Hackers Find a New Way Into Your Home: Your TV

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Read Time:1 Minute, 37 Second

Smart TVs are one of the newest device categories to gain mass adoption. Yet their adoption could cause more harm than it's worth—for Europeans, at least.

Forbes reports that an exploit in a new form of over-the-air broadcast signal could lead hackers right into your home via your smart TV. The so-called “Red Button flaw" (named after the iconic smart function key) was discovered by students at the Columbia University Network Security Lab.

The students, Yossef Oren and Angelos D. Keromytis, discovered the flaw in Europe’s new hybrid broadcast broadband TV standard (HbbTV for short). This standard allows broadcast stations to transmit programming alongside web content in over-the-air broadcasts.

All hackers need is a drone- or rooftop-mounted antenna to broadcast their own malicious signals to your smart TV, then gain access to your home network. Worse still, they're virtually untraceable using conventional tracking techniques. Authorities would need antennas of their own to hunt down the source of the hackers’ signals and by then the criminals could be long gone.

Oren and Keromytis demonstrated such an attack for the Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) consortium—the European standards body behind HbbTV. But the consortium apparently did not consider the threat as serious enough to alter the standard. The students argue this is problematic, since the standard is widely used across Europe.

Luckily, this is not the case in the United States. Oren says a variant of HbbTV is being considered by the the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), but it is only a “candidate standard” under review and would still have another round of reviews to endure before becoming a reality.

Even if it does roll out to Americans, the Consumer Electronics Association reports that only seven percent of American TV households actually use over-the-air signals, and that number is on the decline.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Feds don’t inspect 4 in 10 higher-risk wells

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Read Time:7 Minute, 8 Second

NEW CASTLE, Colo. (AP) — Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher-pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America's drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.

Roughly half or more of wells on federal and Indian lands weren't checked in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, despite potential harm that has led to efforts in some communities to ban new drilling.

In New Castle, a tiny Colorado River valley community, homeowners expressed chagrin at the large number of uninspected wells, many on federal land, that dot the steep hillsides and rocky landscape. Like elsewhere in the West, water is a precious commodity in this Colorado town, and some residents worry about the potential health hazards of any leaks from wells and drilling.

"Nobody wants to live by an oil rig. We surely didn't want to," said Joann Jaramillo, 54.

About 250 yards up the hill from Jaramillo's home, on land that was a dormant gravel pit when she bought the house eight years ago, is an active drilling operation that operates every day from 7 a.m. until sometimes 10:30 p.m. local time. Jaramillo said the drilling began about three years ago.

Even if the wells were inspected, she questioned whether that would ensure their safety. She said many view the oil and gas industry as self-policing and nontransparent.

"Who are they going to report to?" she asked.

Government data obtained by the AP point to the Bureau of Land Management as so overwhelmed by a boom in a new drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that it has been unable to keep up with inspections of some of the highest priority wells. That's an agency designation based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental and safety issues.

Factors also include whether the well is near a high-pressure formation or whether the drill operator lacks a clear track record of service.

"No one would have predicted the incredible boom of drilling on federal lands, and the number of wells we've been asked to process," said the BLM's deputy director, Linda Lance. Since fracking reached a height in 2009, about 90% of new wells on federal land are drilled by the process, which involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground.

"The current rate of inspections is simply not acceptable to us," she said.

The agency oversees 100,000 oil and gas wells on public lands, 3,486 of which received the high-priority designation.

According to BLM records for fiscal years 2009 to 2012, 1,400 of those high-priority wells, spread across 13 states, were not federally inspected. Wyoming had the most, 632, or 4%. South Dakota had one out of two wells uninspected, and Pennsylvania had one out of six.

All the higher-risk wells were inspected in six states — Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and Texas.

Many more wells are located on private lands, where state officials take the lead in ensuring they comply with environmental laws, with mixed results. Nationwide, there were nearly 500,000 producing gas wells in 2012, according to Energy Information Administration data. More than 1,800 new wells were being drilled in March alone.

Dennis Willis, a former BLM field officer in Price, Utah, says he routinely provided input on oil leasing and drilling decisions on federal land before his retirement in 2009. He described a situation of chronic underfunding dating to at least the early 2000s, when BLM management made clear that issuing new permits would be a priority over other tasks, according to a 2002 memorandum from supervisors in Utah to field officers. At the time, fracking was becoming more widely used.

