Photostream : French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (L) shakes hands with Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad after a meeting on February 3, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C) shakes hands with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (L) as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris February 3, 2011. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (C) shakes hands with Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad prior to a meeting on February 3, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad answers journalists' questions after a meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy on February 3, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad answers journalists' questions after a meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy on February 3, 2011 at the Elysee palace in Paris. (Photo by PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

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House Speaker Boehner warns against debt default

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

Jan 31 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Sunday said that the United States must continue meeting its obligations to fund government debt or risk a global financial disaster.

With the Treasury Department rapidly coming closer to bumping up against its statutory borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion, some of Boehner’s fellow Republicans in Congress have suggested that no further borrowing should be authorized until deep cuts are made in federal spending.

Boehner, interviewed on “Fox News Sunday,” was asked about the impact of a government default if the limit on its borrowing authority was not raised in a timely way.

“That would be a financial disaster not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy,” Boehner responded. He added, “Remember, the American people on Election Day said we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs. You can’t create jobs if you default on the federal debt.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has estimated that unless Congress acts to increase the debt ceiling, his agency will run out of borrowing authority sometime between March 31 and May 16.

At that point, the government could default on some loans.

Last week, the Treasury Department initiated the first in what is expected to be several stop-gap moves to delay hitting that $14.3 trillion limit on credit.

Even as he pressed for cutting government spending, Boehner said of the notion of Republicans forcing a government default: “I don’t think it’s a question that is even on the table.”

The U.S. debt — the amount of accumulated government borrowing — has been rapidly rising to a level that many economists say is potentially dangerous.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office noted last week that debt held by the public will most likely jump from 40 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal 2008 to nearly 70 percent at the end of this fiscal year.

The CBO last week estimated that this year’s deficit will hit nearly $1.5 trillion, further worsening the debt problem.

Boehner and fellow Republicans have urged cutting back federal spending to fiscal 2008 levels, which they say would save about $100 billion a year.

During his interview on Fox News Sunday, Boehner said, “There is no limit to the amount of spending we’re willing to cut.”

In his State of the Union speech to Congress last week, President Barack Obama tried to answer Republican calls for spending cuts by offering up a five-year freeze on some spending, which he said would save about $400 billion.

But neither the Republican plan nor Obama’s would produce anywhere near enough in long-term savings to solve the nation’s severe fiscal problems.

Both Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday urged bipartisan talks with the Obama administration to address those long-term problems, which will only grow as an aging U.S. population requires more federal retirement benefits and government-backed healthcare.

McConnell, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” would not say, however, whether he would consider tax increases — a remedy that many Democrats and private analysts say must be included.

When Fox News Sunday asked Boehner about hiking taxes, he responded, “Now, here you’re getting — you’re getting right in the same old nonsense we’ve always gotten into.”

White House Chief of Staff William Daley, interviewed on CBS News Face the Nation, said that raising taxes now, with the U.S. economy still trying to recover, was not “the way to go at this point.”

While he said the Obama administration wants to sit down with congressional leaders to work on deficit problems, “The reality is … there is no way they (Republicans) are going to look for any revenue raising in any way, shape or form” for the long-term. “That puts a tremendous constraint on obviously the budget and the deficit,” Daley said.

(*)

House Speaker John Boehner avoids Nancy Pelosi's strawberry-and-chocolate Air Force shuttle

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (R) receives the Speaker's gavel from outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (L) January 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The 112th U.S. Congress will be sworn-in today, with Republican legislators taking control of the House of Representatives and expected to begin attempts to dismantle portions of U.S. President Barack Obamaï¿?ï¿?ï¿?s legislative agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jan 27 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE OREGONIAN) — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, counts several lobbyists among his closest pals and is no stranger tolavish golf outings paid for by his and other political committees.  But you can see why he was smart to drop his predecessors’ custom of being shuttled around on an Air Force jet.

Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group, has a new batch of documents detailing former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s use of Air Force planes, both to bring the San Francisco Democrat back and forth from her district and for foreign travel.

All told, the speaker took 43 flights between Jan. 1 and Oct. 1 of last year.  The Air Force provided expenses for just 22 of those flights, which cost taxpayers $1.8 million.

