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Tags: Killer | of-US | Troops | Set-Free | Bogus Jobless Payouts Top 14 Billion | Coal Regulations | Medicaid

Obama’s Iraq Policy Sets Killer of US Troops Free; Bogus Jobless Payouts Top $14 Billion

By    |   Monday, 13 August 2012 12:21 AM EDT

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama's Coal Regulations Called a 'Token Gesture'
2. $14 Billion in Jobless Benefits Overpaid in '11
3. Iraq to Release Accused Killer of U.S. Troops
4. One-Third of Doctors Won't See New Medicaid Patients
5. Report: Sales Tax Holidays Are 'Gimmicks'
6. We Heard: Al Gore, Iranian Nukes, Hillary Clinton

1. Obama's Coal Regulations Called a 'Token Gesture'

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a proposal that if enacted would outlaw the construction of new coal-fired power plants on the grounds that these plants contribute to global warming.

But the ban would have nearly no effect at all on global carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new report.

The EPA's proposed rule, announced in March, would cap the amount of CO2 that new fossil-fueled electricity generation units can emit at 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. Coal-fired units emit about 1,800 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour and therefore could not be approved for construction.

The EPA claims it has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act and doesn't need congressional approval to impose the ban, which will likely be enacted in the coming months.

"But those concerned about CO2 emissions and climate change should realize that the administration's attack on coal is little more than a token gesture," says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute.

"The rest of the world will continue to burn coal, and lots of it. Reducing the domestic use of coal may force Americans to pay higher prices for electricity, but it will have nearly no effect on global emissions."

The administration, Bryce argues, is responding to environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club, which pushes for a total ban on coal-fired electricity production, and climate scientists like James Hansen, who has called coal "the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet."

But the fact is, while American coal consumption fell 5 percent over the last decade, global coal consumption soared nearly 50 percent and now accounts for 40 percent of global electricity generation.

And coal consumption will continue to rise. In China alone, which has about 650,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity generation compared to America's 317,000 megawatts, plans are already on the books for an increase of 273,000 megawatts of capacity. By 2035, global coal consumption will rise by about 38 percent.

"Coal is helping meet the world's electrical demands for a simple reason: It's cheap, thanks to the fact that deposits are abundant, widely dispersed, easily mined, and not controlled by any OPEC-like cartels," Bryce observes.

The United States has relied on its abundant supplies of coal to sustain economic growth and "there's no natural reason for that dependence to end," he concludes.

"The only obstacle is the EPA.

"In fact, the EPA's rule simply encourages domestic coal producers to ship more of their product to overseas electricity producers, who will happily burn it."

Editor's Note:

2. $14 Billion in Jobless Benefits Overpaid in '11

The unemployment insurance system in America suffers the second highest rate for "improper payments" of any federal program, behind the National School Lunch Program, and overpayments topped $14 billion last year alone.

The overpayments accounted for 11 percent of all jobless benefits paid out by the federal government and states in 2011, according to reports from the U.S. Labor Department.

Of the overpaid funds, most end up in the hands of three types of people: those who aren't actively searching for a job, those who quit voluntarily, and those who continue to collect after returning to work. All are ineligible for benefits.

A small number of cases constitute deliberate fraud of the system, using fake documents or identities, often involving prison inmates, illegal immigrants or even deceased persons, CNN Money reported.

"Unemployment checks are going to graveyards," Vice President Joe Biden said in September as the federal and state governments launched an effort to stem the overpayments and collect those already made.

The Labor Department estimates that half of its overpayments are recoverable, but historically only about a quarter of the recoverable overpayments have actually been collected.

When the government finds an overpayment, it often sends a letter demanding that the claimant return the funds. Government attorneys can also seek to recoup the money by setting up payment plans, garnishing wages, or deducting money from income tax refunds. Punishment can also include probation, but jail time is rare.

Last year there were about 2,700 convictions for fraud related to unemployment benefits, according to CNN Money.

Among the states, Indiana was the worst offender for overpayments, dishing out more improper payments in 2011 than correct ones.

Editor's Note:

3. Iraq to Release Accused Killer of U.S. Troops

Iraqi authorities have dropped charges against a high-profile Shiite terrorist accused of murdering American troops and are set to release him, as a Republican critic charges the Obama administration with botching the case.

Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese national and one of the most senior Hezbollah figures ever to be in U.S. custody, was allegedly a key link between Hezbollah, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, and violent Shiite groups held responsible by the United States for deadly attacks on American troops.

Daqduq is suspected in the 2007 killings of five American soldiers in Karbala by assailants wearing American-style fatigues. He was in U.S. hands until late last year when he was handed over the Iraqi authorities, CNS News reported.

At the time Republican Sens. John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said they were "deeply concerned that Daqduq will never have to answer for his involvement in killing U.S. citizens, that he could be released from Iraqi custody for political reasons, and that he would then return to the fight against the United States and our friends."

A U.S. military commission subsequently filed charges against Daqduq, including counts of murder and terrorism, and lodged a formal extradition application. But Iraqi courts dropped charges against him and last week the country's Central Criminal Court tossed out the extradition request, according to CNS.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said: "The administration had years to transfer Daqduq to our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but because the president seemed to lack the political will to do so — I think because of campaign promises he improvidently made — one of the most dangerous, reprehensible terrorists ever in our custody will likely be allowed to go free."

Obama as commander-in-chief "has a duty to those magnificent troops who have answered his call to go into harm's way to execute U.S. policy," Sessions stated. "Part of that duty is not to give away what they have fought and bled for. That includes not giving up prisoners whom these soldiers have, at great risk and effort, captured.

