $756,740, a cheap date for any lobbyist representing extremist ideas)....(Click for remainder).


Rachel Maddow: The Neoneocons

By Heather Wednesday
Crooks and Liars

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Neocons never die. They just keep giving themselves new names. After claiming "mission accomplished" in Iraq, it seems the PNAC crowd has done just that with their latest attempt at re-branding, The Foreign Policy Initiative. Rachel Maddow brings in Matt Duss from Think Progress to fill us in on their recent make-over. You can read more about this group in Matt's post over at the Wonk Room: Foreign Policy Initiative: Housebroken Neocons? From the article:

Attending the Foreign Policy Initiative’s inaugural conference on Afghanistan today at the Mayflower Hotel, I was struck by how very little that was said was controversial. And that’s really the point — in the wake of Iraq debacle, for which the neocons are widely and rightly held responsible, it simply won’t do to bang the drum for American military maximalism. One has to be a bit slicker than that. And these guys are nothing if not slick.

As their website makes clear, FPI intends to re-brand and mainstream-ize neoconservatism as a “reasonable” and “moderate” — and of course “serious” — alternative to the rising tide of isolationist sentiment in American politics (the fact that no such tide of isolationist sentiment is rising in American politics is entirely beside the point.) This strategy was evidenced in the morning’s first panel, as Robert Kagan praised President Obama’s “gutsy and correct decision” on Afghanistan, but warned that “the United States is at a tipping point between desire to maintain extensive engagement in the world, as it has done since World War II, and the temptation to pull back…[Obama] has decided to maintain the commitment.”

Transcript below the fold....(Click for remainder).


FOX's Glenn Beck Compares Obama to the Nazis in Germany

By John Aravosis

Did he cry too? Look, Beck is an idiot. If he's not screeching about how oppressed he is as a white Christian male, he's busy crying on screen. And now he's discovered that the dime - yes, the American ten-cent piece - is actually secret fascist propaganda. Of course, he's absurd. But he's no less absurd than the crap Rush Limbaugh, the religious right, and the conservatives leading the Republican party spew on a regular basis. They've all, suddenly, picked up the same message - that Big Brother has arrived with the Obama administration.

Clearly, none of these people care about freedom or Big Brother. Otherwise, they'd have said something while George Bush was busy dismantling the Constitution, and illegally spying on American citizens, throughout much of this decade. But Beck and company didn't care about that. They only saw "fascism" once a Democrat got elected to the presidency.

In fact, none of these clowns see fascism. They see money and power - they assume their audience, their voters, are pretty much undereducated morons, so they have to continue feeding them a steady diet of Palins and plumbers - but they also see a way to possibly cripple Obama, and the Democrats more generally. If they keep hitting Obama with the low blows, just as they've falsely claimed for decades that the media was biased, maybe Obama will try extra hard to be their friends, and slowly move to the right politically (just as the media has moved to the right in an effort to fix its faux-liberal-bias).

Remember what Joe and I have told you before. The Republicans will always accuse us of something they're already doing.

ThinkProgress grabbed the video:


Ed Schultz gets a new show on MSNBC: "The Ed Show"

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars

Keith Olbermann just announced on Countdown that Ed Schultz has a new show on MSNBC. It starts Monday at 6PM EST and it's called "The Ed Show"

UPDATE: Here's some of the press release.
Veteran talk radio host Ed Schultz joins MSNBC as host of "The Ed Show," premiering on Monday, April 6. "The Ed Show" will air weekdays, 6-7 p.m. ET. The announcement was made today by Phil Griffin, President, MSNBC.

"I am thrilled to have Ed kicking-off our primetime lineup," said Griffin. "Ed's proven that he can connect with Americans and will be a perfect compliment to Chris, Keith, and Rachel. He's already made his mark on radio and I'm excited to see what he'll do with the 6 p.m. hour."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity with MSNBC," said Schultz. "I look forward to having a day to day discussion with fellow Americans on issues that really matter to all of us."

