- Created on 15 November 2013
Toronto Mayor scandal reaches new lows
Toronto (CNN) -- Toronto's City Council voted Friday to strip embattled Mayor Rob Ford of his ability to govern in case of an emergency and to appoint and dismiss his senior staff, unprecedented moves aimed at reining in the controversial politician.
Despite admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" about a year ago, Ford has defiantly said he will not leave his job.
"Obviously, I can't support this," Ford told council members, saying that the legal fight to follow will cost taxpayers "an arm and a leg."
But, he added: "I perfectly understand where they're coming from."
"Council delegated those powers and council has the ability to take those powers away," City Solicitor Anna Kinastowski said at one point in the meeting.
While fighting for his job Thursday, Ford added to his growing list of missteps.
Early in the day, a scrum of reporters approached Ford to ask him about new allegations of drunkenness, drug use and the verbal and physical abuse of aides.
In the course of answering, he denied a female staffer's allegation that he sought to perform oral sex with graphic language of his own, stunning reporters.
Later in the day, he backtracked.
With his wife at his side, he went back before reporters to say he had been under "tremendous, tremendous stress" and was getting unspecified support from "a team of health care professionals." But he called the latest allegations "100% lies."
"When you attack my integrity as a father and as a husband, I see red. Today I acted on complete impulse in my remarks," Ford said. He took no questions from reporters, who shouted sharp inquiries at him as he entered the office.
"Mayor Ford, why should we believe you? Why would you subject your family to this?" one asked.
"What's the matter with you, Mr. Mayor?" another said.
Plan to take power
The Toronto City Council voted 37-5 on Wednesday to ask Ford to take a leave of absence, and most members turned their backs on him when he addressed their Thursday meeting.
His brother, Doug Ford, a city council member, is urging him to take a leave of absence, a council source told CNN on condition of anonymity. The source did not want to be identified.
The meeting Friday could lead to more Monday where the council says it expects to consider a motion to delegate duties not assigned by statute to the mayor. If approved, the motion would strip Ford of most of his duties.
Among other things, the motion calls for reallocating the operating budget of the office of the mayor to the city clerk, according [to] the council's agenda published online.
Plans for a TV show
But in a new twist, Canada's Sun News Network announced that Ford and his brother Doug will begin hosting their own TV show on Monday. The show, "Ford Nation," picks up where the two brothers left off on a talk radio show that ended its run last week, the network said on its website.
A headline on that site posed the question, "Canada's Ultimate Reality Show?" And it quoted Doug Ford saying, "Rob is like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh" and "You just never know what he is going to say."
"Mayor Ford seems to be in a no-holds-barred mode," the network said. "There is no filter. There is no careful treading."
Critics of Sun News Network have described its conservatism as "Fox News North," according to a story about its launch in 2011 by the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Plans for legal action
The mayor recently confessed to purchasing illegal drugs in the past two years, while he was in office. But he has steadfastly refused to step down, saying the voters of Canada's largest city should decide his fate in 2014.
The latest allegations surfaced Wednesday in more than 500 pages of court documents that police used to get a search warrant for Alexander Lisi, Ford's friend and occasional driver, whom police accuse of marijuana possession and trafficking.
Ford responded Thursday morning by threatening legal action against former staffers who claimed the mayor brought a woman appearing to be an escort to his office and drank alcohol while driving. The documents include police interviews with former staff members, information obtained from surveillance crews and cameras, and even an examination of the mayor's garbage.
Several staffers said they were asked to buy alcohol for the mayor of Canada's largest city. One incident described by a former staffer alleged that Ford, while driving, stopped the vehicle, guzzled some vodka, and drove on.
The allegations have not been substantiated by investigators, and Ford faces no criminal charges. He called the allegations "outright lies."
On Thursday, Ford also said the so-called "escort" wasn't a prostitute but a family friend. He added that such allegations "hurt my wife."
"It makes me sick," he added. "I've had enough."
- Created on 14 November 2013
(AP Photo / Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says he hears Americans who are upset about losing their health insurance "loud and clear" and is offering a fix.
Obama on Thursday announced that insurance companies can keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be cancelled.
The president noted that the first-month enrollment numbers in health care plans under his law are lagging and he isn't happy about it. He said that "we fumbled the roll-out" of the program. And he vowed to build a better health care system for every American and "get it right."
The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced changes to his health care law that would give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.
The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. Obama announced the changes at the White House.
Obama has been under enormous pressure from congressional Democrats to give ground on the cancellation issue under the health care overhaul, a program likely to be at the center of next year's midterm elections for control of the House and Senate.
It's unclear what the impact of Thursday's changes will be for the millions of people who have already had their plans canceled. While officials said insurance companies will now be able to offer those people the option to renew their old plans, companies are not required to take that step.
Insurance companies will be required to inform consumers who want to keep canceled plans about the protections that are not included under those plans. Customers will also be notified that new options are available offering more coverage and in some cases, tax credits to cover higher premiums.
Under Obama's plan, insurance companies would not be allowed to sell coverage deemed subpar under the law to new customers, marking a difference with legislation that House Republicans intend to put to a vote on Friday.
Only last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a Senate panel she doubted that retroactively permitting insurers to sell canceled policies "can work very well since companies are now in the market with an array of new plans. Many have actually added consumer protections in the last three-and-a-half years."
