Holder Contempt Resolution Passes In House

During a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to full cooperate in an investigation regarding the fatally flawed Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation, several Democratic lawmakers walked out.

Despite many Democrats’ unwillingness to participate, by a vote of 255-67 the House passed the resolution to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement explaining why its members walked out:

We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people.  We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice. We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority—creating jobs.  At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.

The White House also released a statement echoing similar sentiments.

Currently, heated debate about the veracity of this unprecedented contempt vote is under way on the House floor. Republican lawmakers are making appeals for the power to move further with legal actions that would allow them to obtain the Fast and Furious documents that have been requested.

Holder has released a statement regarding the vote:

Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year.  By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.  Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers, like Agent Brian Terry, who keep us safe – they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome.

…When concerns about Operation Fast and Furious first came to light, I took action – and ordered an independent investigation into what happened.  We learned that the flawed tactics used in this operation began in the previous administration – but I made sure that they ended under this one.  I also made sure that agents and prosecutors around the country knew that such tactics must never be used again.  I put in place new policies, new safeguards, and new leadership to make certain of this – and took extraordinary steps to facilitate robust congressional oversight.  Let me be very clear – that was my response to Operation Fast and Furious.  Any suggestion to the contrary simply ignores the facts.

UPDATE:

The House also voted 258-95 to hold Holder in civil contempt, giving lawmakers the ability to seek counsel and appeal to a Federal court for a subpoena for the documents that have not yet been turned over to the House Oversight Committee.

Republicans Vow To Repeal Healthcare Law

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Republicans pledged Thursday to press for repeal of U.S. President Obama’s landmark healthcare law after the Supreme Court upheld it.

“The Supreme Court made clear today that the American people will be the ultimate judge of Obamacare. As Republicans, we will redouble our efforts to repeal this job-killing law,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement.

“We must replace it with reforms that expand access and enhance care without adding trillions of dollars to the national debt and inserting Washington bureaucrats between Americans and their doctors.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the healthcare law is hurting the economy and raising healthcare costs, making it more difficult for small businesses to hire.

“Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,” Boehner said in a statement.

“What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to healthcare reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country Obamacare.”

U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the healthcare law has been “highly unpopular” with the American people for more than two years, particularly the mandate to purchase health insurance and other “tax hikes.”

“Because the Supreme Court did not strike down the most onerous provisions, it appears that the American people themselves will have to overturn the law by the choices they make in November’s election,” Kyl said in a statement. “We need to listen to the people to see what they would like; then, Congress can replace the flawed law with reforms that ensure Americans have healthcare that is affordable with a doctor of their choice and without increased taxes, mandates and rationing.”

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement the decision “sets the stakes for the November election.”

“Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare’s budget-busting government takeover of healthcare is to elect a new president,” Priebus said.

With the law, he said “unelected bureaucrats” now have “the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors.”

Suspect's Head Pinned Under Garage Door

BROCKTON, Mass., (UPI) — Police in Massachusetts said an alleged burglar was foiled when his head became stuck under a garage door for several hours.

Brockton police said an employee at the local Rent-A-Center showed up for work around 9 a.m. Tuesday and discovered Manuel Hernandez, 54, with his head stuck between the garage door and the ground, WHDH-TV, Boston, reported Thursday.

“Obviously the employee was surprised and certain that opening up in the morning was the last thing that he expected to see and he immediately called police,” Detective Lt. Paul Bonanca said.

Investigators said Hernandez, who unsuccessfully tried to convince the employee he was at the business for a legitimate purpose, used a metal bed post to try to pry the back garage door open and managed to lift it about 7 or 8 inches before trying to shimmy under. Police said the door fell as Hernandez was trying to pass underneath and his head was pinned to the ground.

Hernandez, who was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for a bruise on his head, will face charges of breaking and entering and malicious damage to property, police said.

Hundreds Seek Gold In Alaska

NOME, Alaska, (UPI) — Locals in Nome, Alaska, said the city might be experiencing a second gold rush, with hundreds of people coming from all over to search for the precious metal.

