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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Do you need a vacation? It appears the Swiss feel that a month is enough time to recharge their batteries.Swiss citizens appear to be leading the way on European austerity, apparently rejecting a minimum of six weeks of paid vacation a year. Swiss polls have closed on several national referendums, including one pushed by a union to raise the minimum holiday from four weeks. An exit poll by Swiss public broadcaster SSR projected that when votes were counted, two-thirds would reject the proposal. Known for their work ethic, the Swiss appeared to heed warnings from government and business that more vacation would put the economy at risk. As Europeans struggles to control debt through layoffs, wage cuts and tax increases, campaign group Travail.Suisse has argued more break time is needed because of workplace stress. Many other Europeans get four weeks' minimum.

What happened to civility in politics? Not that it was ever entirely civil, but at least there was a gentleman and gentle woman's standard, cooperation and compromise to move the nation forward and not all issue and discussions were met with inflammatory and crossover language. TV six minute increments, the end of any Fairness Doctrine, one-sided views available on TV, radio, the Internet and in print that appear true and go unchallenged are more prevalent than any time since the pamphlet eras of two and three hundred years ago.

Audience and readers who are not out to be informed, but entertained or reinforces, seek out talking or even screaming heads, and then continue that into their own personal lives and discussions. Disagreement over a dinner table, at a coffee shop or at the barbers are not longer tolerated, as turf is defended blindly and minds remain closed.

Can we get back to being a society that tolerates difference, disagreement, thinks with a critical open mind and acts based on compromise and compassion? Or are we forever deadlocked and Jefferson's great experiment in  Democracy a failure?

Why is it that Barack Obama is not getting credit for an improving economy? Jobs are up. Construction is up. In most of the nation, and for last month at least in Las Vegas, housing prices are up. Unemployment, while still high, is moving in the right direction, lower percentages out of work.  Could it be because people believe what they want to believe and the slogans they want to repeat into memory. 

In the US deep south, where primaries are clustered over the next few weeks, polls reflect that over one third of voters still think Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he was not born in the US and see him as very left wing liberal, while his actions have been moderate to moderately conservative as judged by neutral government observation auditors. He is openly referred to as a Black President by many in the south, and as a Yankee by others.

Interesting how how the issue is jobs and the economy with a very strong effort to convince the uneducated voter that the President can lower gas prices, create jobs without creating additional deficit, and provide for Americans yet is not suppose to provide anything that conflicts with the private sector. Critics conveniently ignore the reality that funds passed on to the wealthy and small business have been used to increase bank accounts and the individual wealth of share holders, or invested in jobs overseas. Economist know that fiscal policies and actions of the government take years to decades to take effect, and involve massive investment of tax payer dollars. How can a party criticize yet talk about deficit and debt, cutting off the types of investment that a government would have to do if the private sector does not step up. So far the private sector has stepped up in limited numbers, but jobs are on the increase and consumer spending is trending up. You will never hear a Republican admit that this growth is due to money spent a year or two ago by the Obama administration to save the auto and banking industries, and stimulate jobs.

Polls show a close race in the two Republican presidential primaries set for Tuesday. Alabama and Mississippi are seen as critical to Newt Gingrich's ability to stay in the race. A Gingrich aide has said the former House speaker must win both Southern primaries. But Gingrich strongly suggested otherwise on Friday.  Rick Santorum is looking to emerge as Mitt Romney's sole conservative challenger. But, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, Santorum says he didn't ask Gingrich to get into the race and won't ask him to get out. Romney is seeking a Southern breakthrough to show he can win the support of evangelical voters. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each won a caucus state Saturday; Santorum in Kansas and Romney in Wyoming.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he feels confident Democrats will retain control of the Senate this fall, particularly after the recent announcements that Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe would not seek re-election and that emocrat Bob Kerrey would run in Nebraska. Reid told CNN "State of the Union" that his conversations with Kerrey concerning a possible run extended over several months. Reid said he didn't make any promises to get Kerrey to run, including committee assignments. Reid also said he was okay with the decision by President Barack Obama's campaign team not to help finance Democratic congressional campaigns.

