Obama's speech to stress responsibility

Minggu, 18 Januari 2009 08.19

WASHINGTON – A top aide says Barack Obama's inauguration address will call on Americans to embrace a new era of responsible behavior — in government and in business.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for chief of staff, says Obama's speech Tuesday will ask the nation to reject the "culture of anything goes."

Emanuel says Obama will ask Americans to restore a national value system that honors responsibility and accountability. It harkens back to John F. Kennedy's call for personal sacrifice in his 1960 inauguration address.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs says the president-elect wrote out the bulk of the speech as it is now.

Emanuel appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and Gibbs appeared on "Fox News Sunday

Readmore »»

Obama aide: banks need to get credit moving


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will have a "strong message" for bankers once he becomes president, his senior adviser David Axelrod said on Sunday on ABC's "This Week" news program.

"I think he is going to have a strong message for the bankers. We want to see credit flowing again. We don't want them to sit on any money that they get from taxpayers," Axelrod said.

He said Obama's team will be discussing administration of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the days after Tuesday's inauguration of Obama.

"First of all, the point is to get credit flowing to businesses and to families across the country. That hasn't happened with the expenditure of the first $350 billion," of the TARP financial bailout fund, Axelrod said.

In addition, the administration of the program needs to be changed to make sure the use of the money is more transparent. "No one can really tell you where the money went how it was spent. ... We have to deal with that."

"We have to make sure the money doesn't go to excessive CEO pay and dividends when it should be going to lending," Axelrod told ABC.

The incoming Obama administration is considering setting up a government-run bank to acquire bad assets clogging the financial system, a person familiar with the Obama team's thinking said on Saturday.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp have been in talks about ways to ease a banking crisis that is once again deepening -- and a government-run "aggregator bank" is among the options.

In outlining the idea of an aggregator bank on Friday, outgoing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the government could use money from the Treasury-administered $700 billion financial rescue fund to capitalize a new institution that would be able to absorb toxic assets now weighing down bank balance sheets.

The hope would be that taking these bad assets off the hands of banks would allow the banks to attract badly needed private capital and renew lending, the original intention of


A surge in U.S. mortgage defaults led to a global credit crisis that has raged since the summer of 2007. Last week, Goldman Sachs estimated that losses worldwide could mount to $2 trillion, about double what has been realized so far.

In addition to steps to bolster banks, Obama officials want to aggressively attack the underlying causes of the credit crisis: the sharp downturn in the U.S. housing market and the related deterioration in mortgage-related assets.

"There are a range of things we're going to have to do to stabilize the financial community and part of it is going to involve housing, and part of it is going to involve how we approach this issue generally," Axelrod told Reuters on Saturday.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to give Obama authority to spend the $350 billion remaining in the $700 billion TARP fund created in October.

Readmore »»

Poll: Obama's popularity grows as inauguration nears


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A national poll suggests that President-elect Barack Obama is more popular than ever despite recent speed bumps on the road to his inauguration.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Sunday also indicates that most Americans see Obama's inauguration as a chance for the nation to come together.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed say they approve of how Obama is handling the presidential transition. That's up 2 points from the middle of December and up 5 points from the beginning of December.

The rise in approval also comes after a series of missteps in the Obama transition over the past few weeks: the announcement by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that he was withdrawing from his nomination as commerce secretary after news of a federal grand jury investigation in his home state; the disclosure of Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner's failure to pay $34,000 in taxes; and pushback by Republicans and even some Democrats to Leon Panetta's nomination as CIA director.

"If the public is blaming Obama for those missteps, it isn't registering in his approval rating," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. "You know the country is in the middle of a honeymoon when six in 10 Republicans have a positive view of Obama."

The poll also indicates that six in 10 Americans think Obama's inauguration will be a celebration in democracy. Only four in 10 felt that way when George W. Bush was inaugurated as president eight years ago.

The poll also suggests that those surveyed see Obama's inauguration as a chance for the country to come together, rather than a political celebration, Holland said.

Thirty-nine percent of those questioned feel that Obama's Inauguration is a celebration by supporters of the winning candidate, 33 percentage points lower than those who felt the same way about Bush's 2001 inauguration.

"The public saw both of Bush's inaugurations as celebrations just for his supporters," Holland said.

The poll also suggests that 68 percent of those questioned are personally "thrilled or happy" that Obama will soon be inaugurated as president, 18 points higher than the way people felt in the days before President Bush's second inauguration four years ago.

Expectations for Obama's speech Tuesday appear to be quite high, with 85 percent predicting that his speech will be excellent or good. That's 24 points higher than the 61 percent who felt the same way about Bush's first inauguration speech in 2001.

