Friday, March 29, 2013

Reality TV star files counterclaim for divorce

ATLANTA (AP) — A lawyer for reality television star Porsha Williams says his client has filed a counterclaim for divorce against her former NFL player husband Kordell Stewart.

Lawyer Randy Kessler said Friday that Williams responded with the counterclaim after former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart filed for divorce in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta last week. Stewart's filing says his marriage to Williams is "irretrievably broken."

The pair appears on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Kessler said earlier this week that Williams learned of the divorce from the media.

Stewart's filing says the two married on May 21, 2011, and have no children together.

Stewart asks the court to find there are no marital assets to divide. He asks that neither side be ordered to pay alimony.


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Son of pro wrestler Ric Flair found dead

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Authorities say the son of professional wrestler Ric Flair has been found dead in a North Carolina hotel room.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police says officers were called to a hotel on the city's south side around 10:30 a.m. Friday. When they arrived, they found the body of 25-year-old Reid Fliehr, who also was a wrestler.

A statement from police says there are no signs of foul play, and that the cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner's office.

Flair's agent released a statement Friday describing Reid as "an incredible son, brother, friend, and professional wrestler."

Ric Flair's real name is Richard Morgan Fliehr. The peroxide-blond wrestled for some 40 years and also was known as The Nature Boy.

The 64-year-old won many pro wrestling titles including in the WWE.


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lawyers appeal against Pistorius bail restrictions

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Lawyers for Oscar Pistorius appealed against some of his bail restrictions Thursday, saying the Olympic athlete might eventually need to return to track competition to earn money.

Pistorius' lawyers say the double-amputee runner, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend on Feb. 14, is being treated as a flight risk by his bail restrictions even though a magistrate ruled last month that he was not when he released Pistorius on 1 million rand ($108,000) bail.

Lawyer Barry Roux said Pistorius' current bail restrictions amount to "house arrest." Prosecutors say they oppose any relaxing of Pistorius' bail restrictions.

Roux said that Pistorius has no desire to return to track now, but "this might and this will change." He said Pistorius should be allowed to travel for international meets under "controlled" circumstances, where he would require advanced permission from police and would have to give details of his travel schedule before he left South Africa.

Pistorius was not present in court Thursday.

Roux said that Pistorius would not try and evade trial if he is allowed to travel internationally, and the multiple Paralympic champion would eventually need to run again "to earn an income."

"He is not going to run away and hide. He is going nowhere," Roux told the judge in the brown-walled courtroom in the high court, where television cameras and photographers were allowed in to record the proceedings.

Roux also argued against the ruling that Pistorius is not allowed to return to his home in a gated community in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria, where he shot Reeva Steenkamp dead in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

The bail ruling prevented him from returning to his home or speaking to residents, but his lawyers say he must be allowed to consult with residents in order to prepare his defense against the murder charge against him.

Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp accidentally when he fired shots through a door in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours, fearing there was an intruder in his house. Prosecutors say he shot the model and reality TV star intentionally after they argued, and they have charged him with premeditated murder.

Pistorius was not required to attend his appeal hearing and none of his family members was present at North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

The judge said he would rule on Pistorius' appeal later Thursday.

Pistorius' defense team was also appealing against an alcohol ban.

Pistorius' next court appearance is June 4, when the prosecution would aim to serve indictments, chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court. Nel said there is a possibility that Pistorius' trial will begin by the end of the year.

Pistorius' bail appeal was being heard by Judge Bert Bam at the high court a day after the athlete's older brother, Carl Pistorius, went on trial for culpable homicide for the death of a woman motorcyclist in a 2008 road accident. Carl Pistorius pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the main charge of culpable homicide and not guilty to two alternative charges relating to driving recklessly and inconsiderately.


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Johnny Depp to do live 'Lone Ranger' online Q&A

Johnny Depp is coming to Las Vegas to talk to fans about "The Lone Ranger."

Disney announced Thursday that Depp and co-star Armie Hammer will discuss the anticipated adventure film on April 17 after showing 20 minutes of exclusive footage to about 400 local fans at a neighborhood theater.

Director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer will also participate in the question-and-answer session, which is set to stream live online on Yahoo! Movies and Livestream.

Film fans outside of Las Vegas can submit questions for "The Lone Ranger" team through Twitter and watch the film's trailer online. The extended footage, though, is just for those in Las Vegas.

