$1 Million Grant Will Help Build a ''Green Jobs'' School in Philadelphia
A former factory in Kensington is being transformed into an adult vocational school for "green" jobs, thanks to a big-time grant.
For full story go to: http://www.kyw1060.com/
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$1 Million Grant Will Help Build a ''Green Jobs'' School in Philadelphia
Posted by Front Page News at 7:51 PM
Phila. Police Search for Father Who abducted His Daughter
Posted by Front Page News at 7:46 PM
Obama challenges lobbyists to legislative duel
|President Barack Obama's friend, Martin Nesbitt, steps out of the President's SUV as they return to the White House, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Washington. Obama played basketball with friends and staff members at the gym at the Dept. of Interior.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama challenged the nation's vested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo.
"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people."
He said the ambitious budget plan he presented Thursday will help millions of people, but only if Congress overcomes resistance from deep-pocket lobbies.
"I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight," Obama said, using tough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush. "My message to them is this: So am I."
The bring-it-on tone underscored Obama's combative side as he prepares for a drawn-out battle over his tax and spending proposals. Sometimes he uses more conciliatory language and stresses the need for bipartisanship. Often he favors lofty, inspirational phrases.
On Saturday, he was a full-throated populist, casting himself as the people's champion confronting special interest groups that care more about themselves and the wealthy than about the average American.
Some analysts say Obama's proposals are almost radical. But he said all of them were included in his campaign promises. "It is the change the American people voted for in November," he said.
Nonetheless, he said, well-financed interest groups will fight back furiously.
Insurance companies will dislike having "to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that's how we'll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs," the president said. "I know that banks and big student lenders won't like the idea that we're ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that's how we'll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won't like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that's how we'll help fund a renewable energy economy."
Passing the budget, even with a Democratic-controlled Congress, "won't be easy," Obama said. "Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington."
Obama also promoted his economic proposals in a video message to a group meeting in Los Angeles on "the state of the black union."
"We have done more in these past 30 days to bring about progressive change than we have in the past many years," the president in remarks the White House released in advance. "We are closing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can be by implementing policies that will speed our recovery and build a foundation for lasting prosperity and opportunity."
Congressional Republicans continued to bash Obama's spending proposals and his projection of a $1.75 trillion deficit this year.
Almost every day brings another "multibillion-dollar government spending plan being proposed or even worse, passed," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who gave the GOP's weekly address.
He said Obama is pushing "the single largest increase in federal spending in the history of the United States, while driving the deficit to levels that were once thought impossible."
Posted by Front Page News at 7:44 PM
Obama taps Sebelius for HHS secretary
|In this Jan 12, 2009 file photo, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius greets lawmakers as she enters the House chamber to deliver her State of the State address at the statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Sebelius is President Barack Obama's choice for secretary of health and human services, a White House source said Saturday, adding that Obama is expected to formally announce the nomination on Monday.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is President Barack Obama's choice for secretary of health and human services, a White House source said Saturday.
The source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said Obama will formally announce the nomination on Monday.
A Democratic source in Kansas confirmed that Obama has spoken to Sebelius and said an announcement was expected this week. The source was close to the governor but not authorized to make the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sebelius, 60, was an early Obama supporter and a finalist for Obama's ticket before he picked Joe Biden for vice president. During the general election campaign, she spent 24 days stumping for Obama in 16 states, including key battlegrounds such as Colorado, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Her name had been floated for several Cabinet posts. She said in December that she had removed herself from consideration from a Cabinet job, citing Kansas' budget problems that needed her attention.
Obama's first choice for HHS, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew after disclosing he had failed to pay $140,000 taxes and interest.
Sebelius drew praise for the consumer watchdog role she played as Kansas insurance commissioner for eight years before she became governor.
She is in the middle of her second term as governor and is legally barred from seeking a third term next year. Many Democrats had hoped Sebelius would finish her term and run for the U.S. Senate seat that Republican Sam Brownback is giving up in 2010.
Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, and Sebelius was seen as the best chance for breaking that string. She comes from a strong political family. Her father, John Gilligan, was the governor of Ohio in 1971-75, making them the only father-daughter governors in U.S. history.
Abortion foes strongly oppose Sebelius because she once had a reception attended by a late-term abortion provider who now faces criminal charges. Democrats say there was never any doubt that Obama would appoint an HHS secretary who supports abortion rights.
Sebelius will be subject to confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
During the primary and general election campaigns Sebelius worked tirelessly for Obama. Some Democrats in Kansas believe her endorsement of Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton in January 2008 helped boost him to an overwhelming victory in the state's Democratic caucuses.
Some Democrats have said she has built a solid and even close relationship with Obama, gaining his trust.
National party circles have buzzed about her since she won her first term as governor in GOP-leaning Kansas in 2002. Party leaders have portrayed her as someone who has been able to attract support from moderate Republicans and independent voters.
She served a year as chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association - a group Bill Clinton once led - and gave the party's response to President Bush's last State of the Union address.
Sebelius came to Kansas to work in the Department of Corrections in 1975, and three years later, she became the executive director of the Kansas trial lawyers' association. She ran for a seat in the Kansas House in 1986 and represented a left-of-center Topeka, Kan., district for eight years.
Sebelius won the first of two terms as insurance commissioner in 1994. Her image as a no-nonsense administrator and consumer advocate helped her in her first race for governor.
But she also has proven to be a prodigious fundraiser, collecting about $10 million in cash contributions for her two gubernatorial campaigns.
The Kansas Democratic Party has flourished during her governorship, raising $1.9 million over the past two years. Also, her political action committee, the Bluestem Fund, raised more than $668,000 during the same period.
Nationally, Democrats routinely describe Sebelius as a success at finding bipartisan solutions in a GOP-leaning state. She's long said addressing rising health care costs and making sure more people have coverage are top priorities for her as governor.
But she's often found her ambitions frustrated by Republican legislators who are wary of expanding government and prefer measures that help people find private insurance.
Late in 2004, she proposed raising tobacco taxes by $50 million a year to finance health care initiatives, and the Legislature largely ignored the idea in 2005.
She opened her second term in January 2007 by calling on legislators to draft a plan to bring universal health coverage to Kansas. But she provided no specifics, and, again, legislators largely ignored her call, favoring instead incremental reforms.
Last year, she backed a 21-point plan from the Kansas Health Policy Authority to phase in $330 million in new spending on health care initiatives over five years, but the package required tobacco tax increases and gained little support among legislators. Later, in assessing the 2008 legislative session, Sebelius told reporters, "The single biggest disappointment in terms of a policy area is health care."
In 2007, the Legislature created a new program to provide state subsidies to poor families so they could buy insurance. The aid was supposed to start this year, but legislators canceled the program in 2008 because they were spooked by its potential cost.
Yet legislators in both parties agree the state has made some progress on health care since Sebelius became governor in January 2003.
The state has expanded cancer screenings, allowed more Kansans can keep their health insurance up to 18 months after leaving their jobs and granted income tax deductions that helped some Kansans lower their insurance costs.