"There certainly wasn't a shortage of spills, leaks, pipeline failures and other problems," said Willis, who now does consulting work for conservation and other groups.

"It's a disaster waiting to happen," he said.

In interviews, BLM officials acknowledged persistent problems in keeping up with inspections, but said they were not aware of any major safety issues to date arising from the uninspected wells.

Lance said BLM field managers are making judgment calls to minimize the risk of potential harm to surrounding communities. The agency also is reviewing whether it needs to slow down the pace of permits to ensure public safety.

Officials noted that money provided by Congress for oil and gas operations has declined since 2007. During that period, the number of wells drilled on federal and Indian lands has increased by roughly one-third.

"We're trying to do the best we can with limited resources," Lance said.

If approved by Congress, the BLM's 2015 budget request of $150 million for oil and gas operations would allow the agency to conduct the bulk of its required inspections over three years, in part by collecting fees from oil and gas companies. Unlike past years, $48 million will be earmarked for inspections. The BLM made similar budget requests the last several years with little success.

The BLM has sought to add inspectors, but that has proved challenging in places such as Utah, where most wells are drilled on federal land. While a petroleum engineer could get a starting salary of $90,000 in the private sector, the BLM typically pays $35,000. This year's appropriations bill would allow the BLM to increase inspector salaries to around $44,000.

The public concern is evident in Colorado, where increased drilling into suburban and rural areas has led community groups to push nearly a dozen oil and gas local control initiatives for the November ballot. Of the wells drilled from 2009 to 2012, the BLM designated more than 400 on federal and Indian lands in Colorado as high priority, the third-highest behind Wyoming and North Dakota. More than 160 of Colorado's uninspected high-priority wells are near New Castle, on the edge of the White River National Forest.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been seeking a legislative compromise that could satisfy concerns over health and safety impacts of fracking.

Regulators contend that overall, water and air pollution problems from fracking are rare, but environmental groups and some scientists say there hasn't been enough research on those issues.

Jaramillo said residents in the canyon have mixed feelings about fracking.

"The people that really like it are the people who are getting money out of it," she said. "The people who don't are really worried about — Is it going to ruin the water? Is it going to ruin the land? Is it going to ruin the air?"

A neighbor, Kory Kipferl, who owns a 10-acre property adjacent to federal land dotted with active wells on gravel pads. He said he's accepted what he called a need for domestic drilling — but he's concerned about the water table.

"Once we start puncturing the water table, that could cause problems, whether you're drilling for gas, oil, water, whatever," Kipferl said.

The BLM dataset is more extensive than what was reviewed recently by the Government Accountability Office, and filtered to remove duplicate well entries that yielded an over-count. In a recent report, auditors said the BLM needed to do a better job of coordinating with state regulators. In Pennsylvania, for instance, the one well that went uninspected by the BLM had been checked multiple times by the state.

Still, it's not clear how willing states are to take up the federal task.

"To say that we're going to start inspecting federal wells is just above and beyond what we could do," said John Rogers, associate director of Utah's Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, pointing to his small staff. He said companies will inspect their own equipment in order to protect their investment, so it's likely that at least some of Utah's 200-plus wells that weren't inspected by BLM are checked by someone.

"We're certainly not going to second-guess people's inspections," Rogers said of the BLM.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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U.S. moving aircraft carrier closer to Iraq

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Read Time:4 Minute, 46 Second

As insurgents took more territory in Iraq on Saturday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf as the U.S. weighs options for responding to the situation.

The aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush will move into the Persian Gulf by Saturday evening, where it will be accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and destroyer, according to statement by Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

"The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials pledged severe punishment for deserting soldiers, whom they blame for the fall of two key provincial capitals earlier this week.

"If soldiers who have left their bases don't rejoin the nearest unit, this will be considered a crime that could merit the death penalty," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

On Saturday, insurgents seized the small town of Adeim in Diyala province 60 miles north of Baghdad after Iraqi security forces withdrew. That followed the fall of Mosul and Tikrit this week into the hands of an al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Sunni group aims to establish an Islamist state spanning Iraq and Syria, where they are also fighting.

