WEEK ONE HUNDRED & FORTY-SIX

November 1, 2011

1.     The Senate approved a $182 billion appropriations measure that lays out spending for some government agencies through September and could lead to an agreement with the House that would avoid a spending shutdown this month:

  • By a vote of 69-30 (both Oregon senators voted yes), the Senate agreed to the bill for agriculture, criminal justice, transportation, and housing agencies through fiscal 2012--unable to reach agreement with the House, the Senate instead bought time to continue talks with a resolution that continued last year's spending policies through November 18th.

2.     A Republican committee Halloween-themed graphic in Virginia featuring a zombie President Obama with a bleeding hole in his forehead has provoked condemnations from the left and right:

  • The montage was created to rouse interest in GOP activities at Loudoun County's Halloween night parade, and it mingles altered images, including a disfigured U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and zombie Obama supporters--the poster image, featuring Obama with a bleeding, large-caliber bullet hole an inch above his right eye, prompted Democrats to cry foul and state GOP chairman Pat Mullins to denounce it as "disgusting", but County GOP chairman Mark Sell said in an email to The Associated Press that the graphic was "a light-hearted attempt to inject satire humor into the Halloween holiday."

November 2, 2011

1.     A group of 40 House Republicans, for the first time, encouraged Congress' deficit-reduction committee to explore new revenue as part of a broad deal that would make a major dent in the nation's debt, joining 60 Democrats in a rare bipartisan effort to urge the super committee to reach a big deal that could also include entitlement cuts:

  • The letter represents a rare bi-party effort for the rancorous House, and its organizers said that they hoped it would help nudge the 12-member panel to reach a deal that would far exceed the committee's $1.5 trillion mandate--among those who signed were several dozen Republicans who had previously signed a pledge promising they would not support a net tax increase, and among the Democratic signers were some of the House's most liberal members who have opposed entitlement cuts.

2.     U.S. foreign assistance was $39.4 billion in fiscal 2010 (the highest amount since 1985) according to a congressional report released February 11th:

  • The countries receiving the most aid were Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, and Haiti, which was hit by an earthquake on January 12, 2010.

3.     The Federal Reserve sketched a bleaker outlook for the economy, which it thinks will grow much more slowly and face higher unemployment than it had estimated in June:

  • The Fed's growth forecast shows that the recovery from the recession has continued to fall short of expectations--some economists said that it makes the Fed more likely to act further to try to boost the economy, though probably not until early next year.

November 3, 2011

1.     U.S. intelligence agencies, in an unusually blunt criticism of China and Russia, reported to Congress that those two foreign governments steal valuable U.S. technology over the Internet as a matter of policy:

  • For years, U.S. officials have hinted that China and Russia were leading suspects in the Internet theft of economic secrets, and those accusations have appeared as scattered commentaries in government reports, and Google has accused China twice in two years of broad Internet intrusions--the new intelligence study, compiled as a report to Congress on foreign economic and industrial espionage over the past two years, presents a pointed case that China and Russia are the leading actors in the Internet theft of economic secrets.

2.     The Senate shot down another piece of President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, as a stalemated Congress goes through the motions of attempting legislation to spur economic growth largely as a mechanism to allow each party to blame the other for their failure to act:

  • By a vote of 51-49 (both Oregon senators voted yes), the Senate blocked a measure to spend $50 billion of highway, rail, transit, and airport improvements, and another $10 billion for a new infrastructure bank designed to spark private investment in construction--the measure needed 60 votes to proceed to a full debate, and all 47 Republicans joined Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) in opposing the Obama infrastructure measure, which would have been funded with a 0.7% surtax on those making more than $1 million a year.

3.     Leaders of the world's most industrialized nations, gathered for the annual G-20 summit, scrambled to rescue a European Union deal to restructure Greek debt and prevent a regional financial crisis from creating further global economic disruption:

  • President Obama and his European Union counterparts held closed-door meetings looking for ways to salvage last week's marathon EU deal and get the world's economy back on the path of growth--they got some help when Greece's main opposition party agreed to honor an austerity program as part of a deal to provide debt relief to the country, heading off the possibility that the program would be put to a vote of Greece's people and be defeated.

4.     The ranks of America's poorest poor have climbed to a record high--one in 15 people--spread widely across metropolitan areas as the housing bust pushed many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income:

  • About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7% of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level--in 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for a individual and $11,157 for a family of four.

November 4, 2011

1.     The American job market improved modestly in October, and economists looking deeper into the numbers found reasons for optimism  --or at least what counts for optimism in this slow economic recovery:

  • The nation added 80,000 jobs, fewer than the 100,000 that economists expected, but it was the 13th consecutive month of job gains--fears of a new recession have receded.

2.     Medicare says seniors with high prescription costs have saved more than $1 billion thanks to the new healthcare law:

  • President Obama's healthcare overhaul provides Medicare recipients in the coverage gap called the "doughnut hole" with a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs this year and a smaller break on generics--officials said about two million people (with Medicare) saved more than $1.2 billion on prescriptions through the end of September, averaging $550 per person.

3.     House Democrats asked secretaries of state in all 50 states to oppose new voter identification laws because they threaten the right to vote for many Americans:

  • The letter, signed by 196 House supporters (including delegates to U.S. territories), asked the secretaries of state to put aside partisan considerations and be vigilant against fraud and protect access to the polls for all citizens--several states (over the past year) have passed laws making it harder to vote by requiring specific types of voter identification to cast ballots, reductions in the number of early voting days, and tougher laws on collecting registrations.
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