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  1. WH

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    All Times Eastern\

    7:00 AM
    8:00 AM
    9:00 AM
    10:00 AM
    10:45 AM
    President Obama receives the presidential daily briefing.
    Oval Office
    Closed Press

    11:00 AM
    12:00 PM
    1:00 PM
    President Obama meets with senior advisers.
    Oval Office
    Closed Press

    2:00 PM
    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers toys and gifts donated by Executive Office staff to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Campaign at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

    2:10 PM
    President Obama delivers remarks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism.
    DC, National Harbor, Washington
    Open to pre-credentialed media

    2:30 PM
    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney briefs the press.

    3:00 PM
    4:00 PM
    5:00 PM
    6:00 PM
    7:00 PM
    8:00 PM
    9:00 PM
    10:00 PM




    Obama and Reid’s payroll tax plan

    12/13/11 POLITICO44

    POLITICO’s David Rogers pulls back on the curtain on President Obama’s plan to get payroll tax cuts passed:

    “Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Obama have agreed on a strategy of slowing progress on the spending bill conference report in order to keep House Republicans in town –and hopefully gain some leverage with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the payroll tax. Inouye’s cooperation as the Senate chairman is essential, but it requires him to play a part that is plainly uncomfortable for him.”

    • December 13, 2011

      Statement by the Press Secretary on Tonight’s House Vote on the GOP Payroll Tax Cut Plan

      This Congress needs to do its job and stop the tax hike that’s scheduled to affect 160 million Americans in 18 days. This is not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points against the President. It’s not a time to refight old ideological battles. And it’s not a time to break last summer’s bipartisan agreement and hurt the middle class by cutting things like education, clean energy, and veterans’ programs without asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

      This is a time to help the middle class and all those trying to reach it by extending a tax cut worth $1,000 for the average family. The President has been very clear: Congress should not finish their business before finishing the business of the American people. They cannot go on vacation before agreeing to prevent a tax hike on 160 million Americans and extending unemployment insurance. That is simply inexcusable in this economy. It is our expectation that in the eleventh hour Congressional Republicans and Democrats will come to an agreement to protect the middle class and finish their budget work for the year.

    • Focus on Senate after House OKs payroll tax cut

      12/14/11 By ALAN FRAM | AP – 5 hrs ago

      WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican payroll tax cut bill that sailed through the House despite a White House veto threat is dead on arrival in the Senate, and it will soon be time for talks on a final package, the Senate’s top Democrat says.

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made the remarks Tuesday shortly after the House used a near-party line 234-193 vote to approve the measure. The bill has drawn nearly universal Democratic opposition because it would force work to begin on the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL oil pipeline, which President Barack Obama would rather postpone, and would trim federal spending without forcing the wealthy to contribute as much as Democrats want.

      The measure would keep 160 million workers from seeing their payroll tax jump on Jan. 1 from this year’s 4.2 percent back to its normal level of 6.2 percent — a $1,000 difference for a family making $50,000. It would also renew expiring extra benefits for long-term jobless people and head off a cut in doctors’ Medicare reimbursements, a reduction that could prompt some to stop seeing elderly patients who use that program.

      Reid says he will schedule a vote shortly on the House-passed bill to underscore its irrelevance — a vote that should start the clock ticking on what stands as the year’s final, high-stakes partisan faceoff.

      “It was dead before it got to the Senate,” Reid said of the House legislation. “The Senate will not pass it. The sooner we
      demonstrate that, the sooner we can begin serious discussions on how to keep taxes from going up on middle-class Americans.”
      House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, taunted Senate Democrats after the House passed its legislation.

      For the entire article:

      • House Vote On Passage: H.R. 3630: Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011

        Number: House Vote #923 in 2011 [primary source:]
        Date: Dec 13, 2011 6:51PM
        Result: Passed

        10 Democrats voted “Aye”:

        Aye AR-4 Ross, Mike [D]
        Aye CA-18 Cardoza, Dennis [D]
        Aye GA-12 Barrow, John [D]
        Aye IN-2 Donnelly, Joe [D]
        Aye IA-1 Braley, Bruce [D]
        Aye IA-2 Loebsack, David [D]
        Aye IA-3 Boswell, Leonard [D]
        Aye MN-1 Walz, Timothy [D]
        Aye OK-2 Boren, Dan [D]
        Aye UT-2 Matheson, Jim [D]


    • White Board: Brian Deese on the Payroll Tax Cut

      Posted by Matt Compton on December 14, 2011

      In this new White House White Board, Brian Deese, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, explains how President Obama’s payroll tax cut helps families, businesses, and the economy — and why it’s so important to extend that tax cut for 2012.

    • Payroll tax cuts key to recovery: White House

      11/29/11 Laura MacInnis and Andy Sullivan -Reuters – 15 mins ago

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Allowing payroll tax cuts to expire would hurt the U.S. economy and further dent hiring, and may make the United States more vulnerable to outside shocks, President Barack Obama’s top economist said on Tuesday.

      “Extending the payroll tax cut will strengthen the recovery. Without it, it will be a drag on economic growth,” Alan Krueger told reporters at the White House.

      Obama has proposed extending lower taxes for workers and small businesses as part of his drive to fight unemployment – which remains at 9 percent – before the November 2012 vote in which he is seeking re-election.

      Republicans in Congress have indicated they thought there would eventually be a deal to extend the payroll tax cuts for a year. But they prefer a broad overhaul of the U.S. tax system instead to give taxpayers and business owners more clarity about what they owe.

      Krueger said it was important for lawmakers to extend the payroll tax cuts that Obama, a Democrat, has pushed for to avoid unnecessary pain.

      “This is a critical time for the economy, and I think it’s a time where the economy can use more medicine to strengthen and sustain the recovery,” he said, suggesting lower taxes on workers and companies would “provide insurance against shocks that might be coming.”

      “If one looks at the potential problems for economic growth coming from Europe, it even strengthens the argument for strengthening our own demand here at home,” Krueger said.

    • W.H. requests short term spending measure

      12/14/11 By BYRON TAU – POLITICO44

      The White House requested that Congress pass a short term funding measure Wednesday, in another sign of a deepening standoff between Republicans and Democrats over taxes and spending.

      “The President continues to have significant concerns about a number of provisions that have been reported to be in the Republican agreement on the omnibus. This includes provisions that would undermine Wall Street reforms, enact extreme social and ideological riders, undercut environmental protections, and threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the President. Given the magnitude of the legislation — providing over $1 trillion dollars in funding — coupled with the unresolved payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution as it has seven times already this year so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.

      The sudden, unexpected standoff is the result of a dispute over two pieces of legislation that both have some measure of bipartisan support.

      The White House has been pushing hard for an extension of payroll tax cuts to avoid a tax increase on 160 million Americans as well as an extension of unemployment benefits, requesting that they get paid for with a tax increase on upper earners. The Republicans have offered a counter proposal that enacts both tax cuts and unemployment insurance without a tax increase on upper earners, but forces an expedited review of an oil pipeline that had been delayed by the administration.

      At the same time, a bipartisan omnibus spending bill that would keep the government funded through fiscal year 2012 has been winding its way through Congress. If the omnibus does not pass, the government technically runs out of funding Friday night — unless Congress passes another short term spending measure to keep the government afloat while a deal is cut.

      For the entire article:

    • December 14, 2011

      Statement by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer

      The President continues to have significant concerns about a number of provisions that have been reported to be in the Republican agreement on the omnibus. This includes provisions that would undermine Wall Street reforms, enact extreme social and ideological riders, undercut environmental protections, and threaten the foreign policy prerogatives of the President. Given the magnitude of the legislation — providing over $1 trillion dollars in funding — coupled with the unresolved payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension, Congress should pass a short-term continuing resolution as it has seven times already this year so that all parties have an appropriate opportunity to consider and complete all of the critical budget and economic issues necessary to finish our responsibilities for the year.

    • Shutdown preparations begin

      By BYRON TAU | 12/14/11 3:38 PM EST – POLITICO

      The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports that the Obama administration is (again) preparing for the possibility of a shutdown:

      The Obama administration is alerting employees to the possibility of a government shutdown if talks on bills to fund the government and extend the payroll tax cut collapse later this week.

