Purchases of new homes jumped in August to a seven-year high as Americans took advantage of historically low mortgage rates. Sales climbed 5.7 percent to a 552,000 annualized pace, exceeding all forecasts of economists surveyed by Bloomberg and the highest since February 2008, from a 522,000 rate in July that was stronger than initially reported, a Commerce Department report showed Thursday in Washington.
Steady job gains and cheaper borrowing costs are bolstering demand for new homes, particularly as the supply of previously owned properties is still scant. Further healing in residential real estate should help underpin the U.S. economy amid weakness from the stronger dollar and slower overseas growth. “Housing has now finally started to participate more strongly” in the expansion, saidDavid Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio, who projected sales would rise. “It’s quite likely we’ll continue to see the gains going forward.”
EricFive’s on point commentary about cops in Ferguson
No one knows who shot those cops, all we have is speculation and attempts to deflect blame from the epidemic of cops killing unarmed Black males. The “tension” between cops and minority communities is a decades old problem (police as occupying force instead of public servants). The recent spike in police killings of unarmed Black males is a symptom of the larger issue of White racial anxiety which is reaching dangerous levels. The cop in Atlanta who murdered the unarmed, naked veteran who had mental problems should open up a lot of eyes to what is going on, i.e., Black lives don’t matter to these folks. Being Black is becoming a capital offense in this country. How the response to an obviously mental ill naked man is to use deadly force (not a baton, not a taser, not calling for backup) tells me that they are looking for an excuse to murder Black people (more restrain is shown toward a fucking alligator walking through a golf course than a Black man walking down the street). By the “logic” displayed by the Atlanta cop, the proper police response to a Black man threatening to jump from a rooftop would be to call in the snipers to shoot the man. There will never be any semblance of “equality” in this country until a Black life is deemed by society to be of equal value to a White life. This has never been the case in this country and it most certainly is not the case today. All of this racial shit stems from the mental gymnastics that the institution of slavery required of a White society that had/has an almost pathological need to see itself as “good people” no matter what horrible shit they did. You cannot enslave folks you view as your equals. You cannot enslave a race of people you view as human and still see yourself as “good person”. Instead, to maintain a positive self image, the slaveholder has to convince both himself (and the slave) that the slave is “inferior” and DESERVES the horrible treatment he/she is forced to endure. That the slave is not HUMAN. This inability to see Black people as fellow human beings, the inability to understand the grief of a Black parent mourning for a child needlessly killed by the police is the same strain of racist/White supremacy that allowed for the enslavement of Black people in the “land of the free”.
I was startled to learn this week that rap music causes racism. I had no idea so many grandparents were into hip-hop.
President Obama, joined by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, left, and Chicanos Por La Causa’s Edmundo Hidalgo, right, and David Adame, speaks outside a home in a housing development in Phoenix
The FHA reduction in premiums will help borrowers save an average of $900 annually over the next three years. http://t.co/B728Oz9RfL
@dougmillsnyt: President Obama board Air Force One in AZ, for his trip back the Washington.
President Barack Obama signs a condolences book during a visit to the French Embassy
President Obama stands with France’s Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud as he pays his respects over the attack at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a visit to the French Embassy in Washington
NYT: Business Spending, Exports Spur Big Bounce In U.S. Economy
The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years in the second quarter with all sectors contributing to the jump in output in a bullish signal for the remainder of the year. The Commerce Department on Friday raised its estimate of growth in gross domestic product to a 4.6 percent annual rate from the 4.2 percent pace reported last month. The United States is bucking a spate of weaker overseas growth with the euro zone and Japan slumping, and growth in China slowing as well. the expansion in consumer spending, combined with strong business investment,
was nevertheless enough to push domestic demand ahead at its fastest pace since 2010. That suggests the economy’s recovery is becoming more durable after output slumped at a 2.1 percent rate in the first quarter because of an unusually cold winter. So far, data covering manufacturing, trade and housing suggest that much of the second quarter’s momentum spilled over into the third quarter. Growth estimates for the July-September quarter range as high as a 3.5 percent pace. When measured from the income side, the economy grew at a 5.2 percent pace during the second quarter…export growth was raised to an 11.1 percent pace, the fastest since the fourth quarter of 2010, from a 10.1 percent rate.
Jason Furman: Third Estimate of GDP For The Second Quarter Of 2014
1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the third estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, State and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years. However, net exports subtracted from overall GDP growth, as imports grew slightly faster than exports.