About 750,000 men lined up at volunteer centers in Baghdad to answer the call by a top Shiite cleric, Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to fight the militants, Iraqi broadcaster Al-Baghdadiyah reported.

Iraqi officials said there was a massive push to roll back the insurgents' gains in Tikrit on Saturday, with the help of Kurdish militias known as Peshmerga, the channel reported. They drove out militants who had taken over an army outpost about 15 miles west of the oil city of Kirkuk — which had been abandoned by deserting Iraqi army troops. The Kurds, who have an autonomous republic in the north, took control of Kirkuk after the Iraqi army withdrew.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday expressed extreme alarm at the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Iraq, citing reports of summary executions and extrajudicial killings.

"The full extent of civilian casualties is not yet known," Pillay said. "But reports suggest the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds, and the number of wounded is said to be approaching 1,000."

She said she was deeply disturbed by reports that ISlL fighters, including prisoners they had released from jails in Mosul and provided with arms, have been actively seeking out — and in some cases killing — soldiers, police and others, including civilians, whom they perceive as being associated with the government.

"We have, for example, received reports of the summary executions of Iraqi army soldiers during the capture of Mosul, and of 17 civilians on one particular street in Mosul City on June 11," she added.

U.N. officials also expressed concern at the more than 500,000 refugees who fled towns taken over by ISIL.

Residents in Mosul and Tikrit expressed bitterness over the army's abandonment of residents.

"People in Mosul were not happy with the Iraqi army but they asked for their protection, not for them to leave the city," said Samir Oda of Mosul. "The soldiers were heading towards Kurdistan — not a single one was left in Mosul. Now we are afraid our city will be destroyed by the government trying to attack the terrorists."

Many have questioned how it is possible that such a small fighting force as ISIL could take over key cities protected by the military and threaten the capital. But analysts say it was to be expected.

"The key thing to emphasize is that while on paper the Iraqi security forces are numerically enormously superior to ISIL, in these towns and cities the Iraqi militant security forces are relatively light in number," said Matthew Henman, manager of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC), in London. "They are typically a kind of light infantry force, designed for largely static guard duties, rather than any kind of heavy urban combat."

By comparison, he says, that ISIL is a highly trained, highly organized and heavily armed force with experience in guerrilla operations from years of fighting in Iraq and also extensive experience in urban and street fighting against conventional army forces.

In the longer term, ISIL cannot easily hold onto the territory it has captured, analysts say.

"What has subsequently happened is that the security forces have rallied and started to take the fight back to ISIL and to start pushing them back," said Henman. "Because they are capable of engaging with them and defeating them in open combat. ISIL isn't so heavily experienced and armed that it is able to engage in conventional, prolonged combat with conventional security forces."

Still, disaffected Sunnis, Kurdish ambitions, a weak and often corrupt and brutal security force and government could lead to renewed civil war in the worst crisis since U.S. forces withdrew at the end of 2011, analysts say.

Al-Maliki tried to put a positive note on the situation of deserters.

"This is our chance to clean and purge the army from these elements that only want to make gains from being in the army and the police," he said. "They thought that this is the beginning of the end but, in fact, we say that this is the beginning of their end."

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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War monger John McCain gets testy on ‘Morning Joe’

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Read Time:4 Minute, 31 Second

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered some of his toughest criticisms of the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq on Friday during several testy exchanges with the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

McCain said the Iraq War was won after the successful troop surge ordered by President George W. Bush and blamed the current situation on President Obama’s decision to not leave a residual U.S. force in Iraq.

“The fact is, we had the conflict won. The surge had succeeded,” McCain said. “And then, the decision was made by the Obama administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.”

The fight over Iraq is strikingly personal to McCain, who backed the surge in 2007 and then became his party’s presidential nominee in 2008. Obama opposed the surge and defeated McCain handily in the 2008 presidential election.

McCain ever since has been one of Obama’s fiercest critics, particularly on war and foreign policy. On Thursday, he called for the firing of Obama’s entire national security team because of Iraq, where Sunni fundamentalists have taken over several cities and are within 70 miles of Baghdad.

Obama and McCain also battled over the failure of the U.S. and Iraq to reach an agreement that would have allowed some U.S. forces to remain in Iraq to train Iraqi troops and help provide security. U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011, after no deal could be met.

