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December 17th, 2009
03:29 PM ET

CNN Poll of Polls: Obama approval rating stabilizes

As 2009 comes to an end, about half of the country is giving President Barack Obama a thumbs up.

As 2009 comes to an end, about half of the country is giving President Barack Obama a thumbs up.

Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director

As 2009 comes to an end, about half of the country is giving President Barack Obama a thumbs-up.

According to a CNN Poll of Polls compiled and released Thursday, Obama's approval rating in polls taken in the past week averages out to 50 percent, with 44 percent saying they disapprove.

"Obama's average approval rating was at 52 percent or 53 percent every week from early October to mid-November. Each week since then, his average approval rating has been between 48 percent and 50 percent," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The bad news for the White House is that his current rating is down by roughly 15 points since the start of the year. The good news is that it appears to have stabilized as the end of the year approaches."

Since scientific polling began more than seven decades ago, only one popularly-elected president has ended his first calendar year in office with an approval rating below 50 percent.

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Filed under: President Barack Obama
December 17th, 2009
03:22 PM ET
December 17th, 2009
02:00 PM ET

Is offshoring a national security risk?

Editor's Note: This article continues our series excerpted from AC360°'s contributor David Gewirtz's upcoming book, How To Save Jobs, which will be available in December. Over the next few months, we'll be excerpting the first section of the book, which answers the question, "How did we get here?" Last time, we looked at outsourcing the American dream. This time, we look at something rarely discussed: the national security risks offshoring creates. To learn more about the book, follow David on Twitter @DavidGewirtz.

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing

What's particularly disturbing in a post-9/11 America supposedly more aware of national security issues is just how much confidential American data is finding its way into the hands of foreign nationals.

According to the same U.S. Trade Commission report described last week, "Some of the earliest U.S. services outsourced to India included medical transcription services, payroll accounting, credit card call collections, mortgage and insurance claim processing, and data processing."

That means individuals and companies in foreign countries have access to our credit card records and much of our personal identity information, our confidential medical records, and even detailed information about our homes. According to a study by McKinsey Global, nearly 45 percent of the Indian business process outsourcing market consists of financial work, administration work, and payment processing activities.

In a world where identity theft is a huge problem, giving foreign nationals access to our most confidential private information is a dangerous security risk. Consider this: the countries most likely to engage in cyber-espionage with the United States are also the countries with lower-wage employees - places where we're actively sending our most confidential data.

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Filed under: David Gewirtz • Economy • Unemployment
December 17th, 2009
12:05 PM ET

No good reason to be in Afghanistan

U.S. troops search for militants in the mountainous Taliban stronghold in Paktika Province in Afghanistan.

U.S. troops search for militants in the mountainous Taliban stronghold in Paktika Province in Afghanistan.

Jared Polis
Special to CNN

I recently attended the White House Christmas tree lighting and congressional holiday party. Christmas is traditionally a time of peace and love, quite a juxtaposition for a nation fighting three wars, one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a global war on terror.

We went into Afghanistan eight years ago to oust the Taliban and capture their guest Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda associates. Eight years later, al Qaeda has largely been driven out of Afghanistan.

When should our nation go to war? Only as a last resort.

That's why I opposed the completely unnecessary invasion of Iraq, and why I now oppose an ongoing occupation of Afghanistan.

In meeting after meeting, I have been shown by generals and statesmen what we are doing in Afghanistan, how it could take decades, might not work, and is fraught with risks. In response, I ask the same repeated question: Why?

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq
December 17th, 2009
11:53 AM ET

Revelations in the war zones

U.S. Marines gather for a briefing in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

U.S. Marines gather for a briefing in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Jason Chaffetz
Special to CNN

The men and women who are serving in our armed services are my heroes. I spent a week in the presence of true heroes - men and women who live in the war zone, fight the enemy, risk their lives, and depend on our support.

We see images from the theaters of battle and we hear stories. But standing there in my helmet and flak jacket, hearing about IEDs that had detonated just a day earlier, and being surrounded by weapons gave me a new appreciation for those living in a war zone.

I felt a profound sense of responsibility. I am now in a position to have a vote on how this war is fought. Lives are at stake. Nearly 5,000 troops have lost their lives in this fight. Thousands more are forever changed because of their experiences here.

In Afghanistan, I met a Utah woman who had left her young children in the care of her ex-husband while she fights in one of the most dangerous places in the world. I recognized the longing in her tear-filled eyes as she talked about her children.

