Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Iowa, Biden to face anti-war Democrats who are cool to talk about an airstrike on Syria

Vice President Joe Biden is heading into the belly of Democrats' anti-war opposition, venturing into a politically influential heartland state for the first time since President Barack Obama publicly endorsed a possible military strike on Syria.

Biden is scheduled to headline a fundraiser in Iowa Sunday for Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, an annual steak picnic for the senator who is popular with anti-war Democrats.

Even if Biden sidesteps talk of Syria, the issue will be as much a part of the backdrop as the bales of hay and smoke from the grilling steaks, and in a place where he will have to plant his flag should he seek the presidency in 2016.

Joe Biden
"That's going to be a little sensitive," said eastern Iowa Democrat Richard Machacek, an Obama delegate in 2008, referring to possible military action against Syria. "It flies in the face of what the president campaigned on here."

Obama rode an anti-war wave to victory in Iowa's 2008 presidential caucuses. He had proposed limited air strikes in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack last month against more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb. The administration says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was behind the attack.

On Saturday Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he and Russia's foreign minister had reached an agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile. Obama said in a statement the agreement was welcome news, but added that "if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act."

His own party remains cool at best to a military strike. Obama has struggled to win support from members of Congress, including Democrats, whose constituents have endured more than a decade of war.

An Associated Press poll taken Sept. 6-8 showed 34 percent of Democrats said they wanted Congress to back military action. And more than three-fourths of Democrats said they thought any military action in Syria was at least somewhat likely to turn into a long-term commitment of forces, including 44 percent who said it was extremely likely.

The poll was taken before Obama pledged not to deploy ground troops in Syria.

Cedar Falls Democrat David Kabel, an early and devout Obama supporter, is skeptical, even after Obama's speech. "I just don't know that you can reel it in once you get started," he said.

The reaction to anything Biden says about Syria will be closely watched and noted. He is weighing another run for the White House in 2016, and the crowd he mingles with Sunday -- many of them familiar with the two-time presidential candidate -- will have the opening say during the caucuses.

Including Harkin

Harkin has said that he was leaning against supporting a military strike, though a vote has been postponed to allow the diplomatic option to develop.

"Harkin has always been the anti-war candidate," said longtime Iowa Democratic activist Paulee Lipsman. "His strongest supporters agree with that position."

While Harkin supported limited strikes in Kosovo in 1997 and Libya in 2012 under Democratic presidents, Harkin has largely opposed recent wars under Republican presidents, endearing him to his party's left.

He voted against the 1991 Gulf War resolution under President George H. W. Bush. And while he voted for the resolution ahead of the 2003 Iraq war under President George W. Bush, he later called the vote a mistake and endorsed anti-war candidate Howard Dean in Iowa's 2004 presidential caucuses.

Obama made a special appeal during Tuesday's speech to "my friends on the left," asking them to consider the images of the hundreds of children who died in the August 21 gas attack. "Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

He may as well have been speaking directly to those Iowa Democrats who were drawn to his vocal opposition to the war in Iraq, a position that set him apart from chief rival Hillary Clinton and on the path to winning the White House.

Harkin aides and supporters play down any possible outward hostility toward Biden, as he strolls the Warren County fairgrounds south of Des Moines, flips a few steaks for the cameras and speaks Sunday afternoon.

"People will be polite," Lipsman said.

By  Associated Press

Source: The Washington Post

Calif. police say Ariz. mom arrested in killing of kids after she directs them to hotel bodies

An apparently suicidal Arizona mother was arrested on suspicion of killing her two children after crashing her car in a Southern California supermarket then directing police to a nearby hotel room where the kids lay dead, authorities said.

The 42-year-old woman from Scottsdale, was released from a hospital into police custody on Saturday night, Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

Calif. police Arizona
Coroner's officials were investigating the scene late Saturday, and the identities of the mother and two children along with the kids' cause of death were being withheld while relatives were notified, Bertagna said.

Earlier in the day, police in nearby Costa Mesa were called to an Albertsons parking lot where the woman had crashed her gray Honda Accord with a Georgia license plate into protective poles surrounding an electrical box, Costa Mesa police Sgt. Tim Starn said.

Police said the woman appeared to have been suicidal when officers responded to the crash site.

"It was clear that it was an intentional act," Costa Mesa Sgt. Tim Starn said.

As paramedics were taking her to the hospital, the woman told police where to find the children and what had happened to them, Bertagna said, but did not offer more details.

