Supreme Court to decide if human genes patentable

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether human genes can be patented, a hotly contested issue with broad practical and ethical consequences for the future of gene-based medicine for millions of people worldwide. The nation’s highest court in a brief order agreed to review a case over whether Myriad Genetics Inc may patent two genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. In a 2-1 ruling on August 16, a panel of the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. …

Obama defense pick could come sooner than expected

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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FILE - This Dec, 18, 2008 file photo shows then-Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel in Omaha, Neb. Senior administration officials tell The Associated Press that President Barack Obama could name his next defense secretary in December, far sooner than expected and perhaps in a high-powered package announcement along with his choice for secretary of state. The top names under consideration for defense secretary are former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver, File)President Barack Obama could name his next defense secretary in December, far sooner than expected and perhaps in a high-powered package announcement with his choice for secretary of state, several senior administration officials tell The Associated Press.

Feds propose fee on health insurers in new market

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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Health insurance companies will have to pay to play in new health insurance markets coming under President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration said in a regulatory notice issued Friday.

Brazil’s Rousseff vetoes parts of oil royalties bill

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reads a piece of paper at an event for the announcement of measures to expand the Affectionate Brazil Program in BrasiliaBRASILIA (Reuters) – President Dilma Rousseff on Friday vetoed parts of a controversial royalties bill that pit Brazil's oil-producing states against the rest of the country in a battle over future oil wealth. Seeking a compromise on perhaps the most divisive issues to arise during her nearly two-year-old presidency, Rousseff vetoed clauses that would slash income for Brazil's main oil states, including Rio de Janeiro. Her veto changes the bill so that producer states continue to receive royalties on output from existing oil concessions. …

U.S. soldier in WikiLeaks case plays down suicide comment

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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Army Private First Class Manning is escorted in handcuffs as he leaves the courthouse in Fort MeadeFORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) – The U.S. Army private accused of orchestrating a massive leak of classified documents to the WikiLeaks website said on Friday he may have been sarcastic in indicating he had suicidal thoughts when he first arrived at a U.S. detention center. Bradley Manning wrapped up his second day of testimony in a pretrial hearing to determine whether he should face a court-martial on suspicion of leaking thousands of classified military reports, diplomatic cables and other documents. …

Mitch McConnell makes a fiscal cliff offer and proves he can’t count

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during remarks about leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 16, 2010.   REUTERS/Jim Young   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

It’s a dark day for Mr. Turtlehead.

Senator Minority Mitch McConnell, fresh off his demand for a shoulder rub from President Obama, makes a fiscal cliff offer:

WASHINGTON—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wanted changes to safety-net programs that focus on altering eligibility requirements, and suggested that if Democrats agreed both sides could move closer to a budget deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

In an interview in his Capitol Hill office, Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) said if the White House agrees to changes such as higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a slowing of cost-of-living increases for programs like Social Security, Republicans would agree to include more tax revenue in the deal, though not from higher tax rates.

As Greg Sargent points out, this isn’t much of an offer. Instead, it’s what McConnell wants.

But there’s a big problem with McConnell’s formulation: he completely ignores the need to extend middle-class tax cuts, the single biggest individual component of the fiscal cliff. That’s understandable: it’s where the Republicans are on the weakest ground. So weak, in fact, that the Senate has already passed legislation extending those tax cuts. Not even Mitch McConnell could block it.

When it comes to the fiscal cliff, the big question right now isn’t about Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security: it’s about those middle-class tax cuts. And given that they’ve already passed the Senate, Mitch McConnell’s position (or lack thereof) on the tax cuts is completely irrelevant, at least until next year.

If House Republicans manage to block middle-class tax cuts into 2013, the Senate will once again become relevant because it will need to pass the tax cuts again. And if we get to that point, you can bet that President Obama will start applying public pressure on Senate Republicans, not just House Republicans. But Mitch McConnell says he’s not scared. Why not?

He was dismissive of Mr. Obama’s plan to travel the country building support for his position, starting with a visit to Pennsylvania Friday.

“Three-quarters of our members come from states he didn’t carry,” Mr. McConnell said. “Public opinion in those states probably is not helpful to him.”

Okay, fine, let’s say three-quarters of McConnell’s Republican colleagues couldn’t be swayed by President Obama putting public pressure on them. Three-quarters of 45 is 34. So McConnell is proud that he’s got 34 senators who are unpersuadable. Congratulations, Mitch. You’ve got one-third of the Senate solidly in your corner. Guess what, though: that’s not enough for a filibuster, let alone a majority. But hey, there’s a silver lining: with 34 votes, Mitch McConnell can block any treaty he wants.


