Darrell Issa Writes Obama: Anyone at the White House involved

In the 7-page letter dated June 25, Issa writes that the highest courts in the country have held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege “is only applicable with respect to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the President’s decision-making process, defined as those documents and communications to and from the President and his most senior advisors.”

Issa, R-Calif., then questions Obama whether Attorney General Eric Holder or anyone at the White House was involved in a cover-up.

“Your privilege assertion means one of two things,” he writes. “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”

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By liverealnews

Dems Forced to Downsize Once Again as Convention Fundraising Falls Short

                                                                                                                                                In January the DNC announced it would be downsizing its national convention from four days to three. The first day, September 3rd, would instead be used to celebrate the region with a big NASCAR-themed kickoff event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It makes perfect sense given what a huge NASCAR fan the President is.

Late Monday, the DNC announced another convention downsizing. The big kickoff event would be moved from the Speedway to downtown Charlotte. According to spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling the move was prompted by concern over the logistics of shuttling people 18 miles to and from the track. Logistically it just makes more sense to have the kickoff downtown with the rest of the events.

Of course the Charlotte Motor Speedway hasn’t moved since January, so why is this just becoming a problem now? Bloomberg News has the answer. “With a party ban on direct contributions from corporations, the host committee has raised less than $10 million, well short of its $36.6 million goal…” Ouch! Less than ten million is bad. It’s also vague. How much less than ten million did they raise?

With Democrats unable to raise even one-third of their fundraising goal, they were forced to cut a few more corners off their already stunted convention. They’ll need whatever money is left to outfit the 74,000 seat Carolina Panthers football stadium for Obama’s nomination acceptance speech. Hopefully Britney Spears’ set designer can come up with another colonnade of Doric columns on the cheap.

Usually any shortfalls in corporate campaign cash are quickly made up for by the Democrats’ union friends. In this case, that’s not happening because of more poor planning by Democrats. North Carolina is a right-to-work state, so unions “have been reluctant to contribute to the convention because Charlotte lacks unionized hotels and is in a state where compulsory union membership or the payment of dues is prohibited as an employment condition.”

But apart from the shortened convention, the last minute change of venue for the big kickoff event, the failure to raise even a third of the necessary funding, and irritating their best donors–other than that–this year’s DNC Convention is shaping up to be amazing.

By liverealnews

President Obama taps overseas donor pool

The all-consuming hunt for donors has led President Barack Obama’s campaign to England. And France. And China.

Obama is tapping the network of American citizens living outside the 50 states more than any other presidential campaign has before, with more than a dozen bundlers who have pledged to raise as much as $4.5 million.

The president’s overseas power centers include London, where high-powered execs like Warner Bros. Josh Berger and Anthony Gardner of Palamon Capital Partners have promised to deliver as much as $500,000 each to the campaign, and Shanghai, where businessman and Technology for Obama co-Chairman Robert Roche has committed to bringing in more than $500,000.

It’s all legal — the donors are American citizens who pay U.S. taxes — and the net income to the campaigns is paltry compared the hundreds of millions of dollars raised stateside. Presidential campaigns have long taken in campaign donations from expats and people living in U.S. territories, but Obama’s campaign is focusing on those donations more than ever.

In 2008, Obama reported having seven bundlers outside the 50 states committed to raising as much as $2.3 million, with the dough rolling in at events like a George Clooney-headlined fundraiser in Geneva. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took in $610,000. And in 2004, presidential campaigns took in just under $910,000 total from Americans living abroad.

“You’ve got to do it because it’s money you need, but it’s the same as a fundraiser in a small town in America,” said Jack Oliver, who helped create President George W. Bush’s fundraising strategy in 2000 and 2004, of holding fundraisers abroad. “It’s not a game changer in resources, but it is money you don’t want [to] leave on the table.”

As of early June Obama had received more than $455,000 in political contributions outside the 50 states this cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission records, and a campaign official told POLITICO that there could be even more U.S. bundlers from abroad before the November election.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had received just less than $144,000 in campaign contributions outside the 50 states, according to FEC records. Several supporters said he’s expected to attend a fundraiser in London when he travels there for the Olympics this summer.

The Romney campaign doesn’t publicly list its bundlers and did not respond to questions regarding his fundraising efforts abroad.

