Feb 16

Obama Presents 2013 Budget

We now face a make-or-break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. After decades of eroding middle-class security as those at the very top saw their incomes rise as never before and after a historic recession that plunged our economy Obama_signs_Budgetinto a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover, it is time to construct an economy that is built to last.

The President’s 2013 Budget is built around the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. We must transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building. That begins with putting the Nation on a path to living within our means – by cutting wasteful spending, asking all Americans to shoulder their fair share, and making tough choices on some things we cannot afford, while keeping the investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs. The Budget targets scarce federal resources to the areas critical to growing the economy and restoring middle-class security: education and skills for American workers, innovation and research and development, clean energy, and infrastructure.

The Budget is a blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

Read the Budget Here

May 12

Do the Republicans Have a Centrist Presidential Candidate?

Do the Republicans have a centrist presidential candidate?


With the simple answer out of the way, let’s examine the tougher question.  Who is the most centrist candidate in the 2012 Republican field?

If it were not for his phenomenal-flip-flops, Mitt Romney maybe the most centrist candidate of the likely group.  Just being a Republican in Massachusetts is enough to consider him a centrist.  But you would not know much of his accomplishments in Massachusetts because Romney has swept under the rug in his transparent attempt to become a Conservative.

romneyIt is clear, especially after the 2008 campaign, that the Republican nomination cannot be won without the powerful right-wing of the party.  That right-wing gained significant power with the ascension of the Tea Party.

So Mitt Romney is left to abandon his most prolific accomplishment in Massachusetts, universal health care.  Even though the health care system in Massachusetts is considered one of the best in the United States and even though Romney’s health care plan was not more liberal than Republicans Richard Nixon’s nor Bob Dole’s health care proposal, in todays Republican politics any type of universal health care is considered Socialism.

The old Mitt Romney would be an excellent centrist presidential canididate, the new Mitt Romney is a man with no identiy and has transformed into a text-book, say anything to get elected, politician.

Another centrist possibility would be former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty.  As governor he was considered a conservative, but like Romeny, he was a conservative in a very liberal state.  He is a fiscal conservative and has always had a firm belief in the free-market system, yet he was for regulation of the banks, a modified stimulus bill and health care reform.   He has stayed away from most social issues that make many Republicans too conservative for the centrist taste.

But that was then and this is the 2012 Republican presidential election. Pawlenty is already flip-flopping with cap and trade. “I’ve said, ‘Look, I’ve made a mistake,'” explained Pawlenty of his change of mind. “I think cap-and-trade would be a ham-fisted, unhelpful, damaging thing to the economy. … It’s misguided. I made the mistake. I admit it. I’m not trying to be cute about it. I just come out and tell you it was a mistake.”

tim-pawlentyIt is possible that Pawlenty has made a honest change of mind after learning new facts? Yes. But the fact is Tim Pawlenty has as been an environmentally conscious politician. This is a good thing as long as it’s not too liberal…unless you are a conservative and that means government should keep their nose out businesses and consumers who pollute and God will take care of it.

The jury is still out on Pawlenty, but it is safe to bet that he will capitualte to the Tea Party wing of the Republican party and sell out his beliefs.

The cupboard is bare after Pawlenty, so it will take a bit of creativity to find a centrist candidate. Could it possibly be a Libertarian like Ron Paul?  If it is a mathematical center, well then yes.  Ron Paul might be the most centrsit candidate.

ron-paulYes he would want to eliminate nearly every social program that the Democrats fight for, but he would balance that with eliminated our “empire” by getting rid of most bases around the world and not having America be the “police” of the world.  In addition, he is not a social conservative.  In fact, he is such a strict constituionalist that he believes that all drugs should be legal.

In this day there are no centrist in the Republican party who can run for as a centrist and win and therefore there aren’t any centrist candidates.  But Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and by pure mathematics even Ron Paul are currently the closest thing there is to having a centrist candidate in the Republican field.

