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Jim Webb: Democrats Need To Focus More On 'White, Working People'
If Jim Webb had his way, the Democratic Party would return to its "Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson roots" and put a greater focus on "white, working people." Webb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia who is entertaining a run 2016 presidential nomination, told NPR Friday morning that his party has not focused enough on white, working class voters in the past elections. In order to be successful in the future, Webb said, that will need to change. "I think they could do better with white, working people and I think this last election showed that," Webb said, referencing the 2014 midterms where Republicans took control of the Senate and added more power in the House. CNN
VOA VIEW: White working people are going center to right - Democrats are all the way left.

Consumers Fuel Steady US Economy As Rest Of World Struggles
There's a good reason the U.S. economy is impressing the world right now despite a slowdown in the final three months of 2014: In a word, steadiness. Companies have been hiring at healthy rates for the past year. Layoffs hover near historic lows. Auto sales are strong. Gas prices have sunk. Congressional budget fights have faded. Americans are increasingly confident. All that fed a surge of consumer spending last quarter, offsetting weaker business spending caused in part by a pullback by oil drillers and a frail global economy. The U.S. economy as a whole expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate, the government said Friday, down from a sizzling 5 percent gain the previous quarter. Yet consumers signaled their optimism by spending at the fastest rate in nearly nine years. CNS News

U.S. Government Releases Draft Plan For Electronic Health Data
The Obama administration on Friday proposed a plan to move most doctors, hospitals and their patients to national standards for handling electronic clinical data by the end of 2017. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of an effort to propel the $2.9 trillion U.S. healthcare system away from a costly fee-for-service system, released a report draft aimed at establishing an inter operable health information technology system that can be accessed by patients and their healthcare providers. Policy experts say that national health IT standards would lead to transparency in medical data, prices and provider performance, while helping support hospitals and medical practices in pursuing care-delivery models that emphasize care quality and savings over quantity. Reuters


WH Splits Hairs: Taliban Tactics 'Are Akin To Terrorism'
On Wednesday, deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters, "the Taliban is an armed insurgency," not a terrorist group like al Qaida. On Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked how the White House can say such a thing, when the U.S. Treasury Department has designated the Taliban as a terrorist group.  Earnest gave two reasons: "One is, they do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda. And by designating them as -- in the way that you have described (as terrorists) -- does allow the United States to put in place some financial sanctions against the leaders of that organization, in a way that's been beneficial to our ongoing efforts against the Taliban. CNS News
VOA VIEW: Foolish double talk.

U.S. Proposes Effort To Analyze DNA From 1 Million People
The United States has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers as part of a new initiative to understand human disease and develop medicines targeted to an individual's genetic make-up. At the heart of the initiative, to be announced on Friday by President Barack Obama, is the creation of a pool of people - healthy and ill, men and women, old and young - who would be studied to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Officials hope genetic data from several hundred thousand participants in ongoing genetic studies would be used, and other volunteers recruited to reach the 1 million total. Reuters

NFL Will Follow Strict Steps For Handling Of Super Bowl Balls
With the NFL still investigating whether the New England Patriots purposely deflated footballs en route to the Super Bowl, league officials are taking extra security measures to make sure there isn't any mishandling of balls in the days leading up to Sunday's game. That's on top of the already stringent chain-of-custody rule put in place for every Super Bowl — which, until this year, most people didn't care or think about. Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, acknowledged Thursday that the controversy known as Deflate-Gate prompted the beefed-up protections. But he wouldn't describe those steps in any detail. MSNBC


Romney Announces He Will Not Run For President In 2016
Mitt Romney announced Friday he will not run for president in 2016, after briefly flirting with a third White House run -- a decision that only slightly narrows the crowded field of potential Republican candidates. "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney said in a written statement. He also was announcing his plans on a conference call with donors Friday morning. The announcement comes after the 2012 GOP nominee, who repeatedly denied interest in another campaign, surprised donors earlier this month by telling them he was considering it. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Romney opened the doors.

