Saturday, January 30, 2010

GOP lawmakers to try to block federal funds for 9/11 prosecutions

Amid fears that the White House may move the terrorist trials connected with September 11, 2001, to the Washington, D.C., region, GOP lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would bar the use federal funds for their prosecution in any U.S.--
civilian court.

The move comes as the White House, met with growing opposition, has reportedly begun considering alternative locations to the originally planned federal district court in downtown Manhattan to try the professed 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants.



The legislation expected to be introduced early next week is sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), whose district borders Washington, D.C., and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and would prohibit funding for any Justice Department prosecution in civilian courts of a person being tried in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

Earlier this week, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced a similar bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to try within U.S. civilian courts any detainee being kept in the Guantanamo Bay prison.

New York Gov. David Paterson and, in a stark reversal, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday expressed their disapproval for holding the trials in the Manhattan court, mere blocks away from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, saying that it would cost the city and state hundreds of millions of dollars in security costs.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier this month asked President Barack Obama to include in his budget -- set to be released to Congress next week -- security funds for state and city security costs.

While there has been no official announcement as to where the trials would be held if the White House decided against New York City, several Republican aides said that the administration was considering the Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia areas, an unpopulated island near Manhattan or nearby military installations.

Wolf raised objections several weeks ago to reports that the White House was considering hosting the trial of Riduan Isamuddin – an alleged close ally of Osama bin Laden’s -- and two other defendants in the Washington, D.C., region.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Wolf said that there had been enough recent intelligence pointing to possible terrorists threats related to Isamuddin to deny him a trial in civilian courts in the D.C. area, suggesting that to do so would put the region in jeopardy.

While most of the politicians speaking about the terrorist trials being brought stateside were opposed to the idea this week, the mayor of Newburgh, N.Y. -- a small city an hour outside of New York City -- said on Friday that he would be happy to host the trials at a nearby Air National Guard base, according to the New York Post, saying that he saw it as a “tourist attraction” and that it “would put Newburgh on the map.”

Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on Friday that she opposed bringing the trials to New York City.

“I think that the administration ought to listen to the mayor, listen to the mayor’s concern and candidly make a change,” said Feinstein in an MSNBC interview. “There is nothing wrong with making a change.”

“[Mohammed] does not have to be tried in NYC. If there is evidence that this will either make NYC a target or present unusual expenses, then the mayor -- and I’ve been a mayor -- should be listened to.”

Earlier in the week a bipartisan contingent of senators wrote Holder and asked him to consider military trials for the alleged terrorists, saying, “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The letter was signed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Source:thehill.com/

Ben Bernanke Moves to Consolidate Inflation Creating Power in Washington DC

The real story yesterday wasn't that, after putting on a good carnival act, the Senate confirmed their insider, Ben Bernanke, for a second four-year term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. No the real story was buried in a Bloomberg piece, 19 paragraphs down.

As I reported earlier, the Fed is thinking of adopting the interest rate on reserves as their key monetary policy target rate. This is important.

They are using the excess reserve rate to control monetary policy in a de facto way now, but officially recognizing what the Fed is doing will put more power to inflate in the hands of Washington D.C.

As I regularly point out, short paragraphs and clauses are put into legislation that few understand but that can have enormous and powerful consequences.

Bloomberg points out how such a short clause on recognizing reserve rates as the target rate will have profound consequences:

Source:beforeitsnews.com/

Teen and his mentor visit Washington, D.C., meet President Obama

Ryan Brott, 14, left, and his mentor Andrew Knight, both of Holland-
, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of National Mentor Month White House celebration. Brott and Knight participate in Ottawa County's Journey 4-H program.
One year ago, Ryan Brott, 14, could never in his wildest dreams have imagined he would be shaking the hand of the President of the United States. But on Jan. 20, that's exactly what he got to do, during a National Mentor Month White House celebration.

Ryan, who was a troubled teen, is part of the Ottawa County Journey 4-H Youth Mentoring Program. It is one of many 4-H Youth Development programs and Ottawa County was selected to represent 4-H Youth Mentoring nationwide, joining only 12 other groups.

According to Journey 4-H coordinator Laura Schleede, the Corporation for National and Community Service made a request to 4-H national headquarters for a mentoring match from Ottawa County's Journey 4-H because of its state and national recognition as a Program of Distinction and for receiving the 2009 Michigan Governor's Service Award for Outstanding Mentoring Program.

Contributed photoRyan Brott and his mentor, Andrew Knight, recently went to Washington D.C., where they met President Obama.Officials from the organization's national headquarters contacted Ottawa County's Journey 4-H officials who had the perfect mentoring match: Ryan, and his 25-year-old mentor, Andrew Knight. Both are Holland residents.

On Jan. 19, Schleede, Ryan, and Knight, along with Ryan's mother Dawn and Michigan State University Extension specialist Lisa Bottomley, left for the whirlwind, one-night stay in the nation's capital. It was compliments of the MSU Extension office, which oversees 4-H programs.

"Of course the biggest highlight was being in the White House and seeing Ryan and Knight on stage with the president talking and shaking his hand," Schleede said. "We are very, very honored that our program was among the few selected. It was such a great experience for Ryan, who's worked so hard to turn his life around."

Schleede said she chose Ryan and Knight to represent Journey 4-H at the event because it is an ideal example the positive effects mentoring can have on youth. "They are a great match," she said, "and have been together almost a year."

Journey 4-H partners with the 20th Circuit Court Family Division/Juvenile Services. Each year, probation officers, therapists, and other community agencies refer 25 to 35 candidates for the mentoring program. Mentors commit to spending a minimum of two hours weekly with mentees for a year.

Knight heard about the program when he was attending Grand Rapids Community College studying criminal justice. "I was unemployed and looking for a purpose while trying to find work," he said. "I thought it was a good way to meet people, would look good on my resume, and give me exposure to the juvenile-justice system. It's been incredibly rewarding. Ryan has helped me at least as much as I have helped him."

Knight said 4-H does a tremendous job organizing events that mentor matches can attend. They have included sporting events like Griffins and Whitecaps games, and a favorite of both he and Ryan, an Adventure Race filled with activities that taught outdoor survival training and skills.

4-H covers the expenses of the activities. "They are well organized, and want these experiences to be fun, but also educational and to broaden experiences," Knight said. "It's way more effective at building relationships than just going out for dinner every week."

While Knight said that the absolute highlight of the trip for him was meeting President Obama, he also said there was something else that became incredibly significant to him.

"For the nation to give recognition to mentoring, something that doesn't take that much effort, just a couple hours a week, and to see the incredible difference that makes ... how something so simple is so important and vital to our nation's youth."

Knight said that the mentoring program has had a big influence on his life and is something he will continue to do with Ryan even though his one-year commitment is soon to expire.

Ryan's favorite part of the trip was also being in the White House and meeting President Obama. "It was pretty epic to shake his hand," he said. "I never could have imagined ever going there. This year has made me different."

Ryan said what he liked about the mentoring program is that it gives him something to do and keeps him out of trouble. "I don't get into trouble as often as I used to," he said. "Andrew is there to keep me out of it."

For Ryan, his visit to Washington, D.C. was life changing. "Before the visit, I wanted to go into the military but I didn't know what I wanted to do," he said. "Now I do - I want to be trained in the Secret Service."

Dawn Brott said the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they were still basking in the afterglow.

"When I was young, I was mentored in the Big Sister program, and I know how important that person was to me and the difference it could make in my son's life," she said.

"Ryan's very independent, and had made some bad choices and he's learned from them. He didn't have a male role model and (Knight) has been a wonderful influence." Brott said her son's view of home life and school has changed and that now he's just short of the honor roll. He also volunteers at his church.

"What I'd really like to say, is that we need more mentors as a society," Dawn Brott said. "It takes more than parents - it takes a community - to raise a child."

Source:mlive.com/

Turkish Students in Washington D.C. to Design "Future's City"

Students of a private school founded by Turkish-
businessmen in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C. have been awarded first place at a competition encouraging youngsters to design the "city of future".

Students of Pinnacle Academy were awarded first place at the "Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area Future City Competition" and they were qualified to represent their region at the "2010 Future City
Competition National Finals" to be held between February 13 and 17.

Seventh grade students Selin Altintas, Nurbanu Simsek, Zehra Yilmaz and Madina Khurishanova were ranked the first at regional level thanks to their project "Yeshilist".

The students, working under the guidance of their teacher Hatice Evci and architect Emre Ozkan, developed an imaginary city that will cover the long-term accommodation needs of people who may lose their houses during a possible earthquake.

Using the Sim City4 Deluxe PC game, students founded a cyber city near Istanbul's Catalca region of Turkey and prepared a digital version as well as a three-dimensional model the city.

In front of a jury comprising of engineers and architects, Pinnacle Academy's team made a written and oral presentation to introduce their dream city.

