Saturday, September 26, 2009

Russian Tycoon's Bid For NBA's Nets Examined

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says the NBA has to vet Prokhorov's bid, but his 2007 arrest at a French ski resort in connection with ferrying in prostitutes is likely to be the main red flag. Prokhorov was not charged for that incident.

Surprise Surrogate: Ohio Mother Gives Birth To Baby in Mistaken Implanted Embryo Case

Carolyn Savage of Sylvania, Ohio has given birth to a baby boy in a bizarre case of negligence by a fertility clinic. Savage, 40, has agreed that the baby is not hers after the clinic implanted the wrong embryo. The Savages have agreed not only to have the baby but to give up the baby to his biological parents.

She learned the truth ten days after the procedure when the clinic called to say basically “the good news is that you’re pregnant, the bad news is that the baby is not yours.” The baby was shown by DNA tests to actually belong to Paul and Shannon Morell of metro Detroit.

The negligence of the clinic effectively made her a surrogate for another family. Presumably, she can recover not just for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress but also possibly battery since she did not consent to this implantation.

The Savages could not be more gracious toward the Morell family, releasing the statement: “We would like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the Morell family on the birth of their son. We wish Paul, Shannon, their twin girls and their new baby boy the best, as they move forward with their lives together.”

The Penalty for Not Buying Insurance Under ObamaCare? Jail

John Ensign received the confirmation in writing. From the Politico:

This doesn't happen often enough.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it "Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold."

I would expect nothing less from a government run by a president who has won approval from Gadhafi and Chavez.

Now, the question is will the government actually enforce this penalty? What happens if millions of people refuse to buy health care? I don't see how they could prosecute all of them since our court systems can't handle the case loads they have now.

We already know if ObamaCare passes it will cost significantly more money than even the CBO is projecting, just as every government program always costs far more than originally projected. So when this $1 trillion health care program ends up costing the federal government about $5-10 trillion the feds will be so hard up for cash that they won't want to send those who refuse to buy health insurance to jail. Instead they will have to fine them heavily in order to bring in additional money.

Be sure to read the note from Barthold here.

Update: Ed Morrissey is also alarmed at how insidious this is:

This should come as no surprise. Thanks to Baucus, the IRS would enforce the individual mandate, and a failure to comply would impose the fine, which in Baucus' own words is called an "excise tax." Those who refuse to pay their taxes will eventually go to prison for it, unless the person is someone like Tim Geithner, who then gets to run the agency that puts people in prison for failing to pay their taxes.

Debtors' prisons for thee but not for me.

Merkel scraps for votes in final election drive

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel made an 11th-hour push for votes Saturday, on the eve of an election expected to return her to power but perhaps not in the new coalition she wants.

"We are going to fight to the end because every vote counts," she told a crowd of around 1,000 people waving orange "Angie" placards and chanting "Angie, Angie."

"We are the only party in Germany to govern the economy sensibly," she said, adding: "Voters will decide tomorrow how quickly we get out of this crisis."

"We are fighting for the German jobs of the future."

Merkel, 55, has won plaudits at home and abroad for steady leadership through the crisis that has hit Europe's top economy harder than most, and surveys indicate Germans are in no mood for change at the top.

"This pastor's daughter from the east has governed with such self-confidence in the past four years that many of the 62.2 million voters will choose her even though they do not like her party. They want Merkel," commented the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

But her conservative party's lead over the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) has shrunk and tension is rising as her hopes of governing with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), hang by a thread.

If Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the FDP do not clinch a majority, the most likely outcome is another awkward "grand coalition" between the CDU and the SPD that has governed Germany since the inconclusive 2005 election.

But Merkel insisted: "We can only have stability with a coalition between a strong Union and the FDP," referring to her conservative party.

The SPD candidate, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, judged to be a weak campaigner at first, has gained in confidence and issued a rousing call to some 10,000 supporters late Friday at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

"The Union is getting more nervous by the day," Steinmeier told his flag-waving audience.

"The big lead they had has melted like ice in the sunshine. We will keep fighting for every vote until the last second on Sunday at 6:00 pm," when polling stations close.

But the final campaign rallies took place amid heightened security throughout the country following a series of messages from Islamic militants warning Germany over its continued presence in war-torn Afghanistan.

In a statement with German subtitles considered by experts to be a warning of a forthcoming attack, Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden told European countries to withdraw from Afghanistan, where Germany has around 4,200 troops as part of a NATO force.