McCain argued Friday that a residual force should have been left behind similar to the ones after World War II in Germany and Japan, in Korea after the war there and in Bosnia after the United Nations’ involvement in the conflict surrounding Yugoslavia’s breakup.

McCain said Friday that Iraq’s government had been ready to accept a residual force, and he had begged the administration to leave one behind, “and they wouldn’t do it.”

“We had it won, and I predicted in 2011, when we left, there would be a colossal failure,” he said.

MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski questioned McCain on whether blame for the problems in Iraq should also fall on the Bush administration.

“What about going in in the first place, and what about churning the hate, and what about taking the Sunnis out of leadership positions in 2003, what about the fact that there might have been some parts of this that were on the previous administration that might be litigated as well?” she asked McCain.

“Well what about the fact that we had it won?” McCain said as the two began to talk over one another. “What about the fact that people like me said we’ve got to fire Rumsfeld, we’ve got to get the surge going.”

“Did we?” Brzezinski asked.

“Yes, we did, finally,” McCain said.

“Now I expected you and others to blame it on all these different events. The fact is, we had the conflict won, and we had a stable government, and a residual force such as we have left behind — we even have forces in Bosnia, Korea, Germany, Japan, where we could have, but the president wanted out, and now we are paying a very heavy price.”

Later, McCain also battled with Sam Stein of The Huffington Post, who asked whether McCain foresaw keeping forces in Iraq in perpetuity.

“I just want to nail down what it means to have it won,” Stein said. He argued the U.S. had spent $25 billion propping up the Iraqi military, only to see it fold this week as Sunni Muslim insurgents advanced in the country.

“So I’m curious, what is the definition of victory; what is the definition of winning? Does it mean having a residual force basically without end date? I’m just a little confused and want to know what victory is to you, Sen. McCain,” Stein said.

“I think you are confused because you didn’t know what happened with the surge, where we basically had the country pacified; we had a stable government in Baghdad, and we had the conflict basically for all intents and purposes won,” McCain retorted.

“So I‘m sorry about your confusion,” McCain later added, “but anyone who was there can tell you we had the conflict won.”

Brzezinski then asked if McCain wanted the U.S. to commit troops without an end date in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. “How long can you ask this of American troops and think it’s OK? I just want to know,” she said.

“With all due respect, do you think we ought to pull our troops out of Korea? With all due respect, do you think we ought to pull our troops out of Bosnia,” McCain said.

He said sacrifices already made would be in vain if Iraq and Afghanistan fell, and he argued that residual forces would not be in combat.

“We’re talking about a residual forces to keep a nation stable, and the American people would support such a thing if it was explained to them,” he said.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Obama To Endorse Elizabeth Warren’s Student Loan Proposal

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Read Time:3 Minute, 17 Second

President Barack Obama on Monday will throw his support behind a new proposal to dramatically revamp the federal student loan program, according to the White House.

A bill proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would allow borrowers to potentially save thousands of dollars by giving them a chance to effectively pay off their high-rate existing loans in exchange for new loans that carry substantially lower interest rates.

The Obama administration initially was hesitant to fully embrace the bill because of disagreements over how to pay for it. But with mounting pressure from advocacy groups, and with a renewed political focus on issues confronting working families, the president has softened his opposition. Obama’s endorsement would be the latest recognition to date of the ascendance of Warren-style populism within the Democratic Party.

An administration official told The Huffington Post that Obama is expected to "call for passage of the refinancing bill" when it comes up for a vote, as it is scheduled to do next week.

Student groups and other organizations focusing on younger Americans enthusiastically support Warren’s bill, under which new interest rates would range from 3.86 percent for loans taken out by borrowers when they were undergraduates to 6.41 percent for parents who took out loans for their children's college tuition, as well as for borrowers who took out loans to pay for graduate school.

The financial industry, perhaps not surprisingly, is less enamored with the proposal. The bill would allow borrowers to refinance loans owned by the private sector into new loans made by the Education Department. Paying off loans early deprives lenders of future interest income, causing paper losses.

Republicans appear to be dead set against enacting the proposal into law, but for different reasons. The Democrats proposed to offset the loss of future federal revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy — a pay-for idea that is anathema in conservative circles.