Mitch Erickson of Nome Gold Alaska said he started preparing for an influx of out-of-towners by setting up campsites when the recession hit in 2008, due to its similarity to the economic conditions leading to the gold rush of the 1890s, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, reported Thursday.

“I’m up here to have some fun, and If I find some gold, that will make it more pleasurable,” said Ken Scott, who is visiting Nome from Thibodaux, La.

However, not all locals are happy with the newcomers.

“They don’t seem to respect the knowledge of the old-timers,” said Bob Hafner, who has been dredging in Nome for 20 years. “These new people come up here, they look at our dredges, they copy our dredges, and they think, ‘Oh, this is really easy to do.'”

Google Shows Off Glasses With Skydiving

SAN FRANCISCO, (UPI) — Google interrupted its I/O developer conference in San Francisco so four skydivers with wingsuits and parachutes could show off the “Project Glass” eyewear.

The “augmented reality” eyewear, which was announced last winter, took center stage when Google co-founder Sergey Brin interrupted Vice President Vic Gundotra’s Google+ social network demonstration Wednesday at the Moscone West conference center to announce an event was taking place that “could go wrong in about 500 different ways,” Discovery News reported Thursday.

Brin said the stunt was designed to show off the capabilities of the “Project Glass” eyewear, which can capture and stream photos and videos.

The Google+ video cut to live footage of a zeppelin in the sky and quickly moved on to footage straight from the glasses of the skydivers as they made their way from the aircraft to the roof of the convention center.

A company representative said the stunt was planned about six weeks ago and required the cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration, the mayor’s office, police, the Fire Department and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Tennessee Couple Find, Return $12,000

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn., (UPI) — A Tennessee couple who found a bag containing more than $12,000 on top of a convenience store trash can said it never crossed their minds to keep the money.

Kenneth Allen and his wife Kristy found the bank bag with $12,764.73 and a man’s wallet Saturday evening, officer Jim Knoll, a spokesman for the Clarksville police, said in a release.

Kenneth told the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle he never thought to keep the money “because that’s not the right thing to do.”

“I knew I had to return it,” he said. “Someone might have needed that for something really important.”

The Allens tried to track down the owner, but after no success, turned the investigation over to Clarksville police. Officers found the owner, a 51-year-old man who had suffered a reaction to medication and was hospitalized. That’s why the bag was left behind, Knoll said.

Kenneth said the owner, whose name was not reported, has since called to express his thanks for the return of the money.

“If anyone else had found this money, they’d have thrown one heck of a party,” he said. “We were meant to find it.”

NYC Man Sues Over Prison Dining

NEW YORK, (UPI) — An ex-inmate is suing New York City for $80 million, accusing officers at Rikers Island of forcing him to eat too fast, causing him to need life-saving surgery.

In a sworn statement accompanying the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn this week, Michael Isolda said he needed more than the 5 minutes allotted by prison guards to consume each meal, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

Isolda required extra time to chew and swallow because he had undergone a gastric bypass surgery to reduce the size of his stomach in 2008, the statement said.

When Isolda was sentenced to 30 days in jail for possession of painkillers in 2011, his surgeon submitted a letter to the sentencing judge, Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Leonard Rienzi, stating the inmate’s nutrition requirements.

Isolda alleges the note was ignored by officials at the prison, and the rushed dining made him vomit after each meal, the Daily News reported.

The situation came to a head March 27, 2011, when Isolda awoke unable to breathe and in pain. His stomach had become separated from his intestine due to the repeated vomiting, requiring emergency surgery to save his life, the newspaper reported.

Obama Praises Decision On Healthcare Law

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama hailed Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, saying it “was good for the American people.”

“It is a fundamental principle here in America, the wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin,” the president said.

Meanwhile, likely U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attacked the Supreme Court decision on healthcare reform and vowed to repeal it.

