President Barack Obama said in an interview set to air Friday evening that his administration has been “very disciplined” with the use of executive orders and that he is not worried about action underway in the House to reign in his power. The comments came after CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Obama what he thinks of congressional Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), calling his presidency an “imperial” one. “Well, I don’t think that’s very serious,” Obama said, according to a rush transcript of the interview obtained by TheBlaze. “I mean, the truth of the matter is, is that every president engages in executive actions. In fact, we’ve been very disciplined and sparing in terms of the executive actions that we have taken. Uh, we make sure that we’re doing it within the authority that we have under statute.” “But I am not going to make an apology for saying that if I can help middle class families and folks who are working hard to try to get in the middle class do a little bit better, then I’m going to do it,” he continued. “And, you know, I think it’s — it’s a tough argument for the other side to make that not only are they willing to do an — not do anything, but they also want me not to do anything, uh, in which case, um, I think the American people, uh, who’s, right now, estimation of Congress is already pretty low, uh, might, uh, might have an even lower opinion.” More
Thousands of Israeli Jewish hardliners gathered at the Western Wall imploring God to throw a wrench in a peace plan proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, which would see a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and other territorial compromises. Police say around 2,000 people attended the gathering in Jerusalem’s Old City, where participants called on God to strike fear in the hearts of those who might cause harm to the land of Israel. Housing Minister Uri Ariel and other members of the far-right Jewish Home party, which forms part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition but fiercely opposes a two-state solution, were in attendance. In a not-so-veiled reference to Kerry’s role in peace negotiations, Ariel said “thousands of people came to pray for the people of Israel, to strengthen the government and the one who stands at its head, that he may be able to stand firm against the different pressures coming from the other side of the ocean,” Israeli National News reported. Since initiating the latest round of talks in July, Kerry has been working to push Israelis and Palestinians toward a framework agreement in the run-up to an agreed April deadline. Kerry, who is set to visit Israel for the 11th time in under a year, has enraged hardliner Israelis with a peace plan that reportedly includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Although certain settlements will not be included in the withdrawal, Palestinians will be compensated with Israeli territory.
A tiny insect of unknown origin is posing a serious threat to the $1 billion Texas grain sorghum crop, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. The threat comes at a time when a lingering drought and market pressures suggest growers will plant a larger than normal crop this year. “For now, we’re calling this pest the sugarcane aphid,” said Dr. Raul Villanueva, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. “It was first seen last year. We’re not sure if it’s a new invasive pest or if it just switched hosts, from sugarcane to grain sorghum. But it is a serious threat to this year’s grain crop and at this time there is no proven control for it.” An insecticide known as Transform WG was tested and found to be effective against this pest, Villanueva said. The Texas Department of Agriculture recently submitted a request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve an emergency exemption for its use on grain sorghum to control the aphid in Texas.
It is among 10 pesticides now being tested in Texas and Louisiana for their ability to manage sugarcane aphid populations. “We’re also looking at biological control of this insect,” he said. “It appears to have lots of natural enemies, including ladybugs, lacewings and sweat flies. But the populations of sugarcane aphids grow so rapidly, we’re just not sure how effective they will be.” Villanueva said he will supervise the evaluation of two groups of possible candidates, lady beetles and lacewings. The sugarcane aphid, about one-sixteenth of an inch long, was first detected in 1977 in Florida sugarcane. It limited itself to the Sunshine State until 1999 when it was found in Louisiana sugarcane, Villanueva said. While populations were well established, they did not cause major crop damage in either state. “But then in 2013, it was discovered in grain sorghum in Texas, in the Beaumont area,” he said. “Simultaneously, it was also discovered attacking grain sorghum in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and other areas of Texas, including the Coastal Bend and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as Mexico.”
