Obama, Conceding Budget’s Limitations, Seeks Consensus

If we hope to come to any compromise concerning Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security we must have greater bipartisan trust.

The president spoke as Republicans on Capitol Hill accused him of a lack of leadership for not proposing a bolder budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Yet behind the scenes are signs that both parties, for all their public crossfire, are reassessing the politics of deficits.

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Lawsuit Says Military Is Rife With Sexual Abuse

Kori Cioca, in her lawyer’s office on Sunday, described being raped while serving in the Coast Guard. She is one of 17 plaintiffs filing a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

When our young people sign up willingly to serve our country we know that they are looking forward with a positive attitude.  They go off to defend our nation, but many are learning, the hard way, that they have to defend themselves first.

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault, and of mishandling cases that were brought to its attention, thus violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The suit — brought by 2 men and 15 women, both veterans and active-duty service members — specifically claims that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms.”

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No Dice, No Money, No Cheating. Are You Sure This Is Monopoly?

A tower for the new Monopoly oversees players’ assets, the game’s pace and its rules.

Familiar old board games are going hi-tech.  Monopoly, that old Hasbro standy by, has developed a new electronic version aptly named Monopoly Live.

With free digital games everywhere, Hasbro is hoping to revive interest among young children and preteenagers in several of its games that cost money. (The new Monopoly, available in the fall, will be about $50). Battleship will undergo a similar digital upgrade this year, and other Hasbro games will be redesigned for 2012 and 2013, Ms. Ritson-Parsons said.

With free digital games everywhere, Hasbro is hoping to revive interest among young children and preteenagers in several of its games that cost money. (The new Monopoly, available in the fall, will be about $50). Battleship will undergo a similar digital upgrade this year, and other Hasbro games will be redesigned for 2012 and 2013, Ms. Ritson-Parsons said.

But for families used to arguing over Monopoly’s rules, players who slip a $100 bill under the board for later use and friends who gleefully demand rent from one another, it may not be so easy to adapt to a computer’s presence on the board.

“It seems that there’s a computer that makes most of the decisions for you — it changes a lot of the rules, it removes a lot of the skill,” said Ken Koury, a competitive Monopoly player and coach who informally settles rule disputes for others. “With this computer, I’m wondering what’s left for the player to decide — is it they just keep pushing buttons and wait for someone to win?”

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WikiLeaks, Free Speech And Twitter Come Together in Va. Court Case

Julian Assange
It’s like the perfect storm of technology.  Everything coming together in Virginia in the courtroom of the WikiLeaks case.

An odd confluence of important issues came together in a federal courtroom in Alexandria on Tuesday: the criminal investigation of WikiLeaks, free speech and social networking.

It all stemmed from the government’s attempts to get personal information from the Twitter accounts of three people linked to the WikiLeaks probe. Their lawyers argued that the data – screen names, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, credit card and bank account information, and Internet protocol addresses – are protected by the First Amendment. Prosecutors said the request is a routine part of their criminal probe.

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Transit Authorities Jump Aboard $53 Billion Rail Plan

All aboard!  The US government is getting onboard with a $53 billion high-speed rail proposal unveiled by the White House on Tuesday.

The High Speed Rail NY Coalition supports the new proposal as well. Ben Sio, a representative for the coalition, said high-speed rail will impact the state by increasing tourism and reducing commute times between Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany and New York City.

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Congressman Higgins Reports VA Moving Forward on Plans for Veteran Cemetery in WNY

This afternoon the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced action they are taking to begin the process of locating a National Veteran Cemetery in Western New York.

“The men and women who have served this nation fall within a unique rank deserving of the recognition and reverence bestowed by a veterans’ cemetery,” said Congressman Higgins.  “I commend the Administration for moving forward on the process that will give Western New York veteran’s families the option for a veteran burial close to home.” 

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration maintains 131 national cemeteries, including 7 in New York State.  However the closest to Western New York is located in Bath, NY, approximately 80 miles away. 

The potential for a national cemetery in Western New York was one of the issues discussed between Congressman Higgins and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, when the Secretary met with the Congressman during his visit to Buffalo last April.

For more specific information about burial in a VA National Cemetery click here or for general information about VA burial and memorial benefits visit http://www.cem.va.gov/  

Below is a map outlining the approximate area in which the VA is seeking land for creation of the cemetery:

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Pa. Teacher Strikes Nerve With ‘lazy whiners’ Blog

Natalie Munroe
Central Bucks East High School teacher Natalie Munroe

This story really caught my eye.  I can’t think of a teacher I know who would not agree with most of the statements written by Natalie Munroe, a high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia.  She expressed her frustrations on line with family and friends on a private blog she had created.  Of course once you put something out there, it’s out there.  Now she is suspended with pay while her district decides if she will lose her job.

Munroe was suspended for a profanity-laced blog in which she called her young charges “disengaged, lazy whiners”  and is driving a sensation by daring to ask: Why are today’s students unmotivated — and what’s wrong with calling them out?

“My students are out of control,” Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. “They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — writes: “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.” She also comes up with a colorful list of comments that she felt should be available on student report cards.

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U.S. Policy to Address Internet Freedom

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has noted the Internet’s use in toppling repressive regimes and crushing dissent.

The Obama administration plans to announce a new policy on Internet freedom, designed to help people get around barriers in cyberspace while making it harder for autocratic governments to use the same technology to repress dissent.  This is happening just days after Facebook and Twitter added fuel to a revolt in Egypt.

The State Department’s policy, a year in the making, has been bogged down by fierce debates over which projects it should support, and even more basically, whether to view the Internet primarily as a weapon to topple repressive regimes or as a tool that autocrats can use to root out and crush dissent.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will lay out the policy in a speech on Tuesday, acknowledged the Internet’s dual role in an address a year ago, and administration officials said she would touch on that theme again, noting how social networks were used by both protesters and governments in the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries.

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To Stand Out, Retailers Flock to Exclusive Lines

The Spanish fashion label MNG by Mango is sold only at J. C. Penney stores in the United States.

Tired of seeing the same clothing at every store you shop in?  Pay attention because retailers are now dealing with exclusive lines to bring customers to their stores.

To find Miley Cyrus’s line of clothes, shoppers head to Wal-Mart. For Selena Gomez’s, they go to Kmart. Jennifer Lopez’s line is at Kohl’s, and Demi Lovato’s at Target. Rachel Bilson dinnerware can only be found at Macy’s, while for the Kardashian Kollection, fans must go to Sears.

Department store shopping is getting more and more complicated, driven by the growing popularity of exclusive lines, often backed by celebrities.

In an effort to stave off rounds of price-slashing with competitors over the same brands, stores are increasingly relying on merchandise that can be found nowhere else. Retailers can mark these exclusive lines down at their own pace, with a far more profitable outcome than with a national brand.

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More Clashes In Bahrain and Yemen

The Egyptian protest and revolution is contagious.  Protesters have hit the streets in Iran, Bahrain and Yemen.  Unfortunately these countries are not making any peaceful progress.  Many are being killed to contain and defeat the protesters.

Violent protests erupted in all three countries Monday as the revolutionary fervor unleashed by the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rippled across the Middle East, propelling people onto the streets to demand change from a spectrum of autocratic regimes.

In Tehran, at least one person was killed during the banned opposition rally, officials told the student news agency ISNA on Tuesday. The demonstration was the largest in Iran since a crackdown on the opposition 14 months ago.

In Washington, President Obama told a news conference, “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt” when it has acted “in direct contrast” to that by gunning down and beating protesters in Iran.

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