This is probably not an atypical amount of travel for a West Coast member of Congress (although the expense is obviously much more).  But what’s really burning up the internet (to the point that the actual Judicial Watch website had crashed Thursday morning) are the little details that infuriate taxpayers.  Such as her staff requesting “something like chocolate covered strawberries (dark chocolate preferred)” as a birthday treat for the speaker on one flight.

There’s also the trip to Tel Aviv and Baghdad that included these supplies: Johnny Walker Redscotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Baileys Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin,Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine.

That well-stocked bar paints in an image in the minds of taxpayers, one that savvy politicians like Boehner know they want to avoid.  (*)

Ill. high court: Rahm Emanuel can run for Chicago mayor

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel smiles after being endorsed by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley as he awaits a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding his residency which could remove him from the ballot in the upcoming mayoral election, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

CHICAGO, Jan 27 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – Illinois’ highest court put Rahm Emanuel back in the race for Chicago mayor Thursday, three days after a lower court threw the former White House chief of staff off the ballot because he had not lived in the city for a full year.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Emanuel’s favor, saying an appeals court decision that said the candidate needed to be physically present in Chicago was “without any foundation in Illinois law.”

“As I said from the beginning, I think the voters deserve the right to make the choice of who should be mayor,” Emanuel said shortly after getting word of the high court’s action. “I’m not quite sure emotionally where I’m at.

“I’m relieved for the city. I’m relieved for the voters because they need the certainty that’s important for them.”

Emanuel lived for nearly two years in Washington working for President Barack Obama. He moved back to Chicago in October, after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not seek another term.

When he learned of Thursday’s ruling, Emanuel said he immediately called his wife and took a congratulatory call from his old boss, the president.

Political observers said the ruling resurrecting Emanuel’s candidacy would probably give him added momentum heading into the last month of the campaign.

Don Rose, a longtime analyst of Chicago politics, said he thought the saga would bring Emanuel “even greater sympathy” and could lift him to victory.

“It’s over,” Rose said. “The only open question is whether he wins it in the first round or whether there’s a runoff.”

But the other contenders in the race did not give any ground.

“Game on,” said Gery Chico, the city’s former school board president and one of Emanuel’s more prominent rivals. He complained that the recent “drama” surrounding Emanuel had “made this election into a circus instead of a serious debate about the future of Chicago.”

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said she did not question the court’s decision.

“The fact is that the field hasn’t changed. We’re all still in this, and we’re all trying to get our message out,” she said Thursday at a televised debate, where she was joined by Emanuel, Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

However, if Emanuel does not get more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 22, a runoff election could be more difficult to win.

“It would show he wasn’t strong enough,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s going to be very turbulent in the next week or two. A number of voters will reconsider.”

Emanuel never stopped campaigning as the case unfolded. Within minutes of the ruling, he was at a downtown transit station shaking hands.

The former White House aide has said he always intended to return to Chicago.

The Supreme Court took special note of Emanuel’s testimony before the election board in which he listed all the personal items he left in the house in Chicago when he moved to Washington — including his wife’s wedding dress, photographs of his children and clothes they wore as newborns, as well as items belonging to his grandfather.

The board “determined that, in this situation, the rental did not show abandonment of the residence,” the court wrote. “This conclusion was well supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous.”

In a conclusion that was unusually critical of the appellate ruling, the justices said Illinois’ residency law “has been consistent on the matter since at least the 19th century.”

While all seven justices ruled in Emanuel’s favor, two of them issued a separate opinion that was more sympathetic to the lower court, saying Illinois residency law was not as clear-cut as the majority believed.

“It is for this reason that the tone taken by the majority today is unfortunate,” the two justices wrote. “Because our own case law was, until today, unclear, it is unfair of the majority to state that the appellate court majority ‘tossed out’ 150 years” of precedent.

Chicago-based election attorney Adam Lasker said the reasoning behind the lower court ruling was sound, but he acknowledged that “there was a lot of pressure from the public.”

“The court of public opinion may have won this one,” he said.

In the future, the decision could allow less prominent or desirable figures than Emanuel to get on the mayoral ballot.

“It could become known as the Landlord Rule,” he said. “Now anyone who rents his house, leaves clothes in it and moves out of Chicago, can come back, and they can be a candidate.”

But Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, said the high court ruling made sense.

“This wasn’t a slam-dunk for Emanuel going in,” said. “But it shows the justices saw the appellate court ruling as a hiccup.”

