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February 19th, 2009
03:47 PM ET

Canada hearts Obama

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

President Obama arrived in this snowy capital city for his first foreign trip greeted by 17 Canadian mounties – and thousands of ordinary fans chanting a familiar campaign theme.

Chants of “Yes we can! Yes we can!” could be heard as thousands of Canadians lined the streets to greet Obama’s motorcade. One hand-made sign simply said, “After God, It’s Obama.”

The President seemed to bask in the adulation as he arrived at the Parliament building for a working lunch with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

After walking into Parliament, Obama coaxed Harper to come outside the building so the beaming President could wave to the adoring crowd – a sharp contrast from the hostile anti-war protests that used to greet former President Bush’s trips north.

One U.S. embassy official on the ground here passed along a bit of insight that may help explain the diplomatic love for Obama. The official confided that thousands of Canadians crossed the border into America last year to volunteer for the Democrat’s presidential campaign in border states.

But the lovefest will not last long. Obama will be staying on the ground here for just a few hours, not even long enough to have dinner and that was by design.

Two officials familiar with the planning for the trip tell CNN the President did not want a lavish dinner during his first foreign visit – not the right image while America is suffering through a recession.

February 19th, 2009
03:44 PM ET

Eric Holder, please – less talk, more action

Melissa Harris-Lacewell
Special to CNN

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder marked Black History Month with an address at the Department of Justice. Holder clearly and courageously acknowledged the history of American racism.

He forthrightly argued that, "to get to the heart of this country, one must examine its racial soul." Because public officials so rarely discuss race, Holder's was an unusually bold statement.

But ultimately, Eric Holder's discussion of race in America was a failure. It failed because Holder spoke more like a grade school principal than like the attorney general of the United States. He framed our nation's continuing racial work as a struggle to feel comfortable, be tolerant, and have "frank conversations about racial matters."

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Filed under: Black in America • Raw Politics
February 19th, 2009
03:23 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Nearly 5 million collecting unemployment

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The total number of Americans drawing unemployment benefits has hit a new record of just under 5 million. This is the highest number since the government started keeping records back in 1967.

New claims for benefits, meanwhile, remained unchanged at 627,000 in the week ended Feb. 14 - holding at a 26-year high. But the number of people receiving unemployment checks for one week or more rose to a record 4,987,000 in the week ended Feb. 7, the most recent data available.

The government's measurement of wholesale inflation rose for the first time in six months in January, due largely to rising energy prices.

The Producer Price Index, which tracks the changes in selling prices for domestic producers, rose 0.8% last month compared with a decline of 1.9% in December - which had marked the fifth straight month of declines. And the core PPI, which excludes the volatile energy and food costs, rose 0.4% in January.

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Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
February 19th, 2009
02:57 PM ET

Border drug war is too close for comfort

Scott Kraft
Los Angeles Times

The day began gently here on the U.S.-Mexico border. The cold, starry sky gave way to the orange smile of a sunrise.

Over at the Pancho Villa Cafe, short-order cook Maria Gutierrez whipped up her egg and chopped tortilla special. Down the street, Martha Skinner, still in her housecoat, brewed a pot of coffee for guests at her bed and breakfast. Her husband, the local judge, walked two blocks to his courtroom to hear the week's entire caseload: one pet owner cited for keeping her dog chained up, another for allowing her dog off-leash.

Columbus, a settlement of 1,800 people clinging to a wind-swept patch of high desert in southern New Mexico, was a picture of tranquillity.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Border fence
February 19th, 2009
02:22 PM ET

Send Ali your questions

You've heard about the Stimulus plan, and the Housing rescue plan, and the TARP bank bailouts. But you still have questions, right?

Ask us your questions here, and Ali will answer some tonight on AC360° at 10PM ET.


Filed under: Ali Velshi • Economy
February 19th, 2009
02:17 PM ET

Greenspan's hidden agenda

Paul Kedrosky
The Daily Beast

The former Fed chief's plug for nationalizing banks is vertigo-inducing. It's also a conflict of interest—and a sign of just how far he has fallen.

