Bills Requiring GMO Labels Introduced In Both Chambers Of Congress

A continuing movement against genetically modified food by consumer advocacy, environmental and business groups gained some legislative steam this week with bills introduced in both chambers of Congress that would require manufacturers to clearly label food that has been genetically altered.

According to reports, the bipartisan-backed bills would require the Food and Drug Administration to develop standards requiring food growers and producers to connote whether foods have been genetically engineered.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” said a statement from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announcing the introduction of her Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act in the Senate.

In the House, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced similar legislation, announcing, “When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory.”

Polls indicate that a majority of Americans support efforts to require GMO labeling. But previous efforts to require disclosure have been quashed by large food producers that claim labeling is unneeded and will cause consumers to shun certain brands based on unproven claims about GMOs. The United States is currently one of the few developed nations that don’t mandate GMO labels. It trails 64 countries, including the European Union, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, China, South Africa and Australia, in requiring labels.

Co-sponsors of the Senate bill include: Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

And DeFazio’s House effort is co-sponsored by: Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), James Moran (D-Va.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), George Miller (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

SPLC Helped Gay Rights Extremist Pick Target For Attack With Politically Motivated Definition Of ‘Hate’

The Southern Poverty Law Center has built a legacy around pointing out instances of hate and dangerous extremism in the United States. As times change, however, so do those examples of hate and extremism; but many people have suggested in recent years that the SPLC has lost its way in keeping up with those changes and simply moved to cry “hate” in the direction of any group out of line with its left-leaning philosophy.

The validity of such criticism is perhaps more evident than ever in the case of domestic terrorist Floyd Corkins II, which has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Covers of SPLC “Intelligence Reports” from recent years.

Corkins carried out a shooting attack on the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council last year. Upon entering the building posing as an intern, the man opened fire on security guards, wounding one, before being wrestled to the ground. Had his plan not been thwarted early on, a much grislier scene would have unraveled, as the perpetrator reportedly planned to maim and kill as many people in the building as possible before smearing their faces with Chic-fil-A sandwiches he carried with him as a political statement.

Corkins has since pleaded guilty to an act of armed terrorism and assault with intent to kill.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Corkins made the decision to attack FRC based on their designation as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. The report was largely disregarded by mainstream media outlets and bears mention again because the FBI released video of the interrogation that revealed the connection for the first time this week.

“Southern Poverty Law lists, uh, anti-gay groups,” Corkins told agents who asked how he found the organization. “I found them online — did a little research, went to the website, stuff like that.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgjI3wavx-I&w=560&h=315]
The day after the attacks last year, FRC President Tony Perkins said that SPLC gave homicidal zealots like Corkins “license” to violently attack conservative organizations by labeling them as hate groups.

“I believe he was given a license by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who…labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and we stand for traditional, orthodox Christianity,” Perkins said. “It’s time for people to realize what the Southern Poverty Law Center is doing with their reckless labeling of organizations who they disagree with.”

More recently, SPLC has defended the basis upon which it designates groups or individuals as hateful. Heidi Beirich, a representative of the organization, said during an MSNBC interview earlier this month:

The criticism that we get most heavily from the right-wing are complaints about our listing of groups like the Family Research Council or the American Family Association as anti-gay hate groups. And the fact of the matter is that those organizations are akin to many of the white supremacist organizations that we list in the sense that they lie about gay folks.

White supremacist groups lie about African-Americans.

In the case of something like the Family Research Council, they put out all kinds of defamatory information about how gays are child molesters at higher rates and so on, with the intention of destroying that particular population and making them appear to be lesser. So, you know, for us, it’s a no-brainer to put groups like that on our hate list.

And other organizations on the left have also jumped to defend SPLC. The left-leaning website ThinkProgress published a column this week contending that Corkins’ use of the SPLC website to pick his victims simply confirms that FRC is an anti-gay organization.

From the article: “The video of Corkins’ interrogation proves only one thing: the Family Research Council is anti-gay. This is a true fact regardless of whether the SPLC posts a list of anti-gay groups or not, and certainly there are plenty of other websites (including this one) that describe FRC as anti-gay.”

