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Poll: Obama leads GOP handily

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama holds double digit leads over the top two GOP presidential candidates, according to a new national survey.

A Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday indicates Obama topping former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 53% to 43% in a hypothetical general election matchup, with the president leading former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania 53% to 42%.

Matched up against a generic GOP opponent in the general election (an unnamed candidate who has not suffered negative attacks during the primary process), Obama has a five-point advantage (50%-45%), up from a dead heat back in November. It’s also telling that the president is at or above 50% in all three general election matchups.

A new national poll from USA Today/Gallup tells a different story. According to the survey, which was also released Monday, Obama and Romney are deadlocked at 47% in a hypothetical matchup, with Santorum holding a 49%-46% margin over the president.

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BP trial delayed for settlement talks

LONDON/NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The trial to decide who should pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been delayed by a week, to allow BP Plc to try to cut a deal with tens of thousands of businesses and individuals affected by the disaster.

Less than 24 hours before the case was set to start in a New Orleans federal court, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier pushed back the date to March 5 from February 27.

The delay allows further talks between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), which represents condominium owners, fishermen, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others who say their livelihoods were damaged by the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.

Eleven people were killed, and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the mile-deep Macondo oil well, in by far the worst offshore U.S. oil spill.

“BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill,” BP said in a statement.

The London-based oil company said there was no assurance that the talks would lead to a settlement.

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Emerging Economies Will Try to Challenge an American World Bank Chief

“MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Emerging economies said on Sunday that they will challenge a tradition that has placed an American at the head of the World Bank for decades, as the Obama administration shows sensitivity to the need for change at global institutions.

Emerging economies said it was time to break a decades-old tradition that has long shut out candidates from the developing world and kept an American at the head of the World Bank and a European leader at the International Monetary Fund.

The problem emerging economies face is finding a candidate willing to challenge the United States, which is the largest and most influential shareholder in the World Bank and IMF.

“I am sure the United States will nominate an excellent candidate but it is imperative that the process this time be contestable,” said Amar Bhattacharya, director of the G24 Secretariat, whose members include major developing and emerging economies.

“There are very strong candidates in the developing world. It is important, therefore, that emerging and developing countries make every effort to identify suitable candidates from the developing world,” he added.

Bhattacharya said emerging and developing countries would try to come up with a list of candidates by the deadline for nominees on March 23.

The politically-thorny issue of whether the leadership of the World Bank should be reserved for an American was not formally raised during G20 meetings of finance ministers in Mexico City at the weekend.

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner privately sounded out ministers from emerging economies on the sidelines on qualities necessary to head the World Bank, but did not say who the U.S. candidate might be, senior G20 official told Reuters…..”

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Rattner Slams Romney for his ‘Delusions’ about the Detroit Auto Bailout

by Beverly Mann

Steven Rattner, the lead adviser on the Obama administration’s auto task force in 2009, has an op-ed titled “Delusions About the Detroit Bailout” in today’s New York Times.   Some highlights:


As a presidential aspirant, Mr. Romney evidently hasn’t felt a need to be consistent or specific as to what should have been done to address the collapse of the auto industry starting in late 2008. But the gist is that the government should have stayed on the sidelines and allowed the companies to go through what he calls “managed bankruptcies,” financed by private capital.

That sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach — except that it’s utter fantasy. In late 2008 and early 2009, when G.M. and Chrysler had exhausted their liquidity, every scrap of private capital had fled to the sidelines.

I know this because the administration’s auto task force, for which I was the lead adviser, spoke diligently to all conceivable providers of funds, and not one had the slightest interest in financing those companies on any terms. If Mr. Romney disagrees, he should come forward with specific names of willing investors in place of empty rhetoric. I predict that he won’t be able to, because there aren’t any.

Rattner then says that without government financing, the two companies would have been unable to undergo Chapter 11 reorganization, and instead would have been forced to cease production and liquidate.  He then addresses the claim that Obama improperly rigged the reorganization to favor the UAW:


Among Mr. Romney’s grievances — and to be fair, those of other opponents of the auto rescue — is that the auto task force trampled on bankruptcy precedents and even the law to effect President Obama’s plan of “shared sacrifice” by all stakeholders.