David Shuster, currently hosting "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC, will join Tamron Hall as host of a new 3-5 p.m. ET program on MSNBC. Shuster will also continue to anchor breaking news coverage during the day and serve as a regular substitute anchor for "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." Norah O'Donnell's hour will move to the morning. The exact hour will be announced at a later date.
It's good to see that David Shuster will still be part of their lineup....(Click for remainder).


Republicans: Let's Privatize Medicare!

By Brian Beutler
Talking Points Memo

One of the fun little tidbits in the Republican Budget roll out today is here:
The substitute gradually converts the current Medicare program into one in which Medicare beneficiaries choose the most affordable coverage that best suits their individual needs. For individuals 55 or older, Medicare will not be changed (other than income-relating the prescription drug benefit): the budget preserves the existing program for these beneficiaries. To make the program sustainable and dependable, those 54 and younger will enroll in a new Medicare Program with health coverage similar to what is now available to Members of Congress and Federal employees.
This is an idea that's been kicking around in conservative circles for some time, and it's an expensive one. Well, it's expensive unless you're an insurance company, in which case it's extremely lucrative. The goal is to phase out Medicare over time by providing new seniors with the same health insurance options available under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The FEHBP provides relatively high quality care, and most working-aged people would probably prefer its options over the ones provided by their employers. But Medicare provides similar quality of care while containing the costs of administration, and those costs are much higher at private insurance companies....(Click for remainder).


Obama's Sheriff

Under Bush, the Interior Department was as lawless as the Wild West. But can the new secretary bring the wrongdoers to justice?

By Tim Dickinson
Rolling Stone Magazine

As top officials in the Obama administration settle into their new offices, they are just now beginning to uncover some of the worst abuses committed by their predecessors. And of all the corruption that characterized the Bush years, none is more shocking — and more responsible for lasting damage — than the pervasive scandals and cronyism at the federal agency charged with managing one-fifth of America's land.

Under Bush, the Interior Department became a lawless bureaucracy that actively worked to enrich the nation's most powerful energy interests. Top-level officials secretly allowed oil companies to keep billions in royalties owed to taxpayers, opened up 26 million acres of federal land to oil and gas drilling, denied wilderness protection to another 220 million acres, rewrote scientific reports to eliminate safeguards for endangered species, and even snorted coke and had sex with the very oil interests they were supposed to be regulating. "It was Dodge City," says Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who chairs the Senate Energy Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.

But unlike some Democrats in Washington who insist that it's time to "turn the page" on past misdeeds, newly appointed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is already showing a determination to hold the Bush administration accountable for its wrongdoing. Sporting his signature Stetson, the secretary casts himself as the man in the white hat — a new sheriff in town, come to restore law and order. In his first two months in office, Salazar has done more than simply reverse many of the Bush administration's worst moves, including the authorization of gas drilling within sight of Utah's national parks. He and his top deputy, Tom Strickland — both of whom served as attorney general of Colorado — have also initiated a top-to-bottom investigation of what Salazar calls the "blatant and criminal conflicts of interest and self-dealing" that took place in Interior....(Click for remainder).


A Whole Lot of GOP Crazy

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

This chart was put together by the Republican staff of the House Budget Committee, to help promote Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) piece on the GOP's alternative budget. You'll notice, of course, that it shows those wacky Democrats with spending projections that fly right off the map several decades from now -- before some of the lawmakers of 2050 are even born -- while those nice, responsible Republicans take a more modest approach.


Conor Clarke calls this "crazy," and "pretty stupid," before explaining, "As near as I can tell, Paul Ryan and his staff just took the CBO projections that ended in 2019 and drew a random line, extending upward at about a 45 degree angle, until 2080. There's no real attempt to make it look scientific."

And if it were just one silly chart, it would be easier to ignore. But the problem with today's budget blueprint from the House Republican caucus is that it takes a similarly ridiculous approach to just about everything. It's one thing to offer bad ideas. It's another to offer bad ideas without doing your homework. But House GOP lawmakers are offering proposals that are just insane. Reading through the party's new report, one notices that we'd get just as serious a proposal from a group of children with crayons.

