WEEK ONE HUNDRED & FORTY-SEVEN

November 6, 2011     Thousands of protesters encircled the White House in a show of numbers intended to persuade President Obama to stop a proposed oil pipeline from being built:

  • The Keystone XL pipeline would stretch 1,661 miles from Alberta to Texas' Gulf Coast and requires presidential approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border--environmentalists say the project is a key test of Obama's environmental credentials.

November 7, 2011

1.     The wealth gap between young and older Americans has stretched to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing and college debt:

  • The typical U.S. household headed by a person 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to analyses of census data--the 47-to-1 wealth gap between young and old is believed by demographers to be the highest ever, even predating government records.

2.     The Senate cleared the way for a measure that would repeal a tax withholding program on government contractors and provide tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, making them the first pieces of President Obama's job plan to gain some momentum in Congress:

  • The Senate voted 94-1 to take up the bill to end a new tax withholding program on government contractors after the House easily passed the measure last month--Democrats also intend to make the Senate bill the vehicle for a package of tax breaks to spur the hiring of veterans after Obama promised that effort with the approach of Veterans' Day.

3.     Republican members of a congressional panel seeking ways to cut the federal budget deficit indicated that they might allow some additional tax revenue as part of a deal with Democrats:

  • The Republicans met to consider a proposal that would raise additional revenue by limiting some income tax deductions that primarily benefit higher-income households--Democrats, however, said the proposal was unlikely to lead to an agreement.

4.     A new national poll shows neither Wall Street nor Occupy Wall Street conjuring up strong favorable impressions among the American public:

  • But protesters fared better than their wealthy corporate targets in the poll conducted for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and The Boston Herald--among 1,005 adults surveyed, 35 percent had a favorable impression of the protest movement that began in New York City and gained support worldwide, while only 16 percent could say the same for Wall Street and large corporations.

5.     Kuwait's acting prime minister is throwing doubts on American proposals to station at least 4,000 additional soldiers in the Gulf nation following the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq:

  • Sheik Jober Al Mubarak Al Sabah, who's also defense minister, says there is no plan to increase U.S. troop levels in his country, and he adds that Kuwait will be used only as a transit point for forces leaving Iraq--thousands of U.S. troops have been in Kuwait since the 1991 war that drove Iraqi forces out of the oil-rich Gulf state.

November 8, 2011

1.     Giving a surprise boost to the new healthcare law, one of the nation's most closely watched federal courts ruled that law's requirement that most Americans get health insurance is constitutional:

  • The split opinion by the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia makes the second time this year that a federal appellate court controlled by Republican appointees has backed the law and its insurance mandate--with the opinion, three federal appellate courts, in Washington; in Richmond, Virginia; and in Cinncinnati, have rejected substantive challenges to the healthcare law, and only the 11th Court of Appeals in Atlanta backed such a challenge.

2.     The Obama administration unveiled an offshore drilling plan that expands exploration in the Gulf of Mexico while allowing some development in the Arctic and ruling out access to unexplored areas along the Atlantic coast:

  • The Interior Department's proposal for the next five years paves the way for 15 sales of offshore drilling leases, including a dozen auctions for tracts in the Gulf of Mexico, and for the first time since 2008, oil and gas companies would have the chance to bid on drilling rights for Arctic waters in Alaska, including the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, as well as the Cook Inlet--but the administration is ruling out drilling along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, including an area near Virginia that had been slated for exploration under the Bush administration.

3.     Republicans floated a new deficit reduction proposal to the congressional super-committee that breaks from their no-new-taxes stance, but the offer was dismissed because it would lock in lower income tax rates for the wealthiest American households:

  • The $1.2 trillion offer from the GOP comes as Republicans are under pressure to show that their anti-tax commitment will not do in the committee's efforts--Democrats have offered a nearly $3 trillion package that would cut Medicare and other entitlement programs, but only if Republicans agree to add new taxes to the mix.

4.     President Obama visited a schoolhouse in a Philadelphia suburb to announce stricter financing standards for the government's Head Start program, which offers pre-school training for children from low-income families:

  • Declaring that investments in early education are crucial to future U.S. competitiveness, Obama said the government would, for the first time, require Head Start programs to meet certain standards to qualify for renewal of federal grants--many Republicans favor tightening standards for Head Start, and the reforms of the program announced by Obama date to the Bush administration.

5.     Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration would work with ascendant Islamist parties of the Muslim world, snwering one of the central U.S. policy questions resulting from the Arab Spring:

  • Addressing the National Democratic Institute, Clinton said that the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak made clear that long-term support for democracy outlasts short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes--addressing the rise of Islamist parties, Clinton said the U.S. would judge these groups on whether they respect democracy, women's rights, and other fundamental values.

November 9, 2011

1.     U.S. stock indices dropped sharply, with the Dow hammered in its worst single-day hit in nearly seven weeks, as Italy's borrowing costs shot up to levels seen as unsustainable, further worsening Europe's credit mess:

  • The Dow Jones industrial average fell 433 points, its biggest single-day drop since September 22nd; S&P's index fell 3.7%, and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.9%--these were the largest hits for the S&P and Nasdaq since August 18th, and it had both returning to the negative column for 2011.

2.     Kentucky and Mississippi refused to turn their governor's offices over to different parties, despite the nation's economic woes, and Ohio restored bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of public employees in a major victory for organized labor:

  • A Mississippi initiative that would have defined life as beginning at conception went down to defeat, ending supporters' plans to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established the right to abort;
  • In Ohio, a new law that severely limited the bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees was repealed--the overwhelming defeat was a stiff blow to Gov. John Kasich and cast doubt on other Republican governors who have sought union-limiting measures as a way to curb spending.

November 10, 2011

1.     The Obama administration put off until after the 2012 election a politically-charged decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipline, easing one dilemma for President Obama but opening another with the missed opportunity to boost job growth:

  • With the State Department announcement that it wuld study alternate routes for the $7 billion pipeline, the administration sought to calm the environmentalist movement that has mobilized around the issue--the decision also exposed the Democratic administration to the same criticism the White House has leveled at congressional Republicans regarding deficit reduction: delaying a tough call in hopes that the politics will be better after next November's election.

2.     On the eve of Veterans' Day, the Senate approved new measures to help unemployed former service members, advancing a modest piece of President Obama's $447 billion jobs package with rare bipartisan support:

  • The bill, approved by a vote of 95-0, would extend tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans, and it would also provide new dollars for retraining older unemployed veterans for high-demand openings and include programs designed to make at easier to get civilian certifications for military training--the bill includes another small piece of Obama's proposal: it would repeal a tax provision slated to go into effect in 2013 that would have withheld three percent of payments from government agencies to their vendors.

November 11, 2011     "The tide of war is receding; my fellow Americans, our troops are coming home."  Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans' Day, President Obama urged the hiring of thousands of servicemen and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Following the ceremony, Obama left the White House for a flight to San Diego to join in a holiday basketball game aboard the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, the start of a nine-day trip that includes an Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii and stops in Australia and Indonesia--the president spoke a day after the Senate passed his proposal to give companies tax credits for hiring jobless veterans.

November 12, 2011     Placing high hopes on the economic power of Pacific Rim nations, President Obama declared the Asia-Pacific region the heart of explosive growth for years to come--for businesses, he said, "This is where the action's going to be:"

  • Obama was in Hawaii courting Asian powers as he tries to improve the beleaguered American jobs outlook--his move comes as his administration has poured attention and capital into deepening relations with Asia as a source of trade, jobs, and security ties, and he told chief executives gathered for a regional economic summit, "There is no region in the world that we consider more vital than the Asia-Pacific region."
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