When faced with an ambiguity in election law, he said, the justices “decided that you want to err on the side of letting voters vote for candidates that they want to.”

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Emanuel’s attorneys called the appellate court decision “one of the most far-reaching election law rulings” ever issued in Illinois, not only because of its effect on the mayoral race but for “the unprecedented restriction” it puts on future candidates.

His lawyers raised several points, including that the appeals court applied a stricter definition of residency than the one used for voters. They said Illinois courts have never required candidates to be physically present in the state to seek office there.

Monday’s surprise ruling threw the mayoral race and Emanuel’s campaign into disarray. The following day, the state Supreme Court ordered Chicago elections officials to stop printing ballots without Emanuel’s name on them.

Chicago election officials said they had printed nearly 300,000 ballots without Emanuel’s name before they abruptly stopped.

Emanuel had been the heavy favorite to lead the nation’s third-largest city, and he raised more money than any other candidate vying to replace Daley, who is retiring after more than two decades as mayor.

When Emanuel’s candidacy appeared in doubt, the other main candidates in the race moved quickly to try to win over his supporters.

The residency questions have dogged Emanuel ever since he announced his bid. He tried to move back into his house when he returned to Chicago, but the family renting it wanted $100,000 to move out early.

The elections board and a Cook County judge had previously ruled in favor of Emanuel, a former congressman.

In the Emanuel family, Thursday’s decision was to have lasting implications.

“I have banned the word resident in Scrabble in our household. I never want to see it again,” said Emanuel, adding that his family enjoys the board game. “Even if you get it on a triple word you’re not allowed to use it.”   (*)

Doc: Giffords hears cheers leaving Ariz., smiles

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

 

HOUSTON, Jan 21 (KATAKAMI / AP)  – She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes.

The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation.

Children sat on their parents’ shoulders as the motorcade passed. Many waved. Others carried signs wishing “Gabby” well.

“It was very emotional and very special,” said Dr. Randall Friese, who traveled with Giffords.

By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately.

After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center’s rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann.

Giffords has “great rehabilitation potential,” said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann.

“She will keep us busy, and we will keep her busy as well,” he said.

The first thing is to determine the extent of Giffords’ injuries and the impact on her abilities to move and communicate. She hasn’t spoken yet, and it’s unknown whether she will suffer permanent disabilities.

A gunman shot Giffords and 18 other people on Jan. 8 as she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died. The suspect in the attack, Jared Loughner, 22, is being held in federal custody.

Since she was hospitalized at University Medical Center in Tucson, Giffords has made progress nearly every day, with characteristically cautious surgeons calling her improvement remarkable.

Each new press conference seemingly yields a few more details about the Giffords that her family knows.

Tracy Culbert, a nurse who accompanied Giffords and the congresswoman’s husband, Houston-based astronaut Mark Kelly, on the flight, described her as being captivated by a ring on Culbert’s finger. The nurse took it off and Giffords put it on her own hand.

“She was taking it off my hand and I asked if she wanted to see it,” Culbert said.

Asked how she felt about leaving Giffords on Friday to return to Arizona, Culbert replied, “Do you want me to cry?

“She’s a very gentle person,” Culbert said, “and her personality is coming out with her touches, the way she touches us, the way she looks at us, and I am very lucky to know her.”

Then, she added: “I have a lot of hope for her, and I know she’s going to do great.”

Doctors said Giffords will stay in the intensive care unit for now because she has a drain to remove fluid buildup in her brain. She was going to begin rehab immediately, with a session scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Because part of her skull was removed during surgery, a helmet was made to protect her brain. Friese said Giffords’ husband asked them to make another one — with the Arizona flag on it.

“We immediately got one the next day,” Friese said.

Specialists ranging from physical and occupational therapists to speech therapists and psychologists will give a slew of tests to see what she can and cannot do.

They’ll determine the strength of her legs and her ability to stand and walk; the strength of her arms, and whether she can brush her teeth or comb her hair; whether she can safely swallow on her own; how well she thinks and communicates — not just her ability to speak, but also to understand and comprehend.

While she is moving both arms and legs, it’s uncertain how much strength she has on her right side; the bullet passed through the left side of her brain, which controls the right side of the body.

Giffords, 40, has some weakness or paralysis on her right side, said Dr. Dong Kim, neurosurgery chief at University of Texas Health. He said she can move her leg, and may be able to support herself, but “may not be able to move it when she wants.”