UK Summons Russian Envoy After Bombers Fly Over English Channel
Russia's ambassador to Britain was summoned to the UK's Foreign Office on Thursday to explain why two Russian bombers were flying over the English Channel this week, a representative of the office said. Two Russian bombers "caused disruption to civil aviation" when they flew near, but did not cross into, British airspace on Wednesday, the Foreign Office representative said. Two UK Royal Air Force jets intercepted the bombers, both capable of carrying nuclear weapons, south of Bournemouth, England, over the English Channel, a UK defense spokesman said Thursday. The British jets escorted the bombers for about an hour-and-a-half until the bombers left the area, the defense spokesman said. CNN

Would-Be 2016 Rivals React To Mitt Romney's Decision
Mitt Romney's would-be Republican opponents in 2016 were quick to praise the former GOP presidential nominee following his announcement he has decided not to make a third run for the White House. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who would have competed with Romney in appealing to the establishment wing of the GOP if both ran, called him "a patriot." "I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tweeted. It was a noticable shift from other recent social media postings about the former Massachusetts governor. MSNBC

Senate GOP Demands Obama Turn Over All Communications With IRS
Senate Republicans on Thursday asked President Obama to turn over all communications he and his aides have had with the IRS since 2010, hoping to find out whether the tax collection agency shared private taxpayer information with political operatives at the White House. The request, made in a letter obtained by The Washington Times, is signed by Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and all 13 other Republicans on the committee, and is addressed specifically to Mr. Obama, saying they want to see if his employees broke the law by acquiring or sharing private information. Washington Times

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Obama To Ask Congress For $215M For 'Precision Medicine' Push
President Obama is calling for an investment to move away from one-size-fits-all-medicine, toward an approach that tailors treatment to your genes. The White House said Friday that Obama will ask Congress for $215 million for what he's calling a precision medicine initiative. The ambitious goal: Scientists will assemble databases of about a million volunteers to study their genetics — and other factors such as their environments and the microbes that live in their bodies — to learn how to individualize care. As Obama put it in his State of the Union address, he wants the U.S. "to lead a new era of medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time." Also called personalized medicine, this is a hot but challenging field in medical research. It's yielded some early results. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Congress should reject anything Obama wants.

House Democrats Itching For Fight With GOP, Battle For Majority Takeover In 2016
After three days of plotting political strategy and a fiery pep talk by President Obama, House Democrats left their annual conference here Friday supercharged for a fight with the Republican-run Congress and boasting about winning back the majority in 2016. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the new chairman of House Democrats campaign arm, said Republicans were “overextended” and vulnerable on the election map for 2016, and his troops were excited about the plan to champion middle-class economic issues and demonize Republicans as allies of the wealthy elite. Washington Times

Biden Warns Dems: Don't Let GOP Steal Credit For Economic Recovery
Democrats, beware: Republicans are beginning to recognize the economic recovery you helped facilitate at great political cost. And they'll try to take credit for it, if they can. That's the warning Vice President Biden delivered to House Democrats at their retreat in Philadelphia on Friday. Biden acknowledged the heavy losses Democrats sustained during the last two midterm elections. "A lot of my friends and your friends in this caucus aren't here today, because they had the nerve to stand up and do what they thought was right, knowing...they were gonna be in trouble," he said. But with economic growth and job creation gathering steam, Biden added, "it's becoming clearer and clearer that the decisions you made...were the right decisions." CBS


Seniors Hit Hardest This Flu Season
Some new evidence this is a particularly bad flu season: Flu-related hospitalizations of the elderly are the highest since the government started tracking that statistic nine years ago. About 198 out of every 100,000 people 65 and older have been hospitalized with flu-related illness this flu season. That's roughly 86,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials released the new flu season numbers on Friday. It's the highest level seen since the government started tracking the statistic in the 2005-2006 flu season. The previous record was 183 per 100,000, during the flu season two years ago. CBS

White House: Science Indicates Parents Should Vaccinate Kids
Amid the measles outbreak stemming from California, the White House is telling parents that science indicates they should vaccinate their children. President Barack Obama's press secretary says the science on vaccinations "is really clear." Josh Earnest tells journalists that Obama believes vaccination decisions should be made by parents, with a bias toward good science. About 100 cases of the measles have been reported in the U.S. since last month in the second-biggest outbreak in at least 15 years. Most have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California. Earnest says federal officials are closely monitoring the outbreak. ABC

