Thursday, November 15, 2012

President Obama in New York City to survey Hurricane Sandy damaged areas
Demands New York politicians stop turf battle over funds to pay for mammoth rebuilding task ahead


MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGESPresident Obama greets New York Governor Cuomo after landing at JFK on Thursday, watched by (from left) Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
President Obama brought kindness and hugs to storm battered New Yorkers on Thursday — and a stern warning to local pols: 

Don't start a turf war.

"We're going to have to put some of the turf battles aside," Obama said in remarks on the ravaged eastern shore of Staten Island. "We're going to have to make sure that everybody is focused on doing the job as opposed to worrying about who is getting the credit or who is getting the contracts, or all that stuff that sometimes goes into the rebuilding process."

The President's scolding came just hours after the Daily News reported that Gov. Cuomo infuriated the state's congressional delegation by unilaterally announcing plans to ask the federal government for $30 billion to recover from the storm.

President Obama looks over damage from Hurricane Sandy with residents in the New Dorp neighborhood of Staten Island. During his trip, the president met with a couple, Damien and Glenda Moore, who lost their two small children, Brandon and Connor, in the storm surge. "As a father, as a parent, my heart broke over what they went through," Obama said.



Sources told The News that Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — who will be tasked with actually delivering the federal funds — were blindsided by Cuomo's announcement and annoyed that he floated an eye-popping dollar amount without a specific list of projects the money would pay for.

Senior Cuomo aides insist that they're working closely with Congress. Some political insiders suggested that Obama's warning was directed at Republicans in Congress who are upset with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for cozying up to the President during the storm's aftermath.

President Obama holds a news conference on Staten Island, where he praised the city's resilience, which he said inspires pride.
In a three-hour sweep through storm-ravaged neighborhoods that included a helicopter tour of southern Brooklyn and Queens and meetings with storm victims on Staten Island, the President spoke in general terms about his commitment to help the city — but made no specific promises.

"I'm very proud of you, New York," Obama said after walking through a Staten Island neighborhood that was devastated by the historic hurricane. "You guys are tough. You bounce back."

President Obama boards Air Force One on his way to New York City Thursday morning.

Schumer did not comment on the President's turf-tussle warning but stressed that officials needed to "coordinate" their relief efforts.

He told the Daily News that he and Gillibrand talked "with the President about how to get New York the aid it needs."

The senator said he believes New York and New Jersey should work together to get funding for both states.

"(Obama) seeing it hands-on made a powerful impression that I think will help us get the funding," said Schumer. 

President Obama greets workers as he visits Cedar Grove Avenue on Staten Island. "He told us to stick with it, that he's going to see it through," said Ladrina Sheffield, 35, a mom of four who lost most of her possessions in the storm. "It means a lot to the people that we have a leader who cares."

A spokesman for Christie said the governor would consult with his state delegation before requesting funds from Washington. He said New Jersey would have a ballpark figure sometime next week.
After emerging from his aerial tour of Brooklyn and Queens, Obama met with dozens of Staten Island residents whose homes were swamped or entirely destroyed by the storm — and one couple who lost even more.

The President offered hugs to Damien and Glenda Moore, whose two small children, Brandon, 2, and Connor, 4, died after getting swept away in the storm's merciless surge. 

The President, flanked above by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Cuomo, announced he has chosen a New Yorker to spearhead the city's rebuilding process, former Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Shaun Donovan.

"As a father, as a parent, my heart broke over what they went through," Obama said.
But Obama noted that the Moores went out of their way to laud NYPD Lt. Kevin Gallagher, who tried to help the couple in their darkest hour.

He called it the perfect example of how the storm turned strangers into family.

"That spirit, and sense of togetherness and of looking out for one another, is what is going to carry us through this tragedy," he said.

Destruction on Yetman Street in Tottenville, Staten Island, two days after Hurricane Sandy hit.

The President vowed that he would not forget what he saw.

"We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete," Obama said after walking a devastated section of New Dorp, S.I.

"You look at this block and you know this is a community that's deeply wounded," said Obama.

He vowed to personally return to the region to check on its recovery.

President Obama chats with Staten Island residents. "We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete," he said during his visit. More than 18,000 city residents remain without power.