This was quickly followed by another video threatening Germany with attacks if it did not pull out of Afghanistan, this time from a German-speaking Taliban militant who called himself "Ajjub."

Speaking in German, Ajjub said: "Because of your commitment here against Islam, attacking Germany has become an attractive idea for us, the mujahideen," according to an interior ministry spokesman.

The militant said it was only a matter of time "before jihad destroys German walls" and the video showed photos of some famous German sites such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Cologne Cathedral.

The unpopular mission in Afghanistan is just one of a host of problems the winner of Sunday's election with have to face, along with a record mountain of debt and Germany's worst slump in output for more than 60 years.

"Whoever receives from the voters the task of governing will need a great deal of strength, courage and optimism to overcome the challenges that lie before him, or her," Hanover's Neue Presse daily said in an editorial on Saturday.

Massive police presence in Pittsburgh takes fight out of protesters

PITTSBURGH - Police in riot gear lined the streets of the Group of 20 host city in an overwhelming show of force Friday as thousands of protesters chanted, waved signs and blew bubbles.

Unlike Thursday, when police tossed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to rout protesters who threw rocks and smashed store windows, Friday's "People's March" through the hilly streets of Pittsburgh produced no serious clashes.

The presence of hundreds of police sparked outrage among the demonstrators, who never got closer than half a mile to the G20 meeting site.

"We don't need the United Police States of America," said Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar advocate who famously protested outside former President George W. Bush's ranch in Texas. "I was telling the cops, 'You're facing the wrong way. Face the banks.'"

The patchwork group of demonstrators voiced their opinions on a myriad of issues, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to workers' rights to the national debate on health care.

They chanted, "We all live in a fascist bully state" to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."

On Thursday, when demonstrators hit the streets without a permit, sparks flew. About 70 people were arrested and a slew of businesses were damaged.

Mike Nance, 28, a graduate student from Philadelphia, said he had no problem with so-called anarchists vandalizing businesses.

"I don't think property violence is particularly immoral," he said.

US Terror Suspect to Face Charges in New York

Prosecutors say an Afghan-born terror suspect in U.S. federal custody spent more than a year plotting a massive attack on the United States with co-conspirators.

Najibullah Zazi was transferred Friday from the western state of Colorado, where he was detained, to the northeastern city of New York, where he faces charges of conspiring to detonate bombs.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted 24-year-old Zazi on Wednesday, but that was not made public until Thursday.

The U.S. government says Zazi received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan in 2008. It also says he bought components to build improvised explosive devices and traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009, to move forward with his plans.

If convicted, Zazi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. He has denied any links to terrorism.

He is set to appear in court Tuesday.

Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States. He was detained in Colorado September 19 on charges of lying to counter-terrorism investigators.

He was indicted on the terror plot charges four days later.

Zazi was born in Afghanistan and moved to Pakistan as a boy before relocating to the United States with his family about 10 years ago.

Iran defies Obama and vows to switch on 'secret' nuclear facility

A new Iranian nuclear enrichment facility which was revealed to the world this week will soon start work, a Tehran official said on Saturday.

"This new plant, God willing, will soon become operational," said Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, who heads the office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The facility, buried in a mountain outside the city of Qom, is still under construction. It is designed to enrich uranium and could be used to produce the essential material for a nuclear weapon.

On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that Tehran wrote to the agency on September 21, disclosing that it is building a new uranium enrichment facility.

The revelation has heightened fears that Iran is determined to develop the capacity to build an atomic weapon, although Tehran insists that it wants a nuclear programme to generate energy for a rapidly growing population.

The programme presents the West with a thorny challenge. World leaders meeting this week in the United States have been considering a response. Their options include diplomatic pressure, tougher sanctions, and in the last resort military action. One scenario is that Israel, which feels threatened by Iran, could bomb the plants.

Israel said on Saturday that this week's disclosure proved the country was seeking nuclear weapons, and demanded an "unequivocal" Western response.

"The revelations of this second nuclear enrichment site in Iran prove beyond any doubt that this country wants to equip itself with nuclear weapons," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

"We hope that an unequivocal answer is given on October 1," he added, referring to next week's meeting between Iran and six major world powers involved in negotiating over the the nuclear dispute.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has long accused Iran of pursuing atomic weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy programme.

Britain, the US and France have insisted that Iran must allow visits to the nuclear site.

"Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," said Mr Obama, He added that Iran was endangering the global non-proliferation regime and threatening the stability and security of the world.

Gordon Brown said: "The level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the entire international community." He added that there was "no choice but to draw a line in the sand."