Huge 2016 field means no GOP front-runner

(TNS) — Running for president is not quite what it used to be.

Candidates once had to rely on the support of party leaders, who assessed their electability; on a broad fundraising base to sustain them until victory brought in fresh cash; and on a handful of national news outlets to spread the word of their candidacy.

No more.

Major changes in the political system — especially campaign finance laws that allow rich people to write unlimited checks to certain political action committees — have drastically lowered the barriers to entry, as has the proliferation of social media.

“If you’ve got a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a millionaire to fund your ‘super PAC,’ why not?” said Jim Dyke, a veteran Republican strategist working for presidential hopeful Jeb Bush in South Carolina.

The result is more than a dozen declared Republican candidates — with others soon to follow — giving the party its largest pick of presidential contenders in memory and a roster of uncommon depth and experience.

What the party lacks is a clear leader in the 2016 field — or anyone, for that matter, who can plausibly claim a meaningful advantage — producing what is arguably the most wide-open Republican race in more than 50 years.

“You have people who lead in polls,” said Craig Robinson, a GOP analyst in Iowa, the state due to cast the first presidential ballots in just about six months, “but no front-runner.”

Indeed, an aggregate of surveys taken nationally as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire, the second state to vote, shows no candidate gaining the support of even a quarter of Republicans interviewed.

With the field likely to include at least four sitting governors, plus the ex-governors of three big states — Florida, New York and Texas — and four U.S. senators, the party hardly lacks for skilled and politically proven candidates.

The faithful will inevitably rally around the eventual Republican nominee, uniting behind the shared goal of defeating the Democrats in November 2016 and winning back the White House after an eight-year absence.

But until then, the supersized White House field points not just to the ease of entry but to myriad fault lines within the party: between its establishment and insurgent wings, between social and economic conservatives, between its growing political base in the conservative South and shrinking toehold in the more moderate Northeast.

“We have polarization in the Republican Party,” said Stuart Spencer, a GOP strategist with more than half a century of campaign experience. “Just as we do in the nation.”

It is not unusual for a party out of power to look inward and debate what, if any, changes are needed to find its way back to success. (Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential contests and haven’t won a sizable electoral college majority since 1988.)

In 1992, after a string of Democratic losses, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won the White House running as “a new kind of Democrat” who was less beholden to the party’s long-standing liberal orthodoxy. He declined to spare a death row inmate from execution, hoping to show his toughness on crime, and vowed to drastically overhaul the federal welfare system, which he did in his second term as president.

No GOP candidates have gone as far as Clinton in taking on their own party. But several have nudged fellow Republicans in different ways: ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by urging the party to soften its tone on immigration; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul by advocating a less assertive military policy; Ohio Gov. John Kasich by embracing the expansion of Medicare under the Affordable Care Act, which is loathed by many Republicans.

While those three and others seek to broaden the party and its appeal, some rivals, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have suggested Republicans hold true to their long-standing positions and do a better job of turning out supporters who, they suggest, have been dispirited by too-quick-to-compromise nominees like John McCain and Mitt Romney.

“What Jeb Bush is saying is that we need to hide our conservative ideals,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday in launching his presidential bid. “But the truth is if we go down that road again, we will lose again.”

Bush, with his universal name recognition and ready-made national network of political and financial supporters, was once considered a strong favorite for the nomination. But his less-than-stellar performance as a candidate and resistance among Republicans toward the notion of another Bush in the White House — following his father and older brother — have pushed him back among the rest of the pack.

That, in turn, has encouraged others to jump into the Republican race, among them Kasich, who is expected to formally declare his candidacy by the end of summer.

“I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room,” Ohio’s governor told a group of New Hampshire business leaders earlier this month. “And it just hasn’t happened.”

–Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times


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Cartoon Roundup

Another week has passed: Hillary Clinton is still scandalous, Baltimore is cleaning up after riots in the streets, America still hasn’t come up with a plan to police effectively without beating down the citizenry and cooperation in Washington is still unheard of. There’s a phrase for it all, bearing the acronym SSDD. But, hey, at least George McGovern Bernie Sanders entered the 2016 presidential race. That should be fun to watch.