“This bill doesn’t make college more affordable, reduce the amount of money students will have to borrow, or do anything about the lack of jobs grads face in the Obama economy," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

The lack of Republican support means the proposal would be unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster in the Senate or pass the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. Analysts at Compass Point Research & Trading, a financial firm, put the odds of it becoming law at less than 10 percent.

But Democrats, including the White House, still are likely to hold a vote in hopes of placing Republicans on the wrong side of an issue that is becoming increasingly important to American households. Some 40 million Americans have student loans. They collectively owe $1.3 trillion, making student debt the second-biggest form of consumer debt after home mortgages. Unpaid student debt has doubled since 2007, according to the Federal Reserve.

"College has never been more important, but it’s also never been more expensive," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said this week. "So we commend the efforts in the Senate and look forward to working with them to pass this bill."

Warren's bill is a central part of Senate Democrats’ so-called “Fair Shot” agenda in advance of November’s elections. Thirty-five other senators are co-sponsoring the measure.

“The bill is part of Democrats' strategy to highlight a number of issues they believe will energize their voting base ahead of the midterm elections,” analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods wrote in a note to clients last month. But the cost to enact the proposal combined with new taxes, they added, “suggests to us that the Warren bill is more about the politics of the issue and not about passing the bill.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare

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Read Time:3 Minute, 23 Second

The Republican Party in Virginia has resorted to what appears to be outright bribery in its ongoing effort to deny low-income residents in the state access to the Medicaid expansion authorized by Obamacare.

The Washington Post is reporting that Republicans offered to move Democratic state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett and his daughter into prestigious jobs in exchange for Puckett's resignation, which will flip the chamber into Republican hands. Puckett will officially accept the offer on Monday, the paper reported.

The Senate was on course to pass an expansion of Medicaid, as the law allows, while the House of Delegates, in GOP hands, aimed to block it. In such a scenario, Democrats hoped that Republicans would be blamed for the resulting government shutdown. With Republicans in control of both chambers, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) must now veto the GOP budget in order to force a showdown over Medicaid.

The apparent quid pro quo has sent Democrats railing.

"It's astounding to me. The House Republican caucus will do anything and everything to prevent low-income Virginians from getting healthcare … They figure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state senator," Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Washington Post. "At least they can't offer Terry McAuliffe a job. I hope Terry continues to stand up to these bullies."

McAuliffe campaigned on the promise of Medicaid expansion in 2013. Since his election, Republicans have attempted to stonewall his attempts to bring coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, prompting the governor to explore options for expanding Medicaid without the approval of the state legislature.

As many as 20,000 of Puckett's southwest Virginia constituents could be eligible for the Medicaid expansion. His district is so poor that residents have overwhelmed free medical clinics.

McAuliffe told The Washington Post that Puckett's anticipated resignation only adds "uncertainty" to his plan for expanding coverage.

"I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia," McAuliffe said. "This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap."

Update: June 9 — State Sen. Chap Petersen (D) told HuffPost that he was shocked by Puckett's resignation. "Phil struck you as a guy who was a man of his word, the oppositie of a shady character," he said. "If he was with you he was with you, and if he wasn't, he wasn't, and let you know."

Petersen said that Puckett's daughter had been an issue in Richmond for months, if not a year, as Republicans were holding up her reappointment, arguing that having a father as a state senator represented a conflict of interest. "I do remember specific conversations with Philip [in which he said,] 'I'm not gonna get blackmailed on my daughter," said Petersen.

Strangely, Petersen said, as of Monday afternoon Puckett has not addressed the accusations either privately or publicly, even though news of the scandal broke Sunday night. Petersen said he's waiting for more information before jumping to a conclusion, but added that he couldn't think of any plausible explanation other than the one being circulated.

"If the session was over and he had a family issue … that would be explicable. It would still be unusual to not serve out your term," he said. "But to resign during the middle of the budget negotiation with so much on the line, that's not normal."

This article has been updated to include comments from Petersen and information about Puckett's constituents.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Obama to take executive steps on student loans

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Read Time:2 Minute, 52 Second

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is prepping new executive steps to help Americans struggling to pay off their student debt, and throwing his support behind Senate Democratic legislation with a similar goal but potentially a much more profound impact.

Obama on Monday will announce he's expanding his "Pay As You Earn" program that lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in loan payments, the White House said. Currently, the program is only available to those who started borrowing after October 2007 and kept borrowing after October 2011. Obama plans to start allowing those who borrowed earlier to participate, potentially extending the benefit to millions more borrowers.