It also has increased funding for "safety net" clinics, expanded state medical and dental coverage for pregnant women and started no-interest loans to help small businesses form associations to provide health plans for employees.
Posted by Front Page News at 7:43 PM
Phila. Front Page News Reports; Dr. Cornel West & The State of the Black Union 2009: CREATING AN AMERICA AS GOOD AS ITS PROMISE
Saturday, February 28, 2009 Convention Center, Los Angeles
On Saturday, February 28, 2009, during Black History Month, the 10th Anniversary Year of the State of the Black Union has taken place starring Dr. Cornel West. Cornel West, a Black American leader, has written a very important document that was discussed in detail on the State of Black Union Panel. Dr. West has played a very large part in Tavis Smiley's program at the Philadelphia National Constitution Center -"America I am." For more details go to americaniam.org. The State of the Black Union 2009 gathering was televised live on C-SPAN all day long from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
At the outset of the State of Black Union program, the Minister Dela Reese opened with prayer. And this was followed by Host Tavis Smiley introducing President Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, to speak. President Barack Obama presented a message by means of video. The first key speaker of the event was Tom Joyner, Radio Show Host.
Dr. Cornel West
Some of the most influential thinkers, entertainers, and political leaders of our time gather each year to discuss the State of the Black Union during Black History Month. The 2009 State of the Black Union celebrates its 10th anniversary of historic conversations. As Americans celebrate the inauguration of our new President, along with other important national, state, and local elections, this year’s panels examine the role that African Americans can and must play to create an America as good as its promise, from health to housing, criminal justice to environmental justice, and education to economic prosperity. Panelists from the first State of the Black Union in 1999 will return and take center stage to address and undress the media images and social realities of African Americans.
Posted by Front Page News at 11:13 AM
Delco Health Exec Accused of Defrauding Company
A former chief financial officer in Delaware County, Pa. has been charged with embezzlement.
Norbert ("Bert") Nawn, 57, of Havertown, now faces 35 counts of third-degree felonies. He is accused of defrauding his former employer, Delta-T Group, out of $386,000.
For full story go to: http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 8:31 PM
VP Biden Visits Philadelphia to Talk About ''Green Jobs'' Stimulus
|Vice president Biden, right, accompanied by labor secretary-designate Hilda Solis, second right, education secretary Arne Duncan, and energy secretary Steven Chu, makes remarks as he chairs a session of President Obama's middle-class task force at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday.|
Vice president Joe Biden brought his "middle class task force" to Philadelphia on Friday to talk about green jobs.For full story go to: http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 8:28 PM
HoopGurlz at Phila. Front Page News
NEW YORK -- Pooling resources in these dramatic economic times is nothing new. But in an area considered the cradle of basketball, consolidation also means an escalation in a hoops war being conducted on and off the court.
Three New York area club teams, two of which at various times could lay claim to being the region's best, are combining forces and re-emerging as the New York Liberty Belles Elite and will be sponsored by Nike, according to the new team's coach and program director, Marc Riley.
The team essentially merges the Silver Bullets, the Long Island-based team which played at last year's Nike Nationals, and the Liberty Belles, whose spot the Silver Bullets filled as coach Jill Cook, an assistant at Christ the King, took a timeout. A third team, New Heights, literally but not officially is part of the merge, though its coach, Chez Williams, left the program, as well as his spot on the Murry Bergtraum High School bench for what Riley calls "personal reasons."
The merger leaves Riley's team with a strong core, which includes Stefanie Dolson, the Connecticut commit he coached with the Silver Bullets; Bria Smith, a Christ the King sophomore and ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred watch-list designee who likely would have played for the Liberty Belles, and Doris Ortega, one of the region's best guard prospects and the top player from the former New Heights team.
Dolson, ranked No. 13 in the Super Sixty for 2010, confirmed her participation with the new Liberty Belles Elite, telling ESPN HoopGurlz, "I'm very excited about it. Finally. ...I need to play in the summer, to stay in shape and get better."
Apache Paschall, who coaches the new program's primary New York rival, Exodus, which is unaffiliated, said he was not concerned about the merger.
"I call them Team ICU," said Paschall, also the head coach at St. Michael Academy. "You're taking three organizations who were all on crutches and need to hold each other up."
The top Exodus team, bolstered by other players from teams in the Northeast, will make a playing tour of Russia in April, Paschall said. The tour is being financed by a prominent Russian businessman, according to Paschall.
Riley, who also coaches at Smithson West High School, said he and Williams had been holding exploratory talks for months. "We knew we wanted to do something," Riley said, "we just didn't know what." Riley started talking with Cook in the fall and, with the help of Vinny Cannizaro, the legendary former coach at Christ the King and Liberty Belles founder, they agreed on parameters for consolidating the teams.
The Liberty Belles Elite will play in the Boo Williams Invitational, in Hampton, Va., in the spring and, of course, Nike Nationals, among other events, in the summer.
"This puts us in a different light," Riley said. "The prestige of Nike attracts a different level of players. There will be different standards to uphold."
Posted by Front Page News at 8:26 PM
HoopGurlz at Phila. Front Page News
With two elite players and an experienced junior class, is this the year ESPN RISE Girls' Basketball FAB 50 preseason No. 1 St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) brings home the title? Mindi Rice talks to the team about its increased expectations, while Clay Kallam sits down with Rams point guard Afure Jemerigbe about getting back to the title game. Glenn Nelson breaks down the national landscape in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 preseason girls' basketball rankings:
1. ST. MARY'S (Stockton, Calif.)
Last season's record: 33-1
Outlook: After one disappointing loss to top-ranked Sacred Heart Cathedral last season, St. Mary's is back. The team, loaded with juniors, is still young, but now experienced. ESPN HoopGurlz 100-ranked juniors Chelsea Gray, No. 15, and Afure Jemerigbe, No. 19, lead the way for this tenacious bunch.
2. BOLINGBROOK (Ill.)
Last season's record: 28-4
Outlook: The Raiders lost just one starter and return a powerhouse of personnel, including sophomore do-it-all point guard Ariel Massengale and seniors Satavia Taylor and Candace Nevels. Their top newcomer is 6-foot-2 freshman Morgan Tuck, who joins her 6-foot sister, sophomore Taylor, on varsity.
3. ST. MICHAEL ACADEMY (New York City)
Last season's record: 28-2
Outlook: Senior Shenneika Smith, No. 7 in the class of 2009, leads a deep squad that lost three seniors but returns a pack of underclassmen who gained plenty of experience with a tough schedule and a run at the state title. Two 2010 top-40 players, 6-1 Jelleah Sydney and 6-4 Brittany Webb, also add impact.
4. SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL (San Francisco)
Last season's record: 33-0
Outlook: The defending national champion Irish have won three straight CIF Division III state championships and, with a 56-game winning streak coming into the season, have a shot at a fourth behind Pacific-10 Conference-bound seniors Tierra Rogers and Kiki Moore, but will have to get past St. Mary's of Stockton.