Mexico’s Pena Nieto appoints top aides to major Cabinet posts

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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Mexico's President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto meets with Canada's Governor General David Johnston in OttawaMEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico's incoming president, Enrique Pena Nieto, on Friday named close allies to head the important finance and interior ministries as he seeks to spur growth and reduce drug-related violence in Latin America's second-biggest economy. Right-hand man Luis Videgaray will take on the Finance Ministry, while Pena Nieto's close political ally Miguel Angel Osorio Chong will oversee a strengthened Interior Ministry that will be responsible for security in the new government. …

Supreme Court to review lawsuits over flaws in generic drugs

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider whether generic drug manufacturers can be subjected to personal injury lawsuits that allege flaws in the design of drugs, even if federal law would not allow such cases to go forward. The court agreed to review a bid by Mutual Pharmaceutical Co to overturn a $21 million jury award to Karen Bartlett, a New Hampshire woman who had taken its generic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug sulindac for shoulder pain. …

EU’s Rehn says strong commitment to keep euro area together

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – There is a very strong commitment to ensure the euro area will not break up, the EU’s top economics official said on Friday, calling those speculating on an exit of Greece “behind the curve”. EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn called the deal reached earlier this week to reduce Greece’s debt burden a major milestone. He also highlighted that euro zone finance ministers are committed to further reducing Athens’ debt if necessary once it has achieved a primary budget surplus, which is forecast for 2016. …

Boehner steps into the abyss

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-11-2012-05-2008

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John Boehner

Boehner’s refusal to support middle-class tax cuts is the root of the stalemate

John Boehner declares a “stalemate” on the fiscal cliff:

Speaker John Boehner declared an impasse Friday negotiations with the White House over avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“There’s a stalemate,” Boehner said at a news conference. “Let’s not kid ourselves. I’m not trying to make this more difficult. If you’ve watched me over the last three weeks I’ve been very guarded in what I have to say, because I don’t want to make it harder for me or the president or members of both parties to find common ground.”

Okay, so if there’s a stalemate, let’s take a look at the Boehner/Republican position and compare it with the Obama/Democratic position.

President Obama and Democrats are saying that the most urgent fiscal issue facing the country is the expiration of tax cuts on income under $250,000. They say we should extend those tax cuts now, but let Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 expire at the end the year. They also say that we should continue to look for ways to reduce the deficit through long-term spending reductions, but that we can’t ignore the need for short-term measures to boost the economy—things like unemployment benefits and something to replace the payroll tax cut.

John Boehner and Republicans, meanwhile, say they agree that tax cuts on income below $250,000 should continue. However, they also say that tax cuts on income above $250,000 should continue as well. Moreover, they want to see cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, although they refuse to be specific about what cuts they’d like to see. They also say they want to raise revenue through tax reform, but again refuse to offer details. And they oppose any short-term efforts to boost the economy.

An outsider might look at those positions and say that there really isn’t much of a stalemate over taxes, because both sides have the same position on tax rates for 98 percent of the public. The problem is that at least so far, Boehner and Republicans are saying they will only support tax cuts on income below $250,000 in exchange for continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and for agreeing to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, we do have a stalemate over tax cuts, but it’s not because Republicans say they disagree with Democrats—instead, it’s because Republicans think they can hold those tax cuts hostage.

By taking the tax cuts hostage, Boehner is raising the political stakes in a big way. He’s setting up a scenario where he can only win by forcing the White House to cave or by following through on his threat to hold the tax cuts hostage. But if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—who says Boehner’s stalemate talk is irresponsible—is able to get about 30 House Republicans sign a discharge petition that would bring an extension of middle-class tax cuts up for a vote, Boehner is going to lose. And even if she falls short, next year she’s only going need about 20 Republicans to join her, because Democrats gained seats in the House during this year’s election. Meanwhile, President Obama will continue rallying public support for an extension of middle-class tax cuts—and he’s not shying away from calling out Republican hostage-takers by name.

Maybe John Boehner believes he can turn hostage-taking into a winning political position. If so, it probably wouldn’t be the craziest thing he believes. But it’s still plenty crazy. The good news for him and Republicans is that President Obama and Congressional Democrats would be happy to let him step back from the abyss and end the stalement. And the best part of the deal is that the only thing he’d have to do is vote for a tax cut. It’s amazing he hasn’t figured out just how good a deal he’s being offered.