On taxes, spending, Social Security, Medicare, energy policy, the Republicans' budget isn't just wrong, it's ridiculous. The party failed miserably at governing, and yet, it apparently hasn't quite hit rock bottom when it comes to credibility and seriousness....(Click for remainder).


Barney Frank Battles GOP On House Floor Over Bonus Ban Bill

By Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post

House Republicans did their best Wednesday to battle Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on the House floor and wound up on the receiving end of some classic Frank jabs.

The bill at issue, authored by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), would cap executive compensation at bailed-out financial institutions and it puts the GOP in a tough spot: after expressing outrage over the AIG bonuses, it's tough to vote against the bill.

In announcing their opposition, Republicans such as Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) took to the floor to decry the fact that the stimulus allowed the bonus payments to be made. They excoriated Democrats for not reading the full stimulus bill but said they objected to the bill on the floor that would fix the loophole that had been in the stimulus.

Frank had a field day with it.

"This is really extraordinary," he said. "What you have just heard is a denunciation of something the Congress did a few weeks ago and a refusal to undo it. I've never seen people, Mr. Chairman, so attached to something they hate. This is presumably a psychological disorder which I am not equipped to diagnose. The objection of the gentleman from Texas was that when the recovery bill was passed, it was passed too quickly [and it] included a provision that shouldn't have been in there. This bill takes it out."...(Click for remainder).


Jindal Doubles Down On Neo-Hooverism, Will Reject Low-Income Health Coverage In Stimulus Package

By Satyam Khanna
Think Progress

Last month, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — rumored to be mulling a 2012 presidential bid — rejected $90 million in federal stimulus dollars that would have expanded the state’s unemployment insurance compensation program.

Yesterday, Jindal announced his next assault on the poor: rejecting the stimulus’s health care funding. Jindal, widely recognized for his health policy acumen, “plans to reject some federal health-care dollars for the poor and uninsured.” Louisiana’s Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine “said accepting the new federal financing would require the state to put up matching money that it doesn’t have”:
At issue are two Medicaid programs financed with a mix of state and federal dollars: the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which provides health coverage for people who are leaving welfare for work; and the “disproportionate share” program, which reimburses health-care providers for treating the uninsured. […]

Levine said the state plans to turn away about $9.5 million in federal money for the transitional program. Drawing down that money would have required $2.25 million in state cash, which Levine said the state can’t afford when it’s asking hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers to accept reimbursement cuts.
TMA allows low-income families who have lost jobs and thus have become eligible for Medicaid to maintain access to health care when they regain employment or increase their hours. The stimulus package extended the TMA program’s funding through December 2010. The disproportionate-share program aids hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of the poor and uninsured. The additional funding in the stimulus package would “benefit safety net hospitals that are facing challenges tied to the growing number of uninsured people.”...(Click for remainder).


MIT Professor Tells Boehner To Stop ‘Misrepresenting’ Green Economy Legislation

By Lee Fang
Think Progress

Think Progress previously reported the outright lie being told by Republicans that the green economy legislation before Congress would "cost every American family up to $3,100 per year in higher energy prices." GOP leaders apparently arrived at this number by intentionally misinterpreting a 2007 study conducted by MIT.

PolitiFact interviewed John Reilly, an MIT professor and one of the authors of the study, who explained he had spoken with a representative from the House Republicans on March 20, and that he had clearly told them, "why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it." Nonetheless, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided to use the $3,100 figure to attack cap-and-trade, while the National Republican Campaign Committee blasted dozens of press releases like the following on March 31:
As Congress takes the President's federal budget under consideration, North Carolina families deserve to know if Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) would support such a devastating energy tax proposal. […] MIT researchers released an "Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals," which shows that the increase would be an increase of more than $3,000 a year for each household.
(Click for remainder).


G20: Welcome to the Mulit-Polar World

By Mark Weisbrot
The Guardian UK

The run-up to the G20 meeting has been interesting and colourful. President Lula da Silva of Brazil declared that "this crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing". His full remarks made it clear that he was not promoting biological race theories, but calling attention to the injustice that the vast majority of the world – people who happen to be both poor and non-white – should suffer for the greed and stupidity of a few.

