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The Times They Are A-Changin'


America - George W. Bush + Barack Obama = human progress.

"...I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess."

-Barack Obama, Aug. 7, 2009





The wingnuts are out in force.

Elected to confront colossal real world problems, Barack Obama has faced a steady onslaught from the 5150 elements of the right over trivialities such as his bowing to the Saudi King, issuing a qualified opinion on police conduct in Cambridge, and suggesting to schoolchildren that they should hit the books and make something of their lives.

Obama's birth in Hawaii is being questioned by "birthers," and a poll taken three months ago showed that 41% of Virginia Republicans thought Obama was not an American citizen (a circumspect 27% were "not sure"). 

Obama's small tax increase on the fat and happy sliver of the country that benefited from Bush's economic policies was spun as an attack on the common man by "teabaggers," and public discussions of earnest efforts to reform our horrorshow healthcare system were hijacked by "everyday people" armed with insurance industry talking points. Republican Senator Jim DeMint flatly declared, "If we’re able to stop Obama on [healthcare reform] it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

The temper tantrums of stunted and confused people are to be expected, but Obama is getting it from progressives too: for not repealing 'Don't ask, don't tell'; for not releasing torture photos; for not dismantling Bush's Big Brother power apparatus; for some fox-guarding-the-henhouse appointments and other sops to corporate interests; and for his unwillingness to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Policy decisions are fair game for criticism, but on balance Obama is the most forward-thinking president we've had in over four decades, and much of the disappointment on the left stems from unrealistic expectations that Santa could storm into D.C. and deliver every gift on the lengthy liberal wish list forthwith.  This view fails to account for the hand that Obama has been dealt:  a daunting set of domestic and international problems, a virulent, well-funded opposition on the right whose sole motive is to undermine him at every turn, and a troubling number of Senate Democrats in the grip of cowardice, campaign contributions, or provincial constituents.

Even despite these obstacles, the peanut gallery caricature of a do-nothing president is at odds with Obama's extensive public record.  This turbulent moment is a good time to take stock of the many things for which we should be grateful.

Obama_election_night_263764794.jpgObama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls (11/4/08)

Obama Positioned to Quickly Reverse Bush Actions (11/09/08)

"Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 20o Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team."

Obama Wrote Federal Staffers About His Goals (11/17/08)

"In wooing federal employee votes on the eve of the election, Barack Obama wrote a series of letters to workers that offer detailed descriptions of how he intends to add muscle to specific government programs, give new power to bureaucrats and roll back some Bush administration policies. 

"The letters, sent to employees at seven agencies, describe Obama's intention to scale back on contracts to private firms doing government work, to remove censorship from scientific research, and to champion tougher industry regulation to protect workers and the environment."

Eric Holder to become first Black U.S. Attorney General (11/19/08)

At Last, It Begins: Real, Substantive Debate on 2009 Climate Legislation (11/26/08)

Change.gov Content Now Under Creative Commons License (12/1/08)

"In the last few days, President-elect Obama's transition team took a significant stride towards a more open government by licensing the content of Change.gov under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Using that license essentially means that the transition team is allowing others to freely share and remix what's posted there, provided that reposts are attributed to Change.gov. The move is a victory for the public and the many advocates for a more wired, participatory democracy."

Democrats Plot Series of Quick Legislative Victories (12/3/08)

"Democratic congressional leaders, eager to trumpet that change has come to Washington, are looking to enact quickly a series of popular bills in January in such areas as renewable energy, children's health care and embryonic stem-cell research.

"The top priority remains an economic stimulus package. But Democrats also want to tackle rapidly an array of bills they consider "low-hanging fruit." Those measures won considerable bipartisan support in the last Congress, but were vetoed, filibustered or otherwise blocked by the Republican White House and its allies in the Senate and House."

Obama_New_Deal_998489427.jpgObama unveils 21st Century New Deal (12/6/08)

"President-elect Barack Obama added sweep and meat to his economic agenda on Saturday, pledging the largest new investment in roads and bridges since President Dwight D. Eisenhower built the Interstate system in the late 1950s, and tying his key initiatives – education, energy, health care – back to jobs in a package that has the makings of a smaller and modern version of FDR's New Deal marriage of job creation with infrastructure upgrades. 

"The president-elect also said for the first time that he will 'launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen.'


Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary (12/7/08)

"President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy."

The Politics of the Federal Bench (12/8/08)

"The federal judiciary is on the verge of a major shift when President-elect Barack Obama's nominees take control of several of the nation's most important appellate courts, legal scholars and political activists say. With the Supreme Court's conservative direction unlikely to change anytime soon, it is the lower courts -- which dispense almost all federal justice -- where Obama can assert his greatest influence…"

"...Although Republican control will probably persist on a majority of appellate courts for at least several years, some experts say that by the end of Obama's term, he and the Democratic Congress will flip the 56 percent majority Republican nominees now exert over those highly influential bodies."

Obama's 'green dream team' is warmly received (12/12/08)

"Together, the group — as the Associated Press has reported — will make up President-elect Barack Obama's team to oversee energy and environment, a lineup that drew mostly praise Thursday from environmental and industry groups alike.

'This is clearly a green dream team,' said Gene Karpinski, head of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group. 'These people have shown they can get the job done.'"

Obama’s Housing Choice: Best HUD Selection Ever (12/15/08)

"In picking New York City housing commissioner Shaun Donovan as the new Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Barack Obama has sharply departed from virtually every prior selection for this position. Never before has anyone with close to Donovan’s experience and qualifications headed HUD, and nobody has entered the job with such positive relations with the affordable housing community."

Obama Pledge Stirs Hope in Early Education (12/16/08)

"It was the morning after the presidential election, and Matthew Melmed, executive director of Zero to Three, a national organization devoted to early childhood education, could barely contain his exultation…

"...Mr. Melmed was not alone in his excitement. After years of what they call backhanded treatment by the Bush administration, whose focus has been on the testing of older children, many advocates are atremble with anticipation over Mr. Obama’s espousal of early childhood education…"

"...And the $10 billion Mr. Obama has pledged for early childhood education would amount to the largest new federal initiative for young children since Head Start began in 1965."

Advocates for Action on Global Warming Chosen as Obama's Top Science Advisers (12/19/08)

hammer_and_sickle_to_post_960227133.gifObama's Team Rankles the Right (1/2/09)

"To some staunch conservatives watching President Bush relinquish the reins of power to President-elect Barack Obama, a few too many ardent liberals are now crashing the gates.

"Some well-known Democratic activists are advising Obama on how to steer federal agencies, including a few whom conservative Republicans fought hard to keep out of power in the Clinton administration. They include Roberta Achtenberg, a gay activist whose confirmation as an assistant housing secretary was famously held up by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.), and Bill Lann Lee, who was hotly opposed by foes of affirmative action and temporarily blocked from the government's top civil rights job.

"Conservatives fear that some of these Obama transition advisers are too far left on the political spectrum and are a sign of radical policies to come."

Katrina_368436033.jpgNew White House site slams Bush (1/20/09)

"The new White House website unveiled by President Barack Obama’s team Tuesday includes a shot at former President Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

"Under the 'agenda' portion of the site regarding Katrina, it reads: 'President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.'"

Obama Issues Directive to Shut Down Guantánamo (1/21/09)

Obama to close terrorist 'black sites' (1/22/09)

"President Obama on Thursday will order the closure of so-called black sites, where CIA and European security services have interrogated terrorist suspects, under executive orders dismantling much of the Bush admistration's architecture for the war on terror, according to four individuals familiar with a draft executive order."