The author also cites another “true fact”: Corkins also told investigators that he visited the FRC website, acting on the SPLC suggestion that the conservative organization hates gays, to learn more about the organization. The author opines that this helped the sick individual to concrete his belief that FRC was indeed a hateful, anti-gay group.

Of course, if you visit the FRC website and are a reasonable person, the assertion would seem hard to believe.

In fairness, FRC does use statistics to its own advantage by interpreting numbers in a way that helps to make its case for traditional family values. But certainly SPLC representatives have not been deaf to similar criticisms made about the way that organization goes about compiling facts in ways that suit its agenda.

While not exactly a scientific method of examining SPLC’s preferential qualifying characteristics of boogeymen, a visit to the organization’s website to conduct a few searches of published material offers a cursory view: White, conservative, small government, Constitutionalist, Christian and fearful of Federal authority are all present. The organization does include a handful of write-ups and examinations of black separatist groups and even extremist Muslims (though most of the Muslim-related stories are about discrimination against Muslims by the greater American public); but those topics are approached with nowhere near the bravado of stories about Christian groups and small-government advocates.

For conservatives, the problem is that SPLC is accepted widely as an authority on discrimination, hate and extremist dangers by all manner of mainstream media organizations and is quoted widely in stories covering these topics. Meanwhile, SPLC routinely lists conservative politicians and benign religious organizations whose only real goals are to proselytize and influence public opinion in a way that furthers the Christian religious agenda alongside groups with dangerous and inflammatory radical histories like the Aryan Brotherhood, Ku Klux Klan (which, by all accounts is pretty powerless in modern America) and the joke that is Westboro Baptist Church.

By allowing political motivation to trump its stated mission of seeking justice and equality for society’s most vulnerable, SPLC has become no better than the most hateful of hate groups it has historically rallied against in the eyes of people who don’t adhere to leftist ideology. Corkins’ lethal actions last year are representative of hate. The bombings carried out by Islamic extremists in Boston earlier this month are representative of hate (SPLC did cover some of this, but with a decidedly apologist bent). And it seems that in the eyes of conservatives, SPLC — in spite of its claim to seek justice and equality for all members of society — is and will remain as culpable as any actors in these hateful activities as long as it allows political ideology to construct its definition of tolerance.

Credit Company Ends Financing For Small Gun Shops, Cites Mass Shootings

One of the Nation’s largest consumer finance companies will no longer provide consumer credit service to gun shops, citing “tragic events” and a changing financial services industry.

GE Capital, which contracts with American retailers to extend point-of-sale credit to customers, announced Wednesday it would tighten up on a policy it had originally approved in 2008 to “cease providing consumer financing programs to merchants whose primary business is to sell firearms.”

The company is headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., and employs many people who live in nearby Newtown, the site of last December’s school murders. Peter Lanza, the father of alleged shooter Adam Lanza, holds a vice president’s position within the company.

“As a responsible lender, we regularly review our lending policies and products to meet changing conditions and requirements,” said the company’s statement. “In 2008, we adopted a policy to cease providing consumer financing programs to merchants whose primary business is to sell firearms. Recently, we implemented a more rigorous audit process in our sporting goods segment in light of industry changes, new legislation and tragic events that have caused widespread reexamination of policies on firearms. This process has affected less [sic] than 75 retailers…”

Of course, the pullout doesn’t apply to general retailers or sporting goods stores that offer guns as part of their larger consumer inventory. Stores like Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which sell guns, won’t be affected, but local mom-and-pop stores will be.

The company sent letters earlier this month to stores who had agreements, telling owners “GE Capital Retail Bank has made the difficult decision to discontinue offering the GE Capital Sport Finance program to your store(s).” GE also pulled the plug on merchant services accounts for Visa and Mastercard point-of-sale terminals in gun stores that had agreed to go with the company for its credit and debit card-swiping service.