With their project "Yeshilist", students of the academy will now compete at the national finals to be held at the Congress building in February.

Winners of the national finals will be awarded with a one-week trip to the Space Camp in Alabama, officials said.

Source:turkishweekly.net/

Kilpatrick Stockton’s Christina Gattuso Selected to Leadership Role in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 27) - LawFuel.com Attorney News Service- Kilpatrick Stockton announced today that Partner, Christina Gattuso, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the William E. Doar Jr. (WEDJ) Education Foundation. The William E. Doar Jr. (WEDJ) Educational Foundation assists the WEDJ Public Charter School (PCS) for the Performing Arts in providing a unique and artistic learning experience for hundreds of young students in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Gattuso is a partner on Kilpatrick Stockton’s Financial Institutions team in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. She focuses her practice on corporate and securities matters, financial institution regulatory matters, mergers and acquisitions and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Gattuso is currently a member of Leadership Greater Washington’s Class of 201o.

About WEDJ
WEDJ's primary focus is to educate youth and help them become creative and intelligent leaders who can generate positive change in their communities. WEDJ relies on the performing arts as a means to support its rigorous academic curriculum and teach leadership and teamwork. For more, please visit the website for the William E. Doar, Jr. Public Charter School for the Performing Arts at http://www.wedjschool.us/ .

Source:lawfuel.com/

DC DIARY: Up, up and away —Zeeshan Suhail

The facility at Goddard was constructed in 1990 and now houses 8,000 employees. NASA’s annual budget ranges from $ 3.4 — $ 4.0 billion — an amount quite close to Pakistan’s annual defence budget! This stark reality made me ponder how misplaced our priorities are

Today has been one of those days when I cannot help but think how fortunate I am to live in a city like Washington, DC. Not only does the city afford a myriad of opportunities to participate in activities that have an impact on the global state of affairs, it affords a chance to enhance one’s knowledge by doing simple things, like visiting a museum or attending a conference. DC is in many ways a microcosm of what the rest of the world should be like, a place where empowerment through knowledge acquisition is the norm — not the exception.

In the light of the above hopes and dreams, my readers will appreciate my recent excursion to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre just outside DC. NASA is the branch of the US government that deals with both earth and space science and is charged with research and education about these two issues as part of its mandate. The Goddard Centre is a sprawling complex sitting on hundreds of acres of land and truly feels like a campus. Most NASA staff at the complex dressed informally and were concentrating too deeply on their computers to realise they had 40 World Bank staff in their midst, busy taking photos every chance they got. This was, after all, a rare opportunity, especially for the staff visiting from Country Offices.

We were expecting to only be shown the Visitors Centre (where we saw two short films on the melting of global ice and the other on the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter), but an acquaintance was kind enough to allow us access to the actual building where the Hubble telescope is assembled and tested. This telescope was responsible for providing insight into not only the age of the universe but the nature of stars and galaxies millions of light years away. Considering how large this telescope is (nearly 40 feet tall), it is not surprising that the building where the telescope is assembled was also fairly large, replete with its own vibration and acoustics testing halls. Another large, circular room allowed for the telescope machinery to be placed in a centrifuge machine that could spin at such a speed that the gravitational force would be nearly 20 times that of Earth’s!

The facility at Goddard was constructed in 1990 and now houses 8,000 employees. NASA’s annual budget ranges from $ 3.4 — $ 4.0 billion — an amount quite close to Pakistan’s annual defence budget! This stark reality made me ponder how misplaced our priorities are. In the US, an entire branch of the government does research and study on the earth and the galaxy we live in, as well as beyond. In Pakistan, instead, our research and study is barely of a level where a prospective student might want to go on for a doctoral degree. At NASA, on the contrary, the organisation will pay for every year of your graduate studies and then offer you employment upon completion, if the research and scientific interests align. This, my friends, is the difference between an industrialised country and a developing country: one understands the power of knowledge, while the other does not.

I left NASA in awe of what this country has accomplished in a field that Pakistan barely has any knowledge of, let alone expertise in. I was empowered by what I saw and learned, yet my heart ached for the path ahead for Pakistan. Miles to go before I sleep, as Robert Frost would say.

I returned to DC to finish up some work in the office but realised it was 8:30 pm when I was leaving. Aside from this city offering you lots of opportunities for professional development, it also leaves you with the feeling that you must always be productive — and busy! Yet when I was walking towards the bus stop, I noticed a lot of security. My usual walk through Lafayette Park, which is right in front of the White House, was disrupted by a yellow “do not cross” tape, which I immediately recognised due to the event about to begin within a few minutes: Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech! It all came together now. Everyone was in a hurry to get home. Security was tight. A helicopter flew above the city, surveying the area below. It was like being in New York City during the annual UN General Assembly session! Ah, how I miss the protocol, the motorcades, the pomp and circumstance.

All in all, not a bad day, I would say. While many of NASA’s engineers and astronauts would, at some point, be involved in a vehicle that propels them up, up and away, Pakistanis are in dire need of a vehicle that also pushes them up, up and away: education. Aside from healthcare, it is the one true global ingredient for prosperity. All great civilisations moved forward only due to this core ingredient being mixed in with others to create something that had depth, breadth and volume. The people know what the priorities are. Now it is the politician’s turn to show that they do too.

Zeeshan Suhail is a consultant with the World Bank in Washington, DC and Chairperson of the Board of the New York City-based Muslim Consultative Network and a Board Member of the Washington, DC-based Americans for Informed Democracy. He can be reached at seeshan@aidemocracy.org

Source:dailytimes.com.pk/

Films playing in repertory in the Washington, D.C., area

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN At the Albert Einstein Planetarium: "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity," Friday-Thursday at 11, 12:30, 2, 3:30 and 5. "Journey to the Stars," Friday-Thursday at 11:30, noon, 1, 1:30, 2:30, 3, 4 and 4:30. "The Stars-
Tonight," Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Free. At the Lockheed Martin Imax Theater: "To Fly!" Friday-Thursday at 10:20 and 3. "Space Station 3D," Friday-Thursday at 11, 1 and 3:35. "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag," Friday-Thursday at noon, 2 and 4:35. Sixth Street and Independence Avenue SW. 202-633-4629. 877-932-4629.

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DULLES/STEVEN F. UDVAR-HAZY CENTER "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag," Friday-Thursday at 11, 1:45 and 4:30. "To Fly!" Friday-Thursday at noon and 2:45. "Walking on the Moon," Friday-Thursday at 12:45 and 3:30. 14340 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-633-4629. 877-932-4629.

AMERICAN CITY DINER "The Manchurian Candidate," Friday at 8. "Blazing Saddles," Saturday at 8. "Psycho," Sunday at 8. "Grease," Monday at 8. "Vertigo," Tuesday at 8. "Sleepless in Seattle," Wednesday at 8. "And Justice for All," Thursday at 8. Free. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY "Yes We Did: The People's Inauguration," Friday at 7. $10. 805 21st St. NW. 202-994-1525.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER "Grand Canyon Movie," Friday at 10, Saturday and Sunday at 5 and Tuesday-Thursday at 10. "Ring of Fire," Friday at 10, Saturday and Sunday at 5 and Tuesday-Thursday at 11. "Tropical Rainforest," Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at noon. "Roar: Lions of the Kalahari," Friday at 1 and 7, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 1. "Mystic India," Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 2. "Super Speedway," Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3. "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure," Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 4. "Africa: The Serengeti," Friday at 5. "To the Limit," Friday at 6. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, EAST BUILDING "The Seagull," Saturday at 2:30. "15 Days of Dance: The Making of Ghost Light: Day 8, Evening," Sunday at 4:30. Free. Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY/JOHNSON IMAX THEATER "Journey to Mecca," Friday-Thursday at 10:25 and 2:05. "Wild Ocean 3D," Friday-Thursday at 11:25, 1:10, 3:05 and 4:50. "Dinosaurs 3D," Friday-Thursday at 12:15 and 4. 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 202-633-4629. 877-932-4629.

Source:washingtonpost.com/

New Voices: Democracy won't be the same after decision

Lawyers around Washington, D.C., love to joke that the highest court in the land is not the Supreme Court of the United States-
, but rather the basketball court located on the fifth floor of the Supreme Court Building. Either way, five justices committed a flagrant foul last week.

On Jan. 21, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It was an opinion legal commentators, politicians and law students had been awaiting for some time. In a bitterly divided 5-4 opinion, the court overturned more than a century's worth of precedent and cleared the way for corporations to flood elections with an exceptional amount of money.

The decision was announced to an audience that only half-filled the court gallery. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a one-time advocate of restrictive campaign-finance laws, delivered the majority opinion. It took him about 5 minutes to read a summary of the court's opinion, but astounded observers immediately grasped the wide-ranging impact of the decision.