St. Mary's is in the driver's seat, as it starts the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the ESPN RISE Girls' Basketball FAB 50. Check out ESPN HoopGurlz preseason content:
5. LONG BEACH POLY (Calif.)
Last season's record: 31-2
Outlook: The Jackrabbits rarely have a dropoff in talent from year to year and despite losing five seniors, including two Division I players, this season is no exception. Top-10 senior and USC-bound Monique Oliver leads the pack with a talented trio of juniors -- 6-2 Thaddesia Southall and twins Ashley and Brittany Wilson -- supporting.
6. REGIS JESUIT (Aurora, Colo.)
Last season's record: 25-3
Outlook: This could really be the year for someone outside the city of Highlands Ranch, Colo., to make a move. With UCLA commit Mariah Williams, shooter Mary Bokenkamp and a slew of other college-bound players, they are the most talented team in the state, and potentially in the West.
7. WESTLAKE (Atlanta)
Last season's record: 27-5
Outlook: With explosive Georgia-bound Tamika Willis in at center and fellow senior starters Dalila Robinson and Sharnea Boykin returning, the Lions made it to Georgia's Final Four before losing to the eventual champion. With the addition of 6-4 transfer Simone Johnson, Westlake could have all the pieces this season.
8. CHRIST THE KING (Middle Village, N.Y. )
Last season's record: 17-12
Outlook: Never a program to back down from a challenge, Bob Mackey's squad is ready to go after dropping down to the A class and winning the federation title last season. Sophomore Bria Smith, now with a year of varsity experience, and seniors Geleisa George and Tahira Johnson lead the pack.
9. OAK HILL (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Last season's record: 17-5
Outlook: With nearly 19 feet of frontcourt, Oak Hill needs good guard play to be among the best in the nation. Seniors Alyssa Bennett (transfer from Hampton High) and Lakeesa Daniel are joined by junior Ariel Johnson, forming one of the strongest frontcourts in the country.
10. MOUNT NOTRE DAME (Cincinnati)
Last season's record: 26-2
Outlook: The Cougars won their third straight Ohio Division I championship last year with 24 consecutive wins to close the season. USC-bound Kendall Hackney and Vanderbilt commit Gabriella Smith lead the team, which returns four starters.
11. CARDINAL O'HARA (Springfield, Pa.)
Last season's record: 25-2
Outlook: With a trip to the Nike Tournament of Champions on December's schedule, this senior-laden squad with four committed already is within striking distance of a national title. Vanderbilt-bound Stephanie Holzer, Monmouth College-bound Alysha Womack and Lafayette commit Alicia Manning lead the offense.
12. H.D. WOODSON (Washington, D.C.)
Last season's record: 28-5
Outlook: Led by the N.C. State-bound power of 6-5 senior Jeniece Johnson and do-it-all guard Ronika Ransford, Woodson hopes the experience garnered last year pays dividends this year.
13. SOUTH BEND WASHINGTON (South Bend, Ind.)
Last season's record: 23-3
Outlook: South Bend has the country's top point guard in Skylar Diggins, and has reloaded despite losing three seniors from last season's state runner-up squad. Diggins will be joined by 6-3 transfer Jasmine Watson, who has verballed to UMass, and five other seniors hungry for a title.
14. UNIVERSITY (Newark, N.J.)
Last season's record: 27-4
Outlook: University coach Felecia Oliver had loaded the schedule and given her team an opportunity to beat some top programs this season, with standout-in-everything junior Laurin Mincy and St. John's commit Nadirah McKenith, Oliver's dependable point guard, at the front of the squad.
15. LINCOLN (Dallas)
Last season's record: 29-4
Outlook: Dallas Morning News POY Kimetria Hayden returns to lead Lincoln. The squad that took the 4A title a year ago has plenty of depth, with seniors Chynna Brown, Brittany Gowans and Raven Smith all capable of taking over a game.
16. MURRY BERGTRAUM (New York City)
Last season's record: 25-0
Outlook: With senior Shanee Williams, the New York State Federation Class AA tournament MVP, and her tough defense leading the Lady Blazers, a win streak of 53 games could easily extend into this season.
17. BISHOP McGUINNESS (Kernersville, N.C.)
Last season's record: 27-6
Outlook: Led by Virginia-bound Erinn Thompson, the Associated Press Player of the Year in North Carolina as a junior, the Villains return three starters and have won three straight state championships since moving to the public school league in 2005-06.
18. WHITNEY YOUNG (Chicago)
Last season's record: 29-3
Outlook: Chicago's perennial power, Whitney Young's program is always poised for a title, even after losing its best player to graduation. The team's defensive mindset will still be a factor as they search for a floor leader among four seniors and a handful of other retuning players.
19. BEN DAVIS (Indianapolis)
Last season's record: 24-2
Outlook: The Giants lost in the state playoffs to conference rival Carmel last season, but return everyone, including Penn State commit Alex Bentley and DeeDee Williams, a junior who has already verballed to nearby Purdue.
20. DETROIT COMMUNITY (Detroit )
Last season's record: 25-1
Outlook: A new player on the scene, this second-year charter school lost just once last year, in the Class B championship to annual power Detroit Country Day. With everyone back and a schedule that includes out-of-state opponents, the Hurricanes look to get noticed this season.
21. ARCHBISHOP CARROLL (Radnor, Pa.)
Last season's record: 19-7
Outlook: Senior point guard Kerri Shields and senior forward Hollie Mershon lead one of Philadelphia's traditional powers, while the addition of sophomore transfer Emily Fazzini will add another tenacious player to the Patriots' roster.
22. WESLEYAN (Norcross, Ga.)
Last season's record: 30-3
Miss Georgia Basketball and Georgia commit Anne Marie Armstrong leads the Wolves' five returning starters on an ambitious national tournament schedule, and hopes for a Class A title after winning four titles in the past six seasons as a Class AA school.
23. HIGHLANDS RANCH (Colo.)
Last season's record: 25-3
Outlook: The Falcons lost two Division I players in Alyssa Fressle and Jade Davis, but the senior trio of Meagan Fulps, Caitlin Hawkins and Jenessa Burke will take center stage for coach Caryn Jarocki, who has 390 career wins and puts together a top team every season while playing in the toughest league in Colorado.
24. CHAMINADE-JULIENNE (Dayton, Ohio)
Last season's record: 19-5
Outlook: With Connecticut-bound Samarie Walker playing all five positions and playing them well, Chaminade-Julienne has the country's top junior leading the way.
25. MIDWAY (Waco, Texas)
Last season's record: 33-4
Outlook: With one of the best post players in the country in Cokie Reed dominating the paint, and D-I prospects Delisha Gross and Krissica Harper with junior guard MacKenzie Robertson, Midway looks poised to push Lincoln for top honors in Texas Class 4A.