Obama said he knows much of the discussion surrounding the healthcare act has hinged on its political consequences, “who won and who lost. That misses the point. It was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure.”

Obama said he recognizes the debate has been “divisive” and respects opponents’ concerns.

“I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” Obama said. “I did this because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because it was good for the American people. …

“When we look back … we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.”

In a statement in Washington following the ruling that upheld the law’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance, Romney called the law “bad policy” and “bad law.”

“I agree with the dissent. What the court did not do in the last day of its session I will do [the first day I’m in office] … repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Romney said the court determined the healthcare reform law did not violate the constitution. “It did not say it is good law or good policy. It was bad policy yesterday and it’s bad policy today. It was bad law yesterday and bad law today.”

Romney said the healthcare reform bill will impose $500 billion in new taxes on Americans and cut Medicare by $500 billion — figures that are disputed by supporters of the law.

“It adds trillions to deficits and national debt … and pushes these obligations to coming generations,” he said.

Romney also called the law a “job killer” that puts the “federal government between you and your doctor.”

Other opponents, including some Republican lawmakers and groups representing businesses, called on Congress to repeal the law.

“The Supreme Court made clear today that the American people will be the ultimate judge of Obamacare. As Republicans, we will redouble our efforts to repeal this job-killing law,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement. “We must replace it with reforms that expand access and enhance care without adding trillions of dollars to the national debt and inserting Washington bureaucrats between Americans and their doctors.”

The high court’s decision drew praise from some Democrats in Congress as well as from the AARP and the American Federation of Government Employees union.

“The Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act is a victory for everyone who believes all Americans are entitled to affordable, quality health care,” John Gage, the union’s president, said in a statement.

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law, Gage said, “It’s time for Republican leaders in Congress to stop their campaign to repeal the law and to focus instead on improving the economy and creating jobs.”

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., urged Republicans to work with Democrats to implement the law.

“Republicans have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act since the day it was enacted, and they have been eagerly awaiting today’s ruling,” Hoyer said in a statement. “But they must now accept that the Affordable Care Act will remain in place and that the time for litigation and partisan posturing on this issue ought to come to an end. Republicans now have a responsibility to work with Democrats to implement the Affordable Care Act, and I call on them to do so in order to make care affordable and accessible to Americans.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue called the healthcare law “fundamentally flawed” and said it would eliminate many Americans’ employer-based health insurance, undermine creation of jobs and raise healthcare costs for all.

“It is imperative that policymakers and the business community now work together to develop and support genuine reforms that control costs, improve access, ensure quality and promote wellness,” Donohue said in a statement. “These reforms and goals are achievable. The chamber and the American business community are ready to go to work to enact true healthcare reform. Given the court’s decision, the need for action has never been greater.”

Supreme Court Upholds Individual Mandate

WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday the federal healthcare law’s individual mandate survives as a tax, handing a huge victory to President Obama.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the prevailing 59-page opinion, abandoned his fellow conservatives and said the mandate can’t be upheld under Congress’ broad power to regulate interstate commerce but can be upheld under its power to tax in the Constitution’s spending clause.

The ruling by any standard is an enormous legal and political victory for Obama, who hailed the decision as “good for the country … good for the American people.”

“I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” Obama said, adding discussions about who wins and who loses under the decision misses the point: “It was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure.”

Obama’s likely opponent in November, Republican Mitt Romney, disagreed vowing, if he’s elected, to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”

“It did not say it is good law or good policy. It was bad policy yesterday and it’s bad policy today. It was bad law yesterday and bad law today,” Romney said.

“Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the [penalty for failing to buy health insurance] under the taxing power, and that [the relevant section of the Affordable Care Act] need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it,” Roberts wrote.

The individual mandate is set to be implemented in 2014. When it does come into play, anyone who can afford insurance and doesn’t purchase it could be fined as much as 2.5 percent of income — hence the tax.