      With Congress facing a midnight Friday deadline to either pass a short-term or final measure to fund government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, Cabinet secretaries and agency heads planned to send an e-mail message to workers by close of business Wednesday informing them that a shutdown could occur, according to multiple administration officials familiar with the plans.

      In a statement, Office of Management and Budget spokesman Kenneth Baer said Wednesday that “There is no reason for the government to shut down.” Congress could act quickly to pass a short- or long-term spending measure, Baer said, as they have seven times already this year.

      Hill Republicans are trying to pin any talk of a shutdown clearly on President Obama’s shoulders and the position that the White House has staked out on the payroll tax cut extension bill. The president issued a veto threat last night just as the Republican version of the bill cleared the House — clearing the way for an end of year showdown over spending, taxes and Congress’ remaining business.

    • Congress sends defense funding bill to the White House

      12/15/11 By Josiah Ryan – TheHill

      The Senate followed the House on Thursday in overwhelmingly approving the Defense Authorization Act for 2012 conference report, after an eleventh-hour compromise on the terrorist detainee provision removed a veto threat from the White House.

      The bill now goes to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

      The $662 billion spending bill will fund the Department of Defense through fiscal year 2012, providing salaries for soldiers, maintaining bases and paying for the development of the military’s weapons systems.
      The changes to the bill forged in conference between the chambers fortify the president’s right to prosecute accused terrorists captured on U.S. soil in civilian courts, although the legislation maintains military custody as the default.

      Thursday’s debate, prior to the 86-13 passage, mirrored floor action that occurred late last month, with opponents largely split along partisan lines. Republicans argued that accused terrorists should be denied their Miranda rights and be subject to indefinite military detentions while Democrats argued that American citizens possess a birthright to civilian proceedings.

      Junior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) asserted, “No member of al Qaeda, no terrorist should ever hear the words ‘you have the right to remain silent.’ ”

      Senior member of the committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), took the argument even further calling members of al Qaeda “crazy people” and saying it would be “the dumbest thing in the history of the world for a nation” to treat our enemies better on our own land than on the battlefield.

      But Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) both argued that the civilian system has been a more effective agency for dispersing justice to terrorists and said they worried about the encroachment on Americans’ constitutional rights.

      The House approved the bill 283-136 earlier in the week.

    • Democrats, GOP make final effort to pay tax bill, stave off shutdown

      12/15/11 By Erik Wasson – TheHill

      The House and Senate have begun final negotiations on a $1 trillion omnibus.

      House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said talks are under way and that “things are looking up.”

      Rogers said he is hopeful that Senate appropriators will be allowed to sign the conference report soon.

      “We’re optimistic that the senators will sign the conference report and we’ll get things concluded,” Rogers said.

      “Things are looking up and I am looking up,” he added, putting his hands together as if in prayer.

      The House unveiled the omnibus legislation Wednesday night, though Democrats hadn’t signed off on the agreement. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday signaled the sides were edging closer to a deal.

      Unless Congress approves an omnibus or a short-term measure to fund the government before Saturday, most of the government will shut down this weekend. The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development would not be affected since their appropriations bills were already approved.

      The omnibus has been a bargaining chip in a separate fight over extending the payroll tax cut extension. Both sides have been looking for leverage in that fight, as neither side wants to be blamed for a failure to extend the tax cut.

      It remains unclear whether the House and Senate will be able to resolve their differences and complete work on both the payroll tax measure and the omnibus before the end of the year. Members in both chambers are hoping to leave Washington by Friday, but it remains possible lawmakers will work through the weekend and into next week to finish up the two measures.

      For the entire article:

    • Extending Unemployment Insurance Is Essential for Our Economy

      Posted by Megan Slack on December 15, 2011 at 06:09 PM EST

      Today, the White House released a new report that shows how extended unemployment insurance benefits have helped, and would continue to help, the economic recovery. The report shows that unemployment insurance must be extended to ensure that millions of Americans are able to make ends meet and care for their families while looking for a job.

      The report, prepared by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, National Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Labor, found that five million workers will lose their benefits over the next year if Congress fails to extend unemployment insurance, including about 1.3 million people whose benefits will expire as soon as January. Additionally, the Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the economy will generate nearly 500,000 fewer jobs through 2014 if federally funded unemployment insurance benefits aren’t extended.

      Extending and reforming unemployment insurance, along with extending the payroll tax cut and preventing taxes from going up on 160 million Americans, are critical components of the President’s plan to build a stronger middle class and a brighter future for the American people.

      To learn more about how unemployment insurance provides important support for the millions of Americans looking for work and helps them return to work sooner, read the full report here.


      ‘They’re (GOP) rooting against the economy’

      By Steve Benen – Fri Jun 15, 2012 9:19 AM EDT

      After last month’s disappointing job numbers were released, and Republicans seemed a little too pleased, the Obama campaign argued that the GOP is, as Stephanie Cutter put it, is “rooting for failure.” David Axelrod accused Republicans of “high-fiving each other” when bad economic news comes out.

      On Capitol Hill, GOP leaders denied the accusations, but yesterday, Travis Waldron highlighted a clip of a Republican who was willing to be surprisingly candid on the subject.

      For those who can’t watch clips online, Rob Gray, a senior adviser on Romney’s gubernatorial campaign, was asked whether GOP lawmakers might be dragging their heels when it comes to improving the economy. Gray responded:

      “Well, I’m not buying that they’re dragging their heels. I am buying that they’re rooting against the economy somewhat because they think that, you know, the short-term pain of, you know, the next four months is much better than having additional four years of pain under Obama. They believe the government should spend less and that they have better economic ideas than the president does. So, you know, if we have to suffer between now and November to get a better president for four years, they’re all for it.”

      For more:

  3. Poll: Most Americans want payroll tax extension

    12/15/11 By LAURIE KELLMAN | AP

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans want Congress to vote to continue the payroll tax reduction, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll that comes as Democrats and Republicans wrestle over whether to extend the cut through 2012.

    It’s the latest instance in which lawmakers on Capitol Hill have allowed partisan sniping to hold up a measure to put in place a policy that most Americans support, like ending the Bush tax cuts, cap and trade, and a surcharge on millionaires.

    The dragged-out debate over whether to extend an expiring payroll tax reduction is one of many developments that have kept voters furious with their leaders all year. On the brink of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, virtually all Americans are disappointed and frustrated with the political scene and nearly 6 in 10 say they are angry, the AP-GfK survey showed.

    “It seems like there are parties that only want to get their agenda done,” said liquor store owner James Jacobsen, 47, of East Hartford, Conn. “They’re catering to special interests and not Americans. They are not representing the individual American.”

    Nearly 6 in 10 respondents say they want Congress to pass the extension, according to the poll. Letting the payroll tax break expire would cost a family making $50,000 about $1,000.

    For the entire article:

  4. Christmas In Washington

    Christmas in Washington

    Christmas in Washington is an annual Christmas television special that currently airs on the U.S. TNT network.

    One of two annual holiday specials produced by George Stevens, Jr. (the other being the Kennedy Center Honors), the variety show first aired in 1981 on NBC before moving to its current home on TNT in 1998. Recorded in Washington, D.C. at the National Building Museum, on the second Sunday of each December before being re-edited for later broadcast, Christmas in Washington is a one-hour concert featuring artists from musical genres. Each guest perform at least one solo, but the marquee performer usually has one or two more songs. The show also has at least one guest from the world of opera. Each of the musical performances are backed by a full orchestra and chorus. The show’s finale consists of a medley performed by all the musical guests before the attendees-of-honor, the President of the United States and the First Lady, make a closing statement.

    President Obama’s remarks to be aired on December 16 at 8PM EST on TNT

    For more information

    • December 11, 2011

      Remarks by the President at “Christmas in Washington”

      National Building Museum
      Washington, D.C.

      7:31 P.M. EST

      THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Good evening. Thank you. Thank you. Everybody, please, have a seat.

