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3/18: An additional Trillion Dollars

WASHINGTON — With the country sinking deeper into recession, the Federal Reserve launched a bold $1.2 trillion effort Wednesday to lower rates on mortgages and other consumer debt, spur spending and revive the economy. To do so, the Fed will spend up to $300 billion to buy long-term government bonds and an additional $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues wrapped a two-day meeting by leaving a key short-term bank lending rate at a record low of between zero and 0.25 percent. Economists predict the Fed will hold the rate in that zone for the rest of this year and for most _ if not all _ of next year.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law. That would be a departure from the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state's law.
WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday preserving a healthy newspaper industry was important and he was open to adjusting antitrust policy if it could help. "I'd like to think 20, 30, 40 years from now people will still be reading the newspaper," Holder told reporters. He was responding to a call by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging the Justice Department to give newspapers more leeway to merge or combine operations. "The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law," Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department.
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3/8: Stem Cells, Cuba, and the Taliban

The Bush Era stem cell funding ban will be lifted on Monday.
March 7 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s expected reversal of an 8-year-old restriction on U.S. funding for embryonic stem cell research has excited scientists and health advocates who say the action will accelerate the search for cures to major illness. Obama plans to lift the funding ban, imposed by former President George W. Bush, in a March 9 signing ceremony, said two government officials, who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity. Bush objected to the use of the tissue because the process caused the destruction of human embryos.
In a wide ranging NYT interview, Obama mulls reaching out to elements of the Taliban.
WASHINGTON — President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. Mr. Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of American forces with turning the war around in the last two years. “There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region,” he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated.
He will also start easing restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.
President Barack Obama is poised to offer an olive branch to Cuba in an effort to repair the US's tattered reputation in Latin America. The White House has moved to ease some travel and trade restrictions as a cautious first step towards better ties with Havana, raising hopes of an eventual lifting of the four-decade-old economic embargo. Several Bush-era controls are expected to be relaxed in the run-up to next month's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to gild the president's regional debut and signal a new era of "Yankee" cooperation. The administration has moved to ease draconian travel controls and lift limits on cash remittances that Cuban-Americans can send to the island, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of families.
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3/04: The Internet, Death Penalty, and No Bid Contracts

  • The new head of the FCC is an internet expert who is a strong advocate for net neutrality and cheaper broadband access.
As anticipated, Julius Genachowski has been tapped by President Barack Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission. The move is another indication that incoming leadership in Washington will move decisively to protect the free flowing Internet from those seeking to become gatekeepers to new media. It also fulfills Obama's promise made on the campaign trail to appoint an FCC chair who shares his support for Net Neutrality.
  • Obama's secret letter to Russia purportedly said if Russia helps with Iran, the European missile defense system will no longer be needed.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he wanted to work with Russia to resolve a nuclear stand-off with Iran but denied reports he had offered to slow deployment of a missile defense shield in exchange for Moscow's help. The New York Times reported that Obama had sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting he would back off deploying a system in eastern Europe to intercept and destroy missiles, a move Russia sees as a military threat, if Moscow helped stop Iran from developing long-range weapons.
SAN FRANCISCO -- President Obama's Justice Department halted the death penalty trial of an alleged San Francisco gang leader Monday by accepting a 40-year prison sentence that the Bush administration had vetoed. The plea agreement for Emile Fort remained on hold after a federal judge heard a tearful plea from a murder victim's mother for a life sentence and summoned prosecutors to a closed-door session to describe their case against Fort.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered an overhaul of the way the U.S. government awards contracts for private sector work, reversing a Bush administration policy that in some cases led to federal investigations of procurement practices and no-bid contracts. Obama joined Republican Sen. John McCain, his presidential campaign rival, and other congressional figures to announce an executive memorandum that commits his administration to a new set of marching orders for awarding contracts. Obama said "the days of giving government contractors a blank check are over" and said changes could save up to $40 billion a year.
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2/26: The Federal Budget

