President Barack Obama introduces Maria Contreras-Sweet as his choice to be the new administrator of the Small Business Administration during an announcement ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, the founder of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, has a history of working with small businesses and has been an advocate for Hispanics. As California’s secretary of the state’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2003, she was the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state and oversaw 40,000 state employees and a $12 billion budget.
In 2006, she founded ProAmérica Bank, a financial institution that aimed to assist small and mid-size businesses. Before that, she was president and co-founder of a private equity firm that provided capital to small California businesses. Contreras-Sweet would become the second Hispanic in Obama’s second term Cabinet. The other is Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. She would also become the eighth woman in Obama’s current Cabinet.
First Lady Michelle Obama gestures while speaking in the State Dining Room of the White House where she hosted a screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” a coming of age story about two inner-city youth who are left to fend for themselves in the Bronx.
Lesley Clark: First Lady Joins With Alicia Keys To Talk Education
First Lady Michelle Obama has earned accolades — and few brickbats — for her campaigns to improve the American diet and get people off the couch. She’s also championed hiring opportunities for returning veterans. And now, the first lady says, she’s adding another initiative to her roster: helping achieve President Obama’s goal that the U.S. by 2020 will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. (It once was No. 1 but has fallen to 12th, she said.) Still, Obama, who turns 50 on Friday, says she’s not giving up her “Let’s Move,” food and exercise program or her “Joining Forces” campaign to help military veterans and their families.
“Nothing is going away, we’re just adding more on,” Obama said Wednesday, talking to a room full of educators at the White House. “I’m going to be doing my very best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people. That’s my focus. Everybody else is going to be talking about resources, but the one thing I can bring to this is the message that we can give directly to young people.” Obama’s remarks came after a White House screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” produced by the singer, Alicia Keys, who preceded Obama at the lectern in the State Dining Room.
Smithsonian political history curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy, left, and museum specialist Bethanee Bemis, show off First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown in a storage area at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The White House is lending Obama’s ruby-colored chiffon gown made by designer Jason Wu to the National Museum of American History for a year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s first ladies exhibition. It will be paired with Obama’s shoes designed by Jimmy Choo.
Smithsonian political history curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy shows off First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown in a storage area at the Smithsonian Museum of American History
Will Rogers’ old aphorism—”I belong to no organized political party; I’m a Democrat”—was, at one point, an endearing shorthand for the messiness of Democratic politics. Now, however, it may threaten Democratic chances to gain back the House and hold the Senate this year.
A few examples:
* Today President Obama travels to North Carolina for an event. Democratic senator Kay Hagan is staying in Washington, DC, for the Senate session. Now, while commendable, it is rather interesting that she couldn’t spend a couple of hours welcoming the leader of her party to her state as she gears up for a tough election battle. One has to wonder if she’s putting distance between herself and the President.
* Gov. Brian Schweitzer, putative 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, was asked in an interview to name one positive thing accomplished by Pres. Obama. After much reflection he came up with this:
“My mother, God rest her soul, told me ‘Brian, if you can’t think of something nice to say about something change the subject,’” he said.
But he couldn’t help himself, slamming Obama’s record on civil liberties (the NSA revelations were “un-effing-believable”), his competency (“They just haven’t been very good at running things”), and above all, Obamacare (“It will collapse on its own weight”).
This is the man touted as one of the 2016 frontrunners: someone who wants to expurgate Obama’s two terms as President from the collective memory.
Jim Burress: Obamacare Giving Big Boost To Georgia’s Health IT Industry
Politically, Georgia is fighting the health law at every turn. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, has chosen not to expand Medicaid, and the state’s insurance commissioner publically vowed to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. But that doesn’t mean Georgia isn’t seeing a financial benefit from the law. Take the company called PreMedex. Founder and president Van Willis knows that just a few years ago, a company like his would’ve been a hard sell — impossible, even. The two-year-old company contracts with hospitals and doctors’ offices to call patients after they’re discharged. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are penalized if Medicare patients are readmitted within a month for several specific illnesses.
“From a hospital standpoint, there was very little, if any, communication with patients once they leave,” Willis explains. “A logical way to communicate with patients if you can’t be in their homes is, of course, through the telephone.” Scattered around a half-dozen office cubicles, PreMedex employees don telephone headsets on a recent morning and sit down in front of computers that automatically dial patients. After telling patients they are calling on behalf of doctors and hospitals, the workers ask some simple but important health questions: Have you had any fever? Are you in any pain? How patients answer could mean the difference between a hospital’s profit and loss. PreMedex started with five employees. It’s up to 25 and growing. It’s a story told over and over across Georgia, according to Tino Mantella, who heads the Technology Association of Georgia.
The Atlantic: What Happens When the President Sits Down Next to You At A Cafe
Thursday into Friday, my head cold got worse, so on Friday morning I walked down to a bar-cafe-restaurant in my neighborhood….
… the president arrived, 40 minutes later – stepping out of his SUV, smiling, with a little wave …
…. He picked up the baby. The baby’s mom told him about the baby …. He was adorable. Obama really seemed to appreciate holding him, and bounced him for probably a minute. The baby’s mom told him that their family had just been stationed in Kenya, that thats where the baby was born.
He seemed to stumble for a second, as he realized he could not phrase a joke in exactly the way he could phrase it in private.
“That’s, that’s where Donald Trump thinks I was born,” he said.
James Fallows: The Iran Vote: This Really Matters, And You Should Let Your Senators Know
If the nuclear deal is going to fail, let that happen at the negotiating table – and not be engineered under the Capitol dome.
…. The Obama Administration, along with some of the usual U.S. allies – the U.K., France, Germany – and such non-allied parties as Russia and China, has taken steps with the potential of peacefully ending Iran’s 35-year estrangement from most of the rest of the world. That would be of enormous benefit and significance to Iran, the U.S., and nearly everyone else concerned.