The promotion coincides with the annual CinemaCon convention, where Disney is expected to offer a similar presentation for theater owners. "The Lone Ranger" releases July 3.


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Judge approves American-US Airways merger

American Airlines won bankruptcy court approval Wednesday to combine with US Airways and form the world's biggest airline.

"The merger is an excellent result. I don't think anybody disputes that," Judge Sean H. Lane said before issuing his decision.

But the judge declined to sign off on a proposed $20 million severance package for Tom Horton, currently the CEO of American's parent AMR Corp.

The approval is an important milestone for American, which filed for Chapter 11 in November 2011 after having long resisted using the bankruptcy process to cut labor and other costs. The merger still needs approval from Department of Justice antitrust regulators and US Airways shareholders. It is expected to close by the fall.

The combined airline will have 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. The new American Airlines will fly slightly more passengers than United, the current No. 1. It will be run by Doug Parker, the CEO of US Airways Group Inc., who began pursuing a merger shortly after American entered bankruptcy protection.

The U.S. trustee, a federal bankruptcy watchdog, had objected to the severance package for Horton. While he didn't question the amount, Lane agreed that the timing of it seemed to violate prohibitions in the bankruptcy law.

"Approving it today is just not appropriate," Lane said. The judge plans to issue a written decision at a later date detailing his reasoning.

Horton has spent nearly his entire career at American, becoming CEO when the company filed for bankruptcy. Horton will cede the CEO position to Parker when the deal closes, and has agreed to leave the company's board within a year of the closing date.

In 2011, Horton was paid a salary of $618,135. He also got stock awards and options that were valued that year at nearly $2.7 million, but the company argued those could be nearly worthless after the bankruptcy reorganization. Figures for 2012 aren't yet available.

The proposed severance package includes $19.9 million in cash and stock as well as a lifetime of free first-class tickets on American for Horton and his wife.

Horton could still receive the payout. American's lawyers offered a possible solution during the hearing: American and US Airways would amend their merger agreement to say that Horton's severance would be subject to ratification of the board of directors of the new airline, after the merger closes.

Jack Butler, a lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said he expects Horton to eventually get his payout. Butler's firm represents American's creditors, who support the merger.

"Tom has never made this case about himself, and I don't expect him to start now," Butler said.

In most bankruptcy cases, creditors lose part of the money they are owed. Thanks in part to the merger, creditors in this case will get back what they are owed. Onetime shareholders of AMR Corp. are slated to get a 3.5 percent of the new airline.

Separately, Lane approved a motion to extend American's exclusive period for filing a reorganization plan until May 29, the last such extension allowed under law. There is then a 60-day waiting period for creditors to object to the plan before Lane can sign off on American's emergence from bankruptcy protection.


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Friday, March 15, 2013

Ultra Fest set to begin with Swedish House Mafia

The electronic dance music festival that begins Friday will draw internationally renowned disc jockeys, producers and tens of thousands of revelers as one of the largest dance music gatherings in the world super-sizes to two weekends. It also will draw the expanding genre's great unknowns, the next big acts who catch the attention of the 330,000 revelers expected to attend.

"Ultra Fest is important because a lot of kids who go there don't even know who's playing," said the producer Diplo, who will be performing with his group Major Lazer. "Two years ago Skrillex went and played for free. He just wanted to be part of that lineup, part of the Ultra thing. Then next year he headlined. That's how big you can get in the DJ world within a year."

This year's festival attracts most of the genres top names, including Swedish House Mafia, which will be playing its final show as a trio Friday night three years after making their North American debut at the festival. David Guetta, DeadMau5, Afrojack, Avicii and scores more were scheduled to perform — though preparation of the festival's main stage remained incomplete following an accident Thursday that injured three workers.

The festival is now in its 15th year, but has gained rapidly in prominence as EDM has flourished. Long popular in Europe, house music has taken root in popular music in the U.S., climbing into top 40 radio and propelling DJs, once faceless figures behind the turntables, center stage. Pop artists like Rihanna, Pitbull and Lady Gaga have found enormous success incorporating the electronic sound into their music.

The proliferation of hits has changed the way some artists present their music at Ultra, said Chad Cisneros of Tritonal. DJs still come to the event to showcase new tracks, but more frequently they play sets their fans already know well.

