UNITED KINGDOM STILL UNITED Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence

Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

“Like millions of other people, I am delighted,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. “It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.”

Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a “balanced settlement” that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II was expected to give a statement Friday afternoon, Sky News reported.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign said early Friday after the result was confirmed. “We have chosen unity over division.”

Despite major victories for the “Yes” campaign in Dundee and Glasgow, a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

He said the vote “has been a triumph for the democratic process.”

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London-based government.

Nonetheless, the skilled 59-year-old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence — his long-cherished goal — and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.

Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.

The result saves Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland – had previously begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.

The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union and the United Nations.

The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant — though somewhat unspecified — new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Labour MP Jim Murphy, who played a key in the Better Together campaign, told Sky News that it was now time to make a success of Scotland’s decision.

“While I’m delighted, there is no time or space for triumph and we have got to get on and offer that devolution package we offered and unite the country around that,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/19/scotland-independence-referendum-837898067/

UNITED KINGDOM STILL UNITED Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence

Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

“Like millions of other people, I am delighted,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. “It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.”

Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a “balanced settlement” that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II was expected to give a statement Friday afternoon, Sky News reported.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign said early Friday after the result was confirmed. “We have chosen unity over division.”

Despite major victories for the “Yes” campaign in Dundee and Glasgow, a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

He said the vote “has been a triumph for the democratic process.”

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London-based government.

Nonetheless, the skilled 59-year-old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence — his long-cherished goal — and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.

Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.

The result saves Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland – had previously begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.

The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union and the United Nations.

The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant — though somewhat unspecified — new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Labour MP Jim Murphy, who played a key in the Better Together campaign, told Sky News that it was now time to make a success of Scotland’s decision.

“While I’m delighted, there is no time or space for triumph and we have got to get on and offer that devolution package we offered and unite the country around that,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/19/scotland-independence-referendum-837898067/

DISCIPLINE DISPUTE Could Lions star’s remarks spark next NFL scandal?

bush.jpg

Reggie Bush clarified his comments on Wednesday, saying his statements to New York’s WFAN a day earlier were taken out of context. He denied spanking the girl, Briseis Avagyan Bush, but acknowledging disciplining her “a bit” when she acts inappropriately. (AP)

Detroit Lions’ star Reggie Bush’s comments about “harshly” disciplining his 1-year-old daughter while taking care not to leave bruises are troubling enough to potentially merit an investigation, Michigan child welfare advocates told FoxNews.com.

The mercurial running back clarified his comments on Wednesday, saying his statements to New York’s WFAN a day earlier were taken out of context. He denied spanking the girl, Briseis Avagyan Bush, but acknowledging disciplining her “a bit” when she acts inappropriately.

“I think the way I discipline my children, my daughter, is private and I should have kept it private,” Bush said. “Obviously, some of the words were taken out of context and that’s fine, it happens all the time. That’s really all I have to say.”

“They may very well be doing an investigation, but you wouldn’t know because it’s confidential.”

- Lori Antkoviak, Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center

One child welfare advocate contacted by FoxNews.com characterized Bush’s initial comments as “disturbing,” while another acknowledged that they could possibly be interpreted to necessitate an investigation.

Lori Antkoviak, executive director of the Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Michigan, said an investigation could potentially already be under way.

“I could see this going both ways, I could see it interpreted both ways,” Antkoviak told FoxNews.com on whether she thought the circumstances meet the criteria for a probe. “They may very well be doing an investigation, but you wouldn’t know because it’s confidential.”

Bush’s comments — which follow the indictment of former Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who has admitted using a tree branch to discipline his 4-year-old son — were “very concerning,” Antkoviak said.

“It’s a very concerning statement because if you’re only trying to not leave bruises, that means you understand you have a huge physical advantage,” she said. “To punish her or discipline her harshly, that statement is also very concerning. Discipline for a child is to show what’s appropriate and inappropriate in a loving manner to show them how to act.”

Antkoviak said she has yet to find a parent who, while incorporating corporal punishment, did not harm the child.

“Any time boundaries are set for a child, they need to be set with love,” she said. “But those boundaries should be set so they know what they can do within those boundaries.”

For children as young as Bush’s daughter, Antkoviak recommended redirecting them when behavior goes astray.

“Pick out a toy, pick out a book,” she said. “A lot of children who are acting out are really seeking time and attention from their caregivers.”

Children that young likely don’t even realize what they’re doing is wrong, she said.

“Parents are busy and I understand that, but sometimes you just need to redirect,” Antkoviak said. “They’re not going to understand that they’re getting smacked for a certain behavior. But starting to tell them ‘no’ at a very young age and redirecting is a better course.”

Tom Knapp, coordinator of the Michigan chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, said Bush’s comments are “concerning” to his organization.

“He’s obviously made some statements and tried to withdraw them,” Knapp said. “No one would dispute that parents can reasonably discipline their children, so long as there’s no physical harm. The primary concern needs to be the emotional and physical well-being of the child.”

Knapp said any comments like those made by Bush are “disturbing,” but said child welfare authorities must consider the totality of the situation before potentially launching an investigation.

Reversing course on Wednesday, Bush said he does not utilize corporal punishment, which roughly 70 percent of Americans said they support in 2010 and 2012, down from about 84 percent in 1986.

“Obviously, I’m not going to be spanking a 1-year old girl, but we do discipline her a bit,” Bush said. “There’s this thing where, if she doesn’t like something or you say something to her that she doesn’t like, she will take a little swing at you. We’re already starting to implement little things such as talking to her and saying ‘that’s not OK,’ and stuff like that. I think people took it too far and thought that I said I was doing much worse. That’s not the case.”

Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Human Services, said he was precluded from saying anything about any individual or family under the state’s Child Protection Law. The criterion to investigate possible abuse, he said, includes abuse or the threat of abuse that can lead to injury, abuse involving a child or if the person perpetrating the alleged abuse is the caregiver of the child.

Bush, 29, also addressed the controversy on Twitter.

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/09/19/reggie-bush-comments-on-daughter-could-prompt-investigation-experts-say/

‘HE IS MY FAMILY’ Vets work to save leg of dog hit by stolen van in chase

maltese-internal.jpg

Sept. 18, 2014: This photo provided by ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals shows Gordo, a 1- to 2-year-old Maltese mix that was struck by a van during a police chase Wednesday night, being cared for at City Of Angels Veterinary Specialty Center in Culver City, Calif. (AP/ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital)

Veterinarians on Thursday worked to save the leg of a fluffy white dog named Gordo who was run down by a stolen van during a wild police chase that was captured live by television helicopters.

The 1- to 2-year-old Maltese mix suffered a deep cut to a rear leg and a smashed hip Wednesday night.

On Thursday night he went through two hours of surgery as vets removed part of his hip joint and repaired the damage.

“Gordo is doing wonderfully, he was a rock star under anesthesia,” said Annie Lo, one of the vets treating the dog. “We have to do a good, close neurologic exam on him tomorrow, just to make sure he’s still able to move those legs.”

Shannon Brown, spokeswoman at City of Angels Veterinary Specialty Center in Culver City said the vets “presented the owners with the options, which were to try to save the leg or amputate and they went for trying to save the leg.”

Losing part of his hip shouldn’t impair the little dog much and animals that undergo such procedures “are expected to be able to run, jump, play,” Brown said.

The chase, which lasted more than an hour, began after authorities tried to stop a white Chevrolet Astro van that had been reported stolen.

At various times city police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol pursued the van as it blew through intersections, drove the wrong way in traffic and ran onto sidewalks.

Authorities bumped the car to make it spin out of control but it kept going. They also laid down a spike strip that blew the tires but the van rolled on in a shower of sparks.

A short time later, Gordo ran into a street in South Los Angeles and was struck by the van under the cameras of circling television news helicopters.

The van eventually was struck by a patrol car and stopped shortly after 9 p.m. in South Los Angeles.

After Gordo was hit, he apparently hobbled home where his owner found him cowering behind the toilet and took him to the vet hospital, where the bloody dog was placed in the arms of a worker and rushed inside.

“He is my family,” owner Santos Son told KABC-TV.

It was “incredibly lucky” that Gordo didn’t bleed to death, said Kim Carey, another of the vets treating him.

She told reporters that there was a slice up the dog’s thigh, possibly caused by a bare tire rim, and there was no nerve damage and little bleeding. She said the hot rim may have acted to cauterize the wound.

“I haven’t ever seen such a clean injury,” Carey said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/19/vets-work-to-save-leg-dog-hit-by-stolen-van/

MILITARY FUNDING FIGHT Pols renew efforts to roll back cuts amid ISIS crisis

Fighter jets_AP_660.jpg

U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets prepare to take off for Iraq from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP)

Defense hawks on both sides of the aisle are pointing to the new war against the Islamic State to revive efforts to roll back across-the-board Pentagon budget cuts.