Wall Street Gears Up As White House Pushes Retirement-Fund Rules
Top financial lobbyists converged on the White House last week in a failed bid to forestall an administration plan that would impose new rules on brokers who manage trillions of dollars in U.S. retirement accounts. At issue is a Labor Department proposal to require brokers to act in their retirement clients’ best interest, a standard known as fiduciary duty. On Jan. 23, five association heads -- among them two former governors and an ex-congressman -- gathered to tell presidential advisers Valerie Jarrett and Jeffrey Zients that the rules would throw the retirement system into chaos and harm savers with small balances, according to attendees and people briefed on the meeting. Bloomberg

U.S. Envoy: North Korea Not Ready For Negotiations
North Korea has not yet demonstrated its commitment to substantive dialogue concerning its nuclear weapons program, a senior U.S. envoy remarked during a visit to the region. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim met with officials in China and Japan this week to discuss developments concerning North Korea. "I think there's very strong consensus among not just the three parties -- the U.S., Japan, and Korea -- but among the five parties including China and Russia, that North Korea needs to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization in a concrete manner before we can resume any serious negotiations," Kim told reporters. "I think that would give us a much better chance to actually make lasting progress in denuclearization." UPI

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All Eyes On Dish’s Next Move With $13.3 Billion Of New Airwaves
All eyes are on Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charlie Ergen after companies tied to the satellite-TV operator bid about $13.3 billion on wireless airwaves. Heading into the federal auction, Ergen already owned billions of dollars worth of spectrum that he wasn’t using because Dish doesn’t operate a wireless network. He’s given little insight into his plans for the airwaves, leaving the industry to question whether he plans to start his own wireless service, sell the holdings, lease them to rivals or pursue an acquisition with an existing wireless carrier. The record Federal Communications Commission auction raised $41.3 billion from spectrum that will help mobile-phone companies deliver more data and video to wireless devices. While Dish itself didn’t bid, two entities it invested in -- NorthStar Wireless and SNR Wireless LicenseCo -- bid about $13.3 billion for spectrum and will pay about $10 billion after accounting for discounts for smaller participants. Bloomberg

Bill Would Ban Guns For People Convicted Of Domestic Abuse
Nevada state Sen. Debbie Smith said she'll introduce a bill this legislative session to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence, but it likely faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Sparks Democrat said Thursday that her bill would prohibit people from having a gun if they're subject to an extended restraining order for domestic violence, or if they've been convicted of a domestic violence or stalking crime. "By toughening penalties and taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, we can protect women, particularly those who have faced abuse," Smith said in a statement. The announcement comes on the heels of a report from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress that found women in Nevada are killed with guns at a much higher rate than the nation overall. Las Vegas Sun

Dems Still Miffed About Israeli Leader’s Address To Congress
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is still peeved over Republicans' decision to ask the leader of Israel — an archenemy of Iran — to address Congress in March right in the middle of delicate negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program. Asked if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be well-advised to speak somewhere other than a joint meeting of Congress, Pelosi said Friday in Philadelphia that "the opportunities are great," and noted he often appears on U.S. Sunday talk shows. Netanyahu has been calling leading Democrats, including Pelosi, in hopes of blunting their opposition to the invitation he got from House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress March 3. Asked if most House Democrats would attend a Netanyahu speech to Congress, Pelosi said: "I don't know." Las Vegas Sun
VOA VIEW: Democrats have to get over it.

Hezbollah Prepared For War With Israel, Leader Says
The leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah said it does not seek war with Israel but it is prepared for it, after a border incident left two dead. A Jan. 18 Israeli airstrike on Quneitra, Syria, in which six Hezbollah troops and an Iranian general were killed, was followed this week by a clash at Mount Dov, on the Israel-Lebanon border, in which two Israeli soldiers died. At a televised memorial rally honoring the Quneitra casualties Friday in Beirut, attended by thousands, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said, "We in Hezbollah are no longer concerned with anything called the rules of engagement. It is our right, our legal right and our moral right, to confront the aggression at any time, any place and in any form whatsoever. We don't want a war [with Israel]. This is not weak talk. But we are not afraid of war with Israel." UPI