Obama’s Swift Actions Will Hold Government Accountable (1/22/09)

[the comments of Joan Claybrook, the former president of Public Citizen] "President Obama campaigned with the promise of change, a commitment to government openness and a pledge to uphold high ethical standards. On his first full day in office, the new president showed a willingness to turn rhetoric into action.

"After eight years of government in the shadows and preferential treatment of corporate lobbyists under his predecessor, President Obama’s directives and executive orders on presidential records, the Freedom of Information Act, transparency and open government, and ethics are not only important in restoring public access to critical information and holding government accountable, but they serve to reaffirm the hope our nation has in his presidency. By issuing strict rules on the future lobbying activities of his administration, President Obama slowed the revolving door that has allowed so many high-ranking government officials to enrich themselves at the public’s expense. And by emphasizing the openness of government records, the orders help to ensure that abuses of power will not go unnoticed and uncorrected."

Obama Reverses Bush Abortion-Funds Policy (1/23/09)

"President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century."

Obama’s Order Is Likely to Tighten Auto Standards (1/25/09)

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.

Obama Gives First TV Interview To Arabic Network (1/27/09)

"President Barack Obama gave his first formal television interview as president to an Arabic cable TV network, telling Al-Arabiya that when it comes to Middle East matters 'all too often the United States starts by dictating.'"

Ledbetter_287747908.jpgObama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation (1/29/09)

"President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would 'send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody.'

"Mr. Obama was surrounded by a group of beaming lawmakers, most but not all of them Democrats, in the East Room of the White House as he affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

"After a Supreme Court ruling against her, Congress approved the legislation that expands workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, relaxing the statute of limitations."

Obama slams Wall Street bonuses (1/29/09)

"President Barack Obama says that multi-billion dollar bonuses taken by Wall Street bankers are 'shameful' while taxpayers bail out their industry.

"The president said their actions 'were the height of irresponsibility'".

Obama Repealing 4 Bush Orders Unions Opposed (1/29/09)

Obama has begun discreet talks with Iran, Syria (1/31/09)

Obama signs bill extending kids' health insurance (2/5/09)

"President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a bill extending health coverage to 4 million uninsured children, a move he called a first step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge to provide insurance for all Americans."

"'...I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to trade-offs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations,' Obama said, signaling he was readying for a fight."

New Stimulus Will Aid End-of-life Care, Hospice Workers Say (2/18/09)

"…The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the official name of the $787 billion stimulus program, includes a one-year moratorium on cuts in Medicare funding for the more than 4,700 hospice programs nationwide, says a statement from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), and its advocacy arm, the Alliance for Care at the End of Life."

"…Over the past year, the organizations say that they and other hospice advocates from across the country, have been working to overturn a 2008 regulation issued by the Medicare program, which eliminates a key component of the Medicare hospice reimbursement formula known as the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF).

"The phased funding cut would have taken $135 million away from quality and compassionate end-of-life care in fiscal year 2009, and has already jeopardized the survival of many hospice programs, particularly smaller, more rural ones, the organizations' statement says.

"Approximately 3,000 hospice provider jobs were threatened to be cut this year, with deeper job losses expected in fiscal year 2010 as the funding cut were to enter its second year, it adds.

"The effort to halt the hospice rate cuts has been underway since the Bush administration announced its intention to eliminate the BNAF in its fiscal year 2009 federal budget proposal."

Obama Seeks $634M Over 10 Years to Revamp Health Care System (2/25/09)

To Pay for Health Care, Obama Looks to Taxes on Affluent (2/25/09)

Military_dead_804816910.jpgPentagon to Allow Photos of Soldiers’ Coffins (2/26/09)

"In a reversal of an 18-year-old military policy that critics said was hiding the ultimate cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the news media will now be allowed to photograph the coffins of America’s war dead as their bodies are returned to the United States, but only if the families of the dead agree."

The Robin Hood Budget (2/26/09)

"'...You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation,' Obama said this morning.  'Today, we have to focus on foundations.'"

"...Obama's budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.

It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around."

"...Bloomberg's Ryan J. Donmoyer looks at the revenue side: 'President Barack Obama proposed almost $1 trillion in higher taxes on the 2.6 million highest-earning Americans, Wall Street financiers, U.S.-based multinational corporations, and oil companies, to pay for permanent breaks for lower earners..."

Obama’s Budget Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas (2/27/09)

"The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.

"The Obama budget — a bold, even radical departure from recent history, wrapped in bureaucratic formality and statistical tables — would sharply raise taxes on the rich, beyond where Bill Clinton had raised them. It would reduce taxes for everyone else, to a lower point than they were under either Mr. Clinton or George W. Bush. And it would lay the groundwork for sweeping changes in health care and education, among other areas.

"More than anything else, the proposals seek to reverse the rapid increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years. They do so first by rewriting the tax code and, over the longer term, by trying to solve some big causes of the middle-class income slowdown, like high medical costs and slowing educational gains…He sought to eliminate some corporate subsidies, for health insurers, banks and agricultural companies, that economists have long criticized…"The tax code will become more progressive, with relatively higher rates on the rich and relatively lower rates on the middle class and poor," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center in Washington. "This is reversing the effects of the Bush policies," he added, and then going even further."

Obama to Rescind Bush Abortion Rule (2/27/09)

"...In the final days of the prior administration, President Bush pushed through a rule designed to give health care workers the freedom to refuse to provide services deemed morally repugnant -- possibly including abortion counseling, birth control and sterilization.

"Today, the new management at the Department of Health and Human Services sent the Office of Management and Budget a proposal that would rescind that Bush rule..."

White House Plan Would End Subsidies to Student Lenders (2/27/09)

"...The proposal...would end a program that pays government subsidies to private student loan companies. The administration said the shift, which would mean that all federal loans would come directly through the government, would save $4 billion annually and $47.5 billion over the next decade…"

"'...Rather than continuing to subsidize banks, we want to help dramatically more students get more access to more aid,' [Education Secretary] Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. 'Big picture . . . We're going to save about $24 billion dollars over the next five years, and we want to actively invest that money in our students.'"

Geithner:  Obama to fight international tax dodgers (3/3/09)

Obama Nominates Net Neutrality Backer for FCC Chief (3/3/09)

"President Barack Obama nominated on Tuesday Julius Genachowski - a lawyer, techie and former venture capitalist - to head the Federal Communications Commission.

"The nomination of Genachowski as chairman was widely anticipated and quickly applauded by proponents of net neutrality, who hope an Obama FCC will move decisively to limit what telecoms can and cannot do with internet traffic on their networks.

"Genachowski, a former Harvard law classmate of Obama’s, served as Obama’s top tech campaign advisor and helped shape the campaign’s embrace of having the government create and enforce net neutrality rules."

Obama takes aim at costly defense contracts (3/4/09)

Stimulus Bill Props up Social Services, Lays Groundwork for Bigger Changes (3/5/09)

"...The stimulus bill directs about $20 billion toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, to increase food stamp benefits by 14 percent…The nutrition assistant provisions of the bill also include $150 million toward The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), of which $25 million will be available in FY 2009; $100 million for senior nutrition programs; and $100 million for equipment assistance for the school lunch program. Additionally, there is $500 million allocated toward the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)…"

· Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG): CCDBG is appropriated by state legislatures. The total $2 billion is available upon enactment and the funds must be used to supplement, not replace, state spending for child care for low-income families, but there is no new Maintenance of Effort requirement.