Citing President Obama’s calls for an expanded bombing campaign against the terror group — whose videotaped beheadings of three western hostages drew international revulsion — longtime foes of what’s known as sequestration say now is no time to slash military funding.

Rather, they argue, the Islamic State, or ISIS, is just the latest threat that underscores the need to undo the $487 billion in automatic Defense spending cuts required under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Even before these things erupted, it was not adequate,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said of Pentagon funding at a Senate Armed Services Hearing earlier this week. “As we all know, risk increases when adequacy is not met.”

The Oklahoma Republican was pressing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on whether the Defense Department has enough money to carry out Obama’s goal of destroying ISIS. While the Obama administration has requested an additional $500 million to pay for arming and training Syrian rebels, more than a month of airstrikes against the terror group have already cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The fact the administration wants to expand operations has fueled renewed worries over Defense funding, including among those who support the White House’s proposed strategy.

“I am troubled by the hit that readiness has taken through some of the budget cuts,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the Council on Foreign Relations last week, adding that while lawmakers have had some success restoring the funding, “the whole sequestration decision, looking back at it, was wrong.”

Beyond the task of fighting ISIS, crises like the Ebola pandemic in West Africa — where U.S. military personnel are being deployed — and the armed struggle in eastern Ukraine have military officials joining lawmakers in sounding the alarm.

“If sequestration occurs, we are going to have to continue to downsize the Army,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters in Germany this week, according to Reuters. “We are going to have to decide where we do it.”

Though top Democrats and Republicans have called for “fixing” the Defense portion of the sequester by reallocating federal dollars, the cuts themselves were the product of a congressional vote to drastically rein in spending — a reality many believed would never come to pass. Indeed, though Congress last year approved a bipartisan, two-year budget outline that provided some relief to the Pentagon, the agency faces another deep cut of about $45 billion next fiscal year, which begins next month.

Of course, Congress has other avenues it could use to appropriate money to the department, including war-fighting funds. But those efforts, along with what Hagel hinted would be a more robust budget request for fiscal 2016, are sure to encounter resistance among deficit-minded members intent on shrinking federal spending.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate budget panel, told Politico this week he’s not prepared to say “we’ve got to obliterate the sequester” to deal with the new threats. “We lived with the Budget Control Act numbers last year,” he said. “We’ve lived with them this year, and savings that the Defense Department was then executing are just now being harvested.”

For now, those eyeing a re-upping of the Pentagon budget are hoping polls that show public opinion surging in favor of striking ISIS — coupled with bipartisan backing of the administration’s initial request for $500 million to train and equip Syrian rebels — will lay the groundwork for rethinking the Defense sequester before the next round of cuts kicks in.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/19/lawmakers-renew-call-to-roll-back-military-cuts-amid-isis-ebola-fights/

‘HE IS MY FAMILY’ Vets work to save leg of dog hit by stolen van in chase

maltese-internal.jpg

Sept. 18, 2014: This photo provided by ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals shows Gordo, a 1- to 2-year-old Maltese mix that was struck by a van during a police chase Wednesday night, being cared for at City Of Angels Veterinary Specialty Center in Culver City, Calif. (AP/ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital)

Veterinarians on Thursday worked to save the leg of a fluffy white dog named Gordo who was run down by a stolen van during a wild police chase that was captured live by television helicopters.

The 1- to 2-year-old Maltese mix suffered a deep cut to a rear leg and a smashed hip Wednesday night.

On Thursday night he went through two hours of surgery as vets removed part of his hip joint and repaired the damage.

“Gordo is doing wonderfully, he was a rock star under anesthesia,” said Annie Lo, one of the vets treating the dog. “We have to do a good, close neurologic exam on him tomorrow, just to make sure he’s still able to move those legs.”

Shannon Brown, spokeswoman at City of Angels Veterinary Specialty Center in Culver City said the vets “presented the owners with the options, which were to try to save the leg or amputate and they went for trying to save the leg.”

Losing part of his hip shouldn’t impair the little dog much and animals that undergo such procedures “are expected to be able to run, jump, play,” Brown said.

The chase, which lasted more than an hour, began after authorities tried to stop a white Chevrolet Astro van that had been reported stolen.

At various times city police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol pursued the van as it blew through intersections, drove the wrong way in traffic and ran onto sidewalks.

Authorities bumped the car to make it spin out of control but it kept going. They also laid down a spike strip that blew the tires but the van rolled on in a shower of sparks.

A short time later, Gordo ran into a street in South Los Angeles and was struck by the van under the cameras of circling television news helicopters.

The van eventually was struck by a patrol car and stopped shortly after 9 p.m. in South Los Angeles.

After Gordo was hit, he apparently hobbled home where his owner found him cowering behind the toilet and took him to the vet hospital, where the bloody dog was placed in the arms of a worker and rushed inside.

“He is my family,” owner Santos Son told KABC-TV.

It was “incredibly lucky” that Gordo didn’t bleed to death, said Kim Carey, another of the vets treating him.

She told reporters that there was a slice up the dog’s thigh, possibly caused by a bare tire rim, and there was no nerve damage and little bleeding. She said the hot rim may have acted to cauterize the wound.

“I haven’t ever seen such a clean injury,” Carey said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/19/vets-work-to-save-leg-dog-hit-by-stolen-van/

DISCIPLINE DISPUTE Could Lions star’s remarks spark next NFL scandal?

bush.jpg

Reggie Bush clarified his comments on Wednesday, saying his statements to New York’s WFAN a day earlier were taken out of context. He denied spanking the girl, Briseis Avagyan Bush, but acknowledging disciplining her “a bit” when she acts inappropriately. (AP)

Detroit Lions’ star Reggie Bush’s comments about “harshly” disciplining his 1-year-old daughter while taking care not to leave bruises are troubling enough to potentially merit an investigation, Michigan child welfare advocates told FoxNews.com.

The mercurial running back clarified his comments on Wednesday, saying his statements to New York’s WFAN a day earlier were taken out of context. He denied spanking the girl, Briseis Avagyan Bush, but acknowledging disciplining her “a bit” when she acts inappropriately.

“I think the way I discipline my children, my daughter, is private and I should have kept it private,” Bush said. “Obviously, some of the words were taken out of context and that’s fine, it happens all the time. That’s really all I have to say.”

“They may very well be doing an investigation, but you wouldn’t know because it’s confidential.”

- Lori Antkoviak, Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center

One child welfare advocate contacted by FoxNews.com characterized Bush’s initial comments as “disturbing,” while another acknowledged that they could possibly be interpreted to necessitate an investigation.

Lori Antkoviak, executive director of the Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center in Michigan, said an investigation could potentially already be under way.

“I could see this going both ways, I could see it interpreted both ways,” Antkoviak told FoxNews.com on whether she thought the circumstances meet the criteria for a probe. “They may very well be doing an investigation, but you wouldn’t know because it’s confidential.”

Bush’s comments — which follow the indictment of former Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who has admitted using a tree branch to discipline his 4-year-old son — were “very concerning,” Antkoviak said.

“It’s a very concerning statement because if you’re only trying to not leave bruises, that means you understand you have a huge physical advantage,” she said. “To punish her or discipline her harshly, that statement is also very concerning. Discipline for a child is to show what’s appropriate and inappropriate in a loving manner to show them how to act.”

Antkoviak said she has yet to find a parent who, while incorporating corporal punishment, did not harm the child.

“Any time boundaries are set for a child, they need to be set with love,” she said. “But those boundaries should be set so they know what they can do within those boundaries.”

For children as young as Bush’s daughter, Antkoviak recommended redirecting them when behavior goes astray.

“Pick out a toy, pick out a book,” she said. “A lot of children who are acting out are really seeking time and attention from their caregivers.”

Children that young likely don’t even realize what they’re doing is wrong, she said.

“Parents are busy and I understand that, but sometimes you just need to redirect,” Antkoviak said. “They’re not going to understand that they’re getting smacked for a certain behavior. But starting to tell them ‘no’ at a very young age and redirecting is a better course.”

Tom Knapp, coordinator of the Michigan chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, said Bush’s comments are “concerning” to his organization.

“He’s obviously made some statements and tried to withdraw them,” Knapp said. “No one would dispute that parents can reasonably discipline their children, so long as there’s no physical harm. The primary concern needs to be the emotional and physical well-being of the child.”

Knapp said any comments like those made by Bush are “disturbing,” but said child welfare authorities must consider the totality of the situation before potentially launching an investigation.

Reversing course on Wednesday, Bush said he does not utilize corporal punishment, which roughly 70 percent of Americans said they support in 2010 and 2012, down from about 84 percent in 1986.

“Obviously, I’m not going to be spanking a 1-year old girl, but we do discipline her a bit,” Bush said. “There’s this thing where, if she doesn’t like something or you say something to her that she doesn’t like, she will take a little swing at you. We’re already starting to implement little things such as talking to her and saying ‘that’s not OK,’ and stuff like that. I think people took it too far and thought that I said I was doing much worse. That’s not the case.”

Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Human Services, said he was precluded from saying anything about any individual or family under the state’s Child Protection Law. The criterion to investigate possible abuse, he said, includes abuse or the threat of abuse that can lead to injury, abuse involving a child or if the person perpetrating the alleged abuse is the caregiver of the child.

Bush, 29, also addressed the controversy on Twitter.

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/09/19/reggie-bush-comments-on-daughter-could-prompt-investigation-experts-say/

UNITED KINGDOM STILL UNITED Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence

Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

“Like millions of other people, I am delighted,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. “It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.”

Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a “balanced settlement” that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II was expected to give a statement Friday afternoon, Sky News reported.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign said early Friday after the result was confirmed. “We have chosen unity over division.”

Despite major victories for the “Yes” campaign in Dundee and Glasgow, a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

He said the vote “has been a triumph for the democratic process.”

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London-based government.

Nonetheless, the skilled 59-year-old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence — his long-cherished goal — and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.

Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.

The result saves Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland – had previously begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.

The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union and the United Nations.

The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant — though somewhat unspecified — new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Labour MP Jim Murphy, who played a key in the Better Together campaign, told Sky News that it was now time to make a success of Scotland’s decision.

“While I’m delighted, there is no time or space for triumph and we have got to get on and offer that devolution package we offered and unite the country around that,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/19/scotland-independence-referendum-837898067/

MILITARY FUNDING FIGHT Lawmakers renew call to roll back cuts amid ISIS crisis

Fighter jets_AP_660.jpg

U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets prepare to take off for Iraq from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP)

Defense hawks on both sides of the aisle are pointing to the new war against the Islamic State to revive efforts to roll back across-the-board Pentagon budget cuts.

Citing President Obama’s calls for an expanded bombing campaign against the terror group — whose videotaped beheadings of three western hostages drew international revulsion — longtime foes of what’s known as sequestration say now is no time to slash military funding.

Rather, they argue, the Islamic State, or ISIS, is just the latest threat that underscores the need to undo the $487 billion in automatic Defense spending cuts required under the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Even before these things erupted, it was not adequate,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said of Pentagon funding at a Senate Armed Services Hearing earlier this week. “As we all know, risk increases when adequacy is not met.”

The Oklahoma Republican was pressing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on whether the Defense Department has enough money to carry out Obama’s goal of destroying ISIS. While the Obama administration has requested an additional $500 million to pay for arming and training Syrian rebels, more than a month of airstrikes against the terror group have already cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The fact the administration wants to expand operations has fueled renewed worries over Defense funding, including among those who support the White House’s proposed strategy.

“I am troubled by the hit that readiness has taken through some of the budget cuts,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the Council on Foreign Relations last week, adding that while lawmakers have had some success restoring the funding, “the whole sequestration decision, looking back at it, was wrong.”

Beyond the task of fighting ISIS, crises like the Ebola pandemic in West Africa — where U.S. military personnel are being deployed — and the armed struggle in eastern Ukraine have military officials joining lawmakers in sounding the alarm.

“If sequestration occurs, we are going to have to continue to downsize the Army,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters in Germany this week, according to Reuters. “We are going to have to decide where we do it.”

Though top Democrats and Republicans have called for “fixing” the Defense portion of the sequester by reallocating federal dollars, the cuts themselves were the product of a congressional vote to drastically rein in spending — a reality many believed would never come to pass. Indeed, though Congress last year approved a bipartisan, two-year budget outline that provided some relief to the Pentagon, the agency faces another deep cut of about $45 billion next fiscal year, which begins next month.

Of course, Congress has other avenues it could use to appropriate money to the department, including war-fighting funds. But those efforts, along with what Hagel hinted would be a more robust budget request for fiscal 2016, are sure to encounter resistance among deficit-minded members intent on shrinking federal spending.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate budget panel, told Politico this week he’s not prepared to say “we’ve got to obliterate the sequester” to deal with the new threats. “We lived with the Budget Control Act numbers last year,” he said. “We’ve lived with them this year, and savings that the Defense Department was then executing are just now being harvested.”

For now, those eyeing a re-upping of the Pentagon budget are hoping polls that show public opinion surging in favor of striking ISIS — coupled with bipartisan backing of the administration’s initial request for $500 million to train and equip Syrian rebels — will lay the groundwork for rethinking the Defense sequester before the next round of cuts kicks in.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/19/lawmakers-renew-call-to-roll-back-military-cuts-amid-isis-ebola-fights/

FLA. MURDER-SUICIDE Grandfather kills daughter, her six kids, then himself

don-spirit-internal.jpg

FILE: Don C. Spirit, 51, is seen in this mugshot. (Florida Department of Corrections)

A grandfather shot and killed his daughter and her six children Thursday in the town of Bell, Fla. before committing suicide after police arrived at the scene, authorities said.

The children ranged in age from three months to 10 years old, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert D. Schultz III told reporters at an evening press conference.

Schultz identified the suspect as Don C. Spirit, 51, a white man. The sheriff said Spirit had placed a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. in which he “made reference to harming people and himself.”

He wouldn’t release more details about Spirit or when he first made contact with the deputies. He also wouldn’t divulge where exactly the victims were found, though he said, “They were certainly all over on the property.”

Schultz declined to speculate on a motive, citing the ongoing investigation, but he said Spirit had a criminal history, and that police had been called previously to his house. He also declined to say if a weapon was recovered or what sort was used.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said. “There’s going to be questions that we’re never going to get answered.”

The victims’ identities were released by the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office late Thursday: Alana Stewart, 3 months old; Brandon Stewart, 4; Destiny Stewart, 5; Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8; Kylie Kuhlmann, 9; Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11; and Sarah Lorraine Spirit, 28.

In 2001, Spirit pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after he fatally shot his 8-year-old son in the head in a hunting accident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Spirit, who also was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, was sentenced to three years in prison for the shooting, the Sentinel added. He was released in 2006.

Bell is a town of 350 people about 30 miles west of Gainesville.

“Keep this community in your prayers,” Schultz said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day in Gilchrist County.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/19/bell-florida-shooting/

Scottish voters reject independence

Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

“Like millions of others, I am delighted,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. “It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.”

Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a “balanced settlement” that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign said early Friday after the result was confirmed. “We have chosen unity over division.”

Despite major victories for the “Yes” campaign in Dundee and Glasgow, the “Better Together,” a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

He said the vote “has been triumph for the democratic process.”

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London-based government.

Nonetheless, the skilled 59-year-old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence — his long-cherished goal — and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.

Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.

The result saves British Prime Minister David Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland – had previously begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.

The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union and the United Nations.

The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant — though somewhat unspecified — new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Labour MP Jim Murphy, who played a key in the Better Together campaign, told Sky News that it was now time to make a success of Scotland’s decision.

“While I’m delighted, there is no time or space for triumph and we have got to get on and offer that devolution package we offered and unite the country around that,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/19/scotland-independence-referendum-837898067/

BIPARTISAN BACKING Congress OKs key plank of Obama’s ISIS strategy

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State. 

The Senate, in a 78-22 vote, authorized the mission as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies operating into December. 

The House passed a similar measure on Wednesday 273-156, with Republicans backing the president’s measure by more than a 2-1 margin.

Speaking at the White House immediately after the vote, President Obama said he wanted to thank congressional leaders for the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the issue and praised the “strong bi-partisan support in Congress for the new training effort.”

Obama also said France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State targets and again emphasized that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”

The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire or not be strong enough to make much of a difference as Islamic States forces try to advance in the country.

Obama has pledged airstrikes as well but is adamant that he won’t send U.S. combat troops to battle the Islamic extremists in either Iraq or Syria.

“We must pursue a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy, and a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to support a critical component of that strategy,” Obama said after the House vote.

The measure is the last major business on Capitol Hill before lawmakers return to their districts and states to campaign for re-election.

The new authority is part of $500 million that Obama requested in May to train and equip Syrian rebels. The cost, to be covered by leftover war funding from this year, generated virtually no debate among lawmakers, who focused instead on the possible consequences of a new military mission not long after a war-exhausted nation largely pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry testified before House committees.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

“The president has not yet approved its finality,” Hagel said.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates, or at least any with the capacity to make a difference in the war. He spoke about several opposition groups, each including up to 4,000 fighters, that have battled Islamic State militants and other extremists over the past year.

Kerry said the coalition that will fight the Islamic State counts 50 countries. He said countries in Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere had committed to taking part militarily, without specifying any by name. He said a couple of countries “are already flying with us” in missions.

Despite their doubts, top Republicans saw little choice but to back the president. The measure provides Obama the authority to train and arm rebels through Dec. 11, ensuring the issue is debated at greater length in a postelection lame duck session.

