Latest Threads
Greatest Threads
Home » Discuss » Journals » GinaMaria » Read entry Donate to DU
Advertise Liberally! The Liberal Blog Advertising Network
Advertise on more than 70 progressive blogs!
GinaMaria's Journal of Weekly Presidential Action Items
Posted by GinaMaria in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Apr 07th 2009, 07:09 AM
Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3:
Week 4:
Week 5:
Week 6:
Week 7:
Week 8:
Week 9:
Week 10:

You can also find previous weeks in my DU journal

Week 11

Summary: The more things stay the same, the more they change? We now have a N. Korean missile crisis and a relaxed Cuban travel policy. The G-20 and the global economy dominated the news this week as did the Obama’s first Presidential European visit. At home the Dems worked on Obama’s budget

March 31, 2009 Tuesday

Obama Agenda

1. Obama tells allies that public supports his agenda: Reassuring House Democrats that "we are in this together," President Barack Obama predicted that unity will help their party maintain its high standing with the public as they pursue an ambitious agenda in the face of economic turmoil. The House and Senate are set this week to take up companion budget outlines that constitute Congress' initial response to the $3.6 trillion fiscal plan for 2010 that Obama proposed last month.

2. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama's nominee to become Health and Human Services secretary, said in a letter obtained by the Associated Press that she made "unintentional errors" on her taxes and has corrected her returns from three different years. In the letter, which was sent to senators and dated today, Sebelius wrote that she had made changes related to charitable contributions, business expenses and the sale of a home, according to the AP.


3. Cash commitments made by the US government to its main bailout efforts – the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), various Federal Reserve Board programs, and some others – have now reached at least $2.98 trillion, Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for TARP, told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing Tuesday. That estimate does not include the cost of any further aid for GM and Chrysler or the warranty support program announced Monday by President Obama. It does not account for the $750 billion cushion against possible future bailouts that Mr. Obama included in his fiscal year 2010 budget request. Even so, that astounding total is about as big as the entire federal budget was before the current financial storm began. ... /

4. Dems could use controversial 'fast track' for Obama legislation: A key Democratic senator said Tuesday that he's not ruling out a controversial budget procedure to speed passage of President Obama's health care and global warming legislation. It could happen," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, despite his repeated concerns that doing so would damage bipartisan cooperation in the Senate. The fast-track procedure -- called "reconciliation" -- would prevent Republicans from filibustering the health care and global warming bills, which Baucus' committee helps write. /

Domestic Issues

5. LI auto dealers encouraged by Obama's remarks: Local GM and Chrysler dealers heard President Barack Obama vow yesterday that their manufacturers hadn't proved yet that they could survive and not become "wards of the state," but they also heard him promise to back their warranties, plug Buick's made-in-America quality and propose new tax credits for consumers who trade in clunkers for new cars.

6. Two U.S. senators plan to reintroduce legislation that would require employers to make a "good faith" effort to hire U.S. citizens over H-1B visa holders, after failing to win approval for a similar bill two years ago. ...

7. President Barack Obama has determined that a prepackaged bankruptcy is the best way for General Motors Corp. to restructure and become a competitive automaker, people familiar with the matter said. Obama also is prepared to let Chrysler LLC go bankrupt and be sold off piecemeal if the third-largest U.S. automaker can’t form an alliance with Fiat SpA, said members of Congress who have been briefed on the subject and two other people familiar with the administration’s deliberations. ...

8. Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday proposed cutting greenhouse gases by one-fifth over the next decade, a faster clip than urged by President Barack Obama. Their plan, seen as the first step toward Congress enacting climate legislation this year, was crafted to attract broader support among centrist Democrats. It includes measures to spur energy efficiency and to support technology to capture carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, from coal burning power plants. The 600-page "discussion draft" will be the basis for climate debates in the coming weeks as the House Energy and Commerce Committee works to craft a bill by mid-May. ...

9. The U.S. Border Patrol is erecting 16 more video surveillance towers in Michigan and New York to help secure parts of the U.S.-Canadian border. It is awarding the contract to a company criticized for faulty technology with its so-called "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico boundary. The government awarded the $20 million project to Boeing Co. for the towers designed to help agents stationed along the 4,000-mile northern stretch. Eleven of the towers are being installed in Detroit, Mich., and five in Buffalo, N.Y., to help monitor water traffic between Canada and the United States along Lake St. Clair and the Niagara River. /

10. A plan to give government cash to consumers who trade in their old cars gained sudden momentum this week after President Barack Obama supported the concept as part of his effort to revive the U.S. auto industry. But the so-called cash-for-clunkers plan still faces hurdles. Bills by Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Ohio) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) would provide cash vouchers to buyers who turn in inefficient older cars and purchase newer ones with better gas mileage. The concept is similar to one that has been used in Europe to spur sales, most recently in Germany. The idea had been attracting moderate interest in Congress for months. But in his sweeping remarks on the auto industry Monday, Mr. Obama said he wants to work with Congress to find ways to find money for such a program in his economic-recovery package.

11. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, indicated Tuesday she wouldn't take off the table a fast-track process for passing a health-overhaul bill despite Republicans' opposition to the tactic. Ms. Sebelius, testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said she had spoken with members of Congress who support using the budget-reconciliation process to pass health legislation, which would allow a bill to pass in the Senate with only 51 votes rather than 60. She appeared to support using that approach under some circumstances, saying there was an interest in Congress in "not taking tools off the table prematurely, but being very dedicated to a bipartisan process and bipartisan bill."

12. The major unions are grabbing on to the ouster of General Motors chief Rick Wagoner to launch a campaign to pressure the Obama administration to engineer a similar axing of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. ... /

13. President Obama's war with K Street is escalating, this time over stringent new rules on lobbyists attempting to land federal stimulus money for their clients. An unlikely alliance of groups -- including one co-founded by Obama's chief ethics adviser -- argue that the restrictions will penalize those who play by the rules while doing nothing to curb the influence of large corporations and campaign donors. Leaders of the groups, which include Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the American League of Lobbyists, also said yesterday that they are preparing to challenge the guidelines on First Amendment grounds if the administration does not agree to revise them.


14. Obama escapes most blame for recession: poll; Public points finger at financial industry excesses. Eighty percent of respondents to the poll said they put a "great deal" or a "good amount" of blame on banks and other financial institutions for taking unnecessary risks. Only about a quarter blame Obama and his advisers for the state of the economy. Meanwhile, six in 10 Americans give the president good marks on his handling of the economy and two thirds approve of the way he's handling his job.

15. The U.S. recession is wreaking havoc on yet another front: the Social Security trust fund. With unemployment rising, the payroll tax revenue that finances Social Security benefits for nearly 51 million retirees and other recipients is falling, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the trust fund's annual surplus is forecast to all but vanish next year -- nearly a decade ahead of schedule -- and deprive the government of billions of dollars it had been counting on to help balance the nation's books. ...

16. Russia has become the first major country to call for a partial restoration of the Gold Standard to uphold discipline in the world financial system. Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin's chief economic adviser, said Russia would favour the inclusion of gold bullion in the basket-weighting of a new world currency based on Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund. ...

17. Many assembly line autoworkers reacted with skepticism and anger Monday to the Obama administration's tough tactics, which stoked long-simmering feelings that the people who put the country on wheels get treated differently than the wizards of Wall Street. "It's the age-old Wall Street vs. Main Street smackdown again," said Brian Fredline, president of UAW Local 602 at a plant near Lansing. "You have all kinds of funding available to banks that are apparently too big to fail, but they're also too big to be responsible." "But when it comes to auto manufacturing and middle-class jobs and people that don't matter on Wall Street, there are certainly different standards that we have to meet - higher standards - than the financials. That is a double standard that exists and it's unfair," Fredline said. ...