Nine out of 10 African-Americans questioned in the poll say Obama's election is a dream come true. Six in 10 also say they're thrilled by Obama's impending inauguration. Only a quarter of white respondents feel the same way.

Virtually every African-American in the survey says it is likely he or she will watch Tuesday's ceremonies on TV. Fifty-seven percent of whites say they are likely to do the same. Virtually every African-American interviewed approves of how Obama has handled the transition.

"But there is a note of caution that tempers blacks' enthusiasm about an Obama presidency," Holland said. "Most of them say the American public will hold Obama to a higher standard than past presidents because he is black. Most whites say that Obama's race will not matter in how he will be judged as president."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted from January 12 to 15 with 1,245 adult Americans, including 798 whites and 332 African-Americans, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall responses and plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for the questions broken down by race.

Readmore »»

Washington gears for dawning of Obama era


WASHINGTON (AFP) – Excitement is swelling across the United States and the world as Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in Tuesday as the nation's first black president witnessed by the largest inauguration crowd in history.

Obama is "a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land," outgoing President George W. Bush said Thursday as he bade farewell to the nation in a televised address.

"This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to president-elect Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls."

Washington is proudly gearing up to host the inauguration of the 44th president, which draws the curtain on Bush's controversial eight-year reign.

But with some two million people expected to attend the event along with a veritable "who's who" of Hollywood stars, sporting heros and political heavyweights, the tightest security operation ever mounted in the nation's capital swung into action at the weekend.

Nothing on this scale has been seen since the 1965 inauguration of John F. Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson, attended by 1.2 million people.

And anxious security officials have been poring over plans for months. More than 12,500 active troops and military reservists and thousands of police are being drafted in as a security blanket descends on the city.

"I think we all have to be concerned about a chemical, biological, radiological potential attack," Major General Richard Rowe, head of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, said last week.

Some nine square kilometers, a huge swathe of the downtown area encompassing the White House, the National Mall and the Washington Monument, is being locked down from Monday afternoon until just after dawn on Wednesday, with traffic restrictions in place already from Saturday.

There will only be 13 entry points into the giant pedestrian area, with officials expecting long queues. And visitors are banned from bringing any backpacks, strollers, water bottles, or fold-up seats.

Despite the fervor to be among those witnessing history, officials and even Obama's transition team are warning would-be spectators to think seriously about attending, with the young, old and infirm urged to stay away.

"Unprecedented numbers of Americans are planning to join us in Washington," said Obama said in a statement.

"That will mean long lines, a tough time getting around, and most of all, a lot of walking on what could be a very cold winter day."

A wave of Arctic cold which has swept over Washington is set to stay in place, possibly bringing some snow on Sunday and Monday, and with temperatures only reaching 30 degrees Fahrenheit (one degree Celsius) on Tuesday.

Obama has encouraged people to take part via the Internet, or by watching television, or by joining one of several events leading up to the inauguration which kicked off Saturday with his train ride from Pennsylvania to Washington.

On Sunday, tens of thousands are due to surround the Lincoln memorial for a free concert with such stars as Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, with the incoming president to take a starring role.

But the spotlight will be on Tuesday when Obama and vice president Joe Biden will take the oath of office towards midday on the steps of Capitol Hill. Obama will swear on the bible which once belonged to his hero, assassinated president Abraham Lincoln.

There will be a song from Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, as well as performances by Yo-Yo Ma, after the incantation to be given by controversial pastor Rick Warren.

Ten huge video screens and 100 loud speakers are being erected for the crowds. Afterwards Bush will depart for his ranch in Texas, and Obama will host a luncheon in the Capitol building.

Then a parade will march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House where Obama and his family will take up residence.

The festivities will continue long into the night as Washington rocks around the clock with a flurry of inaugural balls. Obama is hosting 10 official balls, but some of the unofficial balls may well be the place to be seen.

The first ball Obama and the new first lady will attend has been dubbed "The Neighborhood Ball" offering free tickets to residents in a break with past parties which have usually only catered to a powerful, wealthy elite.

Fashionistas are also eagerly waiting to see what Michelle Obama will wear.

"I'm sure she won't have an over-the-top gown studded with diamonds and rubies," said etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige, former social secretary to first lady Jackie Kennedy. "It will be something suitably quiet for the times."

And in another break with tradition on Wednesday, after a prayer service at the Washington Cathedral, the Obamas will throw open the doors of their new residence inviting people to take part in an Open House on Obama's first full day at work.