"It's changed from a technology and a fan perspective," Cisneros said. "They know what to expect. And they know what tracks they want to hear."

Ultra has served as a taste-making force during EDM's ascent into the popular consciousness.

"Without the input of Ultra, I doubt EDM would have become the established culture and mainstream success it has become today," said Rick Snoman, a producer involved in dance music since 1989 who has done remixes for artists like Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue.

It was unclear Friday afternoon how long the main stage might be delayed. One of the three workers hurt suffered critical injuries when one of several large LED screens fell while being hoisted in the air. City engineers, fire rescue officials and Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives were inspecting all of the stages at the festival Friday as a precaution.

"The main stage is still not operational," Miami Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Ignatius Carroll said. "There's still no work being done there. "

The festival will attract a strong police presence. City of Miami police said they have more than 200 uniformed officers on patrol, as well as undercover officers within the event. The increased security was part of the festival's agreement after city commissioners raised objections to the event's expansion into a second weekend. There have been multiple drug arrests in previous years and for many who live in the downtown area the festival is seen as a major nuisance.

Last year, a video of an Ultra partygoer dancing, clearly inebriated, with a palm tree went viral on YouTube, symbolizing the revelry that's become associated with the festival and the music.

Festival organizers insisted the event will be safe.

"We got together and addressed everyone's concerns and spent a lot of money on extra security and police," said Russell Faibisch, one of the founders of Ultra.


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CERN scientists say particle is no "super-Higgs"

Physicists who found a new elementary particle last year said on Wednesday it looked like a basic Higgs boson rather than any "super-Higgs" that some cosmologists had hoped might open up more exotic secrets of the universe.

"It does look like the SM (Standard Model) Higgs boson," said physicist Brian Petersen of Atlas, one of two research teams working in parallel on the Higgs project at CERN in Switzerland.

His assertion, on a slide presentation to a conference at CERN and posted on the Internet, was echoed by the other group. "So far, it is looking like an SM Higgs boson," said slides from Colin Bernet of CMS.

The two groups work separately and without comparing findings to ensure their conclusions are reached independently.

It has been assumed since the triumphant announcement last June that a new particle spotted at CERNS's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was the Higgs, named after British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, that, theories say, gave mass to matter after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

But CERN has yet to confirm that. CMS may issue more information on Thursday at an expert gathering in the Italian Alps. A confirmed discovery of the Higgs boson, which could happen this year, would likely win a Nobel prize.

Meeting at CERN, near Geneva, the scientists said on Wednesday that the particle looked very much like it fit into the 30-year-old Standard Model of the makeup of the universe.

If confirmed on Thursday, it would mean LHC scientists will have to wait until late in this decade for any sign of "new worlds of physics".

Until the last few days there had been some faint signs that the discovery might prove to be something more than the particle that would fill the last gap in the Standard Model, a comprehensive explanation of the basic composition of the universe.

Rumours flew of a "super-Higgs" that might - as recently predicted by U.S. physicist Sean Carroll in a book on the particle - "be the link between our world and most of the matter in the universe."

Many scientists and cosmologists will be disappointed that the LHC's preliminary 3-year run from March 2010 to last month has not produced evidence of the two grails of "new physics" - dark matter and supersymmetry.

Dark matter is the mysterious substance that makes up some 25 percent of the stuff of the universe, against the tiny 4 percent - galaxies, stars and planets - which is visible. The remainder is a still unexplained "dark energy."

The theory of supersymmetry predicts that all elementary particles have heavier counterparts, also yet to be seen. It links in with more exotica like string theory, extra dimensions, and even parallel universes.

"I think everyone had hoped for something that would take us beyond the Standard Model, but that was probably not realistic at this stage," said one researcher, who asked not to be named.

The LHC closed down last month for two years of work that will double its power, and, it is hoped, the reach of its detectors.


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Eva Longoria is busy post-'Desperate Housewives'

Eva Longoria hasn't slowed down since "Desperate Housewives" signed off after eight seasons last year. In fact, the actress says the word "lazy" isn't in her vocabulary.

"There are days when I relax but it won't be a full day. It usually means I'm gonna clean out my closet. That's relaxing for me. Or I'm gonna cook a full meal for my family and friends," Longoria, who will be 38 on Friday, said in a recent interview.

Longoria said she has no problem juggling various projects.