But in a partial defeat for the administration, Roberts said the law cannot threaten to withhold Medicaid funds from states that do not participate in the ACA’s expansion of that program. That part of the ruling was joined by a plurality, not a majority of the justices.

“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of healthcare, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use,” Roberts wrote. “What Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”

The chief justice added, “Our permissive reading of these powers is explained in part by a general reticence to invalidate the acts of the nation’s elected leaders.”

But he also said the ruling does not imply approval: “The framers [of the Constitution] created a federal government of limited powers, and assigned to this court the duty of enforcing those limits. The court does so today. But the court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”

The ruling means that more popular parts of the law — allowing parents to include children on their health insurance until age 26, removing the caps on healthcare expenditures and removing “the pre-existing” restrictions on health insurance, survive as well.

All four dissenting justices joined in a single opinion and issued separate opinions.

Reading the joint dissent by the four conservative justices, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the entire law should be struck down.

“Congress has set out to remedy the problem that the best healthcare is beyond the reach of many Americans who cannot afford it,” the conservatives said. “It can assuredly do that, by exercising the powers accorded to it under the Constitution. The question in this case, however, is whether the complex structures and provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act … go beyond those powers. We conclude that they do.”

Roberts opinion did not reach the question of whether the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, which bars suits against the federal government over a “tax” until the tax actually goes into effect and someone actually is required to pay it, applies to the challenge by 26 states to the individual mandate since the mandate was upheld.

The mandate, the core provision of the law and one that gives health insurers the funds to comply with all of the act’s provisions, was challenged by a national business group as well as the 26 states.

The ruling upholds in part and reverses in part a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in California.

Russia Has Most Illegal Migrants In World

MOSCOW, (UPI) — A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Russia has the most illegal migrant workers in the world.

The OECD’s 2012 International Migration Outlook released Thursday showed almost 7 percent of Russia’s labor force is illegal migrant workers, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. About 3.5 percent of the United States’ labor force is made up of illegal migrant workers, OECD said.

The report showed Russia’s demand for migrant labor is expected to increase because the working-age population is projected to decrease by 7 million people by 2020.

In January, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed numerous ways to manage illegal migration, including harsher punishments for illegal workers, criminal charges for people who employ illegal migrants and exams in Russian language, history and law for migrants to help them adapt to Russian society more easily.

Supreme Court Overturns Stolen Valor Act

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3 Thursday, struck down a law that made it a crime to falsely claim to have won medals for military service.

“Lying was his habit,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion. “Xavier Alvarez … lied when he said that he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings and that he once married a starlet from Mexico. But when he lied in announcing he held the Congressional Medal of Honor, [Alvarez] ventured onto new ground; for that lie violates a federal criminal statute, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.”

However, Kennedy said: “Permitting the government to decree this speech to be a criminal offense would endorse government authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable. That governmental power has no clear limiting principle.”

Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, concluded that the act violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees.

In a concurring opinion to make up the majority, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan concluded the act, as drafted, “works disproportionate constitutional harm.”

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

In the California case, Alvarez won a seat on the Three Valley Water District Board of Directors in 2007. “I’m a retired Marine of 25 years,” Alvarez told a neighborhood district board meeting. “I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy. I’m still around.”

The only problem, an appeals court opinion said, was that “Alvarez has never been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, nor has he spent a single day as a Marine or in the service of any other branch of the U.S. armed forces. In short, with the exception of ‘I’m still around,’ his self-introduction was nothing but a series of bizarre lies.”

Alvarez pleaded guilty in Los Angeles — but reserved the right to challenge the constitutionality of the act on appeal. He was sentenced to one year on probation.

A federal appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that the act was unconstitutional. The panel’s ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alvarez’ lie was not unique. A July 2009 article in The Marine Corps Times found 40 doctored profiles in that year’s Marine Corps Association Directory — 16 made false claims for the Medal of Honor, 16 for the Navy Cross and eight for the Silver Star.

Urban Growth Eclipses Suburban Growth

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — More U.S. cities are growing faster than their suburbs, showing a mind change about city living and the effect of the housing bust, U.S. Census data indicate.

