1. Obamacare works ;Scenario: Even though there inevitably will be technical glitches and coverage gaps, by mid-2015 the Affordable Care Act (its formal moniker) will be as popular as the Medicare prescription drug benefit.Fine Print: Even if Obamacare reduces costs and increases coverage, Republicans might still battle to repeal it for years. Success will ultimately burnish the president’s reputation, but gratitude for Obamacare will probably do little to boost Democratic turnout in the 2014 congressional elections.
2. Obamacare implodes;Scenario: Because of both the law’s complexity and administrative errors by the government, the rollout of Obamacare is the rockiest launch since Clint Eastwood’s 2012 GOP convention speech. With the president’s legacy in tatters, even Democrats start to wonder if the benefits of Obamacare were worth the political cost.Fine Print: Rather than prompting the Democrats to give up on health care reform, the 2016 presidential contenders start talking about a single-payer plan like Medicare. And in political terms, it is hard to imagine the Republicans more enraged about Obamacare than they are already.
3. Obama the peacemaker:Scenario: The surprising diplomatic flurries of the past few weeks yield lasting results. Iran agrees to abandon its nuclear program in return for ending its status as a pariah nation. Syria, with continued Russian prodding, does give up its chemical arsenal, and eventually Bashir Assad steps aside in favor of a transitional government.Fine Print: Obama gets to reframe his second term as the Foreign Policy Presidency. But these successes buy him little domestic political support, because Iran and Syria are not voting issues at a time of economic hardship.
4. Obama the global blunderer;Scenario: Nothing works for Obama on the international stage. The overtures from Iran are derailed by theocratic hard-liners, while Assad finds new ways to massacre Syrian civilians. Secretary of State John Kerry accomplishes little besides racking up frequent flier miles.Fine Print: After eight years in the White House, Obama leaves office with little beyond his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. But even though Republicans like John McCain ridicule Obama’s fecklessness on the international stage, most voters turn out to care little about any global issue that doesn’t involve American casualties.
5. The Obama recovery — at last;Scenario: It might have more to do with the Federal Reserve and global trends than any second-term Obama policies, but the economy moves into overdrive for the first time since the 2008 economic collapse. Not only does the jobless rate sharply decline, but increased tax revenue also dramatically improves long-term deficit projections.Fine Print: Nothing could do more to burnish Obama’s presidential record — and help the Democrats hold the Senate in 2014. Finally, there is a narrative to the Obama Years: He brought America back from the Great Recession.
6. The Obama downturn — again;Scenario: A global recession brought on by cutbacks in China and renewed austerity in Europe spreads to America as joblessness rises. Partisan gridlock rules out any form of stimulus from Washington, as even extended unemployment benefits can’t make it through Congress.Fine Print: Even though Obama inherited the 2008 financial crisis, he goes down in history as the Hard Times President. The 2014 congressional elections are a GOP sweep like 2010. And Obama becomes so unpopular that he is asked to not appear at the 2016 Democratic Convention.
7. Obama wins budget battle ;Scenario: Congressional Republicans, torn between their tea party wing (Ted Cruz, please pick up the white courtesy phone) and mainstream conservatives such as House Speaker John Boehner, blunder into shutting down the government for most of October. They back down only when international credit markets panic that America will refuse to increase the legal debt ceiling.Fine Print: Even with everything breaking politically for Obama, the Democrats are unable to win back the House in 2014, although they come close. But the GOP congressional leaders are so scarred by their party’s fiscal fiasco that 2015 proves to be a fruitful year of let’s-make-a-deal compromises with the president.
8. Obama hoists white flag over budget:Scenario: Obama, as he has so often in his presidency, retreats in the face of unified Republican opposition on the budget and the debt ceiling. No, the president doesn’t abandon Obamacare, but he does delay its launch for three months and agrees to a new round of GOP-mandated budget cuts.Fine Print: Not that much changes in the Capital. Obama continues to be perceived as the Incredible Shrinking President, and empowered congressional Republicans concoct outrageous new schemes to thwart governmental business as usual. Voters in 2014 express their frustration with Washington gridlock by defeating prominent incumbents in both parties.