During a half-hour exam, she didn’t move her right arm, but Kim said he was told that she could move it.

Giffords will stay at Memorial Hermann until she no longer needs 24-hour medical care — the average is one to two months. Then she can get up to five hours a day of physical and other rehab therapies as an outpatient.

The transfer from Tucson was a major milestone among many that Giffords has already passed.

Before they left the hospital, Giffords’ husband tweeted: “GG going to next phase of her recover today. Very grateful to the docs and nurses at UMC, Tucson PD, Sheriffs Dept….Back in Tucson ASAP!”

For some along the route to the airport, the sight of her motorcade seemed like a prayer answered.

Bundled into an ambulance, Giffords slipped away from the hospital, leaving behind the grief and hope embodied in the cards, candles and carnations at a makeshift memorial on the front lawn.

Marine veteran Al Garcia waited anxiously along the route to the airport, his Harley Davidson motorcycle at his side. He wanted to join the back of the caravan to show support for the woman who visited his neighborhood to ask about residents’ concerns.

“It’s through all of these prayers that she’s leaving in just two weeks,” Garcia said.

“The community has just come together so much — all walks of life, no matter what party you belong to,” he said. “They’ve all come together to show their support for her and the other victims of this tragedy.”

Moments later, he and a few other veterans joined the caravan.  (*)

 

House to Vote Wednesday on Repealing Democrats’ Health Care Law

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

Washington, Jan 19 (KATAKAMI.COM / CNS News / AP) – The new Republican-led House is poised to deliver an emphatic thumbs-down to President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul, with no ready substitute of its own.

The House vote Wednesday could turn out to be the high-water mark for repeal, a goal that energized conservative voters in the midterm elections and helped Republicans return to power in Congress. Democrats, who hung on to the Senate, have vowed to block the GOP drive.

But House Republicans say not to underestimate their determination or their willingness to use parliamentary maneuvers to deny the Obama administration funds needed to carry out the law.

“Our vote to repeal is not merely symbolic,” said freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., an ophthalmologist. “It respects the will of the American people. And it paves the way to reform our health care.”

The initial round of debate Tuesday was free of the rancor seen during the marathon sessions that culminated in party-line passage of the historic legislation last year. The law would provide coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people, with tax credits to make premiums more affordable for the middle class, along with an expanded Medicaid program for the poor. Starting in 2014, most Americans would be required to carry health insurance, a first-of-its-kind mandate that Republicans are challenging as unconstitutional in federal court.

Democrats are confident that the law will stand. Millions are already getting its benefits, from lower prescription prices for Medicare recipients with high drug costs to extended coverage for young adults on their parents’ insurance plan.

Republicans are “re-litigating, regurgitating and rearguing” a debate that was settled last year, said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J. Repeal is “the wrong bill at the wrong time,” he added.

After Wednesday’s vote, it’s unclear what will ultimately happen. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., dared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to prove that he can keep Democrats united in support of the health care law by bringing repeal to the floor.

“He should bring it up for a vote if he’s so confident he’s got the votes,” Cantor told reporters.

Opponents of the law would probably need 60 Senate votes to overturn it, which is a big stretch given that Republicans have just 47 votes.

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday to instruct several major committees to draft health care legislation that reflects Republican priorities, including limits on medical malpractice awards and stricter language barring taxpayer funding for abortions. But an earlier GOP bill that offered a competing vision to the Democrats’ only covered a fraction of the people reached by Obama’s law.

No matter, Republicans say. A modest, step-by-step approach may turn out to be more sustainable in the long run than a major new government program whose costs and consequences are still unclear.

The fate of the repeal effort hinges on the quality of the replacement legislation and the care that Republicans put into drafting it, said Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., a freshman. If it meets the needs and concerns of the public, Gibson said he believes Democrats in the Senate may be persuaded to give it serious consideration.

Easier said than done, Democrats respond. For example, Republicans say they also want to help people with pre-existing medical conditions find affordable coverage. But many experts say that won’t be possible unless there’s some kind of requirement that healthy people get into the insurance pool as well, thereby helping to keep premiums down.

“They’re going to have to deal with that,” said Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat.

Polls find the public divided over the law and whether it should be repealed. A recent Associated Press-GfK survey found a 43 percent plurality wants the law changed so that it does more to re-engineer the health care system. About one in four said it should be repealed completely. Fewer than one in five in the AP poll said the law should be left as it is and 10 percent want to change it to do less.

