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Michael "Savage" Weiner Calls Iowa Decision a "Victory For Perversion"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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Iowa Senate Leader Rules Out Gay Marriage Debate

By Mike Glover
ABC News


DES MOINES, Iowa - A key lawmaker Monday ruled out any move to overturn an Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, even as backers of that effort promised to step up pressure on the Legislature.

Meeting with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, was clear about proposals to begin the process of amending Iowa's constitution to overturn the decision.

"It will not come up," said Gronstal. "I have no intention of taking it up."

House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, has issued a statement praising Friday's decision, but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he wanted to talk to fellow Democrats before announcing his intentions.

"I haven't talked to my caucus," said McCarthy, D-Des Moines.

Rep. Dwayne Alons, a sponsor of a resolution seeking to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would ban gay marriage, said his phone lit up over the weekend.

"The people of this state should have a say," said Alons, R-Hull....(Click for remainder).

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Vermont Legalizes Gay Marriage With Veto Override

By Dave Gram
The Associated Press via Google News


MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.

The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote — the minimum needed — to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.

Vermont was the first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and joins Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa in giving gays the right to marry. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

Tuesday morning's legislative action came less than a day after Douglas issued a veto message saying the bill would not improve the lot of gay and lesbian couples because it still would not provide them rights under federal and other states' laws.

House Speaker Shap Smith's announcement of the vote brought an outburst of jubilation from some of the hundreds packed into the gallery and the lobby outside the House chamber, despite the speaker's admonishment against such displays.

Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.

"It's been a very long battle. It's been almost 20 years to get to this point," Dostis said. "I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we're a couple like any other couple. We're as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we're good members of our community."...(Click for remainder).

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Gates $663 Billion Budget Changes Defense Priorities



Proposal Ends Some Cold War-Era Projects, Supports Counterinsurgency Programs

By Spencer Ackerman

The Washington Independent


Defense Secretary Gates took a major step toward rebalancing U.S. defense priorities on Monday, announcing a budget request that would severely cut or restrict cherished and expensive Cold War-era programs and institutionalize support for counterinsurgency and irregular warfare.

The long-awaited fiscal 2010 budget request, which has a price tag of $534 billion and climbs to $663.7 billion when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are factored in, cancels the Army’s major vehicle-modernization program, stops the production of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter jet, halts the increase of ground-based missile defense programs in favor of more limited missile defense approaches, and treats the Navy’s large surface-warfare platforms like the DDG-1000 with skepticism. It gives priority to the needs of a military at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said, by providing $11 billion to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps and expanding intelligence, surveillance and helicopter programs that have performed well in the two ongoing wars — including the Predator drone used by the CIA to attack extremists in Pakistan — as well as to support partner militaries’ counterinsurgency development. “This is a reform budget,” Gates, who was Pentagon chief under George W. Bush and remained on in the Obama administration, told reporters Monday.

Several defense reformers agreed. “The boom finally lowered on the Pentagon’s budget today,” said Laura Peterson, defense budget analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense. “We applaud [Gates'] rigor in wielding the budget axe.” Robert Work of the Center on Strategic and Budgetary Assessments called it a “very, very encouraging first step.” Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information was more cautious, but said “Secretary Gates deserves much good credit,” especially for making warfighter support “his first priority.”

The White House indicated its support for the budget request, though it has already come under fire from some members of Congress. Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, where the budget request will first go before it reaches Capitol Hill, said it was a “very important step” to “stop the era of irresponsibility, and no longer kick down the road tough decisions we need to make.” He said the budget submission was part of a process to “reorient the Department of Defense and the nation” to “invest in things that work.” Where it identified programs that put a “drain on resources, we have to bite the bullet, if you’ll pardon the expression, and end them.” It is unclear how the request will fare on the Hill, but all sides anticipate a battle....(Click for remainder).

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Credit Where It's Due: Glenn Beck's Thorough Debunking of FEMA Camps Confirms C&L's Reportage

By David Neiwert
Crooks and Liars


When he wasn't complaining about us mean liberal bloggers yesterday, Glenn Beck actually did a very good thing on his Fox News show: He completely eviscerated the conspiracy theories about supposed "FEMA concentration camps" that have been a favorite of the right-wing lunatic fringe for some time now.

It is in fact an impressive and thorough debunking of the rumors, led by Jim Meigs of Popular Mechanics, who's very good at this kind of work. Meigs, as it happens, concludes that these theories originated in the 1990s with the Patriot/militia movement. (Go to Beck's site to read more.)

As it happens, that's exactly what we reported at C&L three weeks ago. And in fact, much of this information has been available for some time, though you would never know it from listening to the right-wing conspiracists.

Still, Beck deserves credit for his forthright reportage of the matter. Indeed, it seemed an apology for having unfairly accused him of promoting these theories seemed like it might be in order.

But then there's the small matter of what he actually said:


(Click for remainder).

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Obama makes unannounced visit to Iraq

By Associated Press
Via MSNBC


BAGHDAD - Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to Iraq Tuesday, capping his first overseas tour as president with a clandestine stop in the war zone that defined his White House bid.

The president landed in Baghdad in the evening after a day of events in Istanbul, Turkey.

Much of the traveling press who accompanied Obama to Europe was kept in the dark.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

But the Iraq visit was a badly-kept secret, with government ministers in Baghdad sparking speculation about it several days before he left the U.S. a week ago....(Click for original).



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Obama Holds a Town Hall in Istanbul

Via The Washington Post

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. Well, it is a great pleasure to be here. Let me begin by thanking Professor Rahmi Aksungur -- did I say that properly -- who is director of the university here. And I want to thank all the young people who've gathered together. This is a great privilege for me and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going to make a few remarks at the beginning and then I want to spend most of the time having an exchange and giving you an opportunity to ask -- ask questions of me and I may ask some questions of you.