· Head Start and Early Head Start: The bill appropriates $1 billion for Head Start and $1.1 billion for Early Head Start. Ten percent of the amount for Early Head Start goes for training and technical assistance; three percent for monitoring the operations of these programs.

· Community Services Block Grant (CSBG): The bill includes $1 billion in additional funding, of which one percent will be reserved by states for benefit enrollment coordination activities. Funds will be distributed by states directly to local eligible entities.

· Adoptive/Foster Care/Relative Guardianship: $843.6 million increase over two years.

· Supplemental Security Income (SSI): One-time payment of $250 to Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients receiving benefits from SSA and Railroad retirement, as well as veterans receiving disability and pension from Veterans Affairs.

US to invite Iran to attend conference on Afghanistan: Robert Gibbs (3/6/09)

Obama will use spring summit to bring Cuba in from the cold (3/8/09)

"...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."

High-Speed Rail Drives Obama's Transportation Agenda (3/8/09)

"The Northern Lights Express is little more than an idea -- a proposal for a 110-mph passenger train between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., that has crept along in fits and starts for years.

"But the slow ride may soon be over. The project is one of dozens nationwide that are likely to benefit from President Obama's initiative to fund high-speed and intercity passenger rail programs, including $8 billion in stimulus money and $5 billion more over the next five years in the administration's proposed transportation budget.

"The money represents the first major step toward establishing a genuine high-speed train network in the United States and has sparked a stampede among states, advocacy groups and lobbyists who are not accustomed to this level of funding…"

"...High-speed rail has emerged as the cornerstone of Obama's ambitious attempt to remake the nation's transportation agenda, which for half a century has focused primarily on building highways and roads. Nearly half of the $48 billion in stimulus money for transportation projects will go toward rail, buses and other non-highway projects..."

Obama orders review of Bush legal maneuvers (3/9/09)

"Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Barack Obama on Monday ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute…"

"...Dating back to the 19th century, presidents have occasionally signed a bill while declaring that one or more provisions were unconstitutional. Presidents began doing so more frequently starting with the Reagan administration.

"But Bush broke all records, using signing statements to challenge about 1,200 bill sections over his eight years in office, about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined, according to data compiled by Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio."

Obama reverses Bush-era stem cell policy (3/9/09)

"President Barack Obama on Monday cleared the way for a significant increase in federal dollars for embryonic stem cell research and promised no scientific data will be 'distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda.'

"…He said his memorandum is meant to restore 'scientific integrity to government decision-making.' He called it the beginning of a process of ensuring his administration bases its decision on sound science; appoints scientific advisers based on their credentials, not their politics; and is honest about the science behind its decisions."

Obama Targets Food Safety (3/15/09)

"...In his weekly address to the nation, Obama said he is forming a Food Safety Working Group to 'upgrade our food safety laws for the 21st century,' and he formally named former New York City health chief Margaret A. Hamburg as his new Food and Drug Administration commissioner…"

"…The announcements signaled another shift from the policies of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats accused of ignoring a worsening food-safety problem and politicizing the work of the FDA…"

"…Consumer groups, food-safety advocates, patients' organizations and others from across the political spectrum praised the choice of Hamburg and Sharfstein for the FDA, which has struggled to retain public confidence amid outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, poisoning scares and drug controversies."

Obama Orders Treasury Chief to Try to Block A.I.G. Bonuses (3/17/09)

Sources: US to Sign UN Gay Rights Declaration (3/17/09)

"The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned."

Attorney general signals shift in marijuana policy (3/18/09)

"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."

Obama reaches out to Iran in new video message (3/20/09)

"...The message, which carried Farsi subtitles was released late last night. It urged the two countries to resolve their long-standing differences and was timed for the festival of Nowruz, which means 'new day'. It marks the arrival of spring and is a major holiday in Iran.

"'So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders,' the US president said in the video. 'We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community.'"

Administration Seeks Increase in Oversight of Executive Pay (3/21/09)

DHS Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids (3/29/09)

"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

"A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute -- increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers…"

"...Napolitano's moves have led some to question President Obama's commitment to work-site raids, which were a signature of Bush administration efforts to combat illegal immigration. Napolitano has highlighted other priorities, such as combating Mexican drug cartels and catching dangerous criminals who are illegal immigrants…"

"...Critics say workplace and neighborhood sweeps are harsh and indiscriminate, and they accuse the government of racial profiling, violating due process rights and committing other humanitarian abuses."

Winds of Change Evident in U.S. Environmental Policy (3/30/09)

"Daniel Reifsnyder, a 25-year State Department veteran, knew even before President Obama was elected that U.S. environmental policy was going to change. So in early November, he called a couple of his Environmental Protection Agency counterparts about drafting documents to lay the groundwork for endorsing a treaty to curb global emissions of toxic mercury.

"The Bush administration had resisted proposals for a United Nations-sponsored mercury treaty since at least 2005 on the grounds that voluntary measures were sufficient, but Reifsnyder told his fellow career officials that they had an opportunity to quickly formulate a new U.S. position in time for an upcoming meeting in Nairobi. They knew that as a senator, Obama had sponsored legislation banning the export of mercury overseas and that he was likely to be sympathetic to the treaty proposal…"

"...The rapid policy reversal is just one of more than a dozen environmental initiatives the new administration has undertaken in its first two months. In nearly every case, the decisions were based on extensive analysis and documentation that rank-and-file employees had prepared over the past couple of years, often in the face of contrary-minded Bush administration officials.

"After years of chafing under political appointees who viewed stricter environmental regulation with skepticism, long-serving federal officials are seeing work that had been gathering dust for years translate quickly into action…"

"...Drawing on earlier spadework, the administration has issued a proposal to create a national greenhouse gas registry; filed a lawsuit accusing a coal-fired power plant in New Roads, La., of violating the Clean Air Act; and put electric utilities on notice that they may have to account for their greenhouse gas pollution.

Political appointees have also asked career employees for background material on how to regulate pollution from cement kilns; whether refineries have done enough to curb their harmful emissions; and whether the federal government should grant California and more than a dozen other states the power to curb greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles."

U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy (3/31/09)

Congress expands AmeriCorps volunteer program (3/31/09)

"The House voted 275-149 Tuesday for a $5.7 billion bill that triples positions in the Clinton-era AmeriCorps program, its largest expansion since the agency's creation in 1993, and establishes a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage more volunteers. AmeriCorps offers a range of volunteer opportunities including housing construction, youth outreach, disaster response and caring for the elderly."

Obama Corners Hu, Sarkozy to Break Tax-Haven Deadlock at G-20 (4/2/09)

"As Group of 20 negotiations on a new regulatory blueprint bogged down, President Barack Obama pulled French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao into a corner of a room in London’s Excel Center.

"Obama was seeking to bridge differences between Sarkozy, who wanted to publish a list of tax havens from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Chinese, who opposed it. Obama’s chat with Sarkozy produced a proposal for Hu, who considered it, a U.S. official said.

"Obama called Hu over, eventually pulling Sarkozy back in and arriving on a compromise: The G-20 would promise action against tax havens, note the OECD list and go no further."

Obama_and_Medvedev_114892181.jpgObama wants nukes banished as US and Russia mull new arms reduction treaty (4/4/09)

"...In London for the G20 summit earlier this week, President Obama and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev released a joint statement promising a new, legally-binding arms reduction treaty by the end of the year.