It was clear that the court was extending an American citizen's right to freedom of speech to corporations — fictional individuals. Kennedy's new interpretation opened the door to corporations using general funds to support or oppose candidates in elections, and overturned restrictions enacted in McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reforms that limited independent corporate expenditures in elections. Corporate spending in electoral politics may be both direct and unlimited for the foreseeable future.

And, if spending money is speech, corporations are screaming. They are screaming at politicians over you, me and anyone else unable to empty millions of dollars from their coffers, unfettered.

This case, more than any other of my generation, has the potential to threaten American democracy. Every generation witnesses pivotal moments. This is ours.

Bush v. Gore is seen by many as a political decision. Roe v. Wade is seen by some as immoral. Dred Scott today is seen as unconscionable. Each, depending on your point of view, had potentially corrosive effects on our nation's history and identity. Each, however, was delivered within a political system that possessed legitimacy and provided an opportunity for recourse through its checks and balances.

The court in Citizens United abandoned this balancing of power. It inserted itself, and a substantial amount of new money, into the body politic. A vital check within our system of government vanished, only to be replaced with one of the monetary kind.

As I listened to Kennedy, I slumped over and contended with a roller coaster of emotions. But then, reminiscent of John Paul Jones' famous cry of "I have not yet begun to fight," Justice John Paul Stevens delivered a rousing summary of his dissenting opinion, which is one page longer than his age — 89 years, 90 pages. He spoke for about 20 minutes, and I could see that he and the minority were grappling with the same emotions as I was.

He said aloud, and reiterated in writing, "I regret the length of what follows, but the importance and novelty of the Court's opinion require a full response."

And, oh, what a response it was.

I urge you to read the passionate pleas of the elder statesman of the court and to consider the effect Citizens United will have on American democracy. It is an effect I fear.

I agree with Stevens when he concludes: "It is a strange time to repudiate … common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Source:

When Compared To Salinger, A 'Thank You' Will Do

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of Prep, one of the New York-
Times Ten Best Books of 2005. Her most recent novel is American Wife.
Five years ago, when my first novel Prep was published, reviewers and readers compared it both favorably and unfavorably to The Catcher in the Rye. U.S. News and World Report said, "For everyone who wished that Holden Caulfield was a girl, your time has come with Prep."
Meanwhile, a customer reviewer on Amazon who gave my novel one star, wrote, "Just because this book is set at a boarding school does not put it into the ranks of J.D. Salinger." As it happened, I kind of agreed with that reviewer. Yes, both The Catcher in the Rye and Prep featured disaffected teenage protagonists, but that's about it — even the boarding school setting isn't much of a commonality because very little of The Catcher in the Rye actually takes place at the fictitious Pencey Prep. But most people don't remember this detail, which made me suspect that those making The Catcher in the Rye/Prep comparisons probably hadn’t read The Catcher in the Rye for, oh, say, thirty years.
Courtesy of Curtis SittenfeldCurtis Sittenfeld's Prep has drawn frequent comparison's to Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
It was twenty years ago that I myself first encountered Holden Caulfield. In the summer of 1989, when I was thirteen and just a few months away from leaving home in Ohio for Groton School in Massachusetts, my parents, my older sister, and I went to the movie theater to see Dead Poets Society. Noticing how taken I was with the whole preppy milieu, my father told me I needed to read The Catcher in the Rye. I did and I loved it — I was captivated by Holden's distinctive voice and mournful sense of humor, by the mundane yet profound way he questioned the world: why were so many people phonies? Where did the ducks in the Central Park lagoon go when the water froze over? And to this day, when I see swear words graffitied on walls or carved into bathroom stalls, I think of the passage when Holden laments the way people deface public spaces — a passage I can't, unfortunately, quote here because of its frank obscenities.
My admiration for The Catcher in the Rye means I don't mind when people compare Prep to it — I mean, even if I consider the comparison off-base, I'm incredibly flattered. I suppose it's a little like being told how great your hair looks on a day you didn't wash it. You could go into a long-winded explanation or instead you could do what I eventually decided to do whenever people tell me that Prep reminded them of The Catcher in the Rye. I just say thank you.

Source:npr.org

Health Care Reform in the Other Washington

Like Washington, D.C., in Washington State the executive branch (Governor) and both houses of the legislature are firmly in Democrat hands. The similarity does not end there. Take health care reform as an example. House Republicans have proposed "10 Solutions for a Healthier Washington" and introduced eight implementing bills in the 2009 regular session of the Washington State House of Representatives but no action was taken other than refer them to committee. The same bills were carried forward to the 2010 special session and remain in the Health and Wellness Committee, chaired by Representative Eileen Cody (D-34th District), where they still have not received a public hearing. A minority party may have good ideas but the public will never be able to consider them if they are buried in committee.

The history and status of the below listed House Bills may be tracked on the Washington State House of Representatives web site.

HB 1865 - Exempts health plans offered to small employers from certain statutory requirements.

HB 1866 - Establishes parameters for carriers to design health plans for adults between the ages of nineteen and thirty-four.

HB 1867 - Abolishes the certificate of need process established in chapter 70.38 RCW.Directs the code reviser, by November 15, 2009, to recommend to the legislature appropriate legislation that effectuates the purposes of the act by removing references to the certificate of need process in sections of the Revised Code of Washington not repealed by the act.

HB 1868 - Modifies provisions regarding access to health insurance for small employers and their employees.

HB 1870 - Authorizes employees, as defined in RCW 41.05.011, to receive the monthly value of their health care benefit in a pretax account for the purchase of a core benefit plan from a private vendor.

HB 1871 - Regulates health insurance coverage provided by out-of-state health carriers.

HB 1872 - Provides tax incentives for the purchase of health care plans by a person conducting business as a sole proprietorship and small employers.

HB 2169 - Authorizes the Washington basic health plan administrator to provide an enrollee a stipend sufficient to provide the same level of subsidy as would have otherwise been available through the basic health plan for enrollees who wish to purchase coverage through the individual health insurance market, including a high deductible health plan in conjunction with a health savings account

Source:soundpolitics.com/

Friday, January 29, 2010

The State of the Union address as a political math test

Barack Obama had once hoped to be a conciliatory president who understood his adversaries, writes columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. It was clear that the Obama who addressed the nation Wednesday also understood that he confronts a Republican Party that sees unflinching opposition as a path to victory.

Syndicated columnist

WASHINGTON — There was an unexpected poignancy to the moment. Barack Obama, who once strode across the political landscape as a master of the persuasive arts, found himself needing to prove that mastery all over again.

In a single speech, his task was to: prevent the result of one special Senate election from calling into question his agenda or his power; respond to the discontent that poured forth from and after Massachusetts; re-establish his popular standing; and, in the process, both ignite the left and win back the center.

So, in his State of the Union address, Obama sought to pass a political math test by solving several simultaneous equations. He distanced himself from Wall Street but also reassured the businesses of Main Street. To independents, he insisted he still seeks a Washington that can work across partisan lines, but he also challenged Republicans to end their obstructive ways.

A speech he once hoped to give in celebration of a victory on health-care reform became instead a passionate plea to save his policy dream from political oblivion.

"By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance," Obama declared. "Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small-business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."

Obama interpreted the popular mood less as a revolt against his party or himself than as a reflection of "deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years." He sought to show that while he had heard the protests, he was not reacting by abruptly changing what he stands for or where he would lead the nation.

His aides insist that there is no new Obama, that his latest populist-sounding economic proposals were foreshadowed by campaign promises. Indeed, his call for both parties "to work through our differences" and to turn away from "the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades" could have come from the Obama of 2004 or 2007.

But yes, aides insisted in briefings before the speech, the president has been tempered by combat. A calm, cerebral man can know when he has to fight.

Obama pledged to spend money to fix the economy now while pushing for longer-term efforts to cut the deficit. He continued to strike a populist tone in calling for tougher rules on banks and for rolling back a Supreme Court decision vastly expanding the influence of corporations in electoral politics. "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests," he declared, "or worse, by foreign entities."

At the same time, Obama sought to grapple with public unhappiness over the economy, a particularly strong sentiment among working-class voters, who have most felt the lash of hard times. It was clear that if Obama did nothing else, he would identify himself with the word "jobs" and shout his determination to bring them back.

It was also obvious that he realizes his administration lost two critical battles last year: to define his stimulus plan and his health-care proposal. Polls show that Republicans' negative claims have stuck with voters, while the administration's arguments for the merits of both plans have not.

Obama made the case for his ideas again, but he also challenged Republicans to do more than criticize. "We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent — a belief that if you lose, I win," Obama said. "Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can." And Obama underscored the Democrats' determination to highlight the GOP's role in creating Washington's sour atmosphere. "Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics," he said, "but it's not leadership."

Barack Obama had once hoped to be a conciliatory president who understood his philosophical adversaries. He is still that man, and much of his speech described ideas, especially in education and energy, that could well win support across ideological lines.