18. Obama Seeks G-20 Accord on Approach to Tax Havens: President Barack Obama will seek backing from other leaders of the world’s advanced and emerging economies on incentives for off-shore tax havens to adopt global accounting and transparency rules, an economic adviser said. Obama arrived in the U.K. tonight for a summit of the Group of 20 in London aimed at coming up with a unified regulatory framework to prevent a repeat of the global financial crisis. The leaders also are trying to keep investors from seeking out markets with the most permissive rules, setting off a race to the bottom as countries vie to attract capital. “There are ways of encouraging countries to adopt these standards,” Mike Froman, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for economic affairs, told reporters in London.

19. Merrill Lynch Bonus Payments Dwarf A.I.G.: A larger and potentially far more explosive powder keg of bonus payments - this time to top executives at now defunct Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. - may be about to blow. Ongoing investigations at the New York attorney general's office and at the office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) into this previously revealed, but mostly ignored, story may add new details about who in the Bush administration, in the financial sector and at the Federal Reserve knew about these much larger bonuses and the suspicious circumstances surrounding them.

Foreign Affairs

20. Tensions Rise at G-20 Economic Summit: Global Economic Crisis, Afghanistan Will Be Key Focus for President in Europe. President Obama arrived in London today to take part in the G-20 summit, the largest gathering of world leaders coping with an economic crisis since the Great Depression. But unlike Obama's first trip to visit foreign leaders during the campaign last summer, not everyone is cheering him on or agrees with his bottom line: to increase stimulus spending by other industrialized countries.

21. Barack Obama's Kenyan aunt lost her bid for asylum more than four years ago, and a judge ordered her deported. Instead, Zeituni Onyango stayed, living for years in public housing. Now, in a case that puts the president in a tough position both personally and politically, Onyango's request is being reconsidered under a little-used provision in U.S. immigration rules that allows denied asylum claims to be reheard if applicants can show that something has changed to make them eligible.

22. President Barack Obama arrived in Europe on Tuesday with a hefty agenda for tackling the economic crisis and seeking support for his new Afghanistan strategy on a trip that will test his global leadership.

23. Obama's mission in London -- to foster world unity around a common set of economic measures -- is made more difficult by discord throughout Europe about how to confront the crisis, anger about America's role in starting it, and disagreement with some of the president's prescriptions for fixing it.

24. North Korea missile seen consistent with satellite: A missile North Korea could launch as soon as this weekend appears to have a bulb-shaped tip that gives credence to Pyongyang's claim it plans to put a satellite in space, U.S. defence officials said on Tuesday. Washington and others have voiced concern the launch will be a test of a long-range missile that could carry a warhead as far as U.S. territory. Pyongyang's plans have alarmed the region and intensified pressure on the North not to launch its Taepodong-2. A Taepodong-2 test in 2006 failed. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the launch, which North Korea says will occur between April 4 and 8, would deal a blow to six-party talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. ...

25. The United States used an international meeting on Afghanistan to make an unusual direct diplomatic overture to Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Americans delivered a letter to the Iranians at Tuesday's meeting in The Hague. The letter asks Iran to help resolve the cases of three detained or missing Americans. The cases, and the U.S. position on them, were already known. What's new is the Obama administration's choice to approach Iran directly, instead of through a go-between. The two countries have had no formal diplomatic ties for nearly three decades. ...

26. China denies US ship access to Taiwan Strait: The research vessel Marcus G. Langseth will have to steer clear of the waters that separate Taiwan from mainland China, after the Chinese government denied the US seismic research vessel permission to sail in the area.
The vessel, which is investigating earthquakes and mountain-building processes in the Pacific Ocean, set sail from the port of Kaohsiung in southwest Taiwan this morning. But it will now not be able to carry out experiments within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait that is under Chinese jurisdiction. ...

27. U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy: The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations' premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states. The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium, Norway and New Zealand. New Zealand has offered to step aside to allow the United States to run unchallenged, according to a U.S. official. Human rights activists have been advocating U.S. membership in the council since its creation in March 2006. ...

April 1, 2009 Wednesday

Obama Agenda

28. President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to rally the world's top and emerging powers to help cope with a global economic downturn, saying, "We can only meet this challenge together." The president also disputed criticism that the United States was feuding with other nations about the need to pump more money into economic stimulus policies, saying any differences are "vastly overstated." "I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems," Obama said ahead of the G-20 economic crisis summit. Obama prodded nations to spur growth and work together on regulatory reform, and not fall into the kind of protectionism and other mistakes that helped fuel the Great Depression. "That is a mistake that we cannot afford to repeat," Obama said alongside British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. ...

29. A mere 65 votes separated the two candidates late Tuesday in a Congressional contest in upstate New York that received national attention and was widely seen as a referendum on the Obama administration’s economic recovery efforts. With all precincts reporting, the Democrat, Scott Murphy, a 39-year-old venture capitalist, led 77,344 to 77,279 over his Republican rival, Assemblyman James N. Tedisco, 58, for the seat vacated by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat. The turnout was surprisingly strong for a special election. ...

Foreign Affairs

30. In his first full day in Europe, President Obama conceded Wednesday that the United States had “some accounting to do” for failures that led to the world’s financial crisis, even as he tried to brush past heavy pressure from Germany and France to accept global financial regulations that could reach well inside American borders. Mr. Obama acknowledged that regulatory failures in the United States had a role in the meltdown, but urged world leaders to focus on solutions rather than placing blame. He also cautioned that the United States was unlikely to return to its role as a “voracious consumer market,” urging other nations to do more to revive growth in their home markets.

31. The United States and Russia released two joint statements on Wednesday after talks between presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev. Here are the key points:

32. Army General David Petraeus told Congress that “the Israeli government may ultimately see itself so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it.” While Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for peaceful power generation, Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said “Iranian officials have consistently failed to provide the assurances and transparency necessary for international acceptance and verification.” ...

33. Obama, Hu stress steps to respond to crisis, avoid currency, other disputes in first meeting: President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, stuck to areas where they agree in their high-profile first meeting in London, trying to avoid fueling global economic fears by airing disputes over currency and stimulus plans. Meeting at the Group of 20 summit, Hu and Obama vowed to work together to renew global growth and build a strategic partnership.


34. Analysis: Dems punt hard choices on Obama budget: President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in Congress are taking only baby steps with his budget, putting off crucial decisions on his ambitious plans to expand health care, curb global warming and raise taxes on the wealthy. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and both Bushes all got far stronger assists from Congress on their first budgets. Nonetheless, Obama, is counting on votes approving budget outlines this week to give him some semblance of momentum. "If we don't pass the budget, it will empower those critics who don't want to see anything getting done," Obama told House Democrats Monday.

35. Republicans in the House are pushing an alternative budget plan that would cut income tax rates and radically overhaul the Medicare program providing health care to the elderly. The plan unveiled Wednesday by Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan also freezes overall spending on domestic programs and repeals most of the spending in President Barack Obama's recently passed economic stimulus bill. Despite the spending reductions, the plan projects permanent deficits exceeding $500 billion into the future, fueled largely by big tax cuts. ...


36. In an important victory for the nation's governors, the White House is acknowledging that state legislatures across the country can't wrest control of $48.6 billion made available under the new federal stimulus law to help states cope with their budgets. White House budget chief Peter Orszag (OHR'-zag) says there is no provision in the stimulus law for state lawmakers to accept that money without approval by the governor. South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford, has said he may decline more than $700 million in stimulus money because the White House won't let him spend the money to pay down his state's debt. Orszag wrote in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that Sanford controls those purse strings. The White House also urged Congress to change the law to avoid what it called unfortunate and unintended consequences. ...

37. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. President Barack Obama are among those at the Group of 20 summit of leading economies who share the aims on international financial regulation outlined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy Wednesday, U.K. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said Thursday.

