December 13th, 2010
ABC News / Gary Langer / December 13, 2010 1:17 PM
Coinciding with a federal judge’s ruling invalidating a key element of the health care reform law, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support for the landmark legislation at a new low – but division on what to do about it.
The law’s never been popular, with support peaking at just 48 percent in November 2009. Today it’s slipped to 43 percent, numerically its lowest in ABC/Post polling. (It was about the same, 44 percent, a year ago.) Fifty-two percent are opposed, and that 9-point gap in favor of opposition is its largest on record since the latest debate over health care reform began in earnest in summer 2009.
More also continue to “strongly” oppose the law than to strongly support it, 37 percent to 22 percent.
What to do about it is another question: People who don’t support the law fragment on how to proceed, with a plurality in this group, 38 percent, saying they’d rather wait and see before deciding on a direction. Among the rest, 30 percent would repeal parts of the law, while about as many, 29 percent, favor repealing all of it.
Health care reform has lacked broad support – as also was the case when it last was debated in 1994 – given the public’s conflicting priorities and concerns. While many aspects of the reform law win broad backing, its rules, funding mechanisms and the issue of government involvement raise doubts. And while many Americans are concerned about their future costs and coverage, most are satisfied with their current coverage, care and even costs – raising fears that a new system could do more harm than good.
The law’s individual mandate, requiring that nearly all adults must buy health insurance or face a fine, has been particularly unpopular; in a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month, 68 percent of adults said that element should be repealed.
Views on reform are marked by sharp partisanship. Eighty-six percent of Republicans in the new ABC/Post poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, oppose the health care law; that subsides to 47 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats. But support among Democrats (67 percent) is far exceeded by opposition across the aisle. And intensity of sentiment is far higher among Republicans – 69 percent “strongly” oppose the law, while just 41 percent of Democrats strongly favor it.
The trends are similar along ideological lines, with opposition, including strong opposition, higher among conservatives than the corresponding levels of support among liberals.
There also are partisan differences among critics of the law in how to proceed. Among Democrats who don’t support the law, 54 percent prefer to wait and see how it unfolds. Republicans and conservatives are more apt to favor repeal. At the same time, these groups divide between repealing all of the law, or just parts of it.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, in Richmond, Virginia, ruled today that Congress exceeded its authority by imposing the individual mandate, but he declined to freeze the rollout of the law while court cases proceed. Two other judges, in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va., have upheld the law, and it’s expected ultimately to reach the Supreme Court.
December 13th, 2010
He went to police in the town of Bielefeld where he lives but officers said they were powerless to intervene.
"The man then recruited two work colleagues at his factory and then went to the house of the victim," said police.
"The man was forced to remove his trousers and, fully conscious, he was castrated. The severed testicles were taken away by the perpetrator."
The man was close to bleeding to death but managed to call police. His life was saved but he remains a eunuch for life.
Seifert pleaded guilty and will be on trial for attempted murder next year. But he has remained silent on who his accomplices were.
He told police: "I received a phone call anonymously that my daughter was involved with a guy 40 years older than her. You said you couldn't stop him – so I did.
"I saw it as my duty as a father."
December 13th, 2010
By Barry Secrest
Fascinating that a structure, which was completed in 1982, has finally succumbed to the harshness of a massive winter snowstorm. Even more fascinating is that this structure that has been around for nearly 30 years finally collapses under the weight of ice and snow during, what is supposed to be, the height of a global warming meltdown.
I wonder if they are watching this video in Cancun? No doubt, the ravages of the winters that have brutalized a large swath of Europe and the United States for two years running, will be chalked up to the vagaries of a climate that is supposedly warming due to manmade carbon proliferations.
Perhaps they will, even now, point to a couple of hotter than normal areas out in the American west as symptons of global warming, while totally ignoring the recurring extremeness of winter harshness that is occurring elsewhere.
December 13th, 2010
Now British police want to know who sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. And they want to know why.
"I've just driven past the site, and people are coming out in tears," said Glastonbury Mayor John Coles. "I've never seen a sadder sight, or a more serious act of vandalism, in my 60 years in Glastonbury."
Glastonbury, 125 miles west of London, is best known for its annual rock music festival, which has drawn artists such as Bruce Springsteen since the 1960s. Its mysterious landscape — including the Glastonbury Tor hill, which is believed by some to have magical qualities — has drawn pagan worshippers for many years.
Katherine Gorbing, the director of Glastonbury Abbey, said the tree originally came from the Middle East and is a type of thorn tree common in Lebanon as well as in Europe. It typically lives about 100 years, but Gorbing said locals have kept Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree going by taking grafts and clippings from it to plant new trees when the existing one neared the end of its natural life.
"It's a sacred tree," she said. "Not only for the Christian church, but for many other people."
The tree itself, located near the summit of Wearyall Hill, is visible from many parts of rural Somerset.
Coles said the nighttime attack came between Wednesday and Thursday shortly after he, the local vicar and schoolchildren participated in the annual sprig cutting for the queen's Christmas table.
The sprig is sometimes visible during her televised Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth — and the queen always sends a letter of thanks, he said.
Coles believes that someone who saw the sprig ceremony on local television or who witnessed it in person — decided afterward to chop down the tree, which did not have any security cameras nearby.