      Good evening, everybody. I just want to start by thanking all the folks who have joined us at the National Building Museum. Let’s give it up for our host, who also happens to be the host of the best late night show on TBS, Conan O’Brien. (Laughter and applause.) And I want to thank all the spectacular artists and choirs and glee clubs who have made this such a spectacular evening. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

      I want to congratulate 30 years of “Christmas in Washington.” It’s always such an extraordinary honor to be a part of this event because it benefits such a special place –- the Children’s National Medical Center. For so many children and their parents, the work that they do to save lives and improve care is nothing short of a miracle. And that’s fitting, because this is the season to celebrate miracles.

      This is the season to celebrate the story of how, more than two thousand years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among cattle and sheep. He was no ordinary child. He was the manifestation of God’s love. And every year we celebrate His birth because the story of Jesus Christ changed the world. For me, and for millions of Americans, His story has filled our hearts and inspired our lives. It moves us to love one another; to help and serve those less fortunate; to forgive; to draw close to our families; to be grateful for all that has been given to us; to keep faith; and to hold on to an enduring hope in humanity.

      Service to others. Compassion to all. Treating others as we wish ourselves to be treated. Those values aren’t just at the center of Christianity; those are values that are shared by all faiths. So tonight let us all rededicate ourselves to each other. And, in that spirit, from my family to yours, happy holidays. Merry Christmas. God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

      7:34 P.M. EST

  5. Providing Protections for In-Home Care Workers

    Posted by Hilda Solis on December 15, 2011 at 11:49 AM EST

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Work in Progress, the Official Blog of the Department of Labor

    In-home care service is a high growth industry, and it’s projected to grow by 50 percent between 2008 and 2018. In-home caregivers are an essential component of the health care system and will only become more important, as an increased number of patients turn to them for more affordable assistance with medical care as well as everyday tasks and household chores.

    For the entire article:


    A Promise Kept: Pauline and Homecare Workers

    From: whitehouse | Dec 14, 2011

    In 2007 then-Senator Barack Obama spent a day with Pauline Beck, a homecare worker. He worked alongside her, getting to know the daily life and concerns of a homecare worker. Now, as President, he has taken action that will require hommecare workers recieve at least a minimum wage and overtime protections – which many were previously exempt from

    • December 15, 2011

      Remarks by the President on Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for In-Home Care Workers

      Eisenhower Executive Office Building

      12:13 P.M. EST

      THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. As I said in Kansas last week, the defining issue of our time is whether we can build an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. It’s whether this is going to be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family and build a modest savings and own a home, secure their own retirement, look after their kids. That’s the test of our time.

      In some cases, building this kind of economy is going to require some action from Congress. And right now, Congress needs to make sure that 160 million working Americans don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st. None of the workers who’ve joined us here today can afford a $1,000 tax increase next year. And it wouldn’t be good for the economy. Every economist indicates that it’s important for us to extend the payroll tax cut and make sure that unemployment insurance is extended. So this Congress cannot and should not leave for vacation until that — until they have made sure that that tax increase doesn’t happen. Let me repeat that: Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren’t seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are out there looking for work don’t see their unemployment insurance expire.

      There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to extend these items — the payroll tax cut, UI — before the holidays. There’s no reason the government should shut down over this. And I expect all of us to do what’s necessary in order to do the people’s business and make sure that it’s done before the end of the year.

      Now, only Congress can prevent the payroll tax from going up next year. But there are also some things that we can do without Congress to help make sure that hard work pays off. And that’s why we’re here today.

      For the entire article:

  6. Fewer People Seek Jobless Benefits

    12/15/11 by David Gura

    Summary: Kai Ryssdal: There is — and this is kind of an understatement — a whole lotta data about the economy. Some we pay attention to. Some we don’t. We usually put the weekly unemployment report — the number of Americans who made their first claims for unemployment benefits — in the don’t pile, because that number comes out weekly and measuring the American economy on a weekly basis is tricky.

    But we break with that tradition today. From Washington, Marketplace’s David Gura explains why.

    David Gura: Two weeks ago, economist Nigel Gault noticed something. He’s with IHS Global Insight. The number of Americans filing for unemployment for the first time that week fell by almost 20,000.

    Nigel Gault: And most people had expected that that might have just been a temporary blip downwards, and most people were looking for those claims to actually get worse, to rise this week.

    But they didn’t. Today we learned that last week that number fell again — to the lowest level in more than three years.

    Scott Anderson is a senior economist at Wells Fargo, and he says that’s good news — fewer people are getting fired.

    Scott Anderson: I think the evidence is piling up that the U.S. job market may be stirring back to life in the fourth quarter.

    Take the average number of Americans filing for unemployment for the first time over the last four weeks — that’s also down. But economists are, shall we say, cautiously optimistic about this trend. Employment numbers around the holidays can be unreliable. If the weather turns bad, construction workers can be laid off.

    And there’s another thing. Tom Porcelli is with RBC Capital Markets.

    Tom Porcelli: What I think people have to remember about this claims number is that it only captures one side of the equation.

    Nigel Gault, of IHS Global Insights, agrees.

    Gault: We have to keep an eye on hiring, of course, as well as firing. These statistics just told us about firing. That has gone down.

    But hiring? It looks like we’ve still got a ways to go to make a big dent in unemployment. We’ll get more numbers on the hiring side of the employment equation soon.

    In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

    For the entire article and audio interview:

  7. POTUS on the GOP: ‘Anything that Obama’s for, we’re against’

    12/15/11 By BYRON TAU – POLITICO

    In an interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, President Obama accused Republicans of grinding the government to a halt over personal animosity toward him — as well as an inability to compromise.

    “You know, you never want to say, ‘It’s all them,'” the president said in a Yahoo!/ABC News interview, faulting the GOP for congressional and legislative gridlock. “But I do think that right now at least, in the Republican Party there are a couple of notions. Number one is that compromise is a dirty word. Number two, anything that Obama’s for, we’re against.”

    “If I propose a health care bill that is full of Republican ideas — in fact, is very similar to the law that was passed by the current Republican front runner, or one of the top frontrunners and the other guy was supportive of many of the ideas as well — suddenly, they become against it,” said the president.

    “I do think those dynamics are making it more difficult to get things done,” Obama said. “And it’s not unusual, after such a severe economic crisis like this, for the politics to be impacted by that, for people to lurch into extremes, or to get more combative.”

    The president and congressional Republicans have been scrambling to climb down from Thursday’s shutdown threats from both sides after negotiations over two pieces of legislation broke down — including one bill that must be passed by Friday night to keep the federal government operating. The president and his team have been pushing hard for an extension of middle-class tax cuts, but have declared both the Republican version of the bill and their end-of-year spending bill unacceptable.

    Obama also touched on other themes, including launching into a defense of the decision to withdraw from Iraq, despite his 2002 opposition to the invasion.

    “Our troops are coming home with their heads held high, because despite an extraordinarily difficult situation, because of their sacrifice and their skill, they are handing over to Iraq a country that has had a democratic election, that is working in a political fashion instead of a violent fashion to solve differences,” Obama told Walters.

    Excerpts from Walters’ interview will air on ABC News tonight and the the full ABC News interview with President Obama will air on 20/20 on December 23rd.

    • ‘My Republicans seem to be intent on suicide’

      Dec 15, 2011 By Laura Conaway – maddowblog.msnbc.msn

      As President Obama has stuck to the timeline for ending the Iraq War this year, Republican leaders have voiced as a chief complaint that the war has somehow not been long enough and that America should leave tens of thousands of troops in place.

      Last night on the show, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, talked about what’s going on in his own Republican Party.

      WILKERSON: The only way I can explain it, Rachel, is their hatred of President Obama. And I say that with some circumspection.

      They want to defeat this man. They want to bring this man out of the White House. They want to embarrass this man. They want to put this man through every kind of turmoil they can possibly put him through politically.

      So, they will take almost any stand even — and this is what really grates on me as a Republican — even if it is not in the interest of this country, they will take a stand and have repeatedly taken stands that oppose the president simply because they oppose the president.

      It’s not America. It`s not the United States. It’s not our best interests. It’s certainly not our national security interests. It’s getting rid of this president.

      That is political opportunism and political blindness of the first order. And it may cause me to leave this party eventually, I must say that.