"At a time when college has never been more important, it's also never been more expensive," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday.

Obama also plans to announce he's directing the government to renegotiate contracts with federal student loan servicers to encourage them to make it easier for borrowers to avoid defaulting on their loans. And he will ask the Treasury and Education departments to work with major tax preparers, including H&R Block and the makers of TurboTax, to increase awareness about tuition tax credits and flexible repayment options available to borrowers.

At the same time, Obama will use the Rose Garden appearance on Monday to amplify his call for lawmakers to pass more sweeping legislation that would let college graduates with heavy debts refinance their loans. The Senate is expected to debate the legislation next week, but it faces significant obstacles.

The dual strategy — taking executive action while urging Congress to finish the job — has become Obama's signature playbook this year. Stymied by gridlock as Congress marches toward the midterm elections, he has repeatedly sought ways to go around Congress with modest steps that underscore his pitch from the bully pulpit for Congress to finish the job.

"While Congress decides what it's going to do, I will keep doing whatever I can without Congress to help responsible young people pay off their loans," Obama said.

Echoing Obama's call to action on student loan debt are Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, who planned to join Obama for the White House event on Monday. The president will continue the push Tuesday in an online question-and-answer session hosted by Tumblr.

Under an income-based repayment plan created by Congress, the maximum monthly payment is already set to drop from 15 percent of income to 10 percent in July 2014. Obama's executive action eliminates that waiting period so borrowers can take advantage of lower payments sooner.

In his weekly address, Obama noted that the Senate proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would be paid for by doing away with tax loopholes for millionaires. He said the choice facing lawmakers is whether to "protect young people from crushing debt or protect tax breaks for millionaires."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a statement criticized the Democratic bill for failing to address college costs.

"This bill doesn't make college more affordable, reduce the amount of money students will have to borrow, or do anything about the lack of jobs grads face in the Obama economy," he said.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Obama Signs Bill Forgiving All Student Loan Debt

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Read Time:2 Minute, 53 Second

Americans who are under the financial strain of repaying student loan debt are now off the hook for their education costs. President Obama signed a new federal bill this week releasing any student who has accrued outstanding debt because of the high interest rates and outrageous balances caused by college loans.

“Any student, past or present, who has taken loans from the federal government within the last 10 years to pay for higher education, will no longer be required to pay back those loans.” Said President Obama. “This forgiveness also is to be extended to any student currently enrolled in college, who may need financial assistance for the next several years as they finish their degrees.”

The idea of student loan forgiveness has been in the news for several years now, as students are forced year-after-year to leave school due to crippling costs of a higher education in the US. With most students not able to afford any facet of college without loans, the government has given out nearly $1 trillion dollars to those seeking a form of higher education. Although certain costs of school are generally offset by private loans, grants, and scholarships, almost every student currently in a 2 or 4-year program has some existing loans with the US government.

“Education is the single most important thing in my mind when it comes to furthering this great nation.” Said Obama. “I can think of no better way to help the young people, this next generation of thinkers and doers, than by helping them to stand on their feet more firmly, and to give them some hope that they can and will receive their degrees, and they can work towards a future for themselves and their families, and not just a future of paying back debt.”

Although the bill was signed on Thursday afternoon in a live press conference, the forgiveness of loans will not begin until the end of 2015, at which point current and former students will begin to see interest and repayment amounts dwindle automatically, eventually leaving everyone with a complete zero-dollar balance.

Even while the government has decided to forgive loans from the public sector, private held companies such as Sallie Mae, the leading lender for higher education, still has sky-high interest rates and non-budging repayment schedules. With close to $1 billion in net income every year,  Sallie Mae has stated that they are not interested in following suit with the governments plan for loan forgiveness.

“We are a private company, and private lenders. We have no interest in not pursuing every possible avenue to squeeze every penny we can out of our borrowers.” Said Carla Edwarton, CEO of Sallie Mae. “Education is important, of course, and so is paying back your debt. We aren’t loan sharks, we aren’t going to break your kneecaps if you don’t pay, as much as we would like to…[But] you can bet we love making all that sweet, sweet high-interest rate cash.”

