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Susan Rice Drops Out Of Secretary Of State Consideration

UN Ambassador Susan Rice is withdrawing from consideration for Secretary of State, NBC News reported Thursday. The embattled ambassador, harshly criticized by the GOP for her unintentionally misleading statements following the attack in Benghazi, cited partisan politics in a letter to President Obama.

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote. “That tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country… Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”

Led by Republican senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham, the GOP steadfastly protested Rice’s handling of the post-Benghazi media appearances. Though it became clear early on that Rice was not responsible for the inaccurate statements regarding the character of the Benghazi attack, the trio of GOP senators persisted in their efforts to prevent her nomination.

President Obama accepted Rice’s decision in a White House statement:

Statement by the President on Ambassador Rice 

Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.

VIDEO: Senator Jim DeMint Predicts Obama Will Get His Tax Hike

Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a powerful conservative voice in the GOP, forecast that President Obama would “get his wish” in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations and succeed in raising taxes.

DeMint, who earlier this month resigned from the Senate to become president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, accused Obama of “intentionally trying to take us over this cliff,” in pursuit of the “political trophy” of higher taxes. “We’re going to be raising taxes. Not just on the top earners. Everyone’s going to be paying more taxes next year in this country, and I think that’s what the president wants,” DeMint said on CBS This Morning.

President Obama has repeatedly stated his intent to raise taxes on the top two percent, while keeping them at their current rates for those making $250,000 or less. If no bipartisan deal is reached on the so-called fiscal cliff by the end of 2012, taxes will automatically go up across the board.

The South Carolina senator faulted both parties for their lack of success in reaching an agreement, saying they had “failed” the country.

 

Fox News Analyst: ‘Extreme Left Won’t Be Happy Until We Give Terrorists Food Stamps’

In an era of rare bipartisanship, President Obama’s drone program is unique in at least one, major way: Republicans actively and consistently support it. What is not unique: Fox News analysts’ endless capacity for generating moronic soundbites. The latest comes from Ralph Peters, the network’s resident “strategic analyst,” brought aboard The O’Reilly Factor Monday night to comment on reports that the U.S. had killed al Qaeda’s second in command, Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti.

“The inevitable blowback isn’t from Pakistan, they’re not making noise about this one,” Peters told host Bill O’Reilly. “The blowback is always from the extreme left in the United States that won’t be happy until we give terrorists food stamps.”

Both Peters and O’Reilly agreed, however, that Obama “deserves credit” for the approximately 2,000 alleged terrorists killed by the drone program, and on its continued need in the future.

This is hardly the first time Peters’ hyperbolic excess has emerged on Fox News. Commenting on the attack in Benghazi, and Obama’s “indecisive, fearful” response, Peters said, “in this part of the world, the only thing these radical Islamist fanatics understand is brute force. They kill four of ours, you kill 400 of theirs. Nothing else works. … When our people are killed, you kill them in large numbers.” For a collection of Peters’ more outrageous quotes, head over to Media Matters’  “A History of Inflammatory Rhetoric.”

5 Famous Actors Who Became Politicians

Earlier this year, rumors began swirling that actress Ashley Judd might run for Senate in her home state of Kentucky, where she would challenge Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. While she has not yet officially announced her candidacy, Judd has begun assessing her chances by hiring a Democratic pollster and conducting opposition research on herself, Politico reported yesterday.

While we savor the possibility of an upcoming Judd-McConnell showdown, here are five thespians who turned their acting skills to politics.
Ronald Reagan

Without a doubt, President Ronald Reagan is the number one celebrity-turned-politician. Reagan dedicated two decades of his post-college career to radio and film, where he honed the rhetorical skills that would serve him well in the political arena. During World War II, Reagan narrated and starred in several military short films, which, as Rachel Maddow writes in Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power “made him a practiced hand at stirring America’s martial moxie.” His most famous movie role was in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), where he played the role of Notre Dame halfback George “the Gipper” Gipp. Starting out as governor of California (1967-1975), Reagan went on to become President in 1980, when he defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter. He was re-elected in 1984, winning a landslide election against Democrat Walter Mondale.
Arnold Schwarzenegger

The man whose distinctive Austrian accent spawned countless impersonations first became known as a professional bodybuilder, whose seven Mr. Olympia titles granted him permanent legend status in the trade. The film Pumping Iron (1977) immortalized his bodybuilding exploits and put him on the fast track to Hollywood. Schwarzenegger went on to become an international action film star, starring in blockbusters like Terminator and Terminator 2, likely his most famous roles. In 2003, Arnie announced his candidacy for governor of California as a Republican, and won the election. Thus, The Governator was born. Schwarzenegger won a second term in 2006, signing, among other things, the country’s first bill creating a cap on carbon emissions.
Clint Eastwood