Real gross domestic income (GDI), an alternative measure of the overall size of the economy, was up 5.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter. 3. Over the past four quarters, real GDP has risen 2.6 percent, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace observed over the preceding eight-quarter period. Looking at four- and eight-quarter changes to smooth some of the quarter-to-quarter volatility, it is clear that many components of GDP are showing improvement. The growth rates of consumer spending, business investment and exports have all picked up, and the pace of declines in the Federal sector have moderated a bit. In addition, the State and local government sector has turned positive, after several years of steady cutbacks. One area that has slowed over the last four quarters is residential investment, although it did rebound in the second quarter.
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.
AS the predominantly black, disproportionately poor community of Ferguson, Mo., erupted in protest after the shooting death of Michael Brown, critics excoriated President Obama for his failure to empathize. Michael Eric Dyson, for example, called the president’s statement about the case on Monday a “stunning epic failure.” Mr. Obama’s defenders point to his second-term commitment to issues that touch the lives of poor communities of color, especially his initiative to assist young minority men, My Brother’s Keeper. But what both sides are ignoring is the president’s first-term record.
A true measure of a president’s priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century. … …. Even after accounting for the higher numbers of poor people caught in the Great Recession, Mr. Obama’s record outshines his predecessors’. His proposed first-term spending per poor individual was $13,731 to Mr. Clinton’s $8,310 and Mr. Carter’s $4,431, in 2014 dollars.
Kyle Niere, 23, was arrested on Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, for “refusing to disperse” as he attempted to leave the QuikTrip station, where hundreds have gathered to protest the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. As he later relayed to NBC News, Niere, along with 12 other protesters, was arrested after cops told him and his friends that they “looked like the type that were going to stir up drama and go start looting.” According to Niere, police officers dragged him “face-first on the ground” and were “stepping on the back of our heads.” Niere and the others were held overnight and released. This has been the pattern for more than a week: Dozens of legitimate protesters arrested for essentially doing it wrong, which can be variously described as protesting about issues of race, refusing to stop protesting about issues of race, and in many cases, perhaps most outrageously, protesting while black.
It’s virtually impossible to square the law enforcement definition of illegal protest with the snuggly warm vision of political protest put forth by a unanimous Supreme Court only two months ago in McCullen v. Coakley. That was the case in which the high court struck down a Massachusetts law barring any protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. That law was passed after two clinic workers were shot and killed at clinics in 1994. But there is a crucial difference between the abortion opponents whose speech rights were feted by the court in McCullen and the garden variety protesters who can still be rounded up in free speech pens and summarily arrested on the streets of Ferguson: The court was careful to explain that the protesters in Massachusetts are not actually “protesters.” They are “counselors.” This presents an obvious solution for the outraged citizens who have taken to the streets of Ferguson and been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and incarceration: rebranding. From this day forth you should consider yourself “sidewalk counselors.”
Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider. For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found.
He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.
Nick Timiraos: Foreclosed-Property Sales Fall to Lowest Levels Since 2008
Thursday’s home-sales report offers the clearest evidence that the housing market is moving out of the emergency ward and into a rehab facility. The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales rose for the fourth straight month in July to the highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since last September. But the real sign that the housing market is out of critical condition comes courtesy of a separate survey the NAR does of its members. That survey estimates the share of distressed home sales in July fell to 9% of all sales, the lowest level since the trade group’s tally began in October 2008.
the drop in foreclosed-property sales deserves attention. Sales of non-distressed homes, using crude estimates derived from the NAR’s survey, are up slightly from a year ago. Prices are still rising, but not as sharply as they were a year ago. And higher prices could be drawing out more sellers. Inventories are at their highest levels in nearly two years—and this time, they appear to be rising because Joe and Jane Homeowner, not a bank or mortgage-processing company, wants to sell.