"I always say there's more time in the day than you think. You waste a lot of time that you don't realize," she said. "When I was on 'Desperate Housewives,' I learned two languages. I went back to school for my master's degree, I was married (to San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker) and flying back and forth (between Los Angeles and Texas). You have time."

Her passions also include philanthropy and politics. She's committed to encouraging Latin women to further their education and start entrepreneurial programs. She also founded Eva's Heroes, dedicated to teens and young adults with special needs.

She just wrapped up filming on "Frontera," alongside Ed Harris and Michael Pena, and has endorsement deals with L'Oreal, Frito-Lay and Sheba.

Longoria is also an executive producer on two upcoming TV shows.

On "Ready for Love," a reality dating show that will air on NBC, three matchmakers help three men find love.

Longoria says she handpicked each of the three eligible guys.

They're "not only handsome and successful, but generous, kind and sweet human beings. ... They'll forever be friends in my life," she said.

She's also one of the executive producers of "Devious Maids," alongside "Desperate Housewives" creator Mark Cherry. Based on a Mexican series, it follows four maids who work in Beverly Hills but dream of their own success. The show will air on Lifetime.

While she's enjoying TV production, Longoria said, "I love the medium of television. I'll definitely be back. I'll definitely come back one day."


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Monday, March 11, 2013

Financial info on celebs, officials leaked online

Authorities and celebrities were grappling Monday with how to respond to a website that posted what appears to be private financial information about top government officials and stars such as Jay-Z and Mel Gibson.

Los Angeles police said they were investigating how the Social Security number, address and a credit report of the police chief ended up on the site. The site also posted the same information about FBI Director Robert Mueller; the bureau said it was aware of the site but declined to say whether it was investigating.

The site also targeted stars such as Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Info posted about Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not include credit reports but included addresses and other sensitive information.

Social Security numbers posted on Gibson, Jay-Z and others matched records in public databases.

The site, which bears an Internet suffix originally assigned to the Soviet Union, expanded throughout the day Monday to add entries on Britney Spears, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and others.

It did not state how the information was obtained or why the 11 people targeted on the site were selected, describing the records only as "secret files." A Twitter profile linked to the site and created after its existence was first reported by celebrity website TMZ included an anti-police message in Russian.

Several of the purported credit reports appear to have been generated last week.

Representatives for each person targeted either declined to comment on the accuracy of the information that was posted, or they did not return messages seeking comment.

Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the LAPD was investigating the posting of Police Chief Charlie Beck's information and would also investigate the posting of info on any celebrities who live in the city and request an inquiry.

He said confidential information on top police officials has been posted online at least twice before.

"People get mad at us, go on the Internet and try to find information about us, and post it all on one site," Smith said.

"The best word I can use to describe it is creepy," he said about the practice known as doxxing. "It's a creepy thing to do."

Frank Preciado, assistant officer in charge at the LAPD online section, said the postings are also illegal. He said the information was likely taken from what is supposed to be a secure database of city employees.

Several of the pages featured unflattering pictures of the celebrities or government officials whose information was posted.

The site's page on Beck includes a taunting reference to former officer Christopher Dorner, who apparently committed suicide after he killed four people during a multi-day rampage. Beck's page included the message "(hash)YouCantCornerTheDorner" and an image of a woman protesting police corruption.

While government officials often have to disclose details on their finances — and celebrity divorces sometimes feature public financial data — the information posted online exceeds those disclosures.

Social Security numbers are rarely included in public records anymore because they can be used for identity theft.


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Lack of Start button still said to haunt Windows 8

Windows 8 has taken its share of lumps over the past few months, but one analyst thinks its troubles all began with Microsoft's (MSFT) decision to omit the Start button from its user interface. In an interview with CNET, IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell says that not having a Start button is a big turnoff to many users who have spent years working with Windows and who have come to expect it as a central feature of any Windows device.

 "There were certain decisions that Microsoft made that were in retrospect flawed," says O'Donnell. "Notably not allowing people to boot into desktop mode and taking away the start button. Those two things have come up consistently. We've done some research and people miss that."

Not booting up in desktop mode is seen as particularly pointless, O'Donnell explains, because most users do all their work in desktop mode on their PCs and rarely use the tiled interface unless they're on a tablet. O'Donnell says that several OEMs have apparently been imploring Microsoft to bring back the Start button and add an option to boot up in desktop mode, but adds that he wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft stuck to its guns and didn't significantly alter its approach.


