Posts Tagged ‘climate

12
Nov
14

History Made. Thanks, President Obama

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09
Oct
14

That Hopey Changey Thing Is Working Out Great. Thanks, President Obama!

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Rolling Stone: The Obama Hope And Change Index: 6 Years Of Progress, By The Numbers

Peak unemployment, October 2009: 10 percent
Unemployment rate now: 5.9 percent
Consecutive private sector job growth: 55 months
Private sector jobs created: 10.3 million
Federal deficit, 2009: 9.8 percent of GDP
Deficit in 2013: 4.1 percent of GDP

Average tax rate for highest earners 2008: 28.1 percent
Average tax rate for highest earners 2013: 33.6 percent
Banks regulated as too big to fail, 2009: 0
Banks regulated as “systemically important financial institutions” — a.k.a. too big to fail — 2014: 29
Billions returned to consumers by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement: $4.6 billion
Americans compensated for being swindled by banks, lenders and credit card companies: 15 million
Dow Jones close, inauguration day 2009: 7,949
Dow Jones yesterday: 16,719

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Required MPG (miles per gallon) for cars when Obama took office: 27.5
Required MPG for light trucks/SUVs when Obama took office: 23
MPG requirement by 2016 for cars, light trucks/SUVs: 35.5
MPG required by 2025: 54.5
Gigawatts of wind power installed when Obama took office: 25
Gigawatts of wind power installed through end of 2013: 61
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2008: 128 gigawatt hours
Peak summertime solar power generation June 2014: 2,061 gigawatt hours
Coal burned in electrical generation 2008: 1 billion short tons
Coal burned in electrical generation 2013: 858 million short tons
Reduction: 14.2 percent
EPA-proposed CO2 reductions for power sector by 2030: 30 percent

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Pell grant funding 2008-2009: $18 billion
Pell grant funding 2013-2014: $33 billion
Adults gaining insurance under first year of Obamacare: 10.3 million
As a percentage of the uninsured: 26
Annual cost for birth control prior to Obamacare: Up to $600
Annual cost for birth control under Obamacare-compliant policies: $0
Prescriptions now required to obtain emergency contraception: 0
2009 projection for Medicare going broke: 2017
2014 projection for Medicare going broke: 2030

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Troops in Iraq, inauguration day 2009: 144,000
Troops in Iraq today: 1,600
Osama bin Ladens alive 2009: 1
Osama bin Ladens alive 2014: 0
Troops in Afghanistan, day, 2009: 34,400
Troops pledged in Afghanistan by end of 2014: 9,800
Guantánamo detainees inauguration day 2009: 242
Gitmo detainees today: 149
Crack vs. Powder cocaine-crime sentencing disparity when Obama took office: 100:1
Crack vs. Powder disparity today: 18:1
Drug offenders eligible to seek early release under new sentencing guidelines: 46,000

More here

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POTUS Thumbs Up

23
Sep
14

The President and First Lady’s Day

The President and First Lady leaving the White House this morning

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@dougmillsnyt: President Obama walks from the Oval Office to make a statement about the Syria airstrikes

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President Obama makes a statement on recent U.S. and allied airstrikes against ISIS in Syria

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart the White House to New York for the United Nations General Assembly

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet people after arriving at JFK International Airport

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@BarackObama: Retweet if you agree. #ActOnClimate

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama addresses the Climate Summit at the United Nations General Assembly

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President Obama is greeted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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@petesouza: Presidents Obama and Clinton backstage at the Clinton Global Initiative

President Obama speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama and senior advisers meet with representatives from the five Arab countries plus Iraq who have participated in air strikes against ISIS in Syria in New York City

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23
Sep
14

President Obama Delivers Remarks At Climate Summit 2014

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CBS

21
Sep
14

Tweet Of The Day

18
Sep
14

A Leader Who Cares About Climate Change? That’s President Obama

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Coral Davenport: U.S. Moves To Reduce Global Warming Emissions

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a series of moves aimed at cutting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The White House has secured voluntary agreements from some of the nation’s largest companies to scale down or phase out their use of HFCs, which are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull, Kroger, Honeywell and DuPont, the company that invented fluorinated refrigerants, have agreed to cut their use and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives.

Over all, the administration estimated that the agreements announced on Tuesday would reduce cumulative global consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025. That is about 1.5 percent of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions, or the same as taking 15 million cars off the road for 10 years. “Every drumbeat in this symphony helps. It drives it along. This is part of that drumbeat,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a research organization. “The benefits from cutting non-CO2 come much faster,” he added. “CO2 is like a supertanker – you can stop it, but it keeps drifting for a long time. Cutting HFCs are like stopping a steamboat. You stop it and that’s that.”

More here

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28
Aug
14

Act On Climate Change? President Obama Is Doing So

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Coral Davenport: Obama Pursuing Climate Accord In Lieu of Treaty

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification. Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts. The strategy comes as scientists warn that the earth is already experiencing the first signs of human-caused global warming — more severe drought and stronger wildfires, rising sea levels and more devastating storms. In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions.

