Zogby: Cain Favorite Among Voters

A new Zogby poll shows Herman Cain leading the pack of GOP contenders by 20 percent and also besting President Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup.

The poll, which was conducted from Oct. 3-5, found that 38 percent of Republicans would vote for Cain if the primary had been held at the time of the poll. Favor with the candidate has nearly doubled since the same question was asked of potential voters back in June when only 15 percent said they would vote for Cain.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO is followed in the poll by Mitt Romney’s 18 percent and a tie for for third between Rick Perry and Ron Paul at 12 percent. All other candidates only garnered single digits among those polled.

When asked who they would vote for given the choice between Obama and a specific GOP candidate, Cain was the only one to beat the President. Of those polled, more than half believe that Obama is doing a poor job and nearly three-quarters said the country is headed in the wrong direction.

The poll gave Congress an overall approval rating of 12 percent.

The poll surveyed 1,581 voters online, with a margin for error of about 2.5 percentage points.

Insider Threat Task Force To Supplement Federal Cyber Security

President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Friday to strengthen the government’s cyber security protections to avoid classified document leaks by Federal insiders.

The order creates agencies that will train government employees to safeguard sensitive documents stored on computers and also to identify threats to classified information.

An Insider Threat Task Force, co-chaired by the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence and comprised of “the heads of, the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Information Security Oversight Office, as well as such additional agencies as the co-chairs of the Task Force may designate.”

The task force is to be a government-wide operation designed to identify threats to security within Federal agencies before documents can be leaked.

According to The Hill, the actions are in response to the leak of thousands of classified State Department cables by WikiLeaks last year. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, allegedly leaked the documents to the website after downloading them to a flash drive.

 The White House said that the move to create a new task force to monitor cyber security will also encourage interagency information sharing that will improve domestic security.

PACs May Become More Secret In 2012 Race, Experts Say

Because Florida and other early-voting states have moved their primaries into January, some campaign finance experts believe that the 2012 Presidential race may have loopholes for the first time allowing large, undisclosed corporate donations to be made through political action committees (PAC).

According to The Washington Post, the new schedule increases the possibility of outside spending groups running millions of dollars in ads in the final days of the races. No disclosure will be required until the contests are over.

Super PACs, the new type of political group that is unrestrained by spending and contribution limits, have the power and funding to run advertisements and promote the candidate of their choice with hundreds of millions in corporate and private funds. Depending on how the PACs decide to navigate Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadlines, all transparency in the 2012 race may be lost, according to some experts.

“There are more and more ways to keep things secret if you want to,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Post. “This is just another example of a way to make secret expenditures until after the election.”

The next disclosure deadline for super PACs is Jan. 31, when FEC reports covering the last six months of 2011 are due. Last week, Florida Republicans changed the State’s primary to Jan. 31, forcing Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to bump their dates into early January. This means that reports won’t be filed before votes in those States are cast.

Now by either confining spending to 19 days before the primary or switching to a monthly reporting schedule, PACs can leave voters in the dark as to which special interest groups are pushing their candidates.

Unemployment Insurance Claims Slow

Claims for unemployment insurance benefits grew more slowly than expected last week, giving a glimmer of hope that U.S. labor market conditions are improving.

The four-week moving average of claims fell by 4,000 last week to 414,000 and the number of people still receiving benefits under regular State programs after an initial week of aid dropped 52,000 to 3.7 million in the week that ended Sept. 24, according to CNBC .  

Initial claims for State unemployment benefits climbed 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 401,000, according to the Labor Department, from a revised 395,000 the prior week — the numbers are lower than the expected 410,000 that economists predicted in a recent Reuters poll.

Reuters also reported that after a stalemate in August, non-farm payrolls may have increased by about 60,000 last week; the gain is most likely reflected in the return of about 45,000 Verizon Communications employees who have been on strike.

The total number of Americans on unemployment dropped by 123,009 in the past month, down to 6.86 million, according to the article.

Despite the marginal gains in employment markets, CNBC reports that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Tuesday that the U.S. economy is “close to faltering” and that the central bank will take more steps to try to create growth.

