Today, residents of Scotland are voting about whether or not to end the over 300-year union with England and become an independent nation. Polls close at 10 p.m. GMT, and opinion polling has seen a surge of the "yes" camp in recent weeks. Some are predicting that the vote could be as close as the narrowly-defeated 1995 referrendum for Quebec independence.
The vote has come with significant controversy, as Scotland has changed voting laws to permit 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, and forbade Scots living outside of Scotland from voting.
Slightly confused American? The Guardian put together a handy video for non-Brits to explain what is happening:
Results are expected to be in at 7 a.m. GMT, or 2 a.m. EDT.
Two of the doctors who first blew the whistle on the veterans' deaths in Phoenix say the inspector general botched the investigation and went too easy on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). One says the IG engaged in a whitewash of what happened there, bowing to pressure from inside the agency, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. The issue surrounds the investigation into whether more than 40 veterans at the Phoenix VA died while waiting to see the doctor. The IG's final report in August concluded that it "[could not] conclusively assert" that long wait times "caused the deaths of these veterans." According to one whistleblower who spoke to CBS News, however, that crucial assertion was not in the original draft of the report. He told CBS News that the Inspector General added the line about how wait times did not cause the deaths at the last minute. Our source, who works at VA headquarters and who spoke exclusively to CBS News, said officials inside the agency asked for a revision of the first draft. That's standard practice, but in this case the source said it amounted to pressure on Inspector General Richard Griffin to add a line to water down the report. "The organization was worried that the report was going to damn the organization," the whistle-blower said. "And therefore it was important for them to introduce language that softened that blow."
A senior official from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ watchdog agency acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that delays in care had contributed to the deaths of patients at the department’s medical center in Phoenix. The disclosure by an official from the department’s inspector general’s office, coming after more than two hours of tough, sometimes confrontational exchanges with members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was a significant development in what has become a heated dispute over the quality of care at the Phoenix hospital, where revelations of secret waiting lists and other schemes to disguise long delays in care turned into a national scandal. Republicans characterized the acknowledgment as an about-face, and expressed frustration and some anger that a report on the Phoenix hospital issued by the inspector general last month contained language widely viewed as playing down concerns about a link between the medical-care delays and veterans’ deaths.
The Michigan gubernatorial race is going to come down to the wire as a new USA Today/Suffolk poll shows that incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder is trailing his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, by two points. On average, Real Clear Politics has Snyder ahead by one point.
Like in 2010, Snyder was able to grab the endorsement of former Republican Michigan Governor William Milliken, who associates with the more moderate wing of the GOP; he endorsed Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for U.S. Senate. While Milliken’s 2010 endorsement was able to curry favor with moderate Michigan voters, it may be more of an uphill battle this time around as Schauer has a better approval rating with this bloc of voters, though many are unsure what they think about him (via MLive):
Milliken endorsed Snyder in 2010, helping him woo moderates in his contested Republican primary that saw other candidates winning support from the likes of Michelle Bachmann and Mike Huckabee.
Snyder, who is running neck-and-neck in recent polls with Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, may have a tougher time winning over moderates this year.
Recent numbers from Public Policy Polling suggest that Schauer has a better favorability rating with self-described moderates, although many still weren't sure what they thought of the Democrat.
But not all is lost. The poll also found that 51 percent of Michigan voters feel that the economy is improving. Additionally, the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, which marks the lowest point since 2008. While still higher than the national average, Gov. Snyder can easily market a narrative that things are improving in the Mitten State. After all, the unemployment rate for Michigan was at 11 percent when Snyder took office in January of 2011.
Recently, Gov. Snyder announced that he’s planning to host a series of town hall meetings across the state. Like in 2010, Snyder is reaching out to Michigan voters to discuss the issues that matter most to them, lay out what will be achieved, and rehash what’s been accomplished since his 2010 gubernatorial victory.
The Road To Recovery: The Next Four Years town hall tour begins later this month on September 29th in Kalamazoo. Snyder's campaign will then head to Sterling Heights on October 2 and Detroit on October 4th.
In New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District, the campaign has swung negative. Democratic incumbent Rep. Anne Kuster has come out swinging by trying to tie her Republican opponent, New Hampshire House Representative Marilinda Garcia, as a Tea Party extremist.
Kuster spokesperson Rosie Hilmer said, “From wanting to completely abolish the Department of Education, to opposing the Violence Against Women Act and a woman’s right to choose, to voting to privatize Social Security, her [Garcia’s] policies would be devastating for hardworking Granite State families across the board. Students, women, seniors, and their families deserve to know the truth this election season about how Garcia’s extreme Tea Party positions would affect them.”
Yet, Kenny Cunningham, communications director for Garcia’s congressional campaign, issued the following statement about Kuster’s ad:
“It is extremely disappointing that Ann Kuster is already relying on negative attack ads in her race for re-election. Ann Kuster clearly has no record to run on from her time in Congress, and she is trying to distract from her unwavering support for President Obama and Obamacare.