      MADDOW: Is there — do you see any hope within the Republican Party for a new vision, a conservative realistic not reactionary foreign policy emerging? Is anybody leading on that?

      WILKERSON: I see Ron Paul. I see Walt Jones from North Carolina. I see a few others who speak sanely and soberly.

      But as far as the leadership goes, whether it’s domestic policy, tax reform, taxing the wealthiest in this country, which incidentally Dwight Eisenhower did for eight years at the rate of 90 percent, an arch-Republican, if you will. Any issue you want to pick, my Republicans seem to be intent on suicide.

      For the entire article:

  8. Shutdown averted: Deal reached on $1 trillion omnibus bill

    12/15/11 By Russell Berman – TheHIll

    House and Senate negotiators on Thursday night reached a tentative agreement on a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that would avert a government shutdown, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee announced.

    Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he expected the conference report to be filed later Thursday for a vote in both chambers Friday.

    “I am hopeful that the House and Senate can pass this bill tomorrow to prevent a government shutdown, fund critical programs and services for the American people, and cut spending to help put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path,” Rogers said in a statement. “In spite of many unnecessary obstacles, it is good to see that responsible leadership and good governance can triumph.”

    The 1,200-page legislation funds most of the federal government for the balance of fiscal 2012.

    Republican leaders claimed they had a hand-shake agreement earlier in the week, but they said Democratic negotiators refused to sign off because the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held up the agreement to gain leverage in a separate year-end dispute over the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. Democrats said some issues remained unresolved, including travel restrictions with Cuba.

    The House GOP had planned to try to advance a stand-alone version of the omnibus unilaterally on Friday, but Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi warned them they’d get no support from her party.

    For the entire article:


    Gingrich signs anti-gay marriage pledge, says homosexuality a choice

    12/15/11 By Justin Sink – TheHill

    Newt Gingrich signed on to an anti-gay marriage pledge while campaigning Thursday in Iowa and said that people choose to be gay in the same way that others choose to be celibate.

    The topic of homosexuality was first broached during an interview with The Des Moines Register editorial board in the morning. Asked if he thought that people chose to be gay, Gingrich said that he thought it was “a combination of genetics and environment.”

    “I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern. I don’t believe in genetic determinism, and I don’t think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism,” Gingrich added. “There are propensities. Are you more likely to do this or more likely to do that? But that doesn’t mean it’s definitional.”

    Gingrich was then again asked if an individual could choose to be straight.
    “Look, people choose to be celibate,” Gingrich said. “People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It’s part of how the species recreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons.”

    Later in the interview, Gingrich said that he would reinstate the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” program if he became president.

    For the entire article:

  10. Consumer prices flat in November

    12/16/11 Reuters – 23 mins ago

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumer prices were flat in November as Americans paid less for cars and gasoline, a further sign of a cooldown in inflation that could give the Federal Reserve more room to help a still-weak economy.

    The Labor Department said on Friday the Consumer Price Index was unchanged last month. Economists had expected an increase of 0.1 percent.

    Prices rose 3.4 percent in the 12 months through November. That is off from the 3-year high of 3.9 percent clocked in September, and Friday’s report backs the view that the spike in inflation is subsiding.

    This is “an inflation report that leaves the Fed ample cover for any additional monetary policy accommodation they may see warranted in the New Year,” said Ian Lyngen, a bond strategist at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut.

    For the entire article:

  11. Karen Golinski: Marriage equality’s inadvertent champion

    12/15/11 Dana Rudolph- pridesource

    Karen Golinski never meant to become one of the headline names in the fight to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. All she wanted to do was to secure health care coverage for her legal spouse.

    That was three years ago. Today, Golinski is preparing for a Dec. 16 hearing before the federal district court for Northern California in one of the key cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.

    “I had honestly no idea [the case] would become what it became over the last three years,” Golinski said.

    Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management is considered important enough to draw participation from the U.S. House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group and could well end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, even if other important DOMA challenges fail.

    DOMA, enacted in 1996, prohibits any federal entity from recognizing a marriage license granted to a same-sex couple.

    An attorney herself, Golinski, 49, has worked for the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for 19 years.

    She grew up in New York State and went to college and law school there, before moving to California in 1988. In 1989, she met Amy Cunninghis, another east coast transplant, who had grown up in New Jersey and gone to college in Connecticut before heading west.

    The two began a committed relationship shortly after they met, and established a home in San Francisco. They married in August 2008, during the brief window when same-sex couples could legally obtain marriage licenses in California. At the time, the two had been together for 18 years and had a five-year-old son. Their son was put on Golinski’s health plan.

    Cunninghis is a contract employee with a non-profit group and does not get health benefits through her employer. The family has had to pay out of pocket for Cunninghis’ coverage — coverage “inferior” to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield group plan that Golinski and their son have, Golinski said.

    But Golinski assumed that, once she and Cunninghis were married, Cunninghis could obtain health coverage through Golinski’s employer — a benefit routinely provided to the spouses of heterosexual married employees of the court.

    But the court’s administrative office rejected Golinski’s application to get health coverage for her spouse, saying that DOMA prevented the court from recognizing them as married.

    “Everybody wants to be able to protect their family members. That’s what this is about,” Golinski explained. “It’s about equal treatment. I’m not different than any other person who’s married.”

    For the entire article:

  12. West Wing Week: 12/16/11 or “A Final March Toward Home”

    From: whitehouse | Dec 15, 2011

    Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With America’s war in Iraq coming to an end, the President welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to the White House and invited him to a moving wreath laying ceremony, and then spoke to troops at Fort Bragg on ending the war responsibly and standing by those who fought for it. After nearly nine years of sacrifice, the tide of war is receding, and the troops are coming home. That’s December 9th to December 15th or “A Final March Toward Home.”

    • Hi Jackie…Thanks for candle link reminder…I too had trouble posting this a.m., but thought it was because I hadn’t been here in so long that site ‘forgot’ who I was….:)

  13. US charges ex-Fannie, Freddie CEOs with fraud

    12/16/11 By DEREK KRAVITZ | AP – 17 mins ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Securities and Exchange Commission has brought civil fraud charges against six former top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying they misled the government and taxpayers about risky subprime mortgages the mortgage giants held during the housing bust.

    Those charged include the agencies’ two former CEOs, Fannie’s Daniel Mudd and Freddie’s Richard Syron. They are the highest-profile individuals to be charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis.

    Mudd and Syron led the mortgage giants when the housing bubble burst in late 2006 and 2007. The four other top executives also worked for the companies during that time.

    The case was filed in federal court in New York City. Lawyers for Mudd and Syron couldn’t be reached for comment.

    According to the lawsuit, Fannie told investors in 2007 that it had roughly $4.8 billion worth of subprime loans on its books. The SEC says that Fannie actually had about $43 billion worth of products targeted to borrowers with weak credit.

    Freddie said about 11 percent of its single-family loans were subprime in 2007. The SEC says it was closer to about 18 percent.
    “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives told the world that their subprime exposure was substantially smaller than it really was,” said Robert Khuzami, SEC’s enforcement director. “These material misstatements occurred during a time of acute investor interest in financial institutions’ exposure to subprime loans, and misled the market about the amount of risk.”

    Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million loans. The Bush administration seized control of the mortgage giants in September 2008.

    For the entire article:

  14. House expected to return next week after passing stopgap

    12/16/11 By Erik Wasson – TheHill 10:10 AM ET

    House lawmakers expect to leave town Friday and return next week to deal with extending the payroll tax holiday.

    The House will pass a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government open Friday, as well as a $1 trillion nine-bill spending omnibus, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Friday.

    Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his caucus to expect a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday to be sent to the House by the Senate.

    He also said the House will insist that language be added to the bill that is intended to force the administration to approve the Keystone oil sands pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The White House has said Obama would reject a bill with that language.

    “He said we will slap Keystone right back on there,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.

    In a brief press conference, Boehner told reporters that if the Senate sent back a two-month extension of the payroll tax and unemployment benefits, the House would make changes. He guaranteed that re-inserting the Keystone provisions would be one of those changes.

    The Senate is also expected to pass the omnibus, but because it is so large, the bill cannot be formally enrolled in time to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight, making the short-term funding measure necessary.