26. BREA OLINDA (Brea, Calif.)
Last season's record: 25-4
Outlook: With all five starters returning from a squad that was upset early in the Southern Section playoffs, the Ladycats -- led by junior Kelsey Harris and seniors Kendall Rodriguez and Jonae Ervin -- hope to add to their state-record eight state titles.
27. LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (Lexington, Ky.)
Last season's record: 22-7
Outlook: The 2007 champions lost all three matches against rival Lexington Catholic last season, but the Lady Eagles return the core of last season's starters and have the experience to top their city this season.
28. DULLES (Sugar Land, Texas)
Last season's record: 34-5
Outlook: Dulles was so close to making the trip to Austin for the 5A state championship a season ago, and with Kelsey Bone and the rest of the starting five back, nothing short of a championship will do.
29. MILLINGTON (Millington, Tenn.)
Last season's record: 37-2
Outlook: In their first state tournament trip in 14 seasons, the Lady Trojans were runners-up to Wilson Central and return tough junior wing Jasmine Newsome, senior Ashley Robinson and junior Olivia Maddox.
30. RIVERDALE BAPTIST (Upper Marlboro, Md.)
Last season's record: 30-4
Outlook: With five of the top six back this season, including 2010 Virginia commit Ataira Franklin, the Crusaders will once again be a force in Maryland and a favorite for another National Association of Christian Athletes title.
31. ROOSEVELT (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Last season's record: 19-12
Outlook: With slashing combo guard Suriya McGuire leading the charge, the Roosevelt squad will get a boost at midseason when transfer Shakila Boler returns from summer knee surgery. This squad will be battle-tested, playing in a league comprised of big schools, despite being a 2A team.
32. DETROIT COUNTRY DAY (Beverly Hills, Mich.)
Last season's record: 26-1
Outlook: The Yellowjackets beat upstart Detroit Community by six in the state title game last year, and have senior guard Sharena Taylor back, as well as 6-6 junior Madison Williams and a handful of other talented returning players.
33. LOWER RICHLAND (Hopkins, S.C.)
Last season's record: 26-0
Outlook: The Lady Diamonds have three-time 4A state tournament MVP Morgan Stroman back for her senior year and a fourth title. Between two in-state transfers giving Lower Richland a boost, and a drop down to 3A, where J.L. Mann has three straight titles, it could be an interesting year in South Carolina.
34. WICHITA HEIGHTS (Wichita, Kan.)
Last season's record: 22-3
Outlook: Fifth-year coach Kip Pulliam has led the Lady Falcons to at least the Final Four each season since he took over the program, and with three full-time starters returning -- as sophomores -- and just two seniors, look for Wichita Heights to start a push upward.
35. JEFFERSON (Portland, Ore.)
Last season's record: 27-0
Outlook: Oregon's 5A champions, the Democrats lost two standout seniors but picked up two big transfers over the summer in Oregon-bound Aliyah Green and impressive sophomore Krystal Forthan. A run at another state title looks to be in the cards for Jefferson.
36. BOB JONES (Madison, Ala.)
Last season's record: 35-2
Outlook: The Patriots had seven juniors and second-year coach Tim Miller directing the way to the program's first 6A state title last season. This year, with all five starters returning and a national schedule, Bob Jones could make a name for the Southeast.
37. TRENTON CENTRAL (Trenton, N.J.)
Last season's record: 32-2
Outlook: Trenton Central lost the New Jersey TOC championship to Malcolm X Shabazz last season, but it is a local coaches' favorite for a repeat run into the TOC and perhaps a title this year.
38. HERITAGE CHRISTIAN (Indianapolis)
Last season's record: 27-1
Outlook: A three-peat in Indiana's Class 2A was last year's story, and this year's starts with Connecticut-bound Kelly Faris' senior farewell tour and continues with the return of all five starters plus the first four players off the bench. All eyes are focused on a four-peat.
39. UNION (Tulsa, Okla.)
Last season's record: 27-0
Outlook: The large-school champions in Oklahoma last season, the Redskins lost senior star Lindsay Palmer to Baylor, but return speedy 5-4 senior guard Destinee Friarson and 6-1 junior Carrington Fox to keep the hope alive for back-to-back titles.
40. FOOTHILL (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Last season's record: 24-5
Outlook: Behind USC-bound standout Christina Marinacci and fellow senior Blair Shinoda, the Knights have a firepower unmatched by many high school programs, and are a perennial power in Orange County.
41. MINNEAPOLIS SOUTH (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Last season's record: 30-2
Outlook: Senior standout Tayler Hill, ranked No. 12 in the country, leads the Tigers, who lost to St. Paul Central in the 4A title game last season despite beating their Twin Cities rivals twice during the season. With Hill back for a final run, anything could happen.
42. GENTRY (Indianola, Miss.)
Last season's record: 40-0
Outlook: If Gentry, currently on an 80-game winning streak, opens the season with a victory, the state record books will have to be rewritten. Junior Brizannia Washington leads the pack of five returning starters for Mississippi's back-to-back 4A champions.
43. GERMANTOWN ACADEMY (Fort Washington, Pa.)
Last season's record: 22-8
Outlook: Most teams wouldn't be able to lose star Caroline Doty to Connecticut and still be nationally ranked, but the Patriots already learned what life without Doty would be like after she missed last season with an ACL injury. Junior Maggie Lucas had an impressive summer and will lead once again.
44. FRANKLIN-SIMPSON (Franklin, Ky.)
Last season's record: 34-4
Outlook: The Wildcats were runners-up in Kentucky's Sweet Sixteen and lost just three seniors from that squad while returning the team's top two rebounders and two of the top three offensive threats.
45. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT (Greenbelt, Md.)
Last season's record: 24-2
Outlook: The Lady Raiders have won four consecutive 4A titles in Maryland, a hotbed of basketball talent. With four Division I-caliber players returning and a schedule that includes the toughest public school league in the state, Eleanor Roosevelt will be on the national radar this season.
46. ST. PAUL CENTRAL (St. Paul, Minn.)
Last season's record: 28-4
Outlook: Last year's 4A champions in Minnesota, the Minutemen have back-to-back state titles and will be tough to beat again, despite losing three seniors from last season's team.
47. POTTER'S HOUSE (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Last season's record: 29-4
Outlook: The Lions are led by a trio of 2011 players poised to take the spotlight in Brittany Rountree, Loyila Briggs and Shalathia Stringfield. Joined by freshman Antoinette Bannister, Potter's House is a Florida power.
48. WILSON CENTRAL (Lebanon, Tenn.)
Last season's record: 31-6
Outlook: Georgia-bound Jasmine Hassell, widely considered the best player in Tennessee, leads the Wildcats for what she and fellow seniors Kelsey McGee and Lauren Wasson hope will be their third title in four seasons at Wilson Central.
49. MANSFIELD TIMBERVIEW (Arlington, Texas)
Last season's record: 36-3
Outlook: The tough junior duo of guard Keena Mays and point guard Meagan Conwright is back for the Wolves, who also feature sophomore guard Kristen Askew, and will cause trouble in Texas this year.