But it was clear that the Obama who addressed the nation on Wednesday also understood that he confronts a Republican Party that sees unflinching opposition as blazing a path to victory. And he offered himself as a president ready to do battle. "We don't quit," he said. "I don't quit."

E.J. Dionne Jr.'s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is ejdionne@washpost.com

Source:seattletimes.nwsource.com/

The War in Iraq Ended. Applause

Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address January 28. As everyone expected, the US President spoke about the questions connected with the economic crisis and the unemployment in the United States.
He could not but praise himself saying that the actions his administration had taken allowed to create two million jobs.

“The worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains,” he said.

Obama also spoke about the presence of US trips in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spending on the anti-terrorist operation in those two countries has become an intolerable burden for the teetering economy of the United States. Obama promised to end the war in Iraq during his pre-election campaign.

“As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. (Applause.) But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. (Applause.)”

Up to 25,000 US marines have been serving in Iraq since 2003. Most of tem were quartered in Anbar province. Several thousands of marines are staying there still, but they will be sent home during the upcoming several weeks, according to Washington’s new doctrine. Some of them will stay in Iraq though – to defend the US Embassy.

As for the pull out of troops from Afghanistan, Obama was not that eloquent.

“In Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. (Applause.) ”

The USA has been waging a war in Afghanistan against Taliban for eight years already. The situation in the region has aggravated a lot recently, and Obama’s administration decided to increase the contingent in this country. The number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan will reach nearly 100,000 people by the summer of 2010.

The current situation in Iraq does not give any serious reason to believe that the war in this country has ended. Three explosions ripped through the streets of Baghdad the day before Obama’s speech: 37 were killed and 104 wounded.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the terrorist acts. The group, which is believed to be a branch of al-Qaeda, said that the acts were conducted within the scope of the campaign to liberate Iraq from occupation. The previous series of explosions near government buildings in Baghdad in the summer and fall of 2009 took over 400 lives.

Source:english.pravda.ru/

Health Reform Reboot?

After President Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday night, responses from the both sides of the political fence quickly followed. Many were waiting to see if the President would continue strong support for healthcare reform or back away from the issue. While not as urgent a priority as the economy, Obama did vow he would not walk away from the issue of healthcare and encouraged Congress to remain committed (See DM 14477).

Virginia Governor Bob McConnell delivered the official Republican response following the President's address. Concerning Obama's stance on health care reform, McConnell stated, "All Americans agree, we need a healthcare system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality. But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government. Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes. We will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your healthcare."

On the Democratic Congressional front, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated, "President Obama engaged America in a conversation about what has worked, what needs improvement and how we can move forward together.... Jobs are still too few, healthcare is still too scarce and expensive, foreclosures are still too frequent and our energy future is still too treacherous....As the President expressed tonight, we are moving full speed ahead in bringing about the meaningful change that we were sent to Washington to deliver."

In the other chamber of Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave an upbeat message, also mentioning a commitment to healthcare reform: "Tonight, President Obama presented a vision to the American people of a stronger union, a new foundation for prosperity, and a thriving middle class. Working together, we will adopt a bold agenda for our economic growth -- founded on good-paying jobs, strong schools, quality, affordable health insurance, and critical investments in small businesses and our clean energy future....Addressing a critical challenge for our economy and millions of households, Congress will pass health insurance reform that lowers costs for American families and small businesses, creates jobs, and ends the insurance companies' worst practices."

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of the crucial Senate Finance Committee, also followed with strong comments: "We will also work with President Obama to pass comprehensive healthcare reform that lifts the burden of skyrocketing healthcare costs off of American families, businesses and our federal deficits. Healthcare costs are growing far faster than our economy and, as a result, slowing our economic recovery. When a strong bill that lowers healthcare costs becomes law, businesses will be better able to hire and invest, families will be better able to protect their savings and the federal deficit will shrink. Health reform helps fulfill the promise to get our economy back on track. Health reform also represents a critical component in our effort to combat a decade of ballooning federal debt. Health reform will cut the deficit by more than $100 billion in the first ten years and by hundreds of billions more in the decade that follows. Reducing the federal debt is critical to a strong and vibrant economy, and we stand with President Obama in our shared commitment to tackle this challenge head on."

Others on the Republican side had high marks for some other messages in the President's economic outlook and his style, but were still uniformly against the current healthcare reform plan. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was critical of how Obama addressed the issue: "...the number one issue that has been in the public debate has been healthcare....So, it took 45 minutes approximately for the President to reach that discussion and there was absolutely no nod to the voters of Massachusetts, Virginia or New Jersey. No recognition that his plan is very unpopular and all he said was, it is my fault for not explaining what I'm doing better because my way is right and Congress, you better act. Now, that is not the way to lead when you've got a country that's so dissatisfied."

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) had his own suggestions for how reform should be approached. "On health care, the American people think we need to get back to the basics and start over," he said. "I think we ought to do a step-by-step approach. For example, we know by allowing insurance to be sold across state lines and forming risk pools across state lines that we can open accessibility to affordable health care for almost a third of the uninsured. We know that a third of the uninsured are really eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or SCHIP but they're not enrolled. The government ought to have an enrollment system so when they show up at healthcare facilities the coverage is there....I would rather start with a step-by-step approach that deals with the things we know we can do rather than a comprehensive and pervasive overhaul of a system that ends up destroying what 86 percent of Americans have, all for the 14 percent who don't."

Finally, the American Medical Association, which has with some reservations supported the healthcare reform legislation stated: "The AMA applauds President Obama for his ongoing commitment to health system reform and we second his call to 'Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.' Every American will benefit from health insurance market reforms that eliminate unfair business practices like denials for pre-existing medical conditions. It is a tragedy that millions of Americans live sicker and die younger solely because they lack health coverage -- every American should have affordable, high-quality health coverage. The pressures on our healthcare system have not abated; people are losing their health coverage along with their jobs and the rising cost of premiums is putting pressure on employers and familie

Source:dotmed.com/

Obama promises aid to college students

Comparing the status quo to D-Day, the stock market crash on Black Tuesday and the abuses of civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his first State of the Union speech on Wednesday.

In his speech, Obama attended to some of the most crucial issues of the time, including the economy, convergence between rival political parties, support and patience from the American people and financing higher education.

And this last one perked up the ears of students at K-State.

Obama outlined a number of reforms he would like to see effected regarding post-secondary education. He proposed cutting taxes for “eight million Americans paying for college,” forgiving student loans after 20 years of payment — 10 years if the student chooses a career in public service — and increasing the desirability of community colleges.

Larry Moeder, assistant vice president for student life and director of admissions and student financial aid, said he was happy with the policies Obama outlined in his speech.

“I was pleased with his remarks on education,” Moeder said. “I think it’s heading very much in the right direction by getting more money to students.”

Among his reasons for agreement with the president, Moeder said he concurred with Obama’s views on Pell Grants and loan repayment.

Students can receive loans in two ways: from the federal government or private banks, Moeder said. When a bank loans a student money for college, the federal government sends the bank a certain subsidy.

A bill up for renewal in Congress, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, will stop these subsidies. Obama said he supported this resolution.

“To make college more affordable,” Obama said, “this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans.”

Instead, he proposed both a $10,000 tax credit to families of students attending four years of college and raising Pell Grants.

Moeder said he would “totally support” increasing the amount of money for Pell Grants, because they help some of the “neediest” students, and students should be receiving more money.

Currently, fewer than 4,000 K-State students are receiving a Pell Grant, Moeder said. This totals to nearly $12 million coming from the federal government to assist K-Staters in their academic pursuits. If Obama has his way, Moeder said he thought the amount of money distributed via the Pell Grant would increase, and more students would be admitted into the program, helping to curb the rising costs of college.

Moeder said the cost of attending K-State is less than other institutions - a result of “a very strong effort” by the Board of Regents, students, and the administration. However, it still remains difficult for students to fund their education. He praised Obama for helping to restrict college costs and increase student financial assistance.

“Nationally, college costs are getting way out of hand,” Moeder said, “and so, I think the effort to control college costs is a good proposal as well.”

On the other side of campus, Joseph K. Unekis, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, said President Obama had “only Reagan and Kennedy in his class” of speakers.

“I look on his speech as almost elegant,” Unekis said; “nothing’s wasted.”

He said all the issues Obama mentioned - not just those about higher education - were important and applicable to students at K-State.

Like the economy. Obama said the country is slated to have 1.5 million new jobs created by the end of this year, thanks to the stimulus bill. After some hopeful case studies of small-business owners and entrepreneurs, he acknowledged that many are still unemployed, making this the biggest issue for him.

“That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010,” he said, “and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”

Unekis said, since most students who graduate from K-State will be searching for employment, it is vital that more jobs are created.

