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Politics: Daily Briefing: Bush wants the power to detain Americans without charges. Wait. Who's president now?

Published by: Clark Barrow on Tuesday September 18th, 2012

Clark Barrow

By CLARK BARROW - Remember when Democrats assailed Bush for civil liberties atrocities in the War on Terror? Well. Never mind.

DAILY BRIEFING - SUMMARY

· UNCERTAINTY - Uncertainty over the economic outlook has added between one and two percentage points to the U.S. unemployment rate since 2008, according to an estimate from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

· WHITE HOUSE - The White House has asked the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to place an emergency stay on a ruling made last week by a federal judge so that the president’s power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge is reaffirmed immediately.

· ATTACK - The protests and demonstrations have occurred in about 20 countries since last Tuesday when the American ambassador in Libya and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

o U.S. and Libyan officials are giving significantly different accounts of the gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

o Libyan officials said American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi three days before the killings of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team.

· THREAT – U.S. intelligence forces have uncovered and prevented at least 52 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots since September 11, 2001, illustrating the continued threat of terrorism against the United States.

· DEPENDENCE - The U.S. Social Security Administration has released new data revealing that 8,786,049 American workers are collecting federal disability insurance payments in September. That sets yet another record for the number of Americans on disability.

· OBAMACARE - The U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means has compiled an estimate of the total amount of hours it will take to comply with taxes contained in Obamacare. Based on their estimates, it will take nearly 80 million hours for families and businesses to comply with Obamacare taxes.

WHAT WE KNOW

ECONOMIC NEWS

· UNCERTAINTY - Uncertainty over the economic outlook has added between one and two percentage points to the U.S. unemployment rate since 2008, according to an estimate from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

o The finding, published on Monday in the regional Fed bank's latest Economic Letter, quantifies for the first time the drag that uncertainty has had on the economy since the Great Recession.

o "Had there been no increase in uncertainty in the past four years, the unemployment rate would have been closer to 6 percent or 7 percent than to the 8 percent to 9 percent actually registered," wrote San Francisco Fed research advisors Sylvain Leduc and Zheng Liu.

o The research published Monday offers empirical evidence that uncertainty has indeed deepened the recession and slowed the recovery, elevating the jobless rate despite the Fed's efforts to bring it down.

o Uncertainty acts on the economy like a drop in overall demand, holding back economic activity and inflation at the same time, the researchers found. It is not always a factor in recessions: it played almost no role in the 1981-1982 recession or the recovery that ensued, the same research showed.

· The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 40.27 points, or 0.3%, to 13,553.10.

· The S&P 500 ended off 4.58 points, or 0.3%, to 1,461.19.

· The Nasdaq Composite sank 5.28 points, or 0.2%, to 3,178.67.

COMMODITIES

· The U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.85.

o When President Obama was inaugurated, in January 2009, the U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85. Average gasoline prices are currently 108 percent higher than they were when Mr. Obama became president.

· Crude for October delivery was off $2.38 to settle at $96.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

· Gold for December delivery retreated $2.10, or 0.1%, to settle at $1,770.60 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

NEWS TO WATCH

· ELECTION - As of today, there are 49 days until the November 2012 presidential election.

· OCUPPY WALL STREET - Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrated the movement's anniversary on Monday by clogging intersections in New York City's financial district, marching to the beat of drums that were a familiar refrain last year.

o Protesters roamed around the lower Manhattan financial district all morning in groups of a few dozen each, from one intersection to another and back again, chanting loudly about the ills of Wall Street. In total, there were a few hundred protesters scattered throughout the city. More than 180 of them were arrested by early Monday evening, mostly on disorderly conduct charges.

o The day's events lacked the heft of Occupy protests last year, when protesters gathered by the thousands. But Occupiers were upbeat as they spread out in their old stomping grounds, giddy at the prospect of being together again. They brushed off any suggestions that the movement had petered out.

· CONGRESS - The U.S. Senate entered a brief pro forma session Monday afternoon, but didn’t conduct any legislative business out of respect for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.

o The U.S. Senate will be out entirely Tuesday, leaving Wednesday and Thursday as likely the only two days left before the election recess.

o U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hasn’t formally announced a schedule, but the U.S. House has decided to adjourn at the end of this week so that members can campaign for the Nov. 6 election.

· WHITE HOUSE - The Obama administration on Monday said it has launched a new complaint against China at the World Trade Organization, escalating a trade battle between the world's two largest economies fewer than two months before the presidential election.

o The new complaints with the World Trade Organization are over the export subsidies, which are estimated to total at least $1 billion for the years 2009 to 2011, based on publicly available documents, the United States Trade Representative’s office said. The subsidies are for an auto and auto parts manufacturing base that grew to $69.1 billion in 2011 from $7.4 billion in 2002.

o The challenge, an effort to appeal to working-class voters, charges Beijing with providing unfair export subsidies to its auto sector. President Barack Obama is unveiling the action Monday in the battleground state of Ohio as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney steps up his attacks calling Mr. Obama weak on China.