"It stated: 'We, the leaders of Russia and the United States, are ready to move beyond Cold War mentalities and chart a fresh start in relations between our two countries.'"

Big cuts seen for F-22, other big weapon programs (4/6/09)

Obama to Muslim world: No U.S. war with Islam (4/6/09)

"It was a declaration meant to resound throughout the Muslim world. The United States, said Barack Obama, 'is not and will never be at war with Islam.'"

CIA abandons its use of contract interrogators in secret prisons (4/10/09)

"The CIA has stopped using contractors to interrogate prisoners and fired private security guards at the CIA's now-shuttered secret overseas prisons, agency Director Leon Panetta said Thursday.

"Panetta told agency employees in an e-mail message that the guards will be replaced with CIA officers at the sites, which President Barack Obama ordered closed on his second day in office…"

"...The secret prisons are now empty, Panetta said, and the agency has not taken any new prisoners since he became director in February…The CIA is now preparing plans for the prisons to be permanently shut down..."

New Pollution Limits Seen for Cars, Big Plants (4/17/09)

"Cars, power plants and factories could all soon face much tougher pollution limits after a government declaration Friday setting the stage for the first federal regulation of gases blamed for global warming.

"The Environmental Protection Agency took a big step in that direction, concluding that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a major hazard to Americans' health. That was a reversal from the Bush administration, which resisted such a conclusion and said it would be costly for companies to meet new emission limits and therefore could harm the national economy."

Obama Defends Secret Memo Release to CIA Employees (4/21/09)

"...Last week, Obama's Justice Department published previously classified memos that described the Bush administration's legal justification for CIA interrogation techniques that included methods criticized as torture. Republican lawmakers and former CIA chiefs have criticized the release of the memos, contending that revealing the limits of interrogation techniques will hamper the effectiveness of interrogators.

"The memos detailed the use of waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning that Attorney General Eric Holder has denounced as torture — as well as sleep deprivation, isolation and physical violence."

F.D.A. Easing Access to ‘Morning After’ Pill (4/22/09)

"Seventeen-year-olds will soon be allowed to buy morning-after contraceptive pills without a doctor’s prescription after federal drug regulators complied with a judge’s order and lowered the age limit by a year.

"The decision on Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, which overturns one of the most controversial health rulings of the Bush administration, was scorned by abortion opponents and hailed by their abortion rights counterparts."

Obama_education_199696266.jpgObama touts plan to change college loan system (4/24/09)

"President Barack Obama on Friday renewed his call for the government to stop backing private loans to college students and replace them with direct financial aid to young people."

"...The administration has pushed for federal financial aid to go directly to students, not to banks that lend money to students. Obama said he wants to eliminate the 'middle men' lenders that he says add inefficiency to the system — a move he said could open classrooms to 8.5 million more students."

Obama Tactic Shields Health Care Bill From a Filibuster (4/24/09)

"At the prodding of the White House, Democratic Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue a plan that would protect major health care legislation from Republican opposition by shielding it from last-minute Senate filibusters…Mr. Obama has given way in some battles with Congress, but the new stance suggests he may be much less willing to compromise when it comes to health care, his top legislative priority, even if it means a bitter partisan fight."

Without Superfund Tax, Stimulus Aids Cleanups (4/26/09)

"The Superfund program to clean up the nation’s most contaminated industrial sites was established nearly 30 years ago on the principle that those responsible for toxic pollution should pay for it."

"…Until 1995, cleanups...were paid in part from a trust fund based on taxes from polluting industries. But that year, the Republican-run Congress, responding to industry complaints, refused to reauthorize the Superfund tax, which once collected hundreds of millions of dollars a year from chemical and oil companies.

"President Obama wants to restore the tax and assumes it will provide $1 billion in revenues for his 2011 budget.

"Until then, financing for work at the nation’s nearly 1,600 Superfund sites will come from taxpayers in the form of E.P.A. appropriations or stimulus money. The $600 million in stimulus money virtually doubles the amount available for Superfund work in the current fiscal year, officials said."

Obama promises major investment in science (4/27/09)

IRS says set to pursue "other banks" on tax evasion (4/27/09)

"The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is preparing to pursue other foreign banks for allegedly facilitating tax evasion by wealthy Americans following its high-profile case against Switzerland's UBS AG (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N), an IRS official said on Monday."

Obama Emphasizes Sharp Departures From Bush Policies (4/30/09)

Under Obama, Sun Setting on Bush Midnight Rules (5/6/09)

"The Obama administration continues to reverse policies left by the Bush administration, including many controversial regulations finalized near the end of President Bush's term…"

"…Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced April 28 that the administration would withdraw a December 2008 regulation limiting the role of science in Endangered Species Act decisions. Critics say the rule was designed to make species protection more difficult.

"…On April 27, Salazar announced his intent to back away from a Bush midnight rule allowing mountaintop mining operations to dump waste into streams. Calling the rule 'legally defective,' Salazar said, 'I have asked the Department of the Justice to file a pleading in the U.S. District Court requesting that the rule be vacated due to this deficiency and remanded to the Department of the Interior for further action.'

"…Other midnight regulations may be addressed soon:

-The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked a federal court to delay a lawsuit over a December 2008 rule that deregulates tons of hazardous waste, allowing it to be burned as fuel instead of disposing of it properly.  EPA said it is reconsidering the rule and expects to propose a withdrawal notice in November.

-EPA is also reconsidering a change to the definition of solid waste that critics charge exempts tons of hazardous waste from regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, instead allowing the waste to be recycled. EPA will hold a public meeting on the regulation sometime in May.

-HHS [The Department of Health and Human Services] proposed...a withdrawal of a regulation giving health care providers the right to refuse services that they believe do not comport with their personal beliefs. Critics say the rule is aimed at limiting access to reproductive health services and information. HHS accepted comment on the withdrawal notice until April 9. A final withdrawal notice is expected soon."

Obama Aims to Refocus Unemployment System (5/8/09)

"President Barack Obama wants unemployment insurance to become a stepping stone for future work by making it easier to enroll in school or job training…"

"...People who have been laid off and want to go back to school often have to give up their monthly unemployment checks. And if they decide to return to school, they often don't qualify for federal aid because eligibility is based upon the previous year's income.

"Under rule changes Obama outlined Friday, the Labor Department will ask states to make exceptions during economic downturns so that the unemployed can keep their benefits if they go to community college or pursue other education or training."

Obama to Set New Vehicle Rules, First Carbon Limit (5/18/09)

"President Barack Obama will announce new vehicle-emission rules tomorrow, setting the first-ever nationwide limit on greenhouse-gas pollution from autos, people familiar with the plan said."

U.S. to unveil new policy on auto fuel standards (5/18/09)

"The White House will unveil an auto fuel efficiency proposal on Tuesday to resolve a dispute between California and the U.S. government over emissions and accelerate the timeframe for sharply improving mileage performance, industry and other sources said.

"The proposal, if accepted by California and a dozen other states that want to more aggressively target greenhouse gasses, would effectively end legal and political battles with the struggling auto sector over the best way to cut fuel consumption and curtail tailpipe emissions.

"It would also put more pressure on struggling U.S. automakers like General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and bankrupt Chrysler LLC to accelerate development of more efficient gasoline engines, as well as new gasoline/electric hybrids and all-electric cars.

"...The administration in April opened the way to regulating emissions by declaring climate-warming pollution a danger to human health and welfare, in a sharp policy shift from the Bush administration."