"With strong action we may be able to ensure that Daqduq is not released, that he is able to be tried for the murders he committed and the American soldiers he killed."

Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said: "Baghdad wants to balance its relationships with Iran and Washington, and this case stands at the crux of the two. Accordingly, Washington must make clear at the highest levels of the Iraqi government that there will be tangible consequences to summarily freeing an Iranian proxy with American blood on his hands."

Editor's Note:

4. One-Third of Doctors Won't See New Medicaid Patients

The number of Americans on Medicaid, now 60 million, will increase by as many as 16 million in 2014 due to the requirements of Obamacare.

But already nearly one-third of U.S. doctors refuse to accept new patients in the federal and state health insurance program for lower-income Americans, largely because of low Medicaid payments to physicians.

About 69 percent of doctors nationally accept new Medicaid patients, but the rate varies widely across the country, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs. New Jersey has the nation's lowest percentage of office-based doctors accepting new Medicaid patients, 40 percent, while Wyoming has the highest, 99.3 percent.

New Jersey's reimbursement rate for Medicaid doctors, compared to what Medicare pays, is the lowest in the nation, according to the study reported by Kaiser Health News.

Other states with relatively low acceptance rates include California (57.1 percent), Florida (59.1 percent), and Connecticut (60.7 percent.) Five other states have acceptance rates above 90 percent: Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Arkansas.

One internist in New Jersey said he hasn't accepted new Medicaid patients for 15 years due to low reimbursement. He said he received only about $23.50 for a basic office visit, less than half of what he receives from Medicare or private insurers.

The new healthcare law does increase reimbursement rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care physicians who treat Medicaid patients, but there is no guarantee the increase will continue after 2014.

The New Jersey internist said he would begin taking on new Medicaid patients if he knew the increase would continue beyond that, but he fears rates could drop back down after 2014. "That would be a nightmare," he added, because he would be legally and ethically required to keep treating the new patients.

Doctors also point to delays in receiving payments as a reason they don't accept Medicaid patients, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the expansion of Medicaid is optional for the states, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said he is leaning against expansion in his state.

Editor's Note:

5. Report: Sales Tax Holidays Are 'Gimmicks'

Sales tax holidays that exempt certain items from state and sometimes local sales taxes will be held in 17 states this year, with supporters continuing to tout their economic benefits.

But a new report from the Tax Foundation argues that the holidays are "politically expedient but poor tax policy."

Tax holidays often exempt back-to-school supplies, clothing, computers, and hurricane preparedness items, and politicians and other backers claim they boost sales, create jobs, and benefit lower-income Americans.

But the Tax Foundation report states: "Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a 'holiday' from its tax system, it is a sign that the state's tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round." The foundation makes several points casting doubt on the economic benefits of sales tax holidays:

  • Rather than stimulating new sales, tax holidays simply shift the timing of sales. A 1997 study in New York found that while sales of exempted items rose during the holiday, overall retail sales for the year did not increase, because shoppers waited until the holiday to purchase exempted goods, slowing down sales in the weeks before and following the holiday.
  • Retailers often raise prices during the holiday, reducing consumers' savings. The more consumers the holidays turn out, the more demand goes up, and the more prices rise, because retailers are not required to keep prices at non-holiday levels.
  • Most tax holidays involve politicians picking products and industries to favor with exemptions, "arbitrarily discriminating between products and across time, and distorting consumer decisions," the report observes.
  • Tax holidays are not an effective way of providing relief to the poor. "To give a small amount of tax savings to low-income individuals, holidays give a large amount to others," the report also states.
  • Any increase in employment during the holidays will be modest and temporary, and costly for businesses that must hire and train temporary employees.

The report concludes: "Sales tax experts and economists widely agree that there is little evidence of increased economic activity as a result of sales tax holidays. Experience shows that the claims of economic stimulus, increased revenue, and consumer savings are greatly exaggerated. The holidays instead represent a costly-to-administer revenue loss for the government."

Noting that the District of Columbia canceled its sales tax holidays beginning in 2009 after a study found they did not spur enough growth to offset costs, the Foundation adds: "Other states would be wise to follow D.C.'s lead and re-evaluate the costs and benefits of sales tax holidays."

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard…

THAT former Vice President Al Gore will anchor coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions on his Current TV channel.

Among those joining Gore will be former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and Current TV hosts Joy Behar, John Fugelsang, and Cenk Uygur.

"This promises to be cartoon convention coverage — a bunch of ideologues acting like they are 'covering' these historic rituals of the election process," observed David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun.

"Is there anyone out there who remembers the glory years of CBS or NBC News when being part of the convention coverage team was one of the high honors of American journalism? Now it's Joy Behar and Eliot Spitzer and the guy who owns the channel."

THAT a top Hezbollah spokesman has asserted what Iran has consistently denied: Iran's nuclear development program is intended to "finish off" Israel.

Walid Sakariya, a retired general and member of parliament in Lebanon, told Lebanese television: "This nuclear weapon is intended to create a balance of terror with Israel, to finish off the Zionist enterprise, and to end all Israeli aggression against the Arab nation.

"The entire equation in the Middle East will change."

Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is meant solely for peaceful purposes.

THAT Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on hand for a historic event during her recent visit to South Africa — a highly unusual snowstorm.

Snow fell on the country's capital, Pretoria, during her visit there on Tuesday, the first snowfall in the city since 1968.

Snow that fell across most of South Africa was heavy enough to close some roads and border posts. Snow fell on Johannesburg for only the 23rd time in the last 103 years.

Editor's Note:

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Editor's Notes:

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Monday, 13 August 2012 12:21 AM
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