So as I said yesterday, I came to Turkey on my first trip overseas as President for a reason, and it's not just to see the beautiful sights here in Istanbul. I came here to reaffirm the importance of Turkey and the importance of the partnership between our two countries. I came here out of my respect to Turkey's democracy and culture and my belief that Turkey plays a critically important role in the region and in the world. And I came to Turkey because I'm deeply committed to rebuilding a relationship between the United States and the people of the Muslim world -- one that's grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect.

Turkey and the United States have a long history of partnership and cooperation. Exchanges between our two peoples go back over 150 years. We've been NATO allies for more than five decades. We have deep ties in trade and education, in science and research. And America is proud to have many men and women of Turkish origin who have made our country a more dynamic and a more successful place. So Turkish- American relations rest on a strong foundation.

That said, I know there have been some difficulties in recent years. In some ways, that foundation has been weakening. We've had some specific differences over policy, but we've also at times lost the sense that both of our countries are in this together -- that we have shared interests and shared values and that we can have a partnership that serves our common hopes and common dreams.

So I came here to renew that foundation and to build on it. I enjoyed visiting your parliament. I've had productive discussions with your President and your Prime Minister. But I also always like to take some time to talk to people directly, especially young people. So in the next few minutes I want to focus on three areas in which I think we can make some progress: advancing dialogue between our two countries, but also advancing dialogue between the United States and the Muslim world; extending opportunity in education and in social welfare; and then also reaching out to young people as our best hope for peaceful, prosperous futures in both Turkey and in the United States.

Now, let me just talk briefly about those three points.

First, I believe we can have a dialogue that's open, honest, vibrant, and grounded in respect. And I want you to know that I'm personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement. We can't afford to talk past one another, to focus only on our differences, or to let the walls of mistrust go up around us.

Instead we have to listen carefully to each other. We have to focus on places where we can find common ground and respect each other's views, even when we disagree. And if we do so I believe we can bridge some of our differences and divisions that we've had in the past. A part of that process involves giving you a better sense of America. I know that the stereotypes of the United States are out there, and I know that many of them are informed not by direct exchange or dialogue, but by television shows and movies and misinformation. Sometimes it suggests that America has become selfish and crass, or that we don't care about the world beyond us. And I'm here to tell you that that's not the country that I know and it's not the country that I love.

America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws. But for more than two centuries we have strived at great cost and sacrifice to form a more perfect union, to seek with other nations a more hopeful world. We remain committed to a greater good, and we have citizens in countless countries who are serving in wonderful capacities as doctors and as agricultural specialists, people -- teachers -- people who are committed to making the world a better place.

We're also a country of different backgrounds and races and religions that have come together around a set of shared ideals. And we are still a place where anybody has a chance to make it if they try. If that wasn't true, then somebody named Barack Hussein Obama would not be elected President of the United States of America. That's the America I want you to know.

Second, I believe that we can forge a partnership with Turkey and across the Muslim world on behalf of greater opportunity. This trip began for me in London at the G-20, and one of the issues we discussed there was how to help peoples and countries who, through no fault of their own, are being very hard hit by the current world economic crisis. We took some important steps to extend a hand to emerging markets and developing countries by setting aside over a trillion dollars to the International Monetary Fund and by making historic investments in food security.

But there's also a larger issue of how Turkey and America can help those who have been left behind in this new global economy. All of our countries have poverty within it. All of it -- all of our countries have young people who aren't obtaining the opportunities that they need to get the education that they need. And that's not just true here in Turkey or in the United States, but that's true around the world. And so we should be working together to figure out how we can help people live out their dreams.

Here there's great potential for the United States to work with Muslims around the world on behalf of a more prosperous future. And I want to pursue a new partnership on behalf of basic priorities: What can we do to help more children get a good education? What can we do to expand health care to regions that are on the margins of global society? What steps can we take in terms of trade and investment to create new jobs and industries and ultimately advance prosperity for all of us? To me, these are the true tests of whether we are leaving a world that is better and more hopeful than the one we found.

Finally, I want to say how much I'm counting on young people to help shape a more peaceful and prosperous future. Already, this generation, your generation, has come of age in a world that's been marked by change that's both dramatic and difficult. While you are empowered through unprecedented access to information and invention, you're also confronted with big challenges -- a global economy in transition, climate change, extremism, old conflicts but new weapons. These are all issues that you have to deal with as young people both in Turkey and around the world.

In America, I'm proud to see a new spirit of activism and responsibility take root. I've seen it in the young Americans who are choosing to teach in our schools or volunteer abroad. I saw it in my own presidential campaign where young people provided the energy and the idealism that made effort possible. And I've seen it wherever I travel abroad and speak to groups like this. Everywhere I go I find young people who are passionate, engaged, and deeply informed about the world around them.

So as President, I'd like to find new ways to connect young Americans to young people all around the world, by supporting opportunities to learn new languages, and serve and study, welcoming students from other countries to our shores. That's always been a critical part of how America engages the world. That's how my father, who was from Kenya, from Africa, came to the United States and eventually met my mother. It's how Robert College was founded so long ago here in Istanbul.

Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed. We are reminded that we're joined together by our pursuit of a life that's productive and purposeful, and when that happens mistrust begins to fade and our smaller differences no longer overshadow the things that we share. And that's where progress begins.