May 07

Republicans Vote for Offshore Drilling

The House pass HR 1230, the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, with a vote of 266-149. The bill is part of three bills called the American Energy Initiative . The goal is to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to impose a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.

We should indeed open up some additional offshore areas to drill and consider more drilling in Alaska, but to think this is will have more than a marginal effect on gas prices is simply not true.

offshore-drillingMore oil drilling does not necessarily bring down gas prices at the pump. The oil industry is already drilling more than ever, but increased oil demand, speculation, OPEC and world affairs instead control the prices.

For example, Canada drills more than America, and their gas prices have risen just as sharply. So while increased drilling isn’t a bad idea, it is far, far from the things America needs to do to bring down gasoline prices.

The problem with otherwise sensible bill the Republicans passed is by a vote of 241-171, is that they blocked the repeal of one of the many taxpayer-funded subsidies that benefit big oil companies.

Let the oil companies drill more, with heavier regulation, but more importantly, at a higher cost to them. Let Americans benefit more from our natural resources. First, Obama should open the reserves to ease gas prices a bit. Then allow new drilling of which a certain percentage goes straight to the reserves to replace what we used and build it up more. Second, a small percent should go the the continued development of clean energy. Third, allow for windfall taxes. When the companies make profits that pass a certain point, tax them more. Send the money to the American people.

Source: Natural Resources Committee

May 07

Obama Fulfills Promise with the Assassination of Osama

mccain-obamaThen candidate Obama declares he would enter into to Pakistan territory in order to take out Osama Bin Laden.

Republican nominee John McCain’s disagrees, because Pakistan is a sovereign country and an important ally.

It is not to often when a president does word-for-word what he says on such an important issue.




At a separate debate with more in-depth explanations.



May 06

Bureau of Labor Reports 244,000 Jobs Added in April


Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 244,000 in April, and the unemployment rate
edged up to 9.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Job gains occurred in several service-providing industries, manufacturing,
and mining.
Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons, at 13.7 million, changed little in
April. The unemployment rate edged up from 8.8 to 9.0 percent over the
month but was 0.8 percentage point lower than in November. The labor
force also was little changed in April. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men
(8.8 percent), adult women (7.9 percent), teenagers (24.9 percent),
whites (8.0 percent), blacks (16.1 percent), and Hispanics (11.8 percent)
showed little change in April. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.4 percent,
not seasonally adjusted. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of persons unemployed for less than 5 weeks increased by
242,000 in April. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for
27 weeks and over) declined by 283,000 to 5.8 million; their share of
unemployment declined to 43.4 percent. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate was 64.2 percent for the
fourth consecutive month. The employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent,
changed little in April. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons
(sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little
changed over the month, at 8.6 million. These individuals were working
part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were
unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)

In April, 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
about the same as a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.)
These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available
for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They
were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in
the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 989,000 discouraged workers in
April, a decline of 208,000 from a year earlier. (These data are not
seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently
looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.
The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force
in April had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey
for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
(See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 244,000 in April, and the
private sector added 268,000 jobs. Employment rose in a number of service-
providing industries, manufacturing, and mining. Since a recent low in
February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.8 million. Private
sector employment has increased by 2.1 million over the same period.
(See table B-1.)

In April, employment in retail trade rose by 57,000. Within the industry,
employment in general merchandise stores increased by 27,000, offsetting
a decline of similar magnitude in the prior month. Elsewhere in retail
trade, April job gains occurred in electronics and appliance stores
(+6,000), building material and garden supply stores (+6,000), and
automobile dealers (+5,000).

Employment in professional and business services continued to expand in
April, with an increase of 51,000. Job gains occurred in management and
technical consulting services (+11,000) and in computer systems design
and related services (+8,000). Employment in temporary help services
was little changed over the month, following an increase of 34,000 in March.

Health care continued to add jobs in April (+37,000). Within health care,
job gains continued in ambulatory health care (+22,000) and hospitals

Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase in April
(+46,000). Over the past 3 months, this industry added 151,000 jobs, with
nearly two-thirds of the growth in food services and drinking places.