GE Capital isn’t the first finance company to shun those who make their living from gun-related sales and services. In fact, the company’s exit marks the removal of gun stores’ only remaining option for offering consumer financing for their products, according to Bloomberg.

Lawmakers Trying To Exempt Themselves From Obamacare

That’s right: Congressional kleptocrats are meeting in secret to sort out a legal way they can exempt themselves from having to join the very same insurance exchange groups they created when they voted for President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010.

POLITICO broke the story late Wednesday, revealing that leaders from both parties, as well as the Obama Administration, have, for months, been holding confidential meetings to discuss exempting members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides from participating in one of the central pillars of Obamacare.

Never mind that regular Americans don’t have a voice in Washington to assure them the same kind of exemptions.

The story quotes an anonymous source who reveals just how aware of their crimes Congressional leaders like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) really are: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”

There’s no way to know how pervasive all these discussions have been, or if libertarian-leaning conservative darlings like Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have, in private, taken any kind of principled stand against such hypocrisy — or if they were ever even included in the scheme’s  loop of information.

It’s strange, at the least, that no Obamacare opponent in Congress has blown the whistle on these meetings, if they’ve been going on for months. A lot of political capital could have accrued to the right conservative tattler over a story like this one. Maybe silence is an honor-among-thieves thing in Congress.

With that said, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ripped the talks after the story hit, telling Breitbart through a spokesman that McConnell:

[D]oes not support, and is not involved in drafting, legislation that would do special favors for Congress when his constituents are still facing the increased premiums and taxes, the mountains of red tape, the loss of health care plans they like and want to keep and fewer jobs under Obamacare…It’s no surprise that Democrats would want to exempt themselves from the train wreck they created in Obamacare, but Sen. McConnell believes the entire country should be exempt from this historic mistake. The law is a disaster and needs to be repealed.

One source told POLITICO the talks are, in part, intended to prevent “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, since Obamacare mandates could motivate Federal employees to enter the private sector to get out from under the plan’s coverage setup for government workers.

That’s a telling statement, if for no other reason than that it reveals just how destructive Obamacare is to capitalism and the profit motive and how it inversely rewards merit and individual accomplishment.

Too, it reveals how Washington leaders see the circumstances as exemption-worthy when they encounter a specific problem that conflicts with the wisdom belied by their own voting patterns.

Hey, we’ve all got problems.

As they prepare to implement Obamacare, States like Maryland are having millions of them.

Picture Worth 1000 Words: Obama, Former First Lady Barbara Bush ‘Share A Laugh’

This photo from The Associated Press and its accompanying caption are sure to give many conservatives a chuckle:

o-BARBARA-BUSH-BARACK-OBAMA-570-550x366

AP captioned the photo:

President Barack Obama shares a laugh with former first lady Barbara Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

H/T: Weasel Zippers

Obama: Americans Express Themselves Through Government

President Barack Obama is undoubtedly a fan of big government. But remarks from the President on Wednesday illustrate just how much he adores burgeoning bureaucracy — and why he thinks American citizens do, too.

In discussing how Americans express “compassion and concern and fellow feeling” with donors attending a Democratic National Committee fundraising event at a private residence in Dallas, the President said government is key.

“That all of us have a stake in their success, and all of us have a stake in a country that expresses this incredible quality of compassion and concern and fellow feeling, not just in our churches or our synagogues or our mosques or our temples, not just in our workplaces or our neighborhoods or our Little League, but also expresses itself through our government,” Obama said.

The President went on to explain that citizens express their compassion when they support growing the size of government and more taxes in the name of helping the poor, young, elderly and vulnerable.

Obama did not explain what the average American might be expressing by way of rampant government waste, massive deficits and horrific atrocities resulting from misguided foreign policy initiatives.

U.S. Underground Economy Getting Bigger As Traditional Economy Contracts

Analysts cited in a CNBC story Wednesday believe the mainstream economy in the U.S. would look a lot worse, if not for a burgeoning off-the-grid network of transactions that has kept many Americans afloat as traditional employment has suffered.

