Sunday, January 17, 2016

Clinton goes on offense against Sanders at Democratic debate


U.S. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton accused top challenger Bernie Sanders on Sunday of being inconsistent on how to rein in Wall Street and unrealistic in his proposed healthcare overhaul, in a broad offensive aimed at stemming his rise in opinion polls.
Clinton, who leads in polls nationally but has seen Sanders gain in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, tried to raise questions repeatedly about the self-styled democratic socialist at their last face-to-face encounter before Iowa holds the first nominating contest of 2016 on Feb. 1.
Casting herself as a candidate who would embrace President Barack Obama's agenda and build on it, Clinton went after Sanders not just on Wall Street and healthcare but also on gun control. The debate was staged in Charleston, South Carolina, not far from an African-American church where nine people were shot to death last year.
Their sharpest exchange was over how to crack down on Wall Street.
Clinton said Sanders, as a senator from Vermont, had voted to deregulate the financial market in 2000 in a way that led to the central causes of the financial collapse of 2008 that pitched the U.S. economy into a deep recession.
Sanders fought back, saying Clinton had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees as a former secretary of state from Wall Street backers.
"Can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaking fees to individuals? So it's easy to say, 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that,' but I have huge doubts when people receive money from Wall Street."
Clinton tried to undercut Sanders' support among Democrats who voted for Obama.
"He’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street. And President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing, he even in 2011 publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama," she said.
Clinton pounced on Sanders' "Medicare-for-all" plan that was announced just hours before the debate and came in response to Clinton's criticism of his previous record on healthcare over his career as a U.S. senator.
The former secretary of state, former U.S. senator and wife of former President Bill Clinton said Sanders' healthcare plan would undermine Obama's signature Affordable Care Act at a time when Republican legislators are still trying to repeal and replace it.
"I have to say I’m not sure whether we’re talking about the plan you introduced tonight or the plan you introduced nine times over 20 years," she told Sanders. "But the fact is we have the Affordable Care Act. ... We have already seen 19 million American get insurance."
Sanders said he wanted to build on the Obama law by making health insurance more affordable.
"Nobody is tearing this up," he said, referring to the program popularly known as Obamacare. "We're moving forward."
Sanders' rise in the polls threatens to derail Clinton's presidential plans for the second time. In 2008, Obama defeated her in the race for the Democratic nomination.
He referred to his rising poll numbers in saying he believed he could expand his number of supporters to include more African-American voters, noting that when his presidential campaign began, Clinton was 50 percentage points ahead of him in the polls.
"Guess what: In Iowa, New Hampshire, the race is (now) very, very close," he said.
Clinton also accused Sanders of being weak on gun control. She welcomed Sanders' decision on Saturday night to back a bill in Congress rescinding portions of a law giving gunmakers immunity from lawsuits.
But she said Sanders' record showed a more lenient attitude toward the demands of the National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby.
"He voted to let guns go on Amtrak (trains), guns go into national parks. He voted against doing research to figure out how we can save lives. Let's not forget what this is about: 90 people a day die of gun violence in our country," Clinton said.
Sanders defended himself, saying he has a strong record on trying to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands and standing up against the powerful NRA.

Sanders has pulled into a statistical tie with Clinton in recent polls in Iowa, whose caucuses are the first contest in the race to pick a nominee for the November election. He also leads Clinton in the next state to vote, Vermont neighbor New Hampshire, on Feb. 9, according to polls.