April 28, 2015



Cartoon roundup

Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

When it comes to Iran, the Republican stance is that no deal is better than a bad deal. But it seems that what we got is even worse. We just gave Iran everything it wanted. In fact, two Americans — a pastor and a Marine — are being held over there, and Barack Obama didn’t even think to mention their names in the “negotiations.” We just gave in, relieved their sanctions and got nothing in return. What the heck?

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Daryl Cagle,
Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons
Emad Hajjaj, Jordan
Joep Bertrams, The Netherlands
Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz launches presidential bid

WASHINGTON (TNS) — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is running for president, he announced on Twitter.

The ambitious lawmaker’s intentions were no surprise. An aide had confirmed Sunday that Cruz would announce his 2016 White House run on Monday at Liberty University, the conservative university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Cruz tipped his hand even earlier.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, he tweeted: “I’m running for president and I hope to earn your support!”

In an accompanying video, Cruz said, “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again. I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.”

Cruz becomes the first high-profile Republican to formally enter the 2016 contest. Several other hopefuls are reportedly planning announcements for next month, as is Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Houston Chronicle first reported Cruz’s plan, which was confirmed by a strategist close to him, who spoke before the official announcement on condition of anonymity.

The Texas senator trails several other potential Republican candidates in early polling, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and two Senate colleagues, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Cruz, 44, has tense relations with the party establishment and Senate leadership, whose legislative plans he often complicates. But he has an ardent following in the conservative wing of the party, and is likely to be a significant force in the primaries.

After his election to the Senate in 2012, Cruz won backing from Tea Party activists by leading the GOP’s push to shut down the federal government in fall 2013, part of an unsuccessful bid to block President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

He has staked out uncompromising positions on the right, calling for the complete repeal of Obamacare, abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and opposition to any form of “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Those credentials will be highlighted by the venue for his Monday announcement, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school, founded by Falwell in 1971, declares its mission to be “training champions for Christ.” Its graduates can be found in many roles in conservative organizations across the country.

The decision to announce his candidacy at Liberty indicates how crucial evangelical voters will be to his prospects. Evangelicals form a key voting bloc in many Republican elections, particularly in Iowa, which holds the first contest of the presidential season.

Cruz will face intense competition for evangelical voters. Walker has enjoyed strong backing from religious conservatives in his campaigns, and Paul has courted evangelical leaders in Iowa and elsewhere. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has received strong evangelical support in the past, as have former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who appear to be less competitive in the strong 2016 field.

Because Cruz’s Senate term runs through the end of 2018, he can run for the presidency without losing his seat.

–Lisa Mascaro and David Lauter
Tribune Washington Bureau


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White House fence-jumping suspect who eluded Secret Service pleads guilty

WASHINGTON (TNS) — The Texas man accused of scaling a White House fence last fall and making it all the way inside the building pleaded guilty to two charges in federal court Friday.

Omar Gonzalez, an Army veteran from Texas, faced federal and municipal charges including unlawfully entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly weapon for the Sept. 19 intrusion, which prompted a review of the Secret Service amid a series of controversies for the protection agency.

During a 40-minute hearing in federal court, Gonzalez agreed to plead guilty to entering a restricted building and assaulting and impeding law enforcement.

Gonzalez, 43, clad in an orange jumpsuit, spoke only to give brief, tentative responses to the judge.

Psychiatrists had found that Gonzalez was competent to stand trial, but under terms of the agreement will forgo one. Prosecutors and Gonzalez’s attorney agreed to a sentence in the range of 12 to 18 months, but a final decision will not come until a June 8 sentencing hearing.

Under the agreement, Gonzalez also agreed not to enter Washington, other than for court appearances, and to avoid physical or online contact with the Secret Service. He will be evaluated by a Secret Service psychologist, and agreed to be interviewed by agents to assess the threat he poses.

Gonzalez, who had a pocket knife with him when he evaded multiple layers of security and entered the White House, had also been accused of possessing ammunition.