This man hardly needs an introduction. His illustrious film acting career spans 50 years, and contains numerous classics, such as Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and more recent classics  Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, both of which he directed. His foray into politics is lesser known. In 1986, Eastwood served in the nonpartisan office of Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, until 1988. More recently, he gave a speech at the 2012 Republican Convention, where he traded barbs with an imaginary Barack Obama sitting in an empty chair.
Al Franken

The junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken first ran for Senate, and won, as a Democrat in 2008, defeating incumbent Norm Coleman. Franken became initially well known when he joined Saturday Night Live in 1975 as a writer and performer, and one of its founding members.
Fred Thompson

The former U.S. senator of Tennessee (1994-2003) has an extensive film résumé, but is probably most well known for his role on Law and Order, where he played Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch. Thompson has remained active in both acting and politics, and in 2008 ran in the Republican presidential primaries, garnering 11 delegates before dropping out in January 2008. He currently does TV commercials for reverse mortgages.

 

Obama Interview On Fiscal Cliff: “It’s Just A Matter Of Math”

Sitting down for his first interview since the election, President Barack Obama remained optimistic about reaching a deal on the fiscal cliff, but not before rejecting House Speaker John Boehner’s “out of balance” proposal.

Obama reiterated the need for a balanced approach, dispelling the notion that he was driven by politics—“It’s not me being stubborn, not me be partisan; it’s just a matter of math,” Obama told Bloomberg News’ Julianna Goldman. The full interview can be viewed here.

The president said he was “prepared to make some tough decisions on this issue,” and allowed that he would not get “100 percent” of his demands, but stated that he would not “agree to a plan in which we have some revenue that is vague and potentially comes out of the pockets of middle-class families in exchange for some very specific and tough entitlement cuts that would affect seniors or other folks who are vulnerable.”

Speaker Boehner’s proposal yesterday called for slashing $600 billion in federal health care programs—driven partly by increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67—$200 billion in savings by modifying how the government calculates inflation estimates for increasing Medicare and Social Security benefits, and extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Obama restated the need for increasing top tax rates, while maintaining current rates for those making less than $250,000. “We’re going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up, and we’re not going to be able to get a deal without it,” he said. The Republican plan proposed generating new revenue by closing special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates. But Obama soon rejected that approach. “If you do not raise enough revenue by closing loopholes and deductions, it’s going to be the middle-class families that make up the difference,” the president said. “And that would be bad for business.”

Photo Credit: Bloomberg News Screenshot

5 Rich Americans Willing To Pay Higher Taxes

While debate over the “fiscal cliff” continues to rage in Congress between Democrats and Republicans, and between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, a key issue remains unresolved—the fate of the Bush tax cuts. Since the beginning of his first term, Obama has called for the wealthiest Americans to pay their “fair share” of taxes. He has argued for a return to Clinton-era tax rates, when the country’s economy surged and President Clinton left office with a healthy budget surplus.

Republicans, none more stringently than Grover Norquist, claim that higher taxes will hurt growth, and stymie the recovery. But there is little evidence to back that up. A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service found no correlation between lowering top tax rates and economic growth—an ideological uppercut to Republicans who, led by Mitch McConnell in the Senate, cried foul and had it withdrawn. Many millionaires and billionaires, meanwhile, have reached the conclusion that in order to begin chipping away at the budget deficit, it is essential to raise the marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. Here we present five members of “the 1 percent” asking to pay more in taxes.

Warren Buffett

For the past two years, billionaire hedge fund manager Warren Buffett has carried the torch in advocating higher taxes for the rich. Ever since The New York Times published Buffett’s op-ed (“Stop Coddling the Rich”), President Obama has dubbed a proposed tax increase for millionaires and billionaires the “Buffett Rule.” In a more recent Times op-ed piece, Buffett newly argued for a higher minimum tax rate for the richest Americans:

Additionally, we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Bill Gates

Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates is well known for his close relationship with Warren Buffett, who is one of three trustees in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has pledged most of his sizable portion to the philanthropic organization. Gates has spoken out on the need to address the budget deficit, in part by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

“I hope we can solve that deficit problem with a sense of shared sacrifice — where everybody would feel like they’re doing their part,” Gates told the BBC earlier this year. “And right now, I don’t feel like people like myself are paying as much as we should.”

Photo by World Economic Forum via Flickr.com
Lloyd Blankfein

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is part of the growing cadre of billionaires calling for a two-part solution to solve the deficit—tax revenue and entitlement reform.

