NYT: Justice Dept. Sets Record In Penalties For Fraud
The Justice Department collected a record $24.7 billion in penalties from fraud and other cases in the 2014 fiscal year, the agency said on Wednesday, as fines against banks for financial misconduct soared. Collections from civil and criminal actions, including money collected on behalf of other agencies, was $8 billion in 2013, and $13 billion in 2012. Collections in 2014 were bolstered by multibillion-dollar payouts from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup to resolve claims they misled investors about the quality of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, and include $11 billion in payments made to federal agencies or states. Payouts in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, also include hundreds of millions of dollars in fines levied on UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland.
AP: Bank Of America Agrees To Nearly $17B Settlement
The government has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The deal calls for the bank, the second-largest in the U.S., to pay a $5 billion cash penalty, another $4.6 billion in remediation payments and provide about $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners. The settlement is by far the largest deal the Justice Department has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
In the last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to a $13 billion settlement while Citigroup reached a separate $7 billion deal. At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said the bank and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch subsidiaries had “engaged in pervasive schemes to defraud financial institutions and other investors” by misrepresenting the soundness of mortgage-backed securities. The penalties, Holder said, go “far beyond the cost of doing business.”
Bloomberg: Housing Starts Rebound In U.S. As Inflation Eases
Home construction rebounded in July and the cost of living rose at a slower pace, showing a strengthening U.S. economy has yet to generate a sustained pickup in inflation. A 15.7 percent jump took housing starts to a 1.09 million annualized rate, the strongest since November, and halted a two-month slide, the Commerce Department said in Washington. The consumer price index increased 0.1 percent after rising 0.3 percent in June, the Labor Department also reported. An improving job market and cheaper borrowing costs are helping revive residential real estate, helping boost sales at companies such as Home Depot Inc. (HD) As inflation continues to run below the Federal Reserve’s target, it gives the central bank room to keep interest rates low well after the projected end of its bond-buying program in October.
The pickup in housing starts in the U.S. exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of 75 economists. The median projection called for 965,000, within a range of 898,000 to 1.03 million. The Commerce Department also revised June’s reading up to a 945,000 pace from a previously reported 893,000. The report also indicated the building industry will probably consolidate gains in coming months as permits for future projects advanced 8.1 percent to a 1.05 million pace, about in line with the current level of starts. The gain reflected the most applications for single-family dwellings since November.
Bloomberg: Job Market Tilts Toward U.S. Workers In Virtuous Cycle
The balance of power in the job market is shifting slowly toward employees from employers. Bob Funk sees it firsthand from his position as chief executive officer of staffing agency Express Employment Professionals. “We’re short of people in a number of cities,” he said. So he’s changing the focus of his $2.5 billion, Oklahoma City-based business. Instead of concentrating on finding jobs for those who want them, Express Employment is putting more effort into finding workers for companies that need them. “We’re back in the recruiting market again,” Funk said. The 74-year-old industry veteran isn’t the only one to notice the change. Americans who have been hunting for employment for more than six months
are finding they’re having better luck landing a job, while people who had given up looking are returning to the labor force to resume their search. Companies, meanwhile, are beefing up their in-house recruiting teams and increasingly using complicated computer algorithms to scour the Web for prospective job candidates. This is all good news for the economy, according to Nariman Behravesh, the Lexington, Massachusetts-based chief economist for IHS Inc. He said the U.S. has entered a “virtuous cycle” where job gains are leading to increased household expenditures, encouraging employers to hire more workers. Consumer spending rose in June by the most in three months, according to Commerce Department data published Aug. 1.
On This Day: President Barack Obama gestures during a roundtable discussion with Hispanic print and web media in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on Aug. 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (All Times Eastern)
11:20: The President delivers remarks and signs H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014; Fort Belvoir, Virginia
12:15: White House press briefing
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Courant: Number Of Residents Without Health Insurance Drops 50%
The number of people in Connecticut without health insurance has dropped by 50 percent since 2012, according to research findings released Wednesday by the state’s health insurance exchange. Access Health CT, the state-run onlinehealth insurance marketplace created under the federal Affordable Care Act, has enrolled more than 256,000 state residents in private health plans or Medicaid since the website launched last fall.
