Was America hacked?

Though the near-daily news breaks surrounding the News of the World hacking scandal have slowed in recent weeks, new reports indicate that the media frenzy might just regain its original momentum, and not just for events coming out of England.
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Photo: Rock the vote

With just minutes left to vote on the historic debt-limit bill in the House of Representatives on Monday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appeared to cast her vote in person, just seven months after she was shot in the head during an assassination attempt in Arizona. Giffords cast her vote for the bill, which passed 269-161. Photo: AP/House Television

Debt ceiling agreement guarantees that Bush tax cuts will be major issue in 2012

President Barack Obama walks back to the Oval Office after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, after the Senate passed the debt ceiling legislation. Photos: AP/Carolyn Kaster

The debt-ceiling deal has, for the moment, provided Washington with a brief period of respite. But if you think you’ve heard the last of “discretionary spending” and “entitlement reform,” think again.

The compromise measure etched by President Obama and congressional leaders to raise the statutory debt limit will only prolong the gamesmanship over our nation’s deficit, by setting up a bipartisan “super-committee” tasked with finding an additional $2 trillion in cuts to government spending over the next 10 years. And Republican leaders are quietly making the case to their restive members that the deal has basically guaranteed that the super-committee can’t hike taxes to raise revenue.

How is that? The answer involves an alphabet soup of government agencies and quirks in the tax code, but the gist is this: Any deficit reduction proposed by the super-committee will be measured by the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that estimates how much money lawmakers are actually cutting from the deficit and spits out all the numbers Republicans and Democrats have been bandying about. Republicans say the CBO must measure the super-committee’s proposed cuts against how much money current law requires us to spend — and according to current law, the tax cuts signed into law by President Bush are set to expire at the end of 2012, adding about $3.6 trillion to the nation’s coffers over the next 10 years.

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Young activists take DREAMs into their own hands

Ruben Bernal, who recently graduated from San Jose State University, rallies for the Dream Act in downtown San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas publicly announced in June that he was an undocumented immigrant, he shocked friends and employers and sparked a national conversation about U.S. immigration policy. But throughout the country, young undocumented students have been making their own immigration statuses public, riding a tidal wave of college-based activism to come forward with personal stories of growing up young and undocumented in the U.S.

Monday marked the ten-year anniversary of the first introduction of the federal DREAM Act to Congress, the bill that would carve out a path toward U.S. citizenship for those who emigrated illegally as children but graduated from a U.S. college or served in the military. Monday also marked ten years of student-based activism on college campuses nationwide – young undocumented students facing the threat of arrest and deportation to urge local and federal lawmakers to provide opportunities for undocumented youth to attend college and compete in the U.S. job market.

“We want to show that we are like any other person in the U.S., just without a nine-digit number,” said Jorge de la Concha in an interview last month. De la Cocha is an undocumented student and activist attending college in California. At age 13, he emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with his family. When he was old enough to start applying for colleges, he came upon the stark realization that his status might not allow him to afford tuition. Now a college sophomore, he has become a visible and vocal participant in student activism.
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Photo: Blast off!

Buzz Aldrin, in a photo taken by fellow Astronaut Neil Armstrong, with the U.S. flag on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Photo: NASA

On this day 30 years ago, MTV: Music Television went on the air for the first time ever, broadcasting to several thousand subscribers via a northern New Jersey cable system. The first images of the broadcast were a montage of photos and video from the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Apollo 11 moon mission. Over these images were spoken the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” and a new era in music and entertainment was born.


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Tensions still high after a week of violence in Kosovo

Slovenian troops serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo set up a checkpoint on the bridge in the town of Mitrovica on Thursday, July 28, 2011. Photo: AP/Visar Kryeziu

Serbian officials are meeting with a European Union mediator today after violence erupted along the border between Serbia and neighboring Kosovo last week.

