Friday, September 21, 2012

Female Soldier Ambushed by Baby At Afghan Base

A British team of pediatric specialists is being deployed to Afghanistan to attend to a female gunner who unexpectedly gave birth in an Afghan outpost that was the scene of a bitter battle just days ago.
The soldier reportedly didn't realize she was pregnant until she developed stomach pains two days ago. The baby was born five weeks premature.
She gave birth in Camp Bastion, a sprawling base in Helmand Province where Britain's Prince Harry is assigned as an Apache helicopter pilot.
The camp was the target of a sophisticated attack last week when three teams of insurgents dressed inU.S. Army uniforms breached the defensive perimeter and destroyed several attack jets and killed two Americans.
The camp is getting a different kind of reinforcements this week as a pediatric team from Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital is en route to Afghanistan to tend to the soldier and her premature baby.
The soldier, who has not been publicly identified, was deployed to Afghanistan in March. She is believed to be the first soldier to give birth on the frontline.
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson told ABC News that the mother was a gunner in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Both she and her baby boy are healthy and in good condition.
Pregnant servicewomen are not allowed to be deployed on operations, the Ministry of Defense told ABC News.
"Usually once we find out about a woman being pregnant, we send her back to the UK on maternity leave, but this time, the baby came too fast," the spokesman said.
Even the mother was taken by surprise, officials said, unaware that she was pregnant.
"Medically, it is possible for a woman not to notice a pregnancy, but it's very, very unusual," Dr. Jack Singer, from Harley Street Pediatric Group in London, told ABC News.
"It's with great difficulty that a pregnancy goes unnoticed," joked Singer. "I mean, most women would find amenorrhea (the lack of menstrual bleeding and growth of breasts) unusual, or notice a bump at least in the third trimester."
"All it would take is a simple urine to blood test, before the women are deployed," said Singer. "If you're wearing all that gear and carrying equipment, it's not as obvious as if you're used to wearing black cocktail dresses. These women are under huge stresses and strains, so they can ignore what's going on with their body," he added.
Around 70 women have been sent back from Afghanistan in the last decade after discovering they were pregnant, and twice that number from Iraq in the same period. The Ministry of Defense commented that these figures account for fewer than one percent of British servicewomen ever deployed on operations.
Major Charles Heyman, an author of books about the British Army and a former soldier, said: "The Army needs to make sure for the welfare of the female soldier concerned that they are not pregnant before they deploy."
Servicewomen are usually on leave for at least six months after the birth of their child, but according to according to UK law maternity leave can last up to a year.


A picture from a British demonstration against tax dodging. (Photo credit: Flickr user Dominic’s pics.)

Mitt Romney’s offensive comments at a recent fundraiser that demeaned Americans who are too old or too poor to be asked to pay federal income taxes have set off a debate about economic fairness.
Yesterday, we showed you how Republicans support using the government to funnel tax dollars to the very rich.
Here’s another outrage. There are many massive corporations that get away with paying zero percent tax rates — or less (meaning they got tax benefits). Here’s just five that have gotten away with doing this in recent years:
  1. Boeing: The massive airline producer and weapons company is one of the worst freeloaders. From 2002 to 2011, it paid nothing in federal corporate income taxes. In fact, it even reported more than $2 billion in federal tax benefits over that period of time. This doesn’t even mention the billions of dollars Boeing gets from the Import-Export bank or the military budget.
  2. Wells Fargo: From 2008 to 2010, this megabank actually got away with paying a net tax rate of negative 1.4 percent.
  3. Verizon: This telecommunications corporation paid a negative 2.9 percent tax rate between 2008 and 2010. At the same time, it made nearly $32 billion in profits. It likely took some of that money to use for union-bustingin the coming years.
  4. Pepco: This corporation paid a -57.6 percent income tax rate from 2008 to 2010 while at the same time accumulating $882 million in profits. That’s news that’s sure to make their customers — who have suffered fromsubpar service for years — groan.
  5. Bank of America: Bank of America didn’t pay a penny in federal income taxes in 2010, but it did report a tax benefit of almost a billion dollars.
How is it that massive corporations are able to get away with paying less in taxes than most middle-class Americans? They have massive armies of lobbyists and public relations gurus, and they’re able to flood campaign coffers with a nearly unlimited amount of money. That results in a tax code full of loopholes and unfair credits and deductions.
Romney’s right that we should be angry about people taking advantage of the government and taxpayer. But for the most part, those people aren’t poor and working-class Americans. They’re powerful corporations, the very same ones that Romney has failed to hold accountable.

Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures

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 Greenland's receding ice has exposed vast deposits of valuable minerals and new opportunities for an island in economic decline.


NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands.
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At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts. This year, China has become a far more aggressive player in this frigid field, experts say, provoking alarm among Western powers.
While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.
“The Arctic has risen rapidly on China’s foreign policy agenda in the past two years,” said Linda Jakobson, East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia. So, she said, the Chinese are exploring “how they could get involved.”
In August, China sent its first ship across the Arctic to Europe and it is lobbying intensely for permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, the loose international body of eight Arctic nations that develops policy for the region, arguing that it is a “near Arctic state” and proclaiming that the Arctic is “the inherited wealth of all humankind,” in the words of China’s State Oceanic Administration.
To promote the council bid and improve relations with Arctic nations, its ministers visited Denmark, Sweden and Iceland this summer, offering lucrative trade deals. High-level diplomats have also visited Greenland, where Chinese companies are investing in a developing mining industry, with proposals to import Chinese work crews for construction.
Western nations have been particularly anxious about Chinese overtures to this poor and sparsely populated island, a self-governing state within the Kingdom of Denmark, because the retreat of its ice cap has unveiled coveted mineral deposits, including rare earth metals that are crucial for new technologies like cellphones and military guidance systems. A European Union vice president, Antonio Tajani, rushed here to Greenland’s capital in June, offering hundreds of millions in development aid in exchange for guarantees that Greenland would not give China exclusive access to its rare earth metals, calling his trip “raw mineral diplomacy.”
Greenland is close to North America, and home to the United States Air Force’s northernmost base in Thule. At a conference last month, Thomas R. Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said the Arctic was becoming “a new frontier in our foreign policy.”
In the past 18 months, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea have made debut visits here, and Greenland’s prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, was welcomed by President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission in Brussels.
“We are treated so differently than just a few years ago,” said Jens B. Frederiksen, Greenland’s vice premier, in his simple office here. “We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly discovered that Inuit are nice people.”
Chinese activity in the Arctic to some extent mirrors that of other non-Arctic countries, as the region warms.
The European Union, Japan and South Korea have also applied in the last three years for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, which would allow them to present their perspective, but not vote.
This once-obscure body, previously focused on issues like monitoring Arctic animal populations, now has more substantive tasks, like defining future port fees and negotiating agreements on oil spill remediation. “We’ve changed from a forum to a decision-making body,” said Gustaf Lind, Arctic ambassador from Sweden and the council’s current chairman.
But China sees its inclusion “as imperative so that it won’t be shut out from decisions on minerals and shipping,” said Dr. Jakobson, who is also an Arctic researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China’s economy is heavily dependent on exports, and the polar route saves time, distance and money to and from elsewhere in Asia and Europe, compared with traversing the Suez Canal.
So far there has been little actual exploitation of Arctic resources. Greenland has only one working mine, though more than 100 new sites are being mapped out. Here, as well as in Alaska, Canada and Norway, oil and gas companies are still largely exploring, although experts estimate that more than 20 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic. Warmer weather has already extended the work season by a month in many locations, making access easier.
At one point this summer, 97 percent of the surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet was melting. At current rates, Arctic waters could be ice-free in summer by the end of the decade, scientists say.
“Things are happening much faster than what any scientific model predicted,” said Dr. Morten Rasch, who runs the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring program at Aarhus University in Denmark.
Ownership of the Arctic is governed by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which gives Arctic nations an exclusive economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from land, and to undersea resources farther away so long as they are on a continental shelf. The far northern Arctic Ocean belongs to no country, and conditions there are severe. In a place where exact boundaries were never much of a concern, haggling over borders has begun among the primary nations — between Canada and Denmark, and the United States and Canada, for example.
The United States has been hampered in the current jockeying because the Senate has refused to ratify the Convention of the Law of the Sea, even though both the Bush and Obama administrations have strongly supported doing so. This means the United States has not been able to formally stake out its underwater boundaries. “We are being left behind,” Deputy Secretary Nides said.
But experts say boundary disputes are likely to be rapidly resolved through negotiation, so that everyone can get on with the business of making money. There is “very little room for a race to grab territory, since most of the resources are in an area that is clearly carved up already,” said Kristofer Bergh, a researcher at the Stockholm Institute.
Even so, Arctic nations and NATO are building up military capabilities in the region, as a precaution. That has left China with little choice but to garner influence through a strategy that has worked well in Africa and Latin America: investing and joining with local companies and financing good works to earn good will. Its scientists have become pillars of multinational Arctic research, and their icebreaker has been used in joint expeditions.
And Chinese companies, some with close government ties, are investing heavily across the Arctic. In Canada, Chinese firms have acquired interests in two oil companies that could afford them access to Arctic drilling. During a June visit to Iceland, Premier Wen Jiabao of China signed a number of economic agreements, covering areas like geothermal energy and free trade.
In Greenland, large Chinese companies are financing the development of mines that are being developed around discoveries of gems or minerals by small prospecting companies, said Soren Meisling, head of the China desk at the Bech Bruun law firm in Copenhagen, which represents many of them. A huge iron ore mine under development near Nuuk, for example, is owned by a British company but financed in part by a Chinese steel maker.
Chinese mining companies have proved adept at working in challenging locales and have even proposed building runways for jumbo jets on the ice in Greenland’s far north to fly out minerals until the ice melts enough for shipping.
“There is already a sense of competition in the Arctic, and they think they can have first advantage,” said Jingjing Su, a lawyer in Bech Bruun’s China practice.
The efforts have clear political backing. Greenland’s minister for industry and mineral resources was greeted by Vice Premier Li Keqiang in China last November. A few months later, China’s minister of land and resources, Xu Shaoshi, traveled to Greenland to sign cooperation agreements.
Western analysts have worried that China could leverage its wealth, particularly in some of the cash-poor corners of the Arctic like Greenland and Iceland.
But Chinese officials have cast their motives in more generous terms. “China’s activities are for the purposes of regular environmental investigation and investment and have nothing to do with resource plundering and strategic control,” the state-controlled Xinhua news agency wrote this year.
Michael Byers, a professor of politics and law at the University of British Columbia, said the Chinese were unlikely to overstep their rights in a region populated by NATO members. “Despite the concerns I have about Chinese foreign policy in other parts of the world, in the Arctic it is behaving responsibly,” he said. “They just want to make money.”
Next February, the Arctic Council is scheduled to choose the countries that will be granted permanent observer status, which requires unanimity vote. Though Iceland, Denmark and Sweden now openly support China’s bid, the United States State Department, contacted for comment, declined to say how it would vote.

