Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ideologically eclectic coalition government passed the first major test of its viability in early August, when the Knesset approved an austerity budget for 2013–2014 that includes a range of spending cuts and tax increases. The passage of a two-year spending plan has greatly increased the coalition’s chance of surviving until 2015, assuming there is no need to revise the freshly minted budget.
Allegations of exorbitant claims for reimbursement of living expenses submitted by some senators from the governing CPC became a major problem for Prime Minister Stephen Harper after it was revealed that his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had cut a check for $90,000 to one senator. Wright resigned, but Harper’s claim that he had no knowledge of the transaction failed to convince voters.
A recent Associated Press story, which stopped me in my tracks, said the gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago. Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families — those earning less than $20,000 — have topped 21 percent, nearly matching the rate for all workers during the Great Depression.
As recently as three months ago, President Dilma Rousseff appeared to be in a strong position to win a second four-year term at an election scheduled for October 2014. She boasted a fairly high approval rating, her zero-tolerance approach to corruption in her administration had won her a reputation as a leader with integrity, and the main governing PT had made a respectable showing at local elections held in October 2012.
As a conservative, I’m fully on record as a critic of President Obama’s policies. Today, however, I’m on board with the president’s decision to ask for congressional authority on Syria. Moreover, if the intelligence is solid, then Congress needs to give President Obama his requested authority. It is absolutely correct for the president to seek congressional approval. Sadly, it appears he is seeking such authority for all the wrong reasons.
SPECIAL REPORT — The Syrian civil war appears to have at least temporarily reached a point of stalemate, with neither rebel forces nor the military and allied militias capable of making a decisive push for territory that could potentially turn the tide for either side. The offensive launched by the fractious rebel camp in late 2012 to dislodge pro-government forces from their remaining strongholds in the north and capture Damascus has stalled.
Secretary of State John Kerry originally refused to characterize the coup in Egypt as a coup. Rather, he effectively endorsed the new military regime: “In effect, they were restoring democracy.” Too bad the hundreds shot dead on Cairo streets won’t be able to vote in the new restored democracy. Washington needs to “reset” relations with Egypt.
President Obama recently announced the appointment of a completely unqualified Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan. This is a mistake. If there ever was a time to have an experienced ambassador with solid credentials, it is now. The increasingly important Japanese market, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is the largest free-trade agreement in history, challenges posed by China, and a dangerous North Korea are a few of the issues Ms. Kennedy would face.
The House of Representatives is pursuing a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. They are trying to pass small immigration bills that deal with different portions of reform — legalization, enforcement, and legal immigration. So far, those bills double down on failed strategies that will do next to nothing to stem unauthorized immigration.
SPECIAL REPORT—Political tensions that had been simmering ever since the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) romped to victory at legislative elections held in late 2011 and early 2012 finally boiled over in early July 2013. In a scene reminiscent of the events that brought the downfall of the entrenched autocratic regime headed by Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, millions of anti-government protestors gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other cities demanding the resignation of the president.
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