Archive for the ‘Obama,’ Category

 

Published December 12, 2013

FoxNews.com

 

A man being criticized by sign language experts for providing fake interpretations while standing close to President Obama and other heads of state at Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he becomes violent “a lot” and was hallucinating during the event.

Thamsanqa Jantjie did not describe his qualifications for being a sign language interpreter, but told The Star he works for an interpreting company that paid him $85 for interpreting Tuesday’s event, according to The Associated Press. He told Radio 702 on Thursday he’s receiving treatment for schizophrenia and had an episode while on stage at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I startrealizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me,” Jantjie said in an interview with The Associated Press, describing his hallucinations.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And [I] remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Asked how often he had become violent, he told The Associated Press “a lot” while declining to provide details. He also did not say which president he was referring to, but did apologize for his performance and admitted he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than a year.

The statements from Jantjie raised questions about the security at the three-hour event. Jantjie stood three feet away from Obama and the other leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while they were speaking at the lectern.

When asked about the matter on Wednesday, U.S. Secret Service Spokesman Brian Leary told FoxNews.com that the department was aware of it, but declined to elaborate.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing that he wasn’t aware of any securityconcerns with the man being so close to Obama.

“I think my only reaction to that is that it’s a shame that you had a service that was dedicated to honoring the life and celebrating the legacy of one of the great leaders of the 20th century, [and it] has gotten distracted by this and a few other issues that are far less important than the legacy of Nelson Mandela,” he said.

A South African deputy Cabinet minister said “a mistake happened” when Jantjie was hired for the event.

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said Thursday that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Jantjie, SA Interpreters, but that its co-owners “have vanished into thin air.”

Bogopane-Zulu also apologized to deaf people who were offended around the world by what they say was Jantjie’s incomprehensible signing.

She said an investigation is under way to determine how Jantjie received a security clearance.

Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment.

He said he did not tell the company that contracted him for the event that he was due for the checkup, but said the owner of SA Interpreters in Johannesburg was aware of his condition.

AP journalists who visited the address of the company that Jantjie provided found a different company there, whose managers said they knew nothing about SA Interpreters. A woman answered the phoneat a number that Jantjie provided and said it was not for the company, and another phone number went to a voicemail that did not identify the person or company with the number.

Jantjie said he received one year of sign language interpretation at a school in Cape Town. He said he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining, and insisted he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches on Tuesday.

But Bruno Druchen, the Deaf Federation of South Africa’s national director, and three other sign language experts said Jantjie was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, according to the federation.

“He didn’t follow any of the grammatical rules and structure of the language. He just invented his signs as he went along,” Delphin Hlungwane, an official South African sign language interpreter at DeafSA, told Reuters.

“There was zero percent accuracy. He couldn’t even get the basics right. He couldn’t even say thank you,” she added.

For his part, Jantjie said that while voices in his head impaired his ability to interpret what was being said on stage, he was unable to leave and continued to sign things that didn’t make sense.

“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he told The Star. “There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in.”

Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, said she had received complaints from the deaf community from Canada to China about Jantjie on stage and how his movements looked “like he’s signing gibberish.” He also used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the leaders, a key element of sign language interpretation.

“This man himself knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that,” Parkin said.

The country’s deaf community and the ruling African National Congress said Wednesday they had no knowledge of who Jantjie was, despite him apparently appearing on television gesticulating alongside South African President Jacob Zuma last year, Reuters reported.

The scandal over the interpreter is another indication of shoddy organization behind the historic memorial service.

Other difficulties included public transportation breakdowns which hindered mourners from getting to the event and a faulty audio system that prevented many of the tens of thousands in the stadium from hearing the leaders’ speeches. In an apparent security failure, police did not search the first wave of crowds arriving at the stadium.

Bogus sign language interpreters are a problem in South Africa, because people who know a few signs try to pass themselves off as interpreters, Parkin said. And those hiring them usually don’t sign, so they have no idea that the people they are hiring cannot do the job, she said.

FoxNews.com’s Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Advertisements

 

 

 

 

Louisiana_race.jpg

FILE: Undated: State Sen. Neil Riser, left, and Vance McAllister in photos provided by their campaigns, in Louisiana.

Vance McAllister, a political newcomer with the backing of the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV family, was elected as Louisiana’s newest member of Congress Saturday night.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, McAllister led establishment candidate Neil Riser 59.7 percent to 40.3 percent — a difference of over 17,500 votes — with 976 of a possible 981 precincts reporting.

McAllister advanced to this weekend’s election to face off against Riser after an October contest with more than a dozen other candidates from both political parties — in what is known as a “jungle primary.”