CEO Kevin Counihan said at a press conference with the governor Wednesday that the percentage of state residents who lack health coverage dropped from 7.9 percent at the start of the open enrollment period to 4 percent now. About 286,000 residents did not have insurance before the launch of the marketplace. “Nobody expected us to be down to 4 percent,” said Counihan, who compared the figure to those of European countries with national health insurance, where uninsured rates hover around 2 percent to 3 percent.
Bank of America is nearing a $16 billion to $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, a person directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The deal with the bank, which must still be finalized, would be the largest Justice Department settlement by far arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure.
It would follow earlier multibillion-dollar agreements reached in the last year with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The deal would be the latest arising from the sale of toxic mortgage securities leading up to the recession. The Justice Department last year reached a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan and in July announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup. Each of these deals is designed to offer some financial relief to homeowners, whose mortgages were bundled into securities by the banks in question and then sold to investors.
Somewhere between Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, with Air Force One cruising just shy of the speed of sound, Barack Obama decided to have a word with the press. It has been tradition for Obama to make a visit back to the press cabin during the last leg of exhausting presidential foreign trips – just a friendly off-the-record chat – but this junket, a barnburner taking the chief executive to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines this past April, wouldn’t be over for three days. The president’s blood was up over two analysis pieces in The New York Times. One, written by national security correspondent David Sanger and timed for Obama’s arrival in Seoul, accused the administration of dangerously underestimating Kim Jong-Un. A second story, splashed on the paper’s front page, had effectively declared the trip a failure while it was still in progress.
With the chat being off the record, a definitive accounting of what was said is hard to come by; it is clear, though, that the thrust of the president’s message was this: Foreign policy is hard, you guys are scoring it like a campaign debate, and moreover, you’re doing it inaccurately. He went further, telling the dozen or so reporters that what he favored was a judicious use of American power, and that his primary concern was not to get the country embroiled in situations from which it might take a decade to extract ourselves. He offered up an oddly sophomoric mantra for his foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid shit.”
Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, sending the average over the past month to an eight-year low, a sign the labor market continues to gain momentum. Jobless claims decreased by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ended Aug. 2 from 303,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 304,000. Companies are holding on to more workers in an effort to keep up with increased orders and stronger consumer demand, contributing to a virtuous cycle of growth as the economy accelerates. Fewer layoffs and more jobs
would support further gains in incomes and household spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy. “This is one of the early steps in the process of a really good run for the labor market,” said Thomas Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, whose forecast for the drop in claims was the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “If we have fewer layoffs, it’s a necessary precondition for an acceleration in hiring, and as hiring increases and the slack in the labor force is taken up, that should put some upward pressure on wages as well.”
Fresh off his weeks-long stint flacking for Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, Vox publisher and All In fill-in host Ezra Klein further dabbled in Beltway view-from-nowhere dumbshittery Wednesday night when he declared, to MSNBC viewers, that President Obama broke politics. He promised to change politics, but instead, he broke them worse than they already were broken…
…. The theory is that despite all of his promises, Republicans were such pricks that Obama had no choice but to become a partisan ramrod, further dividing our country. Now, even if you accept that narrative, saying Obama broke politics is like saying Jesus sure stained the shit out of that cross… The truth is, it started within hours of President Obama’s inauguration. President Obama didn’t break politics, politics set out to break him…
Seventeen: Michelle Obama’s Open Letter To American Girls: Commit To Your Education & Get Involved In Others
Did you know that right now, 62 million girls around the world are not in school, and in some countries, fewer than ten percent of girls complete high school (as compared to 85 percent in the U.S.)? Did you know that when girls are educated, they go on to earn higher wages, get married later, and have healthier children who are more likely to attend school themselves? So you might be wondering: why on earth are so many girls worldwide not in school? There are many answers to this question. Sometimes, families simply can’t afford to send their daughters to school (some countries don’t have free public education, and families have to pay school fees); or girls live in rural areas, far from schools, and have no means of transportation; or girls can’t afford to buy sanitary pads, so they’re unable to attend school during their periods, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often, the problem isn’t just about resources, it’s also about attitudes and beliefs. In some places, girls are viewed as less worthy of an education than boys, so when a family has limited funds, they’ll educate their sons instead of their daughters. Knowing the heartbreaking challenges so many girls in the world are facing, think about all the girls you know who don’t take their education seriously – girls who skip class, or don’t do their homework, or even drop out because they don’t see the point of school. To any girl – or any young person – who might be thinking this way, I have a simple message: you can do better – for yourself, your family and your country.