“I think if that’s what it took to make the math work, when you looked at the entitlement side and you looked at the revenue side, I wouldn’t preclude that,” Blankfein said on CNN. “Of course we would have to do that if the numbers drive that way.”

Photo by Fortune Live Media via Flickr.com

Garrett Gruener

Founder of Ask.com Garrett Gruener is a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a group lobbying Congress for higher taxes. Like Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein, Gruener advocates returning to Clinton-era tax rates. When asked by a PBS interviewer why he favored this approach, Gruener responded, “We think that, you know, like other Americans, we love this country, and that those in the upper 1 percent essentially have been treated too good for their own sake, too good for the sake of the country. We have all done very well, and it’s time to give back.”

Ron Garret

Ron Garret is a former Google software engineer and former Principal Research Scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. In a recent appearance on Fox Business, Garret made the case for higher taxes on the wealthy.”There is this myth that raising taxes on rich people is a job-killer. That’s simply not true,” Garret said.

 

Virginia Attorney General Suggests Voter Fraud Helped Obama

File this one under “Republicans Who Don’t Understand Why They Lost The Election.”  Virginia attorney general and 2013 gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has a reliable track record of opposing President Obama and, like other Republicans, climate science. In a radio interview with WMAL’s “Mornings on the Mall,” Cuccinelli unequivocally agreed with guest host Cheri Jacobus’ assertion that Obama “can’t win in a state where photo ID is required. So clearly there’s something going on out there.”

Cuccinelli sympathized with Jacobus’ thinly veiled accusations, responding,”your tone suggests you’re a little upset with me. You’re preaching to the choir. I’m with you completely.”

That “something” that Jacobus alludes to is voter fraud, a Republican scare tactic that featured prominently in the 2012 election, designed to curb Democratic voters, which resulted in nationwide initiatives to implement voter ID laws. Ultimately, states like Texas and Pennsylvania struck them down, citing the suspect motivations of Republican legislators and the potential for disenfranchising thousands of eligible, largely Democratic voters. On Tuesday, several former GOP leaders in Florida admitted that voter suppression was the primary reason the new laws were created—not to combat voter fraud.

During the radio broadcast, Jacobus claimed Obama had lost in every state where photo ID was required to vote—an interesting factoid, but one entirely devoid of truth. In fact, Obama won Michigan, Florida, Hawaii and New Hampshire, four states that have implemented voter ID laws.

Here’s the Nov.20 broadcast:

After the interview, Cuccinelli political spokesman Noah Well stepped in to correct the media’s interpretation of the attorney general’s statements, saying it was “silly” to suggest Cuccinelli doubted the legitimacy of Obama’s re-election, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

“There is no question that President Obama legitimately won re-election,” Wall told the Pilot. “Ken was simply talking about the fact that there were problems on election day which need to be addressed.”

The 2016 election is still four long years away, but one thing is certain: if the GOP continues to claim voter fraud cost them the election, without addressing the structural problems that vex their party, there is little reason to imagine a Republican takeover of the White House.

Morgan Freeman Voices New Ad For Gay Marriage

Wielding one of the most recognizable voices in America, Morgan Freeman has the capacity to lend gravitas to any topic he chooses to speak on. Late in the campaign season, Freeman narrated the “Challenges” ad endorsing President Obama’s presidency and his re-election. This time, Freeman provides the voiceover for a 30-second spot released by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT equality-rights advocacy group organization in the United States, in favor of marriage equality.

Evoking the inspirational tone of “Challenges,” the HRC ad sets archival footage of the Civil-Rights movement—women’s suffrage, Martin Luther King Jr.—against a rousing soundtrack and the promise of a new, more inclusive era. The ad comes on the heels of unprecedented ballot victories on Election Day for same-sex marriage in Maine, Washington state, and Maryland. Additionally, in Minnesota, voters rejected a Constitutional amendment defining marriage strictly as between a man and a woman. Supported by the recent wave of LGBT rights, the HRC says there is a “mandate for full equality.”

Watch:

The transcript:

America stands at the dawn of a new day. Freedom, justice and human dignity have always guided our journey toward a more perfect union. Now across our country, we are standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry the person they love. And with historic victories for marriage, we’ve delivered a mandate for full equality. The wind is at our back. But our journey has just begun. Join us.

“This year proved to be a pivotal turning point in the movement for marriage equality and now we press onward with renewed vigor and public opinion squarely on our side,” HRC president Chad Griffin told Buzzfeed. “As we continue the march toward full equality in legislatures and the courts, it is crystal clear that the prospect of an equal future is no longer up for debate; the question now is how soon it will arrive.”