Census data released Thursday indicated that growth of city centers in 27 of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas outpaced their suburbs between July 2010 and July 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported. By comparison, only five metro areas grew faster than their suburbs from 2000 to 2010, data showed.

U.S. suburbs have grown faster than city centers every decade since the 1920s, when increased automobile ownership prompted city-dwellers to migrate to the suburbs, William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told the Journal.

One reason for the shift could be improvement in quality-of-life issues that prompted residents head to the suburbs, the Journal said. Crime rates have fallen in some urban centers, environmental conditions have improved and once-stagnant downtowns have become more vibrant.

Data indicated Washington’s core was growing fast and is experiencing an apartment boom while suburban development fell below pre-recession levels, the Journal said. From July 2010 to July 2011 Washington’s urban population grew 2.4 percent; its suburbs 1.5 percent.

In the near term, however, living in the cities could stem from the recession and housing bust because city renters either were concerned about buying in the suburbs or couldn’t qualify for home loans, Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, told the Journal. As the economy and housing markets continue to settle, more city-dwellers may move to the ‘burbs, he said.

“I suspect the modest growth of the urban cores is a short-term phenomenon,” Johnson said.

Proclamation Copy Sells For Nearly $2.1M

NEW YORK, (UPI) — A copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War has sold for nearly $2.1 million at a New York City auction.

The document fetched $2.09 million, including a $235,000 commission, the second-highest amount ever paid for a copy of the proclamation signed by Lincoln, The New York Times reported.

A Lincoln-signed copy of the proclamation that had once been owned by Robert F. Kennedy sold for $3.8 million two years ago.

David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group investment firm, bought the copy that sold Tuesday at Robert Siegel Auction Galleries. The Times said the U.S. seller remained anonymous.

The proclamation, issued Jan. 1, 1863, freed all slaves in states in rebellion at the time and provided a legal route to the emancipation of millions of other slaves. Forty-eight copies were printed after Lincoln issued the proclamation, and he signed all of them in 1864, with copies sold throughout the United States to support Union troops.

“They have appreciated in value because it’s so powerful as a document,” said Seth Kaller, an expert in U.S. historic documents who worked with the seller in Tuesday’s auction. “If you have an original document like this on exhibit, people get a sense of the excitement. This document changed the course of history.”

Kaller’s Web site, www.SethKaller.com, lists the location of 26 copies of the proclamation, 18 of them in museums and libraries.

'Stand-Your-Ground' Killer Gets 40 Years

HOUSTON, (UPI) — A Houston jury Wednesday sentenced Raul Rodriguez to 40 years in prison for murdering a neighbor in a so-called stand-your-ground shooting in 2010.

Rodriguez, 47, was spared a possible life sentence, the Los Angeles Times reported. Defense lawyers had asked for a five-year term, saying Rodriguez — who was convicted this month — thought he was legally entitled under Texas law to shoot Kelly Danaher, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher, in Huffman.

Rodriguez killed Danaher after having complained about the noise at a party at Danaher’s house May 2, 2010.

During the trial, jurors watched a 22-minute video Rodriguez shot of himself going from his house to Danaher’s, and demanding those at the party quiet down. In the last 7 minutes of the video, Rodriguez is heard telling the guests at Danaher’s house he is afraid they will hurt him, the Houston Chronicle reported.

At one point, as several men from the party, including Danaher, are seen charging at Rodriguez, the shot goes to black and the audio portion contains a laugh and a gunshot before the camera seems to fall to the ground.

The defense argued Rodriguez shot Danaher in self-defense and had a split-second to decide whether to shoot.

Prosecutor Donna Logan said during the trial “self-defense was never meant to protect the one who started the fight” and Rodriguez was employing language he’d learned in a concealed handgun licensing class.

After the sentencing Thursday, Rodriguez’s attorney, Neal Davis, told the Times the case is “only the beginning of the cases we’re going to see” involving stand-your-ground laws.