“While I’m concerned about the ability of the coalition to generate sufficient combat power to defeat ISIL within Syria, I do support the president’s proposal to begin the program,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.

Democrats proved to be a harder sell, backing Obama 114-85 in the House.

“We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., giving voice to a fear that rebels seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove unreliable allies eventually.

As the House voted, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., a nearly sure bet to win an open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal focusing on the Islamic State group threat and criticizing the president. “While our `commander’ in chief is playing golf and taking ambiguous stances on this great threat we need, now more than ever, strong leaders in the Senate willing to take the fight to ISIS’ front door instead of waiting passively for them to come to us,” Lankford wrote.

In the Senate, backing from the top Democratic and Republican leaders ensures swift passage, even as some in the rank and file were lining up against the effort.

“I have seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America.”

The underlying spending bill prevents a partial government shutdown at month’s end and also renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance purchases of U.S. exports. That postpones until June a battle between tea party forces opposing the bank and business-oriented Republicans who support it.

The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The underlying bill passed the House on a vote of 319-108. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/senate-passes-bill-that-authorizes-arming-syrian-rebels/

Scotland rejects independence from United Kingdom in historic vote

Scotland voters have decided to remain part of the United Kingdom, rejecting independence in a historic referendum.

The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 percent to 45 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign said early Friday after the result was confirmed. “We have chosen unity over division.”

Despite major victories for the “Yes” campaign in Dundee and Glasgow, the “Better Together,” a majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.

Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

He said the voted “has been triumph for the democratic process.”

Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish on its own, free of interference from any London-based government.

Nonetheless, the skilled 59-year-old leader of the Scottish National Party came close to winning independence — his long-cherished goal — and still won a promise of new powers for Scotland from rattled London politicians.

Many saw it as a “heads versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.

The result saves British Prime Minister David Cameron from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.

“I am delighted,” Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. “It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.”

“Now the debate has been settled for a generation.”

For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland – had previously begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash his party.

The vote against independence keeps the U.K. from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union and the United Nations.

The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.

In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant — though somewhat unspecified — new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.

Labour MP Jim Murphy, who played a key in the Better Together campaign, told Sky News that it was now time to make a success of Scotland’s decision.

“While I’m delighted, there is no time or space for triumph and we have got to get on and offer that devolution package we offered and unite the country around that,” Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/19/scotland-independence-referendum-837898067/

Congress OKs key plank of Obama’s ISIS strategy in bipartisan vote

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State. 

The Senate, in a 78-22 vote, authorized the mission as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies operating into December. 

The House passed a similar measure on Wednesday 273-156, with Republicans backing the president’s measure by more than a 2-1 margin.

Speaking at the White House immediately after the vote, President Obama said he wanted to thank congressional leaders for the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the issue and praised the “strong bi-partisan support in Congress for the new training effort.”

Obama also said France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State targets and again emphasized that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”

The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire or not be strong enough to make much of a difference as Islamic States forces try to advance in the country.

Obama has pledged airstrikes as well but is adamant that he won’t send U.S. combat troops to battle the Islamic extremists in either Iraq or Syria.

“We must pursue a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy, and a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to support a critical component of that strategy,” Obama said after the House vote.

The measure is the last major business on Capitol Hill before lawmakers return to their districts and states to campaign for re-election.

The new authority is part of $500 million that Obama requested in May to train and equip Syrian rebels. The cost, to be covered by leftover war funding from this year, generated virtually no debate among lawmakers, who focused instead on the possible consequences of a new military mission not long after a war-exhausted nation largely pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry testified before House committees.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

“The president has not yet approved its finality,” Hagel said.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates, or at least any with the capacity to make a difference in the war. He spoke about several opposition groups, each including up to 4,000 fighters, that have battled Islamic State militants and other extremists over the past year.

Kerry said the coalition that will fight the Islamic State counts 50 countries. He said countries in Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere had committed to taking part militarily, without specifying any by name. He said a couple of countries “are already flying with us” in missions.

Despite their doubts, top Republicans saw little choice but to back the president. The measure provides Obama the authority to train and arm rebels through Dec. 11, ensuring the issue is debated at greater length in a postelection lame duck session.

“While I’m concerned about the ability of the coalition to generate sufficient combat power to defeat ISIL within Syria, I do support the president’s proposal to begin the program,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.

Democrats proved to be a harder sell, backing Obama 114-85 in the House.

“We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., giving voice to a fear that rebels seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove unreliable allies eventually.

As the House voted, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., a nearly sure bet to win an open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal focusing on the Islamic State group threat and criticizing the president. “While our `commander’ in chief is playing golf and taking ambiguous stances on this great threat we need, now more than ever, strong leaders in the Senate willing to take the fight to ISIS’ front door instead of waiting passively for them to come to us,” Lankford wrote.

In the Senate, backing from the top Democratic and Republican leaders ensures swift passage, even as some in the rank and file were lining up against the effort.

“I have seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America.”

The underlying spending bill prevents a partial government shutdown at month’s end and also renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance purchases of U.S. exports. That postpones until June a battle between tea party forces opposing the bank and business-oriented Republicans who support it.

The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The underlying bill passed the House on a vote of 319-108. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/senate-passes-bill-that-authorizes-arming-syrian-rebels/

Congress OKs key plank of Obama’s ISIS strategy in bipartisan vote

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State. 

The Senate, in a 78-22 vote, authorized the mission as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies operating into December. 

The House passed a similar measure on Wednesday 273-156, with Republicans backing the president’s measure by more than a 2-1 margin.

Speaking at the White House immediately after the vote, President Obama said he wanted to thank congressional leaders for the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the issue and praised the “strong bi-partisan support in Congress for the new training effort.”

Obama also said France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State targets and again emphasized that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”

The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire or not be strong enough to make much of a difference as Islamic States forces try to advance in the country.

Obama has pledged airstrikes as well but is adamant that he won’t send U.S. combat troops to battle the Islamic extremists in either Iraq or Syria.

“We must pursue a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy, and a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to support a critical component of that strategy,” Obama said after the House vote.

The measure is the last major business on Capitol Hill before lawmakers return to their districts and states to campaign for re-election.

The new authority is part of $500 million that Obama requested in May to train and equip Syrian rebels. The cost, to be covered by leftover war funding from this year, generated virtually no debate among lawmakers, who focused instead on the possible consequences of a new military mission not long after a war-exhausted nation largely pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry testified before House committees.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

“The president has not yet approved its finality,” Hagel said.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates, or at least any with the capacity to make a difference in the war. He spoke about several opposition groups, each including up to 4,000 fighters, that have battled Islamic State militants and other extremists over the past year.

Kerry said the coalition that will fight the Islamic State counts 50 countries. He said countries in Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere had committed to taking part militarily, without specifying any by name. He said a couple of countries “are already flying with us” in missions.

Despite their doubts, top Republicans saw little choice but to back the president. The measure provides Obama the authority to train and arm rebels through Dec. 11, ensuring the issue is debated at greater length in a postelection lame duck session.

“While I’m concerned about the ability of the coalition to generate sufficient combat power to defeat ISIL within Syria, I do support the president’s proposal to begin the program,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.

Democrats proved to be a harder sell, backing Obama 114-85 in the House.

“We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., giving voice to a fear that rebels seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove unreliable allies eventually.

As the House voted, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., a nearly sure bet to win an open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal focusing on the Islamic State group threat and criticizing the president. “While our `commander’ in chief is playing golf and taking ambiguous stances on this great threat we need, now more than ever, strong leaders in the Senate willing to take the fight to ISIS’ front door instead of waiting passively for them to come to us,” Lankford wrote.

In the Senate, backing from the top Democratic and Republican leaders ensures swift passage, even as some in the rank and file were lining up against the effort.

“I have seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America.”

The underlying spending bill prevents a partial government shutdown at month’s end and also renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance purchases of U.S. exports. That postpones until June a battle between tea party forces opposing the bank and business-oriented Republicans who support it.

The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The underlying bill passed the House on a vote of 319-108. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/senate-passes-bill-that-authorizes-arming-syrian-rebels/

Congress OKs key plank of Obama’s ISIS strategy in bipartisan vote

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State. 

The Senate, in a 78-22 vote, authorized the mission as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies operating into December. 

The House passed a similar measure on Wednesday 273-156, with Republicans backing the president’s measure by more than a 2-1 margin.

Speaking at the White House immediately after the vote, President Obama said he wanted to thank congressional leaders for the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the issue and praised the “strong bi-partisan support in Congress for the new training effort.”

Obama also said France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State targets and again emphasized that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”

The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire or not be strong enough to make much of a difference as Islamic States forces try to advance in the country.

Obama has pledged airstrikes as well but is adamant that he won’t send U.S. combat troops to battle the Islamic extremists in either Iraq or Syria.