  15. December 16, 2011

    We Can’t Wait: Nine States Awarded Race To The Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants

    Awards Will Help Build Statewide Systems of High Quality Early Education Programs

    Today, the White House announced that nine states – California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington – will receive grant awards from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

    President Obama asked Congress in his budget to authorize and make permanent an Early Learning Challenge Fund in previous years. Unfortunately, Congress did not act on that proposal, so the Administration took action to ensure this program was funded this year through Race to the Top, because our kids only get one shot at a top-notch education and they cannot afford to wait.

    “Education must be our national mission,” said President Barack Obama. “All of us must work to give all our children the best education possible. And today, we’re acting to strengthen early childhood education to better prepare our youngest children for success in school and in life.”

    Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement of state grantees this morning at a White House event with over 100 early learning and development experts, educators, policymakers, and researchers.

    “In a matter of months, early education and child development experts throughout the country, together with state and local leaders, worked to build comprehensive plans for expanding access to high-quality early learning,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “All applicants showed tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child.”

    For the entire article:

    • December 15, 2011

      Obama Administration Releases Report and Interactive Maps Highlighting Critical American Jobs Act Investments in Education

      WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Obama Administration released a report, Education and the American Jobs Act: Creating Jobs through Investments in Our Nation’s Schools, and interactive maps that highlight estimated benefits that states and local school districts would receive if Congress acts to pass the American Jobs Act.

      The White House report provides an analysis of the condition of America’s schools, which have fallen into disrepair, as well as the difficult budget environment facing school districts and teachers nationwide. In order to address these critical needs, President Obama proposed $25 billion to renovate and modernize more than 35,000 public schools and $5 billion to upgrade infrastructure at America’s community colleges through the American Jobs Act, as well as $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators in the classroom.

      “Upgrading America’s schools is a smart investment,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “There’s a short-term return in the form of jobs to do the work, and in the long term our students—and our country—will benefit from modern facilities and technology.”

      “Congress should act now and pass the American Jobs Act, to improve our schools, create jobs, and prepare our students for 21st century careers,” said Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

      The President’s education investment through the American Jobs Act proposes $30 billion for enhancing the condition of our nation’s public schools – with $25 billion allocated to K-12 schools, including a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education funded schools, and $5 billion to upgrade infrastructure at community colleges across the country.

      For the entire article:

  16. 2:00 PM EST
    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers toys and gifts donated by Executive Office staff to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Campaign at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

    • The White House

      Office of the First Lady

      For Immediate Release December 16, 2011

      First Lady’s Remarks at “Toys for Tots” Drive

      Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

      1:09 P.M. EST

      MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much. (Applause.) Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, General Osman, for not just that very kind and generous introduction but for all that you do for “Toys for Tots” and for this country.

      As he said, this is my third year doing this, and every year, truly, I look forward to coming by and seeing folks come together to make the holidays just a little bit brighter for their neighbors.

      This is my last official visit. This is a way to cap off my holiday season. This is my last official visit before I get my kids out of here and we actually spend some time together as a family. And this is a great way for me, personally, to end the season — being with all of you and doing what we can for kids who don’t have the fortune of — the good fortune of having people who can provide a wonderful Christmas.

      But it’s also important for people to know what this tradition is and how it started. It’s been going on for more than 60 years, and it started with a simple idea. It was a Marine’s wife who fashioned a handmade doll, and then asked her husband to donate that doll to children in need for the holidays. This was 60 years ago. But that Marine couldn’t find a place to donate the doll, because no such organization existed.

      So this couple decided to do something about it. And that’s really what military families do. I’ll share a story with you: This morning, I was laying in bed with Malia, before they were getting ready for school, and she asked me what I was going to do today, and I said I’m doing “Toys for Tots,” and she said, that’s really a great program. And she said, how did it start? And I said, you know, Marines started it. And most people don’t realize that, because “Toys for Tots” has become a national organization, a national brand; so many people adopt it, they forget that this is something that’s done by military families. And Malia said, you know what? It is so impressive that given all military families have to do anyway, that on top of what they do, they’re doing this as well. And I’m like, look, if a 13-year-old can get it and understand that that’s who our military families are, then we all should get it as a country. And it was a very powerful example of just how valuable and just how constant our military families — how selfless they are.

      So soon enough, this toy drive turned into the national organization that we now know today as “Toys for Tots.”

      For the entire article:

    • Michelle Obama asked to Marine Corps Ball


      First lady Michelle Obama has a date, and it’s not with her husband, CNN reports:

      20 year old Marine Lance Corporal Aaron Leeks from Frederick, Maryland has asked First Lady Michelle Obama to accompany him to the Marine Corps Ball next November. “With your husband’s permission of course,” said Leeks.

      The first lady responded, “I’d love to” and brought an aide over to get his information. The first lady met Leeks at a Toys-for-Tots event at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling located in southeast Washington, DC.

      White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about the invitation in Friday’s briefing and responded, “If the president’s watching this, this may be the first he’s heard of this.”

      Carney couldn’t confirm that FLOTUS will definitely attend but said, “I think that the first lady’s commitment to military commitment is very strong indeed and I’m sure she was flattered by the invitation.”

    • December 16, 2011
      Remarks by the President at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism

      Gaylord Hotel
      National Harbor, Maryland

      2:37 P.M. EST

      THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Please, please have a seat. You’re making me blush. (Laughter.) Thank you, Eric, for that extraordinary introduction and for your many years of leadership in the Reform movement. And even though it is a few hours early, I’d like to wish all of you Shabbat shalom. (Applause.)

      Now, there are a lot of familiar faces in the house: David Saperstein. (Applause.) Alan Solow, Rick Jacobs. (Applause.) Howard Kohr.

      I want to welcome Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. (Applause.) The cooperation between our militaries has never been stronger, and I want to thank Ehud for his leadership and his lifelong commitment to Israel’s security and the quest for a just and lasting peace. (Applause.)

      I also want to recognize Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who’s with us here today. (Applause.)

      And finally, I want to give a shout-out to NFTY, I understand is in the house. (Applause.) Young people are going to lead the way, and they’re leading the way. (Applause.) There you go. I’m fired up just listening to them. (Laughter and applause.)

      I am honored to be here because of the proud history and tradition of the Union for Reform Judaism, representing more than 900 congregations, around 1.5 million American Jews.

      I want to congratulate all of you on the golden anniversary of the Religious Action Center. (Applause.) As Eric mentioned, When President Kennedy spoke to leaders from the RAC in 1961, I was three months old, so my memory is a bit hazy. (Laughter.) But I am very familiar with the work that you’ve done ever since, and so is the rest of America.

      And that’s because you helped draft the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. (Applause.) You helped to liberate Soviet Jews. (Applause.) You have made a difference on so many of the defining issues of the last half-century. And without these efforts, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today. So thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) You have brought to life your faith and your values, and the world is a better place for it.

      For the entire article:

  17. House passes $1T budget bill, avoids shutdown

    12/16/11 By ANDREW TAYLOR | AP – 8 mins ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed a $1 trillion-plus catchall budget bill paying for day-to-day budgets of 10 Cabinet departments and averting a government shutdown.

    The 296-121vote to approve the measure represented a rare moment of bipartisanship in a polarized Capitol. Lawmakers are also seeking compromise on separate legislation to renew jobless benefits and a cut in payroll taxes.

    The bill trims most domestic agencies and awards the Pentagon the smallest budget hike in recent memory. It pays for overseas military operations and a slew of programs ranging from border security to flood control to combating AIDS and famine in Africa.

  18. Michelle Obama donating gifts to Toys for Tots before leaving for Hawaii

    12/16/11 By Associated Press

    WASHINGTON>> Michelle Obama is visiting a military base in Washington to deliver gifts the White House staff is donating to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign.

    Obama is at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling to meet Toys for Tots volunteers and other military personnel. The Marine group distributes toys as Christmas gifts to needy children across the country.

    The first lady has made military families a focus of this year’s White House holiday celebration, inviting them to have a first viewing of the decorations. Several of the decorations honor families that have lost a loved one in military service.