House Republican leaders on Thursday endorsed a limited path to legal status for some illegal immigrants, in a move Democrats said could open the door to a deal on comprehensive immigration legislation. The position was included in a document released by party leaders during their annual retreat in Maryland. The “standards for immigration reform” document ruled out a special path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Instead, it said immigrants living here illegally could remain and live legally if they pass background checks, pay fines and back taxes, learn to speak English and understand U.S. civics, and can support themselves without access to welfare. But GOP leaders made clear that border security must be improved first. “None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented,” the document said. Nevertheless, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a big advocate for immigration legislation on the Senate side, said the announcement could smooth the way for a deal on legislation. The Senate passed an immigration bill last year. “While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept. It is a long, hard road but the door is open,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. had never taken the military option off the table with regards to Syria’s chemical weapons removal Thursday, leading Associated Press reporter Matt Lee to ask why the administration didn’t expect the historically deceitful Syrians to fail to meet their commitments. “We’ve never taken the option, as it relates to Syria, off the table,” Psaki said. The U.S. slammed Syria Thursday for failing to meet its pledge to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction, calling it an “open-ended delaying” of the disarmament process as a means of renegotiating the deal they cut last fall.
“It hasn’t done anything” when the U.S. has just called out Syria for its various atrocities and abuses, Lee pointed out, but Psaki defended that tactic. “Obviously what we’re pursuing now is the diplomatic path, both on the removal of chemical weapons and on the Geneva Conference process, so that’s where our focus is,” Psaki said. Lee countered with President Obama’s State of the Union remarks Tuesday that “diplomacy coupled with the threat of military force” got the Syrians to agree to remove their weapons. “Why do you not remind the Syrians today explicitly that the option of military force is still on the table to get them to live up to the agreement that they signed onto?” he asked. Psaki sarcastically thanked Lee for his recommendation, but Lee said he was merely asking, if the administration thought that was a convincing factor for the Syrians, why not remind them of that military option. “We feel the appropriate step today is to highlight the fact that they’re not meeting the obligation, that there’s more that can be done, that they have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their obligation, and so that’s what we’re highlighting today,” Psaki replied. More
The US says only around 4% of the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government has been removed. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was “concerned” that the UN-backed plan to remove Syria’s chemical arsenal was behind schedule. Mr Hagel told reporters in Poland that Damascus “had to take responsibility for fulfilling its commitment”. Delegates from Syria’s government and opposition have attended peace talks in Geneva for a sixth day. UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters that there had been both tense and promising moments. He said a minute’s silence was held by the delegations on Thursday for all those killed in the conflict, which began in March 2011. In a separate development, a report from Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian government of “deliberately and unlawfully” demolishing thousands of homes in opposition strongholds. The organisation said this was “collective punishment of communities suspected of supporting the rebellion”. More
Republicans said Thursday the Obama administration should take action over an apparent Russian violation of the treaty banning testing of medium-range missiles. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement slamming the administration for ignoring the Russian treaty violation and not acting. “If the Administration wishfully waves away blatant infractions on current agreements, how are we supposed to trust future pacts?” Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and three GOP subcommittee chairs asked in a statement. “Since 2012, Congress has pushed the Administration to take Russian cheating on nuclear treaties seriously,” the committee members said. “We have been ignored, as has Russia’s material breach of the central arms control treaty of the nuclear era. Treaties are meaningless unless both sides sign in good faith.” The New York Times reported Thursday the United States informed its NATO allies this month that Russia had tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, in violation of the 1987 treaty signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. More
Investors are lining up to short the Russian ruble as the sell-off in emerging markets pushes the currency to historic lows. But several analysts see an upside to the rout, seeing it as “easy money” for the government’s coffers. The dollar has appreciated over 7 percent against the ruble since the start of the year. At 1.00 p.m. London time Thursday, the ruble stood at $35.18 – close to levels not matched since the height of the global financial crisis in 2009, when the dollar peaked at $36.34 against the ruble. The currencies of Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and India have all been hit in this latest sell-off due to Chinese growth fears and the flow of cash back to the U.S. with the Federal Reserve ”tapering” its bond purchases.