On This Day: President Obama waits to be introduced in the Blue Room for ABC’s “Prescription for America” town hall conversation on health care at the White House on June 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
12:0: The Vice President ceremonially swears in Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Secretary of Health and Human Services
12:45: Josh Earnest briefs the press
6:30: President Obama hosts the 2013 Presidents Cup Team, East Room
Forty-six years after the Fair Housing Act took aim at racial segregation and poverty in America, the federal government has declared the effort half-hearted and is setting out to fix it. Within months, the Obama administration is expected to require local governments to devise new strategies to give people in poor, racially segregated areas better access to jobs, transportation, and, particularly, good schools. At stake locally are tens of millions of dollars in federal grants distributed across the region, from Atlanta to Marietta to Gwinnett County. If governments fail to satisfy the mandate, they could lose that money. To date, few outside of Washington have even heard of the proposal. Where it is known, it tends to draw sharp reactions across the political spectrum:
Liberals, who have waited decades for an administration with moxie enough to confront the issue, cheer it; conservatives blast it as an assault on local communities. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was one of that decade’s signature civil rights laws. Its intent, confirmed in some subsequent court decisions, was not just to prevent obvious discrimination, such as refusing to sell or rent homes to racial minorities. By that definition, things that may stand in the way of “fair housing” might include zoning that keeps apartments or affordable houses out of good neighborhoods. It might include a lack of public transportation from poor neighborhoods to the areas with jobs that pay well. It might include fewer and shabbier parks or weaker police protection in poor areas than affluent ones, or benign neglect of troubled public schools.
A brief note on a new Elliott Abrams essay in Politico Magazine that appears under the eye-catching headline, “The Man Who Broke the Middle East.” The man in question is not Sykes or Picot or Nasser or Saddam or Khomeini or George W. Bush or Nouri al-Maliki, but Barack Obama. A few points. The first is to note that the Middle East Obama inherited in early 2009 was literally at war—Israel and the Gaza-based Hamas were going at each other hard until nearly the day of Obama’s inauguration. Obama managed to extract himself from that one without breaking the Middle East. In reference to a “contained” Iran, I would only note that Iran in 2009 was moving steadily toward nuclearization, and nothing that the Bush administration, in which Elliott served, had done seemed to be slowing Iran down. Flash forward to today—the Obama administration (with huge help from Congress) implemented a set of sanctions so punishing that it forced Iran into negotiations.
(Obama, it should be said, did a very good job bringing allies on board with this program.) Iran’s nuclear program is currently frozen. The Bush administration never managed to freeze Iran’s nuclear apparatus in place. I’m not optimistic about the prospects for success in these negotiations (neither is Obama), but the president should get credit for leading a campaign that gave a negotiated solution to the nuclear question a fighting chance. It’s also worth noting that when Obama came to power, he discovered that the Bush administration had done no detailed thinking about ways to confront Iran, either militarily or through negotiations. There was rhetoric, but no actual planning. Obama applied himself to this problem in ways that Bush simply did not.
The president of Iraq’s ethnic Kurdish region declared Tuesday that “we are facing a new reality and a new Iraq” as the country considers new leadership for its Shiite-led government as an immediate step to curb a Sunni insurgent rampage. The comments by Kurdish President Massoud Barzani came as he met with visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing the central government in Baghdad to at least adopt new policies that would give more authority to Iraq’s minority Sunnis and Kurds. Kerry has repeatedly said that it’s up to Iraqis — not the U.S. or other nations — to select their leaders. But he also has noted bitterness and growing impatience among all of Iraq’s major sects and ethnic groups with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Barzani told Kerry that Kurds are seeking “a solution for the crisis that we have witnessed.”
Kerry said at the start of an hour-long private meeting that the Kurdish security forces known as peshmerga have been “really critical” in helping restrain the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni insurgency that has overtaken several key areas in Iraq’s west and north, and is pushing the country toward civil war. “This is a very critical time for Iraq, and the government formation challenge is the central challenge that we face,” Kerry said. He said Iraqi leaders must “produce the broad-based, inclusive government that all the Iraqis I have talked to are demanding.
Last week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found President Obama tying his record low approval rating of 41 percent. NBC’s Chuck Todd, referring to another poll result showing that 54 percent of Americans “no longer feel that he is able to lead the country and get the job done,” told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “Essentially the public is saying, ‘Your presidency is over.’” But one morsel from the NBC/WSJ poll didn’t fit that narrative: 67 percent of respondents are in favor of the president’s newly announced regulations “to set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.” And when the pollsters re-asked the question, after presenting supporting and opposing arguments, including charges of “fewer jobs” and “higher prices,” approval held with a healthy 53 percent to 39 percent margin. That’s a hell of a lot of support for a major presidential initiative from an electorate supposedly no longer listening to the president. What did Obama do right? Adhering to a favorite maxim of U.S. presidents of both parties that it’s remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit, Obama tapped EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to announce the plan and stump for it in media interviews. By keeping a relatively low-profile, Obama tempered the media’s tendency to polarize everything while dampening conservative backlash, a strategy that previously helped shepherd the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gays and lesbians.
