August 25th, 2009
03:14 PM ET

CIA flap a huge headache for Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/25/gloria.borger.cia/art.cia.gi.jpg caption="The Central Intelligence Agency is under fire for harsh interrogation techniques used after 9/11."]
Gloria Borger
CNN Senior Political Analyst

No matter which way you look at it, the question is painfully difficult: What - if anything - do we do about the post 9/11 behavior of some CIA agents who worked feverishly to interrogate prisoners they believed had information that could save American lives?

First, we now know definitively what we always suspected - that agent actions were sometimes abusive, perhaps even illegal, as they tried to obtain information.

The just-released Justice Department report shows, among other things, that agents choked one detainee repeatedly and threatened to kill another prisoner's children. Not pretty stuff.

But here's what we also know, thanks to another report (purposefully) released by the CIA as a response to the Justice document: Some interrogations worked.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Gloria Borger • Torture
August 25th, 2009
03:09 PM ET

Cheney takes swipe at Obama over prosecutor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/29/art.cheneyexit0529.gi.jpg caption="Dick Cheney is criticizing the latest Obama move."]
Alexander Mooney
CNN Ticker Producer

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is again taking aim at President Obama, issuing a statement Monday suggesting the administration's decision to name a prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations under President Bush fuels "doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security."

"The people involved deserve our gratitude," Cheney said in the statement. "They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions."

The former vice president also said documents released Monday prove enhanced interrogation techniques yielded valuable information that "provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda."

"This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks," Cheney said. "These detainees also, according to the documents, played a role in nearly every capture of al Qaeda members and associates since 2002."

Keep reading...

Filed under: al Qaeda • Torture
August 25th, 2009
02:17 PM ET

U.S. students fall behind international counterparts in math, science

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/08/07/swine.flu.h1n1.schools/art.school.daj.gi.jpg caption="The National Center for Education Statistics found that the U.S. students placed below average in both math and science."]
By Sally Holland
CNN Senior Producer

American children aren't necessarily getting smarter or dumber-but that might not be good enough to compete globally.

A special analysis put out by the National Center for Education Statistics last week compares 15-year-old U.S. students with other countries in the Organization for Economic Development and found that the U.S. students placed below average in both math and science. In math, the high schoolers were in the bottom quarter of the countries that participated, putting them behind countries like Finland, China and Estonia.

According to the report, the U.S. math scores were not measurable different in 2006 than the previous scores in 2003, but as other countries have improved, the United States has remained stagnant.

As for science, the U. S. falls behind countries like Canada, Japan and the Czech Republic.


Filed under: Education
August 25th, 2009
02:01 PM ET

Video: After the Storm – Education in NOLA

Program Note: Four years after Katrina, what is New Orleans like now? Some residents continue to face challenges as the Big Easy keeps trying to rebuild. Take a look at In Depth: After the Storm. And to learn about ways you can make a difference, visit Impact Your World.

August 25th, 2009
12:45 PM ET

White House: $9 trillion in deficits

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/07/budget.congress/art.capitolrotunda.gi.jpg caption="The White House now expects the 10-year budget deficit to reach $9.05 trillion."]
Jeanne Sahadi
CNNMoney.com senior writer

The White House now expects the 10-year budget deficit to reach $9.05 trillion, roughly $2 trillion more than it estimated earlier in the year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget.

Budget office director Peter Orszag pointed to a number of measures put in place to stem the pain of the economic downturn.

"As a result of a deeper-than-expected recession, certain spending programs (such as unemployment insurance and food stamps) are projected to automatically increase and revenues are projected to automatically decline, compared to our previous projection," Orszag said in a statement.

A 10-year deficit of $9 trillion means the debt held by the public - the accumulation of all annual deficits over the decades - would reach 82% of gross domestic product. That's double the 41% recorded in 2008.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Economy
August 25th, 2009
12:38 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Obama wants Bernanke back for second term

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

President Obama announced today that he plans to nominate Ben Bernanke to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve, saying Bernanke “brought our economy back from the brink.”

