President Barack Obama signs the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; a job-training legislation which aims to help job seekers gain valuable employment skills, as guests and members of Congress look on at the White House
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Text of the President and Vice President’s remarks here
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In other important news today…
President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission
President Barack Obama began a two-day visit to Minneapolis on Thursday sharing cheeseburgers with a local working mother and bringing a middle-class message tailor made to aid Democrats fearful of massive losses in the upcoming election. Obama said he shares the frustrations of people who went to college, work hard, and still struggle to buy homes, pay for child care, and dig out from student loan debt. “You are the reason I ran for office,” he told a crowd of about 350 people gathered for a town hall forum near Minnehaha Falls. In his early life, he said, “I was you guys … You are the ones I am thinking about every single day.”
Obama talked about progress his administration has made curbing greenhouse gases and making college more affordable, but devoted much of his time to touting the need for a higher minimum wage and equal pay and benefits for women. Those issues resonate strongly in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and a Democratic-controlled Legislature enacted the largest minimum wage increase in state history this year and approved a menu of economic protections for women in the workplace. “The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities … is infuriating,” Obama said of female workers. “If you are doing the same job, you should get the same salary. Period. Full stop.”
President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum directing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to modernize overtime protections. He is bypassing Congress and ordering changes in overtime rules so employers would required to pay millions more for extra time they put in on the job.
Karen Grigsby Bates: As soon as he made his remarks on race Friday, President Obama found himself part of intense conversation around the nation. In dozens of cities across the country Saturday, protesters held coordinated rallies and vigils over the not-guilty verdict in the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. Many African Americans insist that understanding the context for black distress over the Zimmerman verdict is key to honest discussions about race.
“You know we’re not looked upon as the people who fought for this country; we’re looked upon as the burden of this country,” he says. White Americans, Narcisse says, probably didn’t get the president’s story of being followed while shopping because it isn’t part of their experience, as it is his.
“That’s what you gotta think about,” he says. “When you walk into a store, do they follow you around? Have you ever had that happen to you?” In Atlanta, Emory University professor Tyrone Forman likes that Obama encouraged white Americans to consider what might happen if the situation were reversed. What, Forman asks, if Trayvon Martin had been Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — who also wears hoodies, just as Trayvon did the night he was killed? “We can imagine a very different scenario would have transpired that evening in Sanford, Florida,” Forman said. “And I think it’s that context that President Obama was alluding to, and trying to open a conversation about.”
Danari Hankerson, 5, of York, turns around to face a singer singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at a vigil for Trayvon Martin on Saturday outside the York County Judicial Center
Diya Cruz, left, marches from Frank Ogawa Plaza to the Fruitvale BART station with other protesters after a rally in Oakland, Calif.
Gene Demby: President Obama’s surprise remarks Friday afternoon about the Trayvon Martin case, racial profiling and race more broadly was almost certainly his most extensive remarks about the role race plays in American life — and the role it has played in his own — since his presidency began. For Obama, discussing race has been especially treacherous. When he weighed in on the case last year — “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” — his comments were viewed by many as an attempt to humanize Trayvon and empathize with his family, while many other people felt he was attempting to put his thumb on the scale in the case. (His comments came before George Zimmerman had been charged.)
But that’s perhaps what made the president’s surprise remarks in the White House briefing room so fascinating. “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son,” he said. “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The president tried to contextualize the reaction that so many African-Americans had to the trial and the issue of racial profiling by talking about his own experiences.
It’s not clear just yet what prompted the president to revisit the verdict, but his statements came just days after Attorney General Eric Holder sharply critiqued stand your ground self-defense laws like the ones in Florida. In his comments, Holder got pretty personal as well. The week since the verdict has seen countless black men recount and lament being treated with suspicion as they moved through the world. Now, remarkably, the president of the United States and the nation’s top law enforcement official add their voices to that chorus.
Scott Neuman: Hundreds of people across the country attended “Justice For Trayvon” rallies calling for civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the wake of his acquittal a week ago in the fatal shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network organized the events following last Saturday’s verdict in Sanford, Fla., in which six jurors accepted Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense during a scuffle with Martin in February 2012.
Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, attended the event in New York, where Sharpton called on those gathered to create a new, peaceful movement for change, reports NPR’s Dan Bobkoff. “Not only do I vow to you to do what i can for Trayvon Martin, I promise you I will work hard for your children too because it’s important,” Fulton told the crowd.
Meanwhile, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, spoke at similar rally in Miami. “I’d like the world to know that Trayvon was my son. He was a loved child. He did nothing wrong and we’re not going to let them persecute him he way that they have,” Martin said.