Domestic Issues

38. The Obama administration has told a federal judge it wants to take a second look at a federal protection scheme for the northern spotted owl over concern that a former Interior Department official may have tainted the plan.

39. U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on Wednesday introduced legislation to establish auditable, enforceable cybersecurity standards for both the government and the private sector. The bill would create a national cybersecurity officer within the executive office of the president. That person would be responsible for a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy, coordinating government and private companies' activities if the bill were to become law. Cybersecurity is a top priority for Rockefeller, who formerly was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. ...

40. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said Wednesday that he will take up climate-change legislation being developed in the House instead of pursuing a separate package in the Senate. "The Energy Committee is having trouble getting a bill out of the committee -- it is taking too long," Mr. Reid said at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "The House is going to finish their bill by Memorial Day, so I think that it's to everyone's benefit that we follow what the House is doing."

41. Efforts to overhaul the health care system have moved ahead rapidly, with the insurance industry making several major concessions and the chairmen of five Congressional committees reaching a consensus on the main ingredients of legislation. The chairmen, all Democrats, agree that everyone must carry insurance and that employers should be required to help pay for it. They also agree that the government should offer a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance. They have yet to tackle the question of how to pay for coverage of the uninsured. And they have not figured out the role of state insurance regulators, who enforce hundreds of state laws mandating coverage of a myriad of items, including infertility treatments, prostate cancer screening and acupuncture. ...

42. The government may seek to ease General Motors into what it calls a “controlled” bankruptcy, somewhere between a prepackaged bankruptcy and court chaos, by persuading at least some creditors to agree to a plan that would cleave the company into two pieces, according to people briefed on the matter. Instead of signing on every creditor as is typically required in prepackaged deals, administration officials are using as leverage the promise of taxpayer financing. Many regard the government as the only lender willing to step up with money — in bankruptcy or out. ...

43. Efforts to overhaul the health care system have moved ahead rapidly, with the insurance industry making several major concessions and the chairmen of five Congressional committees reaching a consensus on the main ingredients of legislation. The chairmen, all Democrats, agree that everyone must carry insurance and that employers should be required to help pay for it. They also agree that the government should offer a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance. They have yet to tackle the question of how to pay for coverage of the uninsured. ...

April 2, 2009 Thursday

Obama Agenda

44. Obama turns to Web to bypass news media: Call it Round Two of the news conference, with a big Internet twist. President Barack Obama took questions from the White House press corps on Tuesday in a prime-time, East Room session that represented the most formal and time-honored of president-and-reporter interactions. On Thursday, he is taking to that same room for another public grilling — this time by regular folks armed with questions submitted via the Internet and in person, as part of a political strategy to engage Americans directly.


45. Obama's scorecard: Some setbacks but a good summit: At his summit debut, President Barack Obama failed to persuade foreign counterparts to commit to fresh and lavish spending to boost economic revival. And the success he did achieve in finding common ground was as much the result of modified goals as swaying other countries to bend to U.S. priorities. Still, he emerged with much of what he wanted from allies on the flailing global economy. And he helped thwart a French-backed attempt to set up an international financial regulator.

46. G-20 Pact Has New Rules and Commitments of $1.1 Trillion: Attempting to bridge deep divides in policy and financial philosophy, the leaders of nearly two dozen of the world’s largest economies agreed Thursday to a broad array of new fiscal and regulatory steps, in a desperate effort to revive the paralyzed global economy. At the conclusion of the first economic summit meeting to rivet world attention in decades, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain announced that the leaders had committed to $1.1 trillion in additional loans and guarantees to finance trade and bail out troubled countries.

47. Obama's Ending Statement to G-20 Summit:

48. G20 declares door shut on tax havens: The most dramatic crackdown on tax havens was unveiled by G20 leaders at their summit today, paving the way for the naming and shaming of countries that fail to comply with internationally agreed standards.
Gordon Brown hailed the agreement as he issued a blunt warning to individuals and corporations that invest in renegade tax havens that their money will be unsafe. "People will increasingly see that it is unsafe to be in a country which still wants to declare itself as a tax haven," the prime minister said. "There will be no guarantee about the safety of funds there. If tax information is exchanged on request, as these countries have agreed to, then the benefits from being in these countries will diminish every day." -...

49. The clampdown on tax havens around the world gathered pace today when the US government and Gibraltar announced an agreement to exchange information on tax matters. The deal is the first of its kind for Gibraltar, and will give the US access to information it needs to enforce its tax laws – including potential civil and criminal matters. ...

50. Obama: U.S. alone can't drive recovery: President Obama heads into a global economic summit today warning that the world can no longer depend on the United States to be the consumer-driven engine of growth and that other nations will have to do more. "The world has become accustomed to the United States being a voracious consumer market," he said yesterday. But he cautioned that the United States eventually would have to scale back its appetite for the world's goods to pay the bills for all its stimulus spending.

51. President Barack Obama said the agreements reached at the Group of 20 summit on regulations and emergency aid will mark a “turning point” for a global economic recovery. “By any measure the London summit was historic,” Obama said at a news conference in London. While economic risks remain, he said, “I have no doubt, though, that the steps that have been taken are critical to preventing us sliding into a depression.”

52. Text of President Barack Obama's news conference Thursday at the ExCel center in London following the G-20 summit, as provided by the White House:

53. According to a source inside the room, President Obama just played peacemaker in a spat between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China. Sarkozy and Hu were having a heated disagreement about tax havens. France and other European nations have been pushing for rules and regulations to apply to various tax havens; Germany's Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck has said "these tax havens are also places where unregulated financial market deals are made." -...

54. Banks Given More Leeway in How They Value Toxic Assets: The changes will allow the assets to be valued at what they would go for in an "orderly" sale, as opposed to a forced or distressed sale. The new guidelines will apply to the second quarter that began this month. The mark-to-market rules have forced banks to take steep write-downs on some assets, especially securities tied to high-risk subprime mortgages, as the industry has reeled from the housing market slump and banks have foundered and failed.

55. Former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg says the bailout has "failed" and he's proposing a 10-point alternative focused on saving, not breaking apart, the mega-insurer. Greenberg will reveal his plan during a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today... ...


56. House approves $3.6 trillion budget blueprint: The Democratic-controlled House approved a budget blueprint drawn to President Barack Obama's specifications Thursday and the Senate hastened to follow suit after administration allies rejected alternatives from liberals and conservatives alike. The vote in the House was 233-196, largely along party lines, for a $3.6 trillion plan that includes a deficit of $1.2 trillion.

57. Highlights of the budget proposals of President Barack Obama, House Democrats and Senate Democrats for the 2010 budget year starting Oct. 1.

Foreign Affairs

58. Obama issues warning as North Korea readies rocket: As North Korea fueled a multistage rocket Thursday for its threatened satellite launch, President Barack Obama promised a "stern" response and Japan vowed to press for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. Senior U.S. defense officials said that trailers and vehicles carrying rocket propellant were in place at North Korea's coastal launch site and that fueling had begun.

59. US, Mexico work together to fight drug cartels: The U.S. and Mexico are creating a cross-border group to develop strategies for stopping the illegal flow of guns and drugs between the two countries, officials said Thursday. Emerging from a conference with U.S. officials, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said more meetings are needed to develop plans to bring warring drug cartels under control along the border. Medina-Mora said Mexico planned to begin checking 10 percent of the vehicles entering the country from the U.S. for illegal weapons and will more closely check outgoing vehicles for drugs and money.

60. President Dmitry Medvedev's first meeting with Barack Obama brought Russia a shot of prestige, upbeat headlines about nuclear-arms cuts and a powerful signal that Moscow has the ear of the new U.S. president. The price tag for Russia so far: virtually zero. Medvedev's talks with Obama set a constructive new tone after years of growing acrimony between the U.S. and an assertive Russia. Their joint vow to reduce the two biggest nuclear arsenals on the planet cast a softer light on Russia, which has worried Europe with recent natural-gas supply cutoffs and threats to put missiles on its borders.