What he conveniently ignores is that the president’s plan was litigated throughout the federal court system — all the way to the Supreme Court, in the case of Chrysler — without so much as a nod to the opponents from a single judge.

“[E]very stakeholder received more from our plan than if the companies had been left to go bankrupt on their own,” Rattner says.

Read the rest here.

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Wyoming House Advances Doomsday Bill

CHEYENNE — State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, has said he doesn’t anticipate any major crises hitting America anytime soon. But with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion and protest movements growing around the country, Miller said Wyoming — which has a comparatively good economy and sound state finances — needs to make sure it’s protected should any unexpected emergency hit the U.S.

Several House members spoke in favor of the legislation, saying there was no harm in preparing for the worst.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in this room today what would come up here and say that this country is in good shape, that the world is stable and in good shape — because that is clearly not the case,” state Rep. Lorraine Quarberg, R-Thermopolis, said. “To put your head in the sand and think that nothing bad’s going to happen, and that we have no obligation to the citizens of the state of Wyoming to at least have the discussion, is not healthy.”

Read the rest here.

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Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed new details of China’s space weapons programs last week, including information regarding China’s anti-satellite missiles and cyber warfare capabilities.

Burgess stated in little-noticed written testimony prepared for an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Beijing is developing missiles, electronic jammers, and lasers for use against satellites.

Much of the space warfare activity is being carried out under the guise of China’s supposedly non-military space program, he said.

“The space program, including ostensible civil projects, supports China’s growing ability to deny or degrade the space assets of potential adversaries and enhances China’s conventional military capabilities,” Burgess said.

“China operates satellites for communications, navigation, earth resources, weather, and intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance, in addition to manned space and space exploration missions,” he said.

“China’s successfully tested a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) missile and is developing jammers and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions,” he said. “A prerequisite for ASAT attacks, China’s ability to track and identify satellites is enhanced by technologies from China’s manned and lunar programs as well as technologies and methods developed to detect and track space debris.”

China’s January 2007 anti-satellite missile test involved a modified DF-21 missile that destroyed a Chinese weather satellite. The blast created a debris field in space of some 10,000 pieces of space junk that could damage both manned and unmanned spacecraft.

For the U.S. military, the successful 2007 ASAT test represented a new strategic capability for China. Analysts estimate that with as many as two-dozen ASAT missiles, China could severely disrupt U.S. military operations through attacks on satellites.

Burgess said China rarely admits that its space program has direct military uses and refers to nearly all satellite launches as scientific or civil.

Additionally, Burgess said Chinese state-run enterprises “continue to proliferate space and counter-space related capabilities,” including some with direct military applications.

For example, China’s Beidou global positioning system satellites will be available for regional users this year and globally by 2020, he said.

The satellites will provide foreign militaries with precision targeting capabilities through purchases of Chinese Beidou receivers and services.

The system will provide foreign militaries with “greater redundancy and independence in a conflict scenario that employs space assets,” he said.

The Chinese, as well as the Russians, are also developing space capabilities that interfere with or disable U.S. space-based navigation, communications, and intelligence satellites.

Moreover, North Korea has demonstrated its ability to disrupt U.S. navigational capabilities through Soviet-made electronic jammers placed on vehicles near the North-South demarcation line that, when activated, were able to disrupt U.S. Global Positioning System signals up to 62 miles away.

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Romney Steps Up His Tax Cut Plan

“NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In a switch to a more aggressive tax plan, Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he now favors cutting marginal tax rates for individuals by 20%.

The candidate had previously said he would “maintain current tax rates on personal income” as president before moving to a “fairer, flatter, simpler tax structure” in the future.

Now Romney appears to be accelerating that timetable, announcing a move that would reduce the current top rate paid on income from 35% to 28%, with similar reductions across all tax brackets.

For example, Americans in the lowest bracket would pay 8% instead of 10%. Americans closer to the middle would pay 20% instead of 25%.