Neil Livingstone has spent decades in Washington D.C. as a counterterrorism expert, describing big paydays and deals with dictators that could be just any old day at the office. Now he says he wants to leave all that behind to become Montana's governor, where chairing the state land board and congratulating state football champions could count as exciting. Libyan documents leaked last year stated that Livingstone was among a group seeking a multi-million dollar payday to help Moammar Gadhafi find a safe haven. Livingstone says it was part of an effort to save lives by ending the civil strife.Former associates say Livingstone's latest consulting firm called Executive Action, launched in 2007, was forced to close as business dried up. Livingstone argues unwinding the company was a "conscious decision."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says a U.S. service member has killed 16 people in a shooting including
nine children and three women. Karzai called the attack Sunday "an assassination" and demanded an explanation from the United States.He says five people were also wounded in the attack on two villages near a U.S. base in the southern province of Kandahar.Karzai is has become increasingly aligned with Iran and moved to politically distance himself from the US and the joint Afghan-US mission.

U.S. officials say it was an American Army soldier who may have shot as many as 16 Afghans before dawn on Sunday in southern Afghanistan.  Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the incident. She said, "we are deeply concerned by the initial reports of this incident, and are monitoring the situation closely." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also has been informed of the incident. NATO had confirmed earlier today that a U.S. service member had been detained, while Afghan officials reported that 16 people were killed including nine children and three women.

The Afghan government has denied allegations that some officials in its U.S.-funded air force have been using military aircraft to ferry narcotics and illegal weapons around the country.  The Afghan Defense Ministry called the claims "baseless" in a statement Sunday. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S.-led NATO forces are investigating the allegations, which came from Afghan officers inside and outside the air force. The newspaper said the inquiry is also exploring whether the alleged smuggling was connected to an incident in April in which an Afghan air force colonel gunned down eight U.S. Air Force officers at Kabul airport.

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich says he thinks U.S. involvement in the region around Afghanistan may be risking the lives of young troops in a mission that "may not be doable." Gingrich says the U.S. should reassess the region and ask whether there isn't "a harder, deeper problem" that can't be solved with military force on the scale the U.S. and its allies are willing to commit. The former House speaker said he reached his conclusion after learning that Pakistan had harbored Osama bin Laden for seven years outside a military city, and that their investigation resulted in punishing the people who assisted American intelligence, rather than those who made it possible for bin Laden to live undetected for so long. Gingrich made his comments on "Fox News Sunday."

A Brazilian newspaper is reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating cases of forced disappearances during the country's 20-year military dictatorship.In a report Sunday, prosecutors told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that es involving kidnappings and hiding of bodies may fall outside the amnesty law that released civilians and military from liability for political crimes. They argue cases where the missing person is never found are "permanent crimes" falling outside the 1961-1979 period covered by the law. On Friday, prosecutors heard witnesses about the disappearance of Edgard Duarte, seen for the last time in a police cell in 1973. He is one of 156 disappeared. In Brazil, prosecutors investigate a case before filing a

The United States is losing popularity in Egypt, a key ally due to the canal and Israel. Egypt's parliament has called for a vote on stopping U.S. aid. This morning's move by the People's Assembly was sparked by the March ffirst departure of six Americans defendants in a case of 43 employees of nonprofit groups accused of using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest in Egypt. The U.S. threatened to cut off aid to Egypt over the issue. Now the parliament is moving to take the initiative, by voting to reject further American aid. The exit of the Americans kicked off a storm in Egypt, prompting many to accuse the ruling generals of bowing to U.S. pressure and intervening in the work of the judiciary. In Sunday's session, lawmakers complained the U.S. is disregarding Egypt's sovereignty. They also called a vote on a no-confidence motion in the government.


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