Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Line of duty deaths among police officers go up

Texas policeThe shooting death of a Texas police officer late Tuesday adds to a grim toll: A law enforcement officer was killed every 53 hours in the United States this year, according to a new report.

Line-of-duty deaths jumped by 37% in 2010, according to the report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

An officer was killed Monday during a traffic stop in Atlanta. Late Tuesday night, an Arlington police officer was among three people killed in a shooting at an apartment complex.

These incidents are part of an overall trend of increased violence against police officers and law enforcement professionals this year. According to preliminary data compiled by the memorial fund, a total of 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 12 months, an alarming increase that follows two years of declining deaths among the nation's policing professionals.

While the sharpest increase has been in gun-related deaths, traffic-related incidents remained the number one cause of death among the nation's law enforcement officers for the 13th consecutive year. Seventy-three officers have been killed in traffic-related incidents this year, compared with 51 in 2009.

"Our law enforcement officers are being asked to do more today with less," said memorial fund Chairman Craig W. Floyd. "And it is putting their lives at risk."

During the past year, 18 officers were killed in Texas, the highest in any state. It was followed by California with 11, Illinois with 10, Florida with nine and Georgia with seven.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1792, nearly 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Air traffic scheduled to resume at NYC airports

NEW YORK — There's relief ahead for some travelers stranded at the New York-area's three major airports.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says flights are expected to begin arriving at Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports Monday evening.

At JFK, some people are being booked on flights to leave this evening. Other flights were listed as arriving on time.

However, some travelers may be delayed a bit longer.

Srinivas Tadakamalla's (SREE'-nee-voss todd-ah-kah-MAHL'-ah) has been stranded at JFK on his way home to St. Louis from India with his 5-year-old daughter and 22-month-old son. He says he's been told he can't get a flight until Thursday.

All flight operations were suspended Sunday night during a storm that dumped 20 inches of snow on the metropolitan area.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Senate vote on nuclear treaty may be defining moment for Obama

Washington — The upcoming Senate vote on a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty may turn out to be a defining moment for the Obama administration's foreign policy.

If he wins the support of at least two-thirds of the Senate for the New START agreement in a vote that may come as early as Tuesday, President Obama could build on the victory as he turns to a long list of foreign policy challenges — including Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and his broader plans to limit nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Profit From the Compromise Tax Deal In 2011

The compromise tax deal was signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, and continues to draw fire from critics on both sides of the political aisle. The $858 billion tax package isn't paid for. In fact, it actually costs more than the controversial Obama stimulus plan that has been criticized for having little measurable impact - even as it caused the budget deficit and the U.S. debt burden to explode.

And yet, investors have been cheered by the deal.

Near term, that's an acceptable perception. But in the long run, some very real problems loom. Investors who ignore those problems will take a real beating - and it will be self-inflicted. But investors who prepare for the inevitable will actually improve their positions: They'll not only protect themselves, they will profit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

US tax chief eyes more banks, possible new amnesty

The US tax chief said leads from the landmark case against UBS AG, which admitted helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through offshore accounts, point toward other banks and financial advisers in Asia and the Middle East.

Douglas Shulman, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, also said the agency was considering a new amnesty program for tax evaders.

UBS last year admitted helping US clients avoid taxes by stashing money overseas. It paid a fine of USD 780 million to the US government and agreed to hand over the names of thousands of accounts to settle the case.

The IRS has been sifting through information from 18,000 accounts from individuals who came forward under an amnesty program designed to lure the wealthy to declare their assets. That includes 3,000 additional disclosures that came forward after the amnesty ended.

"This information has already proved invaluable in supplementing and corroborating prior leads, as well as developing new leads, involving numerous banks," Shulman said in remarks prepared for delivery to a tax conference.

The winding down of the UBS case has revived speculation about which banks US authorities will target next.

Clients of HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest bank, received letters in June from the US Justice Department notifying them that they are targets of a criminal probe.

Shulman said the agency is considering a new amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers, but the terms will not be as generous as for the last one.

Lawyers for the wealthy have complained that there is no clarity in terms of penalties for individuals who want to come forward.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How online retailers stay a step ahead of comparison shoppers

The American consumer is back for the first holiday season since 2007. But while shoppers are hitting the malls, they're also being choosy - and comparison shopping is more easily done online. Web sales will rise 11 percent in November and December, according to ComScore, compared with about 3 percent for sales in bricks-and-mortar stores. Online shoppers can get better prices and perks like free shipping. Online merchants, however, are not exactly defenseless. One way they fight back against picky customers is through "dynamic pricing," also called "discriminatory," "personalized," or "variable" pricing. And, for the most part, customers have no idea it is happening.

In its most brazen form, it works like this: Retailers read the cookies kept on your browser or glean information from your past purchase history when you are logged into a site. That gives them a sense of what you search for and buy, how much you paid for it, and whether you might be willing and able to spend more.

They alter their prices or offers accordingly. Consumers - in the few cases they recognize it is going on, by shopping in two browsers simultaneously, for instance - tend to go apoplectic. But the practice is perfectly legal, and increasingly common - pervasive, even, for some products.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Obama and GOP in Deal on Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.

The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.

Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.

Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed.

“It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pentagon study: Gays could serve without harm

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon study on gays in the military has determined that overturning the law known as "don't ask, don't tell" might cause some disruption at first but would not create any widespread or long-lasting problems.

The study provided ammunition to congressional Democrats struggling to overturn the law. Even with the release of Tuesday's study, however, there was no indication they could overcome fierce Republican objections with just a few weeks left in the year-ending session of Congress. Democrats will be in the minority when Congress reconvenes in early January.