One big subject that many expected the president to address was the reform on healthcare. Obama did speak about it, but very briefly towards the end of the speech. He said middle and lower-class Americans are struggling financially, and they do not need a hefty medical bill exacerbating their problems.

“I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber,” he said.

Professor Unekis said it was smart of Obama to not focus his speech on healthcare. Polls are showing that people care more about the economy and jobs than healthcare, so more attention should be paid to those issues, which Obama did.

Source:kstatecollegian.com/

Mexican migrants unhappy with Obama’s immigration reform

Ana Rivas, a member of Wise Up, a CHIRLA-affiliated student group, said that Obama in his speech “is not proposing real solutions to the desperate situation of immigrants”.

“I’m sick and tired of hearing him talk about dreams and hope, but he doesn’t give concrete solutions to the situation we’re living in,” she said.

Jorge Mario Cabrera, CHIRLA’s communications director, said that “the battle for immigration reform really began with this speech”, and now onwards what must be demanded from the president and the members of Congress is “that they translate those words into action”.

“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation,” Obama told a joint session of the US Congress.

Scores of Kurdish migrants washed up on Corsican shore
January 22nd, 2010 PARIS - More than 100 migrants were found early Friday washed up on a beach on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, French media reported. According to France Info radio, many of the migrants were of Kurdish descent and were believed to have come from Syria or Iraq.

Court comes to the rescue of Kashmiri migrants
January 18th, 2010 NEW DELHI - The Delhi High Court Monday came to the rescue of 21 Kashmiri migrants who were forced to leave their shops in a south Delhi market following the construction of Delhi Metro. Justice S. Muralidhar pulled up the urban development ministry and other civic agencies on why no arrangement was made to allocate shops to the 21 Kashmiri migrants till date.

New US bill on immigration introduced in Congress
December 16th, 2009 WASHINGTON - A new law introduced into the US House of Representatives would open a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants, the New York Times reported. The bill, introduced by Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois late Tuesday, represents the latest attempt to reform US immigration laws.

Illegals from Bangladesh plague South Korea too
December 2nd, 2009 PANAJI - Illegal migration from Bangladesh isn't India's headache alone. According a senior immigration official from South Korea, now in Goa to attend the 8th Asia-Europe (ASEM) conference of Directors General of Immigration on management of migratory flows, illegal immigration from Bangladeshis is a major issue confronting them.

'British proposals could hit legal migrants in recession'
November 18th, 2009 LONDON - Indian and other non-European migrants could find themselves doubly disadvantaged in the recession if immigration proposals currently before parliament end up wrongly targeting legal migrants, the British government has been told. New rules proposed by the Labour government to simplify and tighten immigration laws should not be applied retrospectively on immigrants who are already in Britain legally, a campaigning group said.

Britain will clamp down on skilled migrants too: Brown
November 12th, 2009 LONDON - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, besieged by immigration issues six months ahead of elections, Thursday whittled down a list of jobs that are open to highly-skilled migrants, declaring: "Immigration will fall." Hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship's officers are to be removed from a tightly-regulated list of skills which Britain needs to recruit from abroad because it cannot meet its needs from its own population. Indians are among the top applicants for a limited number of jobs that are only open to highly-skilled workers from outside Europe under a Points Based System, but Brown's Labour government has been attacked by opposition parties for allowing in too many immigrants.

Australian lawmaker for debate on Muslim immigration
October 29th, 2009 SYDNEY - Member of Parliament Kevin Andrews Thursday called for a national debate on whether Muslim immigration to Australia should be curbed. Andrews, immigration minister in the conservative government defeated two years ago, said Muslims were the first migrant group not to assimilate and to congregate in certain suburbs of big cities.

As Obama weighs immigration overhaul, US and foreign workers agree: guest worker visas abused
October 21st, 2009 US workers, immigrants unite vs. work visa programNASHVILLE — A dozen U.S.

Source:blog.taragana.com/

Populism won't be Obama's panacea

BELEAGUERED Barack Obama came out swinging in his State of the Union address this week. The President reverted to his winning campaign gambit of running as an outsider against the bad old ways of Washington, while adding a healthy dose of populism. After the "Massachusetts massacre" loss of the Kennedys' Senate seat, and voters' stunning indictment of his first year in office, Obama had few other options.

The voters' complaints are clear. You bailed out Wall Street and ran up trillions in public debt. You have wasted a year on healthcare reform we don't want. But you let unemployment climb into the double digits, and a quarter of us owe more on our homes than they're worth. Do something!

Obama heard this message loud and clear. With his party's fate in November's congressional elections hinging on employment numbers he can't control, Obama's best hope is using his new change-you-can-believe-in populism to shape perceptions of him and his agenda. But there are three ways it could founder.

First, running for office as an outsider is easy; governing as an outsider is much harder. For much of the country and the world, the President is Washington. Obama admires Ronald Reagan because he was able to pull it off. The great communicator was able to brush off his early stumbles with a winning mixture of folksy charm, down-home bravado and ideological commitment that won over many Democrats. Obama has less time for Bill Clinton because the "comeback kid" came back by tacking squarely to the centre after the carnage of the 1994 congressional elections.

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Today Obama's problem is that he seems to be losing the very voters Reagan won over and Clinton's bowed down to. Centrist Democrats in congress are scared stiff of supporting Obama on issues as diverse as healthcare, finance, and climate change because they fear it may cost them their seats.

Obama's first task is to convince them that supporting his newfound populism will have the opposite effect. But this is Obama's second problem. He just isn't a natural populist. Populism is inherently anti-elitist. Obama's Harvard and Chicago law school pedigree, his aversion to tub thumping, his preference for deliberation, and his faith in the power of reason and knowledge, all conspire against the credibility of his populism. That Obama was able to make his urbane outsiderism a winning formula in 2008 was remarkable. Repeating the feat in office as Middle America's champion is much harder.

But the third and biggest problem with all populism, Obama's included, is that it is much easier to say what you are against than what you are for and how you will get there. Implausible contradictions seem to be the order of the day.

Obama wants to rein in healthcare costs, but he seems willing to accept a reform package that does very little to contain costs. He wants to freeze government spending, but not until he spends a lot more this year to create jobs and build infrastructure.He is committed to winning in Afghanistan, but he will pull out in 2011 come what may.

Governing may be the art of convincing voters that what seem contradictions are, in fact, the path to the promised land. This is his task ahead.

Obama's plan combines what won him office, running against Washington, with what the tenor of the times is calling for, economic populism. Now he must hope that congress buys in, that his jobs agenda works, and that American voters are once again convinced to buy in, too. It has a chance. But no one should bet the farm on it just yet.

Professor Geoffrey Garrett is chief executive of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney

Source:theaustralian.com.au/

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hacker breaks into 49 House Web sites, insults Obama

WASHINGTON -- A hacker broke into 49 House Web sites of both political parties overnight to post a crude attack on President Barack Obama.

Spokesman Jeff Ventura in the chief administrative office said the sites that were hit were managed by a third-party vendor. In contrast, most lawmakers' Web sites are managed by House technicians.

Ventura says the vendor was performing an update and for a brief moment let its guard down. That was long enough to allow the hacker to penetrate the sites.

The attacker used an obscenity in referring to the president, who gave his state of the union address from the House chamber Wednesday night.

Source:washingtonpost.com/

Stock selloff accelerates

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A stock selloff gained speed Thursday as investors dumped technology and other large cap stocks amid weaker economic reports, a stronger dollar and continued jitters in the aftermath of last week's selloff.

The market wariness overshadowed Ford Motor's first profit in 4 years and President Obama's announcement of a push for jobs.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A stock selloff gained speed Thursday as investors dumped technology and other large cap stocks amid weaker economic reports, a stronger dollar and continued jitters in the aftermath of last week's selloff.

The market wariness overshadowed Ford Motor's first profit in 4 years and President Obama's announcement of a push for jobs.

Source:CNNMoney.com

Watch Obama State of the Union Address 2010 Full Video Online

The State of the Union Address 2010 delivered by President Barack Obama aired in most of the major networks. The world stopped to watch the State of the Union Address 2010. Anyway I wont be keeping you guys long. Here is the video, You guys can check it out after a quick preview on what we will be hearing from President Obama on his First State of the Union Address 2010.


President Barack Obama, Had a lot of good things said in the State of the Union Address 2010. For those who missed it, here is your chance to be able to watch the replay on the State of the Union Address 2010.



Read more: http://www.timesasia.net/watch-obama-state-of-the-union-address-2010-full-video-online-29221229.htm#ixzz0e8zoMclg

Eight in 10 Americans approve Obama's State of the Union proposals


WASHINGTON: Eight in ten Americans have approved of the proposals president Barack Obama made in his State of the Union speech on Wednesday, according to a new poll.