His appearance in court comes amid a new scandal for the famed protection agency, accusations that two top agents drove into a bomb investigation scene on White House grounds after a night out drinking and that a supervisor who wanted them to submit to a sobriety tests was overruled.

President Barack Obama remains confident in the agency and its director, Joseph Clancy, whom he installed in recent months, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

–Michael A. Memoli
Tribune Washington Bureau


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CIA to build cyberespionage unit

WASHINGTON (TNS) — In a reorganization of the nation’s premier spy agency, the CIA is creating a special division to conduct digital espionage, the latest government agency to respond to the growing use of cyberhacks and attacks around the globe.

The new directorate will try to penetrate the ranks of foreign hackers and other adversaries who try to penetrate or sabotage crucial U.S. infrastructure, as well as help American spies overseas steal digital secrets and cover their tracks.

“The digital world touches every aspect of our business,” CIA Director John O. Brennan told reporters at CIA headquarters. He acknowledged that the agency had been slow to adapt to the challenge of digital espionage.

The shift comes after U.S. intelligence was caught off guard by a series of high-profile digital attacks last year, including an assault on computer systems at Sony Pictures linked to North Korea, and an Iranian-launched cyberassault on Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s largest casino company.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, warned Congress last month that cyberattacks pose a greater long-term threat to national security than terrorism. The Pentagon, FBI and Department of Homeland Security have stepped up cybersecurity operations, and the White House last month announced a new agency to help analyze and share digital threat information between government and business.

The new home for the CIA’s cyberespionage effort will be called the Directorate of Digital Innovation. It will have the same level of authority as the four long-standing directorates responsible for clandestine operations, analysis, spy gadgetry and logistics.

The division will help the CIA reorient how it collects intelligence. “We don’t want to invest a lot of time, resources and energy” recruiting sources to steal secrets that are freely available online, Brennan said.

The new cyberpush threatens to put the CIA in direct competition with the mammoth National Security Agency, which specializes in breaking codes, vacuuming up conversations and communications, and analyzing huge troves of digital transmissions.

But officials said the CIA will focus less on collecting so-called signals intelligence and more on how to use digital tools to persuade adversaries to spill their secrets, and to help protect American operatives.

Along with crunching large amounts of data to help identify and approach new spies to recruit, officials said the CIA can improve its ability to trace the “digital dust” that potential targets leave when using an ATM card, renting a car, moving through a city with a cellphone, or other activities.

Rival spy agencies use those digital fingerprints to help track CIA operatives, and the agency wants to find techniques to help officers working undercover hide their tracks online.

“The digital domain fundamentally transformed all of our lives, including in the intelligence world,” Brennan said.

The agency also will create 10 regional and issue-focused “mission centers” that will attempt to break down the traditional walls between the directorates, especially the operators who steal secrets and recruit agents, and the analysts who pore over data and brief policy makers and the president.

“There was, I think, great esprit de corps in those directorates, but also at times, those directorates were a bit siloed, and were stovepiped,” meaning they didn’t share critical intelligence, Brennan said. Crucial data about threats still fall into “seams” between different divisions, he added.

The CIA was pilloried after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for failing to share information that might have allowed U.S. authorities to stop the al-Qaida plot. The 9/11 Commission recommended numerous reforms after that intelligence failure, partly aimed at ending the stovepipes, but Brennan’s comments suggest the problem persists.

Michael Allen, a former staff member for the House intelligence committee, said Brennan wants to clone the aggressive focus that the CIA’s counterterrorism center used to track and kill scores of al-Qaida operatives and ultimately Osama bin Laden.

“Brennan is trying to integrate the CIA’s dissimilar tribes to replicate the man-hunting success” after 2001, Allen said.

He said the attempt to break down barriers between analysts and operatives, two deeply entrenched cultures, won’t be easy.

“This will take years and bureaucratic blood on the floor to blend these cultures,” he said.

–Brian Bennett
Tribune Washington Bureau


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Ted Cruz welcomed by some Senate candidates, shunned by others

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Sen. Ted Cruz will spend Saturday in Georgia pitching voters on David Perdue. That will bring to three the number of Senate nominees the Texas Tea Partier has clasped hands with this fall.