Some surveys that only give respondents two options – keeping the law as it is or repealing it completely – find an edge for repeal.  (*)

Husband: Giffords smiled and gave him neck rub

FILE - In this March, 2010 file photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords poses for a photo. Giffords' condition improved to serious on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, after procedures to remove a ventilator were successful. (AP Photo/Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, File)

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM/ AP) — The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says his wife’s condition has improved so much that she has been able to smile and give him a neck rub as he has kept a near-constant vigil at her hospital bedside.

The interactions with astronaut Mark Kelly are new signs of Giffords’ impressive progress in recovering from a gunshot wound to the head at a political event nine days ago. Giffords still cannot speak, because of a tube in her throat that is helping her breathe.

“She’s in the ICU. You know, gone through this traumatic injury. And she spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage,” Kelly explained in an interview with Diane Sawyer to air Tuesday on ABC. “It’s so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she’s looking out for other people.”

Such encounters indicate higher levels of functioning, implying that “she’s recognizing him and interacting, perhaps in an old familiar way with him,” said Dr. Michael Lemole.

Dr. Randall Friese said Kelly also told doctors he saw Giffords smile. He said sometimes people see what they want to see, but that “if he says she’s smiling, I buy it.”

Kelly has also been essential in helping Giffords’ staff through the tragedy, said Mark Kimble, a Tucson staff member who stood only a few feet from Giffords when she was shot.

“There is not a doubt in his mind and not a doubt in any of our minds that she’s going to be back,” Kimble said. “He’s been cheering us up. He’ll come over and when we’re down, he’ll say, ‘Gabby’s going to make it, Gabby’s a little better today.’ That’s a big help to all of us.”

The steady progress for Giffords came on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to remember the legacy of the civil rights leader who was killed by an assassin’s bullet 42 years ago.

Political leaders invoked the assassination attempt against Giffords as they asked Americans to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice.

“Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at King’s former church in Atlanta.

Doctors upgraded Giffords’ condition from critical to serious over the weekend and say they carried out three successful procedures that demonstrate she is recovering well.

A breathing tube was moved from her mouth to her throat along with a separate feeding tube that was shifted from her nose to her stomach. Dr. Randall Friese said removing the tubes in her nose and mouth reduces the risks of infections.

Doctors also said they performed a surgery on Giffords’ eye socket to remove bone fragments to relieve pressure on her eye. There were no complications from the surgery; doctors needed to perform the eye procedure all along but waited until her condition improved to do it.

Elsewhere, doctors have transplanted the corneas from the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shooting that left a total of six dead and 13 wounded. Christina Taylor Green’s father said Monday that the Donor Network of Arizona told him and his wife that the transplants from the 9-year-old have saved the eyesight of two children.

The suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, remained jailed in a federal lockup in Phoenix. Investigators have described him as a mentally unstable man who was kicked out a community college last year and became increasingly erratic in recent months.

He apparently became obsessed with inflicting violence on Giffords since attending one of her campaign events in 2007.

Kelly said he would be willing to meet with the parents of Loughner, who have remained in seclusion since the shooting. Kelly, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, said the parents have to be in a tremendous amount of pain.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not the parents fault,” Kelly told ABC. “You know, I’d like to think I’m a person that’s, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they’ve got to be hurting in this situation as much as much as anybody.”  (*)

Doctors: Giffords Smiling at Husband

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband, space shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, are seen in an undated handout photo provided by her Congressional campaign, January 8, 2011. Giffords was hit in a shooting on Saturday at a public event of the Congresswoman's at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store that also injured at least nine other people, hospital and law enforcement sources said. REUTERS/Giffords for Congress/PK Weis/Handout

Jan 18 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — The husband of the Arizona congresswoman shot in the head during a shooting rampage this month says her condition has improved to the point where she gave him a 10-minute neck massage from her hospital room.

U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly said in an interview with ABC News that the action is typical of Giffords, who he said is always looking out for others. Giffords is in the intensive care unit at a Tucson hospital.

Kelly also said he would be willing to meet with the parents of 22-year-old Jared Loughner, the man charged in the shooting spree that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in Tucson. Kelly told the network that Loughner’s parents must be in a tremendous amount of pain because of the situation.