While Obama was exhibiting leadership with finesse, Republicans decided to run into a wall. Instead of training their fire on the climate proposal in the days following the June 2 release, they obsessed over freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl. The president has bucked the trend of history and successfully used the bully pulpit to advance another major goal: raising the minimum wage. Anticipating obstinacy from House Republicans, he told the states during his January 2014 State of the Union address, “You don’t have to wait for Congress to act.” He followed up that call with several outside-the-Beltway stump speeches urging states to raise their minimum wage above the federal standard. The stumping is working. So far this year, eight states have raised their minimums and later this week Massachusetts will make it nine. If I were a Republican, I would not be savoring Obama’s 41 percent approval rating and presuming his presidency was done. I would be worried about my party’s 29 percent approval rating, its 15 percent level of support among Latinos and Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration reform if House Republicans don’t act by July 31. If you think Obama isn’t able to lead on immigration, after what he has done on climate and minimum wage, you haven’t been paying attention.
Greg Sargent: Care About Minors Crossing Border? Then Pass Immigration Reform Now!
Amid all the noise over the crisis of minors crossing the border into South Texas, a basic fact about this debate has gotten lost: The humanitarian disaster we’re now seeing is actually an argument in favor of immigration reform, not against it. Republicans have suggested the crisis proves they are right about Obama’s lawlessness (he cannot be trusted to enforce the law or secure the border, so they shouldn’t make a deal with him) and that the general promise of reform, or “amnesty,” is acting as a magnet for kids. All of this makes it more certain they will not embrace reform this year. But this has it exactly backwards. The crisis underscores the need for reform. In the days ahead, you may see Dems amplify this case. Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, who has been working on this issue for a decade,
offers this simple explanation for why the crisis is an argument for action: “If Congress wants to help solve the border migrants crisis, the single most consequential thing it could do would be to pass the Senate immigration bill or something similar in the House. Nothing else would do as much to clear up the confusion in Central America about how our system works or do as much to make clear that recent arrivals will not be able to stay under some form of future legalization. Congress will have spoken with a loud and clear voice, making it near impossible for criminal elements south of the border to exploit our current inadequate system for their own ends.”
Hayes Brown: Nobody Thought Syria Would Give Up Its Chemical Weapons. It Just Did.
Last year’s deal to remove all of Syria’s chemical weapons was widely recognized to be extremely ambitious, with a timeframe that few expected would actually be achievable. On Monday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that beyond many expectations, Syria has turned over all of its declared chemical weapons stockpile for destruction. As the process was ongoing, critics lashed out at the framework negotiated between Russia and the United States last year as a strategic failure. “This removal of chemical weapons…[is] the very thing that has validated [Assad]; it’s the thing that we did to put him in the strongest position he’s been in since this conflict began,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in March. At the announcement of the deal last September, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said it “requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything than the start of a diplomatic blind alley,
and the Obama Administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin.” Still now these weapons are out of hands of Syria, a fact that might not be said if the administration had launched the air strikes it threatened prior to the compromise between Moscow and Washington. And the grounds for legitimacy that the international community needed to bestow upon Assad to facilitate the removal process is gone. With that complete, the international community will now likely return its attention to figuring out how to remove Assad without further emboldening the more extreme militants operating in Syria — including the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) which is currently in possession of several cities across the border in Iraq.
On This Day – Pete Souza: “The President shows off his dance moves as he and the First Lady waited backstage during an intermission of daughter Sasha’s dance recital at Strathmore Arts Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.” June 16, 2013
10:0 am PT: President Obama departs Palm Springs
5:30 pm ET: Arrives White House
The Week Ahead
Tuesday: President Obama will travel to TechShop Pittsburgh to deliver remarks on the economy. Following this, he will travel to New York City to attend the DNC LGBT Gala and take part in another DNC Event.
Wednesday: The President will host the first ever White House Maker Faire and meet with students, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens who are using new tools and techniques to launch new businesses, learn vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing.
Thursday: The President will award Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.
Friday: The President will meet with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand.
Paul Krugman: Yes He Could – Health Care And Climate: President Obama’s Big Deals
You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there’s a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction. First, health reform is now a reality — and despite a shambolic start, it’s looking like a big success story. Remember how nobody was going to sign up? First-year enrollments came in above projections. Remember how people who signed up weren’t actually going to pay their premiums? The vast majority have.