So to all of you, I want you to know that the world will be what you make of it. You can choose to build new bridges instead of building new walls. You can choose to put aside longstanding divisions in pursuit of lasting peace. You can choose to advance a prosperity that is shared by all people and not just the wealthy few. And I want you to know that in these endeavors, you will find a partner and a supporter and a friend in the United States of America.

So I very much appreciate all of you joining me here today. And now what I'd like to do is take some questions. I think we've got -- do we have some microphones in the audience? So what I'd like to do is people can just raise their hands and I'll choose each person -- if you could stand up and introduce yourself. I have a little microphone in my pocket here in case you're speaking Turkish, because my Turkish is not so good -- (laughter) -- and I'll have a translator for me.

OK? All right. And I want to make sure that we end before the call to prayer, so we have about -- it looks like we have about half an hour. All right? OK, we'll start right here.

QUESTION: I'm from the university. I want to ask some questions about climate issue. Yesterday you said that peace in home and peace in world, but to my opinion, firstly the peace should be in nature. For this reason, I wonder that when the USA will sign the Kyoto Protocol.

OBAMA: Well, it's an excellent question. Is this mike working? It is? OK. Thank you very much. What was your name?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

OBAMA: As many of you know, I think the science tells us that the planet is getting warmer because of carbon gases that are being sent into the atmosphere. And if we do not take steps soon to deal with it, then you could see an increase of three, four, five degrees, which would have a devastating effect -- the oceans would rise; we don't know what would happen to the beauty of Istanbul if suddenly the seas rise. Changing weather patterns would create extraordinary drought in some regions, floods in others. It could have a devastating effect on human civilization. So we've got to take steps to deal with this.

When the Kyoto Protocol was put forward, the United States opted out of it, as did China and some other countries -- and I think that was a mistake, particularly because the United States and -- is the biggest carbon -- has been the biggest carbon producer. China is now becoming the biggest carbon producer because its population is so large. And so we need to bring an international agreement together very soon.

It doesn't make sense for the United States to sign Kyoto because Kyoto is about to end. So instead what my administration is doing is preparing for the next round, which is -- there will be discussions in Copenhagen at the end of this year. And what we want to do is to prepare an agenda both in the United States and work internationally so that we can start making progress on these issues.

Now, there are a number of elements. Number one, we have to be more energy efficient. And so all countries around the world should be sharing technology and information about how we can reduce the usage of electricity, and how we can make our transportation more efficient, make our cars get better gas mileage. Reducing the amount of energy we use is absolutely critical.

We should also think about are there ways that if we're using fossil fuels -- oil, coal, other fossil fuels -- are there ways of capturing or reducing the carbon emissions that come from them?

So this is going to be a big, big project and a very difficult one and a very costly one. And I don't want to -- I don't want to lie to you: I think the politics of this in every country is going to be difficult, because if you suddenly say to people, you have to change your factory to make it more energy efficient -- well, that costs the factory owner money. If you say to a power plant, you have to produce energy in a different way, and that costs them money, then they want to pass that cost on to consumers, which means everybody's electricity prices go up -- and that is something that is not very popular.

So there are going to be big political struggles in every country to try to ratify an agreement on these issues. And that's why it's going to be so important that young people like yourself who will be suffering the consequences if we don't do something, that you are active politically in making sure that politicians in every country are responsive to these issues and that we educate the public more than we have so far.

But it is excellent question, thank you.

All right, this gentleman right here.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm studying at Bahcesehir University, and my major is energy engineering, so...

OBAMA: Oh, there you go. You could have given an even better answer.

QUESTION: Yes, I hope we will solve that problem in the future. So my question is, what actions will you take after you wrote quote, peace at home, peace at the world, to do...

OBAMA: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question?

QUESTION: What actions will you take after you wrote your quote, peace at home and peace at the world, to -- (inaudible) -- and what do you think, as Turkish young men and women, how can we help you at this purpose you have?

OBAMA: Well, some people say that maybe I'm being too idealistic. I made a speech in Prague about reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons, and some people said, ah, that will never happen. And some people have said, why are you discussing the Middle East when it's not going to be possible for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together? Or, why are you reaching out to the Iranians, because the U.S. and Iran can never agree on anything?

My attitude is, is that all these things are hard. I mean, I'm not naive. If it was easy, it would have already been done. Somebody else would have done it. But if we don't try, if we don't reach high, then we won't make any progress. And I think that there's a lot of progress that can be made.

And as I said in my opening remarks, I think the most important thing to start with is dialogue. When you have a chance to meet people from other cultures and other countries, and you listen to them and you find out that, even though you may speak a different language or you may have a different religious faith, it turns out that you care about your family, you have your same hopes about being able to have a career that is useful to the society, you hope that you can raise a family of your own, and that your children will be healthy and have a good education -- that all those things that human beings all around the world share are more important than the things that are different.

And so that is a very important place to start. And that's where young people can be very helpful, because I think old people, we get into habits and we become suspicious and we carry grudges. Right? You know, it was interesting when I met with President Medvedev of Russia and we actually had a very good dialogue, and we were -- we spoke about the fact that although both of us were born during the Cold War, we came of age after the Cold War had already begun to decline, which means we have a slightly different attitude than somebody who was seeing Russia only as the Soviet Union -- only as an enemy or who saw America only as an enemy.

So young people, they can get rid of some of the old baggage and the old suspicions, and I think that's very important. But understanding alone is not enough. Then you -- we actually have to do the work.

And for the United States, I think that means that we have to make sure that our actions are responsible, so on international issues like climate change we have to take leadership. If we're producing a lot of pollution that's causing global warming, then we have to step forward and say, here's what we're willing to do, and then ask countries like China to join us.