“We must pursue a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy, and a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to support a critical component of that strategy,” Obama said after the House vote.

The measure is the last major business on Capitol Hill before lawmakers return to their districts and states to campaign for re-election.

The new authority is part of $500 million that Obama requested in May to train and equip Syrian rebels. The cost, to be covered by leftover war funding from this year, generated virtually no debate among lawmakers, who focused instead on the possible consequences of a new military mission not long after a war-exhausted nation largely pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry testified before House committees.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

“The president has not yet approved its finality,” Hagel said.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates, or at least any with the capacity to make a difference in the war. He spoke about several opposition groups, each including up to 4,000 fighters, that have battled Islamic State militants and other extremists over the past year.

Kerry said the coalition that will fight the Islamic State counts 50 countries. He said countries in Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere had committed to taking part militarily, without specifying any by name. He said a couple of countries “are already flying with us” in missions.

Despite their doubts, top Republicans saw little choice but to back the president. The measure provides Obama the authority to train and arm rebels through Dec. 11, ensuring the issue is debated at greater length in a postelection lame duck session.

“While I’m concerned about the ability of the coalition to generate sufficient combat power to defeat ISIL within Syria, I do support the president’s proposal to begin the program,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.

Democrats proved to be a harder sell, backing Obama 114-85 in the House.

“We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., giving voice to a fear that rebels seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove unreliable allies eventually.

As the House voted, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., a nearly sure bet to win an open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal focusing on the Islamic State group threat and criticizing the president. “While our `commander’ in chief is playing golf and taking ambiguous stances on this great threat we need, now more than ever, strong leaders in the Senate willing to take the fight to ISIS’ front door instead of waiting passively for them to come to us,” Lankford wrote.

In the Senate, backing from the top Democratic and Republican leaders ensures swift passage, even as some in the rank and file were lining up against the effort.

“I have seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America.”

The underlying spending bill prevents a partial government shutdown at month’s end and also renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance purchases of U.S. exports. That postpones until June a battle between tea party forces opposing the bank and business-oriented Republicans who support it.

The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The underlying bill passed the House on a vote of 319-108. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/senate-passes-bill-that-authorizes-arming-syrian-rebels/

Congress OKs key plank of Obama’s ISIS strategy in bipartisan vote

The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels, endorsing a key plank of the president’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State. 

The Senate, in a 78-22 vote, authorized the mission as part of a must-pass, stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies operating into December. 

The House passed a similar measure on Wednesday 273-156, with Republicans backing the president’s measure by more than a 2-1 margin.

Speaking at the White House immediately after the vote, President Obama said he wanted to thank congressional leaders for the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the issue and praised the “strong bi-partisan support in Congress for the new training effort.”

Obama also said France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State targets and again emphasized that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”

The leaders of both parties stood with Obama despite questions they had about his plan to arm moderate rebel groups and warnings that the plan could backfire or not be strong enough to make much of a difference as Islamic States forces try to advance in the country.

Obama has pledged airstrikes as well but is adamant that he won’t send U.S. combat troops to battle the Islamic extremists in either Iraq or Syria.

“We must pursue a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy, and a bipartisan coalition in the House voted to support a critical component of that strategy,” Obama said after the House vote.

The measure is the last major business on Capitol Hill before lawmakers return to their districts and states to campaign for re-election.

The new authority is part of $500 million that Obama requested in May to train and equip Syrian rebels. The cost, to be covered by leftover war funding from this year, generated virtually no debate among lawmakers, who focused instead on the possible consequences of a new military mission not long after a war-exhausted nation largely pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry testified before House committees.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Hagel said the military had presented a detailed Syrian plan to Obama on Wednesday during the president’s visit to Central Command and was awaiting his sign-off.

“The president has not yet approved its finality,” Hagel said.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Kerry sought to push back on an argument by some in Congress that Syria’s rebels lack moderates, or at least any with the capacity to make a difference in the war. He spoke about several opposition groups, each including up to 4,000 fighters, that have battled Islamic State militants and other extremists over the past year.

Kerry said the coalition that will fight the Islamic State counts 50 countries. He said countries in Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere had committed to taking part militarily, without specifying any by name. He said a couple of countries “are already flying with us” in missions.

Despite their doubts, top Republicans saw little choice but to back the president. The measure provides Obama the authority to train and arm rebels through Dec. 11, ensuring the issue is debated at greater length in a postelection lame duck session.

“While I’m concerned about the ability of the coalition to generate sufficient combat power to defeat ISIL within Syria, I do support the president’s proposal to begin the program,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.

Democrats proved to be a harder sell, backing Obama 114-85 in the House.

“We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., giving voice to a fear that rebels seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would prove unreliable allies eventually.

As the House voted, Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., a nearly sure bet to win an open Senate seat, sent out a fundraising appeal focusing on the Islamic State group threat and criticizing the president. “While our `commander’ in chief is playing golf and taking ambiguous stances on this great threat we need, now more than ever, strong leaders in the Senate willing to take the fight to ISIS’ front door instead of waiting passively for them to come to us,” Lankford wrote.

In the Senate, backing from the top Democratic and Republican leaders ensures swift passage, even as some in the rank and file were lining up against the effort.

“I have seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America.”

The underlying spending bill prevents a partial government shutdown at month’s end and also renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance purchases of U.S. exports. That postpones until June a battle between tea party forces opposing the bank and business-oriented Republicans who support it.

The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The underlying bill passed the House on a vote of 319-108. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/senate-passes-bill-that-authorizes-arming-syrian-rebels/

KANSAS SENATE RACE State high court orders Dem challenger off ballot

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the state must remove the name of the Democratic candidate running against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts from the November ballot, adding another twist to a now-hotly contested race. 

The court’s decision leaves independent Greg Orman, who has been rising in the polls, as the only major opponent currently in the running to take on the 78-year-old incumbent. 

The court agreed with Democrat Chad Taylor, saying his formal letter of withdrawal to the secretary of state’s office was sufficient to get his name off the ballot.

The court also said it did not “need to act” regarding Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s “allegation” that the Democratic party must name a new candidate for the race. Kobach said earlier Thursday that the Democratic Party is legally obligated to pick a new nominee and set a Sept. 26 deadline.

The Roberts campaign has repeatedly accused Democrats of playing dirty politics after national Democrats such as Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill reportedly nudged Taylor out of the race earlier this month to make way for Orman. 

Roberts’ campaign manager Corry Bliss said in a statement the court’s decision is deliberately disenfranchising “over 65,000 voters” for “political purposes.” 

“In a bow to Senators Claire McCaskill and Harry Reid, liberal activist Supreme Court justices have decided that if you voted in the Democrat Primary on August 5th, your vote does not matter, your voice does not matter, and you have no say in who should be on the ballot on Election Day,” he said. “This is not only a travesty to Kansas voters, but it’s a travesty to the judicial system and our electoral process.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also decried the decision, saying the Democratic party now has a “clear legal obligation” to name a new candidate. 

“Greg Orman and his liberal friends like Barack Obama might not like it, but they have to abide by the law just like everyone else,” spokesman Brad Dayspring said. 

Orman’s campaign manager said in response to the decision Orman would run against a broken political system no matter how many candidates were on the ballot.

“Kansas voters from across the political spectrum are fed up with the mess in Washington, and that’s why Republicans, Democrats and independents are supporting Independent Greg Orman for Senate,” Jim Jonas said. 

Taylor announced his withdrawal earlier this month, but Kobach, a conservative Republican publicly backing Roberts, declared that Taylor didn’t comply with a state election law limiting when nominees can withdraw. Taylor petitioned the Supreme Court to remove his name from the ballot.

Kansas law says party nominees can have their names removed from the ballot if they declare that they’ll be incapable of fulfilling the duties of the offices they seek. Taylor’s letter said that he was leaving the race “pursuant to” the relevant law but did not say why, and he’s never publicly given a reason for dropping out.

“We conclude the plain meaning of ‘pursuant to (the law)’ contained in Taylor’s letter effectively declares he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected,” the justices said.

Kobach argued that Taylor must explain himself, even if he simply says he can’t serve as a senator, without giving more details.

Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to take the majority from Democrats and Kansas is one of about a dozen races nationally that could determine the outcome.

Kobach had said a quick decision was needed because ballots need to be printed Friday.

In another wrinkle, a registered Democratic voter in the state filed a new petition with the Kansas Supreme Court Thursday night asking it to force the party to name a new nominee.

David Orel of Kansas City, Kansas, filed the petition after his attorney sent the party a letter saying Orel wants to vote for a Democratic candidate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/kansas-senate-race-state-supreme-court-orders-democrat-chad-taylor-removed-from/

TODD STARNES College lifts cross ban, but players must buy decals

Arkansas State University called an audible and decided to reverse its decision banning memorial crosses that football players had placed on their helmets to honor two fallen teammates.