9. Obama shakes up White House staff:Scenario: Learning from his political missteps, Obama does what Ronald Reagan did after the Iran-Contra scandal — and brings in a team of Washington wise men (and women) to bring new direction to the White House. The president puts his golf game on hiatus to instead devote his time to personally wooing Congress.Fine Print: Now that’s implausible. We can file this scenario right next to the idea that national unity will be achieved after little green men from Mars land on the White House lawn. Some things in Washington will never change — starting with Obama’s personality and his detached approach to governing.
Russia to guard destruction of Syria chemical armsView gallery ALBERT AJI and BARBARA SURK 1 hour ago DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Russia offered on Thursday to provide troops to guard facilities where Syria’s chemical weapons would be destroyed, as U.N. inspectors prepared to continue their probe on the use of such agents in the country’s civil war.Also Thursday, a mortar shell slammed into the Iraqi consulate building in central Damascus, killing one person and wounding three, Syrian state media reported.In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia is ready to ensure security and help guard facilities, once the chemical weapons are stored for destruction in Syria. He spoke just hours after another Russian deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, told The Associated Press that the U.N. Security Council is just two days away from agreeing on a resolution that would require Damascus to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpiles.Gatilov said the resolution will include a reference to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for military and nonmilitary action in the interest of peace.The U.S. and Russia have been at odds on how to enforce the resolution after brokering a join agreement earlier this month on the eventual destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. By agreeing to the accord, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government had narrowly escaped a punitive American strike over an August chemical weapons attack.View gallery.”Syria: History of politics and conflict (1920 – 2013) – March 8, 2005 – A Syrian soldier riding on t …Meanwhile, a team of U.N. inspectors was back in Syria to investigate three alleged incidents of chemical weapons use earlier this year. They will also seek information on three other attacks last month that allegedly included chemical agents. The inspectors were seen leaving their Damascus hotel in a vehicle convoy on Thursday afternoon, but there was no immediate indication where they were going.The U.N. inspectors first came to Damascus last month to probe a March 19 attack and two other incidents in the north when an alleged chemical attack occurred outside the Syrian capital. They returned to Syria on Wednesday.The Aug. 21 incident in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus became their focus after the United States and its allies said Assad’s troops were responsible for the chemical attack that killed hundreds. The U.S. threated punitive strikes; Assad’s government denied the allegations and said the rebels were behind the Ghouta attack.Ryabkov spoke to Russian news agencies during an arms exhibition in Nizhny Tagil. He said he hoped other members of a Moscow-led military alliance of former Soviet republics, known as Collective Security Treaty Organization, would also participate in guarding the Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Along with Russia, the group includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the inspectors will visit the site of the March 19 incident, the village of Khan al-Assal near the city of Aleppo, and two other sites in Saraqeb and Sheik Mahsood.View gallery.”