If we want to say to Iran, don't develop nuclear weapons because if you develop them then everybody in the region is going to want them and you'll have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and that will be dangerous for everybody -- if we want to say that to Iranians, it helps if we are also saying, "and we will reduce our own," so that we have more moral authority in those claims.

If we want to communicate to countries that we sincerely care about the well-being of their people, then we have to make sure that our aid programs and our assistance programs are meaningful.

So words are good and understanding is good, but ultimately it has to translate into concrete actions. And it takes time. I was just talking to my press team and they were amused because some of my reporter friends from the States were asking, how come you didn't solve everything on this trip? They said, well, you know, it's only been a week. These things take time and the idea is that you lay the groundwork and slowly, over time, if you make small efforts, they can add up into big efforts. And that's, I think, the approach that we want to take in promoting more peace and prosperity around the world.

OK, let me make sure I get all sides of the room here. This young lady right here.

QUESTION: In one of your interviews you said you want us to be a member of the European Union. But after that, Nicolas Sarkozy said, it's not yours, it's European Union decision. Now I want to ask you that what's your opinion, and why Nicolas Sarkozy said that? Is that because he's more likely to support the so-called Armenian genocide?

OBAMA: You know, the -- I don't think -- well, first of all, it's true, I'm not a member of -- the United States is not a member of the European Union, so it's not our decision to make. But that doesn't prevent me from having an opinion. I mean, I notice the Europeans have had a lot of opinions about U.S. policy for a long time, right? They haven't been shy about giving us suggestions about what we should be doing, so I don't think there's anything wrong with us reciprocating. That's what friends do -- we try to be honest about what we think is the right approach. I think it is the right approach to have Turkey join the European Union. I think if Turkey can be a member of NATO and send its troops to help protect and support its allies, and its young men are put in harm's way, well, I don't know why you should also not be able to sell apricots to Europe, or have more freedom in terms of travel.

So I think it's the right thing to do. I also think it would send a strong signal that Europe is not monolithic but is diverse and that that is a source of strength instead of weakness. So that's my opinion.

Now, President Sarkozy is a good friend and a good ally. As I said, friends are going to sometimes disagree on this. I haven't had a lengthy conversation with him about his position on this issue. My hope is, is that as time goes on and as trust builds, that this is ultimately something that occurs.

I don't get a sense that his opposition is related to the Armenian issue. I don't think that's it. I think it's a more fundamental issue of whether he's confident about Turkey's ability to integrate fully. But you'll probably have to ask him directly. So maybe when he comes here he'll have a town hall meeting like this one.

OK, the gentleman right there. Yes, go ahead. Here's a microphone.

QUESTION: First, I will ask about the Bush and you differences at the core, because some say just the face has changed and that -- but core is the same still. They will have a fight with the Middle East and they will have a fight with Iran.

And my second question is more in part to this. You will let the Kurdish state in northern Iraq? You will let -- you'll allow this?

OBAMA: OK, the...

QUESTION: Thank you.

OBAMA: Yes. Well, let me answer -- I'll answer the Kurdish question first. You know, we are very clear about our position on Turkish territorial integrity. Turkey is an ally of ours and part of what NATO allies do is to protect the territorial integrity of their allies. And so we are -- we would be opposed to anything that would start cutting off parts of Turkey, and we have been very supportive in efforts to reduce terrorist activity by the PKK.

Now, I also think that it's important that the Kurdish minority inside of Turkey is free to advance in the society and that they have equal opportunity, that they have free political expression, that they are not suppressed in terms of opportunity. And I think that the President and Prime Minister are committed to that, but I want to continually encourage allowing -- whether it's religious minorities or ethnic minorities -- to be full parts of the society. And that, I think, is very, very important.

The first question, if I understood you correctly, is the suggestion that even though I present a different face from Bush, that the policies are the same and so there's really not much difference.

And, you know, I think this will be tested in time because as I said before, moving the ship of state is a slow process. States are like big tankers, they're not like speedboats. You can't just whip them around and go in a new direction. Instead you've got to slowly move it and then eventually you end up in a very different place.

So let me just give you a few examples. When it comes to Iraq, I opposed the war in Iraq. I thought it was a bad idea. Now that we're there, I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out, that we do so in a careful enough way that we don't see a complete collapse into violence. So some people might say, wait, I thought you were opposed to the war, why don't you just get them all out right away? Well, just because I was opposed at the outset it doesn't mean that I don't have now responsibilities to make sure that we do things in a responsible fashion.

When it comes to climate change, George Bush didn't believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change, I think it's important. That doesn't mean that suddenly the day I'm elected I can say, OK, we're going to turn off all the lights and everybody is going to stop driving. Right? All I can do is to start moving policies that over time are going to obtain different results.

And then it is true, though, that there are some areas where I agree with many of my friends in the United States who are on the opposite political party. For example, I agree that Al Qaida is an enormous threat not just to the United States but to the world. I have no sympathy and I have no patience for people who would go around blowing up innocent people for a political cause. I don't believe in that.

So, yes, I think that it is just and right for the United States and NATO allies and other allies from around the world to do what we can to eliminate the threat of Al Qaida. Now, I think it's important that we don't just do that militarily. I think it's important that we provide educational opportunities for young people in Pakistan and Afghanistan so that they see a different path. And so my policies will be somewhat different, but I don't make any apologies for continuing the effort to prevent bombs going off or planes going into buildings that would kill innocents. I don't think any society can justify that.

And so, as I said, four years from now or eight years from now, you can look back and you can see maybe what he did wasn't that different, and hopefully you'll come to the conclusion that what I did made progress.

Yes, this young lady right here.