The team had been ordered to either remove or modify the small cross decals, honoring former player Markel Owens and former team equipment manager Barry Weyer, following complaints that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is the university’s position that any player who wishes to voluntarily place an NCAA-compliant sticker on their helmet to memorialize individuals will be able to do so,” the university announced in a letter.

How sad that we live in a nation where it is against the law for a university football coach to design a memorial that includes a religious icon.

Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues, had given the university until Wednesday to reverse its decision or face a possible lawsuit. They represented one of the ASU football players.

“This is a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute. “The university officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.”

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However, (and this is a big however), the university maintains they had a rock solid reason to ban the crosses in the first place. They denied they violated anyone’s constitutional rights.

The decals on the helmets “were not student speech,” ASU legal counsel Lucinda McDaniel wrote in a letter to Sasser. “Rather, the decals constituted government speech.”

The crosses drew the ire of a Jonesboro, Arkansas attorney along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group.

“The crosses appeared to confer State’s endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity,” the FFRF wrote. “The inclusion of the Latin cross on the helmets also excludes the 19 percent of the American population that is non-religious.”

The team had worn the cross decals for two football games – without any complaints. And to the best of my recollection, the decals did not spark a Billy Graham-style revival meeting nor did fans bombard the field during halftime seeking to be baptized.

To make matters even worse, perpetually offended FFRF co-presidents Annie Lauire Gaylor and Dan Barker went so far as to suggest alternative ways for the football players to mourn.

“Many teams around the country honor former teammates by putting that player’s number on their helmets or jerseys, or by wearing a black armband,” they wrote in a letter to the University. “Either of those options, or another symbolic gesture free from religion imagery, would be appropriate.”

Fearing a potential lawsuit, McDaniel suggested the cross be modified into a makeshift mathematical plus (+) sign — because apparently nothing says “In Memoriam” like applied mathematics.

Liberty Institute claimed the cross memorial was perfectly legal and had been designed by students. However, ASU said the design was in fact created by the head coach. The memorial was jointly approved by members of the team’s leadership council as well as members of the coaching staff — and paid for with public funds.

And here’s the biggest oops — the coaching staff did all that without consulting with the university’s legal department.

“When this was brought to the attention of ASU’s administrative and legal officials, the decals were modified so that they were a single, horizontal bar that continues to bear the initials of the former students,” McDaniel wrote. “This was done, of course, to avoid Establishment Clause concerns.”

In the university’s opinion, the memorial stickers were “officially sponsored.”

“At no time was it ever our intention to limit the free speech of our student-athletes,” McDaniel wrote. “The university strongly believes in the rights of our students to freely express their beliefs.”

Sasser concedes the coaching staff messed up. Nevertheless, he’s glad ASU is going to let the players honor their fallen teammates.

“The correct solution is for Arkansas State University to get out of the way and let players place the stickers on the helmets if they so choose,” he told me.

How sad, though, that we live in a nation where it is against the law for a university football coach to design a memorial that includes a religious icon.

To wrap things up in Jonesboro, Arkansas – the kids could have the stickers affixed to their helmets by Saturday’s game. And the university made it abundantly clear that not a single penny of public money will be used to fund the memorial.

“The display of these stickers will be totally voluntary and completely independent of university involvement,” McDaniel wrote. “The university will not procure the stickers, purchase them or affix them to the helmets.”

How about that for a bucket load of Grade A legalese?

While they’re at it, maybe they can procure a spine and affix it to some of those intellectual eggheads.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is “God Less America.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/09/18/arkansas-state-lifts-ban-on-football-helmet-crosses-but-players-must-foot-bill/

Union warns of ‘serious’ threat ISIS could infiltrate US from south

The union representing America’s immigration caseworkers warned Thursday of the “real and serious threat” that Islamic State terrorists could gain entry to the United States, either by slipping through the southern U.S. border or exploiting “loose and lax” visa policies. 

Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, issued the warning in a written statement. He’s the latest to raise alarm that the Islamic State may be planning to infiltrate the U.S., though top security officials have said they see no evidence of such a plot at this stage. 

Palinkas specifically alleged the administration has made it easier for terrorists to “exploit” the country’s visa policies and enter the homeland. 

He complained that the administration has “widened the loophole” they could use through the asylum system, and has restricted agents from going after many of those who overstay their visas. 

Further, he warned that executive orders being contemplated by President Obama would “legalize visa overstays” and raise “the threat level to America even higher.” He said there is “no doubt” many are already being “targeted for radicalization.” 

Palinkas’ union represents 12,000 workers with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles immigration documents. 

His statement, though, also backed recent claims from lawmakers and others that ISIS is already looking at the southern border. Palinkas cited the threat that “ISIS has already or will soon slip across our porous southern border.” 

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said at a House hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that he had “reason to believe” that four individuals were apprehended trying to cross into the U.S. from Texas on Sept. 10, and that they “have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East.” 

Johnson said he had “heard reports to that effect” but could not speak to their accuracy. 

Johnson, though, stressed that the government had “no specific intelligence or evidence to suggest at present that ISIL is attempting to infiltrate this country though our southern border.” 

At the same hearing, National Counterterrorism Center head Matthew Olsen also said: “There has been a very small number of sympathizers with ISIL who have posted messages on social media about this, but we’ve seen nothing to indicate there is any sort of operational effort or plot to infiltrate or move operatives from ISIL” into the U.S. through the southern border. 

Still, Johnson said the U.S. needs to be “vigilant” and aware of the possibility of “potential infiltration by ISIL or any other terrorist group.” 

Warnings have been circulating for weeks about that possibility. 

In August, the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a bulletin that said ISIS social media messages showed “militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attack.” 

Chaffetz, in an interview with Fox News, said he’s concerned about that prospect. 

“We have a porous border,” he said. “I’m worried about them actually coming to the United States and crossing that porous border and getting into the homeland.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/immigration-worker-union-warns-serious-threat-isis-entering-us/

FREEDOM CRACKDOWN Iran’s ‘Happy’ dancers to receive 91 lashes, jail time

Iran’s latest crackdown on freedom includes lashes and prison for seven young adults who posted a video of themselves dancing to the American pop hit “Happy” and a death sentence for a blogger accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad.

The seven men and women were arrested in May, but then released after self-professed “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that the regime should lighten up. But the group was forced nonetheless to apologize on television and endure a trial in which they were convicted and each sentenced to 91 lashes. One was given a full year in prison while the others got six months, although their attorney told Iranwire.com the sentences were suspended.

“A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time,” attorney Farshid Rofugaran said. For the Happy Group, that period will be three years. “When it’s a suspended sentence, the verdict is not carried out, but if during this period a similar offense is committed, then the accused is subject to legal punishment and the suspended sentence will then be carried out as well.”

The video was part of a global campaign launched by pop star Pharrell Williams and was viewed by more than 100,000 people on YouTube. The six who appeared on the video and a man who shot the footage apologized and said they had been tricked into doing it. After the confession, they were released on bail.

“We can accept the verdict or appeal,” said Rofugaran, adding that his clients are not banned from leaving the country.

Meanwhile, the ultimate penalty was handed down to Soheil Arabi, a blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his postings on Facebook. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that Arabi will be able to appeal the decision.

Revolutionary Guard agents arrested Arabi, 30, and his wife last November. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but Arabi was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside the notorious Evin Prison before being found guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on Aug. 30.

“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” a source told the Campaign.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/18/iran-happy-dancers-sentenced-to-1-lashes-jail/

‘REALLY A SHAME’ Special ed kids’ food cart nixed over fed calorie rules

  • NO COFFEE 01.jpg

    Students in the Workplace Readiness course at Marietta High School operated a coffee cart but due to the recent restrictions on food and drink from the White House, the students are unable to sell the coffee and hot chocolate to students. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

  • NO COFFEE 06.jpg

    Jerome Anderson, Kelvin McLemore and Louisa Thielemann, all students in the Workplace Readiness course at Marietta High School participated in operating the coffee cart which was a mean to make money to support the jobs for those students involved in the program, where they learn valuable job skills they hope to take into the workplace. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

  • NO COFFEE 04.jpg

    After paying his dollar for a hot cup of coffee to Workplace Readiness student Jerome Anderson, teacher Tom Lewis gets his morning coffee at Marietta High School. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

Federal regulations have upset the coffee cart at a Georgia high school.

Government limits on the calories in food sold to public school students have stifled both special education and culinary programs at Marietta High School, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. Students at the school learned baking and business skills by manning a cart that sold coffee and muffins to teachers and students every morning last year, but the business recently got the boot due to rules imposed by Washington.

Muffins exceeded the 200-calorie limit placed on snacks sold on school grounds under the 2010 federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also limits sodium, sugar and calories in each food served at lunchtime. The cart was operated and stocked by the 16 special needs students, but since August, the coffee cart has been locked in a closet collecting dust.