Greenland’s shrinking ice hurts native tribe

Greenland's shrinking ice
Nine photographers from the photo agency NOOR photographed climate stories from around the world for a 2009 report. Their goal: to document some of the causes and consequences, from deforestation to changing sea levels, as well as the people whose lives and jobs are part of the carbon culture.

It's hard to get any more remote than Uummannaq, a region in northwestern Greenland with some 2,800 Inuit natives, half of them living in this settlement.

Ice is a foundation of the culture here, but one that is weakening. In fact, Greenland's entire ice sheet has become less stable in recent years due to warmer temperatures and earlier spring thaws. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)

In Uummannaq, boats are becoming more valuable than traditional dog sleds due to the unstable ice. That is also forcing adult males to give up hunting of polar bear and seals for fishing, which locally is seen as traditionally more of a task for women and chilldren.

"The Greenland ice sheet is no longer in equilibrium," the U.S. National Science Foundation says, "and it contributes annually to global sea-level rise, currently at a rate of about 0.5 millimeters (.02 inches) per year. In 2007, the melt area exceeded the previously set record by 10 percent. The edges of Greenland are experiencing the greatest amount of change, with record amounts of pooled melt water appearing in recent years." (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)
A boy rests on a rock in the village, dressed in fur-lined clothes made from polar bears and seals. That attire has helped Inuits survive extreme cold for centuries, but shrinking and less stable sea ice not only makes it harder for the Inuits to hunt, it also makes it harder for polar bears and seals to survive. Seals rely on sea ice to rest, hunt fish from and even to bear pups. The bears use the sea ice to hunt down seals. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)
Hunters like Ole Jorgen Hammeken increasingly feed their dogs halibut since there's less meat from polar bears, whales, walruses or seals. "Once one piece of the hunter's life disappears," says photographer Stanley Greene, "then it all starts to melt away, just like the ice that is going away, and soon the hunters of Uummannaq may disappear as well. Without good ice they cannot survive, and without ice they are no longer 'Kings of the Ice,' and then they are nothing at all." (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)
Two fishing boats are surrounded by weak ice off Ilulissat, Greenland. The town is near Uummannaq and home to Sermeq Kujalleq, northwestern Greenland's biggest glacier. Scientists recently found that the glacier is being eroded by pulses of warmer ocean water.