"It could be an anti-monarchist, an anti-Christian, or someone who's an atheist," Coles said. "We don't know whether it's one person responsible or a group."
Avon and Somerset police would not comment on the motive. No arrests have been made.
The once-proud tree provides Glastonbury believers with what legend says is a significant link to the early days of Christianity in England.
Religious tradition holds that the original tree was planted by St. Joseph of Arimathea — the wealthy merchant who volunteered his prepared tomb to Jesus — after he first made landfall in England some 2,000 years ago. The chopped-down tree is thought to be descended from the original. It blooms twice a year — during the Christmas season and again around Easter.
"The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea pushed his staff into the ground and pronounced it to be weary — that's why it's known as Wearyall Hill," Coles said. "The tree is said to have grown from the staff. It's something you can't prove or disprove."
Some people believe the growth of the wooden staff into the tree was a full-fledged miracle, while others believe it was left standing in a boggy area for months and eventually sprouted, said Susan Strong, an education officer at Glastonbury Abbey.
"You can take the miraculous approach or the pragmatic approach," she said.
Local historians said the tree — or one of its ancestors — has been chopped down at least once before, by a soldier using an ax during the 1642-51 English Civil Wars.
Experts say the tree could recover in about 10 years if it was in good health at the time of the attack.
"It will obviously be deformed, but it will put grafts out next spring," said Tony Kirkham, head of the arboretum at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. "But it will take a long time to make a good tree."
Even with that hope, Gorbing called the loss of the tree devastating.
"The tree unites everybody in the town," she said. "It's a symbol worldwide. Local people do see this as an attack on Glastonbury."
December 13th, 2010
The Sun News
By James Rosen
WASHINGTON -- Gov.-elect Nikki Haley challenged President Obama over his landmark health insurance law Thursday in a candid, personal exchange in front of Cabinet members and newly elected governors from across the country but away from reporters.
In an exchange recounted by Haley and confirmed by White House aides, Obama rejected Haley's request to repeal the health care bill - but said he'd consider letting states opt out of its mandates if they ran exchange programs, banned insurance firms from denying coverage of pre-existing conditions and enabled people to pool together for better rates.
With only four Democratic incoming governors joining 18 Republicans and one independent, Obama acknowledged the Nov. 2 elections hadn't gone as he'd hoped.
"I'm a very proud Democrat, as many of you in the room are, though not as many as I expected," Obama quipped.
Reporters covered Obama's opening remarks, but they weren't allowed in the room for the unusual exchange of questions from the newly elected state executives and answers from the president at Blair House, an elegant guest house across Lafayette Square from the White House.
Haley, in Washington for her second day of meetings with national leaders, asked two of a dozen questions the Republican-dominated governors asked Obama in the closed-door lunch session that lasted almost an hour.
In addition to their exchange about health care, Obama rejected Haley's request that he reconsider his decision to freeze development of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada to receive nuclear waste from the Savannah River Site and sites in other states.
Haley, who sat next to Vice President Joe Biden at the lunch, said afterward that she'd been impressed by Obama's willingness to field questions from governors who'd won office by attacking his policies.
"I appreciated his openness and his willingness to spend time with us and to really listen to what our concerns were and to address our concerns," Haley told McClatchy.
"It was respectful, it was a strong line of communication, and I was doing my job to protect the people of South Carolina."
Haley's prominence at the high-level meeting and her confronting Obama over the signature legislative achievement of his White House tenure provide more evidence of her status as a rising star who is being eagerly promoted by GOP powerbrokers.
White House aides were sent a detailed transcript of Haley's account of her exchanges with Obama. They didn't dispute it.
In the most dramatic moment, Haley asked Obama to repeal the landmark health insurance bill he signed into law in March after Congress passed it with only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.
"I said the people of South Carolina and the small businesses of South Carolina cannot afford the mandated health care law they had passed," Haley recalled after the meeting.
"I told him that our economy is already in a tough spot, and our budget cannot sustain the mandate."
When Obama ruled out repeal, Haley tried a different tack.
"I asked him if the state of South Carolina gave solutions, so we're not just saying no, would he allow us to opt out or allow any other state to opt out should they choose," Haley said. "He said that he would consider an opt-out provision if it contained three clauses."
Obama's conditions, Haley said, were that states would have to run exchange programs enabling uninsured residents to choose among different health plans; would have to ban coverage exclusions for treatment of pre-existing illness; and would have to create pools for large groups of individuals to get discounted coverage.
Haley said afterward that she would start working on Obama's tentative proposals.
"I think right now what's best for me is to go back to South Carolina, look at all three of these issues and then make a decision," Haley said. "I want to start to research on what it would take in order for us to do something to meet his provisions.
"The goal is to make sure that we are giving choices to the people of our states and not mandating them."
Haley's exchange with Obama on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump was less complicated.
"The taxpayers of South Carolina have paid $1.2 billion to [develop a plan] to send our nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain," she said.
"I asked him if he would consider honoring the federal commitment and allow waste to go to Yucca Mountain. His answer was no.
"He went on to the fact that they feel like they had safety concerns. He was pretty adamant that was not an option that was on the table."
Haley then made a direct demand.
"Then give us our money back," she told Obama.
"He said that he would have [Energy] Secretary Chu call me."
More From The Sun