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Archive for November, 2012

Posted by The Agonist on November 5th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Huffington Post, By Amanda Terkel, November 5

Washington – Once again, Florida and its problems at the polls are at the center of an election.

Early voting is supposed to make it easier for people to carry out their constitutional right. Tuesdays are notoriously inconvenient to take off work, so many states have given voters the option of turning out on weekends or other weekdays in the run-up to Election Day.

But in Florida this year, it has been a nightmare for voters, who have faced record wait times, long lines in the sun and a Republican governor, Rick Scott, who has refused to budge and extend early voting hours.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 5th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

CSM, By Arthur Bright

Sharp divides among Syrian rebel leaders are already apparent after the first day of an opposition conference in Qatar, casting doubt on US hopes that the meeting will result in a unified opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian National Council, the opposition’s primary political group that many, including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have called dysfunctional and unrepresentative of rebels on the ground in Syria, began a four-day conference in Qatar on Sunday aimed at overhauling its structure and representation, reports BBC News.  The group is under intense international pressure to reform itself, writes the BBC’s Jim Muir.

The Syrian opposition is well aware that it is widely regarded as fragmented and ineffective, and that this is becoming more and more an issue as events on the ground gather pace.

The coming days will see the most concerted effort so far to pull the bulk of the opposition together and to create effective and credible structures that the outside world can work with in trying to bring about a transition in Syria.

Secretary Clinton said last week that “the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition. But that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.”

More at the link

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Posted by The Agonist on November 4th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Atlantic, By Andrew Cohen

A late voting directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted begets an “emergency motion” about how to count provisional ballots.

With just a few dozen hours left before polls open on Election Day, here is a candidate for the most important election-law story of the weekend – a story likely to cross over into the general political debate Sunday through Monday. This early copy from the Associated Press offered a hint:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Voter advocates are criticizing an order by Ohio’s elections chief dealing with the casting of provisional ballots. Advocates are saying on Saturday that the order by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted late Friday wrongly puts the burden of recording the form of ID used on a provisional ballot on voters, not pollworkers ….

Here’s what happened. On Thursday, voting-rights advocates filed an “emergency motion” with a federal trial judge seeking his reassurance that provisional ballots in Ohio will be judged by the standard he endorsed (and Ohio reportedly agreed to) in a recent consent decree. That standard, the plaintiffs say, is “that a provisional-ballot form that has incomplete or improperly completed information regarding the type of identification proffered by a voter should be counted pursuant” to Ohio law, which, they say, makes the poll worker responsible for taking down the information. Here’s a link to that motion.

Ohio has not yet responded to it with a filing in court — the state’s deadline is Monday. But it was a full day after this motion was filed that the secretary of state, at 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election, issued his contrary directive, the text of which you can read in this timely piece by Judd Legum. The issuance of the directive in turn prompted lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case to go back to U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley with an even more urgent request, filed late Friday evening:

This new Directive makes an affirmative change to the previous provisional ballot counting standard, beyond what was required to comply with this Court’s and the Sixth Circuit’s recent orders. Instead, contrary to this Court’s October 26, 2012 decision, the Secretary’s representations to this Court on October 24, 2012, and the Constitution, the Secretary is now ordering that county boards of election must reject provisional ballots when the identification information contained in Step 2 of the ballot affirmation form 12-B is incomplete.

The contours of the legal dispute aren’t narrowing, as some legal disputes do at this stage of an election contest, but instead are growing. They are growing because the secretary of state has just doubled down on his position about incomplete provisional ballots. If he was wrong on Thursday, you could say, he was even more wrong on Friday. And that will likely mean a Monday ruling* from Judge Marbley which will then be appealed into Tuesday (and beyond) to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Folks, the legal fight for Ohio’s votes is already here and here to stay. Here from The Columbus Dispatch are the money quotes:

More at the link

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Posted by The Agonist on November 4th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The Guardian:

Iran has suspended the enrichment of uranium stockpiles to the 20% purity needed to bring it a short step from building a nuclear device, news services in the region have reported.

Mohammad Hossein Asfari, a member of parliament responsible for foreign policy and national security, was quoted as saying that the move was a “goodwill” gesture, aimed at softening Iran’s position before a new round of scheduled talks with the United States after this week’s presidential elections.

Asfari said he hoped sanctions would be lifted in return for Iran’s actions, otherwise it would resume the programme, according to a website belonging to the Al Arabiya news channel.

There’s no chance of sanctions being lifted for a temporary suspension, but a commitment to fully end 20% enrichment would and should deserve more concessions than the US and its negotiating partners have so far offered.

Also, watch for warmongering Republicans whining that Iran is trying a last-ditch attempt to infuence the US election in Obama’s favor, “because Iran prefers soft, weak Obama to win”, despite the right time for that to have been a motive being just before the third presidential debate.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Prairie Weather unloads on the WaPo editorial board for their indictment of Romney, calling it correctly far too little and far too late, then writing “Behind the curtain!  Who’s responsible for operating the ropes on that curtain if not the press?” Righteous. Also, just as applicable to the whole of the mainstream media and to their looking the other way on Obama’s many sins. The lapdogs of the press, always willing to swap access for some stenography, have not served us well this election.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Rolling Stone, By Matt Taibbi, November 1

Quite a shock the other day to look out my window in Jersey City, and see the Hudson River rushing over what used to be the street in front of my building. For nearly three days my dog and I played Robinson Crusoe and Friday, sleepily watching from our little apartment-island while we waited for hot water, cell service, the internet, even elevators to come back on line.

