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Black and White St Louis wallpaper

White House to propose cutting energy assistance for poor

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, would see funding drop by about $3 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion. The proposed cut will not touch the program’s emergency reserve fund, about $590 million, which can be used during particularly harsh cold snaps or extended heat spells, three officials told National Journal.

In 2010, Obama signed into law an omnibus budget resolution that released a total of about $5 billion in LIHEAP grants for 2011. Pointing to the increasing number of Americans who made use of the grants last year, advocates say that LIHEAP is already underfunded. The American Gas Association predicts that 3 million Americans eligible for the program won’t be able to receive it unless LIHEAP funding stays at its current level.

Talk about low hanging fruit – the working poor and their aversion to freezing to death or suffering heat stroke. As Mr. Lewison at the link points out this $3 billion is two-tenths of one percent of the overall budget deficit. To put that $3 billion in further perspective lets look at the government welfare subsidies to the coal industry, Phasing Out Federal Subsidies for Coal(pdf)

The United States also provides subsidized financing internationally through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Export Import Bank. Together, international financial institutions have helped finance 88 new and expanded coal plants since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into effect in 1994, providing more than $137 billion in direct and indirect financial support for new coal-fired power plants.

‘Forcible Rape’ Language Remains In Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding. They’ve changed a few words hoping for some public relations magic to cover the substance of the changes. Women and children who are raped and become pregnant will be forced to carry those pregnancies to term. Perhaps feeling their women hating zealot cheerios, language is also included that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a woman, even if that refusal threatens her life. Quote of the day from Mori Dinauer at Tapped on conservative’s bizarre idea of values regarding rape victims,  “House Republicans go all in to redefine women as subhuman baby-making machines.”

Obama’s advisors split on when and how Mubarak should goWhite House aides acknowledge that the differing views among Obama’s team of advisors has resulted in a mixed message on Egypt.

Obama’s own statements have evolved as the situation has changed, but they illustrate a gradual pulling away from Mubarak’s regime and a call to begin the transition immediately. On Jan. 28, after Mubarak said he would not run for reelection in September, Obama said the Egyptian president “has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.”

But over the last several days, his administration has expressed increasing frustration with the slow progress, and Wednesday the National Security Council made its strongest call yet to speed up the transition.

Aides acknowledge privately that the differing views among Obama’s advisors have produced a mixed message. Even Wednesday, as they continued to call for an orderly transition to democracy led by Suleiman, White House officials said the process wasn’t moving fast enough.

The last few days have shown consistency from the President. It is the team as a whole who cannot quite nail down message discipline. How difficult is it to keep repeating the phrase we’re pro democracy and stability in Egypt. As much as many would like at times, presidents do not have micromanagement control over events evolving in other nations. As the protests and the ensuing shut-downs of the Egyptian economy continue those events – as of today – do not seem to paint a pretty picture, Human Rights Watch, Egypt: Investigate Arrests of Activists, Journalists

The Egyptian government should order military police, army officers, and State Security Investigations officers to cease arresting journalists, activists, and protesters arbitrarily, Human Rights Watch said today. Army officers and military police arbitrarily detained at least 119 people since the army took up positions in Egyptian cities and towns on the night of January 28, 2011, and in at least five cases tortured them. The government needs to ensure the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the illegal detentions and torture and ill-treatment which have occurred, Human Rights Watch said.

In the cases Human Rights Watch has documented, those detained, who have since been released, said that they were held incommunicado, did not have access to a lawyer, and could not inform their families about their detention.

“Arrests by military police of journalists, human rights defenders, and youth activists since January 31 appear intended to intimidate reporting and undermine support for the Tahrir protest,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “These arrests and reports of abuse in detention are exactly the types of practices that sparked the demonstrations in the first place.”

Everyday that the police and military act like this they only fuel the anger and determination of the protesters. Eventually, as mass protests often do, these arrests lead to undesirable counter attacks. The snowball of violence tends to proceed from there. It might help the protesters if they were more focused and formal in their demands. A formal petition and picking two leaders , say Mohamed Elbaradei and a leader from the labor movement. Insist that these two representatives be part of a provisional government with Vice President Omar Suleiman. Those leaders could in turn ask everyone to return to work and give them a few months to start going through the list of prioritized changes. There is a fleet of U.S. ships headed for the Egyptian coast. A prudent security measure always used to ward off any neighbors who might want to take advantage of the situation, to be ready for humanitarian aid and in this case to secure the Suez Canal if needed.

This is like something out of MAD magazine’s Spy vs Spy, Security Firms Pitching Bank of America on WikiLeaks Response Proposed Targeting Glenn Greenwald

As TechHerald reports, among those documents was a presentation, “The Wikileaks Threat,” put together by three data intelligence firms for Bank of America in December. As part of it, they put together what they claimed was a list of important contributors to WikiLeaks. They suggested that Glenn Greenwald’s support was key to WikiLeaks’ ongoing survival.

Also in the cable was the claim that Glenn weighs “professional preservation” against “cause”. So if threatened by a PR campaign Greenwald would fold to avoid damaging his lucrative career. If Glenn cared that much about money he could have joined in some big league law firm and been raking in cash long ago.

In physics or somewhere at least this is called the Limbaugh Backtrack Deviation in honor of the Right’s favorite anti-American drug addict draft dodger, Santorum Backtracks On Comment That Palin’s Skipping CPAC For The Money.

Rick Santorum today denied that he said Sarah Palin was skipping CPAC for financial reasons, calling a Politico story about the comments “garbage.”

The video otherwise, but better to lie than disparage the Right’s current icon of foreign policy insights.

New York Fed Economists Say Bush-Era Bankruptcy Law Fueled Over 200,000 Foreclosures

Economists at the New York Federal Reserve have concluded that a controversial 2005 law backed by banks and credit card companies pushed more than 200,000 people into foreclosure and exacerbated the subprime mortgage crisis.

Consumer advocates fought hard against the law, which made it much more difficult for individuals to alleviate credit card debt in bankruptcy. This inability of homeowners to eliminate other debts, the New York Fed economists conclude, in turn made borrowers unable to pay off their mortgages, spurring foreclosures.

Despite opposition from public interest groups, the 2005 law easily cleared both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. In a paper released Tuesday, New York Fed researchers Donald P. Morgan, Benjamin Iverson and Matthew Botsch determined that the law sparked about 116,000 additional subprime mortgage foreclosures a year after going into effect.

What’s more, they note, these foreclosures pushed home prices down, which may have lead to additional foreclosures. When the value of a home drops below what a borrower owes on the mortgage, it becomes nearly impossible to get out of the loan by selling the house or refinancing, making foreclosure more likely if they become unable to afford the monthly payment.

Democrats – and you know who you are – did not come out clean as the bill had to have some Democratic votes to pass both Chambers.

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