As primary race tightens, Democrats brace for a messy winter

By Catherine Gilliland

In a debate last month, Clinton said she would turn to her husband for economic advice.
But the Charleston backdrop also is significant.
Sunday’s debate is in the city where a 21-year-old white man shot and killed nine people attending a prayer service at an African-American church last summer.
Clinton is expected to step up her attacks on Sanders as too soft on gun restrictions, particularly given the site of the debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Given her many advantages, like rich donors and widespread support from Democratic Party elites, she is also surprised Sanders’ fund-raising has rivaled hers and that her experience – along with her potential to make history as the first woman president – has not galvanized more voters.
Clinton is not under investigation by the bureau, and is not the subject of any criminal investigation, but her use of the private server – instead of a more deeply encrypted government account – set off what’s known as security referral, or inquiry into the location of certain pieces of classified information. But they make up more than half of South Carolina’s Democratic voters.
Hillary Clinton’s taking credit for helping get worldwide sanctions in place that eventually led to the Iran nuclear weapons deal. And the former Democratic president may not become the albatross that Republican candidate Donald Trump expects, either.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll on Sunday showed Clinton leading Sanders 59% to 34%, with the third candidate in the race, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 2%.
So tonight is a big moment for Sanders, his last chance to go toe-to-toe with Clinton before the voting begins.
Polls now show Sanders with a comfortable lead in New Hampshire.
The Sanders campaign – with more than 50 paid S.C. staffers and offices across the state – says its volunteers have knocked on more than 165,000 doors statewide and attempted to reach 500,000 voters, roughly the number of ballots cast in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary
“The Republicans are not our enemies and the other Democrats are certainly not”, said Mr. Clinton in the final minute of his Coralville address.
He is ahead in the polls in New Hampshire and surging ahead in Iowa – and, unlike Republican polls, his popularity is not a result of ridiculous name-calling and/or mudslinging.
The former Secretary of State is backed by 42 percent of Democratic voters, while the Vermont senator has 40 percent of the voters’ support. NBC’s Perry Bacon puts it well: It’s a contest between the dreamers (Sanders and his supporters) and the doers (Clinton and her supporters). That, at least, would extend some suspense through the SC primary.
“Right now we are at a crucial point, behind in Iowa within the margin of error”, Hunt said. Barack Obama came from behind to defeat Clinton, who was heavily favored to win at the outset of the race.
“I don’t know anybody in the whole wide world who thinks Democrats are going to win the entire House back in 2016 and get 60 votes in the Senate”, he said. He’s tried to tie Clinton to big financial institutions, and Clinton has struggled in defending those ties, as Sanders has labeled her the “status quo”.
“We haven’t encountered hostility as much as stonewalling”, Hunt said of his time in New Hampshire. The race between Clinton and Sanders has tightened significantly in those two key states and each side has intensified attacks against the other.
“She can’t be president if you don’t nominate her. And if you do nominate her, I don’t think they can stop her from becoming president”, Bill Clinton said.
The new approach carries risks.

The Democratic presidential candidates will square off in a live televised debate Sunday night, just two weeks before the first vote in the Democratic contest is held at the Iowa Caucuses.

#DemDebate - Sharp Exchanges Expected in Fourth Democratic Primary Debate

The Democratic primary field returns to the debate stage on Sunday night for the last matchup before the first round of voting next month.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is gaining on longtime front-runner Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the debate is likely to mark a sharp departure from the relatively civil exchanges that defined the last three face-offs.
Both sides are readying sharp exchanges over a series of policy issues including gun control, taxes and health care.
The debate is scheduled to take place just blocks from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine parishioners were killed in a mass shooting last summer. Gun control has emerged as a central theme in the race. Clinton points to the issue as a major difference between the candidates.

#Oregonstandoff - Oregon standoff: RT America special

#DemDebate - What You Need to Know About the Fourth Democratic Debate

The last Democratic debate took place on the weekend before Christmas — and it was unsurprisingly the least-watched presidential debate of the whole season. 
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las Vegas
The next debate will take place this Sunday, during the middle of a three-day weekend and football playoffs. The Democratic contest has gotten far more interesting, as the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has narrowed considerably, but it seems likely that won't be enough to make the spectacle as much of an event as the sixth Republican debate that took place on Thursday — even if the debate itself is massively interesting.As the Boston Globe points out:
When these debates air matters a lot in ratings. When the first Democratic debate aired on CNN on a Tuesday, 15.6 million watched. When the last two debates aired on CBS and ABC on Saturday nights, the ratings were 8.5 million and 7.85 million, respectively.
If you plan on watching — or even if you have other plans — here's what you need to know about the debate and the primary race.

When and where is the debate being held?

Just like the Republican debate on Thursday, this one's in Charleston, South Carolina. NBC News is hosting, which means you can watch it on NBC or online at

Will that other guy be there?

You mean former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley? He made it — but just barely. NBC originally said that only candidates with an average of 5 percent in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina or nationally would get onstage. All three candidates complained, and NBC said they would round up and let O'Malley in. Forty-two percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa still aren't sure if they have a favorable opinion of O'Malley or not.

And who's moderating?

Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell. Holt took over for Brian Williams onNightly News, and Mitchell interviewed Hillary Clinton last September — and got some help from Bernie Sanders following another Democratic debate after she got caught in a dangerous press scrum. 
Since Mitchell is a foreign-affairs correspondent — and given the emphasis on foreign policy in recent debates — it seems likely that the debate will focus quite a bit on ISIS and what's happening abroad. This issue obviously plays to the former secretary of State's strengths, and will likely frustrate Sanders, who just really wants to talk about income inequality.

I've been out of the loop because of the holidays. What's going on in the Democratic race?

Well, it's a lot closer now. Hillary Clinton's lead has shrunk considerably in Iowa, and Sanders has a slight lead in New Hampshire. The Clintons, both on the trail now, have said that this was always bound to happen and races always get more competitive, while Sanders says that the polls are getting closer because people are finally starting to hear his message. 
FiveThirtyEight just released its forecasts for the first two primary states, and the models seem pretty confident that Clinton will be able to win both contests at this point. However, there are still a few weeks to go. 
After Iowa and New Hampshire, the race heads to far more diverse states — ones where Clinton seems to have an advantage, although Sanders has been working hard to change that. There hasn't been a poll in South Carolina in a month, but the last one had Clinton up about 40 points. Which is why Sanders will be trying extra hard to sound extra presidential on Sunday — and why Clinton will be trying to do just as well in this debate as she did in the last one.

So does this mean Bernie won't be talking about how he agrees with Hillary this time?

Probably not, especially given how both campaigns have acted the past few weeks. Sanders still doesn't want to talk about those damn emails, but he also wants to win this election. 
Clinton's team is also sharpening its rhetoric against Sanders, and it's had a convenient avenue to do so thanks to President Obama's recent executive actions on guns. 
As a longtime politician from a very rural state, Sanders has a record of protecting the gun rights of his constituents, and he voted against the Brady bill. However, he also agrees with most of his Democratic colleagues on expanding background checks, and he supported the president's executive actions, saying that "[a] vast majority of the American people, including responsible gun owners who are sickened by the deaths of so many innocent people, agree with the common sense reforms announced today." the fact that Sanders agrees with Clinton on many gun-violence issues, she has still chosen this as a point of contrast on the stump, in ads, and in previous debates.
And it's definitely going to come up in Sunday's debate. Politico points out that the event will take place only a block away from where the Charleston massacre took place in June.
Sanders's campaign is very aware that the issue will come up, too. His state director told Politico, “Obviously, we’re thinking about it. My son goes to school five blocks away from where the shooting took place, I know people who go to that church. That, obviously, will be something that will be brought up. But I think we’ve been very crystal clear about where the senator stands on this."
Clinton has also gone after Sanders's ideas on single-payer — as one of the architects of the failed 1993 health-care push, she has strong feelings about what kinds of health care are doomed to fail — another thing that will probably come up this weekend. Ezra Klein called the Clintons' attack against Sanders's health-care plan "dumb" for not focusing on the actual weaknesses in the plan, and said she should clearly say why she disagrees with Sanders on this issue in a way that best highlights her pragmatism and expertise, instead of relying on cheap, easy barbs that mask the fact that she's probably queasy about single-payer. "Instead," Klein argues, "in her effort to avoid that disagreement, she's blundered into a position that no one agrees with and no one respects. Worse, it's a position that makes people think Clinton doesn't respect them."
In other words, Clinton has some work to do if she wants to mark differences with Sanders in the most effective way possible — and she's running out of opportunities to do so.
If the two candidates articulate their differences on these two issues alone, things could get very interesting on Sunday.

Will it hurt Bernie's rise if Clinton goes a little negative?

It remains to be seen how Sanders will perform in a potentially more confrontational debate, but, regardless, it should do wonders for his fund-raising. After Clinton's attacks on his gun and health-care records ramped up earlier this week, his campaign raked in at least $1.4 million. If anything gets messy, Sanders's staffers will definitely be at the ready to send out some shocked emails to supporters. 
If he doesn't win in Iowa or New Hampshire, he'll at least have the money to keep chugging on for quite a while longer.

And why is this on a Sunday again?

Ask the DNC. 
The Democratic Party only scheduled six prime-time debates this election cycle. Half of them were sentenced to take place on a weekend. 