This week, the Supreme Court will determine whether it will hear appeals questioning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which banned gay marriage.

 

5 Tea Party Republicans We Won’t See In Congress In 2013

After roaring into the national spotlight in 2010 with a slew of victories in Congress, it appears the nation’s honeymoon with the Tea Party is nearing its end. Doomed by their intransigent partisanship, an obsession with ending Obamacare (and Obama), and a collection of casually-voiced extremist views, these far-right Republicans finally saw the results of their policies on Election Day. Others, such as Michelle Bachmann, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, barely scraped together enough votes to hold on to their seats.

Here we take a look at 5 Tea Partiers who will not be in Congress in 2013.

Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com
Allen West

A Tea Party darling, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) is known for out-of-left-field statements such as, “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” or calling Obama supporters a “threat to the gene pool.”  Although Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy expanded his lead over West to 2,000 votes in an early ballot recount, West’s campaign still refuses to concede victory. There is, however, little doubt that the Florida congressman is on his way out.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com
Joe Walsh

Here’s some advice when running against a double-amputee war veteran: Do not accuse her of not being a “true hero.” Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) was defeated by Iraq-war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade took down her helicopter. Walsh complained Duckworth was too focused on her military career, and had little else going for her. “What else has she done?” Walsh said. “Female, wounded veteran … ehhh.” Later in the campaign, Walsh claimed a woman’s life could not be threatened by a pregnancy. Apparently, voters have a limit to how much stupidity they will tolerate.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com
Todd Akin 

Attempting to become a senator after serving as representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district since 2001, Todd Akin held a lead over Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill until he uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comments. The widespread backlash from that television interview dogged Akin all the way to the voting booth, ensuring a victory for his Democratic opponent.

Photo by KOMUnews via Flickr.com
Frank Guinta

Featured in a “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” report from a Washington-based non-profit, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) “fudged the numbers and cooked the books to buy a seat in Congress,” according to CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington). Leading into the election, Guinta loaned his campaign $355,000, claiming the money was his own. His financial disclosure forms showed that, based on his income, he could not have covered those loans himself. Guinta refused to reveal the true origin of the funds. He lost his seat to the previous incumbent, Carol Shea Porter.

Photo by US House of Representatives via Wikimedia Commons
Bobby Schilling

In 2010, when the Tea Party-driven GOP wrested the House majority from Democrats, Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) became the first Republican elected to his Illinois seat in almost 30 years. During the campaign for his second term, Schilling could not resist adding to the chorus of Republican conspiracy theories. Asked by a Republican volunteer if he thought Obama had campaigned in 2008 with a strategy to “make America fail,” Schilling responded, ” “A lot of people think this is being done on purpose.” In November, Schilling lost his seat to Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos.

Photo by US House of Representatives via Wikimedia Commons

 

Senator John McCain Loses His Cool—Again

Ever since President Obama took office in 2008, Republicans in Congress—not to mention Fox News—have sustained a hair-trigger response to the slightest possibility of a scandal. Their first real opportunity came with Operation Fast and Furious, in which Obama’s assertion of executive privilege sent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and rest of the GOP into a paranoid frenzy. When the consulate attack in Benghazi took place, the administration’s failure to present a cohesive narrative ignited the fire of controversy—fire which Republicans continue to stoke.

On Wednesday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), joined by fellow senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), proposed to create a select committee with wide powers to investigate the incident, and the Obama administration’s response to it. McCain has repeatedly turned to the media to rail against what he believes to be a catastrophic mishandling of the events in Libya, and to call for further investigation. Therefore, when McCain missed a classified Senate briefing on the attack on Thursday, and instead held a press conference about the lack of information on said attack, CNN’s Ted Barrett, naturally, pressed him to comment on it. McCain snapped and refused to answer the question. Here’s the video:

“I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media,” McCain told Barrett. “I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?” Later on, his spokesman Brian Rogers cited a “scheduling error.”

Senator Susan Collins criticized McCain for missing the briefing, Politico reported. “I do not see the benefit of creating a brand-new committee when we already have the Senate’s chief oversight committee, plus the Intelligence Committee, examining this very important matter.”

On Wednesday, McCain’s temper was again set off when a reporter asked if the David Petraeus sex scandal posed a greater threat to national security than the Benghazi attack. “With great respect,” McCain responded, “that’s one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard.” The video below shows his exasperated response:

While Senator McCain continues to pursue the Benghazi matter, an issue most Americans do not find worthy of a scandal, his daughter, Meghan McCain, threatened to leave the Republican Party in a Daily Beast op-ed. Citing the Tea Party’s antiquated focus on social issues, the senator’s daughter urged the GOP to modernize or risk permanently losing relevance.