QUESTION: First of all, welcome to our country, Turkey. I would like to continue in Turkish if it's possible.

OBAMA: Yes, let me -- wait, wait, wait. See, I've got my...

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Hold on.

QUESTION: (As translated.) My first question is that in the event that Turkey becomes an EU member, what -- how will that -- how is that...

OBAMA: OK, try again.

QUESTION: In the event that Turkey becomes a member of the EU, how will that affect U.S. foreign policy and the alliance of civilizations? And my second question is a little more personal. We watched your election with my American friends. Before you were elected, my friends who said that they were ashamed of being Americans, after you were elected said that they were proud to be Americans. This is a very sudden and big change. What do you think the reason is for this change?

OBAMA: You know, the United States friendship with Turkey doesn't depend on their EU membership. So even if Turkey continued not to be a member of the EU, the United States in our bilateral relations and in our relations as a NATO ally can really strengthen progress. And I had long discussions with the President and the Prime Minister about a range of areas where we can improve relations, including business and commerce and trade.

We probably can increase trade between our two countries significantly, but we haven't really focused on it. Traditionally the focus in Turkish-American relations has been around the military and I think for us to broaden that relationship and those exchanges could be very important.

You know, in terms of my election, I think that what people felt good about was it affirmed the sense that America is still a land of opportunity. I was not born into wealth. I wasn't born into fame. I come from a racial minority. My name is very unusual for the United States. And so I think people saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve; that racial discrimination has been reduced; that educational opportunity for all people is something that is still available. And I also think that people were encouraged that somebody like me who has a background of living overseas, who has Muslims in his family -- you know, that I might be able to help to build bridges with other parts of the world.

You know, the American people are a very hopeful people. We're an optimistic people by nature. We believe that anything is possible if we put our minds to it. And that is one of the qualities of America that I think the world appreciates. You know, sometimes people may think that we are -- we aren't realistic enough about how the world works and we think that we can just remake the world without regard to history, because we're still a relatively new nation. Compared to Turkey and how old this civilization is, America is still very new.

And so it's true that I think we believe that things can happen very fast and that transformations in politics or in economics or in science and technology can make our lives better overnight. So sometimes we need more patience. But I also think the world needs to have a sense -- (drop in audio feed). That's a good thing and that we don't have to always be stuck with old arguments. I mean, one thing that is interesting about Europe as I travel around is, you know, you hear disputes between countries that date back to a hundred years, a thousand years -- people are still made about things that happened a very long time ago.

And so one thing America may have to offer is an insistence on looking forward and not always looking backwards.

OK, I only have time for one more question. I'll give it to this gentleman right here.

Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait -- I've got to get my earplug.

QUESTION: I thank you for the opportunity to ask you a question. Right now I am in the Turkish language and literature faculty of this university. How do you assess the Prime Minister's attitude in Davos? Had you been in the same situation, would you have reacted the same way?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think very highly of your Prime Minister. I've had a chance now to talk with him first in London. I had spoken to him on the phone previously, but we had the opportunity to meet in London during the G-20, and then we've been obviously having a number of visits while I've been here in Turkey.

And so I think that he is a good man who is very interested in promoting peace in the region and takes great pride I believe in trying to help work through the issues between Israel and its neighbors. And Turkey has a long history of being an ally and a friend of both Israel and its neighbors. And so it can occupy a unique position in trying to resolve some of these differences.

I wasn't at Davos so I don't want to offer an opinion about how he responded and what prompted his reaction. I will say this -- that I believe that peace in the Middle East is possible. I think it will be based on two states, side by side: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. I think in order to achieve that, both sides are going to have to make compromises.

I think we have a sense of what those compromises should be and will be. Now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership. And it is not the United States' role or Turkey's role to tell people what they have to do, but we can be good friends in encouraging them to move the dialogue forward.

I have to believe that the mothers of Palestinians and the mothers of Israelis hope the same thing for their children. They want them not to be vulnerable to violence. They don't want, when their child gets on a bus, to worry that that bus might explode. They don't want their child to have to suffer indignities because of who they are. And so sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved. And it's that spirit of thinking about the future and not the past that I just talked about earlier that I think could help advance the peace process, because if you look at the situation there, over time I don't believe it's sustainable.

It's not sustainable for Israel's security because as populations grow around them, if there is more and more antagonism towards Israel, over time that will make Israel less secure.

It's not sustainable for the Palestinians because increasingly their economies are unable to produce the jobs and the goods and the income for people's basic quality of life.

So we know that path is a dead end, and we've got to move in a new direction. But it's going to be hard. A lot of mistrust has been built up, a lot of anger, a lot of hatred. And unwinding that hatred requires patience. But it has been done. You know, think about -- my Special Envoy to the Middle East is a gentleman named George Mitchell, who was a senator in the United States and then became the Special Envoy for the United States in Northern Ireland. And the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland had been fighting for hundreds of years, and as recently as 20 years ago or 30 years ago, the antagonism, the hatred, was a fierce as any sectarian battle in the world.

And yet because of persistent, courageous efforts by leaders, a peace accord was arrived at. A government that uses the democratic process was formed. And I had at the White House just a few weeks ago the leader of the Protestants, the leaders of Catholics in the same room, the separatists and the unionists in the same room, as part of a single system. And so that tells me that anything is possible if we're willing to strive for it.

But it will depend on young people like you being open to new ideas and new possibilities. And it will require young people like you never to stereotype or assume the worst about other people.

In the Muslim world, this notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance -- because there's two sides to every question. That doesn't mean that sometimes one side has done something wrong and should not be condemned. But it does mean there's always two sides to an issue.