Obamacare has drastically burdened our hardworking retirees with its severe cuts to the Medicare advantage system and has reduced choices for patients, as the majority of New Hampshire health care providers are now out of network. No state has been harder hit by the Obama-Kuster agenda, so it is no surprise that Kuster is using negative, dishonest ads to distract from her record and paint Marilinda Garcia as someone she is not.”
Elected in 2012, Kuster has yet to hold a town hall meeting with her constituents. She did attend one outside her district in Manchester back in November of 2013, but it was a disaster; she had a painfully awkward response to a question that asked her opinion on the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi terror attacks.
Nonetheless, some of her constituents are getting restless. In a letter to the editor featured in the Laconia Daily Sun, Ryan Smith asked Rep. Kuster why she is “unwilling to participate in this tradition” of hosting a town hall. In another letter to the editor for the Eagle-Tribune, Noel Lyons-Baker wrote, “If Annie Kuster doesn't have time to meet with me in the span of four years [alluding to her 2010 run as well],[sic] she certainly doesn't deserve to represent me in Washington.”
So, while Kuster may rail against Garcia and the Tea Party, she should probably focus on organizing some town halls. Then again, it’s kind of hard for Democrats to defend the president’s policies right now. So, don’t expect Kuster planning any such meetings in the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, State Rep. Garcia's ad really isn't all that negative. It talks about the string of scandals that has eroded the public trust in government and how we need a "new generation of conservative leaders to challenge the status quo." Garcia says she's done that in New Hampshire and will carry that tradition to Washington D.C.
Fox News military analyst Lt. Col. Oliver North made an appearance on The Kelly File last night to assess President Obama's latest strategy against ISIS. His message is a discouraging one, saying what President Obama is asking the military do is mission impossible and that it's time someone step up and be honest about it.
"In my military mind what you have is Operation Enduring Confusion. You have a President who cannot make up his mind about what he wants," North said. "Megyn, I've spent my whole life hanging around the U.S. military. I've been on plenty of times with you from Iraq and other places. I've spent my life with these young guys. I'm waiting for the general or admiral who will stand up on his hind feet and say this is mission impossible. Given the constraints that you've [Obama] given we cannot accomplish the objective you have set. It is impossible to do."
"Somebody has to tell the truth," he continued. "Some general or admiral at the Pentagon or somewhere else in Central Command has got to stand up and say, 'The mission we've been given we can do but we can't with the constraints you've places upon us.'"
This isn't the first time Obama has been at odds with U.S. Generals and based on history, those who speak out against him have a high chance of being fired.
Assuming Q polled #COSen as well. Will be a telling number. Beauprez has been outperforming Gardner recently...but by double digits?— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 17, 2014
Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall trails U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, his Republican challenger, 48 - 40 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent candidate Steve Shogan gets 8 percent. With Shogan out of the race, Rep. Gardner leads 52 - 42 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters. In the three-way matchup, Gardner leads Udall among men 53 - 34 percent, with 9 percent for Shogan. Women go 46 percent for Udall, 43 percent for Gardner and 7 percent for Shogan. Independent voters go 42 percent for Gardner, 40 percent for Udall and 15 percent for Shogan. Republicans back Gardner over Udall 88 - 5 percent with 5 percent for Shogan. Democrats back Udall over Gardner 90 - 3 percent, with 2 percent for Shogan.
At 47 in his internal, hmm RT @jameshohmann Udall's campaign mgr says past 2 internal polls at 47/42 & 48/42.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) September 17, 2014
Townhall Magazine's October issue is hitting subscriber mailboxes now! If you want to get the latest original content from Townhall's conservative talent weeks before it goes online, subscribe here now!Below is an excerpt from October's story, "Obamacare's Illegal Insurance Company Bailout."
Americans hate insurance companies. They also hate bailouts. And they especially hate it when insurance companies get bailouts.
But that is exactly what is going to hap- pen next summer unless Republicans in Congress stand up and fight against President Obama’s illegal health insur- ance company bailout.
A Sweetheart Deal
Our story begins just days after Obama’s landslide victory over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008. Sensing an opportunity to increase profits at taxpayer expense, Karen Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (the trade association that represents the health insurance industry in Washington), quickly signaled that she was ready to do business with the new occupant of the White House.
“No one should fall through the cracks of our health care system,” Ignagni’s November 11, 2008 statement read. “Universal coverage is within reach and can be achieved by building on the current system.”
That last phrase, “and can be achieved by building on the current system” was the health insurance industry’s top priority in the beginning of the Obama administration. And they spent furiously to make sure Obama would protect them. Despite the worst recession since World War II, businesses spent more than $1 billion lobbying on health reform in 2009, a sharp increase from 2008.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield led the league in lobbyist spending, shelling out $15.13 million in 2009, up more than 25 percent from 2008. AHIP shelled out another $8.85 million, while United Health Group added $4.86 million, and Aetna Inc. spent $2.84 million.
These millions turned out to be very wise investments. Health industry lobbyists secured dozens of meetings in the White House throughout 2009 and 2010. They not only met with Obama’s top advisers, but also Obama himself.