"We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war," wrote the study co-chairs Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Congress should act quickly because of a recent effort by a federal judge to overturn the law.

Gates said the military needs time to prepare for such a change, even though he said he did not envision any changes to personnel policy that would be needed. He said a sudden court-issued mandate would significantly increase the risk of causing disruption to the force.

"Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts," Gates told reporters.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Obama touts Chrysler return

A week after General Motors made a showy return to Wall Street, President Obama highlighted the revival of the other bailed-out auto company during a trip to an Indiana transmission factory.

The campaign-style visit to a Chrysler plant here, a city battered by plant closures, was meant to underscore the message that the stimulus, the auto-company bailouts and other federal measures had prevented even worse economic devastation.

The unemployment rate in Kokomo has dropped from 20 percent last year to 12 percent, thanks in part to $400 million in stimulus money and the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, administration officials said.

"No, we aren't out of the woods yet," Obama said at the plant. "It took a lot of years to get us into this mess. It will take longer than anybody would like to get us out. But I want everybody to be absolutely clear, we are moving in the right direction."

The appearance highlighted the administration's efforts to revive Chrysler, which has four plants in the city, employing nearly 4,500. The smaller of the two bailed-out automakers, Chrysler faced far graver challenges than did General Motors during the downturn.

Although both companies had been staggered by financial burdens, Chrysler also suffered from a nearly empty pipeline of products. Many analysts and some within the administration argued that the company should not be saved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bush Recollection Puts Spotlight on Miscarriage

But the scene, described by former President George W. Bush in his interview with Matt Lauer of NBC News on Monday night, has started a national conversation — both about his mother, Barbara Bush, and about the complex psychological fallout from miscarriage.

Mr. Bush called his mother’s action “straightforward,” and added that it illustrated “how my mom and I developed a relationship.” Some opponents of abortion reacted approvingly. Other commentators called Mrs. Bush’s behavior the action of a depressed and angry person.

But experts say the incident is hard to interpret half a century after the fact. Indeed, it was extraordinary in at least one respect, they add: Mrs. Bush made a point of directly confronting the loss at a time when the subject was largely taboo.

When a middle-class woman miscarried in postwar America, doctors often whisked the fetus away as if there were no loss of life at all, only embarrassment; women whispered about it between themselves but hardly ever discussed it openly.

“It wasn’t thought of as losing a life; it was more like a medical mishap,” said Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, a physician and the author of “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth” (Norton, 2010). “And although women felt it privately, they didn’t feel it was worthy of going to see someone, or seeking help.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Five ways the election will change Washington

WASHINGTON — Voters say they want change.Again.

Two years after President Obama was swept into office on a message of hope, he faces what may be a historic rebuke from midterm voters, including millions of independents who supported him last time. Four years after California liberal Nancy Pelosi triumphantly claimed the House speaker's gavel for the Democrats, Ohio conservative John Boehner is poised to take it away for the Republicans.

Those reversals reflect continuing dissatisfaction with the country's course and its politics, especially as the nation struggles to recover from a deep recession. In this election, as in the past two, voters have moved toward whichever party promised to shake things up: Democrats in 2006 and 2008, Republicans in 2010.

This time, if Republicans win control of the House and shave the Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama will be forced to forge new working relationships with the GOP.

MIDTERMS: Jobs, economic security top issues

In Congress, a freshman class of Tea Party members is likely to clash not only with Democrats but also with the establishment Republicans who tried to defeat them in GOP primaries. And the capital's agenda increasingly will focus on what political scientist John Pitney calls "the politics of subtraction" — reducing federal spending.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicago is Clinton's latest stop to rally Dems

CHICAGO -- Former President Bill Clinton rallied voters Tuesday to keep Democrats in control of Illinois, especially in the races for governor and President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat as Republicans gain razor-thin leads.

To rally goers, his swing through a state where every statewide office is held by a Democrat - and Obama's planned visit later this week - were signs the party believes Illinois is still winnable. Chicago was Clinton's latest stop as he crisscrosses the country urging Democrats to turn out in force on Nov. 2.

"If they had said we'll go someplace else, skip Illinois ... that would have been a very bad sign," said Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, who was among the few hundred party faithful who turned out for Clinton's rally at a downtown Chicago hotel.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Calif. gov debate overshadowed by personal jabs

Coming into their final debate of the California governor's race, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman had a chance to persuade a statewide audience they could turn around the economically troubled state.

Instead, their third face-to-face exchange resorted to many of the personal attacks that have dominated the last few weeks of the campaign.

Neither candidate presented any new ideas in a contest that is virtually tied just three weeks before Election Day and in which a fifth of voters remain undecided. A poll released two weeks ago found about half the respondents were dissatisfied with both candidates.

Before Brown and Whitman walked on stage, moderator and former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw told the audience at Dominican University that he planned to address not just the critical economic woes facing the nation's most populous state but the tone of the campaign.

The debate followed several weeks of personal attacks that had both candidates on the defensive — Whitman over revelations that her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant and Brown over an audio tape in which a female campaign aide called Whitman a "whore" for pandering to a Los Angeles police union.

While the first few minutes of the debate were civil, with Brown and Whitman touting California's potential and the tough decisions ahead, much of the hour-long face-off was dominated with rehashed verbal jousting on nearly every issue.

It left 66-year-old independent voter Tom Callinam of Mill Valley with little insight into the candidates' plans if elected governor.

"I have a hard choice. I haven't decided yet. I don't think that debate helped because of all the canned answers," said Callinam, who attended the debate. "I would have liked them to answer the questions."