    This is Obama’s last holiday stop in Washington. Later today, she and daughters Malia and Sasha depart for their annual holiday trip to see family in Hawaii.

    • We are having Hawaiian food tonight in celebration of the Obamas going home for Christmas! I’m making Lomi Salmon and we are picking up Lau Lau and Kalua Pig from L&L tonight for our Aloha Friday meal. 🙂

      • I’ll be right over, CR! (Well, wish I could!) Hope you enjoy your dinner – it sounds wonderful, and I love how you include the Obamas in your traditions – year-round.

        Didn’t want to let any more time go by, before stopping here on my way to Christmas week to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!

        I’m playing catch-up today, still writing out Christmas cards! Thank God for the U.S. Postal Service, rain or snow, etc. 🙂

        And Merry Christmas to the entire O’family!

  19. Pro-Obama groups weigh coordination

    12/16/11 By BYRON TAU – POLITICO44

    POLITICO’s Maggie Haberman reports:

    The pro-President Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action is in talks with four other groups about the possibility of a more formal vehicle for raising money together to 2012, officials confirmed to POLITICO.

    The structure would be involve Priorities, and the super PACs seeking to boost Democratic House and Senate candidates, as well as the opposition research-focused group American Bridge and the state organizing outfit America Votes, working to streamline the way in which major Democratic donors work with the outside groups to try to bring in some of the major, tradition donors who haven’t been as involved this cycle.

    “In order to assure success for Democratic groups this cycle, we are discussing the linking up of our forces to work together to raise money,” Priorities USA Action board president Harold Ickes told POLITICO. “We never thought we’d raise as much money as the rightwing money machine that Karl Rove and the Koch brothers are gearing up, but we’re confident we’ll have enough to be a strong countervailing force.”

    Such a strategy would put liberal outside groups more on par with conservative organizations, who routinely hold meetings to coordinate and communicate on strategy.

  20. In My Experience: A Multi-Racial Heritage

    Dec 16, 2011 KQED Forum

    Summary: As part of our series “In My Experience,” spotlighting the personal stories of our listeners, we talk with a panel of biracial and multi-racial people about race, identity and what it’s like to grow up looking different from your neighbors and even your parents. We listen to their stories, and we welcome yours.

    KQED Web Intern Michelle Gachet took portraits of some of the people who responded to Forum’s call for personal stories of growing up mixed-race. Here is compilation of those photos

    For the audio interview and photos:

  21. Belgian Nurse Honored For WWII Bravery

    12/116/11 BY CLARK BOYD –

    Sixty seven years ago today, the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest battle of World War II, began in the Ardennes area in Belgium. The town of Bastogne was at the heart of that fight. Through the years, many stories of heroism emerged from Bastogne, but none quite like the one military historian Martin King tells of a 4’ 8” volunteer nurse who was born in the Belgian Congo.

    King says that to fully understand her story, you have to understand the battle. So, he drives me around Bastogne in his battered Ford minivan.

    At one point we pass a memorial commemorating Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division — the guys made famous by “Band of Brothers.”

    Before long, King and I leave the van and go on foot through the trees. The temperature drops, as cold rain and sleet begin to fall.

    King tells me that these are the very woods where Easy Company was dug in back in December 1944. The ground is still marked by deep craters.

    “What I find remarkable,” King says, “is that 67 years after the fact, you can still quite clearly see the foxholes here.”

    Originally from Scotland, King has lived and worked in Belgium for thirty years now. He’s interviewed countless veterans, and co-authored a book called “Voices of the Bulge.”

    This, he tells me emphatically, was the scene of some of the most ferocious front line action in the Battle of Bulge. But he says to get the real flavor, you have to imagine it with two feet of snow, the ground frozen solid, and the fog so think you can’t see five feet in front of you.

    “And the Germans,” he notes, “would have been a few hundred yards away.”

    The German shelling and bombing of Bastogne were horrific back in December, 1944.

    Allied medical supplies and personnel were hard to come by. Some locals, though, volunteered to help as nurses.

    You might remember that in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” mini-series, there’s a scene set in Bastogne.

    In it, a white Belgian nurse chats with an Army medic outside an aid station. They’re discussing another volunteer, a black nurse.

    “Where’s she from? The black girl?” asks the medic.

    “From the Congo,” answers the white nurse.

    It turns out that “the black girl from the Congo” is not a fictional character. Her name’s Augusta Chiwy, and hers is one of the great untold war stories, says historian Martin King.

    For the entire article and audio interview:

    • African nurse saved GIs at Battle of Bulge

      February 18, 2011 Martin King –

      EDITOR’S NOTE: British author Martin King was captivated years ago by the legend of a Black nurse who helped save the lives of GIs during the Battle of the Bulge. Although King has spent 20 years in the Ardennes researching the battle, he says no story compares to that of Augusta Chiwy.

      Born in the Belgian Congo, the nurse was visiting Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944 when she volunteered to help at an American aid station. Although the hospital was destroyed by bombs and many presumed the nurse long dead, King searched relentlessly for her. He finally tracked her down at a nursing home near Brussels and pieced together her story.

      He has decided to share that story with the Army News Service during Black History Month.

      BASTOGNE, Belgium (Army News Service, Feb. 14, 2011) — It was a bitterly cold winter morning when Augusta Chiwy’s tram pulled into Brussels Central train station, Dec. 16, 1944.

      On that very same day at 5:30 a.m., green troops of the 106th Golden Lion Division were rudely awakened from their winter sojourn by a hellish barrage of incoming artillery shells, “screaming meemies,” accompanied by the menacing rumble of Tiger and Panther tanks on the move. Just over the German/Belgian border, out in an area known as the Schnee Eifel, three German armies had assembled almost under the noses of the Allies.

      Brussels was still alive with commuters going about their daily routines when Chiwy arrived at the train station. She had been working at St. Elizabeth General Hospital in the Flemish town of Louvain and was on her way to visit relatives in Bastogne.

      Above the din of collective voices at the station, the public address system droned out monotone information about trains, platforms and destinations, adding that “There will be no departures for Luxembourg or Bastogne. Passengers wishing to reach these destinations should take the 7:50 (a.m.) to Namur.”

      Chiwy noticed an inexplicable sense of urgency in many of the assembled passenger’s demeanors as she boarded the train for Namur about 30 miles south of Brussels. The train stopped there and passengers wishing to go to the next destination were herded into open cattle trucks and taken as far as Marche’. From there Chiwy hitched a ride from a GI who took her to the center of Bastogne.

      For the entire article:

  22. December 16, 2011

    Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Phone Call with Russian President Medvedev

    President Obama spoke with Russian President Medvedev today to congratulate him on the World Trade Organization’s decision to extend a formal invitation to Russia to join the WTO. The Presidents hailed this achievement as yet another result of the reset in bilateral relations, which will benefit both the United States and Russia. Russia’s membership in the WTO will lower tariffs, improve access to Russia’s services markets, hold the Russian government accountable to a system of rules governing trade behavior, and provide the means to enforce those rules. Russia’s membership in the WTO will generate more export opportunities for American manufacturers and farmers, which in turn will support well-paying jobs in the United States. President Obama told President Medvedev that the Administration is committed to working with Congress to end the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia in order to ensure that American firms and American exporters will enjoy the same benefits of Russian WTO membership as their international competitors.

    For the entire article:

  23. December 16, 2011

    Statement by the Press Secretary on the Lifting of Sanctions in Libya

    Today, after careful consultation with the new Libyan government, the United States rolled back most U.S. sanctions on the Government of Libya to keep our commitment to the Libyan people. Just days after the Qadhafi regime’s attacks against the Libyan people, the United States imposed a complete freeze on Government of Libya assets. The international financial sanctions that followed prevented Libya’s assets from being used by Qadhafi to perpetrate violence and preserved Libya’s wealth for its rightful owners, the Libyan people. Due to the bravery and perseverance of the Libyan people, the Qadhafi regime was defeated and Libya is now undertaking a transition to democracy.