I say the same thing to my Jewish friends, which is you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians. Learning to stand in somebody else's shoes to see through their eyes, that's how peace begins. And it's up to you to make that happen.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody. I enjoyed it. (Applause.)

END

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Saving Mexico by Legalizing US Drugs

While the U.S. superpower has meddled in many far-flung nations around the globe in the name of enhancing its security, as prior to 9/11, it has ignored a threat much closer to home.

By Ivan Eland

Consortium News


Consortium News Editor’s Note: Since Richard Nixon’s presidency, the United States has been waging “a war on drugs,” one of several grandiose “war” paradigms – like George W. Bush’s “war on terror” – that almost guarantees defeat by its definition.

In this guest essay, the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland argues that the misguided U.S. “war on drugs” is now threatening Mexico’s stability – while filling American jails with drug offenders – and should be replaced with a strategy of legalizing drugs for adults:


In recent years, the Bush administration blithely blamed Mexico for the flow of illegal drugs into the United States and virtually ignored the raging mayhem involving Mexican drug cartels south of the border. That rampant violence is now spilling into the United States as crime.

Yet again, the Bush administration has handed off a tar baby to the Obama administration. And yet again in the security area, the Obama administration has improved on the Bush policy (it’s not hard to do) but needs to go farther.

Instead of merely blaming Mexico for the problem, the Obama administration has acknowledged that the $65 billion annual demand for illegal drugs in the United States is part of the problem. In fact, it is the driver of the problem....(Click for remainder).

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Obama In Istanbul: Visits Mosque, Reaches Out To Turkish Youth

By Mark S. Smith
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


ISTANBUL, Turkey — Barack Obama wrapped up his first European trip as president with a request of the world: Look past his nation's stereotypes and flaws. "You will find a partner and a supporter and a friend in the United States of America," he declared Tuesday.

"The world will be what you make of it," Obama told college students in Turkey's largest city. "You can choose to build new bridges instead of building new walls."

Promising a "new chapter of American engagement" with the rest of the world, Obama said the United States needs to be more patient in its dealings. And he said the rest of the world needs a better sense "that change is possible so we don't have to always be stuck with old arguments."

The students formed a tight circle around the U.S. president, who slowly paced a sky-blue rug while answering their questions. He promised to end the town hall-style session before the Muslim call to prayer.

Obama rejected "stereotypes" about the United States, including that it has become selfish and crass.

"I'm here to tell you that that's not the country that I know and it's not the country that I love," the president said. "America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws. But for more than two centuries we have strived at great cost and sacrifice to form a more perfect union."

He repeated his pledge to rebuild relations between the United States and the Muslim world....(Click for remainder).

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It's Not A 'Christian Nation'

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


The U.S. Constitution is, of course, an entirely secular document, but for years, the religious right movement and its allies have been anxious to declare the U.S. a "Christian Nation."

It was great to hear President Obama, during a press conference in Turkey, set the record straight.
At a press conference in Turkey, President Obama casually rebuked the old chestnut that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation.

"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
Republicans are, not surprisingly, already criticizing Obama's entirely accurate remarks, and it's probably safe to assume the far-right will be thoroughly displeased.

But is there anything even remotely controversial about what the president actually said? We have a secular constitution that established a secular government. Our laws separate church from state. No religious tradition enjoys official sanction over any other. Of course we're not a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation....(Click for remainder).

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The Right Goes Batshit Crazy Over Progressives' Huge Tax Victory In New York

By David Sirota
Open Left


In OpenLeft's ongoing coverage of the most important tax fight you've never heard about, I wanted to point out just how huge a conniption fit the national conservative movement is having over New York state progressives' success in preventing health care cuts by raising taxes on millionaires.

Check out this overwrought fulmination from Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. You have to read this thing to believe it - yes, the small grassroots Working Families Party (WFP) is evil and awful for organizing middle and working class people into a powerful political force in state politics - one that is key to this tax reform initiative. The Post explicitly attacks the WFP for developing a "foundation of influence in Albany" through it "canvassing prowess" - as if developing political power through door-to-door organizing is an absolutely awful thing.

That was topped only by de facto National Republican Party Chairman Rush Limbaugh, who used his national radio show to declare that he's selling off his luxury condo in New York because he doesn't want to pay the millionaire's tax.

The WFP responded to Limbaugh by launching a petition telling the de facto Chairman "good riddance." You can sign it here....(Click for remainder).

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Insane Republicans Reveal an Insane Budget Plan

By Bob Cesca
OpEd News


It only makes sense that a party currently being wagged by fringe crazy people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann would release its alternative budget on April Fools' Day.

Not only does the Republican plan freeze discretionary spending for five years in the midst of a recession which, by most accounts and proved by history, will countermand any sort of economic recovery, but it also cuts taxes by 10 percent for the same Wall Street executives whose actions largely got us into this economic mess in the first place. In other words: Congratulations, Republicans, you just released a budget that rewards wealthy corporate executives while blocking any attempt to dig us out of the economic catastrophe they created.

Smart!

The only bit of Republican legislation that'd be more ridiculous would be if Michele Bachmann were to introduce a constitutional amendment thwarting a fake plot to eliminate the dollar as the form of currency in the United States.

Oh wait. She's already done that.  And 30 Republican congressmembers so far have co-sponsored the amendment. 30 Republicans have irrevocably tethered their wagons to the Bachmann crazy train. Excellent. Next on the agenda: a bill creating the Office of Robot Insurance, protecting us from robot attackers who use old people's medicine for fuel. Speaking of which, the Republican plan also phases out Medicare....(Click for remainder).