While gaps in climate science exist, leading some to question the degree of mankind’s impact as well as whether anything should be done, most governments as well as the science academies of the U.S. and other industrial nations agree that mankind is a significant factor and that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR) 
Inuits make up the majority of Greenland's population, which totals just 55,000 people on an island the size of Texas. Greenland's Inuits share ties with Inuits in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)
The signs of a changed Uummannaq include this field of junk, much of it lost cargo from container ships that has been washed up by currents. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR) 
Ole Jorgen Hammeken studied law before following his Inuit calling to become a hunter. In 2007, after a postal sled route to Ilulissat could no longer be used due to unstable ice, he opened a route farther inland. He has also appeared in documentaries and even as the lead actor in a French-Greenlandic film, "On Thin Ice", about his culture. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR) 
Inuit make use of most of the resources around them, including small animals like arctic foxes, which are hunted to a limited extent for their fur. Their population numbers are stable, and the species is not considered endangered or threatened. (Stanley Greene / Consequences by NOOR)
A hunter walks through an abandoned settlement in the Uummannaq area. Some hope the retreating sea ice around Greenland will uncover oil and mineral wealth for residents here. Indeed, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates 31 billion barrels of oil and gas sit off Greenland's east coast, and 18 billion barrels beneath the Arctic waters between Greenland and Canada. How that would impact the local Inuit culture is a big unknown.

For more information on this project go to Consequences by NOOR 

Choosy lenders holding back housing recovery

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Who made it on Forbes' list of the 400-richest Americans? Randall Lane, Forbes, discusses.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
A U.S. flag decorates a for-sale sign at a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, in this August 21, 2012 file photo. The housing market has been showing signs of recovery, but lending remains tight.
Don't let the data fool you, it's going to be a long road back to anything like "normal" for the nation's housing market.
With mortgage rates at the lowest levels in a half century, and falling, the housing market is crawling out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The latest data, released Wednesday, showed an encouraging pickup last month in sales of existing homes and in the pace of new construction.
Housing starts rose 2.3 percent in August, boosted by single-family home construction, according to a separate report from the Commerce Department. While the pace of single-family home building was the fastest in more than two years, the overall number was less than expected. Permits to break ground on new construction, seen as a bellwether of future sales, slipped.The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that home re-sales were up 7.8 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.82 million units, the fastest annual rate since May 2010 and well above analysts' expectations.
Since August 2011, housing starts have jumped by nearly 20 percent. But the gain follows a collapse that saw new home sales crash from a nearly 1.4 million annual rate in mid-2005 to fewer than 300,000 last year.
“If you said that activity rose by twenty percent in any other industry the impression would be that the conditions are booming,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “In housing, it is still said to be in a recession.”
That housing recession is holding back the broader economy, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who told reporters last week that "housing is usually a big part of the recovery process" but has been "one of the missing pistons in the engine."
Though homebuilders are generally becoming more upbeat, they still face “a lot of roadblocks,” according to David Crowe, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders.
“We have tight credit for buyers and builders, we have tough appraisals that are often busting a contract and now builders are facing higher prices for some of the building materials,” he said. “I think all of those will keep that recovery continuing to be a modest one.”
Crowe said the industry also will be hit with another major setback if Congress decides to eliminate the deduction for home mortgage interest as part of a broad tax reform package. That, he said, would throw “a pretty awful wrench” into the housing market.

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Home sales and construction all in the positive in August, reports CNBC's Diana Olick.
“Many people, even if they don't deduct their interest at the moment, have (done so) at some point during their career of owning their home,” he said. “If you take that away, you take away a significant aid, particularly to the middle class to be able to afford that interest payment.”
To help lower those interest payments and help revive the economy, the Fed announced last week that it will begin buying $40 billion worth of mortgage bonds a month, hoping to drive mortgage rates lower and spur more home buying.
It remains to be seen, though, how much of an impact those lower rates will have. Since the Fed began its historic campaign to drive rates to the floor to heal the damage from the financial collapse of 2008, mortgage rates have been setting record lows.  
But while low rates may encourage home buyers to go shopping, cheap money has had little impact on choosy lenders who are demanding much better credit to approve a mortgage application.
“A further fall in mortgage rates is unlikely to trigger a rapid housing recovery when rates are already at record lows and when tight credit conditions mean many households cannot qualify for a new loan," said Capital Economics economists Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales in a report on the housing market.
The economists note that in the second quarter, while the average household’s FICO score was 690, lenders were demanding a score of 745 to approve a mortgage. And anecdotal reports suggest that the lending volume is also being held back by “administrative problems at banks, with the time taken to approve a mortgage application climbing to three months from the normal one (month),” they said.
"Despite the surge in the government-backed share of home purchase loans ... credit scores of home-purchase borrowers are considerably higher now than at any point in the past 12 years," the Fed said.Tighter credit conditions were confirmed by a Fed report Tuesday showing that banks are demanding higher credit scores to qualify for loans.
Tight credit is one reason more than a quarter of existing-home sales went to buyers who put up cash, according to the latest monthly  data.
To be sure, lower mortgage rates have helped millions of households save on interest payments by refinancing their existing mortgages. But with more than 20 percent of borrowers underwater on their current mortgage, millions more can’t qualify to refinance at a lower rate because they don’t have enough home equity to qualify.
Tight credit and the large pool of underwater borrowers slowed the volume of U.S. home lending by 10 percent last year to the lowest level since 1995, according to a report Tuesday by a group of federal bank regulators.
Some 7.1 million home loans were made in 2011, down from 7.9 million the previous year, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. Refinancing of home loans dropped 13 percent during the year, while new mortgages dropped 5 percent, the report found.
In 2011, conventional mortgage applications by blacks and Hispanics were rejected more than those submitted by non-Hispanic whites, although the differences between rejection rates were similar to those found in previous years, the FFIEC said. Denial rates were 30.9 percent for blacks, 21.7 percent for Hispanics,14.8 percent for Asians, and 11.9 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
The Fed said the data does not include enough information "to determine the extent to which these differences reflect illegal discrimination."
Borrowers with lower incomes were also more likely to receive higher-priced loans, according to the Fed's analysis.
Areas hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis saw the biggest drop in lending, according to the report.
"The steeper decline in mortgage credit flows to highly distressed areas continues a trend that has been observed since the onset of the housing market downturn," the report said.
More money and business news:

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CNBC's Diana Olick breaks down the numbers on last month's home sales, and discusses whether a housing recovery is underway, with Patrick Newport, IHS Global Insight, and David Crowe, National Association of Homebuilders.

Finishing the Way They Started: Failed Promises, Putting Politics Over Policy

Before Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, they announced their “Pledge to America” with claims that they would focus on priorities important to the American people, such as creating jobs, restoring economic certainty, and reducing the deficit. Two years later, Republicans’ record shows that they abandoned their pledge, and instead have consistently chosen to focus on partisan political issues rather than policies to restore our economy or create jobs. Now House Republicans are adjourning until after the election, and Republican leaders are concluding their legislative agenda the same way they started it: choosing obstruction and political messaging over working together to enact policies that help Americans.
The Republican Record
A plan to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive must be the first and most urgent domestic priority of our government. So first, we offer a plan to get people working again.”
Over the last 21 months, House Republicans have not offered or voted on a comprehensive jobs bill, despite it being Americans’ top concern.
House Republicans have refused to take up President Obama’s American Jobs Act or to move most pieces of House Democrats’ Make It In America agenda, a comprehensive jobs plan that aims to strengthen manufacturing and create jobs.
“The constant threat of new taxes and new regulations prevents investors and entrepreneurs from putting capital at risk. These private sector employers must be given the certainty that if they take a risk to expand their company or hire a new employee, Washington won’t yank the rug from under their feet.”
House Republicans have not only notprovided economic certainty, they’ve brought economic uncertainty to record high levels.
They created uncertainty for businesses last year, when they brought the U.S. to the brink of default after walking away from a bipartisan, balanced deficit reduction plan. As a result, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history.
Republicans have also created uncertainty for middle-class families and small businesses by refusing to extend their tax cut as they hold it hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy.
An increasing amount of uncertainty has led to higher unemployment rates, according to a recent study [Federal Reserve Bank, 9/18/12].
“With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt.”
Because of Republicans’ refusal to compromise on a balanced deficit reduction plan, the U.S. is now facing a fiscal cliff that will bring serious consequences in January 2013, including a sequester that will have a devastating effect on all areas of the budget, including defense funding and domestic programs.
House Republicans also passed budgets that ended the Medicare guarantee, increased costs for seniors, don’t balance until 2040, and placed the burden on the backs of middle-class families and the most vulnerable while giving trillions more in tax cuts to the wealthy.
“We offer a plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care with common sense solutions focused on lowering costs and protecting American jobs.”
House Republicans certainly had a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act: they’ve voted for repeal more than 30 times. It’s the “replace” part of their pledge that’s tripped them up. After two years, they still have not produced a plan for how to replace health care reform and ensure Americans continue to receive the benefits that they’re already enjoying, like ending discrimination against pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.
Republicans also misplaced their priorities: while voting 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they apparently missed numerous polls that show Americans’ top priority is job creation, not the destruction of beneficial health care reform. [Kaiser Family Foundation]
We will govern differently than past Congresses of both parties.”
This is one promise House Republicans have fulfilled – instead of working for the American people to get things done, they have shown a record level of obstruction and lack of legislative activity.  [Reuters, 9/9/12]
Click here to read in pdf.