Republican hopes to reclaim the Senate hinge on eight to 10 crucial races. Cruz, one of several senators eyeing the White House in 2016 and by far the most divisive in either party, has been doing his part. He’s sent checks to some candidates, raised money for others and donated generously to the party’s Senate campaign arm.

He’s also stumped where he’s been invited, which turns out to be a limited number of contested states: Iowa, Kansas and Georgia. He’ll be in Alaska the weekend before Election Day, an aide said Wednesday.

In other battlegrounds where moderate voters hold the key, such as Colorado and North Carolina, Cruz isn’t the go-to guy. The 16-day government shutdown he instigated a year ago remains unpopular — one of several reasons that for each candidate who welcomes Cruz, there are more for whom his embrace would be toxic.

“I’m on the road just about every day. Primarily campaigning to help retake the Senate in 2014, which I think we have a tremendous opportunity to do,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m going to be in a number of other states. We’re set to travel quite a bit” in the final push ahead of Nov. 4.

In Kansas, Cruz joined three-term Sen. Pat Roberts last week. Challenger Greg Orman pounced on him for “inviting the architect of last year’s government shutdown.” Kansas political analysts agreed that the Cruz appearance came at a price.

But during the Republican primary in Kansas, he’d been pummeled as insufficiently conservative by Tea Partier Milton Wolf, who pitched himself as the next Ted Cruz. Roberts won but needed to shore up support in his own party.

“I want to talk in particular to conservative voters, to tea party voters,” Cruz said at a rally in Wichita. “If you’re frustrated with Washington, the answer is not to stay home and keep (Democrat) Harry Reid as majority leader.”

Brian Walsh, a veteran GOP strategist and Roberts consultant, called it invaluable.

“Senator Cruz was a great help. It was very useful for him to be there to rally conservative voters in Kansas, particularly with Senator Roberts still coming off a very divisive primary,” he said.

Jennifer Duffy, a top Senate analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, agreed that Cruz was “probably very helpful in coalescing the conservative base. … So that was worth it.”

But in plenty of other states, candidates prefer to keep Cruz at arm’s length, she said.

Take New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary in 2016.

GOP nominee Scott Brown, an abortion rights supporter, casts himself as someone able to work across the aisle more effectively than Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Cruz has visited the state three times this year and hasn’t been seen with Brown, unlike another 2016 contender, Kentucky tea party Sen. Rand Paul, who has made himself far more palatable to establishment Republicans.

“Scott Brown and Ted Cruz have nothing in common,” said Duffy.

Cruz is dispensing some of his help below the radar. He sent $5,000 checks from his campaign accounts to six Senate candidates, including Brown, last month.

On Oct. 7, Cruz quietly hosted a fundraising event in Houston for four Senate hopefuls: Rep. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, Dan Sullivan from Alaska, Joni Ernst from Iowa and Mike McFadden from Minnesota. All but Ernst are taking on incumbents.

Cruz’s name popped up in the Minnesota race when McFadden accused liberal Sen. Al Franken of being so extreme that he’s “the Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party.”

So far, the Texan has appeared in person only with Ernst, in August; and he has the Georgia and Alaska trips pending. Cruz also has stumped this fall for two U.S. House candidates, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Elsewhere, Cruz isn’t as much in demand. In North Carolina, where spending on the Senate race will top $100 million and set a national record, Thom Tillis is trying to oust Sen. Kay Hagan. In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner is trying to topple Sen. Mark Udall. Moderates hold the key in both states, and that’s hardly Cruz’s sweet spot.

“I’m sure people accept his help, and he is being helpful,” said a GOP strategist, speaking only on condition of anonymity. But “if I was Cory Gardner, I want to be 100 miles from Ted Cruz.”

Cruz has sent GOP senators and nominees $67,500 since taking office in early 2013, plus $29,000 to a handful of U.S. House candidates — modest sums compared with other incumbents.

The $250,000 check he sent the National Republican Senatorial Committee a month ago was more eye-popping — and a sign of bridge-building after his role as a vice chairman of the group resulted in only friction.