Then there’s climate policy. The Obama administration’s new rules on power plants won’t be enough in themselves to save the planet, but they’re a real start — and are by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act….Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed.
Colin H. Kahl: No, Obama Didn’t Lose Iraq: What The President’s Critics Get Wrong
As the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, I had a front-row seat for the internal deliberations over how to end the war. Through the first half of 2011, there was a vigorous debate within the administration about whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq beyond December, and if so, in what numbers and with what missions. Ultimately, at great political risk, President Obama approved negotiations with the Iraqi government to allow a force of around 5,000 American troops to stay in Iraq to provide counterterrorism support and air cover and to train the Iraqi army. But, as commander in chief, he was unwilling to strand U.S. forces in a hostile, anti-American environment without the legal protections and immunities required to ensure soldiers didn’t end up in Iraqi jails. These protections, which are common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate, were guaranteed under the 2008 status of forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration; Obama simply demanded that they continue under any follow-on accord. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told
U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki’s own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections. Even Sen. John McCain, perhaps the administration’s harshest Iraq critic, admitted in a December 2011 speech discussing the withdrawal that the president’s demand for binding legal immunities “was a matter of vital importance.” Moreover, because the 2008 security agreement had been approved by the Iraqi parliament, it seemed both unrealistic and politically unsustainable to apply a lower standard this time around. Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular
Matthew Lee: Kerry: US Open To Cooperation With Iran On Chaos In Iraq
Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential U.S.-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni extremists. Kerry also says U.S. drone strikes “may well” be an option.
In a Monday interview with Yahoo! News, Kerry said Washington is “open to discussions” with Tehran if the Iranians can help end the violence and restore confidence in the Iraqi government. Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”
New data show the number of students without health insurance on California State University campuses dropped by 60% after health insurance enrollment, defying concerns that not enough young people would sign up for health insurance. According to a poll released Thursday, at the 15 largest CSU campuses, between 25% and 30% of students were uninsured before enrollment began, and 10% were uninsured after. The drop accounts for 60,000 students who became insured, and illustrates the late surge of young people who signed up for policies. “These students proved that the folks we’re calling young invincibles do want health insurance,” said William Covino, president of Cal State Los Angeles. Walter Zelman, chair of the Cal State L.A. Public Health Department and director of the project, said that he believes the 10% uninsured rate among the students is “virtually unheard of in California.”
He pointed out that the 60% drop in the number of uninsured CSU students is vastly higher than the 26% reduction in the number of uninsured nationwide that was reported by a Gallup poll this month. CSU students were perhaps more likely to sign-up for insurance than expected because many are low-income and therefore qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program that was expanded under the federal health care law. Natasha Buranasombati, 23, signed up for an insurance plan through Covered California. A recent Cal State L.A. grad, she’d been off her parents’ insurance for a few years, and couldn’t afford a plan on the individual market. She now pays $117 a month for her new plan. “The issue is not invincibility, it’s affordability,” Zelman said.
Bloomberg: Taliban Fighters Warn Foreign Investors To Leave Pakistan
Pakistan’s military began a full-scale operation in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, prompting insurgents to warn foreign investors, airlines and multinational companies to leave the country. “We’re in a state of war,” Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, said in a statement today. “Foreign investors, airlines, and multinational companies should cut off business with Pakistan immediately and leave the country or else they will be responsible for their damage themselves.”
The army said yesterday it would target local and foreign terrorists in North Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border the U.S. has called the “epicenter” of terrorism. The operation, long sought by the U.S., comes a week after militants attacked the country’s biggest international airport. As Islamic militants capture cities in Iraq and the U.S. draws up plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, public opinion in Pakistan is shifting in favor of stronger action against fighters who were previously seen locally as more of a threat to America’s interests. The Taliban wants to impose its version of Islamic Shariah law in Pakistan, which includes a ban on music and stricter rules for women.
LA Times: Actors, Musicians Are Big Beneficiaries Of Obamacare
In 2011, actress Lynda Berg didn’t make enough money to qualify for health insurance through her union. And, on her own, she had trouble finding a plan she could afford because she’s a survivor of breast cancer, considered a preexisting condition. The uncertainty of not having a health plan was stressful and at times expensive, she recalls. A few years ago she fell and broke her hand and elbow and ended up paying $4,000 for her medical care. But all that has changed for Berg, 59. In March, she went online, signed up for a policy through Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act, and now is getting medical care. More than most people, workers in the area’s vast entertainment industry are poised to benefit from the federal health law.