An instant poll conducted by CBS News and Knowledge Networks found that 83% of speech watchers approve Obama’s proposals, while 17% disapprove them.

It also revealed that 70% of speech watchers think that Obama shares the same priorities for the country as they do. Only 57% thought so before the speech.

On the question of creating jobs, 59% now think that Obama has a clear plan for creating them, while only 40% thought so earlier.

Following the speech, 72% people approve of Obama's plans for dealing with government spending, while 28% disapprove.

According to the survey, 56% Americans think Obama's economic plans will reduce the budget deficit in the long run, and 71% believe they will help ordinary Americans.

Still, just 42% of speech watchers think that Barack Obama will be able to accomplish all the goals he set out in his speech, while 57% do not think he will be able to.

The poll saw participation of 522 speech watchers. The margin of error was 4%.

Source:dnaindia.com/

Gays 'Applaud' Obama for Pledge to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Gay rights groups lauded President Obama for pledging Wednesday night to work this year to repeal the ban on gay people from openly serving in the armed forces, ratcheting down their criticism of the president for not working quickly enough to overturn the policy.

President: I will "repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve."In his first State of the Union address, the president said he would work with Congress and the military to lift the 15-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, setting a rough timeline for repealing the increasingly unpopular ban that is particularly disliked by many of his most ardent supporters.

Source:abcnews.go.com/

State of the Union: Obama's national security rhetoric bogs him down


President Obama faced a tough task in the State of the Union speech, presiding as he does over a still-stagnant economy and domestic political discord. So it is not surprising, and even appropriate, that foreign policy would not be a main theme. But even so, it was noteworthy just how little attention he devoted to national security issues. And the comments he did make -- which felt crammed in towards the end -- focused more on the goals of drawing down our troop deployments than on victory in Afghanistan and Iraq. He introduced the national security section by rhetorically targeting his own critics, with a defensive-sounding plea to "put aside schoolyard taunts about who's tough." Which he followed in the next paragraph by noting the hundreds of al Qaeda members that in the last year "have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008." The elimination of the threat from hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists and supporters is a laudable achievement; why cheapen it with what sounds like, well, a taunting comparison to his predecessor?

In sum, this State of the Union comes from a president still struggling to reconcile his lofty campaign hopes with the hard realities of governing, and the pressing demands of domestic politics with his inescapable responsibilities as commander in chief.

Source:shadow.foreignpolicy.com/

Obama in Florida to test State of the Union opinion

US President Barack Obama is to travel to Florida for a "town hall" meeting that will be the first test of opinion since his State of the Union address.

Mr Obama made job creation the main focus of Wednesday's speech, and will announce $8bn (£5bn) for a national high-speed rail system while in Tampa.

He also said Americans were "hurting" and admitted he had not yet delivered on his election pledge of change.

But Mr Obama defended his healthcare reform efforts and bailout of banks.

Giving the Republican response, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said Democratic policies were resulting in unsustainable levels of debt.

Creating jobs

On Thursday, the day after his first State of the Union address, Mr Obama will fly with Vice-President Joe Biden to Tampa where they will tour MacDill Air Force Base, which has been used for aid flights to Haiti.

MARDELL'S AMERICA

There were solid economic measures in this speech, and how they work out will determine the president's popularity more than his words



Read Mark's thoughts in full
After that the two men will attend a town hall-style meeting at the University of Tampa, where they are expected to be questioned about the economy.

Mr Obama will also use the meeting to announce the $8bn in grants for nationwide high-speed rail projects, which the White House says will create or save thousands of jobs in engineering, manufacturing, planning and maintenance.

Except for the line between Boston and Washington, there are no high-speed rail routes in the US. Thirteen rail corridors in 31 states are to receive funds, but only California's plans call for trains with maximum speeds exceeding 200mph (322km/h).

Congress set aside funding for the rail projects, which Mr Obama said in April would "change the way we travel in America", as part of the $787bn economic stimulus package approved in 2009.

In the State of the Union speech Mr Obama called for new spending and tax cuts that he said would build on the stimulus package and easily push the cost of all stimulus measures since he took office to over $1 trillion.

Mr Obama said he had taken office a year ago "amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt".


US unemployment is improving but millions are still looking for work
"The devastation remains," he added. "One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder."

The president said creating jobs had to be his administration's "number one focus in 2010" and said he wanted Congress to pass a jobs bill "without delay".

Mr Obama also defended the controversial series of bank bailouts, saying that although it was "about as popular as root canal... unemployment might be double what it is today" if the government had allowed the meltdown of the financial system.

But he said the budget deficit had to be tackled, and proposed a three-year freeze on spending on part of the domestic budget, excluding Medicare and social security, which would contribute towards $20bn in savings.

"Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt."

Republicans said they welcomed the proposed freeze on domestic spending, but warned against the expansion of government.

HAVE YOUR SAY Obama's problem is not with his speech-making. The problem is that his policies have been, to date, a complete failure.
Gary, Japan
Send us your comments "The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper, limited role of government at every level," said Gov McDonnell.

The BBC's Richard Lister, in Washington, says it was a sober speech for serious times, primarily devoted to domestic issues.

He says the president talked optimistically about the capacity of the American people to endure hardships, and come through stronger, but at times he also sounded defensive, saying he never suggested he could bring the change he promised all by himself.

Mr Obama's address follows the Democratic Party's loss of a key Senate seat in Massachusetts last week. The result has deprived them of their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate and means the Republicans can effectively block Democratic legislation.

Source:bbc.co.uk

Obama State of the Union, McDonnell Response Contrasts on Abortion, Health Care


Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- President Barack Obama and pro-life Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell presented a stark contrast Wednesday night. Obama's State of the Union address promoted the pro-abortion health care bill while McDonnell included a reference to promoting pro-life values in his response.

"I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed," Obama said of the Senate bill that funds abortions and have other abortion problems.

"Here’s what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people," Obama said.

Obama appeared to ignore the polling data that consistently shows the American people not only oppose the health care bill but oppose government funding of abortions in it -- instead talking about how pushing the pro-abortion government-run health care bill affected his own political bottom line.

"I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics," he said.

In his response, McDonnell presented a response from Americans opposed to Obama's health care plan.

"In recent months, the American people have made clear that they want government leaders to listen and act on the issues most important to them," he said. “We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship."

“All Americans agree, we need a health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality," he said. “But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government."

He said Republicans offer different answers and "our solutions aren't thousand-page bills that no one has fully read, after being crafted behind closed doors with special interests."

On the issue of abortion itself, only McDonnell bothered to address it and he took a clear pro-life stance.

“America must always be a land where liberty and property are valued and respected, and innocent human life is protected," he said.

Obama on the other hand used language that appeared to support human worth but his record promoting abortion belies his words. In his State of the Union speech, he said, "America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity."

Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Americans should evaluate Obama on his actions, not his words.

"Unfortunately, this administration’s actions speak louder than this President’s words and with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, the gang that can't shoot straight," he said in an email to LifeNews.com.

"What’s needed is a resounding victory for conservative principles," including "life," Huckabee said.

Catholic writer Deal Hudson doesn't think Obama's speech delivered.

"President Obama gave his first State of the Union speech last night. With his popularity in a steady decline for the past six months, Obama needed his speech to rekindle the enthusiasm for his leadership that elected him in the first place. Thus far, there is no evidence to suggest he was successful," he said.

"Simply renaming health care reform 'health insurance reform' will not solve Obama's political puzzle, nor the underlying problems of the legislation. But this is typical of the president's approach to political obstacles -- change the language, not the substance, and people will drop their objections," Hudson added.

And Family Research Council president Tony Perkins noticed the pro-life line in McDonnell's speech.

""We applaud Governor Bob McDonnell for calling for a land in which 'innocent human life is protected,'" he said.

"The governor's call to protect human life is clearly in line with the American people who overwhelmingly oppose the President's health care plan which would use our hard earned dollars to pay for abortion coverage. FRC will continue to work to ensure taxpayers are not forced to be part of the President's pro-abortion agenda," he told LifeNews.com.

Americans likely had a different response to the speech depending on their political persuasion.

Before the speech, Gallup noted that Obama is the most polarizing president in American history, according to a poll it released.

The average difference in Obama's approval ratings between Democrats and Republicans turned out to be 65 percent -- the highest first-year gap of any president so measured.

"The extraordinary level of polarization in Obama's first year in office is a combination of declining support from Republicans coupled with high and sustained approval from Democrats," Gallup's Jeffrey Jones said.

Obama's 88 percent approval rating from Democrats is the second highest level of party support for a first-year president, trailing only the 92 percent Republican support for George W. Bush in 2001.

On the other hand, Obama's 23 percent rating among Republicans is tied for lowest party rating of a rookie president, matching GOP "backing" of Bill Clinton back in 1993.