… derailment is what seems to be underway in the Senate right now. Republicans led by Mitch McConnell are pushing for a sanctions bill that is universally recognized (except by its sponsors) as a poison-pill for the current negotiations. Fine; opposing the administration is the GOP’s default position.
But a striking number of Democrats have joined them, for no evident reason other than AIPAC’s whole-hearted, priority-one support for the sanctions bill…
When the U.S. auto industry nearly collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis, the three major American auto makers – GM, Chrysler and Ford – asked the government for a $50 billion bailout to avoid bankruptcy.
(Technically, Ford didn’t need the money, they requested the funds to stake equal advantage with their subsidized brethren.)
Although the prospect of losing millions of industry jobs loomed, a reluctant Congress wasn’t quick to grant the money…. Today, the Big 3 are back reporting healthy profits and manufacturing vehicles they think the world wants to drive.
Jonathan Cohn: On Second Thought, Republicans Say, Let’s Stiff The Unemployed
Republicans determined to help the poor and the unemployed? That’s so last week.
On Tuesday, two proposals to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed failed to get past key procedural obstacles in the Senate. One proposal would extend benefits until the end of 2014, offsetting the cost by tacking on an extra year of sequestration cuts in 2024. The other proposal would extend benefits for just three months, without offsetting cuts or revenue, but in the hopes that future negotiations would produce another extension that was fully paid for.
Prospects for passage of such a proposal seemed better last week, when Democrats and a half-dozen Republicans voted to begin debate on a benefits extension, providing the 60-vote majority necessary to overcome a filibuster. But on Tuesday, when it came time to end debate and move ahead, Democratic leaders couldn’t win over the same handful of Republicans. They had only 52 votes to proceed—a majority, but short of the super-majority it takes to pass most legislation these days.
Reuters: World Bank Sees Stronger Growth As Rich Economies Expand
The World Bank on Tuesday raised its forecast for global growth for the first time in three years as advanced economies started to pick up pace, led by the United States. The rosier outlook suggests the world economy is finally breaking free from a long and sluggish recovery after the global financial crisis. The poverty-fighting institution predicted global gross domestic product will expand 3.2 percent this year, from 2.4 percent in 2013, according to its twice-yearly “Global Economic Prospects.” In the bank’s last forecast in June, it expected global growth to reach 3 percent in 2014.
The bank said the global economy had come to a “turning point,” as fiscal austerity and policy uncertainty no longer weighed as heavily on most richer economies. The bank expected stronger growth in the United States in particular, of 2.8 percent in 2014, from 1.8 percent last year. “For the first time in five years, there are indications that a self-sustaining recovery has begun among high-income countries – suggesting that they may now join developing countries as a second engine of growth in the global economy,” the bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu said in the report.
Erin Kelly: McCain, Flake Vote Against Bill To Restore Long-Term Jobless Benefits
A bill that would have restored long-term unemployment benefits to more than 17,000 jobless Arizonans died Tuesday after Republicans blocked a vote on the legislation. Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake joined most other Republicans in blocking the bill from coming to a vote, arguing that its cost needed to be paid through budget cuts. Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, whose state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, was the only Republican to join Democrats in supporting the bill.
The Senate’s failure to pass the bill means that another 22,500 Arizonans could lose their benefits during the next six months. It also means the House is unlikely to take up the legislation. Arizonans are still struggling with an unemployment rate that is about 1 percentage point higher than the national average, which was 6.7percent in December. The bill’s supporters fell four votes short of the 60 they needed to end the Republican filibuster and allow a vote on the $6.4billion bill to extend benefits by three months. In the end, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
D-Nev., changed his “yes” vote to a “no” — a procedural move that allows him to bring the bill up again if he can secure more GOP votes. Heller and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., offered the bill to restore benefits under the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which helps people who have been unemployed for more than six months by sending them about $300 a week. The program, which expired Dec.28, gave unemployed Arizonans a maximum of 63weeks of benefits. Without the program, jobless Arizonans can get a maximum of 26weeks.
BBC: General Motors To Pay First Dividend Since 2008
US carmaker General Motors (GM) said it will resume dividend payments, capping a remarkable turnaround since its 2009 bailout by the US government. It will pay a dividend of 30 cents per share, the first since July 2008. GM filed for bankruptcy at the height of the global financial crisis and was rescued after the government pumped in billions of dollars.
But the firm has since seen a strong recovery, led by a jump in sales in key markets such as the US and China. On Tuesday, the firm said it sold 9.71 million vehicles in 2013, an increase of 4% on the year before. “This return to shareholders is consistent with our capital priorities, and is an important signal of confidence in our plans for a continuing profitable future,” Dan Ammann, GM’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.
McClatchy: Michelle Obama On her 50th birthday: My Message To Women Is Be Healthy
First Lady Michelle Obama said she’s yet to peak – even as she celebrates her 50th birthday at the White House this week. “I’m first lady of the United States of America – that’s pretty high up,” Obama said in a birthday-themed interview with People magazine. “But I’ve always felt like my life is ever-evolving.”
… Post her husband’s presidency, Obama noted she’ll be in her early 50s, with more to accomplish … “I’ve got to keep figuring out ways to have an impact – whether as a mother or as a professional or as a mentor to other kids.”
She noted that when the first couple leaves the White House, eldest daughter Malia will be in college and Sasha will have a few more years “and then she’ll be in college. “At that point in life,” Obama said. “Whoa, the sky is the limit!”
…. she says by 70, she’d like to be traveling — to remote castles in Ireland, on rafting trips and to the Hoover Dam, which she said she hasn’t seen.
On This Day: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia (partially seen at left) and Sasha attend church services at Zion Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)