These policy changes have exposed large current account deficits in emerging market economies, showing the need to increase the value of its exports relative to the value of imports. It has also brought to the fore a reliance on China. With the world’s second largest economy rebalancing, there are concerns that its demand for raw materials could fall, hitting those that export to the country. Kit Juckes, global head of foreign exchange strategy at Societe Generale said that Russia is a prime candidate for these fears and expects its currency will see more weakness. “I think it remains vulnerable, for sure,” he told CNBC via email. Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon said that Russia is prepared to give its currency greater latitude. He added that it will continue to be closely tied to the price of oil. With oil prices expected to show weakness in the longer term, Derrick expects the ruble to follow it lower. More
The entire country faces at least three days of torrential downpours, savage 150mph gales and weeks of relentless flood misery. Storm Brigid is expected to hit UK shores in the early hours of tomorrow before the full force of the onslaught rips into the country on Saturday. Experts say it threatens to cause destruction on a par with the ferocious October St Jude’s Day Storm and subsequent Storm Emily which hit in December. It came as figures show some areas of England have already had their wettest January since records began. The Met Office said much of the south and Midlands already had twice the average rainfall for January by midnight on Tuesday – with three days still left in the month.
Several inches of rain are likely to fall in a matter of hours through the next few days, sealing the record for England’s wettest winter in history. So far eight inches of rain have fallen since the beginning of December, with just eight more needed to beat the 1914/15 record of 16. Officials have warned Britain will be crippled by frenzied winds capable of up ripping trees and tearing roof slates from buildings. Rivers already close to overflowing are likely to burst their banks sparking a torrent of flood warnings and alerts across the nation. Forecasters have warned a run of storms are lined up in the Atlantic threatening torrential rain and gales for at least a week. Swathes of the country have been left under inches of water after heavy and relentless rain which has held out for weeks. Government forecasters have issued a raft of severe weather warnings for rain today and tomorrow across the south with more than an inch expected. More
ECUADOR – A new eruptive phase has begun at the volcano. Since the early morning today, the seismic network detected an increase in earthquakes including signals of small explosions and long-period events and tremor typical for internal fluid movements (gasses and magma). The Tungurahua volcano Observatory while unable to make direct visual observations received reports from observers that fine black ash fell in Pungal and Penipe, and minor amounts in Palictahua. The black color of the ash suggests that it originates from fresh (so called juvenile) magma. The last eruptive phase of Tungurahua was between 6 Oct and 13 Nov past year and consisted in strombolian-vulcanian explosions generating ash columns rising up to 4 km, accompanied by strong shock waves and producing occasional pyroclastic flows. Bursts of moderate to strong intensity tremor characterized seismic activity during that period. Since 13 Nov, activity had decreased markedly and the volcano only showed weak degassing and no signs that could have been interpreted as precursors to the current new activity, IGPEN mentions in its latest bulletin. This implies that the magma that started the current new phase of activity has risen very quickly from a deeper reservoir into the shallow plumbing system of the volcano. In other words, eruptions at Tungurahua can start with little or even no warning. Extinction Protocol
While operating a nonprofit in the U.S. that was granted tax-exempt status by the official dismissed in the IRS scandal, President Obama’s half-brother, Malik Obama, has been supporting the terrorist organization Hamas as a fundraiser for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to bank-account information. Malik’s work with the Sudan-based Islamic Dawa Organization has prompted criminal charges in Egypt of aiding and abetting terrorism. “If you think Malik Obama, President Obama’s brother, dons a Hamas scarf for sentimental reasons, think again,” writes former PLO-member and native Arabic-speaking researcher Walid Shoebat on his blog.