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Transportation Jobs Are Good Jobs

By Matthew Yglesias
Think Progress


I’ll be speaking soon on a panel about transportation investments that’s part of an EPI/Demos conference on investing in a better economy. As part of EPI’s burgeoning interest in transportation policy, they have this chart:



This is a fairly interesting finding. Relative to the economy as a whole, jobs created through transportation investments are disproportionately likely to not require a college degree. But they’re disproportionately un-likely to fall into the “low-wage” bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. So when dollars are shifted out of current consumption and into transportation investments, this has the effect of pulling people in low-wage jobs into better jobs for which many of them are perfectly well-qualified. And in the end, that should be good for the earnings potential of even those left behind in the low-wage sector....(Click for remainder).

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CBS/NY Times Poll: Obama Approval Hits New High - 66%

By CBS News

(CBS)  As President Obama concludes his well-publicized trip to Europe, Americans are more positive about the respect accorded to a U.S. president than they have been in years, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

Sixty-seven percent say world leaders respect Mr. Obama, while 18 percent say they do not respect the president. That's a sharp contrast to the response when this question was asked about Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, in July 2006: Just 30 percent then said the president is respected by the leaders of other countries.

Mr. Obama's overall approval rating, meanwhile, has hit a new high of 66 percent, up from 64 percent last month. His disapproval rating stands at 24 percent. Nearly all Democrats and most independents approve of the way the president is handling his job, while only 31 percent of Republicans approve.
Read The Complete Poll (PDF)
While Americans approve of the president and believe he is respected worldwide, they do not believe the U.S. is respected by other countries in general. More than half of those surveyed - 52 percent - think the United States is not respected around the world today. Thirty-six percent say the country is respected around the world.

Still, Americans are more positive about perceptions of their country than they were in July 2007, when just 24 percent said the U.S. is respected around the world and 71 percent said it is not....(Click for remainder).

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Apparently You Have Rick Warren Scared. He's Lying Again.

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


The last time we heard form our friend Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor Obama invited to give the swearing in at the inaugural, Warren was claiming that he never compared gay marriage to pedophilia and incest. Uh huh. Well, Warren went on Larry King, and the lies were flying. Even more so than last time. I think Mr. Warren is hurting from having his homophobia exposed. Though I'm not sure a religious "leader" should be resorting to lying in order to clear his record.

First, Warren told King that he never compared gay marriage to incest and pedophilia:
I was asked a question that made it sound like I equated gay marriage with pedophilia or incest, which I absolutely do not believe.
Yeah, THE QUESTION sounded like Warren was equating them. Let me share with you THE QUESTION, and then Warren's answer...(Click for remainder).

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Communities Print Their Own Currency to Keep Cash Flowing

By Marisol Bello
USA Today

A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money.

Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses.

The systems generally work like this: Businesses and individuals form a network to print currency. Shoppers buy it at a discount — say, 95 cents for $1 value — and spend the full value at stores that accept the currency.

Workers with dwindling wages are paying for groceries, yoga classes and fuel with Detroit Cheers, Ithaca Hours in New York, Plenty in North Carolina or BerkShares in Massachusetts.

Ed Collom, a University of Southern Maine sociologist who has studied local currencies, says they encourage people to buy locally. Merchants, hurting because customers have cut back on spending, benefit as consumers spend the local cash.

"We wanted to make new options available," says Jackie Smith of South Bend, Ind., who is working to launch a local currency. "It reinforces the message that having more control of the economy in local hands can help you cushion yourself from the blows of the marketplace."...(Click for remainder).

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Socialists, Out and Proud

By Dave Zirin
The Nation


Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now," Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the USSA. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? In the March 23 issue, we published Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr.'s "Rising to the Occasion" as the opening essay in a forum on "Reimagining Socialism." TheNation.com will feature new replies to their essay over the coming weeks, fostering what we hope will be a spirited dialogue.

I'll never forget interviewing Lester "Red" Rodney, the 96-year-old former sports editor of the Communist Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker. Speaking about the Great Depression, Rodney said, "People who weren't around during the 1930s can't fully grasp what it was like politically. If you weren't some kind of radical or socialist...you were considered brain-dead, and you probably were!"

As we enter another period defined by electric currents of crisis and hope, Rodney's words come back to hit me like a left hook. The fact that The Nation is publishing this remarkable forum is a testament to the moment. It's time to come out of our political closets and say openly that another world is not only possible but necessary. If we weren't living in these troubled times, the urgency would not be so acute. But we are, and therefore it is.

Ehrenreich and Fletcher are spot on when they write, "...we do understand--and this is one of the things that make us 'socialists' --that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option."

Let the process begin.

As the great historian Howard Zinn wrote on socialism, "There are people fearful of the word, all along the political spectrum. What is important, I think, is not the word, but a determination to hold up before a troubled public those ideas that are both bold and inviting--the more bold, the more inviting."

Of course, we have learned from President Obama's early days that even the most incremental calls for change put you at risk of being labeled a red menace. (My favorite moment was probably when the utterly unhinged Michele Bachmann said that Obama's policies represented "the final leap to socialism.") The right uses it as an all-purpose insult precisely to keep those calling for change skittish and fearful. Stick a red "S" on their chest and watch them squirm. If that is going to be their frayed last line of defense as they defend a sclerotic system, then we shouldn't run from the label but reclaim it....(Click for remainder).