Man Saves Baby On NYC Subway Tracks

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y., (UPI) — A New York man rescued a baby whose stroller had fallen from a subway platform to the tracks below just as a train pulled into the station, witnesses said.

The stroller, carrying 9-month-old Daniel Zamara, was set into motion by a sudden gust of wind Tuesday as the boy’s mother tended to his three siblings at the Brooklyn station, the New York Post reported Wednesday.

When 30-year-old Delroy Simmonds saw the stroller and baby hit the tracks, he jumped down after the boy and lifted them both back up to the platform as an incoming train halted just short of where the incident occurred.

“The train was seconds away. The driver was honking the horn and then stopped seconds before it got to them,” said witness Khalima Ansari.

“He’s a hero, no doubt about it,” she said. “Anybody could have thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to lose my life,’ but he didn’t care. He just jumped down and he got the baby just in time.”

Simmonds, who was on his way to a job interview, said his involvement was “just a reaction to seeing the stroller on the tracks.”

Daniel’s father, whose name was not reported, told the Post the boy was treated at Brookdale Hospital for a head wound.

Colorado Springs Wildfire Doubles In Size

COLORADO SPRINGS, (UPI) — Mandatory evacuations for Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire were expanded Wednesday as the inferno double in size to more than 15,000 acres.

The evacuations were expanded to El Paso and Teller counties and the south and east sides of Woodland Park as the fire increasingly threatened populated areas of Colorado Springs, The Denver Post reported.

The fire was encroaching upon the U.S. Air Force Academy Wednesday afternoon, and the National Guard has been called in to help battle the blaze, KKTV, Colorado Springs, reported.

“The fire right now, like yesterday, did not push toward us but it’s creeping,” the Post quoted Woodland Park Mayor David Turley as saying.

“We thought it was prudent to do a mandatory evacuation in case the winds did blow our way, especially after seeing what happened in Colorado Springs yesterday.”

The wildfire is only 5 percent contained, officials said.

President Barack Obama called Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach to get an update on the situation and announce he would travel to Colorado Friday to observe the damage and thank responders, the White House said in a statement.

Officials said the blaze exhibited “extreme fire behavior with extreme rates of spread” and an increase in the fire perimeter along the north and east sides, InciWeb reported.

“This event that is ongoing is certainly unprecedented in the city,” the Post quoted Lt. Jeff Kramer, an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, as saying.

Hickenlooper Tuesday called the fire “surreal” after he returned from surveying the area, CNN reported.

“There were people’s homes burned to the ground,” he said. “There’s no question, it’s serious. It’s as serious as it gets.”

Officials said the fire has been exhibiting “extreme fire behavior.”

“This is a firestorm of epic proportions,” said Fire Chief Richard Brown of Colorado Springs.

A spokeswoman for the multiagency response team said conditions could not be worse.

“It is like a convection oven out there,” said Anne Rys-Sikora.

The Post said about 32,000 people had fled the area.

“People are freaking out,” said Kathleen Tillman, who drove from Pueblo to northern Colorado Springs. “You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road.”

On Tuesday, wind gusts of up to 65 mph through mountain canyons blew the wildfire through containment lines into northwest Colorado Springs.

Jan Van Winkle, the Air Force Academy’s public affairs officer, said an evacuation order was issued for about 700 residents of the academy’s Pine Valley and Douglass Valley housing.

Flight, glider and parachute operations were called off so the U.S. Forest Service could use their runways.

Cadets for the academy’s 2016 class were set to arrive Thursday.

Elsewhere, lightning sparked a forest fire in Boulder, consuming 228 acres in just minutes. Authorities ordered the evacuation of 26 homes and told residents of 2,000 more to prepare to flee, the Post said.

The High Park fire west of Fort Collins, which consumed about 87,250 acres and at least 257 homes, making it the most destructive in state history, was reported 55 percent contained.

In the Eastern Plains, the blaze near Last Chance charred 45,000 acres in just 8 hours.