Experts believe the underground economy may account for as much as $2 trillion per year in the United States, with all of those untaxed transactions falling beneath the radar of the Internal Revenue Service.

Tellingly, one professor compares the circumstances surrounding the surge in the American underground economy to those of developing countries, with participants motivated by a combination of desperation over generating income by traditional means and resignation that things aren’t going to fix themselves.

“You normally see underground economies in places like Brazil or in southern Europe,” said Fordham University professor Laura Gonzalez. “But with the job situation and the uncertainty in the economy, it’s not all that surprising to have it growing here in the United States.”

Bombing Suspects’ Mother Will Praise Allah If Her Youngest Son Is Killed By America

Many people have noted that prominent leftist mainstream media pundits and a number of other left-leaning American blowhards have gone to great lengths to downplay the link between the Boston Marathon bombers and the Islamic faith.

But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of terror suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is making it difficult for apologists with remarks made during a press conference this week.

“If they are going to kill him, I don’t care,” she said on CNN of Dzhokhar.

“My oldest one is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care is my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And I don’t care if I am going to get killed too. And I will say Allahu akbar!’

**Emphasis is the author’s own.

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DARPA Developing Satellite-Free GPS-Replacement Technology

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing an alternative for global positioning systems the military hopes to use as a means of weaning soldiers from any need for dependence on a systemic array of satellites and signaling networks.

Citing concerns that enemy technology can scramble GPS signals, confuse American equipment and strand men in the field, DARPA and researchers at the University of Michigan are working on autonomous locating devices that could be carried individually — residing on tiny chips that use accelerometers and gyroscopes to pinpoint a person’s position and direction of travel.

“DARPA envisages using this technology to replace GPS in some contexts, especially in small-caliber ammunition or for monitoring people,” observes France24.

Bill Clinton Officially Joins Twitter

WASHINGTON,  (UPI) —  Former President Bill Clinton has joined Twitter with the handle @billclinton and already has more than 200,000 followers.

Clinton, who made his first Twitter post on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” when host Stephen Colbert opened up an account for him under the name @prezbillyjeff, joined Twitter officially with the user name @billclinton, Politico reported Thursday.

“Excited to join @ChelseaClinton and my good friend @StephenAtHome on Twitter,” Clinton posted in his first official tweet.

Colbert responded to the 42nd president’s new Twitter account.

“I taught @billclinton to tweet! This is almost as exciting as the time I taught Cheney ‘Dance Dance Revolution,'” he posted.

Jeb’s Mom Says She Doesn’t Want Him To Run For President

DALLAS, (UPI) —  The mother of a past U.S. president and wife of another said Thursday in Dallas she doesn’t want to be the mother of a second president.

Barbara Bush, the mother of former President George W. Bush and wife of former President George H.W. Bush, says she doesn’t want her son Jeb to run for the presidency, CNN reported.

“He’s by far the best qualified man, but no. I really don’t,” she said when asked if the former Florida governor should make a run for the presidency.

“There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever,” she added. “There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes.”

Her comments on NBC’s “Today” show were made from Dallas, where several generations of Bushes had gathered for the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential center.

Jeb’s presidential sibling says he wants his brother to run.

“Well, big Jeb, you know, he’s got a decision to make,” Bush said in an interview aired Wednesday. “And if I could make it for him, it’d be ‘run,’ but I can’t.”

Jeb Bush hasn’t ruled out the possibility. He said last month, “I’m not going to think about it for 2013.”

Hip-Hop Artist Rev. Run: Get Screened For Diabetes

DETROIT, (UPI) —  East Coast hip-hop artist Rev. Run of the group Run-D.M.C. says it’s critical for Americans to be screened for diabetes because knowledge is power.

“If you don’t get screened, you don’t know. What you don’t know, you cannot fix,” he told The Detroit News before appearing at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple church Sunday as part of a nationwide tour sponsored by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which makes diabetes care equipment and medicines.

Run, whose real name is Joseph Ward Simmons, began using the Rev. Run stage name after he was ordained a Pentecostal minister.