Officers found the children dead in a third-floor room at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Santa Ana.

The cause of death was under investigation, Bertagna said, but no weapon had been recovered from the scene.

It was not clear why the woman and her children were in Orange County.

Hotel guests were stunned at the discovery at the quiet inn on a sunny weekend in Southern California.

"My goodness if there's two children involved that's just horrendous to say the least," Mike Ramey, who was staying at the hotel with his fiancee, told KABC-TV. "As a parent, it's just a heartbreaker."

By  Associated Press

Source: The Washington Post

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mississippi high court upholds state's open-carry gun law

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the state's open carry-gun law, allowing it to take effect after a circuit judge's order had kept it on hold about two months.

"This court now finds that the circuit judge erred as a matter of law when he found House Bill 2 to be vague and, therefore, unconstitutional. He also erred when he stated that a 'reasonable person reading the bill could not discern what the law allows and what it prohibits,'” according to the ruling signed by Justice Randy Pierce.

Earlier this year, legislators passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill that says adults don't need a permit to carry a gun that's not concealed.

Several officials, including the Hinds County district attorney, sued to block the law, saying there could be chaos if people were openly carrying guns in public places. Circuit Judge Winston Kidd put the measure on hold just before it was to become law July 1.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the state's open carry gun law
After hearing arguments, Kidd issued an injunction July 12, saying the law was on hold until the Legislature can clarify it.

Justices overturned Kidd's injunction Thursday. They made the ruling based on written arguments filed by opponents and supporters of the law; they did not hear oral arguments.

The main sponsor of House Bill 2, Republican Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton, said Thursday that he's pleased with the justices' unanimous ruling.

"It just confirms, in a very real sense, the right to keep and bear arms,” Gipson told The Associated Press.

Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, defended the open-carry law in court. Hood issued a nonbinding legal opinion June 13 that says guns can still be banned in courthouses and other public buildings. At many places, including the Capitol and in public parks, officials have posted signs to show that weapons are prohibited.

Opponents of the open-carry gun law say it has caused confusion about where people may carry guns that aren't concealed. They also say it could put law enforcement officers in danger if people with no training are carrying guns.

Republican Bryant, like many supporters of the law, has said it restates the right to bear arms that's in the Mississippi Constitution.

Even with the open-carry law taking effect, a previous law bans guns on school and college campuses. Bryant has said he has no argument with guns being banned in government buildings.

Many counties and cities have implemented bans of openly carried guns in public buildings.

By Associated Press

Source: The Fox News

More health law info, but from what sources?

The public's awareness of new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act is growing, but potential customers are getting much of their information about the health law from sources they don't trust very much, according to a poll released Aug. 28.

Starting Oct. 1, people lacking insurance can begin enrolling in plans through online marketplaces, also called exchanges, which will be run by the federal government, 16 states and the District of Columbia. About 7 million people next year will get coverage under these policies, which take effect Jan. 1, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By 2017 that number is expected to grow to 24 million people.

Supporters of the law and insurance companies have begun mobilizing to educate people about new insurance offerings.

The new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 33 percent of the public reported hearing "a lot" or "some" information about the exchanges, up from 22 percent in June.

District of Columbia
The most common source of that information was the news media from newspapers, cable TV shows, online news or radio. But only 8 percent of respondents said they have "a lot" of trust in the news media.

The second most common source of information was friends and family: 49 percent of people said they had heard something about the law from them.

The third most commonly mentioned source of information was social networking sites, which the respondents ranked dead last among accurate sources of information, with only 3 percent crediting them as consistently reliable.

The most commonly cited source of accurate information about the law are doctors and nurses, with 44 percent of the public citing them as trustworthy resources.

Only 22 percent of people said they had heard something about the law from them.

One of three people said they trust information put out by federal and state health agencies, but only one in six said they had heard information about the law from those sources.

Overall, the views about the health law remain constant. The public is basically split on it, with 42 percent opposing and 37 percent supporting.

But 57 percent oppose cutting off funding, something that some congressional Republicans have been pushing in negotiations over raising the federal debt limit.

Only 36 percent favor defunding the law. The most popular reason for opposing defunding is a procedural one: that if lawmakers want to get rid of the law, they should repeal it, not undermine it by cutting off funds.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 13 through Aug. 19 among 1,503 adults and has a margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

By Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News

Source: The San Antonio Express