Brown, 72, sought to describe Whitman as a billionaire corporate executive who wants to buy herself the state's top job to benefit herself and wealthy friends. Whitman, 54, repeatedly called her rival a career politician beholden to public employee unions who would continue the "same old, same old" failed policies in Sacramento.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Nasdaq drops, S&P dips on worries about tech demand

Tech shares slumped on Wednesday, hit by worries about demand for semiconductors and data storage.

The Nasdaq bore the brunt of the day's selling, led by data system services provider Citrix Systems (CTXS.O). The stock was down in sympathy with small-cap Equinix Inc (EQIX.O), which plunged 33.1 percent to $70.34 after it issued a revenue warning late Tuesday. Citrix slid 14.1 percent to $60.15.

"You are starting to see a natural rotation and some profit taking in the cloud computing sector that has been red hot in the last few months," said TD Ameritrade chief options strategist Joe Kinahan in Chicago.

"So those investors that currently own Citrix are reconsidering the valuation at these levels."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Obama promotes family-friendly hours at businesses

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama promoted flexible hours and other family-friendly workplace policies Tuesday, telling a conference of female business leaders that such arrangements are more than a women's issue.

While addressing Fortune magazine's 2010 "Most Powerful Women Summit," Obama said companies with flexible arrangements can have lower turnover and absenteeism and higher productivity.

Obama said he wants federal agencies to be models with policies like mobile workplaces and flexible schedules. He urged that employees be judged "by the results they get, not the facetime they log."

Obama also supports paid leave programs and child tax credits.

The Fortune event, in its 12th year, brought together hundreds of women who have succeeded in fields from business to education to philanthropy. Obama said their achievements show how much progress women have made in the workplace since his grandmother hit a "glass ceiling" after becoming a bank vice president in Hawaii.

But, the president said in a dinner speech the Carnegie Mellon Auditorium, "we still have a ways to go."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Obama holds 1st summit on community colleges at WH

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is turning the education spotlight on community colleges, enlisting career teacher Jill Biden to preside over the first White House summit on the system of schools he's counting on to help produce an additional 8 million graduates by 2020.

While providing millions of students with skills training and a less expensive path to a college degree, these schools are challenged by climbing enrollments, high dropout rates and large numbers of students who come from high school needing significant remedial education before they can tackle college level work, officials say.

What works — and does not work — at community colleges will be topics of discussion at Tuesday's summit.

Obama is scheduled to deliver opening remarks.

The daylong exercise will involve representatives from community colleges, business, philanthropy and government in discussions about how these schools can meet the increased demand for job training and also help fulfill Obama's wish for the U.S. to become the world's top producer of college graduates by 2020.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ayodhya verdict: disputed site to be split between Hindus and Muslims

Muslims revere the compound in Ayodhya, north India, as the site of the now-demolished 16th century Babri Mosque, while Hindus say it is the birthplace of the god Rama.

The Allahabad High Court ruled that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of one-third and two Hindu groups splitting the remainder, according to Ravi Shankar Prasad, a lawyer for one of the parties to the suit.

The Hindus will keep the area where a small tent-shrine to Rama has been erected, he said.

"The majority ruled that the location of the makeshift temple is the birthplace of Rama, and this spot cannot be shifted," he said.

The court also ruled that the current status of the site should continue for the next three months to allow for the land to be peacefully measured and divided, he said.

Thousands of paramilitary and riot police have been deployed in India as the country was braced for violence following the ruling.

Ever since the destruction of the mosque 18 years ago the site has been cordoned off with barbed wire and steel fencing and guarded by troops.

A total of 200,000 police and paramilitary forces patrolled the streets of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, with tens of thousands on special duty in other areas around the country that are vulnerable to religious clashes.

The full verdict of the bench hearing the case has not yet been released to the public.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Calls for longer school years face budget reality

NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama's call for a longer school day and year for America's kids echoes a similar call he made a year ago to little effect, illustrating just how deeply entrenched the traditional school calendar is and how little power the federal government has to change it.

Education reformers have long called for U.S. kids to log more time in the classroom so they can catch up with their peers elsewhere in the world, but resistance from leisure-loving teenagers isn't the only reason there is no mass movement to keep schoolchildren in their seats.

Such a change could cost cash-strapped state governments and local school districts billions of dollars, strip teachers of a time-honored perk of their profession, and irk officials in states that already bridle at federal intrusion into their traditional control over education.

"If you extend the school year for, say, five days, you're paying for another week of salaries, another week of utilities and another week of fuel for, in South Carolina, 5,700 school buses," said Jim Foster, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Education.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Year End Tax Planning 2010 – Still no Resolution

With the Bush government’s income tax cuts expiration in 2009, the US government is in a soup about the 2010 year end tax planning. The Congress and the White House are in constant talks to figure whether or not to extend the provision, and if so, for how long. With three months left for the year to end, citizens and the government have limited time to figure out the tax scenario.

Another challenge for the government along with the expired myriad tax break is a whole lot of other provisions that expire at the end of this year. The alternative minimum tax “patch” is yet to be approved for the 2010 tax year and the estate tax is not in play this year.

Though the government has been doing a lot of meeting and talking, a final decision and solution is yet to be found. If a solution and decision is not reached soon, the estate tax for one will come back in 2011 at a low US $1 million exemption.

While the conservative Democrats are all for the extension of the tax break for all American citizens, President Obama is considering the extension only for those who have an annual income of less that US $250,000.

The year end tax planning for this year just gets murkier and more confusing with taxpayers expecting the indecision and confusion passing well into 2011 as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small-business tax breaks clear a hurdle in the Senate

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats, bolstered by the support of two retiring Republicans, beat back a filibuster yesterday to clear the way for a bill packed with tax breaks and other benefits for small businesses.

The measure, which was opposed by Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and 36 of his GOP colleagues, would create a $30 billion government fund to encourage lending and would eliminate capital gains taxes for long-term investors in some small businesses.