Employment in both state government and local government continued to trend
down, with April losses concentrated in the non-educational components.
Elsewhere in the service-providing sector, employment in information,
financial activities, and transportation and warehousing changed little
in April.

In the goods-producing sector of the economy, manufacturing employment
rose by 29,000 in April. Since reaching an employment low in December 2009,
manufacturing has added 250,000 jobs, including 141,000 in 2011. Over the
month, employment growth continued in machinery (+5,000), primary metals
(+4,000), and computer and electronic products (+4,000).

Mining added 11,000 jobs in April. More than half of the gain occurred in
support activities for mining. Since a recent low point in October 2009,
employment in mining has increased by 107,000.

Construction employment was about unchanged in April. This industry has shown
little net movement since early 2010, after having fallen sharply during the
prior 3 years.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained
at 34.3 hours in April. The manufacturing workweek for all employees, at
40.4 hours, also was unchanged over the month, while factory overtime
increased by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production
and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged in
April at 33.6 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm
payrolls increased by 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $22.95. Over the past 12
months, average hourly earnings increased by 1.9 percent. In April, average
hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees
rose by 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $19.37. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised
from +194,000 to +235,000, and the change for March was revised from
+216,000 to +221,000.

The Employment Situation for May is scheduled to be released on Friday,
June 3, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

May 01

Trump Butt of Jokes at Correspondents’ Dinner

trump-skewered-at-corresponDonald Trump has been hammering Barack Obama for the last month with everything he could dream up, but on Saturday at the Correspondents’ Dinner the tables were turned and with Trump in the audience, President Obama and comedian Seth Meyers both took big shots at Trump.

Trump sat there with an angry, bitter look the whole time, knowing that he was now a national embarrassment.

Apr 24

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Report

President Obama created the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to address our nation’s fiscal challenges. The Commission is charged with identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. Specifically, the Commission shall propose recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015. In addition, the Commission shall propose recommendations that meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government.

National-Commission-on-Fiscal-Responsibility-and-ReformThe Commission will meet as a whole once a month while Congress is in session. The Commission will vote on a final report containing a set of recommendations to achieve its mission no later than December 1, 2010. The final report will require the approval of at least 14 of the Commission’s 18 members.

Commission Members
Sen. Alan Simpson. Former Republican Senator from Wyoming.
Erskine Bowles, Chief of Staff to President Clinton

Executive Director:
Bruce Reed, Chief Domestic Policy Adviser to President Clinton

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31)
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI 4)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
David Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell International
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Ann Fudge, Former CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX 5)
Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute and former Director, Office of Management & Budget
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9)
Rep. John Spratt (D-SC 5)
Andrew Stern, President, Service Employees International Union

Our Guiding Principles and Values

In establishing this Commission, the President gave us a two-part mission: to bring the budget into primary balance (balance excluding interest costs) in 2015, and to meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook. Our recommendations accomplish both of these goals, while keeping the following core principles in mind:

We all have a patriotic duty to make America better off tomorrow than it is today. Americans are counting on us to pull together, not pull apart, to put politics aside and do the right thing for future generations. Our country’s economic and national security depend on us putting our fiscal house in order.

Don’t disrupt the fragile economic recovery. We need a comprehensive plan now to reduce the debt over the long term. But budget cuts should start gradually so they don’t interfere with the ongoing economic recovery. Growth is essential to restoring fiscal strength and balance.

Cut and invest to promote economic growth and keep America competitive. We should cut red tape and unproductive government spending that hinders job creation and growth. At the same time, we must invest in education, infrastructure, and high-value research and development to help our economy grow, keep us globally competitive, and make it easier for businesses to create jobs.
Protect the truly disadvantaged. We must ensure that our nation has a robust, affordable, fair, and sustainable safety net. Benefits should be focused on those who need them the most.

Cut spending we cannot afford – no exceptions. We must end redundant, wasteful, and ineffective federal spending, wherever we find it. We should cut all excess spending – including defense, domestic programs, entitlement spending, and spending in the tax code.