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Markets sluggish after Chinese data dump

Markets have started the week sluggishly Monday as investors pause for breath following a dash that's seen the Dow Jones index in the U.S. record a series of all-time highs.

Chinese economic figures over the weekend were largely disappointing and prompted many investors to book some recent gains and take to the sidelines after a rally that's seen many stock indexes around the world push up to multi-year highs following a strong start to the year.

The soft Chinese industrial production and retail sales figures stoked some concerns that the recent pick-up in the country's growth rate may have stalled. In addition, higher than expected inflation of 3.2 percent in February raised questions about the government's ability to do more to shore up the world's number 2 economy.

Still, the numbers did not prompt a wholesale re-evaluation partly because they were likely impacted by the country's Lunar New Year holiday period.

"Some caution is needed given distortions caused by the Lunar New Year holiday, so it may take a few more months of data to get a clearer picture," said Elsa Lignos, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 6,438 while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent to 7,966. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 percent lower at 3,826.

Italian shares underperformed their peers, with the Milan exchange 0.7 percent lower as investors wait to see if a government can be forged following inconclusive elections two weeks ago. A downgrade of the country's credit rating from Fitch on Friday also added to the prevailing caution.

Wall Street was poised for a fairly uninspiring opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.2 percent.

With little on the economic calendar in Europe and the U.S. Monday, stocks may continue to drift especially after last week's historic week on Wall Street which was capped with stronger-than-expected U.S. nonfarm payrolls figures for February.

"It is difficult to find the real catalyst to drive markets much higher in the short term but with equities appearing to be the only show in town any dips could well see a resurgence in buying," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor.

The sluggish mood in Monday's trading was evident in the currency markets too, with the euro flat at $1.30 and the dollar barely 0.1 percent higher at 96.11 yen.

Earlier, Asian traders had their first chance to respond to the figures showing the U.S. unemployment rate down at 7.7 percent in February and 236,000 jobs created during the month.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index marched higher for the eighth straight session as the yen slid to a near three and a half year low against the dollar, which got further support from the jobs data — a lower yen potentially helps Japan's powerhouse exporters. The Nikkei rose 0.5 percent to close at 12,349.05.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed nearly unchanged at 23,090.82 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 percent to 5,146.90.

In the oil markets, the price of benchmark New York crude was down 32 cents at $91.63 a barrel.


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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Brangelina in a bottle: Jolie-Pitt wine snapped up

Nine little letters on the back of the bottle set this rose wine apart from other fruits of the Provence grape harvest: Jolie-Pitt.

The Miraval Rose 2012 was produced at the southern French estate of Chateau Miraval — property of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

It's the first Miraval vintage stamped by the Hollywood couple, in a joint venture with established vintner Marc Perrin. The back label reads "bottled by Jolie-Pitt and Perrin."

The Perrin family spokesman says the first 6,000 bottles put on sale online Thursday were bought within five hours. The wine sold for €105 ($139) for a 6-bottle case.

There was no immediate comment from publicists for Pitt and Jolie.

The wine, in a bottom-heavy, champagne-like bottle, goes on sale to restaurants and wholesalers later this month.


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Saturday, March 9, 2013

NYSE prepares disaster backup plan: WSJ

The New York Stock Exchange is readying plans to be able to operate without human traders in case another disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy, forces the shutdown of its historic trading floor in downtown Manhattan, The Wall Street Journal reported.

NYSE Euronext is preparing to submit details of the plan to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the report, which cited people involved in the preparations. If activated, the plan would represent the first time the 221-year-old exchange would rely entirely on computer systems, without the oversight of floor-based traders, the paper said.

A NYSE spokesman declined to comment on the report.

The disaster plan would shift trading entirely to Arca, NYSE's all-electronic sister market. It would replace NYSE's current backup plan that calls for the exchange to remain open in a limited capacity while sending orders to Arca to be filled.

Exchanges including Direct Edge Holdings LLC and BATS Global Markets Inc in the past year have moved to develop backup sites in Chicago, the paper said. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc maintains a disaster recovery site in Ashburn, Virginia, and can run its U.S. markets from its European base in Stockholm.

Superstorm Sandy forced the first weather-related multi-day shutdown of the U.S. stock market in more than 120 years when it struck the East Coast in October.