“We truly believe prevention is the best prescription,” Giesha Stevens, executive director of Greater Grace Temple’s outreach arm, told the newspaper.

Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases involving high blood sugar, either because the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or because cells don’t respond to the insulin that’s produced.

The Institute for Alternative Futures non-profit research organization in Alexandria, Va., projected the growing prevalence and rising cost of diabetes in the United States from 2010 through 2025.

A breakdown from the group can be found at altfutures.com/diabetes2025.

In Michigan, the prevalence is expected to rise 42 percent by 2025 from 2010, with the medical and indirect societal cost projected to rise to $16 billion from $10.6 billion in 2010, the study indicated.

This has implications for cities such as Detroit with large numbers of African Americans, the newspaper said.

African Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites to develop the condition than whites, the American Diabetes Association says.

The risk for everyone generally rises once they turn 45.

Those factors, along with his father having diabetes, pushed Simmons, a Novo Nordisk “ambassador,” to speak out, he told the News.

“I was one of those people … afraid to get the screening,” he said. “Then what touched me most was when I started thinking about my kids, my wife.”

Neil Diamond To Donate ‘Sweet Caroline’ Royalties

BOSTON, (UPI) —  Neil Diamond says he will donate the royalties from this week’s soaring sales of his song “Sweet Caroline” to a Boston Marathon bombing victims fund.

“Donating these royalties to #OneFund! RT “@Nielsen_Ent: ‘Sweet Caroline’ sales up by 597 percent, selling 19K after Boston bombings,” the 72-year-old singer-songwriter said on Twitter.

The soft-rock hit, released as a single June 28, 1969, has been played at Boston Red Sox baseball games as an eighth-inning staple since 2002 and became an unofficial Boston anthem after the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured 264 others.

The nearly 19,000 downloads of “Sweet Caroline” this week is up from 2,800 the week before, Nielsen SoundScan reported.

The fund for the bombing victims, The One Fund Boston, raised nearly $24 million as of Thursday, a United Press International check indicated.

“Sweet Caroline,” which doesn’t mention Boston or the Red Sox, was inspired by an “innocent, wonderful” photo of President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, Diamond told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2007.

Caroline Kennedy was 11 years old when he wrote the song. He sang it at her 50th birthday celebration in 2007.

Diamond was at Boston’s Fenway Park Saturday to lead fans in a rousing sing-along rendition of the tune during the team’s first home stand since the attacks.

The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Raptors and other sports teams also played “Sweet Caroline” at games following the bombings.

The singer, who has sold more than 125 million records worldwide, told Rolling Stone magazine last week he was working on a new song inspired in part by the Boston tragedy.

“I’m writing now and obviously affected by this situation in Boston, so I’m writing about it just to express myself,” he said.

The song, which he told the magazine was still untitled, will cover more than just the Boston events. It will also include the shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

“It’s like an infestation, and I’m writing about the general situation, not just about this bombing in Boston, but what we’re going through with all of these tragedies — shootings and so on and so forth,” Diamond said.

Firefighters’ Lawsuit Alleges Hearing Damage From Sirens

PITTSBURGH, (UPI) —  A lawsuit filed by four Pittsburgh firefighters alleges they suffered permanent hearing loss due to the volume of truck sirens.

Ralph Bilski, Jeremiah Dengler and Roger Maher III, who have been Pittsburgh firefighters since at least 1981, and Mark Godlewski, who joined the department in 2000, filed a lawsuit against several manufacturers alleging the sirens caused irreversible hearing damage, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

The lawsuit names American Lafrance, E-One Inc., Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corp., Mack Trucks Inc., Pierce Manufacturing Inc., Seagrave Fire Apparatus and Federal Signal Corp. as defendants.

The firefighters allege the department’s trucks lacked sufficient insulation to protect their hearing and the manufacturers of the sirens and the trucks failed to provide warnings about potential hearing damage.

The city of Pittsburgh isn’t named in the lawsuit.