Times are changing. The face of America is changing and we as Republicans stand at a crossroads. Are we going to accept the changing face of America and change with it? Or are we going to continue to become more isolated and irrelevant? It’s possible to maintain the core values of this party and evolve when it comes to social issues. Quite frankly, I don’t see any other path to success.

I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting for change from inside the Republican Party. We Republicans need to look at the future instead of living in the past. We have to learn from what the last two presidential elections have taught us. We must accept each other and the different opinions within the party instead of trying to cannibalize people that diverge from an arbitrary purity test. I refuse to let the extremists win. We can’t let the Tea Party bully us any longer. We can’t keep worrying about ultraconservative white male voters. At the end of the day, I still believe I’m on the right side of history, and we can’t let this party sink away. We can and we must evolve. I don’t know exactly how yet, but I for one am ready to spend the next four years helping us get there.

So far, the volatile senator hasn’t treated us to a public tantrum regarding his daughter’s threatened defection and disavowal of all he holds dear. But tomorrow is another day.

BP Will Pay $4.5 Billion, Plead Guilty To Criminal Charges For Oil Spill

More than two years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the death of 11 workers and a massive oil spill, BP has pled guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $4 billion in fines to the government, the company said Thursday.

As part of the settlement, BP will also pay $525 million over three years in resolution of claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The British oil company said it would increase its existing $38.1 billion charge against earnings for the spill by $3.85 billion. In total, the company will pay $4.5 billion over five years.

Furthermore, the company stated it was “prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims.”

In the terms of resolution, BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers, related to the loss of 11 lives in the exposion of the Deepwater Horizon.

However, the settlement does not resolve  fines under the Clean Water Act, which could possibly quadruple the civil damages owed by BP if the company is charged with gross negligence under the act. The potential fine for the spill under the act is $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled—$21 billion in a straight-line calculation.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf Coast region,” said Bob Dudley, BP’s Group Chief Executive, in the news release. “From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

Thursday’s settlement represents the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history between a private enterprise and the Department of Justice, $3.2 billion over the $1.3 billion fine paid by pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. in 2009 for marketing fraud, Reuters reported.

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP chairman. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

In 2011, BP earned $25.7 billion in profits, and a total of $375 billion in revenues. The company’s announcement had little effect on its stock valuation—in fact, it went up one percent. BP could cover the $4 billion penalty with less than a single quarter’s profit. Here it will be paying it spread out over five years, which has a much lesser impact on quarterly profits. In other words, the fine paid by BP represents a drop in the bucket.

When the 4,593-foot pipe that channeled oil from the sea floor broke on April 20th, 2010, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil, and an equivalent amount of gas, spilled out into the Gulf of Mexico. The total damage from the spill remains hard to estimate, given that most of it was invisible to the eye.

Photo credit: AP/U.S. Coast Guard, File

Cast Of Characters Grows As Petraeus Scandal Continues To Unravel

Ever since CIA director and retired army general David Petraeus shockingly resigned on November 9 over an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, the scandal has grown larger and more bewildering with every update.

In brief, the scandal was exposed when Broadwell reportedly sent harassing emails to Jill Kelley, an unpaid social liaison at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. According to the article in The Wall Street Journal, Kelley reported the emails to a friend and FBI agent, who subsequently launched an investigation. In the summer of 2012, the agents sourced the emails to Broadwell, and secured a warrant to investigate her personal account. The investigation led to the discovery of the correspondence between Petraeus and Broadwell. Petraeus was found to be using a Gmail account—a serious potential security liability for a CIA director. The agents notified Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller of the investigation.

On October 27, 2012, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was informed by an FBI employee about the affair. Around this time, both Petraeus and Broadwell were interviewed by FBI officials and immediately confessed to the affair. As a result, agents informed James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, of the improper relationship. Clapper then met with Petraeus and urged him to resign. On November 7, the White House was first notified of the affair, and then President Obama was briefed the following day, having returned from Chicago after the election. Petraeus offered his resignation to the president who, after considering for a day, accepted it.

From here onwards, the story veers into the territory of the absurd. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the FBI agent who initially investigated Jill Kelley’s claims had previously sent her shirtless photographs of himself. Though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the WSJ writes, the agent was dismissed from the case once the information became known. However, the agent was not dissuaded from a continued interest in the case, according to The New York Times. In fact, the agent suspected a more devious cause for his dismissal. “Because of his ‘worldview,’ as the official put it,” wrote the Times, “he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.”