President Obama has called it a much-needed salve for small businesses struggling to recover from the recession.

Last week Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, chided his party’s foot-dragging on the bill and vowed to support it, the first of several economic initiatives the White House has been pushing since Congress returned from its summer recess. George LeMieux of Florida joined Voinovich to support closing debate on the bill, which clears it for final passage this week. Neither man is seeking reelection.

Brown, however, called the bill another bailout.

“This bill includes a provision just like TARP,’’ he said after voting against the bill. “Banks making lending decisions with government funds is not the way to get our economy moving again.’’

His Senate Democratic counterpart, John Kerry, declared the vote a victory. “This bill provides vital aid to the small businesses that can drive growth and create jobs in these tough economic times,’’ Kerry, who previously chaired the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement.

Kerry wrote some of the provisions in the bill, including an extension of some Small Business Administration lending programs and fee waivers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Obama to tout economic strategy in press conference

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama will Friday step up his mid-term election campaign and appeal to voters dismayed by the stuttering economy with his first White House press conference since May.

Obama scheduled the appearance at 11:00 am (1500 GMT) to press home the case on his recovery plans, but the event may be overtaken by the fast-moving controversy over a Florida pastor's on-hold threat to torch the Koran.

The president's appearance comes at the end of a week in which Obama has tried to reframe the political climate ahead of November's congressional polls in which his Democrats fear heavy losses.

He admitted in a television interview Wednesday that his party would not do well in the election if it became a judgment on the state of the economy in the wake of the worst financial meltdown in decades.

"If the election is a referendum on are people satisfied about the economy as it currently is, then we're not going to do well," Obama told ABC News.

"I think everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it's been doing," Obama said.

"My challenge, and the challenge of every Democratic candidate who's out there is just making sure the people understand there's a choice here."

A Quinnipiac University poll published on Thursday made uncomfortable reading for the administration, with voters disapproving of his handling of the economy -- the major election issue -- by 56 to 39 percent.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Obama to back more business tax breaks

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will call on Congress to pass new tax breaks that would allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their new capital investments through 2011, the latest in a series of proposals the White House is rolling out in hopes of showing action on the economy ahead of the November elections.

An administration official said the tax breaks would save businesses $200 billion over two years, allowing companies to have more cash on hand. The president will outline the proposal during a speech on the economy in Cleveland Wednesday.

Amid an uptick in unemployment to 9.6 percent, and polls showing that the November election could be dismal for Democrats, Obama has promised to propose new steps to stimulate the economy. In addition to the business investment tax breaks, he will also call for a $50 billion infrastructure investment and a permanent expansion of research and development tax credits for companies.

The proposals would requires congressional approval, which is highly uncertain given Washington's partisan atmosphere. With the public worried about adding to the mounting federal deficits, and Republicans saying spending is out of control, even many Democratic lawmakers are reluctant to approve new spending so close to the midterm elections.

Even if legislators could pass some of the proposals in the short window between their return to Capitol Hill in mid-September and the elections, it's unlikely the efforts would significantly stimulate the economy by November.

Several million people and 1.5 million businesses would benefit from the tax breaks, said the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement has not been made.

The official estimated the ultimate cost to taxpayers over 10 years would be $30 billion, with most of the money lost in tax revenue being recouped as the economy strengthens.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Celebratory Road Trip for Education Secretary

No, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is not a candidate for office. But yes, his bus tour through Maine, New Hampshire and other Northeast states had all the trappings of a political campaign.

Mr. Duncan’s tour, coinciding with back-to-school season, was billed as a way to honor teachers. But the road trip also felt like a victory lap after last week’s announcement that nine states and the District of Columbia had won the Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s most prized education initiative.

The competition was the rarest of rarities: a government grant program that became a household phrase, and brought arcane education policy onto morning television shows.

By the Education Department’s count, the competition for $4.3 billion in federal funds at a time of state budget crises prodded 34 states to change laws or policies to align themselves with the administration’s goals for change.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama pledges Gulf Coast recovery on anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged yesterday to finish restoring the Gulf Coast area hit by Hurricane Katrina, five years after the storm ravaged the region.

Mr Obama visited New Orleans - the city hardest hit by the disaster - with his family at the end of a week-and-a-half holiday on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

During the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Mr Obama sharply criticised then-President George W. Bush for his administration's slow response to the flooding and devastation that played out live on television.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina left the region submerged, killing 1,800 people. Pictured is a general view of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana, eights days after the disaster

Ahead of November's congressional elections, Mr Obama used his speech to highlight his administration's action since taking office, drawing an implicit contrast without naming Republicans or Bush by name.

'It was a natural disaster, but also a man-made catastrophe, a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men and women and children abandoned and alone,' Mr Obama said in a speech at Xavier University.

On the most recent calamity to hit the region, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr Obama promised to reverse the damage it caused and hold energy giant BP accountable.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

University must release Palin contract

California State University at Stanislaus and its private foundation violated public records laws and will have to release the speakers contract with Sarah Palin they had tried to keep secret, a judge has ruled.

The details of Palin's contract to speak at a June 25 fundraiser for the foundation became national news last spring after foundation officials refused to tell state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, how much Palin would be paid.

Yee has been trying to change a state law that shields campus foundations from public scrutiny.

The Palin story grew more bizarre in April after students found discarded pieces of the secret contract in a Dumpster on the property of the public university - after university officials told Yee and CalAware, an open-government group, that they didn't have any of Palin-related documents.

CalAware sued, and in May, the foundation released hundreds of pages of Palin-related paperwork - but not the contract. Among them were e-mails showing that Charles Reed, chancellor of the 23-campus CSU system, favored suppressing the contract to avoid news stories about its contents.