61. The United States will push hard for Palestinian statehood despite a new rightist government in Israel but anticipates a rough road ahead, a U.S. official said on Thursday. "We're going to be working hard to see what we can do to move the process forward. But we're under no illusions. It's not going to be easy," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. ...

62. RUSSIA'S Dmitry Medvedev has hailed Barack Obama as "my new comrade" after their first face-to-face talks, saying the US President "can listen" — even if little progress was made on substance. The Russian President on Thursday contrasted Mr Obama as "totally different" to his predecessor, George Bush, whom he blamed for the "mistake" of US missile shield plans fiercely opposed by Moscow. Mr Obama agreed to visit Moscow in July, after his talks with Mr Medvedev on Wednesday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London aimed at fixing the battered world economy. "I believe that we managed to establish contact. But Moscow lies ahead. I cannot say that we made much progress on the most serious issues," Mr Medvedev said. "I liked the talks. It is easy to talk to him. He can listen. The start of this relationship is good," he said, adding: "Today it's a totally different situation (compared to Bush) … This suits me quite well." ...

Domestic Issues

63. Obama backs consumer incentives to boost auto sales: President Barack Obama ordered tough steps on Monday to restructure General Motors and Chrysler but he also offered incentives and other plans to boost sales and reassure consumers. "We must also recognize that the difficulties facing this industry are due in no small part to the weakness in our economy," Obama said in announcing several steps to invigorate sales that are near 30-year lows.

64. President Barack Obama, confronting growing public outrage against bailouts, is taking a hard line with the United Auto Workers, the union that supported his election and whose future now hangs in the balance. The UAW, once a pre-eminent U.S. labor organization, is in retreat along with U.S. automakers. It is a quarter the size it was at its peak of 1.5 million members in 1979, when its political clout helped Chrysler Corp. get a then-unprecedented $1.2 billion federal bailout. Now Obama is pushing the union, which already has given up job-security programs and some compensation, to take more concessions within 60 days or General Motors Corp. could face bankruptcy.

65. Obama Picks Robert Groves for Census Director: With 2010 Census Looming, Obama Chooses Survey Expert to Run Bureau President Obama has picked Robert M. Groves, a prominent survey researcher, to lead the Census Bureau, less than a year before the 2010 census

66. General Motors stated in a regulatory filing to the Treasury Department on Thursday that it is prepared to file for bankruptcy protection if it cannot restructure out of court.

67. The federal government would for the first time have regulatory powers over the tobacco industry under a bill the House approved Thursday after years of campaigning by anti-smoking forces. The measure, passed 298-112, gives the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate — but not ban — cigarettes and other tobacco products. ...

68. Obama Taps 2 for Key Appellate Courts: President Obama yesterday announced nominees for two of the country's most important appellate courts, ushering in what is expected to be a gradual shift in the federal judiciary toward Democratic control. Obama nominated Andre Davis, a federal judge in Maryland, for the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. His confirmation would give that court -- long one of the country's most conservative -- a 6 to 6 split among Republican and Democratic appointees, with three additional vacancies. For the New York-based 2nd Circuit, Obama nominated Gerard Lynch, a federal judge in New York. If confirmed by the Senate, he would give Democratic nominees a 7 to 6 majority.

69. NASA's embattled Inspector General Robert "Moose" Cobb has resigned from his post as the space agency's internal watchdog after years of criticism from lawmakers. Cobb's resignation, announced by NASA late Thursday, will go into effect on April 11 and comes amid a renewed call for his removal after the release of Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this year criticizing his track record. ...

April 3, 2009 Friday

Obama Agenda

70. President Obama took the time today to hold a second, purely ceremonial, swearing-in for Attorney General Eric Holder, reinforcing his pledge to enforce the law and uphold the Constitution without regard to politics and ideology. ...

71. Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release classified Bush-era interrogation memos. But U.S. intel officials are fiercely lobbying the White House to block him from moving forward.

72. After G20, Obama to Discuss Afghan Plans With NATO. -...


73. G-20 Pact Has New Rules and $1.1 Trillion for Loans and Trade: Struggling to bridge deep divides over how to revive a paralyzed global economy, the leaders of the world's largest economies agreed Thursday to bail out developing countries, stimulate world trade and regulate financial firms more stringently. But President Obama conceded that there were "no guarantees" that those measures would reverse the biggest global downturn in six decades. ...

74. Administration Seeks an Out On Bailout Rules for Firms: Officials Worry Constraints Set by Congress Deter Participation. The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials. Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.
The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials. ...

75. Lawrence H. Summers, the top economic adviser to President Obama, earned more than $5 million last year from the hedge fund D. E. Shaw and collected $2.7 million in speaking fees from Wall Street companies that received government bailout money, the White House disclosed Friday in releasing financial information about top officials. Mr. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, wields important influence over Mr. Obama’s policy decisions for the troubled financial industry, including firms from which he recently received payments. ...

76. Chanting "Whose street? Our street!" hundreds of people rallied on Wall Street Friday to protest the billions of dollars in federal bailout money to big business. Monica Moorehead, managing editor of the left-leaning newspaper Workers World, said the crowd gathered to protest the capitalist system which helps AIG and other companies that steal money from us. The crowd was waving signs reading, "No more money for Wall Street." ...

77. Just a few weeks after retention bonuses at American International Group became a national scandal, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage-financing giants that the government rescued last fall, have outlined plans to pay an additional $159 million in bonuses to retain employees in 2009 and 2010, on top of the nearly $51 million already paid out last year. James B. Lockhart of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which now oversees the two companies, disclosed the bonus programs in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. In the letter, Mr. Lockhart defended the payouts as a way to “keep key staff without rewarding poor performance.” Lawmakers have harshly criticized some bailed-out companies that later offered bonuses to workers, and the House passed legislation this week that would seek to limit compensation and bonuses at such firms. ...

78. US banks that have received government aid, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, are considering buying toxic assets to be sold by rivals under the Treasury’s $1,000bn (£680bn) plan to revive the financial system. The plans proved controversial, with critics charging that the government’s public-private partnership - which provide generous loans to investors - are intended to help banks sell, rather than acquire, troubled securities and loans. Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House financial services committee, vowed after being told of the plans by the FT to introduce legislation to stop financial institutions ”gaming the system to reap taxpayer-subsidised windfalls”. Mr Bachus added it would mark ”a new level of absurdity” if financial institutions were ”colluding to swap assets at inflated prices using taxpayers’ dollars.” ...

79. Delinquency rates on the least risky home loans, which account for two-thirds of all mortgages, more than doubled last year, showing credit quality deterioration is spreading through the housing market, U.S. regulators said. Seriously delinquent prime loans climbed to 2.4 percent of total loans on Dec. 31, from 1.11 percent in the first quarter, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Office of Thrift Supervision said today in a report. Mortgages in delinquency rose 30 percent in the fourth quarter, accounting for 4.6 percent of all home loans, the report showed. “We’re in uncharted territory, we’ve never seen the number this high before,” John Dugan, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. ...

80. President Obama predicts U.S. lift from $1 trillion G-20 summit cash infusion, finance regulation: President Obama predicted Thursday the crippled American economy will soon feel a boost from a new $1.1 trillion global cash infusion and crackdown on the international finance industry.


81. States Look To Tax Wealthiest Residents To Shore Up Budget Deficits: With New York's $18 billion deficit, New Jersey's $7 billion deficit and California's $42 billion deficit, there aren't a lot of ready revenue sources in a down economy. ...