· WHITE HOUSE - The White House has asked the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to place an emergency stay on a ruling made last week by a federal judge so that the president’s power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge is reaffirmed immediately.

o On Wednesday, September 12, U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest made permanent a temporary injunction she issued in May that bars the federal government from abiding by the indefinite detention provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA. Judge Forrest ruled that a clause that gives the government the power to arrest US citizens suspected of maintaining alliances with terrorists and hold them without due process violated the Constitution and that the White House would be stripped of that ability immediately.

o Only hours after Judge Forrest issued last week’s ruling, the Obama administration threatened to appeal the decision, and on Monday morning they followed through.

PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE

· In the afternoon, President Obama will welcome the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House.

· Later in the afternoon, the president will depart Washington, D.C. and travel to New York, New York.

· Later, the president will hold a campaign event and tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in New York, New York.

· In the evening, the president will return to Washington, D.C.

HAPPENING IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

U.S. SENATE

· The U.S. Senate is not in session today.

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

· The U.S. House is in session today.

TOPICS OF INTEREST

NATIONAL SECURITY

· ATTACK - Hundreds of protesters rioting against an anti-Islam film torched a press club and a government building Monday in northwest Pakistan, sparking clashes with police that left at least one person dead.

o Demonstrations also turned violent outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the leader of the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah called for sustained protests in a rare public appearance before thousands of supporters at a rally in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

o The protests followed demonstrations and violence in about 20 countries since last Tuesday when the American ambassador in Libya and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as protests spread from neighboring Egypt.

o U.S. and Libyan officials are giving significantly different accounts of the gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

o The Obama administration says the assault was a spontaneous local reaction inspired by a demonstration that was taking place at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against a video made in the United States slurring the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith. It also contends that the attack grew out of a small protest.

o Libyan officials said American diplomats were warned of possible violent unrest in Benghazi three days before the killings of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three members of his team.

o Libyan intelligence sources reported to the media that there was no demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi prior to last week's attack -- challenging the Obama administration's claims that the assault grew out of a "spontaneous" protest against an anti-Islam film.

· THREAT - Last Friday, the U.S. FBI arrested 18-year-old American citizen Adel Daoud in a plot to detonate a car bomb outside a local Chicago bar. Daoud, who was active in online Jihadi forums and vocal in his desire to commit violent jihad, considered 29 possible targets before settling on the Chicago bar.

o Thankfully, the car bomb had been deactivated by the FBI and the public was never in danger. This most recent plot marks the 52nd publicly known, Islamist-inspired terrorist plot since September 11, 2001 and illustrates the continued threat of homegrown terrorism within the United States.

o According to the Heritage Foundation, this latest attempt proves that the threat of terrorism remains real and that the U.S. cannot afford to let down its guard. In order to counter the continued threat of homegrown terrorism and violent extremism, the U.S. should:

§ Maintain essential counterterrorism tools. Support for important investigative tools such as the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is essential to maintaining the security of the U.S. and combating terrorist threats.

§ Fully implement a strategy to counter violent extremism. Countering violent extremism is an important complement to an effective counterterrorism strategy.

§ Unfortunately, this plan is not a true strategy. It fails to assign responsibilities and direct action and resource investments. More should be done to transform a laundry list of good ideas into an effective program to support communities in protecting and strengthening civil society.

§ Ensure a proactive approach to halting terrorism. Despite the persistent threat of terrorism, the Obama Administration continues to focus on reactive policies and prosecuting terrorists rather than on proactive efforts to enhance intelligence tools and thwart terrorist attempts. This strategy fails to recognize the true nature of the threat posed by terrorist groups—such as al-Qaeda—and homegrown extremism. The Administration, and the nation as a whole, should continue to keep in place a robust, enduring, and proactive counterterrorism framework in order to identify and thwart terrorist threats long before the public is in danger.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

· DEPENDENCE - The U.S. Social Security Administration has released new data revealing that 8,786,049 American workers are collecting federal disability insurance payments in September. That sets yet another record for the number of Americans on disability.

o The 8,786,049 workers taking federal disability in September is a net increase of 18,108 from the 8,767,941 workers who took federal disability in August.

o Over the past 45 years, the number of American workers taking federal disability payments has increased four-fold relative to the number actually working.

o According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a record 88,921,000 Americans were “not in the labor force” in August. These were Americans who were at least 16 years old, who were not in the military or in an institution such as a prison or a nursing home, and who did not have a job and had not actively sought one in the last four weeks.

o Also in August, according to the BLS, only 63.5 percent of the civilian population (those over 16, who were not in the military or in an institution) participated in the labor force. That was the lowest level of labor force participation in 31 years. To participate in the labor force a person must either have a job or at least be actively trying to find one.

· STIMULUS - According to figures from the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the growth rate of U.S. federal debt has been three times greater than the growth of the U.S. economy since President Obama took office. In fact, for every $1.00 of GDP growth, the U.S. debt has increased $3.00.

o The figures below detail the findings:

§ From Q1 2009 to Q2 2012, the total U.S. federal debt increased $5.23 trillion.