On This Day: President Obama greets people following his remarks at the Ford Motor Company Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (all times Eastern)
12:30: White House press briefing
1:45: VP Biden Delivers Remarks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum
2:45: President Obama delivers remarks and participates in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum
9:30: The President and First Lady host a dinner at the White House for African heads of state – Lionel Richie performs
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President Obama meets with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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The Week Ahead
Wednesday: The President participates in Summit Leader Meetings as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
First Lady Michelle Obama, in partnership with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.
Thursday & Friday: Attends meetings at the White House
President Barack Obama is announcing $14 billion in commitments by U.S. businesses to invest in the continent of Africa.
Obama plans to make the announcement Tuesday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington. The forum is bringing together African heads of state and American business leaders to find ways to boost economic ties. It comes on the second day of a U.S.-Africa summit involving nearly 50 African heads of state.
The White House says the investments include industries like construction, banking, information technology and energy.
WH.gov: The First Lady at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit
On August 6, 2014, the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama, the George W. Bush Institute, and the U.S. Department of State will host Investing in Our Future at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.
The day-long symposium will bring together First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, African first spouses from nearly 30 countries, leaders from non-governmental and non-profit organizations, private sector partners, and other leading experts.
The symposium will highlight the important role first spouses play and will focus on the impact of investments in education, health, and economic development through public-private partnerships. This collaboration builds on the Bush Institute’s 2013 African First Ladies Summit, Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa, held in Tanzania.
Although the enemies of health reform will never admit it, the Affordable Care Act is looking more and more like a big success. Costs are coming in below predictions, while the number of uninsured Americans is dropping fast, especially in states that haven’t tried to sabotage the program. Obamacare is working. But what about the administration’s other big push, financial reform? The Dodd-Frank reform bill has, if anything, received even worse press than Obamacare, derided by the right as anti-business and by the left as hopelessly inadequate. But also like Obamacare, financial reform is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine. The decision to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shouldn’t have been controversial, given what happened during the housing boom.
At this point, however, all accounts indicate that the bureau is in fact doing its job, and well — well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies. A recent case in point: The bureau is cracking down on billions in excessive overdraft fees. how do you rescue the banking system without rewarding bad behavior? The answer is that the government should seize troubled institutions when it bails them out, so that they can be kept running without rewarding stockholders or bondholders who don’t need rescue. In 2008 and 2009, however, it wasn’t clear that the Treasury Department had the necessary legal authority to do that. So Dodd-Frank filled that gap, giving regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save “systemically important” banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.
TPM: Israel-Hamas Truce Sets Stage For Talks On Gaza
Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.
If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
For the last two hours we’ve heard nothing but sonic booms and the sound of rockets and mortars. Shells have fallen on our street a few hundred yards from my father-in-law’s house, where my wife and I, and our five kids, are staying, and on the street behind us.
My wife, Hanna, is arguing with the kids over what to buy to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. She has forbidden them to go to the grocery store, and she’s adamant that they won’t visit the Internet cafes or the PlayStation shop near my father’s place. They don’t understand the impossibility of shopping at a time of war.
Last night, we all became convinced that the tank fire would soon reach the Jabaliya refugee settlement, where our families live. All night long the tanks fired on the eastern side of the camp. The buildings on our street creaked and lurched, as if about to fall. Everything shifts with each strike. It’s as if you’re an extra in a disaster movie.
BBC: Ebola Crisis: World Bank Announces $200M Emergency Fund
The World Bank has announced that it is allocating $200m (£120m) in emergency assistance for West African countries battling to contain the Ebola outbreak. The money will be distributed to the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of people killed in the outbreak has reached 887, the WHO says.