“Our students need those opportunities to interact with others because they are very shy and they don’t have a lot of opportunities to speak,” Christy Hunt, a special education teacher at the school told the Daily Journal. “It was really about our teacher curriculum and teaching our kids real-life skills in a real-life setting. It’s part of what we need to teach them, and that part of it in the school system has been taken away by the Healthy Kids Act.”

Hunt added what most at the school feel about the program—that the coffee cart was also essential to teaching the students vital job skills.

One parent shared her sentiment with the newspaper.

“One thing I know she really enjoys about it is getting her out and about within the school, just getting them integrated with the rest of the school and just interacting with other typical kids,” Anna Thielemann said her of daughter, Louisa, who is 17 and has developmental delays and autism. “Even though it might seem like a little thing to people, it’s just huge and they’re able to incorporate so much within that process … just a lot of different types of life and job skills. It’s just really a shame to see this program fall or not be able to be done because she was so proud of it, too.”

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act imposes two major changes that only took effect this school year. Whole-wheat flour must replace white flour as the main ingredient in all wheat products and food is also being produced differently to lower sodium levels.

The schools are focusing on keeping total calorie counts in the range of 750 and 850 calories for each lunch served to students in ninth through 12th grade.

While the healthy eating initiative has been pushed by the Obama administration, some snacks sold in the White House blow right past the 200-calorie limit, some have noted. A correspondent for CQ Roll Call tweeted out a picture of a vending machine at the White House that contained a 570-calorie honey bun.

 

It was not immediately clear if there were any healthier snack options in the vending machine.

Click here for more from the Marietta Daily Journal.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/18/federal-school-lunch-program-ends-special-ed-program-at-georgia-high-school/

FLA. MURDER-SUICIDE Grandfather shot, killed daughter, 6 kids, cops say

don-spirit-internal.jpg

FILE: Don C. Spirit, 51, is seen in this mugshot. (Florida Department of Corrections)

A grandfather shot and killed his daughter and her six children Thursday in the town of Bell, Florida before committing suicide after police arrived at the scene, authorities said.

The children ranged in age from three months to 10 years old, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert D. Schultz III told reporters at an evening press conference.

Schultz identified the suspect as Don C. Spirit, 51, a white male. The sheriff said Spirit had placed a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. in which he “made reference to harming people and himself.”

Schultz declined to speculate on a motive, citing the ongoing investigation, but he said Spirit had a criminal history, and that police had been called previously to his house.

“We’re asking for prayers for this community and the victims involved,” Schultz said.

In 2001, Spirit pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after he fatally shot his 8-year-old son in the head in a hunting accident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Spirit, who also was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, was sentenced to three years in prison for the shooting, the Sentinel added.

Bell is a town of 350 people about 30 miles west of Gainesville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/18/bell-florida-shooting/

Union warns of ‘serious’ threat ISIS could infiltrate US from south

The union representing America’s immigration caseworkers warned Thursday of the “real and serious threat” that Islamic State terrorists could gain entry to the United States, either by slipping through the southern U.S. border or exploiting “loose and lax” visa policies. 

Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, issued the warning in a written statement. He’s the latest to raise alarm that the Islamic State may be planning to infiltrate the U.S., though top security officials have said they see no evidence of such a plot at this stage. 

Palinkas specifically alleged the administration has made it easier for terrorists to “exploit” the country’s visa policies and enter the homeland. 

He complained that the administration has “widened the loophole” they could use through the asylum system, and has restricted agents from going after many of those who overstay their visas. 

Further, he warned that executive orders being contemplated by President Obama would “legalize visa overstays” and raise “the threat level to America even higher.” He said there is “no doubt” many are already being “targeted for radicalization.” 

Palinkas’ union represents 12,000 workers with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles immigration documents. 

His statement, though, also backed recent claims from lawmakers and others that ISIS is already looking at the southern border. Palinkas cited the threat that “ISIS has already or will soon slip across our porous southern border.” 

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said at a House hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that he had “reason to believe” that four individuals were apprehended trying to cross into the U.S. from Texas on Sept. 10, and that they “have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East.” 

Johnson said he had “heard reports to that effect” but could not speak to their accuracy. 

Johnson, though, stressed that the government had “no specific intelligence or evidence to suggest at present that ISIL is attempting to infiltrate this country though our southern border.” 

At the same hearing, National Counterterrorism Center head Matthew Olsen also said: “There has been a very small number of sympathizers with ISIL who have posted messages on social media about this, but we’ve seen nothing to indicate there is any sort of operational effort or plot to infiltrate or move operatives from ISIL” into the U.S. through the southern border. 

Still, Johnson said the U.S. needs to be “vigilant” and aware of the possibility of “potential infiltration by ISIL or any other terrorist group.” 

Warnings have been circulating for weeks about that possibility. 

In August, the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a bulletin that said ISIS social media messages showed “militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attack.” 

Chaffetz, in an interview with Fox News, said he’s concerned about that prospect. 

“We have a porous border,” he said. “I’m worried about them actually coming to the United States and crossing that porous border and getting into the homeland.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/immigration-worker-union-warns-serious-threat-isis-entering-us/

FREEDOM CRACKDOWN Iran’s ‘Happy’ dancers to receive 91 lashes, jail time

Iran’s latest crackdown on freedom includes lashes and prison for seven young adults who posted a video of themselves dancing to the American pop hit “Happy” and a death sentence for a blogger accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad.

The seven men and women were arrested in May, but then released after self-professed “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that the regime should lighten up. But the group was forced nonetheless to apologize on television and endure a trial in which they were convicted and each sentenced to 91 lashes. One was given a full year in prison while the others got six months, although their attorney told Iranwire.com the sentences were suspended.

“A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time,” attorney Farshid Rofugaran said. For the Happy Group, that period will be three years. “When it’s a suspended sentence, the verdict is not carried out, but if during this period a similar offense is committed, then the accused is subject to legal punishment and the suspended sentence will then be carried out as well.”

The video was part of a global campaign launched by pop star Pharrell Williams and was viewed by more than 100,000 people on YouTube. The six who appeared on the video and a man who shot the footage apologized and said they had been tricked into doing it. After the confession, they were released on bail.

“We can accept the verdict or appeal,” said Rofugaran, adding that his clients are not banned from leaving the country.

Meanwhile, the ultimate penalty was handed down to Soheil Arabi, a blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his postings on Facebook. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that Arabi will be able to appeal the decision.

Revolutionary Guard agents arrested Arabi, 30, and his wife last November. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but Arabi was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside the notorious Evin Prison before being found guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on Aug. 30.

“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” a source told the Campaign.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/18/iran-happy-dancers-sentenced-to-1-lashes-jail/

‘REALLY A SHAME’ Special ed kids’ food cart nixed over fed calorie rules

  • NO COFFEE 01.jpg

    Students in the Workplace Readiness course at Marietta High School operated a coffee cart but due to the recent restrictions on food and drink from the White House, the students are unable to sell the coffee and hot chocolate to students. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

  • NO COFFEE 06.jpg

    Jerome Anderson, Kelvin McLemore and Louisa Thielemann, all students in the Workplace Readiness course at Marietta High School participated in operating the coffee cart which was a mean to make money to support the jobs for those students involved in the program, where they learn valuable job skills they hope to take into the workplace. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

  • NO COFFEE 04.jpg

    After paying his dollar for a hot cup of coffee to Workplace Readiness student Jerome Anderson, teacher Tom Lewis gets his morning coffee at Marietta High School. (Marietta Daily Journal/Kelly J. Huff)

Federal regulations have upset the coffee cart at a Georgia high school.

Government limits on the calories in food sold to public school students have stifled both special education and culinary programs at Marietta High School, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. Students at the school learned baking and business skills by manning a cart that sold coffee and muffins to teachers and students every morning last year, but the business recently got the boot due to rules imposed by Washington.

Muffins exceeded the 200-calorie limit placed on snacks sold on school grounds under the 2010 federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also limits sodium, sugar and calories in each food served at lunchtime. The cart was operated and stocked by the 16 special needs students, but since August, the coffee cart has been locked in a closet collecting dust.

“Our students need those opportunities to interact with others because they are very shy and they don’t have a lot of opportunities to speak,” Christy Hunt, a special education teacher at the school told the Daily Journal. “It was really about our teacher curriculum and teaching our kids real-life skills in a real-life setting. It’s part of what we need to teach them, and that part of it in the school system has been taken away by the Healthy Kids Act.”

Hunt added what most at the school feel about the program—that the coffee cart was also essential to teaching the students vital job skills.

One parent shared her sentiment with the newspaper.