82. Congressional Democrats embraced President Obama's ambitious and expensive agenda for the nation Thursday night, endorsing a $3.5-trillion spending plan that sets the stage for major legislation later this year on healthcare, energy, the environment and education. Voting along party lines, the House and Senate approved budget blueprints that would trim Obama's spending proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October and curtail his plans to cut taxes. The blueprints, however, would permit work to begin on the central goals of Obama's presidency: an expansion of healthcare coverage for the uninsured, more money for college loans, and a cap-and-trade system to reduce gases that contribute to global warming.

83. Congress' budget blueprint contains a warning to Obama: The $3.5-trillion plan approved this week is close to the president's, but it shows that lawmakers are wary of trying to do too much at once on healthcare, energy, education and the economy.

84. Analysis: Congress maps rough path to Obama goals: In short, Obama's Democratic allies embraced providing health care to the uninsured, boosting education and promoting clean energy. But the second part of the equation — finding billions of dollars to finance his agenda without further exploding the deficit — suffered repeated setbacks in the Senate.

Foreign Affairs

85. President Obama this morning announced a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy that will require significantly higher levels of U.S. funding and thousands more military and civilian personnel to reverse what he called an "increasingly perilous" situation.

86. President Barack Obama plans to lift a longstanding U.S. ban on family travel and remittances to Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday, in what could be an opening gesture toward more openness with the Castro regime. The move will fulfill a campaign promise and follows more modest action in Congress this year to loosen travel rules. The president has authority to loosen these rules on his own, and the move is likely meant as a signal of a new attitude toward both Cuba and other Latin American countries that have pressed the U.S. to alter its policy. The president does not intend to call for lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba, which would require congressional action, nor is any specific diplomatic outreach contemplated, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

87. U.S. President Barack Obama Friday called on Europe and the United States to change their attitude toward each other to better confront joint problems. Addressing roughly 3,000 students at a town hall-style meeting in Strasbourg, France, Obama conceded that the trans-Atlantic alliance had been allowed to "drift" over the years. Americans in the past often showed "arrogance" toward Europe, failing to appreciate its leadership on many issues, Obama said. "But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that can be casual but can also be insidious," he said. "Let me say this as clearly as I can: America is changing. But it cannot be America alone that changes." ... /

88. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany wants to bear its share of the responsibility in Afghanistan and help shape the West's relationship with Iran. ...

89. U.S. President Barack Obama called on Friday for a world without atomic weapons and urged allies to stand firm against Iran's nuclear ambitions and a planned missile launch by North Korea. On his first major foreign trip since he took office in January, Obama held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in eastern France and took questions from young French and Germans before a NATO summit hosted by France and Germany. Even with the Cold War now over, the spread of nuclear weapons, or the theft of nuclear material, could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet," Obama told the young French and Germans gathered in the French city of Strasbourg. /...

90. Obama: Afghan Strategy Must Include Ending Terror Threat in Pakistan: President Barack Obama said the United States and NATO cannot be effective in Afghanistan without addressing the threat of terrorism across the border in Pakistan. Mr. Obama told reporters during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany that he does not envision NATO troops in Pakistan. But he said NATO allies must do more to help the Pakistani government eliminate safe havens for extremists in the country's tribal regions.

Domestic Issues

91. ODNI(Nat'l Intelligence) APPOINTS NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL: Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair has appointed Ms. Roslyn A. Mazer, a Justice Department Official, as Inspector General (IG) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Since 2002, Ms. Mazer has served as Investigative Counsel in the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, where she has led teams of attorneys, inspectors, and auditors in conducting complex review of the FBI’s compliance with Attorney General Guidelines, congressionally-mandated review of National Security Letter authorities, and allegations of misconduct by Department personnel. She has served in the Department of Justice for more than 14 years, including as Associate Deputy Attorney General. Prior to her federal service, Ms. Mazer was in private practice.

92. Arizona congressman introduces bill to exempt foreign Ph.D. grads from H-1B limits: U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), introduced what he calls the "Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy Act of 2009 (HR 1791)." By design, the bill's acronym, Staple, represents the stapling of science, technology, engineering and mathematics Ph.D. diplomas onto green cards, granting their holders permanent residency. ...

93. A U.S. Senate vote this week rejected an effort to put climate-change legislation on a fast track, making it harder for Congress to put limits on greenhouse gas emissions this year. Democratic leaders and the Obama administration had floated the idea of using the federal budget to move cap-and-trade legislation through Congress. Making the plan part of the budget would enable it to pass with a simple majority. But the Senate on Wednesday voted 67-to-31 in favor of a measure blocking lawmakers from attaching a cap-and-trade bill to the federal budget.

94. President Barack Obama's pledge to boost IMF resources to help other crisis-hit economies could prove a tough sell for a Congress suffering from bailout fatigue and worried about mounting U.S. debt. Obama joined other leaders of the G20 countries in London this week promising to triple funding for the International Monetary Fund as part of a package of actions to combat the global economic crisis. The new funds are aimed mainly at struggling poorer countries, notably in eastern Europe.

95. President Obama issued a statement this afternoon on the violence in Binghamton, N.Y., which the White House called a "tragic shooting."

96. Obama’s Farm Subsidy Cuts Meet Stiff Resistance: Among the audacious proposals in President Obama’s budget was a plan to save more than $9.7 billion over a decade by putting strict limits on farm subsidies that are disbursed regardless of market conditions or even whether the land is actively farmed. But Mr. Obama’s grand ambitions have run into political reality. The budget outlines approved by the House and Senate on Thursday night do not include limits on farm subsidies at all, and even champions of change say that if the president’s plan can be revived, it will have to be scaled back so significantly that the savings could amount to just several hundred million dollars.

April 4, 2009 Saturday

Obama Agenda

97. President Obama radio address: 'Global Coordination' Needed, President Says. From terrorism to the economic meltdown, problems menacing the United States' security and economy also threaten an increasingly interconnected world, President Barack Obama said Saturday. "In this new century, we live in a world that has grown smaller and more interconnected than at any time in history," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, taped during his first presidential trip to Europe. "Threats to our nation's security and economy can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders drawn on maps."

Domestic Issues

98. At 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20 — the precise moment Barack Obama became president of the United States — a new White House Web site sprang to electronic life with a pledge to “provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.” The next day, Mr. Obama issued a memorandum on transparency, promising to make it one of “the touchstones of this presidency.” Mr. Obama has discovered that fulfilling his pledge is easier said than done.

99. He has bumped up against technological hurdles, privacy concerns and the entrenched culture of secrecy that has flourished for decades in Washington and culminated under his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama has vowed a break with the past, but he has not broken completely.


100. Weeks of Obama's budget sales pitch and support still slips Bailing out the financial sector will cost taxpayers $167 billion more than originally anticipated, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate. The original figure in January was $189 billion, but it is now $356 billion — $152 billion more for 2009 and $15 billion more next year, the CBO says in its March report updating the budget and economic outlook. The CBO raised its projection because yields have increased on securities issued by the bailed-out financial institutions under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. That means there will be an increase in the cost of the subsidy from the U.S. Treasury's purchase of preferred stock, asset guarantees and loans to automakers, the CBO said. ...


101. While acknowledging that the Federal Reserve was "extremely uncomfortable" about last year's bailouts of big financial companies, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday the central bank's strategy to ease the financial crisis is working. Bernanke was referring to the Fed's unprecedented decisions last year to step in and financially back JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s takeover of then-troubled investment house Bear Stearns and throw its first of four financial lifelines to insurance giant American International Group Inc. ...

102. dollar eases Zimbabwe inflation: Zimbabweans have seen a slight fall in the price of everyday items since the government allowed shops to abandon the local currency in favour of the US dollar, government figures indicated. ...