David Maraniss: The first black president speaks out first as a black American
Trayvon Martin, the president said, could have been him 35 years ago. That would have been Barack Obama at age 17, then known as Barry and living in Honolulu. He had a bushy Afro. Hoodies were not in style then, or often needed in balmy Hawaii. His customary hangout outfit was flip-flops, called “slippers” on the island, shell bracelet, OP shorts and a tee.
Imagine if Barry Obama had been shot and killed, unarmed, during a confrontation with a self-deputized neighborhood watch enforcer, perhaps in some exclusive development on the far side of Diamond Head after leaving home to get shave ice. The news reports would have painted a complicated picture of the young victim, a variation on how Martin was portrayed decades later in Florida:
Lives with his grandparents; father not around, mother somewhere overseas. Pretty good student, sometimes distracted. Likes to play pickup hoops and smoke pot. Hangs out with buddies who call themselves the Choom Gang. Depending on who is providing the physical description, he could seem unprepossessing or intimidating, easygoing or brooding. And black.
Ian Millhisher: The fact that Perez emerged as Obama’s most controversial cabinet appointment reflects a very significant bias in our confirmation process. Secretary Perez has two Ivy League degrees, including a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School. The market salary for an attorney in private practice with an honors Harvard JD is $160,000 a year — and that’s in their very first year after graduation. Perez, as an experienced attorney with years of senior-level government service, obviously could command substantially more money. At any point in his career — from the day he graduated from Harvard through today — Perez could have left public service and chosen a career that would have made him very rich very quickly. He never once took this path. Instead, Secretary Perez spent his entire career in public service — as a law clerk to a federal judge, as a prosecutor in the same Civil Rights Division he would go on to lead, as an adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) on civil rights, and in various high-level civil rights and labor policy jobs at the state and federal level. When his law school classmates were plotting how to convert their six-figure associate salaries into seven-figure partnerships, Perez put white supremacists in prison.
The career advice young people can learn from the confirmation of Tom Perez as Labor Secretary thkpr.gs/13mUdqz
It’s unlikely that conservatives opposed his nomination simply because he chose public service over wealth, however. What really drove this opposition was the way he conducted himself throughout his career. Secretary Perez pushed basic labor protections such as a minimum wagefor domestic workers when he served on the Montgomery County City Council, an effort that ultimately succeeded after he left the council. He promised to “throw the book” at employers who withheld pay from immigrant workers. He saved a key prong of federal fair housing law from an attempt to neuter it in the Supreme Court, and he used that very aspect of the law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from major banks that charged minority homeowners more than whites seeking a mortgage. He also reinvigorated the Civil Right’s Division’s historic commitment to protecting voting rights after the Bush Administration largely shunned that role. Indeed, Perezled the push against voter ID, a common method used by conservatives to shift the electorate rightward, in Texas and South Carolina.
Josh Israel: In his first gubernatorial debate against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinellii II (R) admitted Saturday that his extreme anti-LGBT views have not changed. While reaffirming his extreme earlier comments about what he termed “the personal challenge of homosexuality,” he suggested that he would create an economically positive environment that would help LGBT Virginians.
McAuliffe repeatedly attacked Cuccinelli throughout the Virginia Bar Association debate in Hot Springs, VA for his record of demonizing science, women’s health, and LGBT people. Twice, McAuliffe noted that Cuccinelli had called LGBT Virginians “soulless” and “self-destructive” and that his attempts to rescind non-discrimination protections have hurt Virginia’s business climate. Cuccinelli consistently ignored the attacks until moderator Judy Woodruff asked him directly about his previous comments. Cuccinelli responded briefly, saying, “My personal beliefs about the personal challenges of homosexuality haven’t changed.”
A tear ran down five-year-old Jacob Charley’s face while holding a “Black Life Matters” sign as thousands gathered to take part in a prayer vigil and rally in honor of Trayvon Martin in front of the Richard Russell Federal Building, Atlanta, July 20
Rebecca Leber: On Saturday, 100 cities held rallies organized by the National Action Network for Trayvon Martin, where large crowds demanded a federal civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of the unarmed teen. “Trayvon could have been anyone’s child,” Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, said at a rally in Miami. “That’s the message that’s being sent to the world.” Celebrities, lawmakers, and religious leaders also joined the rallies on Saturday.
Wayne T. Price: Dr. Biju Matthews, a Titusville-based cardiologist, believes the Affordable Care Act is going to create a new wave of medical consumers armed with something they haven’t had before — health insurance. And many of those newly insured, Matthews said, are not going to have primary care physicians, nor are they going to want to go to a hospital emergency room for run-of-the-mill medical care, like cuts, colds or sore throats.
