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April 16th, 2009
12:44 PM ET

What's driving the U.S. over a cliff?

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Editor's note: John Feehery worked as a staffer for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans in Congress. He is president of Feehery Group, a Washington-based advocacy firm that has represented clients including News Corp., Ford Motor Company and the United States Chamber of Commerce. He formerly was a government relations executive vice president for the Motion Picture Association of America.

John Feehery

I was talking to a close family friend during my vacation in Florida, and he was criticizing the governor there for taking the stimulus money that came from the federal government.

"Florida should just cut government spending, and not use the Feds as a crutch," he said with great vehemence.

Now, this family friend is not a wealthy guy, but he lives a comfortable life, made more comfortable by the fact that he gets a nice monthly pension check from the state. I didn't dare suggest to him that perhaps cutting back on his monthly pension might be one way to cut that spending, because if I had, I would have had a seven-iron flying at my head.

But what is most interesting to me about that conversation is how the attitude of this family friend reflects the attitudes of most Americans. Cut government spending, but don't touch my piece of the pie, the many cry out as one.

As federal policy makers grapple with the budget next week when Congress reconvenes, I challenge them to answer four uncomfortable questions that could bankrupt the country if unanswered:

First, why do we let people retire too early and then expect them to live so long without working? In 1910, the average retirement age in the United States was 74. In 2002, however, the average retirement age was 62. Average life expectancy in 1910 was around 55, while in 2002 it was 77.

Throughout most of our nation's history, people were expected to work regardless of their age. Only over the last several decades has that changed.

Now it is assumed even if you are completely able-bodied and able-minded, you don't need to work and indeed you shouldn't be required to do so if you reach a certain age and certain number of years at one job. But that is crazy. We can't afford it. As people live longer, they should work longer, be productive longer, pay taxes longer, and be full participants in our nation's economy longer.

FULL POST


Filed under: Economy • John Feehery • Raw Politics
April 16th, 2009
12:29 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Banks on the mend

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Following in the footsteps of Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase this morning reported a better-than-expected profit of $2.1 billion in the latest quarter, even as the bank aggressively set aside money to cope with rising loan losses. And although profits fell 10% from a year ago, earnings still beat Wall Street’s expectations.

JPMorgan is among a handful of banks that have expressed interest in repaying taxpayer bailout funds, given the increasing restrictions imposed on banks participating in the rescue program.

Goldman Sachs announced earlier this week that it would sell new stock to help pay back the government, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says the bank would like to repay its bailout money "as soon as possible."

We’ve got mixed news yet again on the unemployment front today.

The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits dropped last week while the number of people continuing to claim benefits set a record high for the 12th straight week.

First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell by 53,000 to 610,000 from the previous week revised figure of 663,000. But the number of people receiving benefits for one week or more rose by 172,000 to 6.02 million - the highest number on records dating back to 1967.

New home construction plunged to the second-lowest level on record in March, a sign that the worst housing slump in decades is not yet over.

FULL POST


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Raw Politics
April 16th, 2009
12:02 PM ET

Open Letter to Tony Perkins

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Norman Lear
Huffington Post

Dear Mr. Perkins:

I was initially delighted to see that you had joined so many other American Christians in responding to the Born Again American campaign. But your recent "Last Word" column makes it clear that you have misunderstood the campaign, and I'd like to give you a better sense of our goals.

In your column, you say that our theme song, "Born Again American" by songwriter Keith Carradine, misuses themes of God and country to "lure" people into a "big government, anti-family agenda." You seem to be particularly disturbed by the line, "My country 'tis of me." You even call it "humanist dogma." I think of it another way entirely. I hear and feel "My country 'tis of me" as an assertion of the responsibilities of citizenship. It's a patriotic anthem, like "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land," which so many Americans joined in singing during the pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial in January.

I'm glad that you find the refrain hopeful and instructive: "I'm a Born Again American, conceived in liberty. My Bible and the Bill of Rights. My creed's equality." I'm just sorry that you cannot overcome your unwillingness to believe that someone you disagree with politically might just be motivated by genuine patriotism, or your cynical insistence that we view the Bible and the Bill of Rights as mere props.

Read more...


Filed under: Norman Lear • Religion • Tony Perkins
April 16th, 2009
11:42 AM ET

Tiger "passports"

Tigers in Thailand get electronic "passports" to help combat smuggling. CNN's Dan Rivers reports.


Filed under: Planet in Peril
April 16th, 2009
11:25 AM ET

Admiral Mullen talks Taliban

CNN's Christiane Amanpour asks Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen about the Taliban in Pakistan.