Kerry looks forward to ‘good meeting’ between major powers, Iran2 hours ago PoliticsForeign PolicyIranView galleryU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Millennium Development Goals event on the sidelines … NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he looked forward to a „good meeting” with Iran and major powers on Thursday but would not address what Iran needed to do to show a genuine desire to address its nuclear program.Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif meets his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) to discuss Western suspicions Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this.Asked what he needed to hear from the Iranians to show they were serious about addressing those concerns, Kerry, speaking to reporters as he began a meeting with China’s foreign minister, replied: „I’ll let you know after they’ve been serious.”Asked if he thought the Iranians would be serious, he said: „We’re going to have a good meeting, I’m sure.”Iran has been negotiating with major powers known as the P5+1 about its nuclear program, which Tehran says is solely for peaceful, civilian energy purposes.The meeting would be the first between the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States – which have been estranged since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution – since a brief encounter in May 2007.-Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Xavier Briand)
Kerry to travel to Japan, Indonesia for meetings1 hour ago Foreign PolicyPoliticsJohn KerryUnited States Department of StateJapanView gallery Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee for the coordination mechanism …WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Japan next week for a security meeting before joining President Barack Obama in Bali for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation economic meeting, the State Department said on Thursday.Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is also attending the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting in Tokyo on October 2-3, according to the department.U.S. and Japanese leaders met on security in June 2011 in Washington, and next month’s meeting is another „opportunity to build on our already broad and comprehensive bilateral relationship,” State Department Jen Psaki said in a statement.At APEC, Kerry will meet with officials from APEC-member economies starting on October 4 before concluding his Asia trip on October 7, the department said.The annual economic forum comes as the United States and 10 other countries work to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, which some experts say could see an agreement at the Indonesia gathering.The TPP talks include Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Susan Heavey; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Xavier Briand)
View gallery By Rachelle Younglai and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Congress, struggling to avert a government shutdown next week, was warned by the Obama administration on Wednesday that the Treasury was quickly running out of funds to pay government bills and could soon face a damaging debt default.Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pleaded with Congress to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit and said the government would not be able to borrow funds past October 17.After that date, only $30 billion would be left in the Treasury’s checking account, putting the country on course to miss crucial debt payments, Lew said.Amid Treasury’s dire default warning, lawmakers grappled with another potential crisis: federal agency shutdowns that could begin with the new fiscal year next Tuesday unless Congress comes up with emergency funds.The money would be used to pay U.S. troops, operate border patrols, provide free school lunches for poor children and thousands of other activities.The Democratic-led Senate is on track to vote on Saturday for legislation to avert government agency shutdowns. But the Republican-led House of Representatives was set for tough fights over the next few days.Both the debt ceiling and government funding measures were complicated by Republican attempts to use the must-do bills to gut President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, known as „Obamacare.”At a private meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reassured lawmakers they would not allow Republicans to include provisions to delay or defund Obamacare in the spending bill.”We are not going to accept anything damaging on Obamacare,” Reid told Democrats, according to an aide at the meeting. ‘HIGHEST RISK I HAVE SEEN’ View gallery.”U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to the press after fellow Republican Ted Cruz (not Pictured) he …Earlier, disheveled Republican Senator Ted Cruz finished a 21-hour, 19-minute marathon of standing and speaking on the Senate floor, arguing for defunding Obamacare as part of the government-funding bill.Sporting a beard stubble and his blue tie sagging, the first-term Texas senator, believed to have presidential aspirations, compared the healthcare law to the villain in the „Friday the 13th” horror films.”Obamacare is the biggest job-killer in this country and when Jason put on his hockey mask and swung that machete, boy there was carnage like nothing else,” Cruz said.Cruz later voted to advance the temporary spending bill after saying anybody who voted to cut off debate was voting for Obamacare.The White House and Democrats in Congress say Obamacare will provide millions of Americans with health insurance that they otherwise could not afford, while potentially pushing down healthcare costs.With his talk that began at 2:41 p.m. on Tuesday, Cruz approached the 1957 record of 24 hours, 18 minutes, held by late Senator Strom Thurmond, for the longest Senate talk marathon.Reid called Cruz’s effort „a big waste of time,” saying it delayed passage of the legislation to keep the government running.Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, told reporters that the chamber’s Republican leaders had not yet reached out to Democrats to discuss keeping the government running and raising the debt limit.House Democratic votes could end up being crucial to passing either bill if House Speaker John Boehner loses too many of his own Republicans.Hoyer fretted about the possibility of a government shutdown, saying, „This is the highest risk I have seen because I see the least willingness to do what is absolutely essential in democracy and that is to work together.”SENATE AIMS TO MOVE AHEAD, HOUSE ACTION UNKNOWN View gallery.”U.S. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the press after Republican Senator Ted Cruz (not Pictured) held …Republican leaders in the House notified members that a vote on raising the debt limit could come as early as Friday.One Republican congressional aide said the first debt limit bill from conservatives would go nowhere. But the aide said moderate Republicans were hoping for a debt limit deal that would get rid of the automatic budget cuts and use the savings for retirement and health insurance entitlement programs for the elderly.House Republicans are due to huddle early on Thursday to try to plan their next moves on the spending and debt limit bills.It is unclear what the House would do with the Senate’s product. „We’ll deal with whatever the Senate passes when they pass it. There’s no point in speculating before that,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.There have been several trial balloons floated in recent days, including speculation that House Republicans could attach to the Senate bill measures to repeal a medical device tax that collects revenues for operating the healthcare law, a one-year delay in letting individuals sign up for the program and other ideas.As House Republican leaders plotted out strategy in private, Republican and Democratic senators bickered over the „Affordable Health Care Act,” as they have done for nearly five years.A New York Times/CBS News poll released on Wednesday underscored that Americans have little tolerance for government shutdowns. Eight in 10 people, according to the survey, said it would be unacceptable for Obama or lawmakers to threaten shutdowns during budget negotiations to achieve their goals.Elected in November 2012, Cruz, a firebrand backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, sometimes strides through the Capitol in cowboy boots. But by Wednesday morning, his feet were clad in tennis shoes that gave him added support as he stood at his lectern or paced the Senate floor for hours. In black, they matched his suit.”Obamacare isn’t working,” Cruz said in between stories about his Cuban immigrant father and reciting Doctor Seuss verse.After Cruz ended his talk marathon, he drew a rebuke from senior Republican Senator John McCain, who complained that Cruz had compared those unwilling to embrace his methods to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and others who were willing to appease Nazi Germany before World War Two.Several Republicans have noted that with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House, there was no way they could prevail in gutting Obamacare.(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Fred Barbash, Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)
IOC ‘fully satisfied’ that Russia’s anti-gay law doesn’t violate Olympic charter By Laura Mills, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 5 minutes agoView Photo Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, Jean-Claude Killy, left, …SOCHI, Russia – The International Olympic Committee has dismissed concerns over Russia’s law banning gay propaganda, saying it doesn’t violate the Olympic charter’s anti-discrimination clause, and pronounced Russia ready to host the 2014 Winter Games.Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, gave his stamp of approval during a news conference Thursday at the conclusion of the commission’s 10th and final visit to Sochi before the games, which begin on Feb. 7.Russia has come under scrutiny as the next host of the Olympics because of the law passed this summer outlawing „propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors,” which many worry may apply to gay athletes and visitors to the games.Killy said the commission deliberated for several days and concluded „the IOC doesn’t have the right to discuss the laws that are in place in the country hosting the games, so unless the charter is violated we are fully satisfied.”Russian officials insist the law is designed to protect children and doesn’t infringe on the rights of gays.”Regarding this law, if people of traditional sexual orientation spread propaganda of non-traditional sex to children, then they will also be held accountable,” said Dmitry Kozak, a deputy prime minister in charge of overseeing preparations for the Sochi Olympics. „So there is simply no need to talk about discrimination.”The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the U.S., condemned the IOC’s assessment of the Russian law.”If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. „The safety of millions of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Russians and international travellers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completed neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world.”He noted that Killy spoke a day after gay rights activists were arrested outside the Moscow headquarters of the Sochi Olympics organizing committee for protesting the law.President Vladimir Putin signed the ban on propaganda into law in late June. In August, he signed an additional decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi for two and a half months around the time of the games, a measure seen as intended to thwart protests by gay rights activists.Killy said the IOC commission was pleased with the ongoing construction ahead of the games, which with a total cost of $51 billion will be the most expensive Olympics in history.Much of the city still looks like an enormous building site, with unfinished hotels and debris from construction scattered across the Black Sea coast, but the Olympic venues are impressive.The coastal venues, where the skating events will take place, are sprawled like beached metallic whales across what used to be a residential coastline. The structures themselves are both sleekly elegant and intimate, providing for a close proximity between athletes and spectators.The mountain venues, about an hour by car or train from the coast, are similarly spectacular. A network of gondolas, like pulsing veins up the mountainside, whisk visitors up to 2,320 metres (7,650 feet), while the smooth wood of the bobsleigh track zigzags across the lush forest. A blizzard on Wednesday coated the mountain peaks in snow, helping to ease worries of a repeat of last year’s warm winter.The IOC visit coincided with major storms, unusual for Sochi in September. Down the mountain, heavy rain caused flooding and mudslides, leading authorities to introduce a state of emergency.Killy said that despite the rainfall there had been „no damage anywhere whatsoever” and he was confident that any weather problems „would not stop the games.”He recalled the IOC commission’s first visit in September 2011 and the „unprecedented challenge” Russia faced to put in the necessary infrastructure and build most of the venues from scratch.”In Europe you would probably spend 15 years on that, and here they did it in seven,” Killy said. Russia was awarded the 2014 Olympics in 2007.Kozak asserted that only $7 billion had been spent on the venues themselves, whereas the remaining sum went toward „developing the city and the region” along the Black Sea.