Shoebat was referring to a report earlier this week of a photograph posted on the website of Malik Obama’s nonprofit, the Barack H. Obama Foundation. It showed him wearing a Hamas scarf that bears the well-known Palestinian slogan “Jerusalem is ours – We are coming!” Now, Shoebat reports, evidence has surfaced confirming Malik Obama, as the executive secretary of the Islamic Dawa Organization, has operated bank accounts in the Middle East with known ties to al-Qaida that are being widely utilized to raise money for terrorist activities conducted by Hamas in Gaza. Shoebat ties Bank Account No. 1782, set up in the Al Shamal Bank – an al-Qaida bank founded in Sudan by Osama bin Laden in 1983 to fund terrorist activities – with the bank account serving IDO. To substantiate the allegations, Shoebat points to advertising on the IDO website that promotes the accounts at the Al Shamal bank, published in Arabic here and here, referencing the Muslim Brotherhood “Aiding our Brothers in Gaza.” More
President Obama’s longtime buddy, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, Thursday night told debate opponent Dinesh D’Souza and an audience at Dartmouth College that the Constitution is an outmoded document and it ought to be changed. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, were the main founders of the domestic terror group the Weather Underground, which was assigned responsibility for dozens of bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructure of the U.S. D’Souza is the maker of the movie “2016: Obama’s America,” which is the second-highest grossing political documentary of all time. It blasts Obama’s policies and actions, and warns America about what the nation would be under Obama’s vision for the United States.
The topic of the debate was “What’s so Great About America?” Ayers previously called the Weather Underground “an American Red Army” and said the ideology was to: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents.” In his memoir, he wrote, “Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon. The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.” In a 2001 interview with the New York Times, Ayers said, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Accompanying the article was a photograph of him stepping on an American flag. Ayers also questioned ramifications for behavior Americans long have considered expected. “If you are a felon, why do you get disqualified as a citizen and get denied your right to vote? Just because you’ve committed a crime?” he asked D’Souza. More
Israel’s “peace partner” will be invited to visit the country whose leaders refer to Israel as “the rabid dog of the region,” the Chinese Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday, citing an Arabic language newspaper in London. According to the report, Iran intends to invite Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to visit Tehran soon. The Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that Abbas’s visit to Tehran aims at rehabilitating the Iranian-PA official ties that have been frigid for years due to Iran’s support to Hamas, longtime rival to Abbas’s Fatah movement. The report said that contacts between Iran and the PA were renewed following this week’s visit to Tehran of senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub. Abbas sent Rajoub to visit Iran and brief the Iranian leadership on the situation in the PA-assigned areas and on the negotiations with Israel, according to Xinhua. ”Our openness to Iran is a Palestinian interest and part of our strategy to open to the whole world, which is interested in Palestine and the Palestinian cause,” Rajoub was quoted as having said. More
The world’s first monkeys with genes modified through a DNA engineering method known as Crispr/Cas9 were born in a lab. The scientific breakthrough by Chinese researchers could become a cornerstone for research and prevention of human genetic disorders. Researchers at Nanjing Medical University and Yunnan Key Laboratory of Primate Biomedical Research in Kunming in China have created two genetically modified macaques with targeted mutations using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. “Our study shows that the CRISPR/Cas9 system enables simultaneous disruption of two target genes in one step without producing off-target mutations,” study author Jiahao Sha told the Science Daily.“Considering that many human diseases are caused by genetic abnormalities, targeted genetic modification in monkeys is invaluable for the generation of human disease models.” The researchers introduced single-cell macaque embryos with modified Ribonucleic acids (RNAs) to generate the genome-editing process.