China also let loose with an uncharacteristic broadside against the United States, basically saying: we (the Chinese) have gotten our act together and are mobilising massive resources internally to counter the downturn. Now how about you clowns who made this mess step up to the plate, before we take more losses on your stinking Treasury bonds? It was worded somewhat less rudely, but still a stunning departure from the "hide brilliance, cherish obscurity" motto that has guided Chinese foreign policy.

This is what happens when you change the composition of the Ad Hoc Committee to Run the World (the G7), and the media spotlight wanders over to some of those previously excluded. The change was meant to be symbolic, but even symbolic changes can shift the debate, as new actors find themselves in the middle of an international forum where they can try to show some leadership.

Welcome to the multi-polar world. It's not here yet, but the direction is clear. President Obama will discover this week that as much as he is loved and respected around the world, he can't reverse the declining influence of Washington that his predecessor clumsily accelerated....(Click for remainder).


The Daily Left: Rove Admits Involvement in Siegelman Case, Plame Affair


Ban on Travel to Cuba May Be Lifted

A bipartisan group of senators says Congress is ready to pass legislation to allow all Americans to visit Cuba. Supporters say the move would create thousands of jobs.

By William E. Gibson
The Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington -- A bipartisan group of senators predicted Tuesday that Congress was ready to pass legislation to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.

Removing the travel ban would produce a burst of tourism, create thousands of jobs and generate as much as $1.6 billion in business a year, an independent research group said.

A Senate news conference Tuesday and one in the House set for Thursday reflect new attempts to lift the travel ban, a key part of the U.S. trade embargo imposed after Fidel Castro took power in Havana in 1959. The broader trade embargo would remain in place.

Sponsors said the bill would free Americans to travel to the one place in the world they can't go and encourage Cubans to push for democratic reforms by exposing them to new people and information.

"Punishing the American people in our effort to somehow deal a blow to the Castro government has not made any sense at all," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.). "At long last, this policy, which has been in place for 50 years and has not worked, will finally be removed."

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) strongly opposes the measure. He warned that flooding Cuba with tourists and dollars would only sustain the Castro regime....(Click for remainder).


Seymour Hersh: Secret US Forces Carried Out Assassinations in a Dozen Countries, Including in Latin America

By Amy Goodman
Democracy Now

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh created a stir earlier this month when he said the Bush administration ran an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving,” Hersh said. Seymour Hersh joins us to explain.

(Click for remainder).


Midweek Loon Watch: Freakout Over President Obama’s iPod Gift


Obama Meets Queen Elizabeth II At Buckingham Palace

By The Huffington Post


How a Bill Becomes a Job

By Sen. Jeff Merkley
The Huffington Post

Last time I posted here, Congress was embroiled in a vigorous debate about whether to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Opponents were fighting tooth and nail against the bill deeming certain parts of the package "wasteful spending." One of the programs opponents were calling wasteful was funding to restore forest health and prevent wildfires.

I vehemently disagreed that it was wasteful to improve forest health by clearing out forests that have become overgrown, choked, or diseased because of poor and unnatural forest management practices. This work helps restore eco-systems and wildlife habitat to their natural condition, protects local communities from wildfires and creates jobs. Working with my colleagues in Congress, we kept the wildfire prevention funding in the final legislation.

Now we're able to see the first results of those efforts.

The Forest Service has begun the process of awarding contracts for forest health projects. In Oregon, they've already allocated over $10 million with more to come. The Medford Mail Tribune recently looked at how $3 million of those funds will be used. They found that because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 150 people will be put to work promoting forest health and helping prevent wildfires in Southern Oregon, with some of those people to start work immediately. Many of these jobs are coming to Jackson County, which currently has a 14 percent unemployment rate....(Click for remainder).