    Today’s action unfreezes all government and Central Bank funds within U.S. jurisdiction, with limited exceptions. Assets in the U.S. of the Qadhafi family and former Qadhafi regime members remain frozen. These measures, along with the steps taken today by the United Nations Security Council, will allow the Libyan government to access most of its worldwide holdings and will help the new government oversee the country’s transition and reconstruction in a responsible manner. The United States is also assisting the Libyan government with the technical steps required to make these assets available from financial institutions as soon as possible.

    For the entire article:

  24. WH

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    All Times Eastern

    President Obama receives the presidential daily briefing

    7:00 AM
    8:00 AM
    9:00 AM
    10:00 AM
    11:00 AM
    12:00 PM
    12:30 PM
    Remarks by the President on the Payroll Tax Cut Extension
    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

    1:00 PM
    2:00 PM
    3:00 PM
    4:00 PM
    5:00 PM
    6:00 PM
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  25. Statement by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer

    Posted by Kori Schulman on December 16, 2011

    Tonight, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer released this statement on an agreement that will prevent middle class families from getting hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time:

    The President said that Congress cannot go home without preventing a tax increase on 160 million hardworking Americans, and the deal announced tonight meets that test. This is an important step towards enacting a key provision of the President’s American Jobs Act and a significant victory for the American people and the economy, because as independent analysts have said, failing to extend this tax cut would have had a damaging effect on our recovery and job growth. The President urges Congress now to finish up their business for the American people.

    Visit to learn how it affects you.

  26. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Mitt Romney’s Comments on Entitlements

    Posted by DNC Press on Friday, December 16, 2011

    Today, following Mitt Romney’s comments in Iowa that he did not understand the difference between entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid until he got into government, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman released the following statement:

    “One has to wonder how Mitt Romney thinks he can represent American workers, their families and seniors when his concern for the poor and the middle class comes across like an afterthought. A clear example of this was when he admitted today that he didn’t understand the difference between entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid until he got into government some three or four decades after they were established.

    “Perhaps no one should be surprised that Mitt Romney was well into middle age and had begun a new career in politics before he bothered to learn about Medicare and Medicaid. After all, prior to that, Romney was too busy as a corporate buyout specialist laying off workers, shipping jobs overseas and bankrupting companies for his own profit to be bothered with the problems facing working Americans and their families.

    “There is not one thing in Mitt Romney’s entire history that shows one bit of concern for middle-class Americans. To the contrary, just as he was as a Governor, Mitt Romney as president would be a disaster for seniors and folks trying to make ends meet.”

  27. Remarks of President Barack Obama
    Weekly Address
    The White House
    December 17, 2011

    This week marked an historic moment in the life of our country and our military.

    For nearly nine years, our nation has been at war in Iraq. More than 1.5 million Americans have served there with honor, skill, and bravery. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Military families have sacrificed greatly – none more so than the families of those nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice. All of them – our troops, veterans, and their families – will always have the thanks of a grateful nation.

    On Thursday, the colors our Armed Forces fought under in Iraq were formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad before beginning their journey back home. Our troops are now preparing to make their final march across the border and out of the country. Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its own people. Our war there will be over. All of our troops will be out of Iraq. And this holiday season, all of us can finally say: welcome home.

    This is an extraordinary achievement – one made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of the men and women who had the courage to serve. And there’s a lesson to learn from that – a lesson about our character as a nation.

    See, there’s a reason our military is the most respected institution in America. They don’t see themselves or each other as Democrats first or Republicans first. They see themselves as Americans first.

    For all our differences and disagreements, they remind us that we are all a part of something bigger; that we are one nation and one people. And for all our challenges, they remind us that there is nothing we can’t do when we stick together.

    They’re the finest our nation has to offer. Many will remain in the military and go on to the next mission. Others will take off the uniform and become veterans. But their commitment to service doesn’t end when they take off the uniform – in fact, I’m confident the story of their service to America is just beginning.

    After years of rebuilding Iraq, it is time to enlist our veterans and all our people in the work of rebuilding America.

    Folks like my grandfather came back from World War II to form the backbone of the largest middle class in history. And today’s generation of veterans – the 9/11 Generation of veterans – is armed with the skills, discipline, and leadership to attack the defining challenge of our time: rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, where anyone can make it if they try.

    For the entire article:

  28. Obama ohana to head to Hawaii without president but with first dog Bo

    Dec 17, 2010 By StarAdvertiser

    President Barack Obama’s Hawaii vacation is being delayed by unfinished business in Washington, but First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha are going ahead with their trip this weekend.

    A statement from Michelle Obama’s office Friday said the rest of the family — including the first dog, Bo — will depart for Honolulu on Saturday as originally scheduled for the holidays.

    The president won’t fly to Hawaii until Congress’ session is complete.

    “If I had to guess, I would say Wednesday,” press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday morning when asked about the timing of Obama’s departure.

    The family won’t take Air Force One, instead flying on a C40B, a version of the Boeing 737 that the first lady’s office described as one of the White House fleet’s smaller and most efficient planes.

    The entire Obama family will return to Washington on Jan. 1.

    Bo, the Obama’s 14-month Portugese water dog, will be here under the state Department of Agriculture’s 5-Day-or-Less program,which allows dog and cat owners to bring their pets for short visits.

    Janelle Saneishi, the state Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said the Obamas had to meet the criteria for the progam and started preparing for Bo’s visit earlier this year.

    Bo has to have been vaccinated at least two times, implanted with an electronic microchip and have completed a blood test to ensure that the pet is free of rabies.

    “Hawaii is the only rabies free state,” Saneishi said, “and that is the only reason for these restrictions.”

    An Air Force veterinarian will check Bo upon arrival at Hickam to examine Bo for ticks and to make sure all the paperwork is in order, Saneishi said.

    State law requires dogs and cats not meeting all of the specific 5-Day-or-Less program requirements to be quarantined for up to 120 days upon arrival.

    President Obama has pledged to remain at the White House for as long as Congress remains in session. It’s the second year he’s had to delay his annual visit to his home state for the holiday season. In 2009, he did not leave until Christmas Eve as lawmakers voted on his health care reform plan.

    Gibbs said the president will continue to work the phones until he leaves, urging lawmakers to act on the New START treaty, a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, and the DREAM Act, a bill to legalize some undocumented immigrants who were raised in the United States.

    The Senate will take up both the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and the DREAM Act this weekend. Earlier efforts to pass both fell short. The Senate then would likely hold a final vote on the New START treaty Tuesday or Wednesday.

    A spokesman for the first lady said she would have no public appearances after she and her daughters arrive. The president will also likely maintain a low profile once he joins them, though his trips to the golf course, beaches or for shave ice will include the traveling press pool here to document his activities.

    Obama has traveled to the islands for years to visit family and friends, but only once as president. He came twice as a candidate in 2008 — first for a break before the Democratic National Convention, and later to visit his ailing grandmother, who helped raise him here. He returned as president-elect that winter.

    Since taking office, Obama has made nine vacation trips totaling all or part of 49 days, according to CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller, the unofficial statistician of the White House press corps. That includes summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard and last year’s Hawaii trip.

    By comparison, George W. Bush had spent all or part of 130 days on vacation through the same point in his presidency, most at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

    Obama has also made 15 trips to the presidential retreat at Camp David, compared with 48 by Bush.

    The Associated Press, Tribune Washington Bureau and Star-Advertiser Reporter Gregg K. Kakesako contributed to this story.

  29. CR thank you for the info above. My father was stationed in the Philippines in WWII and I love reading about the oridinary people that were obscureheroes. I am so pleased they are now being honored!

  30. Good and HOPEful Saturday, CR and all friends!


    Going to make some coffee and await PBO's statement in 30 minutes or so.

  31. Congress passes spending bill to keep government running

    12/17/11 Reuters – 1 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate on Saturday passed a $915 billion bill to fund most federal agency activities through next September and avert a government shutdown.

    By a vote of 67-32, the Senate approved the legislation that passed the House of Representatives on Friday. It now goes to President Barack Obama for signing into law.

    A wide range of government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency and Labor Department, faced the possibility of shutting down this weekend as their funding was exhausted without this legislation.

    • December 16, 2011

      Statement by the Press Secretary on H.J.Res.94

      On Friday, December 16, 2011, the President signed into law:

      H.J.Res.94, which makes further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, through December 17, 2011, and for other purposes.