Alexandria, Virginia, Dubbed Most Well-Read City By Amazon.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va.,  (UPI) —  Online store Amazon.com said Alexandria, Va., topped its annual list of the Most Well-Read Cities in America.

The website said its third annual list, compiled using sales of both print and Kindle editions of all books, magazines and newspapers per capita in cities with a population of more than 100,000 since June 1, 2012, was topped by Alexandria, followed by Knoxville, Tenn.; Miami; Cambridge, Mass.; and Orlando, Fla.

The Top 10 was rounded out by Ann Arbor, Mich.; Berkeley, Calif.; Cincinnati; Columbia, S.C.; and Pittsburgh.

“The results of our annual Most Well-Read Cities list is proof that people across the country are reading, and also that we’re still seeing the popularity of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,'” said Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle. “It’s fun for us to see facts like the citizens of Cambridge are buying the most books in the business category or that one of our favorite novels of 2012, ‘Gone Girl,’ is the best-selling book in the Most Well-Read City, Alexandria.”

George W. Bush Dedicates Library With Faith In Future Of Country

DALLAS, (UPI) —  Five current and past U.S. presidents spoke at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library that Bush dedicated with faith in the country’s future.

“The purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambitions; elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves,” Bush told an audience that included U.S. and foreign dignitaries, family and friends.

The dedication of the 13th presidential library took place under sunny skies Thursday on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.

“In the end, leaders are defined by convictions they hold. My deepest conviction … is that the United States of America must strive to expand the reach of freedom,” he said. “I believe freedom is a gift from God and the hope of every human heart.”

“I dedicate this library with unshakable faith in future of this country,” Bush said.

His voice quivering, Bush said he had “the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States. Whatever challenges come before us, I will always believe our nation’s best days lie ahead. God bless.”

Bush thanked his “fellow members of the former presidents club” and for the examples they set.

He singled out his father, President George H.W. Bush, beset by illness in recent months and who attended the ceremony in a wheelchair.

“Bush 41, it is awesome that you are here today,” the son told the father and giving his presidential number.

President Obama spoke of how Bush left a letter that demonstrated his “compassion and generosity.”

In the letter, Bush said he knew that Obama “would come to learn what he had learned — that being president, above all, is a humbling job.”

Recalling former President Bill Clinton’s remarks about Bush, Obama said, “To know the man is to like the man because he’s comfortable in his own skin. … He takes his job seriously but he doesn’t take himself seriously. He is a good man.”

Obama, Clinton and President Jimmy Carter all praised Bush’s efforts in immigration, providing financial and humanitarian assistance to African countries and other issues.

“I like President Bush. He’s disarmingly direct,” Clinton said of his successor, with whom he worked in Haiti following an earthquake in January 2011, and which George H.W. Bush on several humanitarian projects.

“Each library is about our nation and the world during our time” in office, former first lady Laura Bush said. “Here we remember the heartbreak and heroism of Sept. 11. We remember volunteers of all ages who came to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina …”

The library will be open to the public next Wednesday.

It includes girders from the World Trade Center towers felled on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the bullhorn Bush used to speak to first responders at Ground Zero.

Museum Director Alan Lowe told C-SPAN the library holds more than 70 million pages of paper records from Bush’s administration, more than 80 terabytes, including 200,000 email messages, and 42,000 artifacts, as well as a range of audio/video artifacts.

The Bush library is the largest and most expensive presidential library, NBC News said. The library has 226,560 square feet and carries a price tag of $250 million. It was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of architecture at Yale University, Bush’s alma mater.

Justice Department Employees No Longer Facing Furloughs

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  U.S. Justice Department employees will not face furloughs this fiscal year, escaping the fate of other government employees, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

About 116,000 Justice Department employees received notice Wednesday from the attorney general that they would not be forced to take up to 22 unpaid days that they were previously warned about, The Washington Post reported.

Holder said that the Justice Department took “aggressive steps” to cut costs since the budget cuts known as sequestration took effect, allowing him to avoid furloughs for the department.