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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Eating out: Obama's new overtures to GOP lawmakers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shifting course in the face of political gridlock, President Barack Obama is making rare overtures to rank-and-file Republicans, inviting GOP senators to dinner Wednesday, planning visits to Capitol Hill and working the phones with lawmakers.

Obama's efforts are aimed at jumpstarting budget talks and rallying support for his proposals on immigration and gun control.

The president's new charm offensive underscores the limitations of his earlier attempts to use public pressure, rather than direct engagement, to win Republican cooperation. That strategy proved futile in recent weeks, as the White House and Congress failed to prevent $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that both sides said they wanted to avoid.

As that "sequester" has started taking effect, Obama has begun quietly calling congressional Republicans to discuss the prospects for an elusive longer-term deficit reduction deal as well as his other second-term priorities. Aides say Obama is concentrating his outreach on lawmakers with a history of bipartisan deal-making and those who have indicated some willingness to support increased tax revenue as part of a big deficit-cutting package.

In both his calls and dinner invitations, the president pointedly has skipped over Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, the GOP leaders who insist that Obama will get no further tax hikes from Capitol Hill.

Republicans have had mixed reactions to the outreach from the president, who previously has shown little appetite for personal engagement with lawmakers, often preferring to assign those efforts to his staff and Vice President Joe Biden.

"He's never spent anytime reaching out," said Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who spoke with the president this week about gun legislation. "The question is, is it starting to change because there is bad poll numbers or is it because he really decided he's going to lead and solve some of the problems of the country?"

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent critic of the White House on national security issues, said he was encouraged by Obama's efforts.

"This is how you solve hard problems," the South Carolina Republican said.

It was during a phone call with Graham this week that the president raised the prospect of a group dinner with Republican lawmakers, an Obama aide said. Graham agreed to put together a guest list.

Joining Graham and Coburn at Wednesday's dinner were Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Bob Corker, Ron Johnson, Saxby Chambliss, John Hoeven, Dan Coats, Richard Burr and Mike Johanns. The president and senators were meeting on neutral territory, an evening dinner arranged at the Jefferson Hotel, a few blocks from the White House.

Obama has often scoffed at the notion that calling or meeting with Republicans more frequently would soften the ground for substantive negotiations on fiscal issues and other matters.

"I think a lot of folks say, 'Well, if we look like we're being too cooperative or too chummy with the president that might cause us problems,'" Obama said, referring to the Republicans, in January. "'That might be an excuse for us to get a challenge from somebody in a primary.'"

The Republicans joining Obama for dinner may be less concerned with the political implications of sitting down with the Democratic president. Only Graham faces re-election next year.

Obama advisers say they're hopeful that without the heightened pressure of an imminent fiscal deadline, the president and Republicans can have constructive conversations on a broad deficit-reduction bill that would include concessions from the GOP on tax increases and from Democrats on entitlements.

But unless Boehner and McConnell bend on taxes, prospects for a sweeping deficit deal remain dim.

"You can't get around the leadership," said Patrick Griffin, who served as White House legislative director in the Clinton administration. "It's all about what happens going forward. Are the larger political dynamics going to change enough that Boehner and McConnell see it in their self-interest to change the way they position this?"

There's also no guarantee Obama and lawmakers won't find themselves facing a fiscal crisis in the coming months. The Senate still has to pass a bill funding the government after March 27 — the House passed its version of the measure Wednesday — and lawmakers will have to decide whether to raise the nation's debt limit in May.

Longer term, Rep. Paul Ryan previewed a 10-year plan on Wednesday that he said would eliminate federal deficits without raising taxes. That would tend to continue the budget standoff between the Republicans and Obama, who wants increased tax revenue to be part of any deal. But Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012, held out hope for communication across party lines.

The Wisconsin congressman, who also has spoken with Obama in recent days, said that "we're going to have to talk to each other to get an agreement about how to delay a debt crisis, how to save this country from a fiscal train wreck that's coming."

The president will have an opportunity to make his case to GOP leaders next week when he heads to Capitol Hill for separate meetings with the House and Senate Republican conferences. McConnell announced that Obama would attend the GOP Senate policy lunch next Thursday, while Boehner's office said it was still working on a date.

Obama will also meet on Capitol Hill next week with House and Senate Democrats. The White House says all of the meetings were scheduled at the president's request.