Obama's new rules will transform US auto fleet (5/19/09)

"Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet.

"The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today's standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg."

U.S. May Add New Financial Watchdog (5/19/09)

"The Obama administration is actively discussing the creation of a regulatory commission that would have broad authority to protect consumers who use financial products as varied as mortgages, credit cards and mutual funds, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

"The proposed commission would be one of the administration's most significant steps yet to overhaul the financial regulatory system. It would also be one of its first proposals to address causes of the financial crisis such as predatory mortgage lending.

"Plans for a new body remain fluid, but it could be granted broad powers to make sure the terms and marketing of a wide range of loans and other financial products are in the interests of ordinary consumers, sources said.

Obama says U.S. prisons tough enough for detainees (5/21/09)

"President Barack Obama said Thursday some of the terror suspects held at Guantanamo would be brought to prisons in the United States despite fierce opposition in Congress."

"...Obama decried arguments used against his plans.

"'We will be ill-served by the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue,' he declared.

"...He said opening and continuing the military prison 'set back the moral authority that is America 's strongest currency in the world.'"

President Obama:  U.S. ‘went off course’ in fighting terror (5/21/09)

"'...I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more...As commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts – they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.'"

Alan Grayson to introduce Paid Vacation Act (5/21/09)

"Rep. Alan Grayson was standing in the middle of Disney World when it hit him: What Americans really need is a week of paid vacation.

"So on Thursday, the Florida Democrat will introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law.

"The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to offer a week of paid vacation for both full-time and part-time employees after they’ve put in a year on the job. Three years after the effective date of the law, those same companies would be required to provide two weeks of paid vacation, and companies with 50 or more employees would have to provide one week."

Obama:  50 Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer (5/22/09)

Obama_credit_card_fees_156053281.jpgObama signs law curbing surprise credit card fees (5/22/09)

Obama vows not to send people to war without cause (5/23/09)

Obama names first black NASA chief (5/23/09)

Clinton to Extend Benefits to Gay Partners (5/25/09)

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce that the partners of gay U.S. diplomats are eligible for many benefits currently denied them and allowed to spouses of heterosexual diplomats, according to lawmakers and others advocating the change.

"The Bush administration had resisted efforts to treat same-sex partners the same as spouses. Thus those partners were denied a wide array of benefits, such as paid travel to and from overseas posts, shipments of household effects, visas and diplomatic passports, emergency travel to visit ill or injured partners, and evacuation in case of a security emergency or medical necessity."

Obama takes tough and risky stance on Israeli settlements (5/28/09)

"President Barack Obama Thursday ratcheted up what might be America's toughest bargaining position with Israel in a generation, demanding anew that Israel stop expanding its settlements in the disputed West Bank as a key step toward making peace with its Arab neighbors."

Obama says US cannot impose its values: BBC interview (6/1/09)

Feds spike voter citizenship checks in Georgia (6/1/09)

"The Justice Department has rejected Georgia's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens, a process that was a subject of a federal lawsuit in the weeks leading up to November's election."

"'…This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote,' Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said…"

Administration to Reveal Plans for Katrina Housing Transition (6/3/09)

"The Obama administration will announce plans today to virtually give away roughly 1,800 mobile homes to 3,400 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina who are living in government-provided housing along the Gulf Coast, officials said.

"The administration also will make available $50 million in rental vouchers to income-eligible trailer occupants who move to targeted housing projects, and take over from Louisiana the job of helping residents find permanent homes, said a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the formal announcement."

Obama to break with past in Cairo speech (6/3/09)

"President Obama has gotten tough with Israel and chosen Cairo - where President Hosni Mubarak rules with a firm hand - for his much-awaited overture to the Islamic world in what appears to be a clear break from decades of U.S. policy."

Obama Calls for ‘New Beginning’ Between U.S., Muslims (6/4/09)

Democrats Weigh Health Mandate as Obama Urges Taxing Wealthy (6/7/09)

"President Barack Obama wants Congress to consider taxing the wealthy instead of workers to pay for a health-care overhaul, as House Democrats discuss a plan to require health insurance for most Americans."

U.S. Targets Excessive Pay for Top Executives (6/11/09)

"The Obama administration named a 'compensation czar' yesterday to set salaries and bonuses at some of the biggest firms at the heart of the economic crisis, as part of a broader government campaign to reshape pay practices across corporate America."

"…But with the spotlight now on executive pay practices, senior administration officials are moving to address concerns at firms well beyond those implicated in the crisis. Yesterday, officials proposed two pieces of legislation that separately empower shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission to exercise more oversight over executive compensation at all publicly traded firms."

Historic anti-smoking vote to give FDA new power (6/11/09)

"Congress struck the government’s strongest anti-smoking blow in decades Thursday with a Senate vote to give regulators new power to limit nicotine in cigarettes, drastically curtail ads and ban candied tobacco products aimed at young people."

“'...This legislation represents the strongest action Congress has ever taken to reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States,' declared Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids."

"...Supporters of FDA regulation of tobacco have struggled for more than a decade to overcome powerful resistance — from the industry and elsewhere. In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the agency did not have the authority under current law to regulate tobacco products, and the George W. Bush administration opposed several previous efforts by Congress to write a new law."

Hispanics’ clout widens with Obama (6/13/09)

"President Barack Obama has selected far more Hispanics for his administration than any previous president in American history, a stark reminder of the increasing clout of the nation’s fast-growing and largest minority group."

Obama wants new financial agency for consumers (6/16/09)

"Setting up a certain fight with big business, President Barack Obama is proposing a new regulatory agency to police lenders and a newly empowered Federal Reserve to guard over some of the largest and most interconnected institutions in the financial world..."

Same-sex partners to get fed benefits (6/16/09)

Democrats to push through banking overhaul quickly (6/18/09)

"Democratic leaders have committed to enacting by the end of the year the biggest regulatory revision to the U.S. financial system since the 1930s - an undertaking so ambitious it has some lawmakers worried about missteps."

The Memo That Roared (6/19/09)

"THE FEDERAL government faces unprecedented challenges over the next few years. An aging workforce, more than one-third of which will be eligible to retire within five years, must tackle a bewildering array of issues. Given the federal government's need for 600,000 new employees over the course of the present administration alone, a sometimes yearlong hiring process that 45 percent of federal job applicants polled found difficult to navigate is more than an annoyance: It is a hazard. U.S. government workers stand on the front lines of many of today's key issues. It is crucial that they be up to the task.

"Talking about this problem isn't new, but action is rare. So a June 11 memo from the Office of Management and Budget is noteworthy. In it, OMB Director Peter Orszag outlines four clear benchmarks for improving the federal hiring process, requiring agencies to meet them in the next six months and demonstrate progress in their annual budget proposals. Such prominent placement of this directive demonstrates a laudable administration commitment to the cause of hiring reform."

White House to Abandon Spy-Satellite Program (6/23/09)

"The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.

"The program came under fire from its inception two years ago. Democratic lawmakers said it would lead to domestic spying."

Real Consumer Protection (6/23/09)

"…Federal regulators may even have accelerated the mortgage crisis by invalidating state laws that would have protected people from misleading and predatory lending practices. By pre-empting those tougher state laws, the regulators helped create an atmosphere in which risky lending practices became the norm.

"The new agency envisioned by the Obama administration would put an end to this slippery practice. It would have authority over all banks, credit card companies, other credit-granting businesses and independent, nonbank mortgage companies, which are currently not covered by federal bank regulation.