But wait, there’s more—the plot continued to thicken and add more players to the mix. When Petraeus stepped down as Commander of the International Security Assistant Force in Afghanistan, the man who succeed him was four-star general John Allen, nominated to be NATO’S Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. According to a Washington Post report, the FBI uncovered 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Jill Kelley, the social event planner in Tampa. However, according to an unnamed official at US Central Command, the number of emails exchanged was much fewer than the figure originally cited, and closer to a few hundred spread out across several years. The senior official denied rumors of an affair or salacious content in the emails, going so far as to say Gen. Allen “[had] never been alone with her.” The content of the correspondence remains unclear at this stage.

Meanwhile, Kelley has taken measures to protect herself ahead of the unraveling scandal by hiring Monica Lewinsky’s crisis manager and John Edwards’ attorney. For Kelley and her husband, Scott, already saddled with four lawsuits, difficult times lie ahead.

Photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

What Could Obama’s New Cabinet Look Like?

Now that the hand-wringing about the presidential election is over, we turn our sights to President Obama’s new cabinet in 2013. The remarkable stability of Obama’s cabinet in the first term will be upended with a host of changes in the second. There is rampant speculation that at least four critical cabinet members — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Attorney General Eric Holder — may leave the administration in the coming weeks.

Who could replace them? As we take a look at the possible candidates in this slideshow, we invite readers to leave their own suggestions in the comment section.

Photo by IIP State via Flickr.com
Secretary of State, Option 1: John Kerry

The front-runner to take over Hillary Clinton’s position is Massachusetts senator and former presidential nominee John Kerry. Kerry’s foreign policy experience as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as his knowledge of Afghanistan and Pakistan, would prove a valuable asset as Secretary of State.

Photo by cliff1066 via Flickr.com
Secretary of State, Option 2: Richard Lugar

The senior Senator of Indiana and longtime stalwart of the Republican Party saw his hopes for another term in the Senate dashed when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated him in the primaries earlier this year. However, Lugar’s time as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, his work in dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons around the world, and his friendship with President Obama make him a solid candidate to replace Hillary Clinton’s spot.

Photo by scriptingnews via Flickr.com
Secretary of State, Option 3: Tom Donilon

A third possibility for Secretary of State could be Tom Donilon, who has served as National Security Advisor since 2010. The New York Times calls him the man who “wakes the president when an ambassador is killed in Libya, the one who tries to keep Israel from rupturing relations and Egypt from heading off-track.” As an expert in international affairs, with the capacity to consider multiple factors at once, Donilon is a strong contender.

Photo by The White House via Wikimedia Commons
Treasury Secretary, Option 1: Jack Lew

As Timothy Geithner prepares to step down as Treasury Secretary, the top option to replace him is White House chief of staff Jacob Lew. Lew previously headed Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, and is known for his negotiating chops in striking tough bipartisan deals. He cut his teeth under the Clinton administration, when he came under the spotlight for his central role in negotiating the landmark 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via Flickr.com
Treasury Secretary, Option 2: Erskine Bowles

A second option for Treasury Secretary, albeit a less likely one, would be former Clinton administration official Erskine Bowles, who came on to the national stage recently as one half of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan. Appointing Bowles to the Treasury would indicate a powerful willingness by the White House to reduce the deficit, but might alienate a Democratic base that has little sympathy for his positions.

Photo by Medill DC via Flickr.com
Attorney General, Option 1: Deval Patrick

With Eric Holder expressing little inclination to continue in his fraught role as Attorney General, speculation has opened up as to who might step in to take his place. The first name to come up is usually Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. However, his aides have already stated that Patrick has no interest in the job. “The governor has the only job in public life that he wants — and he looks forward to completing his term as governor,” said Alex Goldstein, the Executive Director of Patrick’s political committee “TogetherPAC.”

Photo by photofarmer via Flickr.com

Attorney General, Option 2: Janet Napolitano

Another option to take over for Holder is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano served as Attorney General of Arizona from 1999 to 2002, and is considered by many to have the right experience for the role.

Photo by  The National Guard via Flickr.com
Secretary of Defense, Option 1: Jack Reed

Senior Senator of Rhode Island Jack Reed is a top candidate for the position that may be vacated by Leon Panetta. Reed was offered the job following the departure of Robert Gates in 2010, but ultimately declined.

Photo by United States Senate via Wikimedia Commons
Secretary of Defense, Option 2: Michele Flournoy

A leading contender for the job is Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy. The Daily Beast cites a senior Democrat who wishes to remain anonymous as saying, “She’s brilliant, smart as hell, has deep knowledge across the defense issues—personnel, weapons systems, strategy, she knows how to run the Pentagon, and she’s very well liked.”