Source:.lifenews.com/

Obama State of The Union Speech Justice Alito NOT TRUE Video 2009 Wilson Redux

Washington, DC - During President Barack Obama's State of The Union Speech Supreme Court Justice Alito declared Obama's statement as "not true". That is twice in as many State of The Union Speeches that somebody has called President Obama a liar.

Congressman Joe Wilson in 2009 yelled out "You Lie" during the State of The Union Speech.

Might this fall under..."where there is smoke, there is fire"? A pattern maybe?

Alito reaction video:

Source:beforeitsnews.com/

Obama Treads Lightly On Health In State Of The Union



President Obama used his State of the Union address to urge lawmakers not to abandon the sinking ship of their health care overhaul bills, noting in perhaps the speech's biggest understatement that "by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics."

He didn't offer a prescription on how to get legislation moving, and even now, after months of work, said that he was willing to reopen the discussion to accommodate better ideas on how to remake the nation's health system.

Want to talk about it? Join NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley and me for a Web chat on the president's speech and the prospects for health overhaul Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern by clicking here.

Obama's speech came as Democrats in the House and Senate remained at loggerheads about how to proceed in the wake of last week's loss of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts seat to Republican Scott Brown. That stripped Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate and, with it, the ability to fend off GOP filibusters.

The House could pass the Senate version of the bill and President Obama could sign it. But House Democrats hate many provisions in it, starting with a controversial tax on high-cost insurance plans.

The House might be able to pass the Senate bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday, if the Senate promised to pass changes under a process known as budget reconciliation. That is a fast-track procedure that bars filibusters and requires a simple majority to pass. But more than half a dozen Senate Democrats have already said they object to using reconciliation.

Enter President Obama, who urged lawmakers not to give up. "By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance," he said. "Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber." The president did not say how lawmakers should proceed, but he did appear to back away from earlier hints that Congress might want to scale back the bills.

"As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed," he said. "There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo."

But he also left room for other possibilities, saying if anyone "has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."

The White House posted health excerpts from Obama's speech here. For what it's worth, only about 6 percent of the address (about 450 words of the more than 7,000 in the speech) was devoted to health care.

Source:npr.org/

Chris Matthews on Obama: `Forgot He Was Black'


MSNBC's Chris Matthews says President Barack Obama has done so much to heal racial divisions that he "forgot he was black" while watching his State of the Union address.

Those four words — "forgot he was black" — so instantly set the Twitter world afire that Matthews came back less than 90 minutes later Wednesday night to explain what he meant.

The MSNBC commentator said it was noteworthy to him that a black president was addressing a room of mostly white people and how it didn't seem to be an issue. He said he saw it in the context of growing up at a time racial divisions were ever-present.

Says Matthews: "I went in the room tonight, you could feel it wasn't there tonight and that takes leadership on his part, to get us beyond those divisions."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source:abcnews.go.com/

Obama's State of the Union Address: Who's Your POTUS?

Obama's State of the Union Address: Who's Your POTUS?
President Barack Obama was unapologetic and a bit defiant as he delivered his first State of the Union address on Wednesday. Obama focused mainly on the economy and essentially reaffirmed his Democratness, which was a refreshing change from a week of Democratic leaders surrendering in response to Scott Brown's hairy abdomen.

He affirmed his support for the stimulus plan and the banks. He said we needed the bailout and have already recovered most of cash spent on banks. Obama proposed a fee on banks to recover the rest use $30 billion repaid to help small banks. He also expressed support for investment in alternative energy sources, affirmed the existence of climate change and endorsed an aggressive trade policy with other countries.

The Republicans didn't enjoy the early part of the speech. Poor babies.

Obama uttering a platitude on healthcare reform finally got the GOP to stand. Not sure why. President Obama cited Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers that show healthcare reform cutting the deficit $1 trillion over 20 years. Obama said Congress should look at bill again, or offer an alternative. He added "Let's get it done."

Next, we got a history lesson. Obama mentioned the surplus President Clinton left us and how it turned into a huge deficit. He mentioned no specific person or party, and blamed nobody in particular. Senator John McCain was shown mouthing something like "Blaming Bush?" to Senator Lindsey Graham. A real knee-slapper. Of course, we could be mistaken.

President Obama also mentioned his budget freeze idea, which McCain allegedly supports.

He criticized the Supreme Court decision on election finance, which Justice Samuel Alito's shaking head didn't like. This Bostonist always watches the State of the Union address and has never seen that.

The concluding segment went like this in Congress: Troops? Support 'em! Haiti? Help 'em. Freedom? Love it. Gays and immigrants? We know about them.

Source:bostonist.com/

BEFORE THE BELL: US Stock Futures Up After Obama Speech; Ford Climbs

U.S. stock futures rose Thursday as markets assessed President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, while upbeat results from Ford Motor Co. and others also contributed to a positive tone.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.1 points to 1099.70 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.75 points to 1813.70. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 37 points.

Speaking to the nation and members of Congress in a high-stakes policy address, President Barack Obama late Wednesday used his first State of the Union speech to call for a host of job creation measures and a redoubled effort to finish health-care reform in the midst of a newly challenging political environment for him and his party.

Stock markets in Europe and Asia--which also were getting their first opportunity to react to the Fed statement--were generally stronger, with the Nikkei 225 up 1.6% in Tokyo and the pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 rising 1%.

Obama's call for tax breaks, as well as a less strident attack on banks vs. what was seen last week, appeared to go down well overseas.

The economics calendar features weekly jobless claims and December durable goods orders, with both sets of reports due at 8:30 a.m., EST.

A vote in the Senate on the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also is due, with expectations that the Fed chairman will squeak through.

Earnings rolled in from giants including Ford Motor Co. (F), up 3% after returning to a profit and as Toyota Motor (TM, 7203.TO) expanded its car recall; Nokia Corp. (NOK), up 11% after stronger-than-forecast quarterly profit; and Eastman Kodak Co. (EK), up nearly 14% after a profit from the ex-Dow component.

On the downside, Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) tumbled nearly 9% on a cut sales outlook, and Nokia rival Motorola Inc. (MOT) dropped on a worse-than-forecast quarter.

After the close, Microsoft Corp.(MSFT) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) report results.

Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds were steady at 3.66%, and the dollar index rose slightly.

Platinum futures by $26 an ounce, while crude oil futures rose 54 cents a barrel.

On an event-filled Wednesday--the Fed growing more optimistic on the economy as it held rates, Apple Inc.(AAPL) introducing the iPad, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM, 7203.TO) recalling cars, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner defending the American International Group Inc. (AIG) bailout and several earnings--U.S. stocks rose, with the Dow industrials rising 41 points, the Nasdaq Composite adding 17 points and the S&P 500 growing 5 points.

-By Steve Goldstein;44 2078 429 424; AskNewswires@dowjones.com



DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Among the companies whose shares are expected to actively trade in Thursday's session are Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and E*Trade Financial Corp. (ETFC).

American depositary shares of Finland's Nokia rose 13% to $14.55 premarket after the world's largest mobile phone maker maintained its key financial targets for 2010 and posted a stronger-than-expected rise in fourth quarter net profit as margins improved.

Netflix's fourth-quarter profit climbed 36% on higher sales and margins, and the company added more than 1 million subscribers during the quarter to reach its year-end target of 12.3 million. Shares jumped 16% to $59.11 in late trading as the online DVD-rental pioneer's earnings topped its forecast while revenue was in line with guidance.

E*Trade Financial's fourth-quarter loss narrowed as the online broker posted significantly lower loan-loss provisions and noted net charge-offs fell sequentially. Shares rose 1.8% to $1.68 in after-hours trading.

The crisis facing Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) deepened Thursday as the company said its large-scale recall, stemming from a faulty accelerator pedal problem, would spread to Europe on an undetermined number of vehicles. China's quality watchdog also said one of Toyota's China joint ventures will recall 75,552 RAV4 sport-utility vehicles because of the same problem. Shares fell 1.9% to $78.27 in light premarket trading.

Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOM) fiscal first-quarter profit more than doubled on higher sales and a large prior-year write-down. Shares fell 9.9% to $42.52 after hours as the world's largest wireless-chip maker lowered its fiscal-year revenue guidance on a "subdued economic recovery in developed regions, including Europe and Japan, combined with relative strength at the lower end of the market" but backed its earnings guidance. ThinkEquity and Morgan Keegan both cut their ratings on the stock.

Align Technology Inc.'s (ALGN) fourth-quarter profit fell 82% from a year earlier, when the company recorded a big tax benefit, but the orthodontic-products maker saw surprisingly strong sales growth. The company expects that strength to continue into the current quarter, forecasting current-quarter earnings above analysts' views. Shares rose 14% to $18.99 in light premarket trading.