The DNC and its chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, have been accused of picking the odd times — and so few of them — because of a wish to protect Hillary Clinton's chances. That claim has been denied repeatedly. Even if the DNC were aiming to help Clinton, what a weird way to go about it. The former secretary of State has excelled in all of the previous debates, easily proving that she has far more practice at it than her rivals. 
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Democrats in Congress have begun to whisper about what this unexpectedly close primary could mean for their electoral chances this year. “There’s definitely an elevated concern expressed in the cloakroom and members-only elevators, and other places, about the impact of a Sanders nomination on congressional candidates,” retiring representative Steve Israel told the Post. However, it's worth noting that Israel has also endorsed Clinton and may have an interest in whispering about Bernie-related worries.
To figure out what will happen, we'll just have to wait and see what transpires in the debate, and then two weeks later in Iowa.

But wait! What's going on with Martin O'Malley?

He's probably not destined to do much except periodically complain about how little he gets to talk and mention how he turned Maryland into a paradise on Earth. O'Malley is also reportedly under investigation for buying some cheap furniture from the governor's mansion.
As The Atlantic pointed out on Thursday, O'Malley probably doesn't have enough fans to make a splash at the caucuses, but his supporters could have an important effect based on where they defect — something they may sadly be considering during the debate.

Video Report - Three American contractors 'missing' in Iraq

Letters: Hillary's strength - Don't condemn Hillary for staying married

Hillary's strength

When a husband cheats on his wife, she has several recourses: She can file for divorce, retaliate by doing the same, or forgive him and stay in the marriage — all difficult choices.
Why then should Hillary Clinton, who is more than anyone else the injured party in her husband's dalliances, be condemned for deciding to remain in the marriage? Many of us who have walked in her shoes have survived not only the pain of a spouse's infidelity but also the criticism and humiliation of others for whatever course of action we chose.
Those who are holier-than-thou (and perhaps not even so holy themselves) seem to find it so easy to condemn others for their choices, but no matter what a woman's decision may be or her reasons for making it, it doesn't make her any less strong or any less able to be her own person, or even any less able to speak up for women's rights.
Regardless of whether or not you like Hillary Clinton or her platform, her choice to remain in her marriage and her strength to endure and succeed should certainly not be considered a strike against her.
Nancy Caroline Tait Altamonte Springs

Hillary Clinton’s Lead Over Bernie Sanders Widens

By Patrick O' Connor

 Hillary Clinton has widened her lead to 25 percentage points in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