Demand productivity and effectiveness from Washington. We must use fiscal restraint to promote reforms and efficiencies that force government to produce better results and save money. We should insist on consistent productivity growth in our government.
Reform and simplify the tax code. The tax code is rife with inefficiencies, loopholes, incentives, tax earmarks, and baffling complexity. We need to lower tax rates, broaden the base, simplify the tax code, and bring down the deficit. We need to reform the corporate tax system to make America the best place to start and grow a business and create jobs.

Don’t make promises we can’t keep. Our country has tough choices to make. We need to be willing to tell Americans the truth: We cannot afford to continue spending more than we take in, and we cannot continue to make promises we know full well we cannot keep.

The problem is real, and the solution will be painful. We must stabilize and then reduce the national debt, or we could spend $1 trillion a year in interest alone by 2020. There is no easy way out of our debt problem, so everything must be on the table. A sensible, realistic plan requires shared sacrifice – and Washington must lead the way and tighten its belt.

Keep America sound over the long run. We need to implement policies today to ensure that future generations have retirement security, affordable health care, and financial freedom. To do that, we must make Social Security solvent and sound, reduce the long-term growth of health care spending, and tackle the nation’s overwhelming debt burden.

Read the full report: Fiscal Commission


Apr 24

John McCain: Libyan Rebels Seek U.S. Recognition

Sen. John McCain, the highest-ranking American official to visit Libya during its current uprising, says Libyan rebels desperately want formal recognition by the United States — and might be willing to reimburse America’s costs in the military operation against strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

“They want recognition badly,” says McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, speaking by phone from Egypt after wrapping up a brief visit to the Benghazi area. “One of the reasons they want recognition so badly is, if they were recognized, it would help them get access to that $30 billion in Gadhafi assets that have been frozen. The other thing is, if they got their recognition, it would also free up other ways for them to get some short-term financial help.”

McCain Libya AFP 1In late February, the Treasury Department froze $30 billion in Libyan assets in the United States in an effort to squeeze Gadhafi financially. The struggling rebel government would love to have some of that. “They are short of money,” McCain says. “They need to pay for their military activities and they need to pay for the government. It’s a very heavily subsidized country, and if they did away with those subsidies in Benghazi, they’d have significant unrest.”

McCain says that in talks with opposition leaders, he brought up the possibility of the rebels’ paying the United States for the many millions of dollars already spent on the Libyan operation. “I reminded them that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia reimbursed us after Operation Desert Storm,” McCain says. “They said they’d be glad to discuss that.” Although the rebels are low on cash now, Libya has significant oil wealth; before the war began, its production was about 1.6 billion barrels per day.

McCain, perhaps the most vocal supporter of the Libyan war in all if the U.S. government, says he was impressed by his meetings with rebel leaders. “They’re very good people,” he says. “Mainly well-educated, a number of women in the [Transitional National Council] — very normal, dedicated people.”

“But you’ve got to remember that they’ve never had a political party in Libya,” McCain adds. “Never had a political party. So to say the least, it’s a very steep learning curve.”

McCain dismissed concerns that rebel forces include some veterans of al Qaeda. “I’m sure that there may be some element there, but I guarantee you that they didn’t rise up because they wanted to be al Qaeda fighters,” McCain says. “They rose up because they wanted to throw off the yoke of Gadhafi, the same way that people in Egypt rose up and the same way that people in Syria are rising up. It’s not because they’re al Qaeda extremists, it’s that their tired of being governed by an extremist who doesn’t hesitate to massacre them.”

McCain became impatient when reminded of a 2007 report which found that Libya, and specifically Benghazi, had been a source of insurgents who traveled to Iraq to fight American forces there. “Look, that’s not why the Libyans rose up,” McCain emphasizes. “It’s not an al Qaeda- led insurrection. These are ordinary citizens who wanted to get rid of Gadhafi, who was one of the more brutal dictators in the region. I don’t think they’re any more al Qaeda-inspired than what’s going on in Syria, or what went on in Egypt, or what went on in Tunisia…This wasn’t fomented by al Qaeda, it was fomented by chance who saw a chance, an opportunity, for a much better life. They hate Gadhafi. They hate Gadhafi with a passion that is hard to describe. And it isn’t because they’re al Qaeda, it’s because they are citizens who want freedom and democracy.”