Justice Scalia: Hopes The Living Constitution Will Die

Speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that government gridlock is good, good Federal judges are lacking and that the Constitution is being abused by those in power.

Scalia said that when he hears Americans complaining about political gridlock hampering the government’s ability to get things accomplished, he thinks they should be reminded that the system is designed to create discussion. He said if Americans understood the Constitution they would “learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love gridlock, which the framers believed would be the main protection of minorities.”

The longest-serving justice told the committee that the U.S. war on drugs has made Federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases. In turn, that created a need for more judges– judges that he believes are not as good as judges before them because they are no longer part of an elite group.

The justice also criticized those who try to interpret the Constitution as a living document.  He has long advocated the interpretation of the Constitution for what it meant at its time of ratification.

“I’m hoping that the ‘living Constitution’ will die,” Scalia told Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during the address.

Upcoming Senate Vote To Pressure Chinese Yuan

A Senate bill that would punish China for valuing its currency artificially low in an effort to keep export numbers high passed a key Senate vote on Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid  (D-Nev.) said he intended to have a vote on passage completed by late Thursday or Friday.

The measure is designed to set up a process of imposing higher tariffs when a country’s currency is misaligned to subsidize exports.

The vote has been met with discord from some multinational business leaders and the White House, who fear that taking actions against the Chinese may lead to a trade war. The Chinese said that the bill violates the World Trade Organization and would seriously disturb U.S.-China trade relations.

According to POLITICO, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that the bill is not likely to be supported in the House, as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already urged lawmakers not to move forward with the bill. Despite disagreement, support appears to be growing in favor of the bill.

The Thursday vote to advance the bill was 62-38. On Monday, the Senate voted 79-19 to bring the bill to the floor. Thursday’s narrower margin resulted from a dispute between the two parties over what amendments will be allowed, according to USA Today.

Supporters of the bill note that the U.S. trade deficit with China has grown by about $263 billion over the past 20 years. The massive increase, economist say, occurred because the yuan is undervalued 25 to 40 percent against the dollar, making Chinese goods much cheaper than American products.

As Occupy Wall Street Grows, Politicians Try To Gain Favor Within Movement

As Occupy Wall Street Grows, Politicians Try To Gain Favor Within MovementWashington lawmakers, noticing the growing momentum of the Occupy Wall Street protests that spread Thursday to the Capitol, are now making an effort to embrace the movement. Many Democrats are now calling it the “Tea Party of the left.”

According to The Hill , several liberal lawmakers, including many in the Congressional Black Caucus, have offered support for the movement.

“We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefiting the super-wealthy,” Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said in a joint statement. “We join the calls for corporate accountability and expanded middle-class opportunity.”

While the movement has been supported by many Democrats, some Republicans, including Presidential candidate Herman Cain, say that the idea behind the protest is against traditional American values.

“Don’t be jealous, don’t be envious,” Cain said of the protestors at a Florida book signing, according to CNBC. “I don’t have much patience for someone who does not want to achieve their American dream the old-fashioned way.”

Cain also said that the protestors were advocating redistribution of wealth, and that they should “go figure out what America is about.” Mitt Romney has offered similar sentiments, saying that the protests were a form of class warfare.

Ron Paul has been sympathetic of the protestors and their message, but says they need to take it to the Federal Reserve where he believes corruption between government and Wall Street begins.

The protests moved into Washington D.C. today, and the protestors have taken the following pledge  announcing the reasons for the movement:

“I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning.”

Sarah Palin: One Doesn’t Need A Title To Save The Country

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin ended any speculation of  a 2012 Presidential run with her Wednesday announcement on the Mark Levin radio show that she won’t seek the GOP nomination and won’t run as an independent.

Palin’s statement to the show said that this was not a good time for her, or for her family, to be involved in the trials of a presidential race.

“As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order,” she said in the statement.

 Palin also writes that she will continue to fight the battles of common sense Conservatives as an effort is made to end the “fundamental transformation” of the country that is taking place under the current Presidential administration.