50. BISHOP GORMAN (Las Vegas)
Last season's record: 29-4
Outlook: Senior Dannielle Diamant, the 6-4 center bound for Northwestern, and junior guard Aaryn Ellenburg lead the way for the Lady Gaels, who lost two Division I players from last year's team but will reload and have another strong showing.
Posted by Front Page News at 8:20 PM
Obama budget gives Dems a roadmap, GOP a target
|Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, right, accompanied by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, to discuss President Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 federal budget which was released Thursday|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With ambitious plans to change health care, energy, farm payments, taxes and more, President Barack Obama's budget gives congressional Democrats goals to reach for. And highlights political targets for Republicans to aim at. "Our work is well cut out for us," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said as she praised a "wonderful blueprint" from the administration that looks beyond reviving a weak economy and restoring order to the credit markets.
While Pelosi focused on calls for expanded health care, environmentally friendlier energy policy and improved education, Republicans saw higher taxes, soaring government spending and record federal deficits in the budget released Thursday.
"I have serious concerns with this budget, which demands hardworking American families and job creators turn over more of their hard-earned money to the government to pay for unprecedented spending increases," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate Republican leader.
Even Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, had misgivings. Conrad said he worried about the budget's long-term outlook, which sees deficits fall until 2013 and then begin to rise again. "I think that requires additional work," he said Friday on CNBC. And he predicted trouble for Obama's plan to limit itemized deductions for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000. "I would put that high on the list of things that will be given a thorough scrubbing and may well not survive," he said.
Democratic leaders, who control both houses of Congress, have pledged to begin work promptly on translating Obama's blueprint into legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said earlier this week he hopes to have legislation ready for a vote within a month on an energy bill that includes steps to spur development of renewables and increase efficiency. A key element would be a national requirement for utilities to produce a certain percentage of their electricity from the wind, sun and biofuels, he added in an Associated Press interview.
In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has pledged action this spring on a bill combining energy issues and climate change. "Global warming is one of my key priorities. I am committed to moving a comprehensive climate and energy bill in the committee before the Memorial Day recess," he said.
A key element would be a so-called cap-and-trade system of limits and pollution allowances, especially for industries such as utilities with coal-burning power plants. The program would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while generating revenue.
Health care legislation would come next, possibly by summer in the Senate. Nor has a decision yet been made about a timetable in the House, where Waxman's committee will again play a pivotal role.
The White House has not yet named a replacement for former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who had been in line to be the administration's point man on health care. He withdrew several weeks ago as a candidate for secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. And Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a dominant Democratic voice on health care, has been working from Florida while he recovers from surgery for a brain tumor.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has promised to make the legislation a top priority. He has outlined a plan that differs in some details from Obama's. For example, it contemplates taxing some health insurance benefits to raise money for expanded coverage.
Pelosi told reporters during the day that majority Democrats will have a nonbinding budget blueprint ready for a vote next month, detailing targets for spending and taxes. Senate action would follow, and agreement on a compromise would clear the way for routine spending bills that Democrats will use to underscore differences between their priorities and those of the Republicans.
Among early examples, Obama wants to increase funding for cancer research and reduce it for a proposed nuclear waste site in Nevada, a facility the president opposed in his campaign for the White House.
Obama's blueprint also envisions changes affecting entire industries, creating a series of prospective winners and losers - and political battles in the process.
His plans for health care calls for taking $175 billion over a decade from the fees the government pays insurance companies that cover more than 10 million people in private Medicare. The administration said in its budget plan the private plans cost 14 percent more than traditional Medicare, and as a candidate, Obama campaigned to eliminate the difference.
The administration also wants to cut federal payments to large farm operations, an issue that has proved controversial in the past. Already two farm-state Democrats - Conrad and Sen. Byron Dorgan, also of North Dakota, have said they oppose the plan as proposed in the Obama budget.
Obama called for higher taxes on income and investment gains on individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples who make $250,000 and above, as well as on oil and natural gas companies.
But Republicans quickly criticized the plans.
"The era of big government is back and Democrats are asking you to pay for it," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House GOP leader. "The administration's plan I think is a job killer, plain and simple. And it raises taxes on all Americans while we're in the middle of a recession."
Posted by Front Page News at 8:18 PM
AP Source: Obama to rescind Bush abortion rule
|President Barack Obama speaks about combat troop levels in Iraq as he addresses military personnel at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Friday, Feb. 27, 2009.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama plans to repeal a Bush administration rule that has become a flash point in the debate over a doctor's right not to participate in abortions. The regulation, instituted in the last days of the Bush administration, strengthened job protections for doctors and nurses who refuse to provide a medical service because of moral qualms.
A Health and Human Services official said Friday the administration will publish notice of its intentions early next week, opening a 30-day comment period for advocates on both sides, medical groups and the public.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the notice has not been completed.
The Bush administration rule was quickly challenged in federal court by several states and medical organizations. As a candidate, President Barack Obama criticized the regulation and campaign aides promised that if elected, he would review it.
The news that he was doing so drew praise from abortion-rights supporters and condemnation from groups opposed to abortion.
"It would be a horrible move. These regulations were a long time coming," said Tom McClusky, a vice president at Family Research Council. "What they seek to do is protect patients, nurses, doctors and other health care professionals from being forced to violate their consciences."
McClusky and other abortion opponents said the Bush regulation clarified federal policies and raised awareness about the rights of medical providers to follow their consciences. But abortion rights advocates said it was vague and overly broad, and could reduce access to other services - allowing a drug store clerk to refuse to sell birth control pills, for example.
"I think it's a wonderful step," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who co-chairs the Congressional Pro-choice Caucus and has introduced legislation to overturn the regulation, said of Obama's move.
"That rule was actually a poorly drafted last-minute attempt to, I think, restrict health care access and I think it would have had far-reaching and unintended consequences."
Federal law has long forbidden discrimination against health care professionals who refuse to perform abortions or provide referrals for them on religious or moral grounds. The Obama administration supports those laws, said the HHS official.
The Bush administration's rule adds a requirement that institutions that get federal money certify their compliance with laws protecting the rights of moral objectors. It was intended to block the flow of federal funds to hospitals and other institutions that ignore those rights.
But the Obama administration was concerned that the Bush regulation went too far and could also be used to refuse birth control, family planning services and counseling for vaccines and transfusions.
The White House released a statement saying that Obama supports a "carefully crafted" conscience clause - not Bush's version.
"He believes this issue requires a balance between the rights of providers and the health of women and their families, a balance that the last-minute Bush rule appears to upset," the statement said.
The administration will review comments from the public before making a final decision. Options range from repealing the regulation to writing a new one with a narrower scope.
The administration's move was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Posted by Front Page News at 8:17 PM
Guard to pull out of New Orleans after 3 1/2 years
|Louisiana National Guard Lt. Ronald Brown, Jr., left, and Sgt. Wayne Lewis visit a restaurant in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. The last units of the Louisiana National Guard, which came to town after Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, are pulling out Sunday.|
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Three and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard is pulling the last of its troops out of New Orleans this weekend, leaving behind a city still desperate and dangerous. Residents long distrustful of the city's police force are worried they will have to fend for themselves.