O’Reilly: Protesters Who Use the Internet to Organize Are Just Like Child Molesters

By Ali Frick
Think Progress

Thousands of protesters have gathered in London ahead of the G20 summit, many of them angry over a multi-million-dollar pension paid out to a failed executive at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Host Jon Scott asked Bill O'Reilly what he thought of "these nuts," and O'Reilly said "the Internet's driving this kind of stuff" — including protesters and, apparently, child molesters:

The Internet's driving this kind of stuff. … There was always this crew, this anarchist crew, these people can't fit into society, they're angry for whatever reason, they want to cause trouble. They've always been there. But now they're coordinated by the internet, now they can talk to each other. It's like child molesters, you know? I mean, child molesters have always been around but now they got a place to go and gather and do their evil deeds.
Watch it:

(Click for remainder).


Got Hemp?

By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent

Well, you might have a bit more if Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) get their way. The two lawmakers have plans to reintroduce legislation to legalize the domestic farming of industrial hemp, a genetic but non-psychoactive relative of marijuana.

Hemp advocates (yes, there are hemp advocates out there) argue that the change would benefit the economy at a time when it could certainly use the boost.

“Hemp is a versatile, environmentally-friendly crop that has not been grown here for over 50 years because of a politicized interpretation of the nation’s drug laws by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),” Eric Steenstra, president of Vermont-based Vote Hemp, said in a statement. “Jobs would be created overnight, as there are numerous U.S. companies that now have no choice but to import hemp materials valued at $360 million in annual retail sales and growing.”

Any number of domestic businesses — from soap makers to auto suppliers — use industrial hemp in their products, but the hemp must be farmed overseas and imported. (Nearly every other industrialized country in the world already produces the crop.) The Frank-Paul bill, Steenstra said, “will return us to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but allowed farmers to continue raising industrial hemp just as they always had.”...(Click for remainder).


Obama, Medvedev Working on a Nuclear Deal

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress

This wasn’t really the thing people were hoping would come out of the G-20 meeting, but this preliminary agreement on US-Russia nuclear arms reductions is a very good thing indeed. Actually negotiations still need to happen, but Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev seem to have reached an agreement in principle to work toward arms reductions of about a third.

I’m of the belief that this sort of thing is not just useful on its own terms, but absolutely critical to non-proliferation work in places like Iran. Simply put, the nuclear status quo is not sustainable. The world is either going to move forward toward more arms control, or else it’s going to be move forward to more widespread possession of nuclear weapons. And the one way to move toward more arms control is for initial leadership to come from the United States and Russia. We want to live in a world where the nuclear expression of China’s rise to great power status is Chinese confidence that the American and Russian arsenals are moving down closer to Chinese levels. Otherwise, if the Chinese arsenal gets bigger, that will impel India to get bigger and encourage Japan and South Korea to look at nukes. And if India’s arsenal gets bigger, so does Pakistan’s. Which increases pressure on Iran....(Click for original).


Endless Right-Wing Self-Pity

By Glenn Greenwald

The predominant attribute of the right-wing movement is self-victimizing petulance over the unfair treatment to which they are endlessly and mercilessly subjected.  Last week, C-SPAN broadcast a Commentary Magazine event that almost certainly set a record for most tough-guy/warrior nepotism ever stuffed onto a single panel, as it featured William Kristol (son of Irv and Gertrude), John Podhoretz (son of Norm and Midge), and Jonah Goldberg (son of Lucianne).  Jihadis around the world are undoubtedly still trembling at the sight of this brigade of Churchillian toughness.

Exemplifying the deeply self-pitying theme of the entire discussion, Jonah continuously insisted that conservative magazines are so very, very important to the political landscape -- indispensably so -- because conservative voices are frozen out of mainstream media venues by The Liberal Media, so that poor, lonely, stigmatized conservatives can only get right-wing opinion in places like Weekly Standard and National Review.  In between Jonah's petulant laments about how conservative opinion cannot be heard in The Mainstream Media, Bill Kristol talked about his New York Times column and his Washington Post column, John Podhoretz told stories about his tenure editing The New York Post Editorial Page and Charles Krauthammer's years of writing a column for Time and The New Republic, and Jonah referenced his Los Angeles Times column.  None of them ever recognized the gaping disparity between those facts and their woe-is-us whining about conservative voices like theirs being shut out of The Liberal Media.   So important in conservative mythology is self-victimization that they maintain it even as they themselves unwittingly provide the facts which disprove it.