"One of the agency’s principal responsibilities would be to ensure that mortgage documents are clear and easy to understand. Federal rules would serve as a floor, not a ceiling, so that the states could pass even more stringent laws without fear of federal pre-emption. The administration also envisions a data-driven agency that would react swiftly to events like the ones that should have foreshadowed the subprime crisis."

Rewriting Rules to Protect Money Funds (6/24/09)

The Securities and Exchange Commission proposed more stringent rules for money market funds on Wednesday in an attempt to avert runs like the one that erupted last fall.

Holder pushes for hate-crimes law; GOP unpersuaded (6/25/09)

"Attorney General Eric Holder stepped up his call for the passage of federal hate crimes legislation Thursday, arguing that the federal government needs to take a stronger stand against criminal activity fueled by bias and bigotry."

"…The bill would allow the Justice Department to provide assistance to state and local authorities in the prosecution of hate crimes while also expanding federal protection against hate crimes to cover disability, gender and sexual orientation."

Iraqis rejoice as U.S. troops leave Baghdad (6/29/09)

New Plan Ties Reduced College Loan Payments to Income (6/29/09)

"For the first time in years, there is good news for college students who borrow to pay for their education.

"Starting Wednesday, the federal Education Department will begin offering a repayment plan that lets graduates reduce their loan payments, based on their income.

"'We know today’s borrowers are concerned about their ability to repay student loans in the current economic environment,' Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said in a statement. 'This new plan addresses the issue head-on by giving them the option of a reduced monthly payment tied to their annual income.'

"Also on Wednesday, the interest rate on new federal Stafford loans, the most widely used federally guaranteed student loan, will drop to 5.6 percent, from 6 percent. By 2012, the rate will fall to 3.4 percent, under a schedule mandated by Congress."


An Advocate for Women (6/30/09)


"Domestic violence is a serious law enforcement and public health problem affecting as many as one in four women in this country. Yet Washington has devoted too little attention to reducing domestic violence and sexual assaults generally. We welcome President Obama’s decision to create a new post, White House adviser on violence against women, and his appointment of a seasoned advocate for victims to fill it.

"Lynn Rosenthal is a former executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She will report to Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, whose keen interest in the issue dates from his days in the Senate and his key role in enacting the 1994 Violence Against Women Act."

White House close to deal with hospitals on cost cuts (7/2/09)

"The hospital industry is close to a deal with the White House and congressional Democrats in which the industry would agree to federal funding cuts of $150 billion to $170 billion over the next decade to help pay for a health system overhaul, according to people familiar with the talks."

U.S. Considers Curbs on Speculative Trading of Oil (7/7/09)

"Reacting to the violent swings in oil prices in recent months, federal regulators announced on Tuesday that they were considering new restrictions on 'speculative' traders in markets for oil, natural gas and other energy products.

"The move is a big departure from the hands-off approach to market regulation of the last two decades. It also highlights a broader shift toward tougher government oversight under President Obama.  Since Mr. Obama took office, the Justice Department has stepped up antitrust enforcement activities, abandoning many legal doctrines adopted by the Bush administration."

Rules on Stem Cell Research Are Eased (7/7/09)

"Hundreds of embryonic stem cell lines, whose use in the United States had effectively been curtailed by the Bush administration, can be used to study disorders and develop cures if researchers can show the cells were derived using ethical procedures, according to new rules issued by the federal government yesterday."

G8 leaders claim historic breakthrough on new deal to tackle global warming (7/9/09)

"President Obama and other leaders backed historic new targets for tackling global warming last night in an agreement designed to pave the way for a world deal in the autumn.

"For the first time, America and the other seven richest economies agreed to the goal of keeping the world’s average temperature from rising more than 2C (3.6F).

"They also agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 as they strove for a worldwide deal at Copenhagen in December."

Administration Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock (7/13/09)

Obama to unveil $12 billion community college plan (7/14/09) 

"President Barack Obama will unveil a $12 billion initiative on Tuesday to boost community colleges and propel the United States toward his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, administration officials said.

"The 10-year program, which he will announce during a visit on Tuesday afternoon to Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan, includes a new goal of graduating an additional 5 million students from community colleges over the next decade, double the current number of expected graduates."

House Plans to Tax Millionaires to Fund Health Care (7/15/09)

Salazar Protects Grand Canyon Watersheds From New Uranium Claims and Exploration (7/20/09)

"Conservationists are applauding a notice issued today by the Obama administration to temporarily place 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon off limits to new mining claims and exploration or development of existing, unpatented claims."

Obama unveils $4 billion school improvement plan (7/24/09)

Obama: health plan to include consumer protections (7/29/09)

"…Among conditions that White House aides say Obama will outline later Wednesday: insurers would be required to set annual caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses, fully cover routine tests to help prevent illness, and renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full.

"Insurers also would be barred from refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions, scaling back insurance for people who fall very ill, charging more for services based on gender, and placing caps on coverage. And, they wouldn't be able to deny children family coverage through age 26."

Gates: Some US troops may be leaving Iraq early (7/29/09)

Milk_II_156533432.jpgHarvey Milk, Billie Jean King given Presidential Medal of Freedom (7/30/09)

"President Barack Obama today named gay civil rights pioneer Harvey Milk and tennis great (and open lesbian) Billie Jean King as two of 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.   

"America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Dems look to limit increases in cost of insurance (7/31/09)


Analysis: Obama's rare race foray a positive step (7/31/09)

"Perhaps the biggest 'teachable moment' from the Henry Louis Gates Jr. saga was for President Barack Obama: If you want to improve race relations, you have to enter the fray.

Even some of Obama's fiercest opponents say that by bringing together the black professor and the white police officer who arrested him, the president had orchestrated an unlikely and unifying moment, a peaceable kingdom in the Rose Garden."

"'...The cynic in me wants to shoot holes in it, the critic in me wants to pick it apart,' said conservative radio host Mike Gallagher. 'But I'm sorry, you have two sides, polar opposites in a racially tinged confrontation like this, sitting down with the president of the United States over a beer at the White House?

"'This is a great step forward in showing how you can take a confrontation, a conflict, and make a positive out of it.'"

House votes to clamp limits on Wall Street bonuses (8/1/09)

Justice Done at Justice: U.S. Attorney fired by Bush administration rehired for old job by Obama (8/1/09)

"In an appointment that senior Justice Department officials say demonstrates the Obama administration’s commitment that the Department will reverse the Bush administration’s politicization of the Department, a U.S. attorney fired by President Bush was reappointed to his old job on Friday."

Stimulus cash lifts states, localities (8/2/09)

"A huge influx of federal stimulus money to state and local governments more than offset a sharp drop in tax collections, helping to put the brakes on the nation's economic decline, new government data show…A huge influx of federal stimulus money to state and local governments more than offset a sharp drop in tax collections, helping to put the brakes on the nation's economic decline, new government data show."

US wants 'year-long Israeli settlement freeze' (8/6/09)

White House: 'War on terrorism' is over (8/6/09)

"It's official. The U.S. is no longer engaged in a 'war on terrorism.' Neither is it fighting 'jihadists' or in a 'global war.'

"President Obama's top homeland security and counterterrorism official took all three terms off the table of acceptable words inside the White House during a speech Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank."

"'…You can never fully defeat a tactic like terrorism any more than you can defeat the tactic of war itself,' Mr. Brennan said.