“This action means that thousands of critical FBI and ATF agents, deputy U.S. marshals, prosecutors and other department employees will remain on the job protecting national security, fighting violent crime and enforcing our laws,” Holder wrote.

However, Holder told the employees that if sequestration continues into the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, “furloughs are a distinct possibility.”

Only One Gun Recovered So Far In Boston Marathon Bombings Probe

BOSTON,  (UPI) —  Only one gun — a semiautomatic handgun — has been recovered from the two men suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings, police told ABC News.

The gun, presumably used by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was recovered at the shootout scene in Watertown, Mass., and is in the custody of the Massachusetts State Police, ABC News reported Thursday.

No guns were recovered from the boat where his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured Friday after an intense manhunt. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed earlier Friday in a shootout with police.

Law enforcement sources said the recovered gun was a Ruger 9mm semiautomatic handgun and the serial number had been obliterated.

The apparent lack of firearms led some officials to theorize the brothers’ fatal attack on Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, was an attempt to arm themselves, officials said.

The FBI released photos of the men they believed planted the two bombs near the finish line of the April 15 Boston Marathon in which three people were killed and more than 270 people were injured.

Recent figures indicate 34 people were still hospitalized, one in critical condition, ABC News said.

Law enforcement officials told ABC News Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently began collecting materials for the explosives at least two months ago when he was spotted at a New Hampshire fireworks store. Store personnel told the FBI $400 worth of fireworks were sold to him in February.

U.S. officials also said the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service contacted the CIA and the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The older Tsarnaev brother “had changed drastically since 2010″ and was preparing to travel to a part of Russia “to join unspecified underground groups,” said a one-page request from the intelligence service, cited by The New York Times, that was sent to the FBI in March 2011 and to the CIA in September 2011.

U.S. authorities told Russian intelligence they had no suspicious information about the man but they put Tamerlan Tsarnaev on two government watch lists late that year that were supposed to alert authorities if he traveled overseas.

One of the databases, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, contains about 700,000 names and is the source for information for other government watch lists — including the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database and the Transportation Security Administration’s “no fly” list.

When Tamerlan Tsarnaev left the United States Jan. 12, 2012, for a six-month trip to Dagestan and Chechnya — predominantly Muslim republics in Russia’s North Caucasus region — his flight reservation tripped a security alert to customs authorities, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee Tuesday.

It evidently did not set off a TIDE alert because the spelling variants of his name and the birth dates entered into the system — variants Russia included in its warnings — were different enough from the correct information to bypass an alert, a U.S. official told the Times.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been the subject of a massive manhunt all day Friday and was cornered just before nightfall, hiding in a boat in the driveway of a house in Watertown.

“They probably didn’t know whether he had a gun,” one law enforcement official told The Washington Post. “Hours earlier, he and his brother had killed a police officer, shot another officer and thrown explosives out of their cars as the police were chasing them. They couldn’t assume that he did not have a gun and more explosives.”

Texas Plant Blast Damage Estimated At $100 Million

WEST, Texas,  (UPI) —  The death toll has risen to 15 and the estimate of damage from a Texas fertilizer plant explosion blast has risen to $100 million, authorities said.

At least 200 people were injured in the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. facility in West, Texas, 20 miles north of Waco and 70 miles south of Dallas.

The number of homes destroyed has climbed to 140, Insurance Council of Texas spokesman Mark Hanna said.

“The insured losses should reach $100 million as soon adjusters are allowed to inspect all of the structures and vehicles that were damaged,” Hanna said.

“As far as I can tell, every policyholder in West has been contacted by their insurance company and help has been offered,” he said.

The council added that the number of those who are uninsured and seeking assistance was high.

President Barack Obama, who will travel to West, Texas, Thursday for a memorial service for the dead and injured, ordered flags at public buildings flown at half-staff for the day.

First lady Michelle Obama planned to attend the service at Baylor University in Waco.

The president was to deliver remarks around 2:15 p.m. CDT, the White House said Wednesday night.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the explosion and the FBI has said it has no indication of criminal activity.