The World Bank’s announcement came as African leaders including 35 presidents discuss the crisis in Washington. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – an expert on infectious diseases – said that he was “deeply saddened” by the spread of the virus and how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.
Watch Rand Paul run away from a DREAMer who confronts him and Steve King:
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Ed Kilgore: In the Middle of An August Friday Night
If you want to do something politically dangerous in Washington that you’d just as soon not draw widespread notice, doing it late on a Friday night before the August Congressional Recess begins is about as good as it gets. And that’s exactly what House Republicans did on Friday night, passing an insultingly small “border resources” package that will vanish without a trace if and when Congress returns and gets serious about the issue, and then passing another bill prohibiting continuation of the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, which has enabled children and young adults (usually collectively known as DREAMers) under strict conditions to avoid deportations.
When I looked at the news aggregators this morning, there was zippo about this whole topic, which dominated political chatter last week. It’s as though quite literally nothing of interest happened Friday night.
The Obama administration took a “historic” step in changing the drug war Friday, activists said, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the rationale prosecutors often use to defend mandatory-minimum sentences was worthless. “Some have suggested that these modest changes might somehow undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to induce cooperation from defendants in federal drug cases,” Holder said in remarks before the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conference in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks posted to the Justice Department website.
“But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth,” Holder went on, citing his own past as a federal prosecutor. “Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory-minimum sentence,” Holder said. The speech was a big deal, said Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Price’s spokesperson, Mike Riggs, was more direct. “It’s pretty damn historic,” he said.
March 30, 2011: President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)
Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former White House Press Secretary James Brady on his passing. Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.
Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, “May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.” Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.
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Elite Daily: Happy Birthday, Mr. President: 26 Times Barack Obama Has Killed The Game
President Obama waits to be introduced at a luncheon for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. Right to left, Trip Coordinator Jordan Whichard, Bobby Schmuck, political affairs staff assistant, and Director of Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard, wait with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. From left, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Eric Whitaker and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs memorabilia as he talks on the phone at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama arrives at the White House after spending the night at Camp David on Sunday, August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.
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President Obama meets with former Negro League baseball players in the Cross Hall of the White House, Aug. 5, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and staff watch the U.S. soccer team vs Belgium in World Cup action in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 1 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. From left are, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Attorney General Eric Holder
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
With the Key Bridge, linking Washington and Northern Virginia in the background, President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The President said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.
"If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. " —President Obama #RebuildAmerica
President Obama’s signature on a wall in a health classroom at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he attended a town hall meeting on health care, June 11, 2009. The physical education and health staff left a note asking the President to sign the wall for future students to see (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:50 President Obama meets with the United States Sentencing Commission, Roosevelt Room
1:50: Departs White House
3:20: Arrives Worcester, Mass.
4:0: The President delivers remarks at the Worcester Technical High School Commencement
7:0: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, Weston, Mass.
8:20: Departs Worcester
10:0: Arrives White House
Later This Week
Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at the White House. In the afternoon, the President will welcome the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House to honor the team and their victory in the WNBA Finals.
Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Cannonball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Following their visit to Indian Country, they will travel to Palm Springs, CA.
Saturday: The President will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C on Monday.
President Obama and Tumblr’s founder, David Karp
Adam Vaccaro: No, Obama’s Student Debt Executive Order Doesn’t Incentivize Colleges To Raise Tuition
When President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would extend the “Pay as You Earn” federal student loan repayment program to older, previously ineligible debtors, it was met with a common contention. I’ve seen it in a few places, including the comments section in our article on the action. In short, people say that the order will make it easier for students to manage their debt, and that will incentivize schools to raise tuition. The assertion doesn’t make any sense. The Pay as You Earn program, which limits monthly payments to 10 percent of a borrowers’ income and can allow for loan forgiveness after 20 years of repayments, had previously only been available to new student borrowers. In order to be eligible, debtors could not have taken out a student loan before October 2007, and could not have stopped taking payments before October 2011.