More here

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22
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped keep her friend, Allie Young, left, alive after she was shot during the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital, July 22, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

All times Eastern

10:35: The President meets with Apollo 11 representatives to recognize the 45th anniversary of the moon landing

11:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

12:10: The President signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, South Court Auditorium

1:0 Departs the White House

3:30: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama, The White House

All times PDT

3:15: President Obama arrives Seattle, Washington

5:05: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence, Seattle

6:0: Attends a fundraiser for Senate Democrats; private residence, Bellevue, Washington

7:25: Departs Seattle

9:10: Arrives San Francisco

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The Week Ahead here

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Reuters: Obama, Biden Highlight Job-Training In Middle-Class Push

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will put a spotlight on job-training programs on Tuesday as part of a White House push to boost economic opportunities for middle-class Americans, an important voting group in November elections.

Obama will sign the “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act,” which the White House said would help “improve business engagement and accountability across federally funded training programs.”

Biden will unveil a new report that will show the results of a study about how to make federal training programs more successful and better tailored to employers’ needs.

More here

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ThinkProgress: Palestinian Civilians Make Up Three-Quarters Of The Dead In Gaza

The Israeli ground operation in Gaza extended on Monday, as international calls for a cease-fire mounted and the death toll continued to increase. While Israel lost several soldiers in the last day, the number of those killed during the latest iteration of the war between Hamas and Israel has been disproportionate, with the vast majority of the dead being both Palestinian and civilian.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) publishes a daily snapshot of the crisis, pulling together the numbers from health officials in Gaza and reports from the various humanitarian organizations in the field. In their last report, which covered from July 19 -20, they noted that 3,008 Palestinians had been injured in the course of the fighting, “904 of whom are children and 533 women.” And at the time the report was published on Sunday, the number of those killed was 395: 375 on the Palestinian side “including 270 civilians, of whom 83 are children and 36 women” and 20 Israelis “including two civilians and 18 soldiers.”

More here

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Ian Millhiser: BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded

Near the end of 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a final crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, eventually announcing on the Senate floor that “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Cruz did succeed in goading his fellow Republicans into shutting down the federal government, but his effort was ultimately doomed. The American people’s elected representatives voted not to defund Obamacare, and the shutdown ended.

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal. Ted Cruz is undoubtedly smiling today. Two unelected Republicans just voted to erase his most embarrassing and most public defeat, and they voted to take away millions of Americans health care in the process.

More here

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TPM: Journalist Who Accused MSNBC Of Pro-Israel Bias: I’ve Been Canceled!

After expressing some candid on-air criticism of MSNBC, network contributor Rula Jebreal is wondering if she’s in the cable news channel’s dog house. Jebreal said in a tweet Monday evening that her “forthcoming TV appearances” had been canceled. The Palestinian journalist also questioned if there might be a “link” between the cancelations and her comments earlier in the day in which she said MSNBC’s coverage had been biased toward Israel amid the nation’s ongoing conflict with Hamas.

While appearing on Monday’s episode of “Ronan Farrow Daily,” Jebreal said the channel’s coverage of the conflict was too favorable toward Israel. She even singled out Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC host. “Look at how many airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis. Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal said. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on theses same issues.”

More here

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U.S. President Obama waves with Cordray during a trip Cleveland

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Amy Traub: The Enduring Success Of The CFPB At Three

Three years ago today the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors. It was a new government agency produced by the Dodd-Frank Act: part of Congress’ attempt to address the rampant misconduct by banks, mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and other financial institutions that brought on the 2008 financial crisis and started the Great Recession. In its three years of existence, the CFPB has already forced credit card companies to return $1.5 billion to consumers that they deceived with fraudulent add on products; reformed mortgage lending rules to ensure borrowers have a genuine ability to repay their loans; and began to sue student loan companies for predatory practices, among many other accomplishments. The agency also handles direct consumer complaints about abusive and deceptive financial products and services—400,000 of them so far. It’s a highly impressive record for a fledging agency.

Now the CFPB wants to let consumers take their complaints public, going beyond the existing database of bare-bones information to enable consumers to provide a full narrative with context about the financial products or services they believe harmed them and how the problem has impacted their lives. Consumers can anonymously tell the whole story about the credit reporting company that refused to remove a blatant error from their report, the mortgage servicer that started a foreclosure despite a history of on-time payments, or the car dealership that marketed deceptive auto loans. The companies they are complaining against would have an opportunity post a public response that would appear alongside the complaint at the same time it is made public.

More here

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Martin Shaw: Wagging The Dog: Gaza & MH17 Plane Deaths Stem From Netanyahu, Putin, Search For Popularity

The Ukraine and Gaza crises alike demonstrate the risks of aggressive policy based on short-term calculations. Vladimir Putin and Binyamin Netanyahu’s war-as-politics invites damaging long-term consequences.