White House aides said that while Wednesday's dinner would focus more narrowly on budget issues, the agenda for the lunches will be broader and will include discussions on immigration and gun control.

Even as Obama steps up his engagement with lawmakers, aides say he'll keep trying to build public support for his agenda and continues to believe pressure from the American people can force Republicans into action. Organizing for Action, a group run by former Obama campaign officials, sent an email Wednesday blaming "Republican obstructionism" for the sequester and urging supporters to sign a petition calling on Congress to back the president's approach for offsetting the cuts.


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Monday, March 4, 2013

Wood Fishing Rules Sign ? Fish Boat Nautical Decor New Approximately 8″ X 14″

Wood Fishing Rules Sign – Fish Boat Nautical Decor New Approximately 8″ X 14″

*         Fishing Rules boat has an assortment of funny, but pertinent, "rules" hanging from it.

*         Hand carved in fold art style.

*         Metal curly wire for hanging

*         8″ wide X 14″ high. New

*         New

This wooden sign features the following fishing rules: Bait your own hook, clean your own fish, and tell your own lies. Metal curly wire for hanging, 8"w x 14"h.


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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spending cuts seem here to stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — The spending cuts are here to stay if you believe the public posturing Sunday.

The Senate's Republican leader Mitch McConnell called them modest. House Speaker John Boehner isn't sure the cuts will hurt the economy. The White House's top economic adviser, Gene Sperling, said the pain isn't that bad right now.

So after months of dire warnings, Washington didn't implode, government didn't shut down and the $85 billion budget trigger didn't spell doom. And no one has yet crafted a politically viable way to roll back those cuts.

"This modest reduction of 2.4 percent in spending over the next six months is a little more than the average American experienced just two months ago, when their own pay went down when the payroll tax holiday expired," McConnell said.

"I don't know whether it's going to hurt the economy or not," Boehner said. "I don't think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work."

And Sperling, making the rounds on the Sunday news shows, added: "On Day One, it will not be as harmful as it will be over time."

Both parties cast blame on the other for the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts but gave little guidance on what to expect in the coming weeks. Republicans and Democrats pledged to retroactively undo the cuts but signaled no hints as to how that process would start to take shape. Republicans insisted there would be no new taxes and Democrats refused to talk about any bargain without them.

"That's not going to work," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. "If we're going to increase revenue again, it's got to go to the debt with real entitlement reform and real tax reform when you actually lower rates. ... I'm not going to agree to any more tax increases that are going to go to increase more government."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said any tax increases were unacceptable.

"I'm not going to do any more small deals. I'm not going to raise taxes to fix sequestration. We don't need to raise taxes to fund the government," Graham said.

All of this comes ahead of a new, March 27 deadline that could spell a government shutdown and a debt-ceiling clash coming in May.

Boehner said his chamber would move this week to pass a measure to keep government open through Sept. 30. McConnell said a government shutdown was unlikely to come from his side of Capitol Hill. The White House said it would dodge the shutdown and roll back the cuts, which hit domestic and defense spending in equal share.

"We will still be committed to trying to find Republicans and Democrats that will work on a bipartisan compromise to get rid of the sequester," Sperling said.

Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans last week put forward alternatives that would have avoided the cuts, but each side voted down the others' proposals. The House Democrats proposed an alternative but the House Republicans did not let them vote on it.

House Republicans twice passed alternatives last year.

Obama has phoned lawmakers but it isn't clear to what end; the White House refused Sunday to release the names of lawmakers Obama phoned. Boehner and McConnell said they had a productive meeting with Obama on Friday, but it didn't yield a deal.

"Well, no one can think that that's been a success for the president," said Mitt Romney, Obama's unsuccessful rival in November's election. "He didn't think the sequester would happen. It is happening."

Obama and the Republicans have been fighting over federal spending since the opposition party regained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. The budget cuts were designed in 2011 to be so ruthless that both sides would be forced to find a better deal, but they haven't despite two years to find a compromise.

The $85 billion in cuts apply to the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But without a deal they will continue slashing government spending by about $1 trillion more over a 10-year period.

McConnell spoke to CNN's "State of the Union." Boehner was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press." Sperling appeared on ABC's "This Week," NBC and CNN. Ayotte appeared on ABC. Graham spoke with CBS' "Face the Nation." Romney was a guest on "Fox News Sunday."


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