In other words, the program was essentially put in place for the high school class of 2008 and later classes—meaning those currently in school are already eligible for the program. If the program incentivizes colleges to raise tuition—again, probably a fun debate, though it ignores that tuition was already skyrocketing well before the program was put in place—it was already happening. Obama’s action, meanwhile, extends the option to older borrowers—those who have already graduated and are making repayments, some at much higher rates than the program allows. The vast majority of those people are by definition already out of school. Who, then, would colleges raise tuition on that they couldn’t already?
Washington Post: Republican House Majority Leader Succumbs To Tea Party Challenger Dave Brat
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent. Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising.
As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls. By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor’s rank had ever been defeated in a primary. That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.
Nick Wing: If It’s A School Week In America, Odds Are There Will Be A School Shooting
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week, according to data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to end gun violence. Including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown.
Cantor's loss is "stunning," "an earthquake," and so on. Another school shooting is, well, not so much.
With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week. The data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety also shows that these shootings have occurred throughout the country. In all, 31 states have had an incident of gun violence at a school. Georgia has witnessed far more incidents than others, with 10 happening at schools there since Sandy Hook. There have been seven school shootings in Florida, five in Tennessee, four in North Carolina and four in California.
Caitlin MacNeal: Obama: ‘We Should Be Ashamed’ Of Failure To Address Gun Violence
President Obama on Tuesday slammed the failure to curb gun violence in the United States. “My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” he said during a Tumblr Q&A. “This is becoming the norm,” he continued about school shootings. “We should be ashamed.”
The President addressed lawmakers who blame mass shootings on mental health, not access to guns. “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else,” he said.
The NFIB’s small business confidence index came in at 96.6 for May — the highest reading since 2007. That also beat expectations for 95.8. Pantheon Macro’s Ian Shepherdson says this index is more important than payrolls, and sees this jump to the as a major shift. “At last, small businesses are on the move. We have been waiting for four years for a clean break to the upside, and it’s finally here. The rise in the headline largely reflects a 9-point jump in economic expectations and a 5-point rise in sales expectations, but several other components rose too.”
“Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles,” Brat told a Tea Party audience. “They want amnesty for illegal immigrants. They want them granted citizenship. And it’s in the millions — 40 millions coming in. if you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?” Brat’s appeal was frankly demagogic. Cantor was not supporting amnesty, and there are about 10 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Some of Brat’s Tea Party supporters took it a step further. Larry Nordvig, the head of the Richmond Tea Party, told a joke at Brat rally.
They'll use Cantor as a cautionary tale, but the real reason they can't budge on immigration is b/c the GOP base is xenophobic and racist.
“A politician, a Muslim, and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you now what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.” If he is elected in November, Brat may, of course, jettison the anti-Wall Street and anti-big business side of his politics. His actual economic views appear to be close to those of the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand. His solutions for America’s flagging economy consist in flattening the tax code and cutting spending – positions that will certainly not alienate the Chamber of Commerce or Business Roundtable.
Jonathan Cohn: The GOP Just Got a Wake-Up Call: Eric Cantor’s Loss Proves The Tea Party Refuses To Rest In Peace
It’s going to take a while to figure out precisely what happened Tuesday night in Virginia’s 7th House District. Nobody thought Eric Cantor, the second most powerful Republican in the House, would lose his primary campaign to Dave Brat, an anonymous college professor too busy grading exams to attend campaign events. Not too many people even thought it’d be close. Robert Costa of the Washington Post wrote about Brat’s surprising popularity a month ago, but the rest of the political press barely noticed.
still Obama's fault RT @jbouie: Any R thinking of working with Obama has just completely changed their mind. @ron_fournier, take note.