Sandy ripped through the city with savage winds and a record storm surge that flooded lower Manhattan and inundated several coastal areas in the outer boroughs. 

Some neighborhoods, including Midland Beach on Staten Island and Breezy Point on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens — which also had a swath of homes consumed by a massive fire — are likely irrevocably altered.

Flanked by Mayor Bloomberg, Cuomo and both New York senators, Obama walked through a temporary city of white tents that is being used to house those displaced by Sandy, and spoke to every person there who is seeking help from the government.

"He told us to stick with it, that he's going to see it through," said Jackie Srebrenick, whose home was flooded. "It means a lot to the people that we have a leader who cares."

President Obama surveys the damage on Cedar Grove Ave. with Rep. Michael Grimm and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. He had initially intended to visit New York sooner to see damage from Superstorm Sandy, but postponed the trip so that resources wouldn't be diverted from the recovery effort.

Obama pledged that Washington would stand by the city in its "hour of need" and announced he has enlisted a New Yorker to spearhead that cause.
He named former city Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Shaun Donovan as the federal government's point person for the rebuilding process.

Donovan, who is now head of the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, will be charged with coordinating relief efforts with the state and local governments.

The appointment of a former Bloomberg commissioner is a boon to the mayor as he makes his own list of storm recovery projects he wants funded by the federal government.
President Obama visits workers at the FEMA recovery center on the grounds of New Dorp High School on Staten Island. Gov. Cuomo has announced he will seek $30 billion in federal recovery funds, but his failure to consult New York's congressional delegation first has drawn criticism.

The President walked along Cedar Grove Ave. in New Dorp, pausing solemnly in front of collapsed buildings and yards strewn with debris.

Many Staten Islanders, who felt they were overlooked in the immediate aftermath of the storm, were grateful for the President's response.

"He apologized to everyone for not coming soon enough," said Anthony DiMeglio, a chef whose home was rendered uninhabitable. "Staten Island is always quiet, no one thinks about it — this shows that Staten Island is going to rise above this."

More than 18,000 people in the city are still without electricity, and thousands more lost their homes. 

"We're going to rebuild this in a better way," Bloomberg promised.

Obama originally hoped to tour the city in the days after the storm's Oct. 29 landfall, but after consulting with the mayor, decided to postpone his visit because the extensive police protection and other resources needed for a presidential visit would have diverted equipment and personnel from the immediate recovery.

Instead, Obama toured the devastated New Jersey Shore with Christie, and their bipartisan showing may have helped the President's reelection bid in the campaign's final days.

The White House also announced that Vice President Biden will visit New Jersey on Sunday, and local officials thanked the administration for its quick response to the region.

"We are New Yorkers, Mr. President," Cuomo said. "We will overcome, and we will be the better for it. We take comfort for knowing we are not alone."

Watch the video report here

Maine GOP boss claims ‘hundreds’ of unfamiliar black voters flooded rural polls on Election Day

Charlie Webster, the outgoing chairman of the state Republican Party, said he plans to mail thank-you postcards to new voters to make sure they are delivered to valid addresses.

Comments (175)
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012, 10:37 AM

Charlie Webster, the controversial chairman of Maine's Republican Party, previously warned that 200 college students had voted in recent elections without establishing the proper residency.

The head of the Maine Republican Party claims that “hundreds” of unfamiliar black voters may have cast fraudulent ballots in his state on Election Day.

“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day,” Charlie Webster told Portland’s NBC affiliate WCSH-TV on Wednesday.

“Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black,” Webster said. “How did that happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out."

Webster later doubled down on that claim in an interview with The Portland Press Herald, although he declined to provide details about when and where the alleged fraud occurred.

"I'm not talking about 15 or 20. I'm talking hundreds," he said Wednesday. "I'm not politically correct, and maybe I shouldn't have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that's sleazy."

Webster, the outgoing chairman of the state GOP, said he plans to mail thank-you postcards to new voters to make sure they are delivered to valid addresses.

A spokesperson for Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, however, denied that there were problems at the polls.

“Our office has not heard any complaints about Election Day," Megan Sanborn told the Press Herald.