McCain saw most of the top opposition leadership during his brief stay in Libya. He met with Transitional National Council [TNC] head Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, as well as with Ali Tarhouni, the former professor who runs TNC economic policy. He met with British military advisers and toured a rebel military facility. He also met with human rights groups, and went to Al Jalaa hospital, where he saw doctors and patients from the siege in Misurata. It’s clear that when McCain returns to Washington — after stops in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, France, and Italy — he will be an even more forceful advocate of a stepped-up American presence in the Libyan war.

But he may make little headway. While President Obama has famously declared that Moammar Gadhafi must go, he is absolutely opposed to using U.S. military force to oust the Libyan leader. There are enormous doubts about the rebels’ military capabilities and the amount of training and arms assistance that would be required for them to prevail. And then there is the continuing reluctance of a divided NATO to go beyond the relatively modest Operation Unified Protector effort currently underway. Although he remains opposed to American ground forces in Libya, McCain wants more American planes, more American bombs, more American missiles, more American money, and more American assistance for the Libyan rebels. Whether he’ll succeed is not at all clear.

Scource: Washington Examiner


Apr 22

Taxes, Taxes, No New Taxes…Unless its on Vampires

It is in almost universal agreement that raising taxes right now, with the weak U.S. economy barely recovering,  is a bad idea.  Unless…

No!  No unless.

Unless we tax the untaxed.  Yes the untaxed, much like the undead.  It is time to tax the undead, yes, tax vampires.  Tax all of them!  Tax all the things in the world that we are scared of and therefore do not tax.

The new “vampire tax” will first be applied to internet gaming.  AHHHH!

Dick Cheney is not a vampire.

Yes, internet gaming has its dangers.  Yes gaming has its dangers.  And yes, vampires are likely dangerous too.  The fact is the it’s the American tax payer, not to mention the American entrepreneur, who is losing out because of the fear of internet gaming.

Issues do not get more Libertarian or entrepreneurial than this.  Just because some idiot can’t stop playing Texas Hold’em is no reason to stop you from being able to play it if you choose.  Just because some idiot can’t stop playing Texas Hold’em is not a reason to disallow a businessman to capitalize on a world-wide phenomenon and just because some idiot can’t stop playing Texas Hold’em it is definitely not a reason to leave an industry untaxed.  It is a billion dollar business and the United States isn’t seeing a dime of it.  Yet it people do it all the time whether you approve or not.

Legalize and tax online gaming!  Tax the untaxed!  Tax the undead, tax the vampires!


Yes, the word scares me too.  But it is another billion dollar industry, that let’s face it, can use some regulation.  Nevada is a case study in how to have safe, clean, legal and thus, TAXED prostitution.    You don’t like prostitution?  Good!  So let this scary business benefit all society…by bringing in tax dollars.  Tax dollars to build schools, build roads or pay debt.    Or you can continue let the pimp have all the profit because it is happening right now whether you approve of it or not.

Legalize and tax prostitution!  Tax the untaxed!  Tax the undead, tax the vampires!


Well, by now you see where I’m going with this.  Boo!  You may not like Marijuana.  You may not like any drugs, or alcohol or vampires for that matter.  Great.  And if you were my mom, I’d care.

Just for the sake of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, words of an actual founding father, Thomas Jefferson, in an actual founding document The Declaration of something or another, please allow people do to do whatever gets them through the night, cause its all right (Lennon was not a founding father), as long as it doesn’t hurt you.