Photo by Secretary of Defense via Flickr.com 

Coal Company CEO Fires 156 Workers After Obama Re-Election

Among those who took a despairing view to the news of President Obama’s re-election, few were more despondent—and vindictive—than the CEO of Murray Energy, Robert Murray. The day after the election, the chairman and chief executive of the Ohio-based coal company fired 54 employees at American Coal and 102 at Utah American Energy, but not before reading a prayer and telling workers that “the takers outvoted the producers.” Murray faulted Obama’s “war on coal,” The Washington Post reported.

In late August, Murray’s company came under fire when reports emerged that his workers had been forced, without pay, to attend a Romney campaign event. Murray also pressured employees to donate money and attend fundraisers for the Republican candidate, as revealed in a March 2012 letter, where he wrote, “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.”

Murray Energy employs around 3,000 workers and produces 30 million short tons of bituminous coal per year — 7-8 million of which are mined in Ohio — making it the nation’s largest privately owned coal mining company.

The political nature of the 156 layoffs was readily apparent in the prayer Murray read to employees on Wednesday, which was first published on the Intelligencer /Wheeling News-Register website:

Mr. Robert E. Murray’s Prayer, as shared with his workers:

Dear Lord:

The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals [sic] of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.

We are a Country in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom.

My regret, Lord, is that our young people, including those in my own family, never will know what America was like or might have been. They will pay the price in their reduced standard of living and, most especially, reduced freedom.

The takers outvoted the producers. In response to this, I have turned to my Bible and in II Peter, Chapter 1, verses 4-9 it says, “To faith we are to add goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self control; to self control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, kindness; to brotherly kindness, love.”

Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.

Amen.

Given that no major changes took place in the days since Obama’s re-election, there is little reason to believe Murray had any other cause for the layoffs besides partisan politics. His prayer evinced a fundamental agreement with the “47 percent” comments that dogged Romney’s presidential aspirations, drawing widespread condemnation. Murray, unlike Romney, presented this view publicly and without apology.

 

Donald Trump Implodes In Rage Upon Obama Win

Late on election night, around 11:15 pm, when it became abundantly clear that President Obama had won, it also became abundantly clear who had lost—and none in more spectacularly sore fashion than Donald Trump. The Birther King unleashed the full extent of his fury and denial in a series of tweets, most of which are still up on his Twitter account. The casino mogul deleted the one that said “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” Here is a sampler of some of his blurted emotions on Election Night:

Soon after, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams commented, “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight,” and presented some of the tweets we showed you above.

Trump was not happy. He dedicated a total of seven (!) tweets to Williams in response. For instance, “The only thing more boring than @bwilliams newscast is his show Rock Center which is totally dying in the ratings—a disaster!” In fact “NBC Nightly News” averaged 10 million viewers election night, versus an average of 7.1 million viewers in the most recent season of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

The next day, after his worst fears had come true and the terrible news had sunk in, Trump presented his dream of bipartisanship:

Laudable words from someone who believes the President is a Kenyan Bolshevik.

In Final Day Before Election, Both Campaigns Pull Out All Stops In Swing States

In the frenzied final hours before Election Day, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama went on a whirlwind tour of the battleground states that will determine who spends the next four years at the White House. The 14-hour schedule spanned a total of 16 campaign stops in nine states, including appearances by both vice-presidential candidates as well as the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Kicking off in Sanford, Florida, Romney presented a sunny vision of his possible presidency that reflected his “Real Change” mantra of recent times. “This nation is going to change for the better tomorrow,” Romney said. “You’re going to make a difference. The people of the world are watching. The people of America are watching. We can give them a better tomorrow, and with the help of the people of Florida, that’s exactly what will happen.”

Meanwhile, President Obama enlisted Bruce Springsteen at his first campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin, where the rock legend alluded to the theme of hope that drove the 2008 campaign. “President Obama ran last time as a man of hope and change, and you hear a lot of talk about things are different,” Springsteen said.“Things aren’t any different now. They’re just realer. It’s crunch time now.”

As Obama moved on to another campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the stump in Sterling, Virginia. Biden railed against the controversial ad from the Romney campaign that claimed Jeep was moving its manufacturing to China.

“Just as people are getting up off their backs, just as they’re able to turn and look at their kid and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK, Dad or Mom’s back’, they’re getting the living devil scared out of them again,” Biden said. “They’re running these ads nonstop saying their jobs are going to be lost again.”

The ad has drawn criticism from both parties, including the CEO of Chrysler, who called the ad “inaccurate.”