“When people think Hollywood, they think George Clooney and Meryl Streep, but that’s not the average person in this town,” said Dan Kitowski, director of health services for the western region of the Actors Fund, a national nonprofit that does Affordable Care Act outreach. Actress Berg, who lives in Beverlywood, now pays a premium of $145 a month for her Blue Shield of California plan. She’s using her coverage to get prescriptions for $5 a month that she was paying more than $100 to fill before. She plans to head to the doctor’s office soon for a checkup she’s been putting off. “It’s a tremendous blessing to actors and anyone who doesn’t have insurance,” she said. “Even if you get a plan with a large deductible, at least you have that safety net … and you’re not in debt for the next seven years.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday $70 million in funding available during Fiscal Year 2014 to tribal communities across the nation to improve Indian housing conditions and stimulate community development for low and moderate income families. The grants are available through HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program for a wide variety of community development and affordable housing activities. Read HUD’s ICDBG Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The purpose of the ICDBG program is to develop viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities. Recipients can use the funding to support rehabbing or building new housing or to buy land for housing. They can use it toward infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer facilities. Recipients can also spur economic development including commercial and industrial projects.
This has included community and health centers, energy conservation projects, or new businesses such as shopping centers, manufacturing plants, restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations. “Housing and infrastructure needs in Indian Country are severe and widespread, and far exceed what has been provided to tribes and their designated housing entities. This funding will go directly to the Native American and Alaska Native communities that are working hard every day to improve housing for the families who need it most,” said Rodger Boyd, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Native American Programs. “HUD invests in people and neighborhoods across the country that promote development at the local level by those local leaders who know their communities best. This year we are committed to not only expanding housing opportunities but also helping to ensure healthier environments for those affected by mold.”
Eliza Griswold: Can General Linder’s Special Operations Forces Stop the Next Terrorist Threat?
On a searing morning this spring, Brig. Gen. James B. Linder leaned against the red-webbing seats of a C-130 as it flew over the Sahara. On his camouflaged knee, he balanced two dog-eared Moleskine notebooks and a map of Africa. Linder, who is in his early 50s, commands the United States Special Operations forces in Africa. He was on his way to visit a detachment of 12 Army Green Berets training with African troops to fight Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Niger. Through the plane’s scratched plexiglass portholes, dunes crested like waves in an ocean of sand, and hot blasts of wind buffeted the fuselage.
An hour’s flight to the south, his team of Special Forces was deployed along the Nigerian border, where the militant group Boko Haram was targeting children in its bid to establish an Islamic state. “My job is to look at Africa and see where the threat to the United States is,” Linder said as he unfolded his map and traced circles around the territories where he knew extremist groups were operating. “I see Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan problem set, Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Benghazi and Darna.”
NYT: Starbucks To Provide Free College Education To Thousands of Workers
Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.
In a low-wage service industry, Starbucks has for decades been unusual, doing things such as providing health insurance, even for part-timers, and giving its employees stock options. (Like other food and drink chains, it has also been accused of using improper tactics in fighting unionization drives.) Whether in spite of those perks or because of them, the company has been highly successful; its stock, which closed Friday at $74.69, has grown in value more than a hundredfold since it went public in 1992. The president of Arizona State, Michael M. Crow, something of an evangelist for online education, was scheduled to join Mr. Schultz and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, to announce the program on Monday in Manhattan. Arizona State has one of the largest online degree programs in the United States, with 11,000 students and 40 undergraduate majors, and one of the most highly regarded.
I’m here in Florida visiting my father, Ed Reich, who, at the young age of 100 and a half, just came up with one of the most incisive assessments I’ve heard of what’s happened in Iraq: “George W. Bush and the crooks he hired are responsible for this. If they hadn’t lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction we wouldn’t have lost nearly 5,000 American lives and god knows how many Iraqi lives, and stirred up this hornet’s nest. Obama has spent his entire administration cleaning up Bush’s shit, like someone with a giant pooper scooper.” Dad has lived during the administrations of 17 presidents. “Bush was the worst,” he says. “Reagan the second worst.”