Once again the only person who loses in the illegal game of marijuana is the non smoker.  The drug dealer wins big.  They make plenty of untaxed profit.  The smoker, well the smoker gets their marijuana.  The non smoker, what do they get?  TAXED!  Not tax revenue.  TAXED!  You pay the taxes for the police to arrest, convict and house drug dealers and some users.  Imagine the tax savings if the police for did not enforce marijuana laws.  Now imagine the taxes that would be collected from marijuana sells.  The stuff that sells around the world whether you approve of it or not.  Could we pay for some or all of a national health care program with its tax revenue?   Would it be better to invest in prevention, regulate it and controlled it?

Legalize and tax marijuana!  Tax the untaxed!  Tax the undead, tax the vampires!

There is literally billions of dollars of untaxed profit in the United States.  Billions and billions.  Best of all, these are all ‘sin-taxes”.  It is time the adults take the wheel of the car and realize it is time to tax the things many people love to do while many others hide there eyes while they do it.  Peek-a-boo, where’d ya go?  Unless you’re two, you have learned when you take your hands away from your eyes, everything is still there.  Grow up, don’t be afraid of vampires anymore.  Tax the undead, tax the untaxed.

Apr 22

US deploys armed drones over Libya

BBC Reports:

Armed US Predator drones are carrying out missions over Libya, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.

Mr Gates said their use had been authorised by President Barack Obama and would give “precision capability” to the military operation.

US drones are already used to target militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Libyan rebels have been battling Col Gaddafi’s troops since February but have recently made little headway.

“President Obama has said that where we have some unique capabilities, he is willing to use those,” Mr Gates told a news conference.

He said two armed, unmanned Predators were being made available to Nato as needed, and marked a “modest contribution” to the military operations.

Mr Gates denied that the drone deployment was evidence of “mission creep” in Libya and said there were still no plans to put US “boots on the ground” in Libya.

“There’s no wiggle room in that,” he said.

Gen James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the first mission had taken place on Thursday but the drones had turned back due to bad weather.

He said the drones – which can fly at a lower altitude than conventional fighter jets – were “uniquely suited for urban areas”, providing improved visibility of tanks and other potential targets.

Post captured
Earlier on Thursday, Libyan rebels seized control of a border post on the Tunisian border after about 100 government soldiers fled, say reports.

The post is on the road between the Libyan town of Nalut and Dehiba in Tunisia.

The move marks a rare advance against government troops in the west of the country and followed intense fighting in the western mountain region.

Restrictions on journalists in remote areas of Libya mean it is hard to independently verify such reports.

Fierce fighting is also continuing in the besieged western city of Misrata, with at least seven people killed on Thursday.

Medics say more than 1,000 people have died in weeks of fighting.

Residents say they are being targeted in the streets by snipers firing indiscriminately.

Rebels in Misrata claim to have found remnants of cluster bombs but the Libyan government has so far denied the charge.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Misrata says she has seen the bombs herself and that doctors have told her they are causing increasingly horrific injuries, with some civilians losing limbs.

On Wednesday, two journalists died in a mortar attack in the city – Tim Hetherington, a British-American filmmaker and Chris Hondros, an American photographer.

A Ukrainian doctor was also killed in a separate artillery blast in Misrata on Wednesday. His wife was reportedly seriously injured in the incident.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim has said that if foreign troops enter Misrata the government would “unleash hell”.

“We will be a ball of fire. We will make it 10 times as bad as Iraq,” he said, saying the government was arming people in preparation.

Hundreds of foreign workers, Libyans and injured people are being evacuated from Misrata by sea to the rebel-held city of Benghazi in the east.
‘Vicious attacks’
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Libyan authorities to “stop fighting and stop killing people”.

He said the UN’s priority was to bring about “a verifiable and effective ceasefire” to enable humanitarian work and political dialogue to take place.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned what she called the “vicious attacks” on Libyan civilians.

She also demanded that Libyan authorities immediately release US citizens they have “unjustly detained,” including at least two reporters.

The parents of Clare Gillis, one of the missing journalists, said she was able to contact them on Thursday for the first time since she was detained on 5 April.

They told the Atlantic, one of the papers Ms Gillis was working for, that she was in good health but had not been allowed a visit by humanitarian or diplomatic officials.

Source:  BBC