Webster has previously sounded alarms about voter fraud, the Press Herald reported.

The newspaper said last year he claimed that more than 200 college students had voted in recent elections without establishing the correct residency.

Senate ‘Gang of 8’ Says This Isn’t Its Moment in Deficit Talks

Harry Hamburg/Associated Press
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, at a news conference this week. He will take part in negotiations with President Obama.

Published: November 15, 2012

WASHINGTON — After years of wrangling, members of the bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight are ratcheting back expectations for a deficit reduction breakthrough and now say the best they can probably do is offer ideas for the one fiscal negotiation that will truly matter: talks between President Obamaand Speaker John A. Boehner that begin in earnest on Friday.

Yuri Gripas/Reuters
John A. Boehner, the House speaker, will try again to come to an agreement with the president on a deficit reduction plan.
Jonathan Ernst for The New York Times
“As you might imagine, positions have hardened,” said Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican member of the Gang of Eight.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, said it was now up to Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner to try to find a solution.

Another fruitless meeting this week of the Senate group has only raised the pressure ahead of the White House session between the president and Congressional leaders. “It was great. We had a lot of doughnuts,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat and the most powerful member of the gang, which was once seen as the best hope for a budget deal that could draw support from both parties.

Other ad hoc efforts seem to be languishing as well. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, said after circulating a deficit plan a year in the making, that it was solely up to the president and the speaker to stop the country from careening over the so-called fiscal cliff.

Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, who has been negotiating with Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said it was time to squelch such side negotiations, lest they undermine Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner.

“There’s eight individuals, well meaning and trying to get a deal, and it shows you how hard it is,” Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and an original member of the Gang of Eight, said of the apparent impasse. “And it’s gotten harder after the election. As you might imagine, positions have hardened.”

Such freelance negotiations were once seen as a bottom-up way to push leaders on Capitol Hill and in the White House toward the political center, where they could compromise on a sweeping deficit reduction package. The self-appointed gang once put itself forward as the architects of a “grand bargain” to save the nation from fiscal and economic crisis.

But, Mr. Bennet said, time has run out. Now lawmakers from both parties say they need a solution imposed from the top.

“We want to find a way to avoid the cliff, and the focus of this effort is going to be between the president and John Boehner,” Mr. Durbin said. “It is possible that some of the ideas we come up with may be of value in that conversation.”

On Friday Mr. Obama will meet with Mr. Boehner; Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader; Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, to begin deficit negotiations formally. White House officials say Mr. Obama is likely to extend another invitation for next week, after he returns from a trip to Asia and before Thanksgiving.

If no agreement is reached, hundreds of billions of dollars in simultaneous tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts will begin in January. Economists say that sudden jolt would be likely to send the economy back into recession.

“At this point, the president and the speaker, the other leaders, are going to be meeting at the White House, and I think the focus needs to be on those meetings,” said Senator Michael D. Crapo, Republican of Idaho and another member of the gang. “And although there are many other discussions working on trying to help find a path forward here, I don’t think that we need to be looking at other options in terms of the decision-making process right now.”

Senators involved in the negotiations do not want a repeat of last summer, when they were blamed in part for the collapse of the last set of deficit talks between the president and the speaker. Those negotiations appeared to be heading toward a deal in July 2011 when the framework of a Senate “gang” agreement emerged, promising $1.2 trillion in revenue increases, 50 percent more than the $800 billion that Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner were homing in on. Suddenly the president faced the prospect of agreeing to the lower figure with the speaker, then facing a revolt from his own party. Republicans say the White House demanded more tax increases, Mr. Boehner balked, and talks collapsed.

Senate negotiators say officially that efforts to find a broad, bipartisan debt plan continue, but frustration is starting to show. The original Gang of Six — augmented by two new members, Mr. Bennet and Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska — met for three days in Mount Vernon, Va., in October, but little progress was made.

They reconvened on Tuesday, but the election results presented a new set of problems. Republican officials familiar with the talks say Democrats dug in on demands for tax revenue that Republicans are not willing to meet. Democratic aides say Republicans who had spoken abstractly about the need for more revenues are balking at the specifics.