Today, National Review's Andy McCarthy advises readers that -- shock of all shocks -- The New York Times today, for some indiscernible reason, for once actually allowed his opinion to seep into its rigidly leftist pages:
Here's Something You Don't See In the New York Times Everyday [Andy McCarthy]

Namely, my opinion — on the controversy over the Uighur detainees at Gitmo.
(Click for remainder).


White House: House GOP Budget A "Joke"

By Sam Stein and Ryan Grim
The Huffington Post

House and Senate Republicans emerged from an early morning meeting in a closed House chamber Wednesday morning to unveil their much-awaited budget alternative.

Roughly a hundred GOP men and women descended the East Capitol steps in a light drizzle to announce their product to the American people.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined their colleagues, entering from the side, and addressed the gathered reporters.

After ripping the Democratic budget as too expensive, Boehner said that "Republicans in the House will offer a better solution that'll be less on spending, less on taxes and a lot less on debt for our kids and grandkids."

But there was no budget. "Do you guys have a formal budget yet?" asked a reporter.

"Mr. Ryan will outline the Republican budget at 10:30 this morning. And yes we do have it," replied Boehner, referring to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

A silence followed, with reporters apparently unsure what to ask next.

Democrats, in contrast, had plenty to say, with Obama officials mocking the Republican document as a sad April Fools prank....(Click for remainder).


Stop Stealing Our Money

By Rep. Alan Grayson
The Huffington Post

I was elected last November because the people wanted change. And nowhere is change more desperately needed than on Wall Street, which is apparently the only place in the world where you can steal from the taxpayers and then bill them for services rendered. So far, taxpayers have spent over $500 billion in direct cash infusions into banks and financial institutions, with guarantees of trillions more. Yet, these companies are still paying their executives lavish sums for driving their companies (and the entire economy) into the ground.

I introduced a bill - the 'Pay for Performance Act' - to put an end to this theft. It's on the House floor today. It bans unreasonable and excessive pay to employees of financial institutions that are running on taxpayer money. The bill is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money. And two, no one should get rich off abject failure. If the government owns a chunk of a bank, that bank must pay its employees reasonably, and all bonuses must be performance-based.

But first, let's be clear about what has happened. The government owns stakes in many companies through the TARP program, and Congress tried to put executive compensation restrictions on those companies. Big banks, though, were able to carve out an exception for any contract signed before February. AIG executives drove a truck through that exception and stuffed their pockets with our money. This bill closes that loophole.

The arguments against this bill are fairly predictable. The conservative Washington Examiner said that the bill grants the government 'extraordinary power' to set salaries. But the power it grants is pretty standard; the taxpayers are owners, and owners of companies set salaries for their employees....(Click for remainder).


Stephen Colbert Rips Apart Glenn Beck: Building His Career On 9/11

By Danny Shea
The Huffington Post

Stephen Colbert ripped apart Fox News host (and New York Times cover boy) Glenn Beck Tuesday night, mocking his 9-12 project, meant to conjure the spirit of compassion and camaraderie Americans felt on September 12, 2001.

"We weren't told how to behave that day after 9/11, we just knew," Beck says to describe the project. "It was right, it was the opposite of what we feel today. Are you ready to be the person you were that day after 9/11, on 9/12?"

"Ready!" Colbert shouted, decked out in a gas mask, holding a gun, and wearing adult diapers.

Colbert then used a classic "Daily Show" tactic, exposing the hypocrisy of Beck's 9-12 project by highlighting comments he made on September 9, 2005.

"This is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this," Beck said on his radio program that day, "you know it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims' families? I don't hate all of them. I hate probably about 10 of them. But when I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh, shut up!' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them."...(Click for remainder).

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The 10/31 Project
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest


Republicans Struggle to Spin Special Election Photo Finish

As Absentee Ballots Are Counted in Congressional Contest, Activists Claim Credit for What Went Right

By David Weigel
The Washington Independent

Sean Conner, the newly elected chairman of the Washington Republican Party, reacted to the results of the New York 20th Congressional District special election with one long groan.