The seat in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District was left open when GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander resigned this summer to take a Cabinet post in GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

The largely rural district along the Mississippi River delta is dotted with farmland and plagued by poverty. The 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes, from northeast and central Louisiana into southeastern parishes bordering Mississippi.

In last month’s election, Riser finished ahead of McAllister, taking 33 percent of the vote compared to 18 percent. But neither got the 50 percent needed to be declared the outright winner.

Many GOP races since 2010 have in some form been a Tea Party-vs.-establishment candidate showdown.

However, Riser doubled as both the establishment candidate and Tea Party favorite, promoting his experience but promising strident opposition to President Obama.

McAllister, meanwhile, embraced his outsider status, complete with an endorsement from his close friend Phil Robertson, the patriarch of television’s hit series “Duck Dynasty.” McAllister ran as the more measured pragmatist, criticizing Washington gridlock and hyper-partisanship, particularly on Obama’s health care law.

“Plain and simple, this was Riser’s election to lose. Riser was the favorite going into the evening. He had the dollars. He had the endorsement of the Republican establishment. He had a strong showing in the primary. Yet, he lost it,” Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, told the Associated Press.

An ally of Jindal, Riser had his campaign up and running almost immediately after Alexander announced his resignation in September. The timing prompted cries of favoritism, though Jindal, Alexander and Riser deny any collusion.

Riser touted his decades-long experience as a businessman in the funeral industry while arguing his insider experience has led to significant legislative accomplishments such as helping get a state constitutional amendment passed that strengthened gun rights.

“I see a very clear distinction in the fact that I’ve made the votes,” Riser said. “These aren’t just talking points for me.”

He was endorsed by the Tea Party of Louisiana and FreedomWorks, a Tea Party-aligned national political action group.

Conservative activists said it’s McAllister, who’s never held public office and noted during the campaign that he’d never even visited Washington, that they worry would be the go-along-to-get-along congressman who isn’t conservative enough.

McAllister, who spent at least $800,000 of his own money on his campaign, according to the Federal Election Comission, countered eagerly with his newcomer status.

“I am not part of the establishment; I’m just part of the district,” he said.

When Robertson endorsed his friend, he explained that McAllister has “the least political experience.”

Despite that profile, McAllister didn’t push the “blow the whole place up” mantra that some GOP primary candidates have offered in similar conservative enclaves around the country.

While he is critical of the atmosphere in Washington, he doesn’t blame it exclusively on Obama. He also points a finger at House Republicans’ 40-plus votes to repeal Obama’s health insurance overhaul.

“I will vote to repeal it if there’s a vote right now today,” he said in a recent debate.

“But the truth of the matter is you stand on a platform and pander for votes on something that can’t be repealed,” he told Riser.

McAllister says Republicans should show the president respect and that the best course on health care is to work on improving Obama’s signature law since he was re-elected and Democrats still control the Senate.

Both candidates described themselves as conservatives – opposing abortion, favoring strong gun rights and criticizing Obama’s policies generally. Both criticize the levels of federal spending and debt.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of difference in the policy, per se, because we’re both true conservatives both fiscally and socially,” McAllister said.

McAllister will take office in time to vote on the next round of budget resolutions in January and, almost certainly, a vote soon after on whether to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. Those votes were set up by an October deal to end a partial government shutdown driven by GOP opposition to the health care law.

Riser said he opposes efforts to raise the debt ceiling, saying spending should be cut instead. McAllister wasn’t so absolute. He conceded he’d be willing to raise the debt ceiling if the increase was coupled with federal spending cuts and a long-term deficit reduction plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/11/17/louisiana-voters-pick-between-two-republicans-to-fill-open-congressional-seat/

Published November 15, 2013

FoxNews.com
  • syriafile12.jpg

    FILE: Dec. 29, 2012: Free Syrian Army fighters fire at enemy positions during heavy clashes with government forces, in the Salaheddine district in Aleppo, Syria. (AP)

Syrian rebel fighters linked with Al Qaeda have asked for “understanding and forgiveness” after mistakenly beheading one of their allies and putting the head on display.

In a video posted online, members of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham were shown holding up the head of what they thought was a supporter of President Bashar Assad before a crowd in Aleppo, The Telegraph reported.

After the video was posted, the head was recognized as belonging to Mohammed Fares, a member of Ahrar al-Sham, a well-established rebel group that regularly fights alongside the Islamic State of Iraq, according to the report.