Foreign Affairs

103. Speaking at UN talks in Bonn, Jonathan Pershing said the US must not offer more than it could deliver by 2020. But he said the US should not make promises for 2020 that it could not keep: "It is not the point in time in 2020 that matters - it is a long-term trajectory against which the science measures cumulative emissions. There is still much negotiation to be done between now and December
"The president has also announced his intent to pursue an 80% reduction by 2050. "It is clear that the less we do in the near-term, the more we have to do in the long-term. But if we set a target that is un-meetable technically, or we can't pass it politically, then we're in the same position we are in now… where the world looks to us and we are out of the regime.

104. At Summit, NATO Is Divided Over Chief: Turkey defied the other 27 members of NATO on Saturday by blocking the appointment of their choice as the military alliance's next leader, undermining a show of unity at a 60th anniversary summit. Violent clashes between police and anti-NATO protesters also soured the atmosphere at a summit where U.S. President Barack Obama was trying to drum up support for the Afghan war and leaders hoped to forge a new strategic vision for the alliance. ...

105. N Korea skips first launch chance: The first window in North Korea's five-day satellite launch plan has passed with no sign of a blast-off. A South Korean expert said conditions in the launch area were not ideal, with "somewhat strong" winds and cloud. Neighbouring states suspect the launch of the rocket is a cover for a long-range missile test and have urged North Korea not to go ahead.

106. President Barack Obama won NATO backing on Saturday for his new approach to Afghanistan but his European allies stopped short of offering long-term troop deployments for the war effort. Leaders of the 28-nation military alliance pledged at a summit to send 3,000 more troops on short-term assignments to boost security for August 20 elections in Afghanistan, and some 2,000 more personnel to train Afghan security forces. ...

107. Security Tight in Prague as Czechs Ready for Obama. Activists draped a banner over a bridge on the Vltava River that read: ''YES WE CAN ... ' -...

108. NATO back Obama Afghan plan, but troops short-term: U.S. President Barack Obama won NATO backing on Saturday for his new approach to Afghanistan but his European allies stopped short of offering long-term troop deployments for the war effort. Leaders of the 28-nation military alliance pledged at a summit to send 3,000 more troops on short-term assignments to boost security for Aug. 20 elections in Afghanistan, and some 2,000 more personnel to train Afghan security forces.

April 5, 2009 Sunday

Domestic Issues

109. As more Iraqi refugees return to the Middle East disillusioned about America and defeated by unemployment, many of those who remain in Utah are increasingly angry. Recognizing their sacrifices and the growing dilemma, the state refugee office is fighting for additional federal funds to alleviate their painful transition. "We started this war," said Gerald Brown, director of the Utah Refugee Services Office. "These people are a direct result of federal policy."

110. New G.M. Chief Doesn’t Rule Out Bankruptcy: A week into his new job as chief executive of General Motors, Fritz Henderson said on Sunday he was confident in the future of the company but a structured bankruptcy remains a possibility. Mr. Henderson has just 55 days remaining to meet President Obama’s timetable to come up with a new plan to save the struggling car giant. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he said that the company was working to avoid bankruptcy, but that if it failed to meet its goals for cutting costs and shrinking the company, it “may very well be the best alternative.”

111. Energy legislation to test fractured Democrats: To pass any ambitious energy plan, congressional leaders and the Obama administration will have to win over some Republicans and most Democrats, a strategy that took a big hit when congressional leaders, faced with opposition from some Democrats, abandoned a plan that would have made it easier for the Senate by a simple majority vote to approve a program for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The change was aimed at appeasing the "Gang of 15" Democrats led by Stabenow, who have been critical of President Obama's plan to place increasingly strict caps on carbon dioxide emissions. But with Senate leaders needing 60 votes to advance any controversial proposal - and with just 58 senators in the Democratic caucus - just a few critical Democrats could become major obstacles for Obama's energy supporters. ...


112. Obama taps USC VP Helen Garrett for his troubled Treasury Dept. The White House announced this afternoon that President Obama is nominating Helen Elizabeth Garrett as assistant secretary of Treasury for tax policy. Garrett is currently vice president for academic planning and the budget at the University of Southern California, where she oversees the university's academic and budget priorities. She's one of three senior Treasury Department appointments announced today as Obama and embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner seek to fill numerous remaining posts there amid a barrage of ongoing controversies stemming from the recession, the Wall Street bailouts, the bizarre corporate bonuses and, frankly, Geithner's sometimes inarticulate handling of his public presentations.

113. Geithner denies White House sidestepping CEO pay limits: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner denied on Sunday the Obama administration was crafting bailout initiatives to allow companies to evade limits on executive pay and other restrictions imposed by Congress. "No, that's not true," Geithner said when asked about a report in Saturday's Washington Post that the White House was trying to allow some exceptions. "Now, our obligation is to apply the laws that Congress just passed on executive compensation and we're going to do that," he told the CBS program "Face the Nation." ...

114. Geithner says some bank CEOs may have to go: The government may require new faces in executive suites at banks requiring “exceptional assistance” in the future, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday. Critics of the Obama administration’s move last weekend to force out the chairman of General Motors Corp., Rick Wagoner, as a condition for possible additional federal loans say that strong government intervention contrasts with measures placed on the financial industry in return for billions in infusions. Geithner denied there was a double standard and put banks on notice that they may need to change leadership teams in exchange for accepting more money in the future. /

115. Geithner Says US Jobless Rate Likely to Climb: The U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the unemployment rate may go above its current 25-year high of 8.5 percent, but says the United States and other countries must keep moving forward in making steps toward economic recovery. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says there are some encouraging signs about the economy, but he was quick to temper expectations. Geithner says the typical pattern of an economic turnaround dictates that only when businesses start to hire again will there be a peak in unemployment.

116. Workers steered to high-risk investing: Federal rule imposed just before market crash. Shortly before the first signs of the stock market collapse, the Bush administration made a crucial decision that has propelled an estimated one to two million workers into stock-heavy retirement funds. Many of the funds in which workers were automatically enrolled dropped more than 25 percent last year, while a more conservative investment strategy rejected by the Bush administration would have resulted in a gain of 4.7 percent. The administration's decisions came in response to a congressional mandate to encourage more workers to participate in company-sponsored retirement savings plans. The Bush administration came up with a rule that enabled businesses to automatically enroll their workers in tax-free 401(k) retirement plans. ... /

Foreign Affairs

117. Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones: AMERICAN drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people. Pakistani officials say drone attacks have been stepped up since President Barack Obama took office in Washington, killing at least 81 people. A suicide attacker blew himself up inside a paramilitary base in Islamabad, killing six soldiers and wounding five yesterday. ...

118. N. Korea launches rocket; Obama calls for UN meeting: US President Barack Obama said Sunday that North Korea's rocket launch was "provocative," amounted to a test of the long-range Taepodong-2 missile, and called for a UN Security Council meeting. "The launch today of a Taepodong-2 missile was a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind," Obama said in a written statement issued from Prague. "With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations. "We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, and members of the UN Security Council to bring this matter before the Council," Obama said, on the latest leg of a debut European tour. ...

119. North Korea space launch 'fails': North Korea failed in its attempt to get a satellite into space after a rocket launch early on Sunday, US and South Korean officials say. Two stages of the rocket and its payload landed in the Pacific Ocean, a US military statement said. Hours earlier North Korea claimed the satellite had successfully been put into orbit and was transmitting data. ... BUT Reuters reports N.Korea says it successfully launched satellite: "The satellite is going round the earth along its elliptic orbit at the angle of inclination of 40.6 degrees at 490 km perigee and 1,426 km apogee. Its cycle is 104 minutes and 12 seconds. "It is sending to the earth the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans 'Song of General Kim Il-sung' and 'Song of General Kim Jong-il' and measured information at 470 MHz. By the use of the satellite the relay communications is now underway by UHF frequency band.