View Photo Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei …MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is ready to help guard Syrian chemical weapons sites and destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles but will not ship any of the chemical arms to Russia for destruction, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday.Ryabkov was outlining some of the contributions Moscow is willing to make to implement a U.S.-Russian deal that calls for the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal by the middle of next year.”We will be ready to help in guarding those facilities where work is being carried out,” the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying at an arms fair in the Ural Mountains city of Nizhny Tagil.Russia and the United States are the only countries with industrial scale capacity to handle mustard, VX, sarin or cyanide-armed munitions, but the import of chemical weapons is banned under U.S. law.Ryabkov said Russia would not import chemical weapons either, state-run RIA reported.”There can be no doubt – we will not do this,” RIA quoted him as saying.”We believe the destruction (of chemical weapons) on Syrian territory is the best option,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the export of chemical weapons.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed this month to the deal, under which inspections of chemical weapons sites in Syria are to be completed by November 30 and its entire arsenal destroyed by June 30.Permanent U.N. Security Council members Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France are trying to agree a resolution that would support the deal for Syria to abandon its chemical weapons and be acceptable to both Russia and the West.(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alison Williams)
Crude oil rises to above $103 a barrel, boosted by US data on unemployment and growth By Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 1 hour 42 minutes agoThe price of oil came off 3-month lows Thursday as new figures showed the number of U.S. workers seeking unemployment benefits fell.By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for November delivery was up 54 cents to $103.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 47 cents on Wednesday to finish at $102.66 a barrel, the lowest closing price since July 3.Oil prices rebounded as fresh data showed that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 305,000, the second-lowest level in six years. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, was confirmed to have grown an annualized 2.5 per cent in the April-June period.The data on unemployment and growth contrasted with Wednesday’s less encouraging statistics on orders for durable goods — big ticket items expected to last at least three years. Many analysts believe U.S. growth in the current quarter will slow to around 2 per cent on the year.Oil has fallen nearly 7 per cent since closing at a two-year high of $110.53 on Sept. 6. Since then, diplomatic efforts have averted a U.S. military strike against Syria, and tense relations between the U.S. and Iran have shown signs of a thaw. As a result, the market has removed the so-called political risk premium from the price of oil. Some analysts put this premium at about $5 to $6 a barrel.Meanwhile, supply numbers pointed toward a possible slip in demand, as the U.S. Energy Department said crude supplies increased by an unexpected 2.6 million barrels last week. Analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had forecast crude stocks to fall by 1.5 million barrels.Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries, rose 77 cents to $109.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.In other energy futures trading on Nymex:— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.7 cent to $2.664 per gallon.— Natural gas fell 1.3 cents to $3.533 per 1,000 cubic feet.— Heating oil rose 2.46 cents to $2.9959 per gallon.___Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS.UN), (TSX:CVE)
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