“I will continue driving the discussion for freedom and free markets, including in the race for President where our candidates must embrace immediate action toward energy independence through domestic resource developments of conventional energy sources, along with renewables. We must reduce tax burdens and onerous regulations that kill American industry, and our candidates must always push to minimize government to strengthen the economy and allow the private sector to create jobs,” the former governor writes.

This is the second blow to conservative voters who may not be happy with the current choices in the race; New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced on Tuesday that he would not enter the race despite overwhelming support.

GOP Reacts Nationally To Florida Primary Decision

Since Florida moved its 2012 GOP Presidential primary to Jan. 31, there is much speculation that a number of States will follow suit. On Monday, South Carolina Republicans decided to move their State’s primary to Jan. 21.

Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada all plan to hold their primaries and caucuses before South Carolina’s to ensure that the Florida decision does not cost the party delegates in the election process because of Republican National Committee rules to keep the primary process from interfering with the holiday season, according to The Hill.

“Forty-nine states played pretty in the sandbox. Only one did it wrong,” said South Carolina Republican Chairman Connelly of the Florida decision. He said that on Monday, South Carolina restored order.

New Hampshire Republicans may move their State’s primary to December, which would make it the earliest in history. Many in the GOP believe that the rush for early primaries is going to hamper any late-coming entrants into the 2012 race. Speculated candidates like Sarah Palin are not the only contenders who might be affected; lesser-known candidates will also face troubles raising funds with a compressed election calendar.

Country Superstar Likens Obama To Hitler

On a Fox and Friends interview Monday morning, country music icon Hank Williams Jr. said that he has little faith in the GOP’s 2012 Presidential hopefuls and very little in the party itself. He went on to liken President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.

The tone was set in the interview with Williams that began with Fox commentators asking the musician whom he liked in the primary when he answered simply, “Nobody.”

Williams went on to explain why he has lost faith in the party.

“You remember the golf game? That was one of the biggest political mistakes, ever. That turned a lot of people off,” he said referring to the President’s famous bipartisan publicity golf game with Speaker of the House Jon Boehner (R-Ohio).

The Fox pundits became confused and seemingly alarmed as Williams continued. When asked what he did not like about the game, the musician let them have it.

“Come on, that’d be like Hitler playin’ golf with Netanyahu,” he said. “In the shape this country’s in.”

When the commentators pressed Williams and said that they did not understand the analogy he continued, “Well, I’m glad you don’t, brother, ’cause a lot of people do. You know, they’re the enemy, the enemy.”

“Who’s the enemy?” the pundits asked.

“Obama and Biden, are you kidding, the three stooges,” Williams exclaimed.

Williams said that he believes that the country is more politically polarized than it has ever been and he does not think now is a time for bipartisanship. He also said that if he had to pick a GOP candidate right now, that Herman Cain makes the most sense recently.

At the conclusion of the interview, the commentators said that they “disavow” Williams’ comments.

Because of Williams’ comments, ESPN pulled the intro segment to “Monday Night Football” that features Williams’ song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Monday Night” and released the following statement: “While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”

 

Court: Elementary Children Entitled To Religious Free Speech

A free speech case that has been in litigation for nine years was resolved by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week; the ruling was in the favor of freedom of speech for children.

Morgan v. Plano Independent School District was a case involving students and families, represented by the Liberty Institute, who were denied their free speech rights and who were discriminated against because their speech was religious in nature. One boy was banned from handing out candy cane pens with a religious message at his class “winter” party, a girl was threatened for handing out tickets after school to a religious play, and an entire class of children were forbidden from writing “Merry Christmas” on holiday cards to American troops serving overseas by the Plano Independent School District. Government officials argued that elementary students are too young to have First Amendment rights.

“Imagine the United States of America where the First Amendment protects a minor’s right to play violent video games, a person’s right to hatefully protest the funerals of our heroic men and women in the military, and the right to possess portrayals depicting animal cruelty, such as videos of people crushing kittens with their shoes, but does not protect a child’s right to share a pencil with another child at school merely because the pencil says the word ‘Jesus’,” said Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod of the case.