Seventeen air tankers had cycled in and out of firefighting action over the last 48 hours across the Western United States, and more than 8,400 personnel were deployed against wildfires across the country, the White House said.

Obama’s Healthcare Bill Survives Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act upholding many of the laws central provisions Thursday morning.

One of the most important rulings by the Court regarding the Constitutionality of the healthcare overhaul was describing the individual insurance requirement as a tax, rather than a forced purchase.

In the Court’s opinion, the decision is explained as follows:

Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.

Because the mandate was found to be Constitutional, the Court did not decide what other parts of the statute were Constitutional, except for a provision that required States to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. The Court found that the Medicaid provision is Constitutional as long as States would lose only new funds for failure to comply with the new requirements.

The Affordable Care Act was declared Constitutional in a 5-4 decision. Liberal-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in support of the law. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

A President Or A King?

During the Constitutional Convention, there was much discussion about the chief executive, how much power he should have, how long his term should be and whether there should be more than one. In fact, the lack of a chief executive was considered one of the glaring weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

Save Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson — who advocated for a strong chief executive similar to a monarch — delegates were most concerned that the executive would turn into a virtual king. During the Philadelphia Convention, Charles Pinckney said he was “for a vigorous executive, but was afraid the executive powers of the existing Congress might extend to peace and war, &c.; which would render the executive a monarchy of the worst kind, to wit, an elective one.”

When Wilson moved that the executive should “consist of a single person,” the Convention was silent. After Benjamin Franklin asked for opinions, John Rutledge said, he was “for vesting the executive power in a single person,” though not for “giving him the power of war and peace.”

George Mason said, “If strong and extensive Powers are vested in the Executive, and that Executive consists of only one Person; the Government will of course degenerate (for I will call it degeneracy) into a Monarchy–a Government so contrary to the Genius of the people that they will reject even the appearance of it…”

What would Mason, Franklin, Rutledge and Pinckney think of the Presidency now? Over the years, the President has usurped more and more authority from Congress, and Congress has ceded its authority willingly. Now the President and the man on the top of the Republican ticket who seeks to replace him both believe the President has the authority to make war without Congressional approval, kill U.S. citizens at his discretion and imprison Americans without charges and hold them indefinitely without trial.

It’s safe to say even Hamilton and Wilson would be mortified by those prospects.

Source: The Founding Father’s Guide To The Constitution, by Brion McClanahan.

Ron Paul’s Victory

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s mission to conduct a broad audit of the Federal Reserve moved a little closer to fruition on Wednesday.

The House oversight committee voted Wednesday to demand a broad audit of the Federal Reserve System by Congressional investigators in relation to a bill sponsored by Paul.

The bill was passed by a voice vote and will now advance to consideration in the full House.

“Clearly the Fed must be made too big to fail, and too big to fail requires a considerable amount of oversight,” said Representative Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, according to The Washington Times.

Paul’s bill has garnered 257 co-sponsors from both parties and would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full audit of the Federal Reserve’s operations, including its monetary policy deliberations.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) attempted to introduce an amendment that would prevent the GAO from auditing the Fed’s deliberations on monetary policy, but withdrew the attempt after Issa said it would “gut the bill.”

“This whole idea about ‘Well, we can’t touch the Fed’ is baloney,” said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio). “We have to be able to have control over the Fed because it’s controlling every aspect of our economy.”

Rainbow Oreo Results In Backlash

As part of gay pride month, Oreo released a picture of a rainbow stuffed cookie along with the message “Proudly support love!” on its Facebook page. The move has resulted in “likes” and loathes.

Kraft Foods is not planning to sell the cookie. It’s just a publicity stunt.

“We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way,” spokeswoman Basil Maglaris told ABC News. “As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness.  We feel the OREO ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

Some consumers have vowed to boycott the 100-year-old company as a result of the cookie, while others have supported the move.

“God does not hate gay people, if you think that you need to get out your bible and actually read it. God loves everyone,” posted one advocate.