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US, UK Condemn Latest Israeli Plan For Settler Housing As 'Illegal, Illegitimate'
The United States and the United Kingdom on Friday both condemned the Israeli government’s plan to issue new tenders for housing units in the West Bank. Israel published tenders on Friday for the construction of 450 new housing units in occupied Palestinian territory, a move that critics denounced as a political gesture ahead of a March general election. Ariel Rosenberg, spokesman for Israel's Housing Ministry, said the government was simply remarketing tenders that had failed to sell when they were initially offered last year. Israel goes to the polls on March 17, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking a fourth term in office. A number of groups, including Netanyahu's own Likud party, are battling to secure pro-settler votes at the ballot. Jerusalem Post

Obama Has Agreed To 80 Percent Of Iran's Demands In Nuclear Talks, Israeli Officials Tell Ch. 10
Israeli officials told Channel 10 on Friday that they are convinced the Obama administration has already agreed to most of Iran’s demands in the P5+1 negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. According to unnamed officials, Washington “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want” out of the negotiations, Channel 10 is reporting. Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a “breakout point” of months before it can gallop toward the bomb. An Obama administration official dismissed the claims in the Channel 10 report as "complete nonsense." Jerusalem Post
VOA VIEW: The Obama/Iran deal must be stopped.

US Rejects Cuba Demand To Hand Back Guantanamo Bay Base
The US says it will not hand back the Guantanamo Bay naval base as part of efforts to improve relations with Cuba. Cuban President Raul Castro included the demand in a speech on Wednesday, calling also for the US trade embargo to be lifted. US President Barack Obama "does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down... but not the naval base", the White House said. The land on which the base stands was leased to the US by Cuba in 1903. The Cuban government which came to power in the revolution of 1959 has long demanded its return, saying it is a violation of international law, but the US points to a legal provision making the lease permanent unless it is terminated by mutual agreement. BBC

Washington's Memo To The Vatican: The Pope And Obama Are In Sync On Climate Change
America’s top environmental official has assured the Vatican that the pope and Barack Obama are singing from the same hymnal when it comes to fighting climate change. In a visit to the Vatican, Gina McCarthy, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), conveyed a message to the pope that Obama shared his view that fighting climate change was a moral obligation. “I want him to know that the president is aligned with him on these issues and that we are taking action in the United States,” McCarthy told the National Catholic Reporter ahead of the meeting. Guardian

CIA Interrogated Suspects On Diego Garcia, Says Colin Powell Aide
The UK government is facing renewed pressure to make a full disclosure of its involvement in the CIA’s post-9/11 kidnap and torture programme after another leading Bush-era US official said suspects were held and interrogated on the British territory of Diego Garcia. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell at the US state department, said the Indian Ocean atoll was used by the CIA as “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time”. In an interview with Vice News, Wilkerson said three US intelligence sources had informed him that the CIA used Diego Garcia for what he described as “nefarious activities”, with prisoners being held for weeks at a time. Guardian

Only A Fool Would Want To Be A GP These Days
There are about a quarter of a million doctors registered in Britain, more than two-and-a-half times as many as when I qualified, but it is more difficult now to get to see any of them (unless you pay, of course, or bump into them in the street). Although the numbers of doctors have increased so dramatically, there is said to be a crisis in medical manpower, and that this necessitates the importation of a further 3000 doctors this year. Fewer than two thirds of doctors in Britain trained here: from the point of view of medical manpower, Britain parasites the rest of the world. In effect, it has outsourced a lot of undergraduate medical training. But the miracle of ever increasing numbers of doctors combined with acute shortages of doctors is one that only our government could have wrought. Telegraph

African Countries ‘Backbone’ Of UN, Ban Tells Summit, Says Joint Cooperation On All Fronts Vital
Addressing the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the start of what he called a “crucial year for global action to secure our global future,” the United Nations Secretary-General today said he looked forward to African countries realizing their massive cultural, human and economic potential. “African countries have been the backbone and leading Member States of the United Nations since the day they achieved independence,” Mr. Ban said, noting their growth in numbers from four States in 1945 to 54 in 2015. “In this critical year, we need Africa to help guide the way to a world of sustainability and dignity for all the people, where nobody will be left behind.” UN News

Ban, Security Council Condemn Terrorist Attacks In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Security Council today condemned the terrorist attacks on towns in the northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which killed and injured dozens of Egyptian soldiers and people. “The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attacks in North Sinai on 29 January, which killed dozens of people, including civilians, and injured scores of others,” said a statement issued through his spokesperson. “He conveys his condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his solidarity with the people of Egypt,” the statement added. UN News

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