These meetings had a very clear impact on the policy that Obama would eventually produce. During a June 24, 2009 ABC News town hall meeting on health care, Obama assured the CEO of Aetna: “Aetna is a well-managed company and I am confident that your shareholders are going to do well.”
And Aetna has done more than “well” under Obamacare. Its stock price has more than doubled, and almost tripled, since Obama publicly promised the company it would “do well” under Obamacare.
And when you look at the basic outline of Obamacare, you can see exactly why. The program forces every American to buy the health insurance industry’s products and also subsidizes those purchases to the tune of more than $1 trillion over just the next decade alone. No wonder health insurance industry stocks are booming.
An Ongoing Relationship
But the relationship between the health insurance industry and the Obama administration did not end on March 23, 2010, the day Obamacare was signed into law. If anything, it was just beginning.
Obamacare’s 2,700-plus pages of legislative text contains literally hundreds of directions for the executive branch to create new regulations. So far the Obama administration has produced more than...
You can read the rest of "Obamacare's Illegal Insurance Company Bailout" in Townhall Magazine's October issue.
Former Obama campaign bundler and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified in front of the House Homeland Security yesterday and was peppered with questions from lawmakers about the terrorism threat presented by a lack of border enforcement and security. As usual, Johnson gave unconcerned, non-detailed answers.
First off, what you didn't see in the clip above was Johnson's attempt yesterday to shill for illegal immigration reform as Americans raise more concerns about a lack of border security. During an answer to another lawmaker about how to prevent terrorists from going undetected inside the United States, Johnson made the absurd argument that a "legal process" for citizenship would prevent terror infiltration and encourage terrorists to come forward and turn themselves in. That suggestion is not only unhelpful but politically motivated garbage. Second, if Johnson got out of his cushy D.C. office once in awhile to actually talk to Border Patrol agents on the ground, he would know that radical Islamists crossing the southern border into the United States from Mexico is nothing new. Unfortunately, a lack of enforcement from Homeland Security to stop those crossings isn't new either. What is new in this scenario is a threat from ISIS and intelligence agencies have picked up chatter in the past few weeks showing the terror army is looking at the southern border as a possible way to gain access to the United States. Homeland Security officials have also confirmed this possibility in testimony to Congress.
Meanwhile, little has been done at the State Department to revoke passports of Americans knowingly fighting with ISIS in Syria or Iraq.
H/T Ed Morrissey
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the administration's ISIS (ISIL) strategy.
Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on the hearing: “The President said his Administration had no strategy against ISIS two weeks ago, despite it long being on the march. The Administration is sending mixed messages now. ISIS is a serious threat to U.S. national security. The Committee needs to hear a comprehensive strategy from Secretary Kerry on how the Administration is going to confront this brutal and sophisticated terrorist group.”
Australian authorities have dismantled a plot which they believe was a coordinated, ISIS-inspired attempt to randomly behead civilians in Brisbane and Sydney. Put briefly, fifteen people were apprehended and a sword was discovered at one of several properties some 800 policemen and women raided early Thursday morning. The Associated Press reports:
Police on Thursday said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by supporters of the radical Islamic State group. They detained 15 people and raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney, though nine of those brought in were freed before the day was over. The raids involving 800 federal and state police officers — the largest in the country's history — came in response to intelligence that an Islamic State group leader in the Middle East was calling on Australian supporters to kill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
Abbott was asked about reports that the detainees were planning to behead a random person in Sydney. "That's the intelligence we received," he told reporters. "The exhortations — quite direct exhortations — were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country."
The Guardian has more details about who this alleged, mastermind terrorist might be:
Two men were charged and nine people released. Under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, those detained could be held for two weeks without charge.
One man, Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in Sydney central court on Thursday afternoon to face charges of preparing to commit a terrorist act.
It is alleged he conspired to commit the act with another man, Mohammad Baryalei, a former Sydney bouncer and actor of Afghan origin, reportedly an Islamic State leader.
If anything, this almost-successful massacre in Australia is a serious and much-needed reminder that ISIS’s poisonous ideology is spreading worldwide and not just confined to the Middle East. Australian authorities, meanwhile, now believe that if they didn’t intervene when they did -- thus carrying out the largest and most sophisticated anti-terrorist manhunt since the country was founded -- the plot could very well have succeeded:
Nine of those detained were later released, New South Wales police said. They did not say why, or whether they will face charges later. The raids came just days after the country raised its terrorism threat to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. At the time, Abbott stressed that there was no information suggesting a terror attack was imminent.
Later Thursday, Attorney General George Brandis confirmed that a person born in Afghanistan who had spent time in Australia and is now working with the Islamic State group in the Middle East ordered supporters in Australia to behead people and videotape the killings. "If the ... police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened," Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
For what it's worth, we actually have aerial footage of a police raid as it went down this morning, courtesy of The Washington Post:
Authorities have been tracking terrorist activities in Australia for months now, culminating in Thursday's pre-dawn operation. At the same time, the government also believes "at least 60 Australians" (but probably more) have betrayed their country by joining the terrorist organization ISIS overseas.