July 24th, 2009
12:49 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: 4.5 million people getting a raise today

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The federal minimum wage goes up to $7.25 an hour today from $6.55. But the increase brings up a continuing debate: will a pay increase help out workers at the bottom of the ladder? Or will it kill their jobs?

Opponents of the increase have long argued it could hurt job creation, especially during this recession. The economy has shed more than 3 million jobs so far this year and some economists believe the wage hike could drive the 9.5% national unemployment rate even higher.

But others believe that higher wages will lead to more spending by consumers, which would in turn help bring the recession to an end. One economist says the wage hike means more than $5 billion will be injected into the economy over the next year.

Minimum wage workers in 29 states will be getting the raise. It could be as low as 10-cents an hour in New York or as much as 70-cents in Texas.

Workers in 21 other states won't see an increase, because those states already pay more than $7.25 an hour.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Andrew Torgan • Job Market • stocks
July 24th, 2009
12:09 PM ET

The Cambridge cops, police power, and me

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/23/officer.gates.arrest/art.robert.haas.cnn.jpg caption="On Thursday, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas defended the actions of Sgt. James Crowley."]
Marc Ambinder
The Atlantic

In college, some of my friends majored in history. Others braved the pre-med gauntlet. I graduated in 2001 with a degree in something or other, but my concentration was really in what you might call police scanner science. For three years, I covered the police beat for the Harvard Crimson, which was - is - the city of Cambridge's only breakfast table daily. When my friends would be out studying or dating, I'd be chasing cops. If the crime happened to be near Harvard's campus, I'd get there before they would, which occasionally proved disconcerting.

During my four years at Harvard, I got to know quite a few Cambridge police officers - black officers, white officers, Hispanic officers - and I became familiar with the tinder box that is racial politics in Cambridge. Take wealthy white (or nonwhite) patricians affiliated with Harvard, add liberal activists (not always so rich) who were attracted to the city because of its progressive legacy, add diversity that mirrors the composition of the United States, add blue collar, mostly ethnic white cops who were lifers in the police department...and it's not hard to see how racial sensitivities could be so acute. But in Cambridge, class sensitivities are often as touchy. Town-gown relations ebb and flow but always create tension between anything that suggests "Harvard" and anything that suggests "Cambridge." Cops tend to be working class joes and janes, and professors tend to be patricians. Intermixes like this happen often.


Filed under: Henry Louis Gates
July 24th, 2009
12:00 PM ET

Washington's Secret Society

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Less than a year ago, President Barack Obama (then, a mere candidate) was storming the campaign trail making some of those “Come on kids, let’s change government for the better!” promises that enthralled the fans. And among them was this little gem. He said as he prepared his health care initiative, he would not merely insist on keeping his meetings open, but also “have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.”

Maybe my cable company has done another of those squirrelly channel realignments, but somehow I’ve missed that reality show. Instead, the Obama Administration, much like the Clinton Administration years ago, has held virtually all of its health care meetings on this signature subject in private, doors closed, with “do not disturb” signs hanging outside.

This White House has prided itself on transparency and President Obama has certainly been much more prone to holding town meetings, press conferences, and public appearances than many (heck, maybe all) of his predecessors. But when it comes to the messy negotiations over health care, a thick privacy curtain has been drawn around the public backroom, and critics from the right, left, and middle are taking notice.


July 24th, 2009
11:38 AM ET

Ready for her close-up

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/23/palin.spotlight/art.palin.gi.jpg caption="Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a strong base of supporters, as well as a steady supply of vocal critics."]
Suzy Khimm
The New Republic

When Sarah Palin abruptly announced that she was planning to leave office, it was clear whom she blamed for her early exit. "I wish you'd hear MORE from the media of your state's progress and how we tackle Outside interests–daily–SPECIAL interests that would stymie our state," she said in her July 3 resignation speech, which she later posted on her website. Blasting her adversaries for paralyzing the Alaska governor's office with charges of "frivolous ethics violations," Palin and her representatives accused these unnamed "Outside interests" of harming her ability to govern after returning from the presidential campaign. "There were some complaints that were filed under pseudonyms that we believe came from down in the lower 48," Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, told Fox News. "There is a connection to the Democratic Party in the lower 48."

There's no doubt that Alaska's state government has been paralyzed since Palin's return, with anger and frustration emanating from both the governor's office and the state legislature. All of Palin's major bills failed to pass this year's first 90-day session. But conversations with both Republican and Democratic legislators reveal that Palin's inability to get anything done has little to do with the media attacks the Alaska governor claims drove her from office. The lawmakers say it has more to do with how national exposure changed her, moving her much further to the right than she had been and making her nearly impossible to work with. And state Republicans seem just as incensed about it as the Democrats.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
July 24th, 2009
11:21 AM ET

Blown deadline, blown chance?