There is something sad about watching former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan lose most of the intellectual underpinnings of his life. A few months ago he famously conceded that there was a "flaw" in the economic model with which he thinks about the world, and that he was "distressed" by that realization. (Of course, his flaw ended up costing the economy trillions of dollars, so merely being distressed seems a bit mild.)

Now Greenspan tells us that temporarily nationalizing broke US banks might be OK. If that doesn't stop you in your tracks, it should. The man often called the high priest of laissez-faire capitalism is saying that he can imagine briefly taking some of the most troubled US banks into state ownership because that is better than the alternative of letting the market sort it out. That is vertigo-inducing indeed, like Lenin doing an about-face on the whole capitalism thing. It is, quite rightly, getting a lot of attention. After all, if Greenspan thinks there are problems with laissez-faire capitalism, and with market-based solutions to banking problems, what is he likely to say next? That marginal revenue doesn't equal marginal cost for profit maximization? The economic mind boggles at the idea.

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Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Economy
February 19th, 2009
02:06 PM ET

Fix American health care system — the capitalist way

Joe Rogers
The Atlanta Journal

It’s time to solve the health care issue in America. If we can spend $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, $1 trillion on the finance and auto industries, then we can set up a new approach in America to health care, making it affordably available to all.

At Waffle House Inc., we have, for over 25 years, offered affordable group medical insurance to our hourly and management associates with the company paying 50 percent of the premium. But even with this, only about one-third of those who could enroll do so. Others decide to use their money differently for whatever reasons and take the risk of going uninsured. Besides, you’ll never get all of America covered using corporate America as the delivery mechanism.

People don’t always make good long-term choices. That’s the reason Social Security was set up and has proven to be successful (forget the management of it and look at the customer). Food stamps similarly have been an effective safety net. (What if Medicare did not exist?)

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Filed under: Health Care
February 19th, 2009
01:56 PM ET

The Catholic Crusade against a mythical abortion bill

Amy Sullivan
Time

The U.S. Catholic Church's crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to "please oppose FOCA."

There is only one hitch. Congress isn't about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act — because no such bill has been introduced in the current Congress.

At a time when the United States is gripped by economic uncertainty and faces serious challenges in hot spots around the globe, some American Catholics are finding it both curious and troubling that their church has launched a major campaign against a piece of legislation that doesn't exist and wouldn't have much chance of becoming law even if it did. To many critics, it feels like the legislative equivalent of the dog that didn't bark.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Raw Politics
February 19th, 2009
12:57 PM ET

Learning not to love the bomb

Philip Taubman
New York Times

The Obama administration seems ready to resuscitate relations with Russia, including by renewing nuclear-arms-reduction talks. Even before the inaugural parade wound down, the White House Web site offered up a list of ambitious nuclear policy goals, with everything from making bomb-making materials more secure to the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

That’s welcome news, but for such goals to be realized, the White House will need to be prepared to reimagine and reshape the nuclear era and, against strong opposition, break free from cold war thinking and better address the threats America faces today.

George W. Bush actually started down this road. He reached an agreement with the Kremlin in 2002 to cut the number of operational strategic warheads on each side to between 1,700 and 2,200 by the year 2012, a two-thirds reduction. Washington is likely to reach that goal ahead of schedule.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Raw Politics
February 19th, 2009
12:37 PM ET

What Congress needs is a pest

Ed Rollins
CNN Contributor

I first arrived in Washington in January 1973 as a new member of the Nixon team working in congressional relations for the administration.

The re-elected President, who had just won a 49-state electoral landslide, was going to change Washington and become a historic president.

Richard M. Nixon certainly did become historic, but not in the way he thought he would. Those 18 months between Inauguration Day 1973 and August 9, 1974, when President Nixon resigned in disgrace, were for me the equivalent of earning my Ph.D in American politics.

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Filed under: Ed Rollins • Raw Politics
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