Since Thursday, NATO forces have been in control of the Jarinje and Brnjak border checkpoints in northern Kosovo after last week’s violent flare-up. Early last week, the Kosovo government sent in police forces to take control of the two border crossings in order to enforce a ban on Serbian imports. The embargo was an effort to counter to Serbia’s own ban on Kosovo imports, which has been in effect since 2008. The move effectively blocked the flow of food and medicine from Serbia to northern Kosovo, an area dominated by ethnic Serbs that rely heavily on those imported goods. Kosovo Serbs retaliated by setting fire to one border post, and the ensuing clash resulted in the death of one Kosovo police officer. Kosovo Serbs also blockaded roads, preventing NATO trucks from reaching peacekeepers at the checkpoints.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has stated that the embargo was an effort to reign in control over northern Kosovo, whose ethnically Serbian residents largely do not respect the authority of Kosovo’s government. In an interview with the Associated Press Monday, Thaci declared that he would continue his campaign to exert control over the northern part of the country.

Serbian President Boris Tadić declared over the weekend that Serbia would not seek to wage a war with Kosovo over the matter. “We live in a region of the former Yugoslavia where wars have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives,” he said. “I join the majority in the western Balkans that believes peace has no alternative.” The Serbian parliament passed a resolution late Sunday that agreed with Tadic’s statements and called for a peaceful end to the situation. Although the atmosphere remains tense, early Monday NATO began to clear several roadblocks put up by Kosovo Serbs.
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Obama, Congressional leaders reach deal on debt limit, but left sees it as a victory for GOP

Updated | August 1 | 2:02 p.m.

In the end, it was the deal that seemed obvious all along: A measure that would raise the nation’s statutory debt limit and allow more borrowing to fund government programs, all while cutting about $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending immediately and setting up a bipartisan commission to seek another $2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. President Obama announced the deal in a statement Sunday night from the White House, calling the process “messy” and adding that the compromise “will allow us to avoid default, it will allow us to pay our bills, it will allow us to begin to reduce our deficit in a responsible way.”

The deal came amid a deluge of depressing economic numbers and deepening anxiety among investors. On Friday, the Commerce Department reported anemic economic growth, and signs that the nation’s meager economic rebound had actually been even slower than initially thought. Some economists warned that those numbers could indicate a second wave of recession, or a “double dip.” The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, reported a widening wealth disparity between the working and middle classes and the nation’s highest earners: Annual household income for the bottom 80 percent of Americans has remained stagnant since 1980, while it has doubled for the top 20 percent and quadrupled for the top one percent, according to the CBO.

Those high earners were the very people Democrats had initially sought to tax at higher rates as part of a deal to reduce the deficit. Republicans, however, opposed those tax increases, as well as efforts to close loopholes such as a tax break for corporate jet owners or the “carried interest” loophole, which allows managers of hedge funds and other financial partnerships to have their bonuses taxed at the lower capital gains tax rate rather than the standard rate for personal income. Critics call such loopholes intellectually indefensible given America’s widening wealth gap, but Republicans say the tax breaks help create jobs.

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‘Did we double dip and no one noticed?’

Traders gather on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, July 29, 2011. Photo: AP/Richard Drew

The recovery from the Great Recession – technically December 2007 to June 2009 – has been described a lot of different ways, none of which are particularly encouraging: sluggish, weak, jobless and even anemic. But what if it hasn’t been a recovery at all?

This morning the U.S. Commerce Department released new data that showed that real GDP – “the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States – increased at an annual rate of 1.3 percent” from April to June of this year. While this is technically growth and not contraction, the numbers were less than what economists expected and clearly a disappointment when markets are already skittish over debt limit drama in Washington, D.C. But adding to the bad news, the Commerce Department also released revised data that showed the amount of growth during the “recovery” had been overstated.
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‘Counter-jihad’ movement may be small, but its rhetoric has seeped into public discourse

Herman Cain at the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa in March, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

This week, Herman Cain finally apologized.

The businessman turned Republican presidential candidate had made opposition to Islamic extremism a key plank in his platform, suggesting that he would be “uncomfortable” appointing a Muslim to his cabinet. He later clarified, helpfully, that he was referring only to “violent” Muslims, and would specifically bar “the ones that are trying to kill us” from serving in his administration.

Then, earlier this month, Cain traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to oppose the construction of an Islamic center there, characterizing it as a disguised attempt to subvert the Constitution and implement Shariah law. “I think it is an infringement and abuse of our freedom of religion, and I don’t agree with what’s happening here because this isn’t an innocent mosque,” Cain told reporters, according to The Tennessean. “This is another way to sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”

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