Omar al-Qahtani, a spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq, said Fares thought he had been captured by pro-Assad Shia fighters and asked them to kill him. Explaining the error, al-Qahtani said Allah would forgive a man who unknowingly killed a fellow believer.

Earlier in the day, state-run Syrian television channel Al-Ikhbariya said two bombs exploded near a famous Damascus bazaar, killing at least one person and wounding seven.

Bomb and mortar attacks are not uncommon in the Syrian capital.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Assad and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed a proposed peace conference to end Syria’s nearly three-year civil war and Damascus’ efforts to put its chemical weapons under international supervision.

The United States and Russia have been trying to convene a peace conference in Geneva since May to broker a political solution to the Syrian conflict that activists say has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions more.

Speaking to Assad by telephone, Russian leader Vladimir Putin “emphasized efforts taken by Russia together with its partners to prepare a Geneva-2 international conference and gave a positive assessment of Bashar Assad’s readiness to send a Syrian government delegation there,” the Kremlin said.

The Syrian government has said it will take part in the peace talks, although officials have said they will not talk to armed rebels or members of the main Syrian opposition group in exile. Its avowed willingness to attend the Geneva conference coincides with a military offensive that has seen Assad’s forces seize ground near Damascus and in the northern province of Aleppo.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said in a statement Monday it would only attend the Geneva talks if humanitarian aid is allowed to reach besieged areas and the government releases political prisoners. The group itself wants any future transitional government to exclude Assad and his close allies, a demand the Syrian government has rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Fewer than 50,000 Americans have thus far bought a health-care plan on the problem-plagued ObamaCare website according to an insurance industry report, representing only a fraction of the half-million enrollees the administration apparently wanted the first month.

The number was reported first Monday by The Wall Street and confirmed by Fox News, which was told the final reporting day was Nov. 3.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a prompt response, saying officials could not confirm the numbers.

“We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time,” said agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters. “And, as we have said, the problems with the website will cause the numbers to be lower than initially anticipated.”

Healthcare.gov went live Oct. 1 and was immediately plagued with such problems as slow response time, volume-induced crashes and supplying incorrect information.

Official have since called in private technical experts and have taken the site off line in non-peak hours to perform maintenance and improve the situation.

The federal site handles insurance enrollment for 36 states without their own sites.

The administration has set a goal of signing up seven million Americans for insurance by next March, when open enrollment ends.

The Journal reported the number of enrollees thus far could be as low as 40,000 and  that the administration’s goal of 500,000 enrollees in October is based on an internal memo cited last week by Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp.

The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said in a statement the low numbers are not surprising because of the website’s problems.

“Whether it’s higher costs, fewer choices or simply website glitches, it’s becoming more clear with each passing day that this law isn’t ready for prime time and should be delayed,” Hatch said.

As the days drag on, the shutdown has deepened public disgust with leaders of our government.

I share the feeling – there’s no doubt that most of this current Congress has got to go – but I also feel something that I don’t think many share, unfortunately, and that’s a sense of optimism.

Last week, I had the chance to talk about the government shutdown on LinkedIn Today with CBS’s Jill Schlesinger andUniversity of Michigan Professor Jeff DeGraff. It was a great conversation.

Here’s what we need to remember: Yes, this Congress is in charge right now but they don’t have the monopoly on leadership.

Right now, there are states and municipalities that are getting it done. (Look at Mayors Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal). They’ve recognized that this is a time where we’re confronting some very thorny problems, none of which has a clean solution. Instead, they’re compromising, innovating, moving forward as best they can with common-sense strategies.

This is the next generation of leadership. They’re earning their chops now for future greatness. A mayor who will become a congresswoman. A state congressman on track for a Senate run. A governor eyeing the presidency.

They’re not hampered or hamstrung by the problem that’s tying so much of Washington up in knots.

They’re willing to be disruptors.

When I talk to people in DC, I’m struck by the slavish adherence to incrementalism. An inch in the right direction is heralded as magnificent progress, even if it’s evidence of massive dysfunction to the rest of the country. Here in Silicon Valley, my colleagues and I see an area that’s ripe for disruption, for exploring big, creative, smart ideas that really could generate momentum. It needs us, though, to believe it can happen and to work for it, whether it’s voting for the right leaders, lobbying for our passions, writing letters and blogs, etc.

The shutdown will end – as Dr. DeGraff pointed out, there will be some kind of face-saving deal.

In the meantime, look to Nov. 5 and remember that we need daring disruption sooner, not later, even at the local level.

What ideas do you wish our leaders would implement?

October 12, 2013 by webnerbob

 

The continuing saga of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act website is worth following, because it is telling us a lot about how modern government works, and doesn’t work, and what we should believe.