"He also said that to call the fight against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups — which he said remains 'a dynamic and evolving threat' — should not be called "a global war."

"…Mr. Brennan lamented 'inflammatory rhetoric, hyperbole, and intellectual narrowness' surrounding the national security debate and said Mr. Obama has views that are 'nuanced, not simplistic; practical, not ideological.'"

President Obama Nominates Edward M. Chen for Judge, U.S. District Court, Northern California (8/7/09)

"The Equal Justice Society congratulates U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward M. Chen on his appointment by President Barack Obama to serve as a federal district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

"The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) this morning issued a statement applauding President Barack Obama’s historic nomination and expressed its appreciation to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who forwarded the nomination to the White House.

"Chen would be the first Asian American district judge on the bench in the 150-year history of that district…"

Sotomayor_981962288.jpgSotomayor Becomes First Hispanic Justice (8/8/09)

Obama Considers Raising Fees on Large Financial Firms (8/14/09)

"President Barack Obama’s administration is considering raising fees on larger financial firms to help cover costs of new regulation by an agency set up to safeguard consumer financial products.


"The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency 'will be funded by fees, appropriations, and other transfers,' Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said yesterday. Firms with assets of more than $10 billion 'will pay more for prudential and consumer supervision, while community banks will not pay any more for supervision than they do today. Non-banks will be assessed for the first time.'

Obama, Mubarek Meet to Repair Relations after Bush (8/18/09)

Democratic investigators target health insurers (8/19/09)

U.S. raps Israel over limit on Palestinian-Americans (8/20/09)

Small Farmers See Promise In Obama's Plans (8/20/09)

Since the 1980s, American agriculture has become increasingly concentrated. Today, less than 2 percent of farms account for half of all agricultural sales. The new antitrust division of President Obama's Justice Department has said that scrutinizing monopolies in agriculture is a top priority.

That shift is giving hope to independent farmers, who have complained for years that agriculture giants are shrinking the marketplace and paying farmers less for their products.

EPA Agrees to Set Limits on Fertilizer and Animal Waste Pollution in Florida (8/21/09)

"In a major step forward for the environment, President Barack Obama's administration has signed a consent decree in which it agrees to set legal limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning that triggers harmful algae blooms in Florida waters.

"'This is a refreshing change of policy after almost a decade of foot-dragging by the Bush administration," said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer. 'It is a real milestone in the struggle to safeguard lakes, rivers and estuaries throughout Florida.'"

U.S. Shifts, Giving Detainee Names to the Red Cross ( 8/23/09 )

"In a reversal of Pentagon policy, the military for the first time is notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities of militants who were being held in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by United States Special Operations forces, according to three military officials."

"...The change in notifying the Red Cross stemmed largely from a new climate that emerged after Mr. Obama’s election, military officials said. The new administration set out the larger goal to revamp detention and interrogation practices that had drawn international condemnation under the Bush administration."

‘Inhumane’ CIA tactics spur criminal probe ( 8/24/09 )

"The Obama administration launched a criminal investigation Monday into harsh questioning of detainees during President George W. Bush's war on terrorism, revealing CIA interrogators' threats to kill one suspect's children and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted.

"At the same time, President Barack Obama ordered changes in future interrogations, bringing in other agencies besides the CIA under the direction of the FBI and supervised by his own national security adviser. The administration pledged questioning would be controlled by the Army Field Manual, with strict rules on tactics, and said the White House would keep its hands off the professional investigators doing the work."

Barack Obama on brink of deal for Middle East peace talks ( 8/26/09 )

AFL-CIO, Dems push new Wall Street tax (8/30/09)

"The nation’s largest labor union and some allied Democrats are pushing a new tax that would hit big investment firms such as Goldman Sachs reaping billions of dollars in profits while the rest of the economy sputters."

"...Small and medium-sized investors would hardly notice such a tax, but major trading firms, such as Goldman, which reported $3.44 billion in profits during the second quarter of 2009, may see this as a significant threat to their profits."

Obama Unshackles Global AIDS Work (9/1/09)

"In a clear disavowal of Bush-era rules that prevented cooperation between government-funded HIV/AIDS programs and broader sexual health and gender work in developing countries, the Obama administration has signaled to agencies abroad that the walls are coming down and that experts on the spot will have new freedom of action.

"Under Bush, people in the field working to implement the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as Pepfar, were subject to micromanagement under ideologically inspired guidance that, among other requirements, demanded that 50 percent of AIDS prevention funds in countries with generalized epidemics be devoted to abstinence and "faithfulness" campaigns. That provision, born of provincial ignorance about the world, would be a joke if it weren't so cruel to millions.

"The old guidelines also barred links between AIDS efforts and family planning, at a time when AIDS was becoming a woman's disease in many places and women had no power to resist unwanted or risky sex.

"In new guidelines for 2010, the Obama Pepfar team opened the way to linking AIDS work with strengthening of health systems generally, taking into account the development of human resources, maternal and child health, family planning and access to it for women, gender equality, malaria and tuberculosis, food and nutrition, education and local economies. While Pepfar money may not be involved directly, the program's door will be open for cooperation. It is, in short, a holistic and realistic policy. It will matter because the United States is the world's largest contributor to HIV/AIDS relief, and Bush restrictions have had a deadening effect on many international programs."

White House will publicly release visitor logs ( 9/4/09 )

"President Barack Obama said Friday that his administration will start releasing the names of people who visit the White House, reversing a long-standing policy transcending both Democratic and Republican presidents."

Obama Boost Opens Door for Nuclear Test Ban Pact (9/8/09)

Poll finds soaring European Support for US policy (9/9/09)

"Among those polled in the European Union and Turkey, about three-fourths, on average, said they supported Obama's handling of foreign policy compared with about a fifth who said the same for Bush last year, according to the survey."


Chesapeake_503673377.jpgEPA Vows to Be Chesapeake Watchdog (9/11/09)

"The federal government said Thursday that it would seek an unprecedented role as the environmental police of the Chesapeake Bay -- enforcing new rules on farmers and keeping a closer eye on state-level bureaucrats -- in an effort to halt the estuary's long decline.

"If the Environmental Protection Agency's plan works, a bay known for soft-touch oversight could become one of the most aggressively regulated bodies of water in the country."

Citing Risks, U.S. Seeks New Rules for Niche Banks (9/16/09)

"...Utah is the nation’s unlikely capital of industrial banks — niche institutions that primarily make loans to businesses. Corporations like Goldman Sachs, Target and General Electric have been attracted to the state to set up such institutions. While they have brought billions of dollars in deposits, thousands of jobs and millions in charitable donations to Salt Lake City, the banks have also drawn fire from Washington.

"The Obama administration argues that the banks pose a threat to the economy because their parent companies can engage in risky practices but are often exempt from routine scrutiny by the Federal Reserve.  Treasury officials want to require the corporate owners of the nation’s 41 industrial banks to accept more rigorous regulation or be forced to sell or shut them down.

"'The president's regulatory reform plan is not about fighting the last crisis, but trying to avoid the next one,' said Michael S. Barr, assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions. 'If we preserve known loopholes in consolidated oversight, then we will just be inviting the next Bear Sterns or A.I.G.'"

Fed Considers Sweeping Rules on Bank Pay (9/18/09)

"...The rules depart from the hands-off approach that dominated bank regulation for the last three decades, but are not as strict as proposals from some European leaders and suggestions from some members of Congress angered by the financial troubles of the last year.