    • December 17, 2011

      Remarks by the President on the Payroll Tax Cut Extension

      James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

      12:30 P.M. EST

      THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. In the last few weeks, I set out a simple principle: Congress should not go home for vacation until it finds a way to avoid hitting 160 million Americans with a tax hike on January 1st. Extending the payroll tax cut that shows up in people’s paychecks every week is an idea that I proposed in September as part of the American Jobs Act.

      At a time when so many Americans are working harder and harder just to keep up, the extra $1,000 or so that the average family would get from this tax cut makes a real difference when you’re trying to buy groceries or pay the bills, make a mortgage or make a repair. And all kinds of independent economists agree — the number-one challenge facing businesses right now is a lack of demand from consumers, which is why more people spending money means companies that are more successful and more able to hire more workers.

      Today, Congress has finally agreed to extend this middle-class tax cut into next year. And they’ve also agreed to another part of my jobs plan, extending unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who are out there trying as hard as they can to find a job. This is spending money that also benefits families and businesses and the entire economy. And it’s a lifeline that would have been lost for more than two and a half million people in the first two months of next year if Congress had not acted.

      So I’m very pleased to see the work that the Senate has done. While this agreement is for two months, it is my expectation — in fact it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year. It should be a formality. And hopefully it’s done with as little drama as possible when they get back in January.

      This really isn’t hard. There are plenty of ways to pay for these proposals. This is a way to boost the economy that has been supported by these very same Democrats and Republicans in the past. It is something that economists believe will assure that the economy and the recovery is on a more stable footing than it otherwise would be. And my preference, and the preference of most Americans, is that we ask the wealthiest few Americans to pay their fair share and corporations to do without special taxpayer subsidies to cover some of the costs. But I think that it’s important for us to get it done.

      We’ve got a lot more work to do for the people who sent us here. But today, I’m glad that both parties in Congress came together, and I want to thank them for ensuring that as we head into the holidays, folks at home don’t have to worry about their taxes going up.

      So I had a chance to talk to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell. I thanked them for their cooperation on this issue. I’m looking forward to the House moving forward and getting this done when they get back on Monday. And hopefully we’re going to be able to make sure that when everybody gets back next year we extend this further all the way to the end of the year.

      Thank you very much, everybody.

      END **12:34 P.M. EST

      • 98% tax_cut_extension

        By the Numbers: 98 Percent

        Yesterday, President Obama called on Congress to extend the middle-class tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans making less than $250,000 for another year. If lawmakers don’t act, a typical middle-class family of four will see its taxes go up by $2,200 on January 1.

        Our prosperity has always come from an economy built on a strong and growing middle class. That’s why the President has cut middle-class taxes every year– by $3,600 for the typical middle class family.

        No one thinks raising taxes on the middle class is a good idea–it would be a big blow to working families, and it would drag down our entire economy. This should be one of those rare issues where everyone in Washington can agree. But so far, Congress hasn’t been able to extend middle class tax cuts because Republicans in Washington refuse to ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share.

        Middle class families should have the certainty and security of knowing their taxes won’t go up in six months, and the President Obama’s message to Congress is clear: Pass a bill extending the tax cuts for the middle class and he’ll sign it tomorrow.

    • Obama On Payroll Tax Cut, Expects Less Drama Next Time

      Uploaded by UpTakeVideo on Dec 17, 2011

      President Obama comments after Congress passes an extension of the payroll tax cut that saves the average family about $1,000 a year and the extension of unemployment benefits. He expects “less drama” when congress votes to extend this again in two months.

  32. December 16, 2011

    Readout of Vice President Biden’s Calls to Iraqi Leaders

    Vice President Biden spoke on the phone today with Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to mark the historic end of the U.S. war in Iraq and to discuss the recent visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Washington. The leaders discussed the current political climate in Baghdad, and the Vice President reiterated the United States’ longstanding support for an inclusive partnership government in Iraq and for a long-term strategic partnership between our nations under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. The Vice President and President Barzani reaffirmed the longstanding friendship between the American and Kurdish people and discussed the Vice President’s recent visit to Turkey. The Vice President praised Speaker Nujaifi’s responsible stewardship of the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

  33. WH

    Sunday, December 18 , 2011

    All Times Eastern

    President Obama receives the presidential daily briefing

    7:00 AM
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  34. Killing of bin Laden voted top news story of 2011

    12/17/11 By DAVID CRARY | AP – 4 hrs ago

    NEW YORK (AP) — The killing of Osama bin Laden during a raid by Navy SEALs on his hideout in Pakistan was the top news story of 2011, followed by Japan’s earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

    The death of bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the Sept. 11 terror attacks, received 128 first-place votes out of 247 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The Japan disaster was next, with 60 first-place votes. Placing third were the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East, while the European Union’s financial turmoil was No. 4.

    The international flavor of these top stories contrasted with last year’s voting — when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the top story, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was No. 2, and the U.S. midterm elections were No. 3.

    Here are 2011’s top 10 stories, in order:

    —OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH: He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In May, the long and often-frustrating manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.

    For the entire article:

    • Handwritten bin Laden raid memo documents Obama’s order: ‘Proceed with the assault’

      4/26/12 By Olivier Knox | The Ticket – 1 hr 49 mins ago

      Osama bin Laden didn’t know it, but when then-CIA Director Leon Panetta jotted down this “memo for the record” on his official stationery, the world’s most wanted fugitive had just days left to live.

      The document is part of Time magazine’s package of stories on the one-year anniversary of the Navy SEAL raid that killed the al-Qaida chief in his hideout in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad.

      The magazine helpfully transcribed Panetta’s scrawled message to historians:

      Received phone call from (National Security Adviser) Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 a.m.


  35. Hey CR and friends. Our President and VP are always hard at work. They are quite a pair, and I can’t imagine anyone better running the country. I love their comradery and how VP Joe always give PBO kudos. BTW, great thread. Good advice for republicans. Stop the games.

    • Hey COS! I agree that President Obama and Vice President Biden are working hard to get America back on it’s feet while the GOP want to continue work things to their own advantage!

  36. Sunday talk show tip sheet

    12/17/11 POLITICO

    (Democratic excerpts only)

    ABC’s “This Week,” kicks off its “Great American Debate” series — six shows between now and Election Day, focusing on major issues of the presidential race. The inaugural debate pits House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and columnist George Will against Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. The two sides will spar over entitlements, taxes and regulations before a live studio audience at the Newseum in Washington.

    Christiane Amanpour is the moderator — in one of her final stints as the show’s anchor. She’s being replaced next month by “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos, ABC announced on Monday…

    And TV One’s “Washington Watch” interviews Melody Barnes, the outgoing director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

    For the entire article:

  37. Hey, CR and O’family – Last U.S. troops out of Iraq! Celebrating with y’all!

    Thank you, President Obama and Vice President Biden, and all of our brave military who fought that war – and thanks especially to their families.

    • Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq

      12/18/11 by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

      December 18, 2011
      The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border to neighboring Kuwait at daybreak Sunday, whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief. Their exit marked the end of a bitterly divisive war that raged for nearly nine years and left Iraq shattered, with troubling questions lingering over whether the Arab nation will remain a steadfast U.S. ally.

      The mission cost nearly 4,500 American and well more than 100,000 Iraqi lives and $800 billion from the U.S. Treasury. The question of whether it was worth it all is yet unanswered.

      Capt. Mark Askew, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida who was among the last soldiers to leave, said the answer to that question will depend on what type of country and government Iraq ends up with years from now, whether they are democratic, respect human rights and are considered an American ally.

      “It depends on what Iraq does after we leave,” he said, speaking ahead of the exit. “I don’t expect them to turn into South Korea or Japan overnight.”

      The war that began in a blaze of aerial bombardment meant to shock and awe the dictator Saddam Hussein and his loyalists ended quietly and with minimal fanfare.

      For the entire article and audio interview:

  38. *********************

    NBLB Come on over to my newest post

    titled: “ Promise Kept – Ending the War in Iraq ”

    To get to newest post click on “HOME” at the top of the page and click on the title of the newest post

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