- — Photo Courtesy of http://www.ce-authorizedrepresentative.eu —
After 25 ½ hours of talks in Brussels, the 2014 – 2020 European Union Budget was agreed upon including deeper cut as pressed by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to 960 billion euros down for 1.047 trillion euros less than the current budget.
“We simply could not ignore the extremely difficult economic realities across Europe,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters. “It’s perhaps nobody’s perfect budget, but there’s a lot of it for everybody. This budget is future- oriented, it is realistic and it is driven by pressing concerns.” Read more for details.
U.S. regulators have suspended work on oil rigs due to faulty bolts used in deep water drilling discovered after the worst U.S. maritime crude spill. The suspension of operation has been given to oil rigs that use General Electric devices connecting drilling tubes to safety gear at the sea floor. Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Transocean Ltd operations have been suspended by regulators.
“This certainly will be costly for the industry,” Craig Pirrong, director of the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute said in a telephone interview yesterday. “This is a result of increasing government scrutiny of deep-water activities. The question is, will the increased costs be so onerous that they discourage some companies” from searching the deep oceans for crude? Read more for details.
- — Chuck Hagel. Photo Courtesy of http://news.yahoo.com —
“Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve. Chuck bears the scars and the shrapnel from battles he fought in our name,” Obama said today.
Hagel is President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Defense, a former Republican Nebraska senator who has been awarded two purple hearts, would be the first Pentagon chief with enlisted rank, first decorated Viet Nam War veteran and one of the few secretaries wounded in war.
“The horror of it, the pain of it, the suffering of it — people just don’t understand it unless they’ve been through it,” Hagel said in an interview for the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center. “There’s no glory, only suffering in war.”
Hagel is outspoken, not afraid to go toe to toe with generals including topics such as budget reductions. And has been in criticizied for opposition of unilateral sanctions against Iran as his relationships in the mideast and methods is focused on bridge building.
“Engagement is not surrender,” Hagel said in a Dec. 10 speech at the council. “It’s not appeasement. Engagement is a bridge-building process. It’s an opportunity to better understand, to share.”
Hagel or any confirmed nomination for the post of Secretary of State will have to develop plans for the hostile Mid East, face the Naval challenges with China over the Asia-Pacific Region and the ever growing threats of cyber warfare. Already opposition have made their opinions known which includes both republicans and democrats and Hagel has been accused as being anti-Israeli.
“It’s a poor choice not only regarding Israel, but it’s a poor choice for national security,” said Morris Amitay, founder of the pro-Israel Washington Political Action Committee and former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“Chuck Hagel’s knowledge, experience, and relationships in this region, including Israel, outclass his critics. To tag him as ‘anti-Israel’ is simply wrong and a cheap smear.” said Andrew Parasiliti, who served as Hagel’s foreign policy adviser from 2001 to 2005, and calls the criticism unwarranted.
“No one has been more steadfast in supporting America’s commitment to Israel’s security than has Senator Hagel…Our polarized political life is much in need of leaders with the kind of bipartisanship and independence of conscience and mind that Chuck Hagel’s service to our country has exemplified,” wrote a group of six former political and diplomatic officials, including former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a public letter to Obama.
“I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference,” said EPA head Lisa Jackson who gave no exact date for her departure, but will leave after Obama’s State of the Union address in late January.
Announcing her resignation on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency Administration head did not specifically say why she is leaving and one report by Buzzfeed comfirmed by a source within the Obama administration say that Jackson may departing because of her disagreement with President Barack Obama’s plan to move forward on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline which was denied by spokespeople for the White House.
The Keystone Pipeline System would be used to transport synthetic crude oil and bitumen from Alberta Canada and further south American Crude to one of the multiple refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and along the Gulf Coast of Texas which is opposed by environmentalists and some members of the U.S. congress because of potential pollution of drinking water and farm irrigation water in Nebraska.
“It was all about Keystone for the last 16 months,” said the former senior Obama administration official. Jackson had opposed the project and did not win the internal arguments. It was understood among her colleagues that she would leave after the November election because of this.
New York Times had reported earlier last year that sources say Jackson considered resigning but at that time Obama backed off from the EPA Proposed ozone pollution standards but ultimately “abandoned the idea as a futile gesture,”
On March 22, 2012 President Barack Obama made the announcement: “Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”
Obama has directed permits to begin the pipeline in northern part of the pipeline but for the southern part of the pipeline he has asked for further study to protect the environment and drinking water yet on speculation this balance may not have been enough for Jackson.
