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Oil deal?

"Oil deal?" Continued...

Issue: "Your right to vote," July 31, 2010

Ties to terror

Former Michigan congressman and U.S. ambassador to the UN Mark Siljander pleaded guilty to two felonies July 7 in connection with his advocacy for an Islamic charity that could land the former Republican lawmaker in prison for up to 15 years. Siljander, 59, admitted to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. He admitted that in 2004 he agreed to accept $75,000 from the Islamic American Relief Agency to lobby for the group's removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities with suspected ties to terror.

Signs of the times

Ever seen those signs on construction sites that proclaim the project is funded by the "American Reinvestment and Recovery Act," or the stimulus? The EPA insists the signs are required on its stimulus projects, but Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., introduced a bill at the beginning of July to cut funds for them-which would save about $20 million nationwide. "Less than 8 percent of this bill actually went to infrastructure, and then of that tens of millions of dollars [are] getting wasted on signs," he told Pajamas Media. He and other Republicans don't think it's just unnecessary spending-they say it's also political propaganda. President Obama himself said about the signs last year, in remarks at the Department of Transportation announcing stimulus projects, "These emblems are symbols of our commitment to you, the American people-a commitment to investing your tax dollars wisely." The House rejected Schock's proposal, in a 232-184 vote that fell mostly along party lines.

Détente

In a move to accommodate Beijing, Google made changes to its search engine after officials threatened not to extend its content-provider license-set to expire June 30-if it continued to redirect mainland Google users to a site in Hong Kong. Now mainland China users must click on a link to redirect searches to Google's Hong Kong facilities, which are not subject to Chinese censorship. Google first threatened to exit China's search market, with its estimated 350 million online users, in January and explicitly repudiated the censorship in March by automatically rerouting mainland-originated searches to Google Hong Kong.

Unhealthy

Germany's fragile coalition government reached an agreement July 6 to fund an increasing deficit in its public health system-often cited as a model for U.S. government healthcare-by increasing health premiums to 15.5 percent of gross pay. Officials said employers will contribute 7.3 percent while employees will pay 8.2 percent of the premium. Without the increase, Germany's healthcare system faced a $13.9 billion funding gap. But it further weakens the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel; 62 percent of the German public says it is skeptical of the ability of the current governing coalition to maintain its hold on power.

NBC & GLAAD

NBC will change its application process to allow same-sex couples to participate in the Today show's "Modern Day Wedding Contest." A staple of the popular morning show, the contest allows viewers to vote on plans for a wedding, which is then broadcast live. Its rules allowed only couples who could be legally married in New York, since the weddings take place there. But GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, launched a campaign against the requirement "since New York State legally recognizes same-sex marriages licensed in other states," adding, "NBC mistakenly equated the marriage license with the wedding celebration."

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