That e-mail, and the finding that the university did possess Palin documents, led Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne to order the Turlock campus to release Palin's contract

Monday, August 23, 2010

Candidates fending off reformist challengers

Tomorrow’s primaries in Arizona and Florida appear likely to deliver a few surprises for anyone who accepted the conventional wisdom of just a few months ago.

At that time, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was considered in danger of becoming the next victim of a Tea Party movement uprising that was threatening Republican candidates who were viewed as straying from conservative orthodoxy.

In what was taken as a sign of his nervousness, he brought in his 2008 vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, who vouched for his conservative bona fides. Now he enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls over his challenger, former representative J.D. Hayworth.

In Florida’s Democratic primary for US senator, Representative Kendrick Meek was nearly written off earlier this summer as he was being buried under an avalanche of television ads from his wealthy opponent, political novice Jeff Greene. Today, Meek leads Greene in the polls.

The contests offer more evidence that establishment candidates can prosper in this year of the outsider. They also are a reminder that personal wealth cannot overcome personal flaws, particularly among political novices.

Long before Hayworth emerged as a likely challenger, McCain took steps to protect himself, according to advisers. He concluded soon after he lost the 2008 presidential race that his party’s base was rapidly moving into a posture of total opposition to President Obama. McCain quickly became an outspoken opponent of the president on virtually all major issues.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

President Obama begins 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard

WASHINGTON - President Obama on Thursday starts a 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard, where he can enjoy watching the sun sink below the horizon - instead of his poll numbers.

The summer playground off the Massachusetts coast is brimming with Secret Service agents and extra state police. A Coast Guard cutter will patrol the waters off the property.

"I do think that just like a lot of American people, the President is taking a little time with his family to recharge his batteries," spokesman Bill Burton said.

Not that the burdens of the presidency may not interrupt him. Obama has a knack for scheduling his break when big events intrude.

Last summer, Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away while the Obamas were on the Vineyard, and Obama went to Boston to speak at his funeral.

During their Christmas holidays in Hawaii, the underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane bound for Detroit, leaving people asking at the time who was in charge when the terrorist nearly struck.

The White House is taking steps to make sure Obama keeps plugged in, even while he's on one of the island's members-only golf courses.

"Whenever you talk about a presidential vacation, you ought to put the word 'vacation' in quotes because you can bet that there will still be work that he's doing every day," Burton said.

"He'll continue to get his daily intelligence brief from [deputy national security adviser] John Brennan, who will be there. He'll be getting constant updates on what's happening in the economy and other issues," Burton explained.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stocks down slightly in thin trading after rally

Stocks were mostly lower Wednesday as investors find little incentive to extend the previous day's rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 30 points and all the other major indexes fell.

There was little news to motivate investors to continue the rally that sent the Dow up 103 points Tuesday. Target Corp. missed analysts' forecasts for its second-quarter revenue.

Target's report came a day after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. helped feed the stock rally with upbeat numbers. So investors were again presented with numbers that appeared contradictory, and that spelled more uncertainty about the economy.

Wednesday's trading was muted however, and that was to be expected after investors on Tuesday showed their first real enthusiasm for stocks in weeks and sent the Dow up 103 points. There were no big economic reports planned Wednesday. And any big gains were likely to be given back simply because investors don't trust stocks to put together a solid advance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

California gay marriage on hold as case appealed

U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday that same-sex couples could not marry in California while the court considers the constitutionality of the state's ban on gay marriage.

But the panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals set an aggressive schedule for the case, with briefings in the fall and a hearing the week of December 6.

California's ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, passed in November 2008, setting off emotional reactions among both opponents and supporters of the ban.

Liberals questioned how trend-setting California could fall in line with roughly 40 other states that ban same-sex unions, while social conservatives boasted that their cause had national backing.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled earlier this month that the ban was unconstitutional.

Last week he said gay marriages could resume while higher courts considered the matter. But the brief ruling by the three-judge appellate panel reverses that, prohibiting gay marriage during the appeal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama to visit Milwaukee, Los Angeles on Monday

WASHINGTON — Back from his whirlwind Florida getaway, President Barack Obama returns to the road for a trip to the Milwaukee area — and Los Angeles.

The president travels to Menomonee Falls, Wis., on Monday, where he will tour ZBB Energy Corp., which makes batteries and fuel cells for renewable-energy products. Then he'll headline a $250-a-plate fundraiser for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is in a competitive race for governor. Barrett was one of the earliest supporters of Obama when he ran for president in 2008.

Then it's off to Los Angeles, where Obama will deliver remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee finance event. The president will spend the night in Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Obama's press secretary slams professional left

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has taken aim at the "professional left" for being unnecessarily harsh on U.S. President Barack Obama and pushing for a Canadian-style health-care system.

"They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we've eliminated the Pentagon," the normally affable Gibbs says in an explosive interview published Tuesday in the congressional newspaper The Hill. "That's not reality."

Those on the left who claim Obama as president isn't much different than George W. Bush, he added, "ought to be drug-tested."

The remarks sent immediate shockwaves through Washington, particularly among the very liberals who have expressed disappointment with the president since his historic election in November 2008 on a message of hope and change.

By mid-day Tuesday, Gibbs was expressing remorse about his comments in a statement aimed at attempting to explain his frustration at the criticism confronting his boss.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Primary winners highlight political inexperience

WASHINGTON — All hail inexperience the less familiarity with politics the better, no matter the party or state.

"This election is the first time my name has ever been on a ballot," appointed Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said Tuesday night, hours after dispatching his rival in a bitter Democratic primary.