The Liberty Institute said that it is pleased with the court’s ruling but disappointed that school officials who discriminated and made threats against students who made mention of religion in school were not held legally accountable for their actions.

“A school official grabbing a little elementary school girl by the shoulder and threatening to kick her out of school for handing a ‘Jesus’ pencil to a friend after school is unacceptable,” said a statement from the organization.

 

 

President Wants LGBT Children To Know He Has Their Back

At a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) address on Saturday, President Barack Obama lauded “productive, bilateral talks” he had last week with pop singer Lady Gaga and pledged his support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The President said that two years ago, he made a pledge to people in America who are living alternative lifestyles.

“I said I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell African Americans to be patient in the fight for equal rights a half century ago,” said Obama. “But what I also said, that while it might take time –- more time than anyone would like -– we are going to make progress; we are going to succeed; we are going to build a more perfect union.”

The President told HRC that his Administration, with the organization’s help, has passed many reforms for homosexual and transgendered Americans. The President said that among the best things his Administration has done are lifting the ban on foreign travelers to the country who have HIV/AIDS and the end of the military “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The President also vowed to the group that he would do more to promote public school programs that would seek to educate children about being gay or transgendered.

“We’ve got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility. That’s why we held a summit at the White House on bullying. That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on this issue,” said Obama. “This isn’t just “kids being kids.” It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way.”

The President concluded his address to HRC urging all present to help him move forward with his American Jobs Act and “Pass this bill.” He said he dreams of a “bigger” America.

“I am still hopeful, because of a deeper shift that we’re seeing; a transformation not only written into our laws, but woven into the fabric of our society,” said Obama.

 

 

Lawmakers Encourage Foreigners To Come To U.S., Spend Money

Lawmakers in the United States are seeking to add to the long list of imports on the country’s economic dossier; there is a new push to bring shoppers into the country.

Americans feel pain each time they reach for their wallets at the register. So lawmakers, business and White House officials have come up with plans to draw shoppers from China, India and Brazil — countries where poor decisions have not wrecked economic output — to fill the place of American penny-pinchers. The Washington Post reports that this is the first time in the history of the United States that such measures have been taken.

Shoppers are being lured into the country from areas of the world once considered by many Americans to be at the very bottom of the economic totem pole. Many companies are now offering lucrative international travel packages and deals on event hosting in an effort to encourage foreigners to travel to the country to spend money. The White House has even issued statements promising visa reform, to make it easier for people from foreign countries to visit or stay for several weeks.

The U.S. trades with China and other countries to buy a number of goods, which creates about a $45 billion trade deficit as the country exports far less back. Hopes that encouraging foreigners to travel here and spend money on consumer goods will close the gap abound. The U.S. gross domestic product last year grew only 3 percent, while China’s and India’s shot up 10 percent and Brazil’s grew about 7.5 percent. Because of dollar debasement and unprecedented trade rates on many currencies, travelers are able to buy goods in the U.S. much cheaper than in their own countries.

 

 

 

Indiana Governor To GOP Hopefuls: Stop Talking, Make A Plan

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said in an interview what many Americans seem to be feeling about the 2012 GOP Presidential hopefuls’ constant rhetorical battle over Social Security: Stop talking until you have a real plan.

According to POLITICO, Daniels wants whoever wins the GOP’s nomination to be bold with ideas. He says simply offering talking points about Social Security does not cut it when addressing problems regarding the United States’ major financial problems.

“We should not scare people when there’s no reason to,” Daniels said when asked about Romney’s attacks on Perry over the Texas Governor’s critique of the entitlement. “I think it’s also fair to say, ‘Don’t stop at diagnosing the [Social Security] problem unless you’re prepared to say a few things about how we save the safety net.”

Daniels is not vying to get involved in the GOP primary and says he doubts he will be a Vice Presidential prospect, despite rumors. Daniels has offered affirmation to speculation that the ever-popular New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, may still throw himself into the race.

“I’m not taking ‘no’ from Christie; I’m taking ‘not yet,’” said Daniels recently.

Daniels’ reasoning behind wanting a candidate who is less rhetorical and more action oriented is outlined in his book Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.