“Things change. It’s not just a matter of the numbers changing, and they do,” Mr. Durbin said of shifting deficit projections, revenue forecasts and spending totals. “It’s also a matter of the political environment, and the landscape changing.”

Democrats freely admit they have shifted their stance from the defensive crouch of the summer of 2011, when they signed on to a budget deal that cut $1 trillion in spending with no tax increases, to now, when they believe the voters have given them a mandate to raise taxes on the affluent.

“We were in damage limitation mode. Now we’re in full problem-solving mode,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Both sides insist they want a deal before January, but a rising chorus of voices, especially Democrats, say they would rather go over the cliff than accept a deal that raised too few taxes while extracting too many cuts, especially to Medicare and Medicaid.

The search for a deal before January is off to a slow start. Rob Nabors, the president’s chief liaison to Congress, came to the Capitol early this week to meet with Mr. Boehner’s chief of staff, Mike Sommers. But little groundwork was done ahead of Friday’s meeting.

Some Republican House aides suggested that Mr. Obama was trying to raise the pressure on Republicans with his lackadaisical approach ahead of a trip to Asia and a Thanksgiving break. True negotiations, they say, will not begin until December, just weeks before the deadline.

Mitt Romney's sour grapes to top donors: President Obama won election because he handed out 'big gifts' to blacks, Hispanics & young voters

Losing GOP presidential candidate's statement echoed the '47%' gaffe he made at a fundraiser that alienated voters he said were 'dependent upon government.'

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'The president’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things,' Romney said to top donors. 'Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.'

Mitt Romney can’t lay off the “47%.”

The losing GOP presidential candidate unloaded a cartful of sour grapes on his top donors Wednesday, saying President Obama won because he handed out “big gifts” to blacks, Hispanics and young voters.

Romney’s statement echoed the “47%” gaffe he made at a fundraiser that alienated voters he said were “dependent upon government.”


This time, in a conference call with major donors Wednesday, Romney said Obama voters were in it for the goodies, the Los Angeles Times Reported.

“The president’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things,” Romney said. “Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

He included Obamacare, contraception and college loan forgiveness among the gifts.

David Axelrod, Obama’s chief campaign advisor, tweeted, “Still looking at America through that 47% prism, Mitt tells donors the takers did him in.”

Watch the video here

Romney’s jab on Obama winning election because of ‘big gifts’ to Blacks and Hispanics slammed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Jindal: ‘We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent.’

Comments (55)
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012, 10:04 AM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Mitt Romney's claim of Obama's "big gifts" to young, black and and Hispanic voters doesn't represent "where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party.”

Mitt Romney is getting pushback from within his own party to his eyebrow-raising claim that President Obama won re-election because he handed out “big gifts” to black, Hispanic and young voters.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a rising GOP star once considered a potential running mate for Romney, called his argument “absolutely wrong” at a press conference on Wednesday that opened a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

“No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” he said, according to Politico. “Two points on that: One, we have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.”

“And, secondly,” he continued, “we need to continue to show how our policies help every voter out there achieve the American Dream, which is to be in the middle class, which is to be able to give their children an opportunity to be able to get a great education.”

“So, I absolutely reject that notion, that description,” he said. “I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
In a conference call with major donors Wednesday, Romney said Obama voters were looking for gifts, like Obamacare, contraception and college loan forgiveness, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The president’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things,” Romney told his backers. “Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, once considered a candidate to join Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket, is now criticizing his campaign for lacking "vision."

Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, said he doesn't think that argument "represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party.”

And he didn’t stop there, circling back to criticize Romney’s presidential campaign at the end of the press conference.

“You have to have a vision. You have to connect your policies to the aspirations of the American people,” Jindal said, according to Politico. “I don’t think the (Romney) campaign did that, and as a result this became a contest between personalities. And you know what? Chicago won that.”