Obama made the announcement this morning from Martha's Vineyard, MA, where he is vacationing.

Bernanke, a Republican who has played a central role in the government's extraordinary response to the recession and 2008 banking panic, will have to be confirmed by the Senate. His current four-year term ends on Jan. 31.

The question of Bernanke's reappointment had been the focus of much speculation. Recently, many economists and insiders had said they believed that he would more than likely keep his job.

Home prices on the upswing

Home prices may be on the road to recovery.

After three years of declines, home prices increased 3% in the three months ended June 30, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller report. That is the first quarter-over-quarter improvement in three years.

Prices in the national index are still down 15% compared with the second quarter of 2008, the report said. But that is better than the record 19% decline that was set in the first three months of 2009.

Consumer confidence soars

A key measure of consumer confidence jumped much more than predicted this month as the job market outlook and business expectations improved.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 54.1 in August from an upwardly-revised 47.4 in July. The measure is closely watched because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

Despite this month’s increase, the index remains at historically low levels. An overall reading above 90 indicates the economy is solid, and 100 or above signals strong growth.

Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN

Filed under: 360° Radar • Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Housing Market
August 25th, 2009
10:39 AM ET

Democracy can be messy

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/11/specter.town.hall/art.spector.twn.hall.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. Arlen Specter, left, answers questions Tuesday during a forum in Lebanon, Pennsylvania."]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

If we have learned – or been reminded – of one thing during the debate over health care reform it is this: Democracy can be messy, noisy, loud, raucous, rude and crude, barely resembling the stereotype of the civilized New England village town hall as depicted in Norman Rockwell’s painting titled “Freedom of Speech.”

Of course, as Winston Churchill so famously offered: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

One of the guys in the often-entertaining “Barbershop” segment on National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” program found a visual metaphor for some of the town hall gatherings in the 1999 film “Fight Club.”

Given the apathy the American people display on so many issues that may not be an entirely bad thing, though.


Filed under: David Schechter • Health Care • Raw Politics
August 25th, 2009
10:03 AM ET

Morning Buzz: The Pres and his golf buddies

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

President Obama took a break from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard this morning to nominate Ben Bernanke to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve. Obama said Bernanke’s “background, temperament, his courage, and his creativity” helped prevent another Great Depression. Do you agree?

Was the timing of this announcement choreographed to lessen the impact of today’s release of budget deficit estimates? The Congressional Budget Office and the White House are set to release separate updates of their 10-year deficit estimates. The U.S. deficit is expected to reach $9 trillion over the next 10 years – that’s $2 trillion more than they predicted at the beginning of the year. But in the short term the numbers looks better – showing a $1.58 trillion deficit for this fiscal year, which is slightly smaller than previously thought.

One of Pres. Obama’s golfing buddies yesterday was Robert Wolf, a top donor to his campaign and the president of UBS Americas – a bank at the center of a U.S. investigation into illegal tax shelters. The two men, who met about three years ago, are described as “friends.” Wolf’s firm was caught up last year in a Senate investigation of financial firms that attempted to shield millions of dollars in offshore accounts from U.S. taxes. Who decides who gets to play golf with the President? And who do you think will be out on the course today?


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
August 25th, 2009
09:34 AM ET

Liberals' passion for public option

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/25/zelizer.democrats.obama/art.julian.zelizer.courtesy.jpg caption="Julian Zelizer says the public option is a clear concept that liberal backers of health care can rally around."]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

President Obama was caught off guard by the frustration that liberals expressed at the suggestion he might drop the public option from health care reform.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that, "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option."

The proposal for the government to offer Americans health insurance as one of their options had excited many Democrats.

But the White House insists that the public option was not central to its original plan. One senior adviser complained to the Washington Post, "I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo." Still, the administration responded to its critics and again expressed support for the public option.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Health Care
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