Senate Seeks Bipartisan Formula to Reach Tax Deal

and  | New York Times | December 29, 2012

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders and their aides spent Saturday searching for a formula to extend tax cuts for most Americans that could win bipartisan support in the Senate and final approval in the fractious House by the new year, hoping to prevent large tax increases and budget cuts that could threaten the fragile economy.

As part of the last-minute negotiations, the lawmakers were haggling over unemployment benefits, cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, taxes on large inheritances and how to limit the impact of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel income tax system that is intended to ensure the rich pay a fair share but that is increasingly encroaching on the middle class.

President Obama said that if talks between the Senate leaders broke down, he wanted the Senate to schedule an up-or-down vote on a narrower measure that would extend only the middle-class tax breaks and unemployment benefits. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he would schedule such a vote on Monday absent a deal.

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Obama urging state lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in Illinois: Sun-Times exclusive

Lynn Sweet | Sun Times | December 29, 2012

Thumbnail image for obama_lynn.jpg AP Photo

WASHINGTON–President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

“As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.  Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” Inouye said.

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Obama Orders Pay Raise For Congress, Federal Workers, Joe Biden

 | Huffington Post | December 28, 2012

President Barack Obama gave a New Year‘s gift to returning members of Congress, federal workers and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, signing an executive order calling for an end to a years-long pay freeze.

As of March 27, 2013, federal employees will see a half-percent to one percent pay increase, marking the end of a pay freeze that has been in place since late 2010. Congress hasn’t seen a pay raise since 2009.

According to the order, Biden’s pay will increase from $225,521 to $231,900 a year, before taxes. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will see his salary increased to $224,500 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will take home an annual pay of $194,400 after his raise.

While Obama’s order made no mention of merit for such a raise, HuffPost‘s Amanda Terkel reported on Friday that the 112th Congress is set to end the session as the most unproductive since the 1940s, with only 219 bills passed by the body becoming law. The raise won’t take place until the 113th Congress, meaning that outgoing members will see no effect from the order.

Obama ordered the raise as he continues to negotiate unsuccessfully with congressional leaders to find a deal in order to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. If no agreement is met, over $500 billion in planned tax increases and spending cuts will be implemented.

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Obama: U.S. has good leads on who carried out Benghazi attacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has some “very good leads” about who carried out the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador in September, President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

              Obama told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the United States would carry out all of the recommendations put forward in an independent review of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.

              “We’re not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem. And we’re going to implement every single recommendation that’s been put forward,” Obama said in the interview, referring to security issues identified in the review.

              “With respect to who carried it out, that’s an ongoing investigation. The FBI has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly. We have some very good leads, but this is not something that I’m going to be at liberty to talk about right now,” he said.

              The interview was conducted on Saturday.

              (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Will Dunham)

The Best of O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-Da 2012

Melanie Nathan | Oblogdeeoblogda | December 30, 2012.

OFFICIAL GAY FLAG OF SOUTH AFRICAI would like to think that O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-Da has made a difference in the lives of some and hope that it has helped those stories which may have gone unreported and untold.  What many people may not realize is that the blogging here is a platform for the advocacy work behind the BLOG.   My personal work extends to LGBT persecution around the world, so called “corrective rape,”  asylum for LGBTI people, the quest for FULL equality in the U.S.A, as well immediate relief for same-sex binational couples seeking green cards for foreign born spouses.

The stats speak for themselves and if I may say myself, what has been a one person unfunded show has done really well for  its first fully operative year, 2012.  I started the BLOG back in 2009, and built my visibility on other sites first, for a few years, before devoting regular time to O-Blog-Dee back in December  2011. It must also be remembered that I gave some of the bigger or select stories to more visible  third party publications such as The Advocate, LGBTQ Nation, GAY Star News,  SDGLN and others.

This 2013 year will be the year that I invite other writers to join the O-BLOG-DEE quest to showcase Global LGBTI human rights advocacy work, using O-Blog-Dee as a platform.

As I have said, this is a BLOG drenched in real life day to day advocacy! Thank you for your readership and encouragement.

O-Blog-Dee has been read in 195 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. South Africa & The United Kingdom were not far behind.

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Activists Dismayed at Renewal of Surveillance Bill

Tom McCarthy | Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | December 29, 2012

Civil rights campaigners voiced dismay on Friday over the US Senate‘s re-authorization of the government’s warrantless surveillance program, and the defeat of two amendments that would have provided for basic oversight of the eavesdropping.

The Senate voted 73-23 to extend the law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, for five years. The House of Representatives has already passed the measure, which President Obama has said he will sign.

But while the program was extended as expected, campaigners saw a silver lining in that the vote was closer than when the legislation was first introduced in 2008.

“We’re incredibly disappointed, not just that it passed, but that they rejected some very moderate amendments that wouldn’t have interfered with the collection of intelligence,” said Michelle Richardson, an ACLU expert on surveillance issues.

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Congress Extends Surveillance Power

Ellen Nakashima | The Washington Post | Reader Supported News | December 29, 2012

Congress approved a measure Friday that would renew expansive U.S. surveillance authority for five more years, rejecting objections from senators who are concerned the legislation does not adequately protect Americans’ privacy.

The bill passed the Senate, 73 to 23. The House approved it in September, and President Obama is expected to sign it before the current authority expires Monday.

The lopsided Senate vote authorized a continuation of the government’s ability to eavesdrop on communications inside the United States involving foreign citizens without obtaining a specific warrant for each case. The surveillance has been credited with exposing several plots against U.S. targets but also has drawn fire from civil liberties advocates.

“It produced and continues to produce significant information that is vital to defend the nation against international terrorism and other threats,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who urged her colleagues to approve the extension without amendment so it would not need to be sent back to the House for a vote.

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How the FBI Coordinated the Crackdown on Occupy

Naomi Wolf | Guardian UK | Reader Supported News | December 29, 2012

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent

t was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves -was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

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Obamacare: Health Exchanges, Coming Soon

Sean McShee | South Florida Gay News | December 29, 2012

Colds and sore backs may be a lesser problem for you come the new year.

Under the Affordable Care Act (See Table 1) workers without employer-provided health insurance can enroll in Health Exchanges beginning Oct. 1, 2013.

These Health Exchanges will make quality health insurance available to workers without health insurance, such as the self-employed , temp and hospitality industry workers, and workers in many gay bars, restaurants, sex clubs, and bathhouses.  Let us not forget the “masseurs”, erotic dancers, and porn stars.

Many partnered straight workers in these fields have access to health insurance through their legal spouses, but partnered LGBT workers do not.  Consequently, Health Exchanges may be especially beneficial to our communities.  The Health Exchanges will be fully functional by Jan. 1, 2014.  We had better start learning about them.

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