The slaughters in Ukraine and Gaza have one thing in common. Both result from governments authorising violence which is overwhelmingly motivated by domestic politics and appears almost gratuitous from a strategic point of view. Such policies promise short-term domestic popularity, but risk losing international credibility and producing serious blowback. Vladimir Putin is now finding this out. Binyamin Netanyahu should take note: the blowback for Israel could be far more serious.

More here

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Michael Krancer: The Surprising Reasons Why Lowering CO2 Emissions Will Drive Our Electricity Bills Down, Not Up

If the customer wants clean energy, he’ll have to pay for it, right? Wrong. There’s actually no premium attached to low-carbon power, state utility regulators heard last week at their annual conference in Dallas. I’ll cut to the chase. Check out this report from Analysis Group, a five-star consultancy based in Boston, who presented at the conference. “Based on our own analysis and experience, we believe that the impacts on electricity rates from well-designed CO2-pollution control programs will be modest in the near term, and can be accompanied by long-term benefits in the form of lower electricity bills and positive economic value to state and regional economies.”

Here’s the back-of-the-envelope math. The EPA says that the Clean Power Plan—America’s no-nonsense blueprint to cut carbon pollution from its power plants—will cost between $4.3 billion to $7.5 billion per year by 2020. Let’s take a mean of $5.9 billion for the sake of fairness. That’s a mere 1.6 percent of America’s total spending of $363.7 billion on electricity in 2012. If you want an itemized bill, that $5.9 billion will include investment in cleaner generation, including increased zero-carbon low-cost nuclear power, the expense of wringing efficiencies from existing plants, fuel-switching costs, and “demand-side” efficiency measures—which translates to getting your customer use power more smartly.

More here

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Steve Benen: Russia’s U.S. Standing Plummets, Still More Popular Than Congress

It wasn’t too long ago that Russia was fairly popular in the minds in the American mainstream …. It takes real effort to go from 41% to 19% favorability in the course of five months.

But what stands out for me is a CNN poll from a few weeks ago that said Congress has a 14% approval rating.

Let’s pause to appreciate what this is telling us.

Most Americans believe that Russia will try to cover up its possible involvement in the death of 298 people ….. despite this recent bloodshed, still very much on the minds of millions, Russia is still a few points more popular than Congress.

More here

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The People’s View: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, And Lessons In Reform And Pragmatism

This will be a little hard to hear for the fashionable Lefty detractors of the president’s: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is openly celebrating President Obama’s financial reform law. There have always been detractors who routinely bemoan the Barack Obama’s “capitulation” and “friendliness” to big banks, presenting as evidence what they call a meaningless banking reform bill – Dodd-Frank – the president’s key financial reform accomplishment. In the next breath, they lament why Barack Obama could not “fight” the banks like Elizabeth Warren – with no hint of irony that a key part of President Obama’s financial reform is Warren’s brainchild: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even when acknowledged, the moaning crowd is still upset that Warren is now a United States Senator rather than the head of CFPB.

And of course… no perpwalks on Wall Street! Because, what good is reform without theater? Today is the fourth anniversary of the most significant financial reform law since the 1930s, which among other things created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is a fact not often noticed by those who see Warren as salvation from the “compromiser in chief” Obama, but the gravity of the achievement certainly did not escape Warren herself. On her Facebook page and in an email sent to supporters, Warren has two words for Dodd-Frank and the CFPB: It worked.

More here

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Stephanie Armour: Health Plans Must Disclose Changes To Contraceptive Coverage

The Obama administration said that employers that stop covering contraceptives in workers’ health plans under a Supreme Court ruling must disclose the change to beneficiaries. The court’s late-June Hobby Lobby decision allows some closely held companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement on religious grounds. The administration’s notice Thursday made clear that if all or a subset of contraceptive services aren’t covered under a group health plan,

beneficiaries must be informed of the extent of the exclusions. Federal law covering pension and health plans requires that employers alert employees if they change or drop benefits. Plans that reduce or eliminate coverage must provide expedited notification, generally no longer than 60 days after the change. The requirement applies to all group health plans, including those that pay workers’ health claims directly and those that rely on an insurer for that.

More here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama speaks as Sen. Chuck Hagel listens during a news conference at the citadel July 22, 2008 in Amman, Jordan

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

17
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hikes along the coastline in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

 11:20: President Obama departs the White House

12:15: Arrives Delaware

2:10: Delivers remarks on Infrastructure, Port of Wilmington, Wilmington

3:15: Departs Delaware

4:0: Arrives New York City

5:45: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, New York City

7:30: Attends a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, New York City

9:15: Departs New York

10:30: Arrives White House

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Jelani Cobb: Talking Openly About Obama And Race

In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.

Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”

More here

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Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history

You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.

The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.

Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.

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Emily Hauser: Incompetence Or Indifference?

As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.

From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.

More here

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Michael Grunwald: Lower Health Care Costs Brighten America’s Debt Outlook

Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.

Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.

More here

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Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame

I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.

I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?

More here

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Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.

She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”

More here

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Mark Thompson: Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ To Obama

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

More here

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Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife

The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.

The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.

More here

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L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.

More here

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Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy

A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”

Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles

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On This Day

President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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