  • Obama unveils his new budget. It includes billions for health care, an additional $750 billion for banks, as well as a tax increase for the wealthy.
WASHINGTON — President Obama will propose further tax increases on the affluent to help pay for his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable, calling for stricter limits on the benefits of itemized deductions taken by the wealthiest households, administration officials said Wednesday. The tax proposal, coming after recent years in which wealth has become more concentrated at the top of the income scale, introduces a politically volatile edge to the Congressional debate over Mr. Obama’s domestic priorities. The president will also propose, in the 10-year budget he is to release Thursday, to use revenues from the centerpiece of his environmental policy — a plan under which companies must buy permits to exceed pollution emission caps — to pay for an extension of a two-year tax credit that benefits low-wage and middle-income people.
The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today. "As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters. Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.
Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference Wednesday that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana clubs that are established legally under state law. His declaration is a fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, and marks a major shift from the previous administration. After the inauguration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continued to carry out such raids, despite Obama's promise. Holder was asked if those raids represented American policy going forward. "No," he said. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."
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2/23: Deficit Reduction

President Obama launched a "fiscal responsibility summit" at the White House today by vowing to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term in office, and he pledged to reinstate pay-as-you-go budgeting rules to prevent the government from spending money it does not have.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration put the nation’s biggest banks on notice Monday that the government could become their biggest shareholder if regulators decide they are not strong enough to weather a deeper-than-expected downturn in the economy.
BARA, Pakistan — More than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the country’s lawless tribal areas, American military officials said. The Americans are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics, the officials said. They do not conduct combat operations, the officials added.
So today was the day that Karl Rove was supposed to appear before the House Judiciary committee to testify about the US Attorney firings. And of course, Rove didn't show. That wasn't a surprise. After getting the deadline pushed back, Rove had already publicly indicated he didn't plan on being there, citing President Bush's claim of executive privilege. Rove's lawyer had then asked for a second postponement, a request that Judiciary chair John Conyers had declined to grant.
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2/20: Foreclosure plan

Foreclosure plan unveiled.
The Obama administration did not make the same mistake twice. A week after being hammered for offering a bank assistance plan that lacked details, the administration unveiled a sweeping and detailed plan Wednesday to prevent millions of foreclosures. It includes just about every suggested solution: loan guarantees, greater incentives to lenders and servicers, and expanded use of the government-sponsored enterprises. It even included a stick to go with the carrots: a bigger push for legislation to let judges rework mortgages in bankruptcy.
To the chagrin of right wing radio, Obama opposes the fairness doctrine.
“President Obama opposes any move to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a spokesman told FOXNews.com Wednesday. The statement is the first definitive stance the administration has taken since an aide told an industry publication last summer that Obama opposes the doctrine — a long-abolished policy that would require broadcasters to provide opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.
Transportation Secretary mulls a mileage tax.
WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn _ an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed. Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.
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2/16: Helicopters

A six-year-old project to build state-of-the-art presidential helicopters has bogged down in a contracting quagmire that will challenge Mr. Obama’s desire to rein in military contracting expenses. The price tag has nearly doubled, production has fallen years behind schedule and much of the program has been frozen until the new administration figures out what to do about it.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will soon issue an executive order lifting an eight-year ban embryonic stem cell research imposed by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, a senior adviser said on Sunday. "We're going to be doing something on that soon, I think. The president is considering that right now," Obama adviser David Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday."
President Obama will sign the $787 billion economic stimulus plan in Denver on Tuesday, the White House said today, as he continues his efforts to communicate directly to the American public about the economic crisis. Obama had already announced a trip to Colorado and Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday. He plans to announce his latest plans for reducing the number of housing foreclosures on Wednesday in Phoenix. Obama's decision to sign the stimulus bill in Denver is a striking departure from his first few weeks in office, when he held several signing ceremonies in the East Room of the White House.
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2/11: Israel