Republicans were unimpressed with the changes.
House Speaker John Boehner, speaking in advance of the president's announcement, insisted it was time to "scrap this law once and for all."
"You can't fix this government-run health care plan called Obamacare . ... It's just not fix-able."
While the White House deals with the cancellation issue, the administration is also promising improvements in a federal website so balky that enrollments totaled fewer than 27,000 in October in 36 states combined. The administration had said in advance the enrollment numbers would fall far short of initial expectations. After weeks of highly publicized technical woes, they did.
Adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected - and a small fraction of the millions who have received private coverage cancellations as a result of the federal law.
The administration said an additional 1 million people have been found eligible to buy coverage in the markets, with about one-third qualifying for tax credits to reduce their premiums. Another 396,000 have been found eligible for Medicaid, which covers low-income people.
Administration officials and senior congressional Democrats expressed confidence in the program's future. "We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months," said Sebelius, who is in charge of the program.
"Even with the issues we've had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling," she added.
Despite the expressions, the White House worked to reassure anxious Democrats who are worried about the controversial program, which they voted into existence three years ago over Republican opposition as strong now as it was then.
Senate Democrats arranged a closed-door meeting for midday Thursday in the Capitol with White House officials, who held a similar session Wednesday with the House rank and file. Ahead of that meeting, Obama planned to speak from the White House about new efforts to help Americans receiving insurance cancellation notices.
So far, five Senate Democrats are on record in support of legislation by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to make sure everyone can keep their present coverage if they want to. The bill would require insurance companies to continue offering existing policies, even if they fall short of minimum coverage requirements in the law.
The measure has little apparent chance at passage, given that it imposes a new mandate on the insurance industry that Republicans will be reluctant to accept.
At the same time, a vote would at least permit Democrats to say they have voted to repair some of the problems associated with the Affordable Care Act, as many appear eager to do.
In a statement, Landrieu said Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas were now supporting the legislation, as is Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. All but Feinstein are on the ballot next year.
Across the Capitol, majority Republicans in the House set a vote for Friday on legislation to permit insurance companies to continue selling existing policies that have been ordered scrapped because they fall short of coverage standards in the law.
While House passage of the measure is assured, each Democrat will be forced to cast a vote on the future of a program that Republicans have vowed to place at the center of next year's campaign.
Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who voted for the initial Obama health care bill, said Thursday that members of his caucus want an opportunity to go on the record in support of allowing people to keep the insurance they had.
Doyle told MSNBC in an interview that at a White House meeting Wednesday, House Democrats told Obama about "the frustration level that many of us have" with the health care roll-out.
Doyle said Democrats warned Obama that "if you don't give us something by Friday" to fix the insurance cancellation problem, then many Democrats are likely to vote for the pending House bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, which would accomplish that goal.
The promise of keeping coverage was Obama's oft-stated pledge when the legislation was under consideration, a calling card since shredded by the millions of cancellations mailed out by insurers.
Obama apologized last week for the broken promise, but aides said at the time the White House was only considering administration changes, rather than new legislation.
- Created on 14 November 2013
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four Marines were killed Wednesday during an operation to clear a range of unexploded ordnance at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, a Marine official said.
The deaths occurred during a periodic sweep of explosive material to make ranges safe for future exercises, said a Marine official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
There was no live firing on the range at the time, the official said.
The identities of the dead were withheld pending notification of relatives. Base officials released no details on the 11 a.m. accident. Authorities were investigating the cause.
“We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines lost today in this tragic accident,” said Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations West at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “Our first priority is to provide the families with the support they need during this difficult time.”
The deaths come about eight months after a mortar explosion killed seven Marines during a live-fire training exercise in Nevada.
A military investigation determined human error was to blame for that accident. According to the probe’s findings, a Marine operating a 60 mm mortar tube and ammunition did not follow correct procedures, resulting in the detonation of a high explosive round at the mortar position.
The investigation also determined the mortar team involved in the accident had not conducted “appropriate preparatory training.”
- Created on 14 November 2013
According to the Department of Homeland security, these attempts are minimal when compared to the onslaught that most federal agencies receive, and none have been successful. The 16 reported attempts are currently under investigation, said Assistant Secretary Roberta Stempfley to members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Read more from ABC:
While the number of hacking attempts for such a “high profile target” may seem low, Robert Siciliano, a McAfee online security expert, told ABCNews.com that it’s likely the agency is reporting only “brute force attacks.”
“Little tiny ones that happen on a daily basis, like attempting to crack passwords, they may see them but they add up to nothing. They’re probably reporting significant brute force attacks that could put data at risk,” Siciliano said.
In comparison, the Department of Homeland Security website logged about “228,700 cyber incidents” during the last fiscal year, a DHS official told ABCNews.com, which averages out to about 626 a day “involving federal agencies, critical infrastructure, and the Department’s industry partners.”
“The fact there was only 16 is surprising. Maybe those 16 are the documented ones,” he said of healthcare.gov. “Due to the fact there are consumers punching in personal identifying info, that makes it a very attractive target.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, Healthcare.gov has fallen victim to its own ambition and during a time that should be celebratory, President Barack Obama has been forced into playing defense and apologizing for what many perceive as his dishonesty.
In an interview with NBC News last Thursday, President Barack Obama apologized to those Americans who have received cancellation notices for their insurance policies.
“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” the president said in the interview.