Arizona: Democrat Wins Close Race for Congress
Published: November 12, 2012

Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic former state senator, has been elected to represent a new Phoenix-area Congressional district, emerging victorious after a bitterly fought race that featured millions of dollars in attack ads. She becomes the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Ms. Sinema had a narrow lead on election night, but by Monday had an edge too big for her Republican opponent, Vernon Parker, to overcome. He conceded

Elections, Still Not Over in Arizona, a Hot Topic

Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Bruce Merrill of Arizona State University led a salon on Tuesday on the Nov. 6 elections.
Published: November 15, 2012

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — The question of tipping the political scales in Arizona, like anyplace, is “purely mathematical,” Bruce Merrill said. More people voting for the other side matters only if enough of them vote to overcome the power of a loyal base of voters.

Races in Arizona Still Hang in the Balance (November 10, 2012)

Dr. Merrill, a senior research fellow at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, has made a successful living dissecting and analyzing voting patterns and trends in the state and beyond. Along the way, he has helped more than 100 candidates, almost all of them Republican, use numbers to tailor their messages and assess the viability of their campaigns. He is used to addressing large forums; last month, he spoke before the Arizona Medical Association. On Tuesday, he opened the doors to his home here, a spectacular 14,000-square-foot house on the edge of a golf course, to talk to about 60 people about the Nov. 6 elections.

The audience members listened attentively, as they do whenever they attend one of the salons that Thomas Houlon has organized here for 29 years, on subjects as varied as food, architecture, legal issues, quantum physics, medicine and the Chinese economy. Patty Barnes, a New Yorker whom he married four weeks after they met 21 years ago, helps select the topics — sometimes culled from the books she voraciously reads, on paper and in a black Kindle she seems to carry wherever she goes, and largely inspired by personal interests and obsessions, like the intersection of the arts and neuroscience.

The group is open to members only, a collection of (mostly) well-off intellectuals and intellectually curious people of various political persuasions. Its name is Spirit of the Senses; Mr. Houlon created it as a student at Arizona State University in 1983, when he promoted the first salons as part of class work in a major he designed: intuition and creativity.

“We tried to create intellectual parties where there was meaningful dialogue,” said Mr. Houlon, 61.

“And we created a community out of it,” added Ms. Barnes, also 61.

Before Dr. Merrill got started on Tuesday, audience members were reminded to switch off their cellphones.

“I felt, if Romney lost the election, it was because of his selection of Paul Ryan,” Dr. Merrill said, adding that this was not because Mr. Ryan “was anything like Sarah Palin,” the former governor of Alaska who was Senator John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 election.

Mr. Ryan “is a brilliant young man,” Dr. Merrill said, but he “moved Romney so hard to the right it was hard for him to move back to the middle.”

He also had some things to say about the still-unresolved state races in Arizona, its record number of provisional ballots, the misinformation about the date of the election in Spanish-language materials and how it all smelled of voter suppression.

As he spoke, Lorita Winfield, a registered Republican from a family of Italian immigrants who said she voted for President Obama because of Mr. Romney’s stance on immigration, took notes — “O,” as in Obama, “ran a brilliant tactical campaign.”

A cellphone rang. A man searched reproachfully for the culprit, a woman who coyly slipped her hand inside her bag and mouthed an apology for the disruption.

Membership in Spirit of the Senses is cultivated the old-fashioned way: through word of mouth. The salons happen at people’s homes, which are often an attraction in themselves. Paradise Valley, after all, is a fairly fancy corner of the country.

Dr. Merrill and his wife, Janis, have been members since 2006, though he has been a presenter for much longer. This year, his salon was supposed to be a discussion about the meaning of the election results, and it was, though not for local races. That is because, by Thursday, there were still 163,482 votes to be counted in the state before Friday’s deadline.

Provisional ballots, which make up the bulk of the uncounted votes, were cast by people who showed up at the polls only to find that their names were not on voter rolls, or who said they never got the ballots they had signed up to receive at home, or who had received absentee ballots but decided to vote at the polling place after all.

Syd Golston, a self-described “left-wing Democrat,” education administrator and Spirit of the Senses member since May 2011, said that at the polling place where she worked, Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, more than 200 of the roughly 900 people who voted used provisional ballots.

“A lot of them were minorities,” Ms. Golston said.

Earlier, Dr. Merrill had noted, “I would not be surprised if provisionals would come slightly more from people of low economic status.”

“Slightly?” Ms. Winfield, an amateur historian who joined the group in 2006, asked gently.