JERUSALEM – Israel's new coalition government — whether led by hard-line Benjamin Netanyahu or his moderate rival Tzipi Livni — is likely to take a tough line on two burning issues: Hamas and Iran. As the two began courting potential coalition partners Wednesday, two scenarios took shape: a narrow alliance of hawks who would stall peacemaking with the Palestinians, or a broad power-sharing government that would give Israel a more moderate face and greater international support. With only a few thousand votes by soldiers still to be counted, Livni's Kadima Party had one more seat in parliament than Netanyahu's Likud. But Netanyahu's natural allies on the right have a clear majority of 65 in the 120-seat parliament, giving him the edge in forming a coalition. President Shimon Peres will consult all 12 parties in the new parliament next week before choosing either Netanyahu or Livni to try to form a government — a process likely to take weeks if not months.
WASHINGTON — Moving with lightning speed, the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House agreed Wednesday on a compromise $790 billion economic stimulus bill designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the measure within days. "More than one-third of this bill is dedicated to providing tax relief for middle-class families, cutting taxes for 95 percent of American workers," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a Capitol news conference where he was joined by moderates from both parties whose support is essential for the legislation's final passage.
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has rejected a Bush administration plan to open vast waters off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling, promising "a new way forward" in offshore energy development including new wind projects. Salazar at a news conference Tuesday criticized "the midnight timetable" for new oil and gas development on the country's Outer Continental Shelf proposed by the Bush administration four days before President Barack Obama took office Jan. 20.
  • Finally, the homeless woman from Obama's town hall gets a house.
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2/10: State Secrets

  • The Senate passes the stimulus bill. Now it's on to conference where the two chambers can iron out their differences before voting again next week.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan has passed the Senate and is on its way to difficult House-Senate negotiations.Just three Republicans helped pass the plan on a 61-37 vote and they're already signaling they'll play hardball to preserve more than $108 billion in spending cuts made last week in Senate dealmaking. Obama wants to restore cuts in funds for school construction jobs and help for cash-starved states. Those cuts are among the major differences between the $819 billion House version of Obama's plan and a Senate bill costing $838 billion. Obama has warned of a deepening economic crisis if Congress fails to act. He wants a bill completed by the weekend.
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SAN FRANCISCO — In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration. In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations.
The NSC will take on all national security matters that are strategic in nature and "of such importance that the president of the United States would care" about them, he said. Action groups from various departments and agencies will be formed around specific issues for as long as it takes to resolve them. "Some of these things will be very short-term. When the problem goes away, the group goes away." Others will be ongoing. "An Afghan strategic review, that's going to take a while," Jones said. "The policy that is generated from that review, and the implementation, is going to take a while."
Many Iranians are tired of isolation but some say Iran needs a hard-liner to win U.S. concessions not a moderate like Khatami, whose reforming efforts were mostly blocked by conservatives. Speaking to reporters after meeting Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in Madrid on Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said: "They (Iranians) think the American attitude is positive, and they are just waiting for that attitude to manifest itself in some gesture." Some principals will be regulars at the NSC "just by force of issues," he said, and "you can't just designate the whole government as being there." But everyone should be kept aware of "what's going on" and given an opportunity to say, 'Wait a minute, I've got something to say here.' "
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2/6: Nukes

Obama abruptly changes his tone in his selling of the stimulus. Watch him lay the smack down. Obama seeks biggest nuclear weapons cut with Russia in a generation. WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. ...
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2/4: Salary Cap

  • Obama limits bailed out bank executive salaries to 500k.
WASHINGTON — In announcing executive pay limits on Wednesday, President Obama is trying to hold the financial industry accountable to taxpayers while aiming to change an entrenched corporate culture that endorses outsize bonuses and perks that often bear little relationship to corporate performance. Mr. Obama also needs to deflect a growing populist outrage over sky-high pay among the banks and other companies now on the public dole. His announcement comes just days before the administration is expected to unveil a new strategy — and possibly request more money from Congress — to guarantee or buy outright hundreds of billions of dollars in bad assets held by banks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Wednesday expanding a health insurance program for children and raising tobacco taxes to pay for it, a big legislative victory a day after his pick to lead a healthcare industry overhaul stepped aside. Obama signed the law just hours after the House of Representatives voted 290-135 for the $32.8 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, which was approved by the Senate last week.
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2/3: Delays