In his book Daniels writes:

Consequently, we have amassed a ruinous amount of national debt, current and committed, mathematically beyond the capacity of any economy to pay. This is a survival-level threat to the America we have known. Left unaddressed much longer, it will permanently hobble the prosperity engine that has made us the world’s great power and exemplar.

In calling for more action and less talk, Daniels said: “The situation we’re facing is incredibly urgent. It’s not ideological. It’s arithmetic.”

New Mexico-Born Terrorist Killed In Yemen

The CIA exterminated its first American-born al-Qaida-linked target on Friday; 40-year-old Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in the mountains of Yemen by a U.S. airstrike.

The New Mexico native born to Yemen immigrants became a powerful mouthpiece for Islamic terror in the years following the 9/11 terrorists attacks using his crowd-drawing preaching skills and a powerful Internet presence to recruit followers, according to reports. According to The Washington Post, al-Awlaki was linked to a number of failed terror plots against the United States, including the 2008 underwear bomber and a plan to mail bombs to Chicago-area synagogues in 2010. He also exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, alleged killer of 13 people in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage at Fort Hood.

Last January, al-Awlaki wrote in an al-Qaida newsletter:

“In the case of the United States, both the government and private citizens should be targeted. America and Americans are the Imams of kufr (leaders of disbelief) in this day and age. The American people who vote for war mongering governments are intent on no good. Anyone who inflicts harm on them in any form is doing a favor to the ummah (Islamic nation.)”

Al-Awlaki traveled to Yemen in 2004 after attending college at Colorado State University. President Barack Obama authorized al-Awlaki’s killing in 2010. He was killed in the last of at least three U.S.-funded airstrikes that targeted him.

Iran And Al-Qaida Argue Over 9/11

Leaders of al-Qaida are disgruntled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for comments that he made during a speech to the United Nations calling the 9/11 terrorist attacks a mysterious incident that had been used as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.

“By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions,” said Ahmadinejad in New York, according to The Guardian

In an al-Qaida magazine entitled Inspire, leaders of the terrorist group say the Iranian President’s claims are ridiculous and based in jealousy.

“For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world. Al-Qaida … succeeded in what Iran couldn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.”

Responding to the article’s assertions Thursday, Iranian state news repeated Ahmadinejad’s arguments and said “reports released by al Qaeda are usually believed to be produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” according to ABC.

President Barack Obama has called Ahmadinejad’s comments “offensive” and “hateful,” according to reports.

Obama Echoes Carter Speech: America’s Soft

Many people have compared the Barack Obama Presidency to that of President Jimmy Carter over the past few years; Obama has now made a statement that seems to echo Carter.

Obama said to a Florida television station, “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Obama’s solution to American “softness” is to “get back on track” by passing his $447 billion jobs bill immediately. While he was critical in his speech, the President did compliment America’s youths and said that the country will recover from economic troubles with the help of education and innovative thinking with the help of the government.

According to The Daily Caller, Obama’s speech echoes the sentiment of a Carter speech given in July 1979 that declared, “…in a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” The speech, though never including the term, became known by many Americans as the “malaise speech.” Carter’s solution to “get back on track” during a time when the country was plagued by rising energy costs and massive inflation was to find a solution to the energy crises through new sources of fuel.

Obama Loses Favor With Wall Street

The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that President Barack Obama has lost favor with many big-name Wall Street campaign contributors that were major money-makers in his 2008 Presidential bid.

According to the article, Wall Street campaign contributors appear to favor Republican Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor and businessman held a sold-out breakfast fundraiser at the exclusive Essex House hotel Tuesday and before that had breakfast with one of the biggest names on Wall Street, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.

According to the article, even with the support of big-name financial tycoon Warren Buffet, Obama has had trouble selling $10,000 a plate spots at fundraisers in New York City’s financial hub.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said Romney’s efforts to win over the finance industry are not a surprise, according to the report.

“It’s no surprise that the Romney campaign is raising money from Wall Street by saying they want to repeal consumer protections and allow Wall Street to write its own rules,” he told the Times.