Republicans appreciate Cruz’s donations of money and face time. But “this is not going to make up for what he did for the last year and a half,” the strategist said.

The litany of complaints includes Cruz tussling with party leaders, refusing to endorse fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn during the primary, calling other Republicans “spineless” Obamacare-lovers if they resisted his government shutdown strategy and prodding House conservatives into near-rebellion against Speaker John Boehner.

–Todd J. Gillman
The Dallas Morning News


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Al-Qaida Sets Up New Branch In Indian Subcontinent

NEW DELHI (MCT) — Terrorist group al-Qaida has set up a branch in South Asia, prompting Indian authorities to issue a nationwide alert Thursday, media reports and officials said.

Al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the plan in a 55-minute video message posted on the Internet Wednesday that Indian officials said appeared to be authentic.

Al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to “wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate.”

“Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent” will be led by Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaida’s Sharia Committee in Pakistan, it said.

Al-Zawahiri said the new outfit would be good for Muslims suffering injustice and oppression in Myanmar, Bangladesh and parts of India with large Muslim populations, including Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam.

Predominantly Hindu India has a substantial Muslim minority.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh met with top security officials to discuss the threat, a spokesman said.

Police in all states were on high alert and were stepping up intelligence-gathering on possible targets or recruitment drives, broadcaster CNN-IBN reported.

Gujarat, the home-state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is considered a target for Islamist militants because of the sectarian clashes with Hindus during his term as a chief minister of the state in 2002. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

In the video, the al-Qaida leader also reaffirmed his loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Anti-terrorism specialists said that al-Qaida may be competing for followers with the extremist group Islamic State that controls northern swathes of Syria and Iraq.

“There is despair in al-Qaida ranks that they have gotten increasingly marginalized due to the rise of the Islamic State,” said Sandeep Patil of the Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House.

The government said it was adequately prepared to meet the security threat.

“Islamic militants have been reorganizing and consolidating in the region over past years and we have experienced several attacks including the Mumbai 2008 strike,” said P Chandra Shekhar Rao, convenor of the security cell of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“If their (al Qaida’s) intention is to spread disorder and violence in India, then they should know that they will get a befitting reply,” BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters.

A total of 166 people were killed when gunmen attacked several public buildings in Mumbai in 2008, in an attack attributed to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

But analysts warned that little has been done to improve security since the Mumbai attacks, despite promises by the new government to improve policing and intelligence.

“Al-Qaida presents a significant threat as because of its linkages with Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and other groups that already operate in India,” Patil said.

–Siddhartha Kumar


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Securing Bergdahl’s Release Was A Top Priority, Hillary Clinton Says In Her New Book

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged in her new book that negotiations with the Taliban were bound to be hotly controversial with Americans, but wrote that bringing home captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had to be a top priority.

Clinton writes in Hard Choices that “opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war,” according to an account of excerpts published Thursday by CBS News. Yet in every contact with the Taliban, U.S. officials demanded the release of Bergdahl and made clear that “there would not be any agreement about prisoners without the sergeant coming home.”

Clinton’s book, due for release Tuesday, was written well before the swap of five top Taliban officials for Bergdahl last Saturday set off controversy in Washington. Her comments underscored, however, that the Barack Obama Administration was determined to complete the deal, despite its political risks.

The book is intended to defend Clinton’s reputation as the Nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013 and help stir enthusiasm among her followers in advance of her possible 2016 Presidential run. In describing her policy views and actions, the excerpts released so far break little new ground.

Clinton uses her strongest language yet in disavowing her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq. She says she was torn by the decision about whether the United States should go to war against Saddam Hussein.

“I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had,” she wrote. “And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong.”

Clinton appears to want to finally close the door on a vote that was unpopular with many Democrats during her 2008 run, and may be even more out of step with the public mood today.

Clinton distances herself from Obama’s much-criticized approach to the Syrian civil war, saying that she supported arming the rebels when Obama did not.

“No one likes to lose a debate, including me,” she writes. “But this was the president’s call and I respect his deliberations and decisions.”

Clinton renews her criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him as “thin-skinned and autocratic.”