The 7:51 p.m. blast occurred two days before the anniversary of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, an attack set off by explosives made from fertilizer that killed 168 people.

It happened two days after the Boston Marathon twin bombings that killed three people and injured 282 others.

The fertilizer plant in the town of West, population 2,700, exploded as volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders were arriving in response to a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

Most of the 10 first responders killed were found near a 90-foot-wide crater created by a blast so powerful the U.S. Geological Survey registered it as a magnitude-2.1 earthquake.

At least two lawsuits have been filed against West Fertilizer owner-operator Adair Grain Inc.

Adair owner Donald Adair said in a statement Tuesday his company was “working closely” with investigators “and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible.”

He said his company would “do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community.” He said he would limit his comments in the coming weeks “out of respect for the investigative process.”

Store Pulls Pressure Cookers, Weiner Comes Clean, ‘We’ve Had Enough Bushes,’ Celebs Consume Poverty Lifestyle, Taxing The Flu: Thursday Morning News Roundup 4-25-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • The Williams-Sonoma chain of upscale kitchen stores has decided to temporarily remove pressure cookers from its Massachusetts stores. Insensitive Crate & Barrel, meanwhile, is still selling them. And, at last check, evil gas stations were still selling explosive gasoline.

 

  • Disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who’s trying to make a political comeback in a bid for the New York City mayor’s office, admitted Wednesday there may be more embarrassing photos of himself floating around besides the 2011 ones he tweeted that led him to resign from office.

 

  • Amid talk that son Jeb may be considering a run at the Presidency in 2016, former first lady Barbara Bush doesn’t sound enthused about the next generation of Bushes entering national politics. “He’s by far the most qualified man, but no,” Babs told the “Today” show. “We’ve had enough Bushes.”

 

  • Ben Affleck and other celebrities are attempting to raise awareness for worldwide hunger by pledging to live for $1.50 per day as part of the Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below The Line” campaign. For people who feel guilty about being wealthy, choosing a week of austerity stems from the same consumerist impulse as buying a new Jaguar.

 

  • Congress is set to impose a 75 cent per-shot tax on flu vaccines administered in the United States, in anticipation of raising more than $100 million to fund a “no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims.” The fund itself has been around since 1988, and has paid out $2.5 billion. Its current balance without the tax? $3.5 billion.

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

U.S. Gives Preferential Treatment to Saudi Travelers As Number Of Post-9/11 Immigrants Surges

Amid an ongoing debate over the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill and its hasty omission of national security measures and only three weeks after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted “trusted traveler” status to Saudi Arabia, CNS News has published a report revealing the number of Saudi students living in the United States has increased fivefold since Sept. 11, 2001.

Whether you’re a 9/11 truther or a believer in the official line that 15 of the 19 men who plotted and carried out the attacks were from Saudi Arabia (and may have had help from some pretty high places) doesn’t matter: The comparatively light scrutiny Saudi nationals receive when attempting to enter the U.S. is cause for concern.

According to the report, there were 5,579 Saudi nationals enrolled in U.S. colleges at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Last year, there were 34,139.

The Presidential infatuation with Saudi Arabia transcends political parties; George W. Bush was slammed post-9/11 for targeting Iraq while holding out on any sort of condemnation of Saudi extremism. Bush was President for most of the period between 2001 and 2012, and much of the influx happened under his watch. But the Saudi number has taken off under Barack Obama; it jumped from 22,704 to 34,139 — a 50.4 percent increase — last year alone.

Glenn Beck has been making a lot of noise since last week’s Boston Marathon attacks about a Saudi national who initially received some scrutiny from the FBI and DHS as a possible suspect. The student, Ali Al-Harbi, came to the United States via Boston, ostensibly to enroll at an Ohio university that has no record of his attendance.

Beck maintains that Al-Harbi went from primary suspect marked on DHS’ ‘No-fly” list to witness to free man to victim in a matter of hours because of an Obama Administration cover-up, one that presumably hides inscrutable arrangements between the White House and the Saudi government.