“Save us!” said Conner. “Save us, God, from another recount!”

Conner was one of hundreds of Republicans who had phone-banked for Jim Tedisco, the New York Republican assemblyman who had tried–and might yet succeed–at taking back the historically conservative 20th district for the GOP. What had looked one month ago like a clean Republican victory became, as election day drew closer, a bigger and bigger disappointment. At noon on Tuesday, a probable Tedisco loss looked briefly like an upset win, then a defeat, then, possibly, a messy, inconclusive recount. Some Republicans claimed credit for making the race close, but all of them admitted, in one way or another, that the chance for a “Republican comeback” storyline had been lost, delayed until this fall’s state election’s in New Jersey and Virginia.

When Gov. David Paterson (D-N.Y.) appointed Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to the state’s open Senate seat, Republicans spotted a chance to win an election in the northeast, where the GOP’s representation in Congress had been all but wiped out in the 2006 and 2008 Democratic waves. Democrats had tipped their hand by fretting about Paterson’s choice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) worried in an interview with ABC News that the seat would be expensive to retain. While Republicans made pro forma comments about a tough election in a seat that Gillibrand had won twice, they began the race with three advantages: a deep bench of candidates, a 70,000-voter edge in Republican registration and the sinking political fortunes of Paterson....(Click for remainder).


Ted Stevens Conviction To Be Voided

By Devlin Barrett and Nedra Pickler
Associated Press via The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Faced with embarrassing revelations about withheld evidence, the Justice Department on Wednesday moved to reverse the conviction of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who lost his bid for re-election just days after a jury found that he had lied about gifts and home renovations.

Justice Department lawyers asked a judge to dismiss the indictment against Stevens and toss out his conviction _ effectively killing their own courtroom victory with a shocking admission of misbehavior by prosecutors.

The Stevens case, the government's highest-profile attack on congressional corruption in recent years, was plagued by problems that continued to pile up even after a jury found him guilty. The last straw, apparently, was the failure of prosecutors to turn over notes of a crucial interview in which a witness contradicted a statement he made later under oath at trial.

"I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial," Attorney General Eric Holder said. He said the department must ensure that all cases are "handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice."

The prosecutors who handled the trial have been removed from the case and their conduct is under investigation....(Click for remainder).


Neoconservatism: The Return

A new incarnation, a new name – and the same old warmongering

By Justin Raimondo

It was a neocon moment: there they were, the organizers of the Foreign Policy Initiative, the new neoconservative think-tank – Bill Kristol, Dan Senor, and Robert Kagan, with Clifford May, Randy Scheunemann, and junior neocon James Kirchick in tow. It was the occasion of FPI’s first public event – their Washington coming out party, so to speak – and who should show up but I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. A more fitting symbol of the neoconservative tendency in American politics – its history, its methods, and its essential criminality – could hardly be conceived.

While John McCain was ostensibly the main attraction, the real focus of the conference was a celebration of the man who defeated him. As David Weigel put it, the FPI conference turned into a "Neocons for Obama" festival, as super-hawkish foreign policy maven Fred Kagan hailed President Obama’s Af-Pak offensive as the best thing since the Iraqi "surge": "He’s definitely saying no to pulling back. It was a gutsy and correct decision." Yet all is not rosy: "Kagan worried/predicted that Obama’s base would bristle at the plan, so ‘he will be counting on some significant amount of support from his political opponents.’"

Not to worry. The brain-dead Obamaites are shamelessly eager to grant their Glorious Leader a pass, no matter what he does. So far, there is not a peep out of Obama’s liberal supporters, except a few voices raised at the Nation, even as the president mounts a major escalation of the Long War. Not only that, but his supporters are rallying around their commander in chief, now that we’re fighting the "right" war in the "right" way. And take a good look at some of his supporters…(Click for remainder).


GRITtv: Labor and Capital at the G-20, The Good Negro, and Have Anti-War Voices Gone Silent?



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