Putin has already fired back, calling her “weak” and “not graceful” in interviews with French television on Thursday.

Clinton acknowledges that aides let her down in 2009 during a meeting in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that she intended to be a fence-mending opportunity. Clinton handed Lavrov an oversized red button labeled “Reset,” intended to symbolize the American desire for improved relations with Moscow.

But an aide mistranslated the word, as Lavrov pointed out with relish. “It was not the finest hour for American linguistic skills,” she writes.

Clinton says she believes the truth will remain elusive on what happened in the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

“It is unlikely that there will ever be anything close to full agreement on exactly what happened that night, how it happened or why it happened,” she writes. “But it should not be confused with a lack of effort to discover the truth or to share it with the American people.”

She describes a fence-mending meeting with Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention as an “awkward first date.”

“We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date, taking a few sips of Chardonnay.” She said that both candidates and their staffs “had a long list of grievances” from the primary campaign. “It was time to clear the air.”

–Paul Richter
Tribune Washington Bureau


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Friday Fun: A Roundup Of This Week’s Political Cartoons

As the week began, all eyes were on Boston for the Boston Marathon. Among the runners were victims of last year’s bombing, which left three people dead and injured more than 260. A year ago, the Tsarnaev brothers placed bombs 210 yards apart on Boston’s Boylston Street. The bombs exploded, and screams filled the air. But on Monday, the sounds were different. “The Star-Spangled Banner” played over Boylston Street in honor of American runner Meb Keflezighi, the first American male winner of the Boston Marathon since 1983. Boston strong? Indeed.

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons


Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch
Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle
Eric Allie,
David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

Americans Die Sooner, Suffer More Than Others From Illness, Injury

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — Americans die earlier and suffer more from preventable illness and injury, and are less likely to reach age 50, than those in peer countries, researchers say.




A report by the National Academies on health and life expectancy finds U.S. health is poorer than that of peer countries at every stage of life — from birth to childhood to adolescence, in youth and middle age, and for older adults.




“The problem is not limited to people who are poor or uninsured,” Eileen Crimmins of the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology, a member of the National Research Council panel that compiled the report, said in a statement. “Even Americans with health insurance, higher incomes, college education and healthy behaviors such as not smoking seem to be sicker than their counterparts in other countries.”




The panel, chaired by Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, examined potential health disadvantages among younger Americans and found Americans are less likely than others to reach age 50.




Deaths before 50 accounted for about two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy for males in the United States and their counterparts in other developed countries, and about one-third of the difference for females, the report found.




The panel examined 17 high-income democracies and fund U.S. adults were much more likely than others to die of almost cause  — including injury, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and communicable diseases such as HIV.




Americans were most likely to die in transportation accidents, from violence, especially from firearms, and from maternal conditions related to pregnancy.




The United States has the highest incidence of AIDS among peer countries and Americans are more likely than others to have diabetes and high rates of obesity, starting in childhood. The United States is second to Denmark in deaths from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.




The panel identified several likely explanations for the findings, including high levels of poverty and an environment designed around automobiles. Although Americans smoke and drink less, they consume the most calories per person and have higher rates of drug abuse, the report found.

Wednesday Morning News Roundup 12-12-2012

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.

  • North Korea has really ticked off the world by successfully launching a rocket.



  • The Fed has decided to buy more debt and to print more money. Surprised?






  • If you ride a public bus, be aware: Big Brother is watching.


Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

U.S. PIRG: Trouble In Toyland Report

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. consumers should be able to trust the toys on store shelves are safe, but parents need to watch out for common hazards, a watchdog group warns.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released its 27th annual Trouble in Toyland survey, and while it noted progress had been made in making toys safer, toy hazards are still out there. It said small toy parts remain the major cause of toy-related deaths, with more than 200 children choking to death between 1990 and 2011.

U.S. PIRG said its reports have led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions concerning unsafe toys.

Children can be injured from small parts that can cause choking risks, strangled by cords on pull toys, lacerated by sharp edges and endangered by exposure to toxic chemicals. The report at found:

— Lead exposure from toys remains a serious risk to the brains of young children.