Giffords’ condition has been upgraded from critical to serious. Doctors treating Giffords say Kelly reported that he saw her smile. They say such encounters imply that Giffords is recognizing him and interacting perhaps in a more familiar way with him.

Separately, the doctors say Giffords had minor surgery to repair a fracture in the roof of her eye socket. They also say she is at the same baseline as before the procedure.

Giffords was shot as she met with constituents outside a grocery store January 8. The dead included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The U.S. House of Representatives resumes work this week, after a one-week suspension following the attack on Giffords. The top item on the agenda for the new House Republican majority is to try to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform initiative.

Doctors have voiced optimism regarding Giffords’s chances of recovery, saying she could be released from the hospital and moved into a rehabilitation facility within “days to weeks.” Recently, she has opened her eyes and is responding to simple commands. Doctors say she is breathing on her own.

Loughner, the suspect, has been charged with five federal felony counts, including the attempted assassination of a member of the U.S. Congress.

Officials say his trial likely will be held outside of Arizona because the federal judge, John Roll, was among those killed. (*)

U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords upgraded from critical to serious

Mark Kelly, the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, holds his wife's hand in the congresswoman's hospital room at University Medical Center, January 9, 2011.

Jan 17, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ medical condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Sunday, eight days after she was shot through the head by a gunman at close range.

Doctors said they upgraded Giffords’ condition because she was no longer attached to a ventilator, having replaced a breathing tube in her throat with a tracheotomy tube inserted into her windpipe on Saturday.

“She is breathing on her own,” said a statement released by the University Medical Center in Tucson. “Yesterday’s procedures were successful and uneventful.”

Doctors also have fitted Giffords with a feeding tube, a practice not uncommon for patients in intensive care with brain injuries.

Giffords, 40, had been the only patient in critical condition from a shooting last Saturday that left 12 other people wounded. Six more gunshot victims died in the rampage. One patient was discharged on Saturday, leaving two others hospitalized in good condition.

A 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, was arrested for the shootings. He is charged with five federal counts, including the murder of a federal judge and the attempted assassination of Giffords.

Federal authorities are planning to move Loughner’s trial to San Diego because of extensive pretrial publicity in Arizona, The Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing federal law enforcement sources.

They cited publicity and the sensitivity of the case in Arizona, where one of those fatally shot was John Roll, the state’s chief federal judge, the Post said.

The new chief judge, Roslyn Silver, will make the final decision about any venue change, but one law enforcement official told the Post, “it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.”

The rampage sparked a national debate about whether the vitriolic tone of partisan politics in the United States in recent years had contributed to the suspect’s motivations. (*)

Tucson says farewell to youngest shooting victim

Brother Dallas Green wipes away a tear while seated next to his father John Green and mother Roxanna Green during the funeral service for their daughter, nine-year-old mass shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Greg Bryan )

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TUCSON, Arizona, Jan 13 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Hundreds of people gathered to say farewell on Thursday to a bright 9-year-old who loved to dance and play baseball, but was gunned down when she went to learn about politics from her congresswoman.

Christina Green was the youngest victim of a shooting spree last Saturday that claimed six lives and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords battling for her life. Her funeral was the first to be held.

Hundreds of mourners including a group of leather-clad bikers and several of Christina’s classmates began lining both sides of the road outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church ahead of her funeral at 1 p.m.. A church bell signaling noon broke the quiet as mourners waited for the service.

A hearse passes people lining the street as it arrives at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church for the funeral for nine-year-old Christina Green in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Mike Segar )

Family members escorted the small wooden coffin into the church in silence for the service, which was closed to the news media. They filed out to the solemn strains of a piper.

“She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age,” President Barack Obama said in an emotional address to thousands of people crammed into a Tucson sports stadium to mourn on Wednesday evening.

“I want to live up to her expectations, I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it, I want America to be as good as Christina imagined it,” he said to applause and roars of approval.

The lively youngster was born on September 11 2001, the day of suicide aircraft attacks on New York.

A stars and stripes flag pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days after Christina’s birth was brought in to hang between two fire truck ladders.

The top student, who was elected to her class council, was the granddaughter of former pro baseball manager Dallas Green.

She loved dancing, gymnastics and swimming, and hoped to be the first woman to play major-league baseball.