- — Sandy Hook Victims. http://newyork.cbslocal.com —
“It is time that we show greater concern for protecting our children than for our gun rights,” says a statement released by the Sandy Hook Elementary School’s District – Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents. “That time is now.”
“Unless we eliminate the easy access to weapons and increase the limited access to mental health care then the conditions that produced this horrific mass murder of educators and children will remain long after Sandy Hook is a sorrowful memory,” the statement says. “Just as there is urgency in providing resources for the war on terror, there must be urgency in preventing gun violence from killing and injuring our precious children.”
Records show police officers take a gun to the mentally ill who appear to want to cause harm to others because in the U.S. they have gone without care and are left to responding officers. The public has not yet heard about Adam Lanza who killed 26 including children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and if there was mental illness that may have been contributing factor to the violence.
“It is a shame that a bullet is what our mental health safety net has become,” said Louis Josephson, chief executive officer of Riverbend Community Mental Health Inc. in Concord, New Hampshire, which offers outpatient and residential programs.
Moe Keller, vice president of public policy and strategic initiatives for Mental Health America of Colorado said in a statement that “in Colorado it is easier to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle, the one used by the shooter in Newtown, than it is to access high-quality, affordable mental health and substance use disorder treatment in the community”
“At MHAC we believe the key to keeping our children—and all of us—safe from acts of mass killing involves a multipronged approach that includes prevention, access to services for the treatment of mental health conditions and substance abuse use disorders, and restricting access to guns and ammunition from individuals with the potential to commit violent acts,” said Keller.
Colorado’s Gov. Hickenlooper has proposed $18.5 million in new funding for mental health systems in Colorado in his 2013 budget.
With unemployment up 7.9 percent in November and 1.4 million unfilled tech jobs through 2018 the U.S. House of Representative voted 245 to 139 to increase the number of permanent – residence visas for those graduating from U.S. universities with doctoral or master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEMS).
Backed by prominent technolgy firms such as Microsoft which had 6,000 job openings in September this year, the passing of the bill would keep the needed technology talent in the U.S.
“We are creating unfilled jobs,” said Microsoft chief counsel Brad Smith, speaking at a forum on immigration policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. in September “We have a shortage.”
“We can only gain by asking as many people who are smart and who create opportunities far beyond just their own to be part of our society,” said Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican. “The benefit to our economy is undeniable.”
STEM jobs, including teaching positions, account for roughly 6 percent of the U.S. economy, according to Nicole Smith, a senior economist who studies the issue at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
“We know some of the best schools in the world in those areas are found in the United States… This is a chance for them to cut out the red tape” and help graduates stay, she said.
“In a global economy, we cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the U.S. and then send them back home to work for our competitors,” said Texas Republican Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who had introduced the “STEM Jobs Act,” and supporter of this high tech visa program to help retain U.S. trained workers to boost innovation and job creation.
Switzerland’s Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf
– Photo Courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk —
Swiss banks for years have avoided U.S. regulators in regards to helping wealthy Americans commit tax evasion. But in a world where banks are under major global scrutiny and investigation because of the Libor manipulation scandal, massive derivative trading losses, money laundering allegations and admissions, and banks participation in the crash of the credit and mortgage markets; U.S. regulators are taking action and banks are now having to answer for their violations.
Swiss banks are sacrificing their employees past and present by giving names to the U.S. authorities in connection alleged employee’s connection with setting up American accounts for tax evasion. Thousands of names are being given to federal regulators according to Douglas Hornung, a Geneva- based lawyer representing 40 current and former employees of HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s Swiss unit.
“The Federal Council had no right to grant permission for banks to send any information to a foreign authority,” said Marcel Niggli, a professor of law at the University of Fribourg.
“The companies know the risk of penalties in Switzerland is insignificant compared with the business risk in the U.S. It’s a cold-blooded action by the banks.”
The legality of this action is questionable and would violate rules of privacy although the risk of privacy violation consequences may worth the risk as compared loss of U.S. business for some banks.
“The tax dispute with the U.S. can only be settled without further escalation if the bank cooperates with the U.S. authorities,” said Igor Moser, a spokesman for Zuercher Kantonalbank.
“The respect for the rule of law has declined in a way I simply thought unimaginable a few years ago,” Moser said. “The government treats these business interests of the banks as if they were the business interests of Switzerland because the U.S. market is so enormously important.”
Switzerland’s Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf is attempting to make a deal with the U.S. regulators for the Swiss banks but with elections coming up in November there is a limited window of time as as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner are both leaving their positions.
“We are prepared to sign a settlement with the U.S. for the Swiss banks today. We feel we have made a constructive proposal to the U.S. but it is up to them to accept it or not,” said Widmer-Schlumpf.