The Supreme Court says federal law does not allow a “straw” purchaser to buy a gun for someone else, even if both are legally eligible to own firearms. The justices ruled Monday that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski, Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. Federal officials brought charges against Abramski because he assured the Virginia dealer he was the actual buyer of the weapon, even though he had already agreed to buy the gun for his uncle.
Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters a campaign rally at Kettering High School June 16, 2008 in Flint, Michigan
Sen. Barack Obama, former U.S. vice president Al Gore and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appear on stage together after Gore spoke endorsing him at a rally at Joe Louis Arena June 16, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan
President Obama picks up a fly he swatted during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood in the East Room of the White House, June 16, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama gives a fist-bump to personal aide Reggie Love in the Oval Office of the White House on June 16, 2009. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is at left (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama arrives to speak the American Nurses Association House of Delegates June 16, 2010 in Washington, DC.
President Obama walks with his daughter Malia as they follow First Lady Michelle Obama into the Strathmore Music Center June 16, 2013 in Bethesda, Maryland. The Obama’s were attending a dance performance with where their daughter Sasha was performing.
USA Today: Obama Breakfasts At Old Chicago Favorite
It was an old home kind of Friday for President Obama. The president — and former Chicago resident — had breakfast at a favored old stomping ground, Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park. Obama, who dined with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, ordered two eggs over medium with bacon and hash browns, and then plopped down a pair of $20 bills. “I don’t take free food,” Obama said.
It was a familiar place for Obama. A glass cabinet featured Valois coffee mugs adorned with Obama’s face, while assorted Obama clippings and photos hung on a wall. A separate menu board featured “President Obama’s favorites,” including “N.Y. steak and eggs”; two eggs with bacon or sausage; two pancakes; steak omelet; Mediterranean omelet; and an “all-vegi” egg white omelet.
President Barack Obama waves while boarding Air Force One before leaving O’Hare International Airport in Chicago
President Barack Obama salutes as he steps from Air Force One in Andrews Air Force Base
President Barack Obama is escorted to Marine One helicopter from the steps of Air Force One
President Barack Obama waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House following his arrival on Marine One
President Barack Obama carries his jacket over his shoulder and whistles as he walks towards the Oval Office
President Barack Obama signs H.R. 685 in the Oval Office. H.R. 685 is the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act with the presentation of a single congressional gold medal in recognition of the Aces military service. From back left are Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Fred Dungan, American Fighter Ace, of San Clemente, Calif., Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Clayton Gross, of Portland, Ore., American Fighter Ace.
White House: Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 685 and H.R. 1209
On Friday, May 23, 2014, the President signed into law: H.R. 685, the “American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a single congressional gold medal to the American Fighter Aces, collectively, in recognition of their heroic military service and defense of the Nation’s freedom throughout the history of aviation warfare; and
H.R. 1209, which provides for the award of a single congressional gold medal to the World War II members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, for outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo.
President Barack Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, announces the nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to replace current Secretary Shaun Donovan who was nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
White House: President Obama Nominates Julián Castro As Next HUD Secretary And Shaun Donovan As OMB Director
Today, in the White House State Dining Room, President Obama nominated San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Mayor Castro will be an invaluable member of the Obama Administration. In five short years, Mayor Castro has made significant progress in San Antonio and put the city and its citizens on a new trajectory. He has been a leader among mayors in implementing housing and economic development programs that have tremendously benefitted the people of San Antonio. He has also built good relationships with other mayors and key partners in the Administration’s Promise Zones initiative, which spotlights San Antonio as a shining example of a city that has been revitalized over the past few years due in large part to Mayor Castro’s leadership.
"I hope that the Senate confirms them both without games or delay." —President Obama on the nominations of @ShaunHUD & Julián Castro
President Obama also believes that Secretary Donovan will make an excellent choice as the new Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Donovan has committed his life to public service, focused on good government and smart investment. Under Donovan’s leadership, HUD helped stabilize the housing market and worked to keep responsible families in their homes. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, Donovan reaffirmed HUD’s commitment to building strong, sustainable, inclusive neighborhoods that are connected to education and jobs and provide access to opportunity for all Americans. While at HUD, Donovan made critical investments to speed economic growth, while also offering new savings proposals and ensuring fiscal responsibility. Donovan also chaired the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which developed a comprehensive regional plan, based on local vision for redevelopment, to guide long-term disaster recovery efforts. Donovan has a track record of using data to make good decisions and drive results. In the role, he has become a trusted advisor to the President and partner to other members of the Cabinet.