Filed under: Christiane Amanpour • Pakistan • Taliban
April 16th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Dear President Obama #86: Ten Things – Good times, Bad times

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Reporter's note: The President has asked Americans for advice on how to run the country. DC is rainy and cold as I write this, doesn’t feel much like spring, and I can’t even figure out how to get around this outrageous cross town traffic, so I’m not sure what advice I can offer on such weightier issues. Still, I press on with the final installment of my Ten Things You Ought to Know About America, But You Might Not Know From Watching the News.

This is Part Ten.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

After all the points I’ve raised in recent days about problems in our country, I’ll understand if you think I’m about as pessimistic as Vanilla Ice on Grammy night. But I’m a genuinely optimistic person. I go to bed each night convinced the sun will rise in the morning. I meet each new stranger with the hope that he or she will be a friend. I’m relatively certain I will eventually host the Tonight Show.

And I believe life overall is pretty good here. Despite the economic downturn, despite terrorism, despite our worries about foreign affairs, and the despite the fact that The View is still on TV; an awful lot is still going right in America, and we in the media don’t really tell that story often enough.

Americans are concerned about the cost and accessibility of medical services, but we don’t routinely have legions of people dying in the streets for lack of any type of care. We can argue about the nutrition and eating habits of our children, but our land is not raked by famine. We can debate the merits and mistakes of our military conflicts, but we are not a nation of refugees fleeing a civil war. We can have an election and change presidents without gunfire and rioting in the streets. See what I mean? Most of our babies are born healthy. Most of our planes take off and land safely. Most Americans have better jobs, better houses, more vehicles, more phones, more TV’s, more iPods, more parks, more electricity, more paved roads, more Law and Order reruns, more, more, more of everything than most of the world. As I’ve said before, material possessions are not the only measure of success, but they are also not chicken feed.

I’m not one of those “We need a good news channel!” advocates, because I’ve seen too many media operations try that trick and it always devolves into a syrupy goo of reports on charitable programs and slow motion pictures of three-legged dogs frolicking. But we do need more perspective.

FULL POST

April 16th, 2009
10:59 AM ET

Choosing a better future in the Americas

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President Barack Obama

As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.

In advance of the Summit, we have begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense – particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century. To confront our economic crisis, we don’t need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism – we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity. To combat lawlessness and violence, we don’t need a debate about whether to blame right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents – we need practical cooperation to expand our common security.

FULL POST

April 16th, 2009
10:52 AM ET

What’s up with Al-Jazeera’s phone?

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Octavia Nasr
CNN Senior Middle East Editor
AC360° Contributor

What’s up with Al-Jazeera’s phone? It’s been getting some interesting calls lately. On Monday the all news Arab network received a call from a Guantanamo Bay inmate who alleged that he continues to be badly treated at the US facility although he’s expected to be released soon. According to Al-Jazeera, the inmate called Sami al-Hajj, Al-Jazeera’s cameraman who spent about six years at Guantanamo before being released in 2008. The entire conversation sounded surreal and melodramatic, a combination of a phone conversation and a phone interview. Centering mainly on the idea that treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo remained bad and even worsened after President Barack Obama took office. “Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change,” al-Qurani said.

In the interview, Mohammad al-Qurani claimed that he suffered abuse at the hands of his guards. He said in one instance, when he refused to leave his cell, the guard used tear gas to force him out. Al-Qurani then added that when he complained, the commander laughed and told him that the officer was “doing his job.” Al-Jazeera posted a translated transcript of the conversation on its website.

According to Al-Jazeera’s translation al-Qurani claimed that the alleged mistreatment “started about 20 days” before Barack Obama became U.S. president and “since then I’ve been subjected to it almost every day.”

Al-Jazeera also spoke withGuantanamo spokesman, Navy Lt-Cmdr Brook DeWalt, who said, “I have no record of authenticity of this.. It is an alleged phone transcript. We don’t have any evidence supporting or substantiating any of these claims.”

FULL POST


Filed under: Guantanomo Bay • Octavia Nasr • Raw Politics
April 16th, 2009
10:42 AM ET

Admiral Mullen talks pirates

CNN's Christiane Amanpour asks Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen about pirates in Somalia.


Filed under: Christiane Amanpour • Pirates
April 16th, 2009
10:34 AM ET

Why stockpile guns?

CNN's Sean Callebs talks to an attorney about the polarizing issue of gun ownership rights.


Filed under: Gun Control • Gun Violence • Sean Callebs
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