Most people, including me, have focused on the access issues with the Healthcare.gov website — that is, the fact that there are ongoing reports that people simply cannot get on the website and use it as intended, and whether the design of the system in fact works against that.  But there are other issues, too.

For example, how complete and accurate is the information the website is collecting?  Anyone who has filled out a health-care application knows that a mass of information must be provided.  Arecent article quoted industry sources who estimated that only one in 100 applications completed on the website contain enough information to actually enroll someone in a plan — which of course is the entire point.  As the article notes, much more serious problems could be coming if people believe they have successfully enrolled, only to be told later that the information they provided was insufficient or lost.

And speaking of information — how secure is the data those lucky people who have been able to use the website have provided?  Health care information and financial information is extraordinarily confidential.  Given the apparent design flaws with the website, why should anyone have great confidence that the designers at least got system security right?  Given the coverage of the problems with the website, are legions of hackers around the world targeting it as an easy potential source for personal information, like Social Security numbers and credit card data?

And finally, there is cost.  Some sources have tried to piece together government contracting data to determine how much the Affordable Care Act websites have cost the taxpayer.  The Washington Post says about $400 million has been committed to the health care exchanges.  The Digital Trends website estimates the cost so far is more than $500 million, with a total cost of more than $2 billion expected.

With costs like this, it’s fair to ask whether we are really getting our money’s worth.  On Thursday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited Pittsburgh as part of a nationwide campaign to tout the exchanges.  She assured the audience that the “glitches” were being addressed and the system is getting better every day.  Event planners had brought more than 20 certified health care application counselors to meet with uninsured people, but even the certified counselors couldn’t access the Healthcare.gov website.  So, who do you believe — the bureaucrat who says the system is improving, or the fact that even computer geeks can’t get it to work?

boehner_podium_100813.jpg

 

A delegation of 18 House Republicans is heading to the White House Thursday afternoon to propose a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, which the White House indicated President Obama could sign — but the deal would not resolve the partial government shutdown which is now in its 10th day.

The goal of the proposal appeared to be to buy time, by removing the immediate threat of missing an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, for both sides to strike a broader agreement on spending and debt.

House Speaker John Boehner and his deputies announced the proposal after pitching it to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed meeting. The plan would allow for a six-week extension of the debt ceiling with no strings attached, as long as Obama and Democrats make a “real commitment” to negotiate over the partial government shutdown and a longer-term debt-ceiling hike.

“It’s time for leadership,” Boehner said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated that Obama could sign it. While stressing that the president still needs to see a bill, he said that if a “clean” bill to hike the debt ceiling for six weeks hits his desk, “He would sign that.”

Carney said Obama still would strongly prefer that Congress approve a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling and approve a spending bill right away. Pressed repeatedly by reporters, Carney appeared to open the door to a short-term increase in the debt limit even if the partial government shutdown is not addressed.

That means the partial shutdown could easily continue into next week and beyond, without the pressure of the Oct. 17 deadline. That’s when Treasury officials warned the nation would be unable to pay all its bills, absent a debt-ceiling hike.

Inside the GOP caucus, reaction to the Republican leaders’ plan appeared to be mixed, with some voicing support and others voicing skepticism. One source said leadership was “taking the temperature of the conference” before taking the idea to Obama.

Despite Carney’s remarks, a prior statement from the White House was non-committal over the new plan.

A White House official said “we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises” but will not “allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands.” The official said Obama still wants the House to pass a spending bill first, and raise the debt ceiling, before Obama will negotiate.

The official also reiterated that Obama would prefer a longer-term debt-ceiling increase, like the one-year extension the Senate is considering.

Sources said the new GOP proposal would increase the debt ceiling through a hard deadline of Nov. 22, but also call for negotiators to be appointed to discuss the budget — and require Obama to work with them on both the debt limit and budget.

Pressure is increasing on all sides to work out an agreement. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified on Thursday that both stalemates are creating a drag on the economy and Wall Street.

He issued dire warnings about failing to raise the debt ceiling. He did not specifically warn that the government would be unable to pay interest on the debt, but said payments ranging from Social Security checks to Medicare reimbursements to military salaries could be halted by the end of the month.

He said some of the repercussions would be unpredictable since this is “uncharted territory.”

“It would be chaos,” Lew said.

Though some Republicans have accused the administration of exaggerating, many still do not want to toy with breaching the debt-ceiling deadline.

Senate Republicans are set to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday morning.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Chad Pergram and Fox Business Network’s Rich Edson contributed to this report.