Someone wondered if the uncounted votes could change the outcome of the Senate race, in which Representative Jeff Flake, a Republican, was ahead of his Democratic opponent, Richard H. Carmona, by 81,553 votes on Thursday afternoon, according to the tally posted by the Arizona secretary of state, Ken Bennett.

The question, Dr. Merrill said, is whether Latino voters turned out in high enough numbers to tip the scales, which he found to be unlikely — this time, at least.The lesson behind the record number of provisional ballots cast this year and the delay in tallying all of the votes, he said, “is that we have to figure out a better way to run elections.”.
Filler: No matter who's president, I'm an American

November 15, 2012 5:36 PM By LANE FILLER

Photo credit: M. Ryder / Tribune Media Services | "I'm not looking to move to a new nation, or found one. I'm staying here, and staying American, to fight, write and vote for what I believe in," writes Lane Filler.

Lane Filler

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.

It would never occur to me to flee the country because the candidate I favored in a political contest lost an election.

I can imagine plenty of good reasons to flee the country: angry bookies, outraged wives, an announcement that they're going to release three more "Twilight" movies, and my personal nightmare scenario, the outlawing of butter and high-test Coca-Cola.

But pack up the homestead and head for Calgary because the wrong billion-dollar corporate candidate beat the slightly less wrong billion-dollar corporate candidate? I think not.

They don't even have real college football in Canada.

But that always seems to be the big liberal threat: "I swear, ifRomney wins, I'm throwing my "Thirtysomething" DVDs, my schnauzer, Kerouac, and the home-brewing equipment in the back of the Prius and heading for the Northern border. I'm a holistic healer. I can make a living anywhere."

But Mitt Romney didn't win, and extreme liberals didn't have to box up their macrobiotic cookbooks and copies of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" for the big trip. Instead, Barack Obama won, and extreme conservatives, rather than deciding to head for a new nation, are trying to create one. Or 51.

Petitions asking for a peaceful release from the United States and representing every state in the union have been submitted to the White House website. The 51st petition is from ultraliberal Austin, because apparently if Texas quits the nation, some in that city want it to secede from Texas. Next week we'll probably see a petition from a conservative Austintonian named Jim, asking that his house be recognized as a sovereign nation because he hates Austin.

"Welcome to the Republic of Jim," Jim might say to visitors. "Please take off your shoes, as the tidy carpets are considered a national treasure."

Several states, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and Texas, have each submitted more than 25,000 signatures, the number needed to engender a White House response. If I were Obama, my answer would be, "None of you can leave, because as a group you produce 90 percent of the top-notch slow-cooked barbecue in this great land. Admittedly, that's not true of Florida, but I carried Florida for the Democrats twice in a row, so we're keeping them too."

The most astounding thing about the secession movement is that it's caused Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, and blogger Erick Erickson to chide those behind it for their extremism. When you out-extreme Perry and Erickson to the right, you've done a full day's work.

The only time any significant number of folks fled to Canada for political reasons, it was the possibility of being deployed to Vietnam that sent them on their way. The only time states went through with an attempt to leave the union, it was to preserve the right to own humans.

In both cases, the defectors were at least divorcing themselves from the United States over matters of great import. Compared to that, a preference for or against Obamacare or a small increase in marginal tax rates seems a paltry reason to give up your nation.

There hasn't been a president I've fully approved of in my lifetime. I haven't lived under a single one whom I felt understood the importance of civil liberties, or the vision of the founding fathers, or how beautiful and sacred it really is.

But I'm not looking to move to a new nation, or found one. I'm staying here, and staying American, to fight, write and vote for what I believe in.

As long as I have my butter, high-test Coke, slow-cooked barbecue and college football, no mere president is going to push me off my front porch.

Schumer, Gillibrand seeks funds for coastline

Published: November 14, 2012 10:07 PM

An aerial view of Ohio Avenue and Nevada
Photo credit: Doug Kuntz | An aerial view of Ohio Avenue and Nevada Avenue in Long Beach. (Nov. 2, 2012)

WASHINGTON -- New York's U.S. senators said Wednesday they will seek $500 million to $1 billion in federal funding for seven Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect the coastline from Staten Island to Montauk Point.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) likened the Northeast's damage from superstorm Sandy to the devastation of New Orleans byHurricane Katrina in 2005. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must use its emergency authority for New York as it did inLouisiana.