— Magnets can be deadly if swallowed. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated there were 1,700 emergency room cases nationwide between 2009 and 2011 involving the ingestion of high-power magnets, nearly three-quarters age 4-12.

— A car driving wheel on a console and a toy guitar exceeded the recommended limit for continuous exposure to noise above 65 decibels.

— Several toys contain small parts that “might be mistakenly purchased for children under age 3.” Choking on small toy parts such as marbles and balloons has resulted in hundreds of deaths over the past two decades.

The Toy Industry Association, which represents more than 500 U.S. manufacturers said, “Safety is our top priority all year,” and this year’s report is “another of its needlessly frightening reports.”

“Its headlines cry for caution but the fine print clarifies that most of the products on their list actually comply with the strict toy safety standards that are already in place in the United State,” CNN quoted Stacy Leistner, vice president of communications for the association, as saying in a statement. “Our companies are manufacturing to current regulations.”

LA Joins ‘Meatless Mondays’ Campaign

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — The Los Angeles City Council has declared Meatless Mondays, joining other cities in urging residents to go vegetarian once a week.

The resolution adopted this week makes Los Angles the largest city so far to join the Meatless Monday campaign, NBC News reported. The effort was launched in 2003 at the school of public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, one of the sponsors, said eating meat has been associated with health problems including a higher risk of many cancers. She cited the environmental problems associated with meat, which takes far more resources per pound to produce than the same amount of plant protein.

Monday Morning News Roundup

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.

  • Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has said that she will not testify on the terror attacks in Benghazi because of a scheduling conflict.
  • Eurozone lawmakers will meet in Brussels today with “monster problem” Greece at the top of the agenda. Continuing financial collapse in the country is increasing the occurrence of violence — especially racially charged violence — in Greek streets.
  • The Administration of Barack Obama has created an average of 68 new regulations per day over the past 90 days, totaling 6,125 regulations and notices.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to step down in January, but that isn’t stopping him from rewriting Fed policy in ways that almost ensure his successor will continue on the same track.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

The Obama Farewell Tour: Size Matters

The Mitt Romney landslide I predicted on May 30 and in the media virtually every day since then is materializing. The signs are everywhere that Barack Obama is enjoying his farewell tour. These are the last days of his political career. Read on to experience the signs of the huge defeat coming today.

Protected by the biased liberal mainstream media and polls overpopulated with Democrats (based on the 2008 election turnout), most Americans haven’t a clue of the trouncing Obama is about to experience on Election Day. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a guest on several liberal talk shows of late where they actually think Obama’s re-election is a lock. They see a light at the end of the tunnel, but they have no clue it’s a train bearing down on them. Tonight will be a very long and sad night for Democrats.

But it will be even worse for the media that has drank the Obama Kool-Aid. Chris Matthews and all of MSNBC’s hosts will need special medical teams standing by on-site and “permission to use electric shock” orders clipped to their clothing.

What makes me so sure of a Romney landslide? The signs are everywhere.

First, enthusiasm always wins elections. Obama’s voters are disappointed and depressed. Many are in shock. They just can’t believe the anti-business policies of the messiah and his demonization of the wealthy didn’t magically create jobs and incomes. Actually, food stamp growth outpaced job growth by 75 percent under Obama. As my blue-collar butcher father used to say, “Son, I’d love to hate rich people, but no poor person ever gave me a job.” It turns out Dad knew better than all those books Obama read at Columbia and Harvard Law.

Obama’s core constituencies are blacks, Latinos, single women and young people. How could they be excited?

Black unemployment is 14.3 percent. Latino unemployment is close behind. Single women might get free contraception under Obama, but that $10 per month savings is immaterial if you have no job and no income. Besides, sex just feels so much better when you’ve got a job.

And then there are those naïve young people. Four years ago, Obama was a miracle man promising a bright future to college kids with wide eyes. Today, unemployment and under-employment for college grads is 53 percent. Yes, I said 53 percent. Vote on Tuesday? Most young people will likely be in bed, covers pulled over their heads, zoned out on Xanax and eating Doritos under the blanket with a flashlight.