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Filed under: Military
December 17th, 2009
11:29 AM ET

Democrats should heed Lieberman, not vilify him

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, discusses health care legislation with reporters in Washington last Tuesday.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, discusses health care legislation with reporters in Washington last Tuesday.

John Feehery
Special to CNN

Winston Churchill once exclaimed, "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."

Joe Lieberman knows that exhilaration better than most.

In 2006, the Democratic establishment took a shot at Mr. Lieberman, and it missed.

Now, the Connecticut senator is dictating the terms of a health care package that could determine the political future of the party that tried to end his career.

Predictably, the left wing of the party has decided to attack, with all of its might, their former vice presidential standard bearer. They have called him a traitor, sell-out and worse.

They have attacked his wife's career - she lobbies for funding to end breast cancer and formerly worked for insurance companies.

Think Progress, a left-wing group, has launched a campaign to get Harry Reid to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes Lieberman "seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score."

John McCain, Lieberman's closest friend in the Senate, has called these attacks a "disgrace."

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Filed under: Democrats • Health Care
December 17th, 2009
11:23 AM ET

Victory by Democrats on health care could turn sour

President Obama speaks after White House meeting, joined by Sens. Chris Dodd, Max Baucus and Harry Reid.

President Obama speaks after White House meeting, joined by Sens. Chris Dodd, Max Baucus and Harry Reid.

Gloria Borger
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Democrats in Congress, already worried about their dim prospects in the 2010 midterm elections, have been thrown in a tizzy about something else that could reduce their majority: retirements.

They are four departures down and worried about more members leaving districts that have grown more competitive. And they're right to be concerned: Districts without any incumbent running often wind up switching to the other party.

But there's much more to worry about. Consider the results of a recent "open seat" special election for the state senate in a Democratic district in rural eastern Kentucky: Republican Jimmy Higdon beat the Democrat Jodie Haydon by tying him to, of all things, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

"Congress is out of control," one effective ad intoned, "and [Haydon] will bring Nancy Pelosi's one-party control of government to Frankfurt."

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Filed under: Democrats • Gloria Borger • Health Care
December 17th, 2009
11:10 AM ET

How to win 'Tar Wars'

Emily Kile
Special to CNN

I'm proud to say I live in a state that has taken tobacco control seriously, and gotten some serious results. Through hard work and constant effort, Indiana has cut our high school student smoking rates dramatically. Unfortunately, we still have the second-highest rate of adult smoking in the country.

Big Tobacco never takes a break, so neither should we.

I work in VOICE, Indiana's youth-led movement to curb smoking by teenagers and combat the tobacco industry's marketing messages that bombard us every day. I joined after I watched the city council in my hometown of Greenfield vote to require smoke-free workplaces. That really opened my eyes about tobacco.

Most people who start smoking do so while in middle or high school. The tobacco industry knows this and exploits us. So our work reaches young people and gives them the tools to resist. We teach a program called "Tar Wars" to fourth and fifth graders, visiting every classroom in the school district. We tell them, for example, that for what they spend on cigarettes in a year, they could take a trip to Disney World.

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December 17th, 2009
11:00 AM ET

50on50: Birthday cake at 50 or life until 100? Must I choose, Dr. Gupta?


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Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I believe the sequence of events I’m about to recount happened for a reason. It started with a surprise birthday cake from my CNN friends and colleagues for my 50th. I ate a piece. Then I started reading the book I ordered this week from Amazon.com – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “Chasing Life.” I immediately turned to the chapter entitled “Living to 100.” I felt like I started reading a few bites too late.

Living to 100

Dr. Gupta was trying to get to the bottom of why there’s a larger percentage of the 100+ year-old demo living on the Japanese islands of Okinawa than anywhere else on earth. It’s not genetic, reports Dr. Gupta. Low calorie diets are partly responsible for Okinawan longevity.

At that very moment, I was interrupted by another birthday celebration here in the newsroom. A colleague visiting from New York was celebrating his 56th. A cake had just arrived for him too. “Cheese cake and red velvet cake with graham crackers in the middle and icing,” relayed 56 year-old birthday boy Joe Von Kanel, with a veteran writer’s precision. I didn’t want to be rude. But that small taste of Gupta on Okinawa gave me pause. Longer life. Fewer calories. I’ll pass.

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Filed under: Michael Schulder
December 17th, 2009
10:58 AM ET
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