The former secretary of state leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 59% to 34%, a slightly larger margin than the 19-point gap in December.
The new national poll comes as surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire show the race tightening in the states that play host to the first two nominating contests. While losses there would be a setback for Mrs. Clinton, the new Journal/NBC News survey suggests that she would retain strong advantages in the later primaries. Mrs. Clinton owes her durable lead nationally to her strength with key subgroups in the Democratic primary electorate, including nonwhite, older and moderate-to-conservative primary voters.
The race looks much different in Iowa and New Hampshire. Aggregates of recent polls show the contests to be close in both states, with Mrs. Clinton edging Mr. Sanders in Iowa and the Vermont senator claiming a lead in neighboring New Hampshire.
Nationally, the race has changed little since October, Journal/NBC News polling finds. Support levels haven’t budged much for either of the two leading Democrats since Mrs. Clinton bounced back from a late-summer swoon, which had been driven by questions about her family’s charitable foundation and a federal probe into her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Four in five Democratic primary voters in the new survey said they could see themselves voting for Mrs. Clinton, relatively unchanged since last March. By comparison, two-thirds said they would consider voting for Mr. Sanders, fewer than those who said so of Mrs. Clinton but up from just 21% in March.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley remains an afterthought; some 22% said they were open to supporting him, and only 2% named him as their first choice.
All three Democratic presidential candidates will square off Sunday night in North Charleston, S.C., in a debate hosted by NBC.
“I like her policies, I like her spunk, I like the way she’s willing to jump right into the fray,” said Sandra Rowe, 69 years old, a part-time middle-school teacher from Tequesta, Fla., who supports Mrs. Clinton. “She’s not afraid.”
Gloria Ruiz, 71, a retiree from Millbury, Ohio, said, “I’ve been for Hillary Clinton since she ran the last time, in 2008....She’s a strong person. She seems to have more knowledge than anyone else.”
Democratic primary voters age 50 and older favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Sanders, 71% to 22%. Moderate and conservative primary voters also prefer the former first lady, 64% to 24%. And she leads by a margin of 69% to 27% among nonwhite primary voters, who have little presence in Iowa and New Hampshire but account for large shares of the electorate in states that vote just afterward, including Nevada and South Carolina.
Mrs. Clinton also outpaces Mr. Sanders among self-described liberals, albeit by a narrower, 11-point margin.
The Vermont senator has waged a closer-than-expected race against Mrs. Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, thanks in part to his appeal among younger voters and independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary. He posts single-digit leads over Mrs. Clinton among both slices of the Democrats’ primary electorate.
Mr. Sanders also is strong among voters who say they want a candidate who will change current policies rather than one with more experience who may bring less change.
“He just seems real, like he can’t be bought,” said Carmela Cancino, 33, an account manager from Richwood, Texas, who learned about the Vermont senator from her friends’ Facebook posts. “He seems to stand for the things I stand for—reducing income inequality, making college more affordable... And he seems so genuine.”
Laura Overton, 47, an interior decorator from Atlanta, said: “I just appreciate that he cares about people, all of the people.”
The Journal/NBC News poll surveyed 400 voters who said they would cast ballots in a Democratic primary. It was conducted Jan. 9-13 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The two Democratic candidates are running neck-and-neck in Iowa, which kicks off the nominating process on Feb. 1. Mr. Sanders leads most polls of New Hampshire primary voters, who will vote on Feb. 9. In contrast to the national electorate, voters in both states have been influenced by millions of dollars in advertising and by the vast turnout operations the two candidates have built.
“In Iowa, those people are watching a radically different campaign,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the Journal/NBC News poll with Democrat Fred Yang.
Iowa and New Hampshire are less racially diverse than the country as a whole; white voters accounted for 93% of the participants in Iowa’s 2008 Democratic caucuses. Mrs. Clinton’s lead among white voters is 15 percentage points, 10 points closer than her lead among Democratic primary voters overall.
As voting nears, both Democrats have made the case to voters that they are the most electable in November. In the new Journal/NBC News poll, both perform similarly in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up with Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Mrs. Clinton beats the celebrity businessman 51% to 41%, while Mr. Sanders notches a slightly larger 54%-to-39% margin.
Republicans and Democrats are looking for fundamentally different things in their next presidential nominee, the new survey shows. Some 80% of Republicans want a candidate who represents change, compared with the 18% who favor experience. That is a reversal from the 2008 race, when Republicans controlled the White House—and when 80% of GOP primary voters wanted an experienced candidate rather than one who would bring change.
The shift in sentiment helps explain why Republicans continue to rate Mr. Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz much higher than candidates with more experience.
Democrats, meanwhile, are more likely to be shopping for experience. Some 53% of Democratic primary voters said they favored a more seasoned and tested candidate for the nomination. Some 77% of those voters prefer Mrs. Clinton, while just 19% prefer Mr. Sanders.
The Vermont senator leads among the 42% of Democratic primary voters who are looking for change, but only by 13 percentage points.
“She’s the most qualified,” said Charles Jose Simeon, 64, a retired U.S. Army veteran from Miami Lakes, Fla., who favors Mrs. Clinton in the primary. “Bernie Sanders is qualified, but I don’t think he’s as qualified as Hillary Clinton.”

Michelle Obama Celebrates Last Birthday As ‘America’s First Lady’


Today is a big day! A very Happy Birthday to First Lady, Michelle Obama!
This Sunday, January 17, the First Lady has turned 52. Sadly, this will be her last birthday as First Lady, seeing that the next year, America is going to elect its new President for 2017.
These seven years that Barack Obama has been performing his duties, Michelle has nonetheless supported him by all means. She no doubt has a tremendous caliber as she is aPrinceton University and Harvard Law School graduate. She has won all hearts, whether it’s through her intelligence and wit or her sense of fashion!
Beginning 2009, Michelle Obama took no time in being seen as a brilliantly dressed woman. It was then that she came to be known as Flotus over the media because of her elegant and unique sense of style. She won unrestricted approval each time she appeared in public. Where well-known designers were in line to dress up the First Lady, she often instead opted for a down to earth attire that suited her in best fashion, and was often seen shopping for herself in J.Crew, H&M and Vera Wang.
It is not, however, that she doesn’t know how to go all trendy and high-class; she also made appearances wearing Monique Lhuillier, Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta. Due to her smart dressing sense, she has been compared to Jackie Kennedy, glamorous wife of ex-President John Kennedy, also known for her sophisticated sense of style.
No matter what, we will always miss Michelle Obama as the First Lady and will always admire her for her sense of style, her uniqueness and her wit.