Readmore »»

Once slow-moving threat, global warming speeds up, leaving little time for Obama to act

Senin, 22 Desember 2008 10.50

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, global warming was a slow-moving environmental problem that was easy to ignore. Now it is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can't avoid.

Since Clinton's inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton's second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it.

"The time for delay is over; the time for denial is over," he said on Tuesday after meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. "We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now that this is a matter of urgency and national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way."

But there are powerful political and economic realities that must be quickly overcome for Obama to succeed. Despite the urgency he expresses, it's not at all clear that he and Congress will agree on an approach during a worldwide financial crisis in time to meet some of the more crucial deadlines.

Obama is pushing changes in the way Americans use energy, and produce greenhouse gases, as part of what will be a massive economic stimulus. He called it an opportunity "to re-power America."

After years of inaction on global warming, 2009 might be different. Obama replaces a president who opposed mandatory cuts of greenhouse gas pollution and it appears he will have a willing Congress. Also, next year, diplomats will try to agree on a major new international treaty to curb the gases that promote global warming.

"We need to start in January making significant changes," Gore said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press. "This year coming up is the most important opportunity the world has ever had to make progress in really solving the climate crisis."

Scientists are increasingly anxious, talking more often and more urgently about exceeding "tipping points."

"We're out of time," Stanford University biologist Terry Root said. "Things are going extinct."

U.S. emissions have increased by 20 percent since 1992. China has more than doubled its carbon dioxide pollution in that time. World carbon dioxide emissions have grown faster than scientists' worst-case scenarios. Methane, the next most potent greenhouse gas, suddenly is on the rise again and scientists fear that vast amounts of the trapped gas will escape from thawing Arctic permafrost.

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has already pushed past what some scientists say is the safe level.

In the early 1990s, many scientists figured that the world was about a century away from a truly dangerous amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said Mike MacCracken, who was a top climate scientist in the Clinton administration. But as they studied the greenhouse effect further, scientists realized that harmful changes kick in at far lower levels of carbon dioxide than they thought. Now some scientists, but not all, say the safe carbon dioxide level for Earth is about 10 percent below what it is now.

Gore called the situation "the equivalent of a five-alarm fire that has to be addressed immediately."

Scientists fear that what's happening with Arctic ice melt will be amplified so that ominous sea level rise will occur sooner than they expected. They predict Arctic waters could be ice-free in summers, perhaps by 2013, decades earlier than they thought only a few years ago.

In December 2009, diplomats are charged with forging a new treaty replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set limits on greenhouse gases, and which the United States didn't ratify. This time European officials have high expectations for the U.S. to take the lead. But many experts don't see Congress passing a climate bill in time because of pressing economic and war issues.

"The reality is, it may take more than the first year to get it all done," Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said recently.

Complicating everything is the worldwide financial meltdown. Frank Maisano, a Washington energy specialist and spokesman who represents coal-fired utilities and refineries, sees the poor economy as "a huge factor" that could stop everything. That's because global warming efforts are aimed at restricting coal power, which is cheap. That would likely mean higher utility bills and more damage to ailing economies that depend on coal production, he said.

Obama is stacking his Cabinet and inner circle with advocates who have pushed for deep mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas pollution and even with government officials who have achieved results at the local level.

The President-elect has said that one of the first things he will do when he gets to Washington is grant California and other states permission to control car tailpipe emissions, something the Bush administration denied.

And though congressional action may take time, the incoming Congress will be more inclined to act on global warming. In the House, liberal California Democrat Henry Waxman's unseating of Michigan Rep. John Dingell — a staunch defender of Detroit automakers — as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was a sign that global warming will be on the fast track.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., vowed to push two global warming bills starting in January: one to promote energy efficiency as an economic stimulus and the other to create a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from utilities. "The time is now," she wrote in a Dec. 8 letter to Obama.

Mother Nature, of course, is oblivious to the federal government's machinations. Ironically, 2008 is on pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line. Experts say it's thanks to a La Nina weather variation. While skeptics are already using it as evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming.

The average global temperature in 2008 is likely to wind up slightly under 57.9 degrees Fahrenheit, about a tenth of a degree cooler than last year. When Clinton was inaugurated, 57.9 easily would have been the warmest year on record. Now, that temperature would qualify as the ninth warmest year.

Readmore »»

The Obama effect

Sabtu, 20 Desember 2008 06.53

The 2008 presidential election has been historic and exciting on many fronts. We have elected our first African-American President of the United States of America.

Whether one agrees with the politics or not, the meteorial rise of President-elect Obama is an interesting story in itself. This article is not about the man’s politics; it is about his story and ability to rise above some pretty difficult situations to achieve perhaps for many that unreachable goal – the President of the United States.