"I don't know if crime will go up after these guys leave. But I know a lot more of us will be packing our own pieces now to make sure we're protected," said Calvin Stewart, owner of a restaurant and store.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley said his rebuilt police department is up to the job of protecting the city. "I think we're ready to handle things," he said.
The National Guardsmen were welcomed as liberators when they arrived in force in a big convoy more than four days after Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005 and plunged the city into anarchy. The force was eventually 15,000 strong.
The last of the troops were removed in January 2006 as civil authority returned, but then, after a surge in bloodshed, 360 were sent back in beginning in mid-2006 to help police keep order. As of February, only about 100 troops were left in the city.
With Louisiana facing a $341 million budget deficit, state lawmakers were reluctant to keep the Guard in place any longer.
The Guard was used to patrol the less populated sections of the city where Katrina's floodwaters left most houses uninhabitable. That included the woeful Ninth Ward, where renovated houses are outnumbered by moldy, boarded-up wrecks and weed-choked vacant lots.
In their camouflage uniforms and Humvees, the troops were often a welcome sight.
"We don't have enough cops. It's not that they're bad, it's just that there's not enough of them. These guys are Johnny-on-the-spot when you need them," said 57-year-old Tom Hightower, who is still trying to get the mold out of his house. He added: "This is still a spooky place after dark."
The troops had full arrest powers but were required to call New Orleans police on serious matters. In their time on the streets, Guard troops were involved in only one shooting, and the district attorney ruled it justified.
The Guardsmen answered lots of calls involving domestic violence, reported to be up in New Orleans since the hurricane, and handled car wrecks, house and business alarms and other problems.
"One of the biggest things we did was keep those places safe so people could rebuild," said Sgt. Wayne Lewis, a New Orleans native who has been patrolling the streets since January 2007. "People would put the things to rebuild in their houses and thieves would come along and take them right out again. We stopped a lot of that."
New Orleans had 210 murders in 2007, making it the murder capital of America, with the highest per-capita rate in the country. That number dropped to 179 in 2008.
Nevertheless, "crime continues to be this community's No. 1 concern. Even with the lower numbers it is still unacceptably high," said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Before the hurricane, the police force had more than 1,600 officers. But its ranks were reduced after the storm by more than 30 percent because of desertions, dismissals, retirements and suicides. (New Orleans has only about 70 percent of its pre-Katrina population of 455,000.)
The department has climbed back up to about 1,500 officers, and hopes to add by the end of April more than two dozen Guardsmen who liked the work so much they signed on.
The Guard was supposed to leave on Jan. 1, but Louisiana lawmakers approved funding to keep 100 troops through February to give the police more time to recruit officers.
The Guard's departure, which will take place after the final patrol ends at 3 a.m. Sunday, will be low-key. There will be no convoy, no bands playing. The last few Guardsmen on the street will check in their vehicles and head home for good.
"I don't think the city is ready for us to leave," said Lt. Ronald Brown, who has been part of Task Force Gator since April 2007. "I'd like to see us stay. I think we make a difference, but I guess it's a money thing."
Posted by Front Page News at 8:15 PM
Obama sets firm withdrawal timetable for Iraq
|President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. Obama moved to fulfill the defining promise of his campaign, announcing that all U.S. combat troops will be withdrawn by September 2010.|
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) -- President Barack Obama consigned the Iraq war to history Friday, declaring he will end combat operations within 18 months and open a new era of diplomacy in the Middle East. "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama told Marines who are about to deploy by the thousands to the other war front, Afghanistan.
Even so, Obama will leave the bulk of troops in place this year, contrary to hopes of Democratic leaders for a speedier pullout. And after combat forces withdraw, 35,000 to 50,000 will stay behind for an additional year and half of support and counterterrorism duties.
Just six weeks into office, Obama used blunt terms and a cast-in-stone promise to write the last chapter of a war that began six years ago. It has cost more in lives, money and national stamina than ever envisioned.
Like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon before him, Obama came into office with an inherited war he pledged to end without delay. Eisenhower did, in Korea. Nixon didn't, in Vietnam. Obama says he will.
"Iraq's future is now its own responsibility," Obama said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flanked Obama during the announcement. It was a symbolic statement that top military advisers are on board with a strategy some had openly questioned before Obama's inauguration.
More than five years have passed since Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a statement that proved false as sectarian violence brought Iraq to the brink of disaster.
Obama did not claim a mission accomplished. Instead, he suggested America accomplished the mission as best it could.
"What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals," he said. "We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq's streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq's union is perfected."
He said: "America's men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it."
Obama's promise to pull home the last of the U.S. troops by the end of 2011 is in accord with a deal that Iraqis signed with former President George W. Bush.
Meantime, Obama is accelerating the end of the war by withdrawing roughly 100,000 troops by the summer of 2010.
Obama was moving to fulfill in large measure the defining promise of his campaign - to end combat operations within 16 months of taking office. He's doing it in 19 months instead, and the drawdown will be backloaded to provide security for Iraqi elections late this year.
More than 4,250 Americans have been killed in Iraq, a costly, unpopular enterprise at home that Obama criticized when support for the invasion was strong and few other politicians dared stand against it.
He applauded the armed forces for its successes in Iraq, where U.S. deaths and violence in many parts of the country are significantly down.
He never credited Bush's buildup of troops in 2007 as contributing to those improvements.
In another break from Bush, Obama promised "comprehensive American engagement" with nations across the Middle East, noting Iran and Syria in particular. The U.S. has long had a diplomatic frost with both countries over their support for militant groups, among other matters. But they hold great sway in the region, and Obama sees a diplomatic opportunity.
Obama called Bush shortly before he gave his speech to brief him on his plans. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the chat brief and straightforward.
In his speech, Obama said to the military members: "We will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life. That is your achievement. That is the prospect that you have made possible."
As Obama spoke, the camouflage-clad Marines seemed to be taking a measure of the man. They politely applauded their new commander in chief at times, and grew more boisterous when he promised to raise their pay and provide more help for their families.
The president also told the Iraqi people they will not be forgotten.
"Our nations have known difficult times together," he said. "But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people.
Yet he acknowledged violence will remain "a part of life" and daunting problems include political instability, displaced citizens and the stress of declining oil revenues.
Obama said U.S. must end the war, both for the future of Iraq and to allow the U.S. to refocus its attention more firmly on Afghanistan.
Reaction came from everywhere.
In Iraq, where several TV stations showed Obama's speech live, some citizens applauded the ironclad withdrawal plan while others questioned whether Iraq could defend itself alone.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders remained cool to the suggestion that tens of thousands of troops would remain.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said his announcement was good news because it meant an end to the war, but she cautioned that the troops left behind must have a "clearly defined" mission. Obama succeeded in winning over most Republicans, who initially dismissed the timeline as arbitrary.