"Simply put, it is undeniably clear that New York City and Long Island have the same critical need that the Gulf Coast had," Schumer said.

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"New York needs a post-Katrina style comprehensive protection plan, and it needs to be started right away."

The seven projects, including construction of two sea walls, dredging of inlets and rebuilding of dunes, had been authorized byCongress -- some of them more than 10 years ago -- and now need appropriations for their completion, Schumer said at a news conference with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The projects include work on Long Beach, Rockaway Beach, Fire Island and one North Shore project -- a seawall -- at Asharoken.

"What's particularly important is the South Shore of Staten Island,Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Long Beach, which are heavily populated areas," Schumer said. "We can't let them lie fallow until another storm occurs."

He said he's confident Congress will approve money, and that he will bring it up Thursday with President Barack Obama when he tours damage from the storm in New York.

Schumer said the projects, which could cost more than $1 billion, were not coordinated with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and that he doesn't know if they're included in Cuomo's $30 billion estimate for storm recovery.

Steve Ellis, of the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, raised concerns about short-term measures, such as dumping more sand on beaches to build up dunes.

"Is it sustainable in the long run?" he asked. Ellis also asked whether taxpayers should foot the bill for protecting properties and homes in areas subject to flooding and storm damage.

The nation chose to rebuild and protect New Orleans after Katrina, Schumer said, and it should do the same for New York.

Schumer and Gillibrand also said they asked the Corps of Engineers in a meeting Wednesday for a study for a long-term protection plan for New York.

Tragic Savita case reignites abortion debate in Ireland
If WE(women) do not take control of our(lady parts) rights to determine our course in the abortion debate, We will be like Ireland and all other nations that do not allow abortion for any reason. This could be our fate as women,.. if,.. we,.. do,.. absolutely nothing. Then we can only blame ourselves(shaking head), Ohio is still out there trying to change our fates. It is time for us to rally the war cry, peacefully, and meet in Ohio and let the state government know exactly what we stand for and against. 


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Hundreds of women in Ireland are protesting, calling for legislative change after the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after her requests for an abortion were rejected by her Irish doctors. NBC's Jim Maceda reports.

By NBC News staff and wire reports

Updated at 12:21 a.m. ET: A debate over abortion has flared in Ireland over the case of Savita Halappanavar, a miscarrying woman suffering from blood poisoning who was refused a quick termination of her pregnancy and died in a hospital.

AFP - Getty Images
This handout picture received from the Irish Times on November 14, 2012 shows Indian national Savita Halappanavar who died after being refused a termination of her pregnancy at a hospital in Galway.

The 31-year-old's case highlights a bizarre legal trap in which pregnant women facing severe health problems in predominantly Catholic Ireland may find themselves.

It also prompted widespread anger, including protests in Dublin outside Ireland’s parliament, the Dáil Éireann. About 400 people gathered for a candelit vigil for Halappanavar in Cork, in the south of Ireland,the Irish Times reported.

Ireland's constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found it should be legalized for situations when the woman's life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.

Opposition politicians appealed Wednesday for Prime Minister Enda Kenny's government to introduce legislation immediately to make the 1992 Supreme Court judgment part of statutory law. Barring any such bill, the only legislation defining the illegality of abortion in Ireland dates to 1861 when the entire island was part of the United Kingdom. That British law, still valid here due to Irish inaction on the matter, states it is a crime to "procure a miscarriage."

Halappanavar, an Indian dentist living in Galway since 2008, was 17 weeks along in her pregnancy when she was admitted to the hospital.

University Hospital Galway in western Ireland declined to say whether doctors believed Halappanavar's blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than wait for the fetus to die on its own. In a statement it described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the national government's Health Service Executive, as "standard practice" whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital. The Galway coroner also planned a public inquest.

Halappanavar's husband, Praveen, said doctors determined that she was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization for severe pain on Sunday, Oct. 21. He said that over the next three days doctors refused their requests for a termination of her fetus to combat her own surging pain and fading health.

"Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby," her husband told The Irish Times in a telephone interview from Belgaum, southwest India. "When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked: 'If they could not save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy?' The consultant said: 'As long as there is a fetal heartbeat, we can't do anything.'"

"Again on Tuesday morning ... the consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: "I am neither Irish nor Catholic," but they said there was nothing they could do," Praveen Halappanavar was quoted as saying.

He said his wife vomited repeatedly and collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn't terminate the fetus because its heart was still beating.

The fetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Praveen Halappanavar said, his wife was placed under sedation in intensive care with systemic blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again. By Saturday, her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working and she was pronounced dead early Sunday, Oct. 28.

Praveen Halappanavar said he took his wife's remains back to India for a Hindu funeral and cremation on Nov. 3. News of the circumstances that led to her death emerged Tuesday in Galway after the Indian community canceled the city's annual Diwali festival. Savita had been one of the festival's organizers.

At the vigil in Cork, child psychologist Mary Phelan told The Irish Times that she was furious about what had happened.

"I couldn't find the words to describe how I felt, I was so outraged when I heard what happened to this poor woman," Phelan said. "I feel mortified in front of the world that we have stood by and allowed this happen in our country today. I think we should all be hanging our heads in shame."

Ivana Bacik, a pro-choice advocate and law professor at Trinity College in Dublin, echoed what many others on Wednesday: "I think there's a clear indication that governments' failure to legislate over a period of years is largely responsible for the uncertainty around the law," she told the Guardian.

Bacik was successfully prosecuted in the 1990s for “providing information” about abortions in England, according to the Guardian. She was nearly sent to jail.

History of birth control in Ireland
Until recently, Ireland’s social and professional worlds were hugely enmeshed with the Catholic church. In the 1980s, teachers applying for a job had to submit their priest as a reference, and it wasn’t until 1979 that condoms were legal – and then only by prescription, according to Irish Family Planning Association, the country’s leading sexual health charity.

It wasn’t until 1993 that condoms could be purchased in vending machines.

Abortion has been mostly ignored in the political sphere – largely because women may leave the country for the procedure. In 2011, more than 4,000 women traveled to England; about 1,500 went to the Netherlands between 2005 and 2009. Other estimates say about 7,000 women leave the Ireland every year to terminate a pregnancy.

But even traveling has been difficult. In 2007, a pregnant 17-year-old dubbed “Miss D” said she wanted an abortion after learning that her fetus had anencephaly, according to That meant the baby’s brain would not fully develop and that the baby would most likely die in utero or within hours or days of its birth.

A social worker told Miss D she couldn’t travel to England, and that police would ban her physically if necessary. Miss D sued and was ultimately able to leave the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sandy yields surge in jobless claims

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Jobless claims jump to 439,000
11/15/2012: CNBC's Rick Santelli breaks down the latest numbers on consumer goods and unemployment as jobless claims jump to 439,000 from 361,000 following Superstorm Sandy.
WASHINGTON - The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits surged last week to a 1 1/2-year high, a sign Superstorm Sandy had dented the economy by leaving tens of thousands of people out of work.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 78,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was well above the median forecast in a Reuters poll of 375,000.

The deadly storm left millions of homes and businesses without electricity, although the economic impact of the storm is likely to be temporary.An analyst from the department said several states from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast reported large increases in claims due to Sandy, a mammoth storm that slammed into the East Coast in late October.

Economists expect the storm could shave as much as half a percentage point from economic growth in the fourth quarter. However, any lost activity should be made up early next year.

Retail sales data on Wednesday pointed to a softening in U.S. consumer spending early in the fourth quarter. Overall retail sales fell as Sandy slammed the brakes on automobile purchases last month.

The surge in new jobless claims last week was the biggest one-week increase since September 2005.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which smoothes out volatility, rose 11,750 to 383,750. Economists generally think a reading below 400,000 points to an increase in employment.

Continuing claims for jobless benefits rose 17,750 in the week ended Nov. 3 to a seasonally adjusted 3.255 million, the highest level since July 2008, the Labor Department said.

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