Students who are currently making payments or have defaulted on their loans can expect to receive a packet letter within the next 3 to 4 weeks detailing how their assistance loans will be forgiven and what percentage, if any, will be left owed to private companies and firms

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Obama, Putin meet; 1st time since Ukraine crisis

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Read Time:3 Minute, 3 Second

BENOUVILLE, France (AP) — After keeping his distance in an awkward diplomatic dance, President Barack Obama came together with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday for a brief discussion on Ukraine, face to face for the first time since the crisis over Ukraine erupted earlier this year.

The roughly 15-minute conversation on the sidelines of a lunch for world leaders in France was casual and didn't rise to the level of a formal bilateral meeting, the White House said. Still, the surprise encounter, coupled with the news of the first meeting between Putin and Ukraine's new president, offered new hopes for an easing of tensions in a crisis that's revived East-West tensions left over from the last century.

The U.S. and Russia offered few immediate details about what transpired in the lunchtime chat on the sidelines of commemorations in Normandy marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. But Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the two had exchanged opinions about Ukraine and the situation in the nation's restive east, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting with pro-Russian insurgents.

"Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible," Peskov said.

Only minutes earlier, Obama to be dodging Putin deliberately as leaders attending the festivities posed for a group photo outdoors. Separated by three others — including Britain's Queen Elizabeth II — Obama and Putin traded no words as the photographer snapped away.

Later, as leaders strolled casually into a nearby building for lunch, Obama winded up directly behind Putin and within arms-length, but averted his gaze, underscoring his reluctance to engage with the Russian leader he's refused to meet with since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in a sharp escalation of tensions.

The Obama-Putin meeting followed a gathering earlier in the week in Brussels of leaders from the Group of Seven wealthier nations who pointedly met without Putin. Afterward, the leaders said the Russian president could avoid tougher sanctions in part by recognizing the legitimacy of the government that takes over in Ukraine on Saturday and ending support for an insurgency in eastern Ukrainian cities that the U.S. has said is backed by the Kremlin.

Obama and Putin have spoken multiple times by phone since the crisis erupted, but not in person, until their mutual interest in paying tribute to the bravery of Allied forces 70 years ago brought them both to the shores of France.

Obama told reporters Thursday that if he and Putin ended up speaking, he would tell the Russian leader that he has a new path to engage with Ukraine through President-elect Petro Poroshenko, who is scheduled to take office Saturday.

"If he does not, if he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond" with more sanctions, Obama said.

Obama, who said his relationship with Putin is "businesslike," expressed hope that the Russian leader is "moving in a new direction" on Ukraine since he didn't immediately denounce Poroshenko's election on May 25. "But I think we have to see what he does and not what he says," Obama said.

Putin and Poroshenko also met in France on Friday, their first such meeting since Poroshenko was elected last month. The Kremlin said Putin and Poroshenko spoke of their desire for a quick end to hostilities in southeastern Ukraine.

Friday's exchange came during a lunch hosted by French President Francois Hollande in Benouville

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Pastor Pays Off His Mistress After Sex Marathon And Sharing Naked Selfies

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Read Time:1 Minute, 19 Second

Pastor Charles Jenkins under heavy criticism for cheating on wife, mismanaging church funds and sharing naked selfies online

Pastor Charles Jenkins has now been accused of using church funds to feed his whore!

A U.S pastor comes under serious attack from his congregation, family and friends after he was accused of allegedly using church funds to pay off his mistress of so many years and offering her a juicy job at the church just so she could stay closer and was always 'available' for him.

Pastor Charles Jenkins of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago was busted for cheating on his lovely wife for many years early this week; and putting up naked selfies on the internet while chatting with his secret lover.

 

The Grammy award winning pastor, of course denies all these allegations and is struggling to get his wife and children to believe in him again. But in an episode of Financial Lovemaking, Dr. Boyce Watkins and S. Tia Brown discussed the good pastor's 'bad' choices and how they might play out emotionally, financially or otherwise.

"This is very bad for his image and calling. Even though it's still all based on allegations, except the nude picture, the Pastor has some self-examining to do. He needs God now more than ever."

Plus are there potential legal liabilities that one might encounter for using organizational resources to cater for their personal activities?

Pulse.ng fans, what do you advice Pastor Charles to do now? Send us your thoughts below

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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