120. Obama calls for Nuclear-free World: Barack Obama has promised that the US will do all it takes to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. In a major speech on Sunday in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, the US president said Washington would take "concrete steps" to reduce its nuclear arsenal and encourage other nations to do the same. He said countries needed to co-operate and have patience to achieve a nuclear-free world. ... PRAGUE (AP) — President Barack Obama on Sunday launched an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons, calling them "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War" and saying the U.S. has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation to ever use one. Obama targeted his comments at one point directly at North Korea, which launched a rocket late Saturday night in defiance of the international community. The president was awoken by an aide and told of the news, which occurred in the early morning hours in Prague. ... Obama urges strong world response to North Korea's missile launch: President Obama, condemning North Korea's missile launch, today called for a strong international response to deter future advancement of its nuclear program. "They, I think, have taken a provocative action,'' Obama said before heading into a scheduled meeting with the president of the European Union in Prague. "It creates instability in their region, around the world.'' Obama Calls on Security Council to Punish North Korea, “This provocation underscores the need for action—not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons,” Mr. Obama said. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

121. Text of President Obama in Prague:

122. ISLAMABAD - A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shiite mosque south of the Pakistani capital on Sunday, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more, officials said. The explosion rocked the mosque in Chakwal city in Punjab province, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Islamabad, during a religious congregation, police official Mujahid Hussain said. Nadim Hasan Asif, a top security official in Punjab, said the bomber set off his explosives in the entrance of the mosque, killing 22 people and injuring more than 30. "The suspected man was stopped at the entrance and pushed himself in and exploded," Asif said. Pakistan has been plagued by rising violence, much of it caused by Taliban militants based near Afghanistan who said recently they would step up attacks unless the U.S. stops drone missile strikes against fighters in the border region. ...

123. Obama backs Turkey for EU but France says no: U.S. President Barack Obama urged the European Union on Sunday to accept Turkey as a full member of the 27-nation bloc, in remarks rejected outright by France and met coolly by Germany. The disagreement was a rare outward sign of divergence at an EU-U.S. summit stage-managed to relaunch trans-atlantic ties that were strained under the Bush administration and which both sides are now eager to mend.

124. US Senate Moves To Fully Fund Israel Aid: The US Senate included a measure to restore full funding for foreign aid to the budget it approved late Thursday, increasing chances that the pool of money including assistance for Israel wouldn't be cut. The $3.5 trillion document passed by the Senate includes a $4 billion boost to the foreign operations appropriation, bringing it up to the $53.8b. sought by President Barack Obama. ...

125. Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey had dropped its opposition to appointing Dane Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next head of NATO after U.S. President Barack Obama answered Ankara's "objections". Erdogan told Turkish television that Turkey had received "guarantees" from Obama that one of Rasmussen's deputies would be a Turk and that Turkish commanders would be present at the alliance's command.

April 6, 2009 Monday

Obama Agenda

126. Poll Finds New Optimism on Economy Since Inauguration: Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country in the 11 weeks since President Obama was inaugurated, suggesting that Mr. Obama is enjoying some success in his critical task of rebuilding the nation’s confidence, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approve of his overall job performance. ...

127. Obama Team's Finances Released : Recently released financial records paint a contrasting picture of the Obama administration: a cabinet composed largely of politicians and government employees who have been on the public payroll for years, and a White House staffed with numerous aides who received substantial compensation over the past year from firms that could have a big stake in administration policies.


128. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is proposing deep cuts to some big weapons programs such as the F-22 fighter jet as the Pentagon takes a hard look at how it spends money. Gates announced a broad range of cuts Monday to weapons spending, saying he plans to cut programs ranging from a new helicopter for the president to ending production of the $140 billion F-22 fighter jet. The Army's modernization program would be scaled back, while a new satellite system and a search-and-rescue helicopter would be cut. Gates says his budget will "profoundly reform" the way the Pentagon buys weapons and does business. To fight new threats from insurgents, Gates is proposing more funding for special forces and other tools. ...

129. Obama Largely Gets His Budget, But More Battles Lie Ahead: There was plenty of the usual theatrics and overheated rhetoric on Capitol Hill last week. But when the dust cleared, President Obama came out with almost all of his whopping $3.55 trillion budget intact. Despite projections that the United States could run a deficit of $1.2 trillion next year under the proposal, the outcome was not much of a surprise. Republicans started the week knowing they would probably be unable to block the budget resolutions in either the House or Senate. Senate Democrats sliced $15 billion from Obama's 2010 budget, and their House counterparts cut out $7 billion.

130. President Barack Obama's plans to keep the estate tax in place are running into some resistance in Congress, where lawmakers may prefer a plan less burdensome on wealthy families. Congress is expected to act later this year to rewrite estate tax rules, to head off the full repeal of the tax which would take effect next year under legislation backed by former President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama wants to keep the tax in place, and exempt estates worth less than $3.5 million, or $7 million for married couples. The Obama plan, included in his budget released in February, would tax wealth above that amount at 45%. Those are the levels in effect this year, and Mr. Obama's plan would extend that policy indefinitely. During a Senate vote on the budget last week, Republicans -- joined by 10 Democrats -- supported an alternative with a higher exemption and lower rate.

Domestic Issues

131. The Director of National Intelligence last week named Roslyn A. Mazer of the Department of Justice to be the next Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. What makes this an intriguing appointment is that from 1996 to 2000 Ms. Mazer was the first chair of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), which is among the most successful classification reform initiatives of the last half century. At a time when agency Inspectors General may be asked to assume greater oversight over classification policy, she brings an exceptional depth of knowledge and experience to the subject. ...

132. Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday. The secretary spoke at a public hearing in Atlantic City on how the nation's offshore areas can be tapped to meet America's energy needs. "The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility," he said. "It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here and now." ...

133. U.S. sales are “starting to open up” as $7.5 billion in aid to the lending arms of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC eases a loan logjam for buyers that helped drag the industry to its worst slump since 1981. The automakers’ sales declined less than analysts expected in March after GM affiliate GMAC LLC received $6 billion from the U.S. Treasury in December, allowing it to loosen lending standards, and Chrysler Financial Corp. got $1.5 billion in January to foster borrowing for retail transactions. Tight credit had combined with low consumer confidence to slash new-vehicle purchases. While it’s too soon to expect a robust recovery, dealers and others say, the federal support is helping stabilize the industry. ...

134. General Motors Corp. is speeding up preparations for a possible bankruptcy filing even as directors seek deeper savings this week to avoid that outcome, people familiar with the plans said. The bankruptcy readiness focuses on forming a new company from GM’s best assets if necessary, said the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The cost-cut discussions center on how to go beyond GM’s proposal to slash debt by 46 percent and shed 47,000 jobs in 2009, and will include talks with Treasury officials, the people said. ...

135. Student loan company Sallie Mae plans to move its overseas operations back to the United States, creating 2,000 domestic jobs, in what analysts called an attempt to curry favor with the Obama administration. SLM Corp, as the company is legally known, said on Monday it plans to add staff over the next 18 months in call centers, information technology and operations support across the United States. A spokeswoman said the company will pull jobs from India, Mexico and the Philippines. The move will cost about $35 million per year, Chief Executive Albert Lord said at a press conference attended by Rep. Paul Kanjorski and Sen. Robert Casey, both Democrats from Pennsylvania, where the new jobs will be located. ...

136. Obama moves to block challenge to wiretapping program: President Barack Obama has invoked "state secrets" to prevent a court from reviewing the legality of the National Security Agency's warantless wiretapping program and moved late Friday to have a lawsuit challenging the program dismissed. The move -- which holds that information surrounding the massive eavesdropping program should be kept from the public because of its sensitivity -- follows an earlier decision in March to block handover of documents relating to the Bush Administration's decision to spy on a charity. The arguments also mirror the Bush Administration's efforts to dismiss an earlier suit against AT&T. ...