“One thing I know she really enjoys about it is getting her out and about within the school, just getting them integrated with the rest of the school and just interacting with other typical kids,” Anna Thielemann said her of daughter, Louisa, who is 17 and has developmental delays and autism. “Even though it might seem like a little thing to people, it’s just huge and they’re able to incorporate so much within that process … just a lot of different types of life and job skills. It’s just really a shame to see this program fall or not be able to be done because she was so proud of it, too.”

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act imposes two major changes that only took effect this school year. Whole-wheat flour must replace white flour as the main ingredient in all wheat products and food is also being produced differently to lower sodium levels.

The schools are focusing on keeping total calorie counts in the range of 750 and 850 calories for each lunch served to students in ninth through 12th grade.

While the healthy eating initiative has been pushed by the Obama administration, some snacks sold in the White House blow right past the 200-calorie limit, some have noted. A correspondent for CQ Roll Call tweeted out a picture of a vending machine at the White House that contained a 570-calorie honey bun.

 

It was not immediately clear if there were any healthier snack options in the vending machine.

Click here for more from the Marietta Daily Journal.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/18/federal-school-lunch-program-ends-special-ed-program-at-georgia-high-school/

BREAKING NEWS Fla. grandfather shot, killed daughter, 6 kids, cops say

A grandfather shot and killed his daughter and her six children Thursday in the town of Bell, Florida before committing suicide after police arrived at the scene, authorities said.

The children ranged in age from three months to 10 years old, Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert D. Schultz III told reporters at an evening press conference.

Schultz identified the suspect as Don C. Spirit, 51, a white male. The sheriff said Spirit had placed a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. in which he “made reference to harming people and himself.”

Schultz declined to speculate on a motive, citing the ongoing investigation, but he said Spirit had a criminal history, and that police had been called previously to his house.

“We’re asking for prayers for this community and the victims involved,” Schultz said.

In 2001, Spirit pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after he fatally shot his 8-year-old son in the head in a hunting accident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Spirit, who also was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, was sentenced to three years in prison for the shooting, the Sentinel added.

Bell is a town of 350 people about 30 miles west of Gainesville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/09/18/bell-florida-shooting/

‘REAL AND SERIOUS THREAT': Union warns ISIS terrorists could enter US

The union representing America’s immigration caseworkers warned Thursday of the “real and serious threat” that Islamic State terrorists could gain entry to the United States, either by slipping through the southern U.S. border or exploiting “loose and lax” visa policies. 

Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, issued the warning in a written statement. He’s the latest to raise alarm that the Islamic State may be planning to infiltrate the U.S., though top security officials have said they see no evidence of such a plot at this stage. 

Palinkas specifically alleged the administration has made it easier for terrorists to “exploit” the country’s visa policies and enter the homeland. 

He complained that the administration has “widened the loophole” they could use through the asylum system, and has restricted agents from going after many of those who overstay their visas. 

Further, he warned that executive orders being contemplated by President Obama would “legalize visa overstays” and raise “the threat level to America even higher.” He said there is “no doubt” many are already being “targeted for radicalization.” 

Palinkas’ union represents 12,000 workers with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles immigration documents. 

His statement, though, also backed recent claims from lawmakers and others that ISIS is already looking at the southern border. Palinkas cited the threat that “ISIS has already or will soon slip across our porous southern border.” 

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said at a House hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that he had “reason to believe” that four individuals were apprehended trying to cross into the U.S. from Texas on Sept. 10, and that they “have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East.” 

Johnson said he had “heard reports to that effect” but could not speak to their accuracy. 

Johnson, though, stressed that the government had “no specific intelligence or evidence to suggest at present that ISIL is attempting to infiltrate this country though our southern border.” 

At the same hearing, National Counterterrorism Center head Matthew Olsen also said: “There has been a very small number of sympathizers with ISIL who have posted messages on social media about this, but we’ve seen nothing to indicate there is any sort of operational effort or plot to infiltrate or move operatives from ISIL” into the U.S. through the southern border. 

Still, Johnson said the U.S. needs to be “vigilant” and aware of the possibility of “potential infiltration by ISIL or any other terrorist group.” 

Warnings have been circulating for weeks about that possibility. 

In August, the Texas Department of Public Safety put out a bulletin that said ISIS social media messages showed “militants are expressing an increased interest in the notion that they could clandestinely infiltrate the southwest border of US, for terror attack.” 

Chaffetz, in an interview with Fox News, said he’s concerned about that prospect. 

“We have a porous border,” he said. “I’m worried about them actually coming to the United States and crossing that porous border and getting into the homeland.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/18/immigration-worker-union-warns-serious-threat-isis-entering-us/

#PASSENGERSHAMING Social media campaign exposes crudest flyers

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Rude, crude and downright dirty. 

A former flight attendant is publicly outing passengers who who behave badly on commercial flights –capturing them doing everything from putting their feet on the seat in front to peeing in the bathroom sink–and posting images on social media.

Shawn Kathleen, who wants to be known only by her first name, was flight attendant for seven years.  Said she started “Passenger Shaming,” on Facebook and Instagram, to expose how people really act when flying. 

The idea for Passenger Shaming came about after the success of her other blog, Rants Of A Sassy Stew, which she started over five years ago to catalogue her experiences as a flight attendant.

“I started by ranting about passengers and how ridiculous people are. I just said to myself really? How is this behavior acceptable you’re a grown man!” she told FoxNews.com. “The blog started becoming more popular and I got people sending things to me. They started to commiserate so I just decided to branch out.”

Her collection of photos include people’s feet in places where they don’t belong: in the air, on the backs of or in between of someone’s seat.  Also there are plenty pictures of hands where they shouldn’t be either.  (We won’t go into further detail on that one.)  Some images are down right disgusting, like the one with a bathroom basin full of urine.

The photos are submitted to Shawn Kathleen by anonymous fliers and flight attendants who want to share what they witness. The popular Facebook and Instagram sites boast about 45,000 and 60,000 followers respectively.

Shawn Kathleen, who won’t reveal which airline she worked for, acknowledged that 99 percent of the passengers she has encountered act appropriately and follow the rules. But a few bad eggs do some outrageous things.

“At the beginning I started trying to come up with witty captions but the pictures really speak for themselves,” she says. “My favorites are the ones where people are trying to defend their behavior. And the bare feet just kills me. I get chest pains when I see it.”

With airlines piling on fees and cutting cabin amenities, Shawn Kathleen admits that sometimes it puts flight attendants in a difficult situation.

“As flight crew, we’re kind of crammed in, too. People forget we’re all human,” she says. “I feel flight attendants aren’t given the tools to do the job properly. We do want to give you a pillow or a blanket or extra peanuts but now we actually can’t.”

She thinks the latest instances of airplane rage, where fights over the right to recline seats broke out, are a combination of a sense of entitlement passengers feel with a purchased seat, coupled with general flight time frustration. She’s offered up a handy guide for simple rules all passengers should follow to make life onboard a little easier for everyone.

1. Be respectful of everyone’s personal space.

2. Watching a DVD on your laptop? Wear headphones, no one wants to hear your movie.

3. If you’re bringing on food, just don’t bring a tuna fish sandwich or anything smelly. Its one meal, I think you’ll survive.

4. Keep drink orders simple and don’t expect flight attendants to transform into your personal barista or bartender. 

5. Try to keep your socks and shirt on.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2014/09/17/badly-behaved-passengers-beware-might-get-shamed/

FREEDOM CRACKDOWN Iran’s ‘Happy’ dancers to receive 91 lashes, jail time

Iran’s latest crackdown on freedom includes lashes and prison for seven young adults who posted a video of themselves dancing to the American pop hit “Happy” and a death sentence for a blogger accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad.

The seven men and women were arrested in May, but then released after self-professed “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that the regime should lighten up. But the group was forced nonetheless to apologize on television and endure a trial in which they were convicted and each sentenced to 91 lashes. One was given a full year in prison while the others got six months, although their attorney told Iranwire.com the sentences were suspended.

“A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time,” attorney Farshid Rofugaran said. For the Happy Group, that period will be three years. “When it’s a suspended sentence, the verdict is not carried out, but if during this period a similar offense is committed, then the accused is subject to legal punishment and the suspended sentence will then be carried out as well.”

The video was part of a global campaign launched by pop star Pharrell Williams and was viewed by more than 100,000 people on YouTube. The six who appeared on the video and a man who shot the footage apologized and said they had been tricked into doing it. After the confession, they were released on bail.

“We can accept the verdict or appeal,” said Rofugaran, adding that his clients are not banned from leaving the country.

Meanwhile, the ultimate penalty was handed down to Soheil Arabi, a blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his postings on Facebook. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that Arabi will be able to appeal the decision.

Revolutionary Guard agents arrested Arabi, 30, and his wife last November. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but Arabi was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside the notorious Evin Prison before being found guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on Aug. 30.

“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” a source told the Campaign.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/09/18/iran-happy-dancers-sentenced-to-1-lashes-jail/