“Obviously this is a bigger step,” said Roberton Williams, a Tax Policy Center scholar who has been analyzing the 2012 candidates’ tax plans. “It’s a substantial cut and quite the switch.”

The tax cuts will be offset by limits placed on deductions, exemptions and credits currently available to top-level income earners.

“The right way forward is a flatter, fairer, simpler tax system that generates the revenue we need to fund a smaller government that is restrained to its historical size,” Romney said in a statement.

In a conference call with reporters, Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard said that the tax plan, even with rate cuts for individuals, should be revenue neutral….”

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The SEC Hints at New Regulations for High Speed Traders

“WASHINGTON—Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro said Wednesday she is worried about the role of high-frequency traders in the stock market and hinted at new policies aimed at curbing frenetic market activity.

A large portion of trading in the equities market has little to do with “the fundamentals of the company that’s being traded” and more to do with “the minuscule aberrational price move” that computer-assisted traders with direct connections to the exchange can “jump on” in fractions of a second, Ms. Schapiro said.

[schapiro0222]Associated PressMary Schapiro

Such activity “worries me,” she said in a wide-ranging breakfast meeting with reporters. One solution would be forcing high-frequency traders to pay for the canceled trades that make up more than nine-tenths of their orders, she said. Another remedy: requiring such traders to maintain competitive buy and sell orders in the market throughout most of the trading day.

Worries about high-speed trading have been mounting inside the SEC for years, but Ms. Schapiro’s remarks Wednesday indicated a heightened sense of concern and indicate the agency could take aggressive action to rein in the practice.

Many high-frequency trading firms, which move in and out of stocks rapidly using powerful computers, place their computer servers nearby an exchange’s computers in the same facility, an activity known as collocation. Ms. Schapiro did say that high-frequency traders provide liquidity to markets, “and that’s a great thing, it’s lowered the cost of trading.”

She said some of her concerns about high-speed trading were sparked by the May 6, 2010, “flash crash,” when the stock market suffered a massive dislocation and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged hundreds of points in a matter of minutes before recovering some of the lost ground. An SEC report after the crash found that many high-frequency firms stopped trading during the upheaval, and some placed added pressure on the market by selling their positions….”

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The Federal Government Violates it Own Laws in Helping Veterans Find Work

“Why is it so hard for US servicemen to land steady employment once coming home? For one thing, the same government that gave them guns isn’t so quick to give them jobs.

The US government enacted the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) back in 1994 to make it an offense to discriminate against troops returning home on basis of their military status. Nearly 20 years later, though, a recent study reveals that a good chunk of those guilty of violating that law is the federal government itself.

In a recent Washington Post article, it’s revealed that during fiscal year 2011, nearly one-out-of-five of the complaints of violation filed regarding the USERRA were aimed at the US government. In that year alone, more than 18 percent — or 1,158 of the complaints filed — attested that the same government that sent Americans overseas to ready for war weren’t so excited to send those men and women into the workplace.

“On the one hand, the government asked me to serve in Iraq,” retired Army Brig. Gen. Michael Silva tells the Post. “On the other hand, another branch of government was not willing to protect my rights after serving.” Silva says that after serving in Iraq, he returned to the US to reclaim his job with the US Customs and Border Patrol. They had other plans.

According to the USERRA, employers are forbidden from penalizing service members due to the military service. Silva and more than a thousand other last year say that they suffered as such, however, and the guilty party was their own government. With the issue of homeless vets becoming an epidemic in America, a lack of jobs is only worsening a problem that the federal government seems unable—or unwilling — to help otherwise.

Other studies published as of late reveal that homelessness is not just a problem for American vets—it’s a practical disaster. When the 100,000 Homeless Campaign published the results of their last study in November 2011, the authors explicitly noted, “Men and women who risked their lives defending America may be far more likely to die on its streets.”

“When you come home, you’re foreclosed on, your job is gone, and then they want you to go to shelters. And shelters pretty much housing criminals, drug addicts, and a lot of us can’t tolerate that lifestyle,” homeless U.S. army veteran Joe Mangione explained to RT….”

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