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US House clears way for lawsuit vs Obama

Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00 Published in Headlines

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives yesterday voted to sue President Barack Obama for allegedly overstepping his powers, a move swiftly denounced by his Democratic allies as a cynical election-year stunt.
By a party-line vote of 225 to 201, the House voted to resort to the unprecedented move of taking the President to court for not having stringently followed the letter of the law while implementing his signature “Obamacare” health care reform bill.
The measure, which would empower Speaker John Boehner to start the legal proceedings, is meant to rein in a President besotted by power, the top House Republican said from the floor of the chamber.
“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised,” Boehner said. “Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute, and what laws to change?”
Boehner told his fellow lawmakers that Obama violated the country’s founding document by not adhering rigidly to the wording of the law when implementing the health reform law.
Obama, for his part, has been derisive in dismissing the suit, making it a punchline again during a speech in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Instead of suing me for doing my job, I want Congress to do its job and make life a little better for the Americans who sent them there in the first place,” he said.
“And by the way,” he added, “you know who’s paying for this suit they’re going to file? You.”
Lawmakers in Obama’s Democratic party wasted no time decrying the vote.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi invoked her outrage over the vote, in a fund-raising email sent to supporters late Wednesday.
“Just now, I watched Republicans vote for the first lawsuit against a President in US history,” she wrote, in her appeal for donations.
“House Republicans took to the floor of the House and compared President Obama to a tyrant,” Pelosi said.
“It’s sickening. This is nothing but disgraceful politics — and total disrespect for our President.”
The language of the measure accuses Obama of “executive overreach,” and charges him with “failing to faithfully execute the law with respect to the implementation” of the law popularly known as “Obamacare.”
“This resolution seeks to protect Congress’ constitutional prerogative and asks the court to fulfill its duty to guard the lines of separation” between the executive and legislative branches of government, it adds.
The move toward a lawsuit is the latest sign of extreme gridlock and discord in Washington, with the two major political parties constantly at loggerheads, and Obama and his congressional opponents unable to work together to pass and enact legislation.
The discord is heightened by the fact that mid-term elections to replace the entire House and a third of the US Senate are just a few months away.
The suit is seen by some analysts as a Republican strategy to pique the interest of voters who might otherwise be be unmotivated to go to the polls during November’s legislative vote.         

San Miguel eyes PAL buyout

Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00 Published in Business

Philippine conglomerate San Miguel said yesterday it hopes to take full control of the country’s flag carrier within two months by buying out its local partner.
San Miguel in 2012 bought a 49 percent stake in Philippine Airlines (PAL) for $500 million from LT Group, a holding firm controlled by tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan.
In a statement to the stock exchange, San Miguel confirmed local news reports that its president Ramon Ang and PAL were “hopeful” it could buy out the rest of the carrier’s shares by the end of September.
PAL issued an identical statement to the exchange.
Ang and the LT Group had earlier disclosed they were in talks over a possible buy-out of the airline, whose parent PAL Holdings suffered a net loss of $205.15 million in the nine months to December 2013.
The airline’s prospects have improved since the US Federal Aviation Administration removed the Philippines from its air safety blacklist in April, opening the door for Filipino carriers to expand services to the United States.
The FAA decision came after the European Union in July last year lifted its own ban on PAL following an upgrade of safety standards.
Under Ang, San Miguel, originally a Southeast Asian beer and food giant, has diversified into a wide variety of fields including infrastructure, energy and oil refining.                                    

Snowden a recluse one year on from Russia asylum

Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00 Published in Commentary

MOSCOW — Fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden marks on Thursday one year of political asylum in Russia, where he continues to live a life shrouded in mystery amid a dearth of public appearances.
Little has been heard on the movements of the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor since he first obtained provisional leave to remain in Russia after spending — according to the official version — a month in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
What is known about the reclusive Snowden is the city in which he lives, that he is working and in which sector he has found a job.
The last picture of Snowden published in Russian media dates from December 2013. In it, the former agent sports a red t-shirt and beige cap, apparently on a boat in the middle of the Moskva river.
The popular website LifeNews also published an image of Snowden pushing a supermarket trolley while out shopping, which his lawyer, Anatoli Kucherena, confirmed to be genuine.
In April, Snowden made a shock appearance on an annual question and answer session with President Vladimir Putin, probing the Kremlin strongman on the surveillance of Russia’s population.
“I would like to ask you: Does Russia intercept, store or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?” he asked in a recorded message, appearing against a black background wearing a dark jacket and gray T-shirt.
Accused by Washington of espionage and stealing state documents, Snowden traveled to Moscow via Hong Kong after revealing the true extent of global US electronic surveillance. He had intended to travel to South America.
The former NSA employee, who has had his passport withdrawn by US authorities, stayed in Russia after being granted asylum.
Snowden’s lawyer Kucherena said on Tuesday that the fugitive still feared for his life.
“If I had the chance to organize a meeting with him, I would. But for now the question of security is still relevant,” Kucherena said at a forum on eduction.
“I know his worries, his relationship to life, his relationships with people. I know his relationship with his parents. He is a very honourable man,” he said.
In January, Snowden received online death threats from some US officials, the identity of whom has not been revealed, according to Kucherena.
As hopes dwindle that he may be able to return to the US or obtain asylum in Brazil — which he has sought — Snowden has asked for an extension of his residency permit in Russia, which expires on Thursday.
Kucherena indicated at the beginning of July that Snowden’s renewal documents had been submitted to immigration services but that the procedure had not been finalized.
Russian officials have yet to make any formal announcement on the status of Snowden’s application and Kucherena now refuses to comment on the subject.
However, immigration sources have told Russian media on the condition of anonymity that the renewal will be accepted, adding it was up to Snowden whether or not to announce the decision.
“The very presence of Snowden is of symbolic importance to Russia,” said political scientist Alexei Makarkin.
“Snowden has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom, and that’s useful for Russia. Today, that’s one of the strongest arguments (Russia) could put to the international community” as relations with the West deteriorate, he said.              

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