Nine-year-old Dante Mitchell, classmate of nine-year-old Christina Green, holds a stuffed bear he brought to her funeral in Tucson, January 13, 2011. (Photo : Reuters / Eric Thayer )

‘MY FIRST FUNERAL’

It was the first funeral for William Moody, a 9-year-old classmate of Christina’s who was with his grandmother, Lynnette Moody. It was not the funeral he expected to attend first, he said.

“It’s like my grandma said, she thought my first funeral would be for an old person who had a full life,” he said. “It’s weird not having her in school.”

The Bishop of Tucson, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, gave a blessing inside the church, as mourners offered each other consolation outside.

“We’ve all been affected in Tucson,” said Maggie Parisoff, 35, a crisis counselor roving through the crowd outside the church to offer help to anyone in need.

Her funeral will be followed on Friday by that of federal judge John Roll, who was gunned down alongside her after he called in at the “Congress on the corner” event to see Giffords, who was a friend.

Police arrested a 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, for the killings.

He made his first court appearance on Monday, and faces five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords.

The congresswoman remains in critical condition in hospital.

Giffords opened her eyes on Wednesday, during a visit by two close friends from the U.S. Congress. (*)

Photostream : House Speaker John Boehner, Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Hoyer Sign Books of Well-Wishes & Condolences Honoring Victims of Tucson Tragedy

Washington DC, Jan 12 (KATAKAMI / SPEAKER GOV) — Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) today signed Books of Well Wishes & Condolences for the victims of Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson, AZ.  These books have been made available to the public in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building and will remain there throughout the week.  Below are photos of Boehner, Cantor and Hoyer signing the books:

 

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) signs the book of condolences and the book of well wishes for the victims of the Tucson, Arizona shooting before attending a prayer service for them in the Capitol in Washington January 12, 2011. A 22-year-old man has been charged with trying to assassinate assassinate Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 14 in Tucson. Giffords is fighting for her life in a Tucson hospital. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Speaker of the House John Boehner (L) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (R) sign the book of condolences and the book of well wishes for the victims of the Tucson, Arizona shooting before attending a prayer service for them in the Capitol in Washington January 12, 2011. Standing behind is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. A 22-year-old man has been charged with trying to assassinate Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 14 in Tucson. Giffords is fighting for her life in a Tucson hospital. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Speaker of the House John Boehner (C) looks on as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (L) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer sign books of condolences for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords before attending a prayer service for her in the Capitol in Washington January 12, 2011. A 22-year-old man has been charged with trying to assassinate Giffords in a shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 14 in Tucson. Giffords is fighting for her life in a Tucson hospital. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Speaker John Boehner : Honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

John Boehner

By : Speaker John Boehner

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YOUTUBE : Speaker Boehner’s Remarks on Resolution Condemning the Attack in Tucson, AZ


Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave these remarks Wednesday morning on the House floor :

Washington DC. Jan 12 (KATAKAMI / THE HILL.COM) — Today, we are called here to mourn.  An unspeakable act of violence has taken six innocent lives, and left several more – including our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords – battling for theirs.  These are difficult hours for our country.

Among the fallen is Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff … a public servant of the highest caliber … one of our own.

Even in our shock, we are composed and determined to fulfill our calling to represent our constituents.  This is the great cause for which Gabe gave his life.  Like us, Gabe swore on oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.  At the time of the attack, he was engaged in the most simple and direct of democratic rituals: listening to the people … to his neighbors.

The brutality that shattered Saturday morning’s calm was devastating, but brief.  Bravery and quick thinking prevented a massacre, turning innocent bystanders into heroes.  The service and skill of first responders and medical professionals saved lives.  Law enforcement officials are working to ensure swift justice.  Look to Tucson right now, and you will be reminded that America’s most plentiful source of wealth and strength is her people.

We are so thankful Gabby is still with us.  We are so thankful that two of her staffers who were also wounded – Ron Barber and Pam Simon – are still with us.  These are days they were not supposed to see, and we can only pray there will be more of them.

In her stead, Gabby’s staff has pressed on, opening for business Monday morning, right on schedule.  The men and women who faithfully serve the people of Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District have signaled that no act – no matter how heinous – will stop us from doing our duty and being among the people we serve.

To all of the dedicated professionals we rely on to make this institution work, to each of you: thank you for what you do.  To Gabby’s staff – and their families: please know that our hearts and prayers go out to you.