Last July, the former Massachusetts governor attended a $2,500-per-person fundraiser in London hosted by high-powered politicos like hedge fund manager Louis Bacon and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. Dwight Poler, an executive with Bain Capital, the firm Romney previously worked for, and Raj Bhattacharyya, managing director at Deutsche Bank, also co-hosted the event.

Obama hasn’t attended the foreign fundraisers personally, but campaign and senior White House officials will continue to build up their frequent flier miles before Election Day.

“He has a world perspective that I think is important in today’s interconnected age to ensure the U.S. stays in the lead,” said Vicki Hansen, the Luxembourg-based international vice chairwoman for Democrats Abroad, an arm of the Democratic Party. “We can’t work in isolation or with blinkers on.”

Drinks and canapés were on the menu for an Obama campaign event June 11 in Zurich’s Old Town with former deputy White House Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen — suggested donation $500 per person, or a “special rate” of $150 for young professionals 30 and under.

“Mona is an extraordinarily accomplished and engaging woman, who will speak about her experience as one of the President’s closest and most trusted advisers, and share her insights into the current state of the re-election campaign,” according to a DNC invite posted on the Democrats Abroad site.

Valerie Jarrett’s senior aide, Michael Strautmanis, is scheduled to attend a July 4 fundraiser in Paris, according to a Paris Professionals for Obama Facebook page. Strautmanis is touted on the site as a “close personal friend of the President and First Lady, and currently Deputy Assistant and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor!”

“If you’re an American professional in Paris and you’d love to help Obama win in 2012, this might be your chance,” the Facebook post said.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina was the main guest at fundraisers last October in Geneva and at the London home of American actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay. Obama opinion research director David Simas visited the famous House of Glass on Paris’ Left Bank for a cocktail reception in late March with suggested contributions of $500-$1,500. And Obama campaign attorney and former White House general counsel Bob Bauer attended a Geneva fundraiser with $100-$250 suggested donations and a $35,800 maximum contribution limit.

Democrats Abroad is also working to get Obama reelected with a voter registration drive that highlights the narrow victory margins — well within the number of overseas voters — for Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Mark Begich and Jon Tester. The group is on a 27-city, 13-country bus tour through mid-July to register voters, with stops in Rome, Barcelona and Berlin.

Americans living in Paris also hosted a Gershwin tribute concert earlier this month, and London-based ex-pats organized a “Baroque Obama” musical fundraiser in April.

Of course there are limits: Democrats Abroad considered holding a fundraiser last month in conjunction with the Cannes Film Festival but decided against it because of the negative optics.

Americans who can’t even vote in the general election also are filling Obama’s coffers.

Puerto Rico lawyer Andres Lopez has signed on to deliver more than $500,000 in campaign cash, for example.

Obama also is doing well in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where attorney Marjorie Roberts is a national finance committee member and bundler who has committed to raise $200,000-$500,000.

“I’d like to see President Obama succeed,” said Douglas Capdeville, an attorney and New Jersey native who has been living in the Virgin Islands since the 1950s. “We follow him. We are very proud of him. We truly believe he means very well. It’s just the acrimony in the Congress. He can’t get his programs and proposals passed.”

Capdeville wrote Obama a $2,500 check last September; he also gave $2,300 in 2008.

Virgin Island Democrats aren’t expecting Obama to make a trip this cycle; he did visit in 2007 during the Democratic primaries and again for vacation in 2008. But local organizers are hoping to get a surrogate visit timed with any stops in Puerto Rico. Locals who want an up-close look at Obama are also encouraged to make the two-hour flight to attend fundraisers when the president and his team are in South Florida or in East Coast cities.

Republicans Abroad Executive Director Cynthia Dillon said GOPers abroad are attuned to what’s happening in the states and they will be active, especially at the polls this fall. The group, which doesn’t raise money, is focused on registering voters abroad.

“I think Americans living overseas, everybody, is very concerned about where we are heading,” Dillon said. “It has a ripple effect. People are worried, even if they are there for a long time. They still have relatives here or they still send their kids to school [in the U.S.].”

By liverealnews

Giant mushroom cloud forms over Beijing (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

ImageAn enormous mushroom cloud formed in the sky over Beijing late last week, sparking fears that a cataclysmic, Armageddon-like event was underway.