“Oreo you are awesome.. My daughter saw this picture while eating an oreo and said I want it! Lol yep oreo rules!” wrote another.

Oreo is not alone in its support of gay pride month. Target created a line of T-shirts earlier this month. They promptly sold out upon release.

Guns Didn’t Kill, Bureaucrats Did

Gun control advocate Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a strong case for 2nd Amendment rights on Tuesday; it was, in fact, the same case that gun rights activists have been making for years.

According to The Hill, Hoyer unleashed the following diatribe on Capitol Hill reporters while discussing the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, the man killed in 2010 by members of a Mexican drug cartel armed with weapons that “walked” into Mexico as part of the failed Fast and Furious initiative:

“The premise is that somehow letting these guns go across the border resulted in this tragic death,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “[But] people kill people, not guns, I’m told on a regular basis.

“And controlling guns — whether it’s assault weapons or others — would not solve the problem, I am told by some,” he added, referring to gun-reform critics. “So such legislation is not necessary because it is people who kill people. I hope you see the contradiction in the positions being taken.

“The fact of the matter is this life was tragically lost because there are some criminals on both sides of the border who facilitate violent criminal behavior,” Hoyer said.

In Hoyer’s view, Congressional Republicans’ focus on the guns that were used to kill Terry and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata is misplaced and the focus should be on the criminals that killed him. The Representative is right in noting that the men were killed by criminals.

Unfortunately for Hoyer, his careless remarks in trying to spin the Border Patrol agent’s death as a rebuttal to gun control critics come off as ill-informed at best and, at worst, downright insidious.

Perhaps Hoyer could have borrowed another familiar refrain that is used by 2nd Amendment advocates each time stricter and unConstitutional gun control laws are proposed: In many places, already existing gun regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun advocates already exist.

And when guns do get into the hands of criminals, law enforcement authorities often come down hard on the people who run legitimate gun businesses.

  • In Randolph County, Ind., agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided the Federally licensed gun shop of Charles “Fred” Ludington in April of last year, because they believed he had committed record-keeping offenses. This April, Ludington was sentenced to serve four years in Federal prison for selling firearms to a convicted felon and an out-of-State resident. A judge also ordered him to forfeit the 4,276 firearms, nearly 600,000 rounds of ammunition and more than $159,000 in cash seized by ATF from his shop in April of 2011.
  • Paul Copeland, a Vietnam Veteran and Texas-based gun seller, was sentenced to prison time and two years of probation by a Federal court in 2010 for selling a gun to an undocumented alien, Hipolito Aviles, at the Texas Gun Show in Austin. The alien was not charged in the case.
  • A New Mexico family of gun sellers was arrested in August of last year, on charges of knowingly selling guns to Mexican smugglers and various other related charges. Rick Reese and his two sons Ryin and Remington have been in jail for nearly a year, denied bond because a judge found that they may be a flight risk or attempt to barricade themselves on their property, which has a well for water and solar power, in a Ruby Ridge-style standoff. Their charges involve about 30 guns. Find out more about the bizarre case against them here.

All of these individuals have been deemed criminals by the Federal government, and a simple Google search yields hundreds more stories just like these.

So if gun control advocates like Hoyer want people to focus less on the guns and more on the criminals in the case of Fast and Furious, Congressional Republicans on the House oversight committee should take note of the policies adopted by the likes of Bloomberg and the ATF. These policies have made criminals of people who have simply sold guns, often unwittingly, to individuals who wanted them for criminal purposes.

Evidence suggests that the Justice Department assisted in the illegal sales of more than 2,000 firearms, some of which were used in deadly crimes. Unfortunately, there has been no serious talk about holding the people who were responsible for this crime accountable in court, and the President is complicit in covering up damning evidence.

A thorough investigation holding the gun pushers within the Justice Department to the same standard as the above mentioned gun sellers, however, would likely result in arrests leading all the way to the Oval Office.