Two major mountain ranges away, first-time Republican candidate Linda McMahon said it slightly differently.

"The support of the voters of Connecticut isn't bestowed by the establishment or the pundits or the media. It isn't a birthright," the former World Wrestling Entertainment executive said after winning the GOP senatorial nomination in her first run for office.

Bennet and McMahon were two of the most distinctive winners on a busy primary night, one an incumbent who proved able to handle the type of primary challenge that has claimed lawmakers elsewhere, the other the epitome of the conservative outsider who will carry the GOP banner into the fall campaign, with control of Congress and 37 governorships at stake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Obama attacks Bush policies in Bush's home state

President Barack Obama attacked the economic policies of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush in Bush's home state on Monday as evidence of the way Republicans would operate if given power in November 2 U.S. congressional elections.

At a fund-raising event for Democrats in Dallas, where Bush now lives, Obama said the former president's "disastrous" policies had driven the U.S. economy into the ground and turned budget surpluses into deficits.

Obama defended his repeated references to Bush's policies, saying they were necessary to remind Americans of the weak economy he inherited from Bush in January 2009.

"The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future, do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?" Obama said at another fund-raising event in Austin, referring to Bush's eight years as president.

In reminding voters about the policies of the unpopular Bush, Obama is trying to protect his fellow Democrats' majorities in Congress and limit anticipated Republican gains.

On November 2, voters will choose all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 37 members of the 100-seat Senate.

Republicans say they doubt Obama's effort to cite Bush as a reason to vote against them in November will work because Americans are more concerned about getting or keeping a job.

"When we talk about this 'going back' thing, I notice that some Republicans say, 'Well, he just wants to bash the previous administration, he's looking backwards.' ... No, no, no. The reason we're focused on it is because the other side isn't offering anything new," Obama said in Austin.

Monday, August 09, 2010

First woman to head major US intelligence agency

The United States has had three female secretaries of state _ but until now has never had a woman lead one of its 16 major intelligence agencies.

Letitia A. Long is being elevated Monday to director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in a ceremony at the agency's half-built, high-tech campus in Springfield, Va.

The "Jetsons"-style rounded wedge of buildings is rising from a vast construction site near Fort Belvoir. The NGA's staff, now spread across the Washington metropolitan area, is slated to relocate there by fall 2011.

Long's 32-year career has led to a series of senior management positions: deputy director of Naval Intelligence, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and, most recently, second in command at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Long represents the vanguard of women in the intelligence community.

Women represent 38 percent of total intelligence work force, according to Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for the Director of National Intelligence. In six most prominent agencies, 27 percent of senior intelligence positions are held by women.

Long has taken over one of the "top computer geek shops" in the national security world. The NGA synthesizes satellite imagery, using everything from the number of electric lines a city has to the density of the soil, to create three-dimensional, interactive maps of every spot on the planet. They're used by everyone from invading troops gauging whether a country's roads or deserts can handle tank tracks, to oil spill cleanup crews trying to decide where to deploy resources.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Gay Marriage Ruling a Challenge for Both Parties

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge’s decision on Wednesday overturning Proposition 8 California’s ban on same-sex marriage has tossed a largely unwanted issue into the middle of the November midterm elections.

The decision, which ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, has complicated the political tasks before President Obama, whose aides had to explain in the wake of the decision that the president supported equal gay rights but opposed marriage rights for gay men and lesbians.

Meanwhile, Republicans said that dwelling on the issue could become a distraction in the effort to win back the House or Senate from Democrats this fall. At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Kansas City, Mo., several party leaders and strategists said it would be a mistake for the midterm election campaign to suddenly become focused on gay marriage, immigration or other hot-button issues. The only path to winning control of Congress, they said, rested on making an economic argument.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

President Obama celebrates birthday in Chicago

CHICAGO – It wasn’t much of a party, just President Barack Obama catching up with some close friends and Oprah Winfrey over dinner in his adopted hometown. His wife and kids were away, but they called to wish him a “Happy Birthday.” His dog, Bo, made the trip, along with an aide to take him for walks. He played cards on the flight from Washington. He got to sleep in his own home.

And that’s how the president celebrated turning 49 on Wednesday, with a relatively low-key overnight stay in Chicago.

That might seem a bit ordinary for the commander in chief, but Obama has only been back to visit Chicago a handful of times since moving to Washington 20 months ago. And while he may have spent the night there without his family, he had plenty of company throughout his big day.

Obama got “Happy Birthday” wishes from AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka when he spoke to the labor group’s executive council Wednesday morning. The audience in the East Room ceremony for 2010 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal serenaded him. A little girl in his Chicago neighborhood held a sign that was almost as big as her just to say, "Happy 49th Birthday President Barack Obama.”

McCain Coburn Spotlight Failing Stimulus Projects

Republican Sens. John released a report today profiling 100 stimulus projeMcCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) cts they say represent the failings of the stimulus package.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "passed with assurances that it would stem the loss of American jobs and keep the economy from floundering," reads the introduction of the report, Summer Time Blues: 100 Stimulus Projects that Give Taxpayers the Blues during the Summer of Recovery." "As most can see, it hasn't."

The projects spotlighted represent just a tiny percentage of the more than 70,000 stimulus projects underway. Coburn said at a press conference, however, that the point of the report is to show that the stimulus is not getting Americans the "best bang for our buck." The program, he said, has raised the national debt while funding inappropriate projects.

"There is no question that this stimulus bill has had a positive effect on the economy to a certain degree, and what our criticism is, it could have had far greater effect," Coburn said.