Doubt my gut instincts? The most shocking tell-tale sign of Romney’s coming landslide is the panicked Democrat game plan in States like Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Polls show Romney leading or tied in these deep-blue Democratic States. Sensing blood, the Romney campaign has suddenly decided to spend millions of dollars on TV ads in these three States. Obama’s chief propagandist, David Axelrod, claims this is a sign of Romney’s desperation. He says Romney can’t find a path to get to 270 electoral votes.

How do you know who is telling the truth? Well, that’s pretty easy to figure out. Bill Clinton was dispatched to Minnesota a few days ago. Joe Biden was sent to campaign in Pennsylvania. Why? If these States are solidly in Obama’s column, why waste Clinton and Biden’s valuable time in the closing days of a Presidential campaign in front of home-team crowds? Why indeed? Democrats are panicking. Obama’s deep-blue firewall has been breached. Romney’s battleground has been expanded into States no one (except me) ever thought possible. Romney has Democrats on the run defending their no-longer-safe home turf.

But wait; the story gets better. On the last day of the campaign, Clinton made four appearances across the State of Pennsylvania. Why waste your biggest gun on the last day barnstorming a State already solidly in your win column? Clinton should be in Nevada, Colorado, Ohio and Florida. Why waste his time defending a deep-blue State that was supposed to be salted away six months ago? Because Pennsylvania isn’t in Obama’s win column. The State that has voted for Democrats for President for decades is now trending Romney.

Hint: Watch Pennsylvania tonight. If Romney wins it or is even close, a Romney landslide is happening. Pennsylvania is “the canary in the coal mine.”

But the most important sign is crowd size and enthusiasm. In my home State of Nevada, only 10 days ago, Democrats worked long and hard to pull barely 5,000 people off the streets to come to an Obama rally in North Las Vegas. Meanwhile, in Henderson, a quiet suburb of Las Vegas, an overflow crowd of 8,000 jammed into a rockin’ Romney rally that closed the streets for miles. Families came from far and wide with their children to see the next President.

Or take Ohio, the linchpin of the entire election. Whoever has the enthusiasm will surely take the State. This weekend, Obama attracted 2,500 people to a rally in a medium-sized city. Romney/Paul Ryan attracted more than 30,000 to a rally in a small town. Obama then traveled to Cleveland, where his rally attracted 4,000 fans. Four years ago, his Cleveland rally attracted 80,000. If only these were instead rallies for the unemployed, Obama would be playing to standing-room-only stadiums in every city in America.

The size of those crowds tells the depressing story that the Obama campaign and the mainstream media don’t want you to know. Obama is no longer a messiah. He’s just another lying politician, with a boring message that no one wants to hear anymore.

Yes, Obama, size matters. And you, sir, are suffering from shrinkage.

Spirituality, Not Religion, Health Helpful

COLUMBIA, Mo. (UPI) — Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants with a degree of spirituality have better mental health, U.S. researchers say.

Dan Cohen of the University of Missouri said despite differences in rituals and beliefs among the world’s major religions, spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person’s faith.

“With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe,” Cohen said in a statement. “What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health.”

The researchers analyzed three surveys to determine if correlations existed among participants’ self-reported mental and physical health, personality factors, and spirituality in Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

The study, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, found across all five faiths, a greater degree of spirituality was related to better mental health, specifically lower levels of neuroticism and greater extraversion. Forgiveness was the only spiritual trait predictive of mental health after personality variables were considered, the study said.

“Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering from different medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions,” Cohen said in a statement. “Spiritual beliefs may be a coping device to help individuals deal emotionally with stress.”

Home Sales And Prices Rose In July

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Existing U.S. home sales rose 2.3 percent in July, while prices rose for the fifth consecutive month, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

The trade group said sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in July, up from a revised figure for June of 4.37 million.

Sales for the month were 10.4 percent higher than the 4.05 million level of July 2011.

“Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates.  Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Data also shows the median sales price for existing homes rose 9.4 percent from a year earlier, reaching $187,300 in July.

The inventory of homes on the market rose 1.3 percent to 2.4 million, which represents a 6.4-month supply at the current rate of sales, NAR said.