This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy.  We feel a litany of unwanted emotions no resolution could possibly capture.  We know that we gather here without distinction of party.  The needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship.  And what this institution needs right now is strength – holy, uplifting strength.  The strength to grieve with the families of the fallen, to pray for the wounded, and to chart a way forward, no matter how painful and difficult it may be.

Today it is not ceremony, but tragedy that stirs us to renew our commitment to fulfill our oaths of office.  Let us not let this inhuman act frighten us into doing otherwise.  The free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of our democracy, as prescribed by the First Amendment, that beacon of free expression Congresswoman Giffords recited in this well just days ago.  These rights have not been handed down by dictate – they have been preserved and protect through generations of hard sacrifice and commitment.  We will continue this unfinished work.

We will do it for Christina Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard, ordinary citizens who died participating in their democracy.  We will do it for Judge John Roll.  We will do it for Gabe Zimmerman.  And we will do it, God-willing, with Gabrielle Giffords.

Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not.  This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy.  We may not yet have all the answers, but we already have the answer that matters most: that we are Americans, and together we will make it through this.  We will have the last word.

God bless this House.  God bless this Congress.  God bless America.  (*)

U.S. Congress Pays Tribute to Arizona Shooting Victims

Members of Congress and staff members observe a moment of silence for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and other shooting victims, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, on the East Steps of the Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington. Giffords was shot Saturday in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead. Pictured from ninth left to right: Wilson Livingood, Sergeant at Arms, U.S. House of Representatives; Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.; Steve Lawrence, chief of staff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif.; Barry Jackson chief of staff to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio; Del. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam; Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.; and Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Washington DC, Jan 12 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have strongly condemned a mass shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded a U.S. congresswoman.

House Speaker John Boehner submitted a resolution Wednesday honoring those killed and expressing hope for the recovery of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others who were wounded.

The resolution pays tribute by name to the six people killed in the attack, including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge.

Giffords was meeting her constituents outside a grocery store in the city of Tucson when a gunman opened fire. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it is especially tragic that the shooting took place as people participated in activity that she said “reflects the best of our democratic tradition.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and the first lady travel to Arizona Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the victims.

Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner is accused of carrying out the attack.

If convicted he could get life in prison or the death penalty.

Giffords is being treated at an Arizona hospital for a gunshot wound to the head. Doctors say she has shown signs of improvement. She can breathe on her own and continues to respond to simple commands. But they say recovery will take time.

Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.

It was the first deadly attack against a U.S. member of Congress since 1978, when California Representative Leo Ryan was killed in Guyana, while visiting the compound of a U.S.-based cult known as Jonestown.

Loughner’s family released a statement Tuesday expressing deep remorse for the shooting, saying they cannot understand why it happened.

Investigators found handwritten notes at Loughner’s home with Giffords’ name, the words “I planned ahead” and “My assassination.” Some of the writings were scrawled on a letter Giffords’ office sent to the suspect in 2007 after he attended one of her political events.  (*)

Photos released from Giffords’ hospital room

The office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has provided the public with the first images from the congresswomans hospital room. (Above, below: Mark Kelly clasps hands with his wife Giffords at her bedside. Photo : YAHOO )

The office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has provided the public with the first images from the congresswoman's hospital room. (Above, below: Mark Kelly clasps hands with his wife Giffords at her bedside. Photo : YAHOO )

John Boehner opposes gun-free zone measure

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks during a news conference as he reads a statement condemning the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., at the West Chester Township Hall in West Chester, Ohio, Sunday Jan. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (KATAKAMI / UPI) — House Speaker John Boehner opposes a gun control bill proposed by a fellow Republicans in response to the Tucson shootings, his spokesman says.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said Tuesday he would introduce legislation forbidding anyone to carry firearms within 1,000 feet of members of Congress.

King said the legislation is meant to protect the public as well as officials.

“The fact is they do represent the people who elect them, and it’s essential, if we’re going to continue to have contact, that the public who are at these meetings are ensured of their own safety,” he said.

Spokesman Michael Steel told The Hill Boehner, R-Ohio, would not support King’s legislation while the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he would have to review the measure before taking a position.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., also are preparing legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines like those used by alleged Arizona gunman Jared Loughner. But Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said: “Anything you can get through the gun lobby is going to have little consequence. I don’t see the likelihood of much progress.”  (*)

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