When I finally got back on the internet and was able to read the news again, I saw that Hurricane Sandy, in addition to being the rare storm to live up to its televised hype, had turned into the last-minute curveball plot twist that always seems to pop up in presidential races.

Some of those twists we hear about – like the sudden appearance of records from George W. Bush’s 1976 drunk driving arrest in Maine – while others, like Dick Nixon’s apparent secret negotiations with the Vietnamese in 1968, or the more-likely-mythical October Surprise deal involving Reagan and the Iran hostages in 1980, remain secrets until later on.

But this massive hurricane is apparently turning into a boon for Barack Obama on a number of fronts. One, it’s allowed him to be seen all over television taking charge and acting presidential, and has even allowed him to brandish bipartisan credentials through the curiously intense bromance that he has developed this week with our own New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (a Romney supporter who, somewhat mysteriously, has gone out of his way to praise the president this week).

On a deeper level, though, the hurricane has seemingly made a powerful argument on Obama’s behalf about the role of government in general. The media is casting this as a stark and simple dichotomy. Romney, the rhetoric goes, is on record as having favored cuts to disaster relief agencies like FEMA (“We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” he said in a primary debate last year), while his running mate, Paul Ryan, has been even more hostile to FEMA (“When disaster-relief decisions are not made judiciously, limited resources are diverted away from communities that are truly in need,” he said just last March).

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Posted by The Agonist on November 2nd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

SecState Clinton’s plan to switch horses in Syria, saying that the US will no longer recognize the SNC and instead will attempt to build its own united opposition leadership is magical thinking of the highest order, as well as colonialist meddling. It is destined to failure. Why? This:

A rebel fighter from Idlib province has blamed the execution of government soldiers on Thursday on a Salafi group that he says are increasingly influential in the area.

…”The Dawood brigade and the Suqur Al-Sham organisation do not answer to any military council affiliated to the FSA. They work independently and have their own leader whom they call Ameer and his name is Abu Issa.

Yesterday we had a demonstration in Jebal al-Zawiyia and we raised banners in response to Hillary Clinton’s statement that Assad’s end is imminent. We said: “al-Qaida arrival’s in Syria is imminent too.”

We do not wish to turn Syria into another Afghanistan, but we can’t stop these extremists groups. We are really worried about the future of Syria. We need weapons and media support, but there is nothing on the ground.

We have four Salafi groups who are fighting in Idlib province. The biggest group is Jabhat al-Nusra which has members all over Syria. There is also the Ansar al-Islam group, the Majless al-Shura group and Suqur al-Sham group.

These Salafi groups are gaining support in Idlib province as they are well equipped unlike the FSA brigades. People also admire their bravery.

They are tough fighters and when they get hold of soldiers, they kill them at once.”

There is no rebel council the US can back which these powerful groups will submit to. Thus, even if the rebels overall win this stage of the civil war, it will only begin the next stage.

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Posted by The Agonist on November 1st, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Jobs growth for last month exceeds expectations as September numbers revised upward in good news for US recovery

The Guardian, By Dominic Rushe, November 1

New York – US companies added 158,000 jobs in October, far higher than expected, according to the latest survey from payrolls processor ADP.

Analysts had been expecting the private sector to add 88,000 jobs in October.

The figure comes ahead of Friday’s nonfarm payroll report, which also includes government jobs. The bureau of labor statistics’ monthly jobs tally has become a flashpoint in the 2012 election with both president Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney parsing the report to bolster their campaigns. Friday’s will be the last before election day.

“The job gain is broad based and across industry,” said Mark Zandi, Moodys analytics chief economist. “It feels like the jobs market is holding its own.”


Eurozone unemployment hits new high

More than one in four people out of work in Greece and Spain as jobless rate rises to 11.6%, according to Eurostat data

The Guardian, By Julia Kollewe & Phillip Inman, October 31

Unemployment in the eurozone has risen to a new record, with more than one in four out of work in Spain and Greece.

There are now 18.49 million people without jobs in the 17 countries sharing the euro, said the European statistics office Eurostat on Wednesday with an extra 146,000 joining the ranks of the unemployed last month.

Youth unemployment – joblessness among under-25s – rose to 23.3%, up from 21% during the same month a year ago.

The prospect of high and rising unemployment, especially among younger workers, is expected to persuade the European Central Bank to cut interest rates in the new year from the current record low of 0.75% to support the flagging economy, which probably slumped back to recession in the third quarter, analysts said.

But in contrast to the hope of stimulus from the ECB, Brussels and most eurozone governments have put cuts in spending ahead of schemes to create jobs, despite predictions that the situation will worsen over the coming months.

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