The obvious explanation for Cantor’s defeat is immigration. And in this case, the obvious explanation is probably right. Brat hammered Cantor for his supposed support of “amnesty.” Cantor swore the charge was untrue and, lord knows, he wasn’t doing anything to advance the cause of immigration reform publicly. It appears the voters didn’t believe him. Brat also attacked Cantor for his supposed cooperation with, and enabling of, Obama. This charge may seem strange to the White House and, for that matter, most sentient beings. Few Republicans have spent more energy fighting Obama and the Democrats. And Cantor played a pivotal role in killing the grand bargain that Obama was trying to negotiate with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011
Julia Edwards: Obama Administration To Make Push On American Indian Voting Rights
Concerned that American Indians are being unfairly kept out of the voting process, the Obama administration is considering a proposal that would require voting districts with tribal land to have at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribe’s government, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday. Holder said the Justice Department would begin consulting tribal authorities on whether it should suggest that Congress pass a law that would apply to state and local administrators whose territory includes tribal lands. The announcement came as President Barack Obama was expected to travel to an American Indian reservation in North Dakota on Friday.
Last Thursday, Holder addressed a tribal conference in the same state. Associate Attorney General Tony West on Monday will expand upon Holder’s announcement in Anchorage, Alaska, where he will address a conference held by the National Congress of American Indians. “Our proposal would give American Indian and Alaska Native voters a right that most other citizens take for granted: a polling place in their community where they can cast a ballot and receive voter assistance to make sure their vote will be counted,” West is expected to say, according a statement from the Justice Department.
Daniel Strauss: Cantor Conquerer Caught Off Guard By Policy Questions In Interview
David Brat, who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, was surprised when he appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday that he would be asked policy questions. In his interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Brat punted when Todd asked him both about the minimum wage and Syria. “Let me ask you a few other issue questions. Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it and would you raise it?” Todd asked. “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy,” Brat responded.
Cantor's friends are FURIOUS, said he was told by consultants that he was up 20-30 points, didn't need to worry...
“Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think Cato estimates there’s $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There’s just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken.” Todd then pressed Brat on the question. “Um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” Brat finally conceded. “All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation’s productivity. Right? So you can’t make up wage rates.”
CBS News: Judge Strikes Down Teacher Tenure In California
A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers Tuesday, saying such laws harm students – especially poor and minority ones – by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California’s laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.
The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The California Attorney General’s office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal. “Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools,” the union said. Teachers have long argued that tenure prevents administrators from firing teachers on a whim. They contend also that the system preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn’t pay well. Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation’s most populous state. The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch’s nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California’s gay-marriage ban.
Brian Beutler: Eric Cantor Lost Because He Exploited Conservatives, Not Immigration
Cantor practices a cunning, devious brand of politics. He played legislative strategy the same way he played intra-conference intrigue—devising too-clever-by-half schemes to seize momentary advantage, often at the expense of bigger picture goals. They frequently blew back at him. When Republicans took back the House, he advocated strategies that culminated in dangerous brinksmanship over funding the government and increasing the debt limit, exactly as conservatives demanded. But he also attempted to set the bizarre precedent of offsetting emergency spending for natural disaster relief with cuts to unrelated social spending programs. He never prevailed, but his position became extremely awkward when a rare and sizable earthquake severely damaged his own district in August 2011. After Obama’s re-election, Cantor had to reverse course and orchestrate ransomless debt limit increases, to the great dismay of Republican hardliners. He then pandered to those same hardliners in ways that frequently undermined John Boehner’s best-laid plans. These priorities were incongruous, and suggestive of an effort to situate himself as the Speaker’s heir apparent, rather than of a commitment to conservative causes.
Same folks who told us months ago immig reform was dead now say Cantor loss CHANGES EVERYTHING AND MEANS IT'S REALLY REALLY DEAD
Just two months ago, Cantor end ran around those same conservatives to secure passage of a bill protecting Medicare physicians from a substantial pay cut. For more than a year now, Cantor’s stable of influential operatives and former operatives have done battle with the purity obsessed hardliners and opportunists who tried to seize control of the party’s legislative strategy. Many of them sought retribution by taking aim at Cantor in his district. In the end the right’s beef with him—as with McConnell—was about more than just affect. It was about his willingness to use power politics and procedural hijinks to cut conservatives out of the tangle when expedient. The lesson of his defeat isn’t that immigration reform is particularly poisonous, but that the right expects its leaders to understand they can’t subsume the movement’s energy for tactical purposes, then grant it only selective influence over big decisions.