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Carrie Budoff Brown and Chris Frates

With his August deadline now dead, President Barack Obama must hope the prospects for health reform this year haven’t expired as well — but the backsliding and bitter words on Capitol Hill this week show just how much his sweeping plan is at risk.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision Thursday not to seek a Senate vote on health reform before the recess means the House most likely won’t act either — putting the votes off until September.

The delay opens the most ambitious legislative initiative in more than 40 years to a month of fierce scrutiny as special-interest groups ramp up what was already expected to be a firestorm of ads, organizing and lobbying. Democrats will head home without a single plan to promote, complicating efforts to counter a suddenly more cohesive Republican opposition built around the plan’s trillion-dollar price tag.

And although the end of the year is still five months away, the job becomes exponentially harder as the days tick down toward the 2010 election.


Filed under: President Barack Obama
July 24th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Post-racial America looks pretty racial to me

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/24/officer.gates.arrest/art.jim.crowley.wcvb.jpg caption="Sgt. Jim Crowley says he is disappointed President Obama opined on the matter without having all the facts. "]
Lawrence Bobo
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ain’t nothing post-racial about the United States of America.

I say this because my best friend, an affluent, middle-aged black man, was arrested at his home after showing identification to a white police officer who was responding to a burglary call. Though the officer determined that my friend was the resident of the house and that no burglary was in progress, he placed my friend in handcuffs, put him in a police cruiser and had him “processed” at our local police station.

This outrage did not happen at night. It did not happen to an unknown urban black man. It happened, midday, to internationally known scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.

I believe the police officer was motivated by anger that my friend had not immediately complied with the officer’s initial command to step out of the house. In hindsight, I think Skip did the right thing; he could have been injured (if not worse) had he stepped out of his home before showing his ID. Black Americans recall all too well that Amadou Diallo reached for his identification in a public space when confronted by police and, 41 gunshots later, became the textbook case of deadly race-infected police bias.

Skip, 58, is one of the most readily recognized black men in America and the most broadly influential black scholar of this generation. And in the liberal, politically correct cocoon of “the People’s Republic of Cambridge,” a famous, wealthy black man was arrested on his front porch for “disorderly conduct.” Whatever that means.


Filed under: 360° Radar
July 24th, 2009
10:21 AM ET

Professor’s arrest tests beliefs on racial progress

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/23/officer.gates.arrest/art.gates.cnn.jpg caption="Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after a reported break-in."]
Susan Saulny and Robbie Brown
The New York Times

Ralph Medley, a retired professor of philosophy and English who is black, remembers the day he was arrested on his own property, a rental building here in Hyde Park where he was doing some repair work for tenants.

A concerned neighbor had called the police to report a suspicious character. And that was not the first time Mr. Medley said he had been wrongly apprehended. A call Mr. Medley placed to 911 several years ago about a burglary resulted with the police showing up to frisk him.

“But I’m the one who called you!” he said he remembers pleading with the officers.

Like countless other blacks around the country, Mr. Medley was revisiting his encounters with the police as a national discussion about race and law enforcement unfolded after the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s prominent scholar of African-American history. Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct July 16 at his home in Cambridge, Mass., as the police investigated a report of a possible break-in there. The charge was later dropped, and the Cambridge Police Department said the incident was “regrettable and unfortunate.”


Filed under: 360° Radar
July 24th, 2009
10:03 AM ET
July 24th, 2009
09:58 AM ET

Obama's rush to judgment on police

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Maria (Maki) Haberfeld
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

We teach our children to think about what others feel before they act, but as grown-ups we frequently assume we understand what others do without ever having walked in their shoes.

President Obama expressed his opinion about a police officer's interaction with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. "The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home," the president said.

Was it stupid behavior or was it an understandable result of police procedure - the culture, or rather sub-culture, of this profession. People depend on police in a time of trouble but are quicker than lightning to judge harshly when things go wrong. But the most important question in this case is: Did they go wrong?

One needs to understand that the interaction between a police officer and a suspect is just part of a larger context.

When a neighbor calls the police to report a burglary in progress and a police officer is dispatched to respond, a decision-making process begins for the officer.

Police work is about sub-cultural contexts, about war stories, about suspicion, about unpredictability, about danger and fear for one's life. Police officers make their decisions based not just on a given situation but also based on their prior experience, the experience of those they have worked with and the stories they have heard about incidents that happened in the past.

A call to respond to a burglary in progress generates a series of images that prepare a police officer for an encounter - a dangerous encounter that can possibly end with a loss of life.


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