Obama has also taken steps to improve relations with financial leaders. Last January, he hired a JPMorgan executive, William Daley, to be his chief of staff. The President has also invited top financial executives to the White House for conversations about the economy.

Big Tobacco Knowingly Dosed Smokers With Radiation For Decades

A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study of big tobacco intercompany documents released in a 1998 legal settlement — the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement — shows that tobacco companies tried to keep information discovered in 1959 about radioactive substances in their products quiet for decades.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential ‘cancerous growth’ in the lungs of regular smokers, but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke.”

The study says that tobacco company research identified the radioactive substance as polonium-210 in 1969. The isotope can be found in all foreign and domestic cigarette brands as a byproduct of tobacco crop development.

The tobacco industry has not only been aware of the isotope since 1959, but has also known of two processes by which it can be eliminated, says the study.  One technique, developed in 1980 and called acid washing, was found to be highly effective in removing the isotope from tobacco plants, where it forms a water-insoluble complex with the sticky, hair-like structures called trichomes that cover the leaves. The tobacco industry allegedly shunned the process because it was also shown to have an impact on the levels of the content of nicotine in tobacco, the drug which keeps smokers hooked.

“The industry was concerned that the acid media would ionize the nicotine, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the brains of smokers and depriving them of that instant nicotine rush that fuels their addiction,” said one researcher.

The study comes out just two years after 2009 passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate and remove harmful substances besides nicotine from tobacco products. The study’s authors hope that their research will be taken into account by the FDA as it attempts to regulate tobacco safety.

Massachusetts Man Arrested In Terror Plot

The FBI arrested a Massachusetts man on Wednesday who allegedly planned to build small remote controlled airplanes armed with explosives and fly them into the Pentagon and other government buildings.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old physics graduate of Northeastern University in Boston who lived in the basement of his parents’ home in Ashland, Mass., began planning to commit violent jihad against the United States in early 2010 after viewing radical Web sites and videos, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S.-born citizen of South Asian background traveled to Washington last May to conduct surveillance for his plan to launch three small GPS-guided aircraft from East Potomac Park: two against the Pentagon and one against the Capitol, according to a detailed plan he gave to the FBI. He planned to follow up the drone-like attacks with two teams of three machine gun-wielding attackers that were intended to cause chaos in the streets.

Ferdaus relayed his plan to FBI agents who he believed were al-Qaida operatives working within U.S. borders. The agents provided him with money to purchase remote-controlled planes and also helped him acquire what he believed to be C-4 plastic explosives. He had already purchased one remote-controlled aircraft (a small-scale model of the F-86 Sabre, a Cold War-era U.S. fighter jet), according to reports. Agents said that the man was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan in conversations with his would-be collaborators.

Ferdaus also supplied the undercover agents with seven mobile phones that he modified to act as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. When they falsely told him that his creations had been used to kill U.S. troops, the man “appeared gratified,” according to reports.

 

 

Taxpayers Pay Settlements For Capital Hill Worker Disputes

On Thursday, the Office of Compliance (OOC) released a report that shows the number of discrimination and harassment claims on Capitol Hill have doubled in the past five years. Taxpayers have footed the bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.

The State of the Congressional Workplace report indicated 168 claims were filed in fiscal 2010,compared to 87 in 2006. Fifty-seven of the claims made last year were based on race, while 41 claims involved age, 34 involved gender and 28 involved disabilities, the report read.

“The OOC has felt the impact of a substantial increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases over the past 5 fiscal years. The OOC dispute resolution program in fiscal year 2010 saw an increase in formal requests for confidential counseling and mediations, compared to five fiscal years ago. Also in comparison, there was an increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. These cases are becoming more complex and sophisticated, often with multiple allegations of discrimination, discovery disputes, and issues relating to the OOC’s rules and procedures,” said a statement from OOC Executive Director Tamara Chrisler.

Since 1997, taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $13.2 million in cases resolved by the OOC. The highest number of claims filed involved terms and conditions violations, hostile work environments, harassment and discipline issues.