Sen. John McCain, who lost the presidency to Obama, said he supported the plan.
"Let us have no crisis of confidence now," he told his colleagues on the Senate floor Friday. "Instead, let us welcome home our fighting men and women - not just thanking them for serving in Iraq, but congratulating them on bringing us to victory there."
The president who voted against the war as senator and ran against in his upstart White House bid said the Iraq conflict is one huge, painful lesson.
Admonishing the Bush era, Obama said the United States must no longer go to war without clearly defined goals. He said it must communicate the costs of war clearly, use diplomacy as well as military might, not go it alone in security.
Said Obama to the men and women in uniform before him: "I promise you that I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary."
Posted by Front Page News at 8:13 PM
Black History Month: Van Stone’s The Making of America Straight Talk; 1700’s
by Van Stone firstname.lastname@example.org (610) 931-8810
I read an article once where basically the writer was looking for the simple way to get talk about America’s original beginning straight. The straight story of America would mean, telling its history about whites and blacks, Islamic, Christianity, and Judaism, which either were the true first Presidents, Congress, and makers of a banner year for state independence or should have been. American History is its religion, ethnology (nationality or territory), and race pre-time period and post-time period that became the making of America. Somewhere during the American Revolution positive -women, both white and black, and blacks and the English were the true bold people that made it all possible to achieve. Positive forefathers-race was African, Irish, Swedish, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portugal, Danish, Italian, and Native American making the American experience. You have touched England soil through their spiritual person. As far as the majority goes, in England all men were measured as 100% men, all women were measured as 100% leaders and no man or woman that set foot on England territory were measured as slaves.
So, if you were a slave anywhere in the world and you somehow reached England by force or an assignment from the slave owner you were free. This law was transferred throughout the ages from Africa, to Rome, to England, and eventually to the making of America. But like other Empires it would take hundreds of years for the United States of America in the U.S. Constitution empowerment to be free of slavery and unfair measurements of all humankind. And across America we need to get this straight.
In America 2008, we see Barack Obama, a black man, Hilliary Clinton, a white woman and John McCain, a white man, running for President of the United States of America. But, there was a time when all of these folks just mentioned above could have ran for President of the United States of America in Continental Congress. Do you see what’s missing in the first reference to our America, the land of the free? Yeah. The two words, in, and Congress. Two words made all the difference in the world between real intentions of freedom and hope of freedom. The first United States of America was really about and for men, women and children and their equal rights all together.
There were 13 colonies that were a part of the British Empire territory fighting mad about women abuse, slavery and religious intolerance. The second addition of the United States of American, less the in Continental Congress was really about and for religion tolerance and nationality. We the people of the U.S.A. are a republic government that allows without hindrance and/or permit a non-understanding attitude toward persons whose beliefs, race, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own. So, if a woman would have desired to be in Congress or the President of the United States in Continental Congress it would or could has happened. But not in the United States of America. No woman has been President of the U.S.A. No Islamic has been President of the U.S.A. This shows that woman fought for rights that were not meant to last in the United States of America.
Women and Slavery, Islam and Slavery are so closely related as to their own views in the 1700’s that it’s no wonder these two groups are hardly mentioned in the United States Constitution. Therefore, if we are going to tell the history of America straight, one starting point should be where it all began. So, it started from a place called Africa. In 1745 America had whom therein? England, the Spanish Empire and African nobles.
Olaudah Equiano, a black man, also known as Gustavus Vassa, lived to tell the making of America straight. He proved that blacks spoke the languages: English, African, Spanish, and French right out of Africa and not because slavery was involved. He showed how Africans coming to America speaking jabber is a Myth. Also, The Hispanic Empire ruled America at the start. Islam was plenty throughout the Americas and Portugal at the start. England was the most gentle in its day toward guarding the decision that women and men are altogether human beings at the start. And at the same moment in time the great exodus of a 500 Nations crowd from an African territory close enough to Canada right across into America happened, by both boat (the Spanish word was canoa; Native Americans and the British called it canoe), and walking. How should we feel after an adjustment like this? There are some who feel no different after a Black History moment.
Posted by Front Page News at 10:05 PM
Mayor Nutter Scoffs at Budget Suggestion by City Workers' Union
by KYW's Steve Tawa
Mayor Nutter is not what you might call receptive to a call by one of Philadelphia's municipal labor unions for the mayor to hire a "revenue czar" to help deal with the budget deficit.
For full story go to:http://www.kyw1060.com/
Posted by Front Page News at 10:01 PM
Mexico prez hopes to quell drug violence by 2012
|Mexico's President Felipe Calderon speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Mexico City, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. In the interview, Calderon rejected U.S. government reports that questioned whether the Mexican government is losing control of its territory to drug cartels.|
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- President Felipe Calderon hopes to quell Mexico's rampant drug violence by the end of his term in 2012, and disputed U.S. fears that Mexico is losing control of its territory.
In interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday, Calderon and his top prosecutor said the violence that killed 6,290 people last year - and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009 - is a sign that the cartels are under pressure from military and police operations nationwide, as well as turf wars among themselves.
"To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false," Calderon said. "I have not lost any part - any single part - of Mexican territory."
Calderon, a Harvard-educated conservative, said smuggling cannot be eliminated as long as Americans continue to use drugs, but hopes he can beat back the cartels by 2012 to a point that the army and federal police can withdraw and leave the problem in the hands of local law enforcement. He declined to give a specific timeline for winning the war against drug gangs.
Calderon easily switched between English and Spanish in an hourlong interview at the colonial National Palace. Sitting in a chair decorated with Mexico's national symbol - an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent - he was relaxed and jovial.
Mexico had bristled when the U.S. Joint Forces Command put it on par with Pakistan, saying both were at risk of "rapid and sudden collapse." That and other reports have put a global spotlight on Mexico's growing violence and pressured Calderon to change tactics. He said Thursday that wasn't an option.
"Yes, we will win," he said, "and of course there will be many problems meanwhile."
Calderon sent the army and federal police out into drug strongholds on his first day in office in December 2006, promising to turn a tide in a war that was seeing increasingly brazen tactics such as beheadings, assassinations and the attempt to control local governments.
Since then, Mexico has spent $6.5 billion on top of its normal public security budget, but that falls short of the $10 billion Mexican drug gangs bring in annually, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said in another interview Thursday.
But violence has increased, more than doubling in 2008. Medina Mora said that does not reflect the drug gangs' power; "It is reflecting how they are melting down."
As proof, he said street prices of cocaine in the United States have doubled in the last three years, while purity has dropped by 35 percent. He said the government has crippled Mexico's methamphetamine trade by banning precursor chemicals.
Medina Mora predicted Mexico is "reaching the peak" of the violence, adding that the government's goal is to make smuggling through Mexico so difficult that the drug gangs are forced to look elsewhere.
"We want to raise the opportunity cost of our country as a route of choice," he said.
Even as he spoke, five more suspected drug killings were announced by authorities in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. The men were shot Wednesday night.