Alas, it was not the end of the world—or worse, the beginning of a real-life movie starring Will Smith: It was just nature.

The giant cumulonimbus—which spanned several miles—was accompanied by lightning, swallowing up the capital’s skyline for an hour, according to the Daily Mail.

Photographers and videographers captured images of Thursday’s ominous-looking formation, which “gradually took the shape of an explosion from an atomic bomb.”

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a giant cumulonimbus is a thunderstorm cloud that forms from a towering cumulus, which “resembles the head of a cauliflower.”

Here’s some video of the cloud over Beijing:

By liverealnews

RUSSIAN WARSHIPS TO SYRIA

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Russia has announced it is readying two warships to sail to Syria to protect Russian citizens, in a sign that it is taking precautions against a worsening of the security situation there.

A spokesman for Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Vyacheslav Trukhachev, told Russia’s Interfax news agency the mission would be undertaken “in case of necessity”. His comments appeared designed to clarify speculation that warships had already set sail for Syria. Interfax had earlier quoted an anonymous official as saying that was the case on Monday morning.

One of the warships, said Mr Trukhachev, carries a 150-strong contingent of marines, in addition to 25 tanks, but he did not give details of the other ship. He made clear that the purpose of the mission would be only to evacuate Russian personnel and property from Syria.

Russia’s precautions came as Barack Obama, the US president, and Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, called for an end to violence in Syria and moves towards “political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system” after talks on Monday at the G20 summit in Mexico.

After days of diplomatic sniping between Washington and Moscow, the two sides were able to issue a joint statement on Syria after talks on the first day of the summit at Los Cabos.

Although the meeting spawned a joint communiqué, there was no suggestion that Moscow is prepared to back tougher UN sanctions in Syria to help force Bashar al-Assad out of office. The joint statement gave support to Kofi Annan’s peace drive and calls for the “Syrians themselves” to undertake the transition to democracy while retaining the country’s current boundaries.

“We are united in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to independently and democratically choose their own future,” the two leaders said.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, also met Mr Putin in Los Cabos and told him that he did not support the involvement of Iran in a conference to discuss a solution to the crisis in Syria. “The key is to work on that bit of the Annan plan which could help to deliver political change at the top of Syria,” Mr Cameron said before the meeting.

Mr Putin warned Mr Cameron that the removal of the Syrian regime could lead to the rise of radical Islamic parties or terrorist organisations – drawing comparisons with Somalia – according to officials at the summit. The British premier countered that authoritarian regimes were not always an insurance against terrorism.

Fresh fighting across Syria killed 56 people on Monday. Activists said government forces were continuing to pound opposition strongholds in different parts of the country.

“We are under siege,” said one activist in Homs, who said some neighbourhoods had been cut off for 10 days amid intense bombardment.

“We have not enough medical equipment and medical crew, most are volunteers,” the activist said. “We have a lot of wounded people and we don’t know what to do with them.”

Heavy violence was also reported in Damascus province. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-affiliated monitoring group based in the UK, the regime on Monday launched mortars on the Damascus suburb of Douma, where rebels have been clashing with government forces.

Russia’s security relationship with Syria has come under scrutiny as Damascus becomes ever more dependent on Moscow following EU and US sanctions. The port of Tartous in Syria is a key Russian naval base, which experts estimate has about 50 Russian staff working there.

Meanwhile, Russian technicians continue to work in Syria under contracts to maintain Russian arms purchased by the regime.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has denied that Russia is selling arms to Syria which can be used against civilians, and Russia says it is not violating any UN sanctions or treaty obligations in doing so. Last year, Russia sold anti-aircraft missiles to Syria as well as missile batteries designed to fend off seaborne attacks, and signed a contract to supply 36 Yak-130 trainer aircraft for $550m. Recently it signed a contract to supply 24 MiG-29 advanced fighter bombers.

Russia has admitted it is repairing a number of helicopter gunships for the Syrian army which were originally sold in Soviet times. According to news reports, these helicopters are en route to Syria from the Russian port of Kaliningrad, although Russia’s defence minister declined to comment on the story on Monday.

In addition, on May 26, a Russian cargo ship called the Professor Katsman docked in Tartous harbour amid allegations by human rights agencies that it was carrying a cargo of arms for Syria.

By liverealnews