While Romney prepared to give a speech in Columbus, Ohio, his running mate Paul Ryan was deployed to Des Moines, Iowa. Maneuvering around a tight schedule and attempting to hit as many stops as possible, Ryan gave four of his campaign speeches in airplane hangars. The Republican vice-presidential candidate appeared in Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Wisconsin.

In Nevada, where the GOP has in the past struggled against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s get-out-the-vote operation, Ryan egged his supporters on.

“We know we can do this,” Ryan said. “Let’s just run through the tape. Leave it all out on the field.”

President Obama gathered serious star-power for his campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, where he was accompanied by both Springsteen and Jay-Z,  who performed a specially modified version of his song “99 Problems.” In it, Jay-Z sang  ‘‘I got 99 problems but Mitt ain’t one.’’

Both campaigns made a last-minute push for Pennsylvania, where all of the latest polls have given Obama 3 to 6point lead. Former President Bill Clinton was in charge of making a final case for Obama, whom he yesterday referred to as “my president” at a rally in Virginia.

“He’s got the better argument,” Clinton said in Pittsburgh. “And tomorrow, if you vote your hopes and not your fears, if you vote for unity and not division, if you think we can all work together, you will all re-elect Barack Obama president of the United States.”

Obama’s final event before the election took place in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was joined by his wife Michelle. Romney, however, will continue campaigning in Cleveland and Pittsburgh on Election Day.

 

Obama Ahead In Nearly Every Battleground State Poll

The conventional wisdom before Hurricane Sandy suggested a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College, where President Obama would ultimately triumph due to his narrow — but consistent — lead in the majority of the crucial swing states. Judging by the latest polls released Wednesday, that dynamic has not changed.

Mitt Romney continues to hold an narrow lead in the popular vote, according to the latest Rasmussen poll that shows him up by two points. This suggests no changes took place between Rasmussen’s prior October 6 poll and now, when Romney also led by a two-point margin. Gallup has not yet resumed polling after the storm, and as such it remains to be seen whether Romney’s significant five-point lead among likely voters has been affected as a result of President Obama’s lauded response to Sandy.

Meanwhile, Obama was ahead in nearly every swing state poll released yesterday. In Ohio, Obama leads by five points in both the Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling polls, 50 to 45 percent. A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed him up by three points, and a University of Cincinnati poll up by two points. In other words, barring a radical shift towards Romney in the next five days, Obama will win the Buckeye State. Keep in mind that no Republican president has gained access to the White House without Ohio’s electoral votes.

In Florida the picture is more muddled, though slightly leaning towards Romney. A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows them tied at 47 percent, while Gravis and We Ask America show Romney on top by three points and one point, respectively. Obama has a narrow one-point lead in a Quinnipiac poll.

In Iowa, another state heavily targeted by both candidates, polls mostly favor the Democratic candidate. PPP shows Obama leading 50 to 45 percent, and 49 to 47 percent in a We Ask America poll. A University of Iowa poll, meanwhile, had Romney up by a single point.

The latest polls from Virginia revealed conflicting information. A Reuters/Ipsos poll had a 48 to 46 lead for Obama, while a Roanoke poll showed Romney leading 49 to 44 percent—a significant discrepancy. Another Quinnipiac poll showed a two point lead for Obama, indicating a tight and unpredictable race. Real Clear Politics’ average currently shows a .5 point lead for Romney. Nate Silver of the New York Times, however, forecasts a 60.1 percent chance of Obama winning in Virginia.

In Wisconsin, Paul Ryan’s home state, President Obama is unambiguously ahead in the polls. A Marquette Law poll and a PPP poll both show him in the lead by eight and five points, respectively.

All signs point to a very close race in Colorado. A We Ask America poll showed Obama leading 50 to 47 percent, while a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Romney ahead by a one point margin.

In North Carolina, the latest PPP poll showed Obama and Romney tied at 49 percent. However, both Real Clear Politics‘ average (+3.8 points for Romney) and Nate Silver’s forecast (81.4 percent chance of Romney win) indicate a clear advantage towards the Republican candidate.

For those interested in how the betting world views the election, look no further than InTrade, a stock market of gambling in virtually any subject. According to Wednesday’s round of polls, the closest races will be fought in Colorado, Virginia, and Florida. In Colorado, the gambling odds of an Obama win are 60 percent, versus 48.8 percent for Romney. In Virginia, the odds are 49.8 percent for Obama, and 50 percent for Romney—a close reflection of the tight race in that state. A big majority believe Romney will win Florida—69 percent against 33 percent for Obama, according to the bets placed.

Given the current makeup of the electoral map, and the marked advantage of Obama in most battleground states, it appears increasingly unlikely that Romney will cobble together enough votes to win the Electoral College on November 6.