RNA is a ubiquitous family of large biological molecules that perform multiple vital roles in the coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. Using the Crispr method, Chinese scientists were targeting three genes in the experiment – one that regulates metabolism, another that regulates immune cell development and a third that regulates stem cells and sex determination. The birth of the genetically modified monkeys was not an easy process. Scientists had to target the genes in 180 single-cell monkey embryos. Eighty three of those 180 embryos were injected into female macaques, yielded only 10 pregnancies. Only one pregnancy so far led to the birth of a pair with simultaneous mutations in two genes. According to coauthor of the study Wezhi Ji, researchers discovered multiple changes in their target genes at different stages of embryonic development. But the newborn macaques are still too young for researchers to determine if their experiment had an effect on physiology or behavior, though “data from this species should be very useful for curing human disease and improving human health,” says Ji. More
A hammer-wielding madman found clutching a bible after allegedly bludgeoning his girlfriend and her daughter to death in their Queens home because he believed they were “witches” who were casting spells on him, authorities said on Wednesday. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the suspect, Carlos Alberto Amarillo, 44, called 911 at about 12:10 a.m. to report the alleged murders and in Spanish said, “They were assassinated, hurry they are dead.” During the chilling call, Amarillo said he wanted police to kill him. “I killed them because they are witches,” he said. “I killed them with a hammer.” Police found him at their home at 24-10 87th St. near LaGuardia Airport, wandering around with a bible saying, “I killed them, I killed them.” Cops then found the brutally beaten body of Estrella Castaneda, 56, in a second-floor bedroom face up on the bed with a pillow over her face, according to the charges. The rubber grip of a hammer was next to the body. Her daughter Lina Castaneda, 25, herself the mother of a 7 year-old girl was then found in the rear bedroom face down on the floor with head injuries, with a hammer next to her. More
Scientists say two of the deadliest pandemics in history were caused by strains of the same plague and warn that new versions of the bacteria could spark future outbreaks. Researchers found tiny bits of DNA in the teeth of two German victims killed by the Plague of Justinian about 1,500 years ago. With those fragments, they reconstructed the genome of the oldest bacteria known. They concluded the Plague of Justinian was caused by a strain of Yersinia pestis, the same pathogen responsible for the Black Death that struck medieval Europe. The study was published online Tuesday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. The two plagues packed quite a punch. The Plague of Justinian is thought to have wiped out half the globe as it spread across Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The Black Death killed about 50 million Europeans in just four years during the 14th century. “What this shows is that the plague jumped into humans on several different occasions and has gone on a rampage,” said Tom Gilbert, a professor at the Natural History Museum of Denmark who wrote an accompanying commentary. “That shows the jump is not that difficult to make and wasn’t a wild fluke.” The plague is usually spread to humans by rodents whose fleas carry the bacteria. “Humans are infringing on rodents’ territory, so it’s only a matter of time before we get more exposure to them,” Gilbert said.
Will antibiotics save us? Still, he and other experts doubted a modern plague epidemic would be as devastating. “Plague is something that will continue to happen, but modern-day antibiotics should be able to stop it,” said Hendrik Poinar, director of the Ancient DNA Center at McMaster University in Canada, who led the new research. He said about 200 rodent species carry the plague and could potentially infect other animals or humans. Poinar warned that if the plague transforms into an airborne version — which can happen if the bacteria reaches the lungs and its droplets are spread by coughing — it would be much harder to snuff out. That type of plague can kill people within 24 hours of being infected. Poinar said scientists need to sharpen their surveillance of plague in rodent populations to try averting future human infections. “If we happen to see a massive die-off of rodents somewhere with (the plague), then it would become alarming,” he said. There are several thousand human cases of plague every year, most often in central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of the Americas. More
Pope Francis Chicago Archbishop Appointment Will Steer Direction Of U.S. Catholic Church
(AP) When he turned 75, Cardinal Francis George did what the Roman Catholic Church expects of its bishops. He submitted his resignation so the pope could decide how much longer the cardinal would serve.
George said he hoped Pope Benedict XVI would keep him on as Chicago archbishop for two or three more years. “But, it’s up to him, finally,” George told WLS-TV in Chicago.
Two years and one surprise papal retirement later, the decision now belongs to Pope Francis. The pontiff’s choice will be closely watched as his first major appointment in the U.S., and the clearest indication yet of the direction he will steer American church leaders.
“Many signals for this relationship between the pontificate and the U.S. church will come from Chicago,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies the Vatican and the papacy. “I think this is going to be the most important decision by Pope Francis for the U.S. churc h.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago serves 2.2 million parishioners and is the third-largest diocese in the country. The Chicago church has long been considered a flagship of American Catholicism, sparking lay movements of national influence and producing archbishops who shape national debate. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin remains a hero to Catholics who place equal importance on issues such as abortion and poverty. George, who succeeded Bernadin in 1997, is especially admired in the church’s conservative wing as an intellectual who helped lead the bishops’ fight against the Obama administration’s health care overhaul.continue
African leaders want more peacekeeping force
Spaniards oppose legal changes to abortion
Ukrainian opposition wants Europe, US to do more