AstraZeneca PLC's (AZN) fiscal-year results are "essentially disappointing," an analyst said, noting both the 2009 results and the pharmaceutical company's guidance for a 2010 miss of consensus expectations. The analyst said while the medium term sales outlook given by the company is a little more optimistic, this is somewhat precarious as it implies success in a couple of quite high risk drug trials. The company posted a smaller-than-forecast 24% jump in fourth-quarter net profit, helped by rising sales of cholesterol pill Crestor and its swine flu vaccine. ADSs fell 3.2% to $48.06 premarket.

Ball Corp.'s (BLL) fourth-quarter earnings more than doubled amid prior-year charges while sales rose. The plastic and metal packaging company also said it expects earnings growth this year, even though it said it would be tough to beat least year's first-quarter results, which were helped by inventory gains. Shares rose 7% to $54 in premarket trading.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s (BMY) fourth-quarter profit soared on higher sales as well as a gain related to its split-off of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN). The drug maker also predicted 2010 revenue above analysts' views, though it projected earnings in line. Shares increased 1.2% to $24.60 premarket.

Cabot Corp.'s (CBT) fiscal first-quarter profit soared as the chemicals and specialty materials company's sales volumes saw double-digit growth and margins improved. Shares rose 2.5% to $27.24 in late trading as the earnings far exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

Cardinal Health Corp.'s (CAH) fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 26%, but adjusted earnings topped analysts' forecasts. The second-biggest drug distributor in the U.S. also raised its fiscal-year earnings guidance again, sending shares up 3.4% to $32.37 premarket.

Citrix Systems Inc.'s (CTXS) fourth-quarter profit climbed 47% as the virtualization and infrastructure software company posted higher revenue globally as well as in all its businesses. Even as results topped expectations, shares dropped 4.2% to $40.23 after hours.

Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) reversed a loss in the fourth quarter amid cost cuts, growth in its digital products businesses and improved profit margins. Shares jumped 14% premarket to $5.36 as results were well above analysts' expectations. Chairman and Chief Executive Antonio M. Perez said, "Momentum is returning" to the company that has been dealing with lagging demand and the continued shift to digital photography.

Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) swung to a fourth-quarter profit, with results falling short of analysts' estimates, as the company booked a $4.73 billion charge in the year-earlier quarter from its purchase of ImClone Systems Inc. The drug maker's fourth-quarter results were "highlighted by volume-based revenue gains, improved gross margins and quality earnings growth," said Chairman and Chief Executive John C. Lechleiter. Shares rose 1.7% to $37 premarket.

First Financial Bancorp (Ohio) (FFBC) shares rose 2.4% to $15.50 premarket as the bank holding company priced its 5.6 million share offering at $15.14 each--Wednesday's closing price.

Flextronics International Ltd.'s (FLEX) fiscal third-quarter profit more than quadrupled sequentially as the company's sales rose and gross margin expanded. The results beat its October guidance, and the company provided fiscal fourth-quarter guidance ranges for adjusted earnings and revenue that were mostly higher than analysts' estimates. Despite the results, shares fell 3.8% to $6.83 in after-hours trading.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.'s (GMCR) fiscal first-quarter fell 13% on a prior-year patent settlement as results handily topped analysts' expectations. Shares gained 2.5% to $82.01 as the company again raised its forecast for the year.

Kirby Corp.'s (KEX) fourth-quarter profit dropped 24% as demand continued weak. Shares dropped 6.9% to $33.50 after hours on lower-than-expected results for the owner of a fleet of tank barges.

LSI Corp. (LSI) swung to a fourth-quarter profit as the storage-chip maker saw "increasing signs of an early-stage recovery" in information-technology spending. But shares dropped 7% to $5.58 after hours.

Oshkosh Corp. (OSK) swung to a fiscal first-quarter profit, as better-than-expected revenue growth and higher margins helped the specialty-vehicle maker easily top Wall Street's expectations. Shares rose 3.9% to $37. 39 premarket.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT) posted a significant drop in fourth-quarter earnings, hurt by the continued effects of the global economic downturn on potash sales volumes and prices for potash, phosphate and nitrogen products. The integrated fertilizer company also forecasted continued production curtailments. The company also forecast first-quarter and full-year earnings below analysts' views. Shares fell 3.9% to $105.30 premarket.

Solutia Inc. (SOA) swung to a fourth-quarter profit on higher sales volumes and lower costs as well as $470 million in prior-year impairment and restructuring charges. Shares gained 9.7% to $13.90 in late trading as the specialty chemicals company's results far exceeded Wall Street's expectations.

Symantec Corp. (SYMC) swung to a fiscal third-quarter profit on continued strength in the antivirus-software maker's consumer business and as results improved at the security and compliance business. Shares slid 4.8% to $17.71 in late trading although results were better than the company projected.

Teradyne Inc. (TER) swung to a fourth-quarter profit--the second in a row after four consecutive quarterly losses--on higher sales and a prior-year goodwill write-down of $329.7 million. Shares rose 5.3% to $10.80 in after-hours trading as the semiconductor testing equipment maker predicted first-quarter results far above Wall Street's expectations.

Janney Capital Markets cut its rating on Tetra Tech Inc. (TTEK) to neutral from buy, saying despite a solid fiscal first quarter, the provider of consulting and engineering services "has thrown in the towel early on construction project delays, laying off employees and cutting its earnings forecast for the year, citing lack of visibility on near-term project awards."

Textron Inc.'s (TXT) fourth-quarter loss narrowed after large prior-year charges for exiting some financial-services businesses, as the defense contractor and aircraft maker's core income declined less than analysts expected. But the company continued to keep its expectations in check, setting its 2010 earnings targets way below analysts' views. Shares slid 2.4% to $20.50 premarket.

Tractor Supply Co. (TSCO), the largest farm and ranch dealer in the U.S., reported fourth-quarter earnings jumped 55% on margin and sales gains. For 2010, the company forecast earnings view above analysts' estimates, while its outlook for revenue was in line with consensus. Shares rose 2.5% to $53.50 in after-hours trading.

Tyco International Ltd. (TYC) fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 9% on cost cuts at the diversified manufacturer. Tyco's ADT security business, the biggest segment by revenue, was also the company's strongest in the most recent period, posting an 14% jump in income as sales inched up 1%. Shares rose 3.2% to $37.65 in light premarket trading.

Source:online.wsj.com/

Obama’s small business proposals get mixed reviews


Small businesses played a prominent role in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, but some business groups doubt his proposals would lead many small firms to hire more workers. Obama said jobs “must be our No. 1 focus in 2010.”

“We should start where most new jobs do -- in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides it’s time to become her own boss,” the president said.

To help small businesses grow, the president proposed:

• Using $30 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to provide cheap capital to community banks for use in making loans to small businesses;

• Eliminating capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses, an idea Obama proposed during the presidential campaign;

• Continuing tax incentives that allow small businesses to immediately write off much of the cost of investments in new equipment instead of having to depreciate it over time; and

• Creating a tax credit for small businesses that hire new workers or raise the wages of existing workers.

John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, said the proposals address a broad range of needs facing small firms.

“Collectively they start to attack different aspects of the problem,” he said.

Leaders of other small business organizations, however, question how effective the proposals would be.

Obama’s plan to use TARP funds to spur community banks to make loans to small businesses was first unveiled in October, for example. The Treasury Department has not been able to get the program off the ground, however, because community banks are leery of the strings and stigma attached to taking TARP funds.

A recent survey by the National Small Business Association found that one-third of small businesses can’t get adequate financing. To be effective, the president’s lending initiative “must start now,” said NSBA President Todd McCracken.

Other small business groups would rather see TARP ended than have the funds applied to another program, even one designed to help small businesses.

“Given the mood of the country on spending and the bailout money, I don’t see this program going anywhere,” said Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

The president also supports legislation that would extend provisions in the economic stimulus bill that increased the government guarantee on the Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) loans and reduced or eliminated fees on 7(a) loans and 504 loans, which primarily are used for real estate. Most small business groups support this proposal, even though Bill Rys, tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Business, points out that SBA loans represent only a small percentage of lending to small businesses.

Small businesses also support Obama’s proposal to extend incentives for business investment, such as bonus depreciation and higher Section 179 expensing limits. These incentives make buying new equipment easier because businesses can write off more of the cost now instead of later.

“They incentivize businesses to make their businesses more profitable,” said Giovanni Coratolo, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

These investment breaks also “have a leveraging effect,” Coratolo said, because they also create customers for the businesses that make equipment.

“Businesses planning for an upturn in the economy would be encouraged to start making the investments in equipment that will be part of getting going again and hiring workers back,” said Clint Stretch, managing principal for tax policy at Deloitte Tax.

Rys said extending these breaks is a good idea, but it’s “not a game changer” because the weak economy has kept many small businesses from taking advantage of them. Capital expenditures by small businesses are at the lowest level they’ve been in the 35-year history of NFIB’s monthly survey of business owners, Rys said.

Source:washington.bizjournals.com/