"Fed officials would give banks wide leeway in how they structure their rewards. They would not prohibit million-dollar pay packages or address issues of fairness. Rather, the rules are intended to restrict pay plans that encourage reckless behavior by rewarding only short-term gains."

Justice targets Bush Cabinet official in probe (9/18/09)

"The Justice Department has launched an investigation into whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to steer lucrative oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company she works for now, officials with both departments confirmed to The Associated Press.

"The criminal investigation is focused on a 2006 decision by the Interior Department to award three oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Oil from the leases could eventually earn the company hundreds of billions dollars.

"Investigators are looking into whether Norton, named by President George W. Bush to run the agency in 2001, violated a law that bars federal employees from discussing employment with a company if they are involved in a decision that could benefit that company. Months after granting the leases to Shell, Norton left the agency. Shell later that year hired her as an in-house counsel for its unconventional fuels division, which includes oil shale."

White House Scraps Bush's Approach to Missile Shield (9/18/09)

Democrats Target Bank Overdraft Charges (9/21/09)

"...congressional Democrats, who pushed through new restrictions on credit cards this spring, now are promising a crackdown on overdraft fees, using words like "criminal" and "rip-off" to describe the practice of letting people overspend and then charging them fees without warning. Most overdrafts are now incurred on debit card transactions.

"Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) plans to introduce legislation requiring banks to get permission from customers, rather than allowing overdrafts automatically. If customers decline and then try to overspend, the transaction would be rejected. A similar bill is pending in the House."

Steven Chu: Americans Are Like ‘Teenage Kids’ When It Comes to Energy (9/21/09)

"When it comes to greenhouse-gas emissions, Energy Secretary Steven Chu sees Americans as unruly teenagers and the Administration as the parent that will have to teach them a few lessons..."

"...The administration aims to teach them—literally. The Environmental Protection Agency is focusing on real children. Partnering with the Parent Teacher Organization, the agency earlier this month launched a cross-country tour of 6,000 schools to teach students about climate change and energy efficiency." 

Senate blocks bid to keep offshore drilling policy (9/23/09)

"The Senate on Wednesday voted against an attempt by Republicans to keep in place a plan by the Bush administration to allow oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts."

Obama to usher in new age of co-operation with UN (9/24/09)

"Barack Obama will today seek to establish a new era for US relations with the United Nations in a speech to the general assembly, when he will warn that America cannot act alone in tackling the world's problems.

"After eight years of the Bush administration, Obama has already embraced many of the policies that his predecessor rejected, ranging from signing up for the UN millennium goals on poverty to paying millions owed by the US to the world organisation.

"When he delivers the opening address of the 192-member general assembly at 9am New York time (2pm UK) today, Obama is almost certain to receive a warm welcome for a speech in which he will stress the value of multilateralism, in contrast with the unilateral approach often taken by Bush."

Obama Makes Gains at U.N. on Iran and Proliferation (9/24/09)

Obama Administration Frees Three More Gitmo Detainees (9/26/09)

US to send home 4,000 more troops from Iraq (9/29/09)

E.P.A. Moves to Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions (10/1/09)

"Unwilling to wait for Congress to act, the Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it was moving forward on new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of power plants and large industrial facilities."

Administration eyes ways to help laid-off workers (10/3/09)

Salvaging Immigration Detention (10/5/09)

"The Obama administration is unveiling on Tuesday an ambitious plan to repair the immigration detention system, a scandal-plagued mix of federal, state and local lockups that grew vastly and rotted under the enforcement crusade led by former President George W. Bush.

"The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, and John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, deserve credit for proposing to clean up a system notorious for shabby and abusive conditions, poor or nonexistent medical treatment and a trail of preventable injuries and deaths. The reforms, if they work and are maintained, would be a necessary corrective to years of willful neglect."

House Pushes Ahead on Financial Rules Overhaul (10/6/09)

"The House of Representatives will consider sweeping legislation rewriting the financial sector's rule book in November, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), said Tuesday, boosting the chances that Congress will complete a regulatory overhaul this year."

"...Billionaires on Wall Street have had their day, egged on by a culture of greed, deregulation, and a survival-of-the-fittest attitude that ignored the harsh effects those things inflict upon larger society," said Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Penn.)

Democrats Working to Overturn Justices on Age Bias (10/6/09)

"Three Democratic Congressional committee chairmen said Tuesday that they would move to overturn a four-month-old Supreme Court ruling that made it significantly harder for workers to win many age discrimination cases.

"The three chairmen criticized the court’s decision in a case involving a 54-year-old man who was demoted, saying the ruling flouted Congress’s intent and created unfair obstacles to the victims of age discrimination.

"In a 5-to-4 ruling last June, the Supreme Court created a tougher burden of proof for plaintiffs in age bias cases. Previously, if an employee could prove that age was a factor in an adverse employment decision, like a demotion or a layoff, the employer then had to show that it had acted for a valid reason other than age discrimination. But as a result of the June ruling, employees now face the full burden of demonstrating that age was the deciding factor."

Arpaio_IV_307528286.jpgFeds limit Ariz. sheriff's crackdown on illegal immigrants (10/7/09)

"Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he will continue his controversial 'crime suppression operations' despite a Department of Homeland Security decision to strip him of authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status..."

"...Arpaio will still have the power to check the immigration status of people booked by his officers, but not the authority to conduct street patrols looking for illegal immigrants..."

"...The Department of Justice and other federal agencies are investigating the sheriff’s office on accusations of racial profiling during the operations.."

Obama picks openly gay lawyer for ambassadorship (10/7/09)

Sotomayor Asks More Questions in an Hour Than Thomas Has In Years (10/8/09)

"The Supreme Court's newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, made her presence felt as the court began its new term Monday, the AP reports.

"Just how vocal was Sotomayor on the Monday? According to McClatchy she managed to ask more questions in an hour than the extremely taciturn Clarence Thomas has asked 'over the course of several years.'"

"...Does Clarence Thomas really ask so few questions that Sotomayor could beat his total in an hour, you may wonder. Indeed, he does. As the AP reported in February 2008, Thomas had gone 2 years and 144 cases without speaking up during oral arguments. "It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court's unceasing inquiries," the AP wrote at the time."

Congress acts to extend hate crimes to cover gays (10/8/09)

A House vote Thursday put Congress on the verge of significantly expanding hate crimes law to make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation. The legislation would bring major changes to law enacted in the days after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968.

"...Civil rights groups and their Democratic allies have come close to expanding the hate crimes bill several times in the past decade, but have always fallen short because of lack of House-Senate coordination or opposition from former President George W. Bush.

"But this time it appears they may succeed...President Barack Obama, unlike his predecessor, has promised to sign it into law..."

Obama steps up push for consumer protection agency (10/8/09)

"...Taking time out of a day overshadowed by his Nobel Peace Prize award, Obama confronted opponents, singling out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is conducting a $2 million advertising and organizing effort to defeat the consumer plan.

"'They're doing what they always do — descending on Congress and using every bit of influence they have to maintain a status quo that has maximized their profits at the expense of American consumers,' Obama said of his critics."

"...In his push to pass regulatory changes, Obama and his administration also have been remarkably hands-on. The administration drafted its own proposed legislation. This week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with House Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in the latest of several administration sessions with lawmakers to press the case for an overhaul."

'A new climate in international politics' (10/8/09)

[from the Nobel Committee's statement]: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."


© Dan Benbow, 2009 





















































































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