137. Administration Cracks Down on Foreclosure Schemes: In recent months, the Obama administration has taken steps to stem the tide of home foreclosures, unveiling a $275 billion plan to address the housing crisis, but now officials must also find a way to stop foreclosure schemes that prey on struggling homeowners. Today the administration will launch a multi-agency crack down on these schemes, with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Housing & Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announcing new measures at a Monday press conference in Washington. According to an administration official, they will "announce new initiatives to coordinate information and resources across agencies to maximize targeting and efficiency in fraud investigations, alert financial institutions to emerging schemes, step up enforcement actions and educate consumers to help those in financial trouble avoid becoming the victims of a loan modification or foreclosure rescue scam." ...

138. The Pentagon's 18-year ban on media coverage of fallen U.S. service members returning home ended quietly, with only an officer's sharp order to salute accompanying a single flag-covered casket being unloaded from a cargo plane. After receiving permission from family members, the military opened Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the media Sunday night for the return of the body of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Va. ...


139. Toxic debts racked up by banks and insurers could spiral to $4 trillion ($£2.7 trillion), new forecasts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are set to suggest. The IMF said in January that it expected the deterioration in US-originated assets to reach $2.2 trillion by the end of next year, but it is understood to be looking at raising that to $3.1 trillion in its next assessment of the global economy, due to be published on April 21. In addition, it is likely to boost that total by $900 billion for toxic assets originated in Europe and Asia. Banks and insurers, which so far have owned up to $1.29 trillion in toxic assets, are facing increasing losses as the deepening recession takes a toll, adding to the debts racked up from sub-prime mortgages. The IMF's new forecast, which could be revised again before the end of the month, will come as a blow to governments that have already pumped billions into the banking system. ...

140. Mike Mayo, who left Deutsche Bank AG last month and joined CLSA, assigned an “underweight” rating to U.S. banks and predicted loan losses will exceed levels from the Great Depression. U.S. stocks dropped after Mayo gave “sell” ratings to banks including Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based BB&T Corp. and Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Bancorp. Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the two biggest U.S. banks by assets, were assigned “underperform” ratings, Mayo said in a report today. “While certain mortgage problems are farther along, other areas are likely to accelerate, reflecting a rolling recession by asset class,” Mayo wrote. “New government actions might not help as much as expected, especially given that loans have been marked down to only 98 cents on the dollar, on average.” Meredith Whitney, who left Oppenheimer & Co. in February to found Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, said in a Forbes interview that banks will continue to write down their mortgage assets as home prices decline further than lenders expected. The unemployment rate also has exceeded banks’ projections and could lead to further loan losses, Whitney said. ...

141. London bankers' mighty pay has fallen from the highest level among global financial centers to the lowest, with Wall Street financiers grabbing the top spot, a poll showed on Sunday. According to the survey across a range of businesses and countries by Napier Scott recruiters, London bankers saw an average drop of 62 percent in their salaries and bonuses for 2008, and took home 40 percent less in remuneration than their New York counterparts. The pollsters noted that the devaluation of the British pound against both the dollar and the euro over the past year helped make London bankers' pay appear smaller. Private bankers came out as overall winners, seeing the smallest drop in pay. Managing directors at top private banks across Britain, Switzerland, Russia and Dubai pocketed 510,000 pounds ($747,800) on average. ...

142. Treasury Chief Says He’s Open to Ousting Heads of Frail Banks: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner says he is prepared to oust the senior management and directors at banks that require extensive aid from the federal government.

Foreign Affairs

143. Pakistan could collapse within six months in the face of the snowballing insurgency, a top expert on guerrilla warfare has said. The dire prediction was made by David Kilcullen, a former adviser to top US military commander General David Petraeus. David Kilcullen is the best known practitioner of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and had advised Gen Petraeus on the counter-insurgency programme in Iraq. Few experts understand the nature of the insurgency in Af-Pak as well and he is now advising Petraeus in Afghanistan. ...

144. The leading reformist candidate in upcoming Iranian presidential elections said Monday that if elected, he would negotiate with the U.S but that Iran would not give up its nuclear program. ...

145. Obama: 'US not at war with Islam': In what was the first address given to the Turkish parliament by a US president since Bill Clinton in 1996, Obama said: "Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United Stated is not at war with Islam ... if we are joined together in delivering that message East and West, to the world, I think we can have an extraordinary impact." He said "America's relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on opposition to al-Qaeda'' ...

146. The Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Watan reported today that Turkish security services have arrested a man of Syrian origins Friday in connection with a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama during his current visit to Turkey. The man, who was carrying an Al-Jazeera TV ID card in the name of M.G., confessed after his arrest that he was planning on stabbing the U.S. president with a knife during the Alliance of Civilizations summit held in Istanbul, adding that he had three other accomplices to help him execute his plan. ...

147. North Korea's rocket launch has sparked calls for Japan to consider developing a pre-emptive strike capability, though any such plan could undermine regional stability and attract only lukewarm support from voters. Tokyo did deploy naval and land-based ballistic missile defences over fears that part or all of the rocket North Korea launched over Japan on Sunday could have fallen on its territory. ...

148. Much of the international aid to Afghanistan over the past seven years has been spent to achieve military and political objectives, and the current approach to aid lacks “clarity, coherence and resolve”, a group of international NGOs has said. In a report to the heads of NATO-member states, 11 international NGOs operating in Afghanistan have warned about over-reliance on short-term military gains at the expense of longer-term peace and development . “There is a need for a truly comprehensive strategy for the long-term reconstruction and stabilisation of Afghanistan,” said the report entitled Caught in the Conflict (subtitled Civilians and the International Security Strategy in Afghanistan), released on 3 April. To prevent a blurring of the lines between military and humanitarian actors, aid agencies and NATO-led forces agreed on a modus operandi in 2008 but this is being largely ignored less than a year after it was signed, the report said. “We have seen no difference on the ground,” said Matt Waldman, Oxfam’s policy and advocacy manager in Kabul. ...

149. Key village near Kabul to be mine free by the end of 2009: A new housing development area for Afghan refugees near Kabul is being cleared of mines, with the urgency of the project becoming more acute as people are already living in the district and many more are continuing to arrive. Like other mine-contaminated areas in Afghanistan the village of Barek Ab near Bagram in Parwan province, 20 kilometres north of Kabul, poses a real risk to returnees mainly coming from Iran and Pakistan as well internally displaced persons who have settled there. The area is 450,000 square kilometres large and contaminated with mine and unexploded ordnance. The mine field is only a 100 yards away from the nearest residential houses and tents. It’s expected the village of Barek Ab will be declared mine free by December 2009. ...

150. Obama visit bolsters U.S.-Turkey ties: President Barack Obama's will seek on Monday to shore up ties with Turkey, a Muslim country with growing clout whose help Washington needs to solve confrontations and conflicts from Iran to Afghanistan. Here are some topics expected to be discussed during Obama's visit, his first to a Muslim country since elected president.

151. Obama reiterates U.S. support for Palestinian state: .S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States strongly supported the aim of setting up a Palestinian state living "side by side" and at peace with Israel. Obama reiterated the U.S. position after Israel's new foreign minister said last week that Israel was not bound by a deal to start negotiations on establishing a Palestinian state.

152. In case you missed it, here's a summary how President Obama spent his busy weekend in Germany, France and the Czech Republic.

153. President Obama's plans for reducing the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons and production of fissile materials signal changes ahead for the nation's nuclear strategy and weapons labs. "The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy," Obama said in a speech yesterday in Prague.

See you next week!
Discuss (21 comments) | Recommend (+14 votes)
Profile Information
Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to add this author to your ignore list
6239 posts
Member since 2001
Rick Santelli Tea Party Investigation
Start a Website in August for Future Outrage in February

Visitor Tools
Use the tools below to keep track of updates to this Journal.
Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals  |  Campaigns  |  Links  |  Store  |  Donate
About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.