Tom Daschle withdraws as Heath and Human Services Secretary because of tax and other problems. The decision to withdraw his nomination as a member of the Obama cabinet comes as the White House battled acr...
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1/30-2/1: Outrage

Obama calls $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses "outrageous" and promises action. WASHINGTON "" President Obama branded Wall Street bankers "shameful" on Thursday for giving themselves nearly $20 bil...
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1/29: Blackwater

Blackwater gets kicked out of Iraq. BAGHDAD -- Blackwater Worldwide, the security firm whose guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians on a crowded Baghdad street in 2007, will not receive an operating license fro...
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1/27: Stimulus

The House passes the stimulus bill with zero Republican votes. As a piece of legislation, the two-year package is among the biggest in history, reflecting a broad view in Congress that urgent fiscal help ...
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1/27: Muslim world charm offensive

  • As Middle East envoy George Mitchell leaves to try to broker peace between Israel and Hamas, Obama does his first post-inauguration TV interview with Arab channel Al-Arabiya and extends the hand of friendship. The whole video is worth a watch.
Said Feingold: "The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people. I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute."
The bill is a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said a person must file a claim of discrimination within 180 days of a company's initial decision to pay a worker less than it pays another worker doing the same job. Under the bill, every new discriminatory paycheck would extend the statute of limitations for another 180 days.
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1/26: The EPA

WASHINGTON — President Obama will direct federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, two administration officials said Sunday.
The directive makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and signifies a sharp reversal of Bush administration policy. Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.
WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is expected to name Todd Stern, a senior White House official under former President Bill Clinton, as its climate change envoy, two people familiar with the decision said on Monday.
The people said the announcement could come as early as Monday, when U.S. President Barack Obama's administration plans to announce steps to raise fuel efficiency standards. Stern coordinated the Clinton administration's Initiative on Global Climate Change from 1997 to 1999 and acted as the senior White House negotiator in the Kyoto negotiations on climate change.
The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate, even desperate, propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. The departure of George W. Bush deprived al-Qaeda of a polarizing American leader who reliably drove recruits and donations to the terrorist group.
With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, experts say: a U.S. president who campaigned to end the Iraq war and to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who polls show is well liked throughout the Muslim world.
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1/23-1/25: Recovery.org

  • Obama is trying to stop Bush's last minute gutting of environmental rules.
Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Bush administration proposals to ease emission requirements for factories and require some foods to carry country-of-origin labels are among pending regulations that President Barack Obama blocked on his first day in office.
In October 2001, the Bush administration took an administrative action that would prove sadly symptomatic of its rule. John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, issued a memorandum warning against casual release of information to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. Such releases, Ashcroft said, should be made "only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial and personal privacy interests that could be implicated." In case anyone missed the point, Ashcroft added that any bureaucrat who said no to such a request could "be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis." It goes without saying that Ashcroft did not promise any such defense of government employees who released information under the terms of the act.
  • The "global gag rule" on abortions is no more.
President Obama yesterday lifted a ban on U.S. funding for international health groups that perform abortions, promote legalizing the procedure or provide counseling about terminating pregnancies.
Officials say they will make wide-ranging changes, including stricter federal rules for hedge funds, credit rating agencies and mortgage brokers, and greater oversight of the complex financial instruments that contributed to the economic crisis.
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1/23: Guantanamo

Barack Obama promised change and it is going to come in a flurry, so this new daily feature will document the new substance of the United States of America. If you're looking for analysis or style please visit psa.blastmagazine.com This is just the beginning...
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Welcome to the 21st Century

If one was to judge by the calendar alone, the 21st century started eight years ago this week. Although, when people refer to the 21st century in conversation, often they aren't talking about the specific time ...