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David Shuster and Charles Blow Slam Revolutionary Right-Wing Rhetoric

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos




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Glenn Beck: Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars Blame Me For Cop Killer

By Jed Lewison
Daily Kos




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Socialist Health Care Is the Worst

By Chris in Paris
AMERICAblog


Just because France has the WHO number one ranked health care system in the world, we all know the WHO is a socialist organization that hates American free enterprise. And yeah, France was the first to deliver a face transplant and now France just performed another amazing first, but do we really need to learn anything from a system that denies insurance companies the right to pillage at will and without repercussions? America does not need this kind of socialism, dare I say, communism!
Paris' Public Hospital authority says a team of doctors has performed the world's first simultaneous partial-face and double-hand transplant.

In a statement Monday, the authority said the recipient was a 30-year-old burn victim. The man, whose name was not released, was injured in a 2004 accident that left him with scars "preventing any social life."

French media reports have said the upper half of the face, including the scalp, forehead and eyelids, was transplanted. The statement did not provide such details.
It's much better to have a health insurance system that sits wedged in between global powerhouses Costa Rica and Slovenia. That's much more suitable for the wealthiest country on the planet....(Click for remainder).

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The Right-Wing Mouth-Breathers Are Going Bat Crap Crazy Over Obama

By David Weigel
The Washington Independent



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Plot to Kill Obama in Turkey Uncovered

By Press TV

Turkish security forces have arrested a man of Syrian origins who planned to assassinate US President Barack Obama during his visit to Turkey.

The man, who sought to disguise himself as a journalist for the Al Jazeera news channel, managed to obtain press accreditation and allegedly planned to stab the US president with a knife, reported Saudi daily al Watan.

The man has reportedly confessed to his intention after his arrest, adding that he had been aided by three other accomplices.

Al Jazeera's Ankara bureau chief Yussef al-Sharif told al Watan that the network knew nothing about the man.

"We learned that he [the suspect] claimed to be working for our bureau... if that has been the case then he most certainly forged our ID card," al-Sharif said.

President Obama, who is on his first overseas trip since taking office, was in Strasbourg, France on Friday for a NATO summit and arrived in Turkey on Sunday to attend the Alliance of Civilizations Summit in Istanbul.

One US official familiar with the case suggested that the assassination plot is getting serious attention as there has been a heavy international focus on President Obama's first overseas trip.

White House officials declined to comment on the matter and cited a policy of not talking about security issues and threats surrounding the president.

Meanwhile US Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan explained briefly that "We work closely with the host country whenever there is an arrest, which we are doing in this matter"....(Click for remainder).

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Bachmann Alarmed About ‘Re-Education Camps’ for America’s Kids

Via TruthDig

Rep. Michele Bachmann is sounding the alarm to radio-show host/wingnut Sue Jeffers about the scary government-controlled future that will surely result if Barack Obama has his way with us—starting with "mandatory" re-education camps for American children. And don't even get her started on SCHIP.


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The True Face of War Returns Home: In Memory of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers

By The Public Record

From wire reports:

For the first time in 18 years, the military opened up Dover Air Force base in Delaware to the media for the return Sunday night of Air Force

Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers, who was killed in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military has upheld a ban on news coverage on the return of their war dead for nearly 20 years. More than 5,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and have returned to their country via the Dover base.

Myers was from Hopewell, Virginia and died Saturday from wounds suffered in a roadside bomb attack.

The 30 year-old was assigned to the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron, with the Royal Air Force Lakenheath, U.K. His widow flew from England to witness his final return to the United States.

An eight-person team wearing camouflage battle fatigues carried Myers' flag-draped coffin off a Boeing 747 that touched down shortly after 9 p.m. after a flight from Germany Sunday.

At left and above: U.S. Air Force airmen transfer the remains of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Myers on Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 5,  2009. This was the first time the Defense Department has allowed families to permit media coverage of dignified transfer operations under a  new policy. Myers, of Hopewell, Va., died April 4, 2009, from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device near Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik [For additional photos of the ceremony honoring Staff. Sgt. Myers please visit this link.]...(Click for remainder).

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Are Starbucks and Whole Foods Union Busters?

By Josh Harkinson
Mother Jones


Shortly before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the manager of a Whole Foods grocery store in the San Francisco Bay Area gathered his employees in a conference room for a chat about labor organizing. “This is not a union-bashing thing whatsoever,” the manager began, adding, however, that he’d called the meeting because Whole Foods believed Obama would sign the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation intended to ease unionization that was opposed by the company’s lobbyists. According to a tape of the meeting obtained by Mother Jones, the manager went on to imply that joining a union would lead to reprisals: “It’s interesting to note that once you become represented by the union,” he said, “basically everything, every benefit you have, is kind of thrown out the window, and you renegotiate a contract.”

"I think it’s probably fair to construe [that comment] as a threat,” concluded Tim Peck, a representative of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in San Francisco, after Mother Jones read him quotes from the meeting, one of several anti-union trainings held by the company in recent months. Peck pointed out that labor law bars employers from threatening to strip benefits from workers in retaliation for unionizing. “The ‘flying out the window’ [comment] kind of suggests that the benefits are gone,” he noted. Legally, “that wouldn’t pass muster.”

That Whole Foods stands accused of union busting comes at an inconvenient time for the company, which late last month unveiled the Committee for a Level Playing Field for Union Elections, a partnership with Starbucks and Costco that aims to rewrite the Employee Free Choice Act. This year’s top priority for organized labor, EFCA would allow employees to form a union automatically if a majority of them sign pledge cards—a plan known as “card check”—instead of requiring them to vote in secret elections that unions say employers can manipulate. Whole Foods opposes card check, yet has rankled business interests by suggesting other ways to make it easier for workers to unionize, such as guaranteeing union campaigners access to workers and boosting enforcement and penalties for labor law violations. “This is a third way,” says Whole Foods’ attorney Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and self-described “pro-labor, liberal Democrat.”...(Click for remainder).

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