Medina Mora said 90 percent of the dead are involved in the drug trade, while only 4 percent are innocent bystanders. The rest - some 800 to date - are police officers and soldiers.
Both Calderon and Medina Mora called on the United States to do more, by stopping the flow of powerful U.S. assault weapons and mountains of drug cash into Mexico. Calderon, whose government has arrested more than 25 high-level officials for suspicion of taking drug bribes, also called for the United States to purge its own corrupt officials.
"I'm fighting corruption among Mexican authorities and risking everything to clean house, but I think a good cleaning is in order on the other side of the border," he said.
Calderon applauded cross-border efforts that the U.S. said culminated this week with the arrests of 755 Sinaloa cartel members and seizure of $59 million in criminal proceeds in the United States. But he acknowledged that Mexico cannot be the top U.S. priority, saying President Obama would help Mexico most by fixing his own economic crisis.
He expressed optimism that Obama will improve relations in the region, saying Latin American leaders have high expectations for his first trip to the region at the Summit of the Americas in April.
"President Barack Obama has a tremendous opportunity to recover the leadership of the United States," he said.
Posted by Front Page News at 9:56 PM
Obama budget: Mammoth deficits but headed lower
|President Barack Obama speaks about his fiscal 2010 federal budget, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. Vice President Joe Biden is at left, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at center.|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama charted a dramatic new course for the nation Thursday with a bold but contentious budget proposing higher taxes for the wealthy and the first steps toward guaranteed health care for all - accompanied by an astonishing $1.75 trillion federal deficit that would be nearly four times the highest in history.
Denouncing what he called the "dishonest accounting" of recent federal budgets, Obama unveiled his own $3.6 trillion blueprint for next year, a bold proposal that would transfer wealth from rich taxpayers to the middle class and the poor.
Congressional approval without major change is anything but sure. The plan is filled with political land mines including an initiative to combat global warming that would hit consumers with considerably higher utility bills. Other proposals would take on entrenched interests such as big farming, insurance companies and drug makers.
Obama blamed the expected federal deficit explosion on a "deep and destructive" recession and recent efforts to battle it including the Wall Street bailout and the just-passed $787 billion stimulus plan. The $1.75 trillion deficit estimate for this year is $250 billion more than projected just days ago because of proposed new spending for a fresh bailout for banks and other financial institutions.
As the nation digs out of the most serious economic crisis in decades, Obama said, "We will, each and every one of us, have to compromise on certain things we care about but which we simply cannot afford right now."
Signaling budget battles to come, Republicans were skeptical Obama was doing without much at all.
"We can't tax and spend our way to prosperity," said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio. "The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it."
Obama plans to move aggressively toward rebalancing the tax system, extending a $400 tax credit for most workers - $800 for couples - while letting expire President George W. Bush's tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year. That would raise the top income tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for those taxpayers and raise their capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent as well.
Thursday's 134-page budget submission, a nonbinding recommendation to Congress, says the plan would close the deficit to a a more reasonable - but still eye-popping - $533 billion after five years. That would still be higher than last year's record $455 billion deficit.
And the national debt would more than double by the end of the upcoming decade, raising worries that so much federal borrowing could drive up interest rates and erode the value of the dollar.
Also, to narrow the budget gap, Obama relies on rosier predictions of economic growth - including a 3.2 percent boost in the economy next year - than most private sector economists foresee.
There is already resistance from Democrats who are upset with the budget's plan to curb the ability of wealthier people to reduce their tax bills through deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
That tax hike would raise $318 billion over the upcoming decade toward a down payment on Obama's high-priority universal health care plan. Cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid federal health programs would supply an additional $316 billion, but that still wouldn't provide enough money to guarantee coverage for all, and Obama wants Congress to come up with hundreds of billions of dollars in additional hard-to-raise revenues to pay for the rest.
Then there is the proposed clampdown on the Pentagon budget, which would get a 4 percent boost, to $534 billion next year, but would then get increases of 2 percent or less over the next several years. Domestic programs favored by Democrats would, on average, receive a 7 percent boost over regularly appropriated levels - even as many agencies are already swimming in cash from the just-enacted economic stimulus plan.
Taken together, Obama's plan contains so many difficult-to-digest ideas that it's virtually certain to be significantly redrafted during debates later this year.
"It's going to be a tough row to hoe, but he has large Democratic majorities and a lot of popular support and we're in times of crisis," said Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute. "So his prospects of him getting much of what he is seeking, while not good, are higher than ... we've seen in the past."
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., predicted Congress would pass much of Obama's plan, though with significant revisions. For instance, he's unimpressed with a proposal to reduce payments to farming operations with sales above $500,000 per year and says the plan to curb tax deductions for the wealthy faces uncertain prospects because of opposition from lawmakers from high tax states and universities whose endowments have shrunk.
A plan to devote up to $250 billion to support as much as $750 billion in increased spending under the government's rescue program for banks and other financial institutions landed with a thud.
Republicans scoffed at the idea that Obama's plan calls for much sacrifice on the spending front, citing the big increases for many agencies. they also pointed to tax increases and hundreds of billions in revenues from a contentious proposal to auction off permits for carbon emissions in a bid to address global warming.
Obama and top aides emphasized that they didn't make the financial mess.
Said the president: "We cannot lose sight of the long-run challenges that our country faces and that threaten our economic health - specifically, the trillions of dollars of debt that we inherited, the rising costs of health care and the growing obligations of Social Security."
"For too long, our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent," he said. "Large sums have been left off the books, including the true cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that kind of dishonest accounting is not how you run your family budgets at home. It's not how your government should run its budgets either."
Among the many programs that would receive generous boosts are education and cancer research. The size of education Pell Grants would automatically increase every year by inflation plus 1 percent, while Obama promises to double cancer research over several years. He also wants to put the United States on a path to double foreign aid.
Obama's budget contains almost $1 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years on individuals making more than $200,000 and couples earning over $250,000. About $350 billion more would be raised through a variety of other hikes, including raising taxes on hedge-fund managers by taxing their compensation as income rather than at the 15 percent capital gains rate. Obama would also increase taxes on corporate income earned abroad.
Some $526 billion in revenue from carbon pollution permits would be used to extend the "Making Work Pay" tax credit of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples beyond 2010 as provided in the just-passed economic stimulus bill.
The budget would make permanent the expanded $2,500 tax credit for college expenses that was provided for two years in the just-passed economic stimulus bill. It also would renew most of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, and would permanently update the alternative minimum tax so that it would hit fewer middle- to upper-income taxpayers.
Obama's $634 billion head start on expanding health care could easily double as lawmakers flesh out details in coming months on how to provide medical coverage to all of the 48 million Americans now uninsured while also trying to slow increases in costs. Health care costs now total $2.4 trillion a year and keep rising even as the economy is shrinking.
Thursday's submission was an overview of a more comprehensive plan that will be submitted in April.
Posted by Front Page News at 9:52 PM
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