The story is clear about Obama’s meager beginnings: Raised by a single mother, from a poor family; on food stamps; experiencing divorce and remarriage of his mother; experiencing relocation from state to state and from country to country; new environments, new classmates, new cultures—all uncertainties of a child. The President-elect’s profile of his past is an awe-inspiring story, one that lends some source of hope and inspiration to many young people today.

The road that Obama chose to take to help make his dream come true is one of education and service to others.

He chose to stay in school, perfected his work, completed assignments and showed respect to all of his teachers and his parents. He graduated from high school with a scholarship to Columbia University in New York City. He was able to secure the scholarship because of his determination to do good work in class.

He did not settle for lesser classes or challenges. This approach followed him at Columbia University and then on to Harvard University, where he not only excelled in academics, but also became the editor of the Law Review at Harvard, an exceptional accomplishment. I, too realize that a good education is the way to achieve a better lifestyle. I would like to draw upon some of the tools that were used by Obama in his journey from poor boy to President.

Obama’s Tools for Success

Respect. Students must respect themselves and others.

Obedience. Students must obey parents and guardians, teachers and elders.

Study. Students must commit themselves to rigorous study in all subjects.

Discipline. Students must always use self-discipline, speak nice to others, curb bad language and actions and never follow the crowd.

Patience. Students must realize that things do not happen instantly. Be patient and be kind while waiting for your opportunity.

Prepare. Students must study to be prepared for life’s challenges.

Mannerly. Students must always speak well of and be willing to help others.

Persistence. Students must always finish a job or activity. Do not be a quitter.

Serve others. Students should seek opportunities to serve others, and engage in programs and activities that serve others.

We could marvel at the fact that we have a President-elect who has committed a portion of his life to community service. Community service allows one to become involved in issues of today’s society as volunteers. It is in the service to others that sometimes we find our own purpose in life.

As our students look at Obama’s rise to the presidency, they should also use the tools he used for success and apply them to their daily life.

Readmore »»

Obama's chief of staff had contact with Illinois governor over seat

Minggu, 14 Desember 2008 07.59

President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had direct contact with Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois about possible candidates for Obama's Senate seat, according to two Obama associates briefed on the matter.

Emanuel has not been accused of wrongdoing by federal prosecutors. The Obama associates said Emanuel and the governor spoke

about several people who might fill Obama's seat. It was not clear whether the communications were by direct telephone calls between the two men.

Obama aides have said privately that Emanuel had not engaged in any deal-making with Blagojevich, who was charged last week by federal prosecutors with conspiring to turn a profit from the appointment. The inquiry is looking into the exact nature of Emanuel's contacts with the governor's office.

Obama has said that he has never spoken with the governor about the seat. But Obama's aides have declined for five days to publicly answer questions about what discussions they had about the seat and what contacts intermediaries may have had with Blagojevich's advisers.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said when announcing the charges against Blagojevich that Obama was not implicated in the case.

The Illinois governor alone has the power to fill such vacancies. The criminal complaint against him alleges that he sought to benefit personally from the appointment by securing high-paying jobs for himself and his wife, or campaign contributions, in return for his selection.

Obama said Thursday that his aides were looking through all of their possible contacts with the governor and would release more information in the coming days. Republicans, meanwhile, have raised questions about Obama's refusal to say more and about his past ties with the main characters in the story.

Emanuel's list of possible candidates included a senior adviser to Obama, Valerie Jarrett; the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan; Representative Jan Schakowsky; and Dan Hynes, the state comptroller.

The complaint quotes Blagojevich as saying at one point that Obama's aides were not willing to give him anything more than "appreciation" in return for appointing a candidate they favored.

Schakowsky told The New York Times last week that she called Emanuel last month when she was exploring whether she might fill Obama's seat. She and Emanuel had served in the House together as part of the Illinois delegation.

Schakowsky said Emanuel had declined to tell her whether Obama had a favorite choice to fill the seat. She said he seemed wary about Blagojevich.

Emanuel's spokeswoman declined to comment Saturday. Transition aides would not comment publicly, saying federal prosecutors had asked them not to speak about the matter.

Emanuel was the No. 4 Democrat in the House before Obama chose him as his chief of staff. In the House, he represented a slice of the North Side of Chicago and adjoining suburbs, and he has long been close to the city's political players, including Mayor Richard Daley.

One of the schemes Blagojevich is accused of involves Emanuel's House seat, for which Illinois law requires a special election.

Readmore »»