The report highlights projects funded by the stimulus such as a water park in New York, research into whether yoga can reduce hot flashes, and a sidewalk in Boynton, Oklahoma that leads into a ditch.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

US combat mission in Iraq to end

Barack Obama said the US strategy in Iraq will shift "from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats" by the end of this month, in the first of a series of speeches trumpeting the success of his administration's policy.

After a seven-year conflict costing US taxpayers some $700bn and the lives of more than 4,000 American troops, Obama proclaimed that the withdrawal of US forces was happening "as promised, on schedule," fulfilling his pledge as a presidential candidate to bring the conflict in Iraq to a "responsible end".

"As we mark the end of America's combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there," Obama told the Disabled Veterans of America conference in Atlanta today, using a phrase that recalls George Bush's ill-fated claim on 1 May 2003 that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended".

In an attempt to avoid the premature triumphalism that damaged Bush's presidency, Obama also warned: "The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq."

Today's speech comes after a year in which Obama's administration has been concentrating on the conflict in Afghanistan and on US domestic policy, as the economy has remained the public's top concern and Democrats have wrestled with passing landmark healthcare and financial regulation reform

The withdrawal of American troops and the shift to a "civilian effort" will, however, likely include a build-up in contractors working for the US State Department, driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft and disposing of explosive devices, according to a report by McClatchy Newspapers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Economy erodes election hope for Democrats

President Obama makes remarks on the Senate campaign finance reform vote in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Americans by a large majority believe President Barack Obama has not focused enough on job creation, as economic fears threaten Democrats ahead of November 2 congressional elections, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found on Tuesday.

In a sign of trouble ahead for the Democrats, the poll found evidence of a sizable enthusiasm gap with Republicans more energized about voting in the elections.

Americans expressed deep unhappiness with the direction of the economy, which in the poll they identified overwhelmingly as the country's top problem.

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a stubbornly high 9.5 percent and Obama has spent much of the year on issues like Wall Street reform and healthcare in addition to jobs.

People were more negative about Obama's performance on the economy than on any other question surveyed. Satisfaction was dropping more sharply on the issue than on any other question.

Only 34 percent approved of Obama's handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009, shortly after he took office, when more than half of those surveyed approved of Obama's handling of the worst financial crisis in decades.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

President Obama to defend education plan

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver major speeches this week on their $4.35 billion Race to the Top school reform program, pushing back against complaints that it promotes unproven methods and ignores long-standing inequities in public education.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Duncan is expected to name a list of state finalists for the controversial grant program’s second round of funding and to explain why Race to the Top — the crown jewel of the administration’s education agenda — must continue. And on Thursday, Obama will talk about education at the annual gathering of the National Urban League, one of seven civil rights organizations that blasted Race to the Top in a report made public Monday.

The highly competitive initiatives “distribute resources by competition in the midst of a severe recession,” effectively reducing standard, formula-based federal education funding, according to the report. “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Obama holds up a document of Republican solutions

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama who rocketed to the White House promising "change you can believe in," is now telling voters they shouldn't change a thing.

His message for the fall elections, which are looking ominous for his Democrats, is that Republicans caused the nation's economic troubles, but he and the Democrats are starting to fix them. So stick with the Democrats and don't go back to the GOP.

"This is a choice between the policies that led us into the mess or the policies that are leading out of the mess," Obama said recently in Las Vegas.

Trouble is, it's a tough sell to voters who've seen little progress.

Unemployment is stuck near double digits and polls show many voters have decided Obama's policies are to blame, not his predecessor's.

Obama often frames the argument by saying that Republicans had their chance to drive, then drove the car into a ditch and shouldn't get the keys back. But voters may be concluding that Democrats, who control the White House and both chambers of Congress, have had their chance at the wheel, too, and haven't gotten very far.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rep. Charles Rangel vows to stay put and beat ethics rap

Washington - When a reporter asked embattled Rep. Charles Rangel if his trial on ethics charges would hurt other Democrats, he shrugged and said, "Pain is pain."

But when a House ethics panel lays out the charges against him Thursday, the pain won't be just Rangel's.

Some of the most powerful people in America will wince with him - and hope he beats the rap.

Among them are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and a throng of fans at the White House.

"Charlie has friends up and down Pennsylvania Ave.," a White House source said.

And while at least one Democrat has called on Rangel to step down for the sake of the party - Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) - he stood firm yesterday.

"Well, it wouldn't be the American thing to do [to step aside]. I think I owe it to the process to find out first what the investigative committee finds out," Rangel told reporters after speaking at Harlem Hospital.

Most Democrats, and many Republicans, see the 80-year-old Harlem Democrat and Korean War vet as likeable and extremely effective.

"When he walks into a room, you know he's the guy, he's just the guy, and that's what Charlie is to our delegation," said 11-term Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx).

"Charlie is the man around whom we all gathered," added Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx).

From his 40 years in the House, Rangel also is unsurpassed in knowing how to work the system.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quantcast Bowing to political reality, Senate Democrats drop broad energy bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by Sen. John F. Kerry and White House energy czar Carol Browner, blamed the GOP for the impasse.

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada — who had promised to bring a sweeping energy bill with an emissions cap to the Senate floor by the August recess — said he would instead offer a scaled-back bill focused largely on responding to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama We made enormous progress this week

President Obama did a victory lap of sorts today, trumpeting three new laws approved this week that will help "repair the damage to our economy from this recession:" New financial firm regulations, an anti-government waste initiative, and an extension of unemployment benefits.

"We made enormous progress this week on Wall Street reform, on making sure that we're eliminating waste and abuse in government, and in providing immediate assistance to people who are out there looking for work," Obama said during brief remarks at the White House.