§ During the same time period, the U.S. GDP increased only $1.68 trillion.

§ This amounts to a 50 percent increase in debt while economic output only increased 12 percent.

· GOVERNMENT MOTORS - The U.S. Treasury Department is resisting a push by General Motors to sell the government's entire stake in the auto maker—the latest source of tension between two unlikely partners thrust together at the depths of the financial crisis.

o U.S. taxpayers kept the nation's largest auto maker by sales afloat with a $50 billion bailout in 2009 and now own 26.5% of the Detroit company.

o The U.S. Treasury Department said in August 2012 that it expects to lose more than $25 billion on the $85 billion auto bailout. That's 15 percent higher than its previous forecast.

· OBAMACARE - The U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means has compiled an estimate of the total amount of hours it will take to comply with taxes contained in Obamacare. Based on their estimates, it will take nearly 80 million hours for families and businesses to comply with Obamacare taxes.

o To put this in perspective, according to Ways and Means, it is the equivalent of the Empire State Building being constructed 11 times, a building which took 7 million man-hours to build.

o To make matters worse, Ways and Means has concluded that over half of the burden of tax compliance for Obamacare will fall on small businesses.

EDUCATION

· CHICAGO - Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked a state court Monday to force Chicago school teachers back to work and end a weeklong strike he calls illegal.

o The union immediately condemned the move as an act of vindictiveness by a "bullying" mayor.

o The request argues that the labor action is illegal because state law bars the union from striking on anything but economic issues, and that the work stoppage is focused instead on such issues as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights.

FOREIGN POLICY

MIDDLE EAST

· IRAN - Explosives were used at to cut power lines at Iran’s underground nuclear facility last month in what could be an act of sabotage, Tehran’s atomic energy chief said Monday.

o Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Chief told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) member states on Monday that the power lines were cut at the Fordow underground facility on Aug. 17, according to Reuters. The chief suggested that the IAEA could have a connection to the attack after the United Nations agency asked to inspect the facility the next day.

o The IAEA says that Iran is preventing its inspectors from accessing a military site suspected of having been used for nuclear testing. The United States and Israel say Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

· SYRIA - Rebels in Syria are becoming increasingly radicalized as more and more foreign fighters join the battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad's regime, United Nations human rights investigators have warned.

o The UN team, expressing concern at the "increasing and alarming presence" of Islamist militants in Syria, said the numbers of human rights abuses committed by both sides had risen dramatically in recent weeks.

o The stark warning comes at a time of heightened violence in Syria's 18-month-long civil war, as the international community remains divided about how, if at all, to intervene. Pro-opposition activist groups say more than 5,000 people were killed in August – the highest monthly total yet. The same groups claim that about 27,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict, while the UN puts the number at closer to 20,000.

ASIA

· AFGHANISTAN - Just as the last U.S. "surge" troops leave the country, trouble is breaking out in ways that go to the core of the strategy for winding down the U.S. and allied combat role and making Afghans responsible for their own security. At stake is the goal of ensuring that Afghanistan not revert to being a terrorist haven.

o Nearly two years after President Obama announced that he was sending another 33,000 troops to take on the Taliban, those reinforcements are completing their return to the United States this week. That leaves about 68,000 American troops, along with their NATO allies and Afghan partners, to carry out an ambitious plan to put the Afghans fully in the combat lead as early as next year.

o But the setbacks are piling up: a spasm of deadly attacks on U.S. and NATO forces by Afghan soldiers and police, including three attacks in the last three days; an audacious Taliban assault on a coalition air base that killed two Marines and destroyed six fighter jets; and a NATO airstrike that inadvertently killed eight Afghan women and girls.

· RUSSIA - Russia will reactivate mothballed ballistic missile silos around Moscow as part of deep modernization of a missile defense network protecting the Russian capital, former chief of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, Col. Gen. (Ret) Viktor Yesin said on Monday.

o The A-135 (NATO: ABM-3) anti-ballistic missile network is deployed around Moscow to counter enemy missiles targeting the city or its surrounding areas. It became operational in 1995 and consists of the Don-2N battle management radar and two types of ABM missiles.

o Two launch sites with long-range 51T6 (NATO: SH-11 'Gorgon') exo-atmospheric interceptor missiles were deactivated in 2007 as the missiles became obsolete. They will be equipped with new long-range missiles and reactivated during the modernization.

o The A-135 system is compliant with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty from which the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2002.

· SOUTH CHINA SEA - Exchanging warnings but avoiding confrontations thus far, Chinese and Japanese ships have come within less than half a nautical mile of each other in an ongoing dispute over the sovereignty of contested islands.

o Amid deepening tensions in a long-running saga over the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Sunday about the possibility of war between the two Asian countries.

o Any conflict between Japan and China could risk drawing in the United States. Although the U.S. position is that is does not take sides in the territorial dispute the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has confirmed that the islands fall within the scope of article five of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security – an appraisal rejected by Beijing.