That’s why Matthews and his medical partner, Dr. Naresh Mody, opened Chiron Urgent Care earlier this month, next to their cardiology practice on North Washington Avenue in Titusville. “It’s definitely a good service,” Matthews said, “and it’s already picked up within two or three weeks. We’re seeing a lot more than we expected in our initial pro forma.” With just months to go before the individual mandates from the Affordable Care Act kick in, walk-in clinics like Chiron Urgent Care are seen as one of the medical niches with the potential for rapid growth.
First Lady Michelle Obama greets children during her visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Tara Culp-Ressler: California’s teen birth rate has plummeted to the lowest level that it’s been in the past 20 years, according to new data from the state’s health department. The state’s rate now stands at 28 births for every 1,000 teenage girls — a 60 percent drop since 1991, when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 girls.
Public health experts directly attribute this success to state laws that require California’s public schools to offer comprehensive sex ed classes with scientifically accurate information about birth control. State officials also credited family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens. “We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Nancy Giles: When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Fla., last year, my nephew Julius was living with me, and I worried about him all the time. Julius is 23, bright, well-spoken, funny, never been in trouble, and wears a baseball cap and a hooded sweat shirt, like a lot of young people his age. He worked days and weekends, and when he went out at night to meet his friends, we had the regular drill: Do you have your ID? Is your cell phone charged? Do you have one of my business cards? What’s with the pants? Is that sweatshirt warm enough?
He knew what I meant, and would shake his head and make some adjustments. And I’d watch him and blink — and see his little boy face singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in his sweet, little kid voice. I was relieved that there were no “Stand Your Ground” laws in New York and New Jersey, but still worried that Julius might be stopped and frisked by the NYPD — not because he’d done anything, but because (according to the language of “Stop and Frisk”) he could be stopped if the police had a “reasonable suspicion” of . . . something.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010, to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Hey, Happy Birthday to two of my fave Pete Souza pics – President Obama with Senior Advisor David Axelrod following an event at the Costa Mesa Town Hall at OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., March 18, 2009
The Week Ahead:
Today: At 11:40 President Obama will announce his intent to nominate Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary. In the afternoon, he will deliver remarks at the Women’s History Month Reception in the East Room (4:40). The First Lady will also attend
Tuesday: In the morning, the President will meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office, and subsequently he will attend the traditional St Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol. During the day, the president will also greet First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland at the White House.
In the evening, the President and first lady will host a reception to celebrate their fifth St Patrick’s Day at the White House.
Later in the evening, the President will depart for Israel.
Wednesday: The President will have separate meetings with Israeli President Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. He will also hold a joint press conference with Netanyahu.
Thursday: The President will meet with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and will tour a youth development center with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad. Later in the day, the President will deliver a speech to the Israeli people at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. He will also hold a joint press conference with Abbas.
Friday: The President with meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan and later will hold a joint press conference with Abdullah.
Saturday: The President will return to Washington, DC.
Independent (UK): Two senior Iraqi politicians told Western intelligence that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the 2003 invasion – but their warnings were ignored …
Vital intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq 10 years ago was based on “fabrication” and “wishful thinking”, the BBC Panorama documentary claims. While information from highly placed Iraqis was dismissed as unimportant if it indicated that Hussein did not have WMD, tip offs from low-ranking Iraqis were eagerly lapped up if they reinforced what George W Bush and Tony Blair wanted to hear, it is claimed.
Paul Krugman: Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.
Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake — that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.
There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.
So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it…..
Washington Post: President Obama will formally nominate assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez as the next labor secretary on Monday, White House officials said, marking the first Latino selection to Obama’s second-term Cabinet.
Perez, 51, a first-generation Dominican American, is a former Montgomery County Council member who has overseen the civil rights division in the Justice Department since 2009. If confirmed, he would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.
Steve Benen: Last week, President Obama sat down with George Stephanopoulos, and when the discussion turned to the national debt, the president shared a simple fact: “We don’t have an immediate crisis.”
For reasons unclear, the comment was not well received by Republicans and many in the media, with some suggesting a bipartisan debt-reduction agreement may be dependent, at least in part, on Obama saying the opposite.
But then a funny thing happened. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his budget plan, and it also conceded there is no immediate debt crisis. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner made the same concession to Martha Raddatz…..
Greg Sargent: GOP officials, unwilling to concede anything in new revenues to reach a compromise that would replace the sequester, have taken to claiming that the sequester is a “victory” for them, since they wanted spending cuts all along. But is being the party of austerity-only-and-forever really a sustainable long term position?
A Republican pollster is now warning his fellow Republicans that it isn’t…..
Business Insider: Republican strategist Karl Rove took a big swipe back at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Sunday, a day after Palin mocked him during a rousing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
…. “I appreciate her encouragement that I ought to go home to Texas and run for office,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I would be enthused if I ran for office to have her support ….. if I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term and I wouldn’t leave office midterm.”