The president went on to urge Congress to pass a new loan program for small business owners so they can hire more people. "Our goal is to make sure that people who are looking for a job can find a job," said Obama, who is currently coping with an unemployment rate of 9.5%.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, had a different interpretation of Obama's domestic program, saying it has actually slowed economic recovery.

"For more than a year and a half, the President and his Democrat allies on Capitol Hill have pushed an anti-business, anti-jobs agenda on the American people in the form of one massive government intrusion after another," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Senate Democrats abandon comprehensive energy bill

Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned plans to pass an energy bill that caps emissions of carbon dioxide, saying Republicans refuse to support the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said no Republican was willing to back a comprehensive energy bill, a development he called "terribly disappointing."

Democrats have been trying for more than a year to pass a plan that charges utilities and other major polluters for their heat-trapping carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming. They're also abandoning a compromise plan to limit emissions only from utilities that also failed to attract the 60 votes needed to advance it in the 100-member Senate.

Reid and other Democrats said they would focus on a narrower bill that responds to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and improves energy efficiency.

"We've always known from day one that to pass comprehensive energy reform, you've got to have 60 votes," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the bill's lead sponsor. "As we stand here today we don't have one Republican vote."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama urges action on unemployment

Barack Obama urged Republican lawmakers to support a bill that would extend emergency benefits to millions of unemployed Americans on Monday. In a press conference at the White House Rose Garden he blasted Republican critics for their "lack of faith in the American people."

"These are honest, decent, hard-working folks who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own," Obama said. "The same people who didn't have any problems spending money on tax breaks for the richest Americans are saying we shouldn't offer benefits to middle-class Americans."

Unemployment in the United States is at 9.5 per cent, and benefits for millions of Americans have dried up in recent months. The issue of temporarily extending emergency unemployment benefits has come up three times in recent weeks, but Republican senators have blocked it each time.

Obama has described the bill as crucial to rebuilding the economy, but Republican critics say they won't support it unless it is paid for through the budget and not through deficit spending.

"It's time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics," Obama urged.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court nominee nears confirmation

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan won approval by the Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday, moving her one step closer to final confirmation by the full Senate.

The committee voted 13 to 6 in favour of her nomination. She is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate as early as next week to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring.

Though just one Republican, Senator Lindsay Graham, voted in Kagan's favour, President Barack Obama praised the vote as "a bipartisan affirmation of Kagan's strong performance during her confirmation hearings" in June.

Before the vote, each of the 19 committee members voiced support or concerns about Kagan, currently the Obama administration's Solicitor General and a former dean of the Harvard Law School.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Kagan, 50, would become the third female justice on the nine-member court — joining Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — and only the fourth in U.S. history.

For that, "her confirmation will be a milestone that we can all be proud of," said Senator Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin. "She will provide exemplary public service to our nation."

Kagan appeared to receive universal praise for her keen intellect and command of the law

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sarah Palin's war chest points to 2012 presidential bid

Sarah Palin's efforts to raise her profile and broaden her support suggest she is preparing for a tilt at the White House in 2012.

Newly published election spending figures show Sarah Palin ended the last quarter with a war chest of more than $1m, suggesting gathering momentum for a run at the White House in 2012.

Her political action committee, a body for raising and distributing election cash, raised $866,000 in the three months from April 1, the most since it was formed in January 2009. She spent about $742,000 over the quarter, most of it on building up her political profile and base support.

Palin, who enjoys the support of the Tea Party and other grassroots activists but is distrusted by the Republican party establishment, has not yet said whether she will stand as a candidate. She and other potential rivals for the Republican nomination would normally begin to make their intentions clear early next year, in the wake of November's Congressional mid-term elections.

But a breakdown of money raised and spent by Palin suggests she is putting in place the political framework for a bid. She spent almost twice as much as in any previous quarter, much of it on speechwriters, private jets for public appearances, and hiring consultants to advise her on domestic and foreign policy, which were embarrassing weaknesses during her vice-presidential run in 2008.

She is also taking on more staff, including for the first time someone to keep control of her schedule. Until now, her organisation has tended to be chaotic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Minor quake in DC doesn't shake up Obama

WASHINGTON -- A minor earthquake in the nation's capital didn't shake the president. After talking to reporters on the Gulf oil spill, President Barack Obama was asked whether he felt the 3.6-magnitude quake that hit near Washington early Friday morning.

A smiling Obama said he didn't feel it. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was the strongest quake to hit within 30 miles of D.C. since the agency began keeping records in 1974. No injuries were reported. Many in the area slept through it while others were jolted awake.

On the federal agency's website, by midmorning more than 11,000 people had reported feeling the quake, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. But at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, at least one person wasn't rattled.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Barack Obama's crackdown bill on Wall Street wins Senate backing

Barack Obama has received a much-needed boost after the US Senate backed the biggest reform of Wall Street since the Great Depression.

The bill allows Obama to claim another major piece of legislation to put alongside the economic stimulus bill passed last year, which stands comparison with Roosevelt's New Deal, and the healthcare bill earlier this year, which achieved a goal that had eluded previous presidents.

It helps him counter accusations that his presidency is in danger of becoming an empty one, comparable to that of Jimmy Carter, who had little to show for his four years in office.

The bill, which could be on Obama's desk for signing on Friday or early next week, is intended to deal with many of the issues that led to recession in the US: dodgy mortgages, easy credit cards, and limited regulation of banking and Wall Street.

It posed a dilemma for the Republicans, caught between their traditional close ties with the financial industry and public anger against Wall Street, but in the end most voted against it. Lobbying groups on behalf of the financial industry mounted one of the most expensive campaigns in US election history against the bill.

Although some Democrats complain the bill does not go nearly far enough in regulating Wall Street, the Obama administration hopes it will help address some of the widespread public anger at bankers and financiers.