October 30th, 2009
02:02 PM ET

Is the GI Bill just an IOU?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/10/17/u.s.iraq.troops/art.u.s.troops.iraq.jpg caption="U.S. troops speak to an Iraqi child in Baghdad"]
Linsay Rousseau Burnett
LA Times

In the military, I learned to expect screw-ups, especially when it came to money. So maybe the Department of Veterans Affairs is just trying to ease my transition to civilian life by doing things the military way in its handling of Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits.

Student veterans began applying for education benefits in May, and we were supposed to have our tuition paid and receive our housing and book stipends in August. That didn't happen. Instead, more than two months into the school year, most of us have received nothing, although the VA is graciously offering to advance us emergency checks of up to $3,000 to ease the economic burden of not yet receiving the money we were promised.

Along with healthcare, job experience and a steady paycheck, the GI Bill was one of my primary reasons for joining the Army in 2004. I went into the military - and spent a year in Kirkuk province in northern Iraq - with the express intention of pursuing graduate studies when my contract was up. Truth be told, I wouldn't be writing this column right now, as a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, were it not for the GI Bill. Or at least for the promise of the GI Bill.


Filed under: Military
October 30th, 2009
01:03 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: White House says stimulus created 650,000 jobs

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The first quarter of economic growth in more than a year was a cause for celebration yesterday, albeit one tempered by the realization that until job creation picks up, any recovery will not be felt on Main Street for some time.

Today, the Obama Administration weighed in on that subject, saying the largest stimulus program in the nation's history has created or saved about 650,000 state and local jobs.

Based on approximately $150 billion in spending from the $787 billion recovery package, the tally is the first broad, concrete look at the stimulus program's impact on the economy. The numbers are drawn from tens of thousands of reports from state and local recipients as well as private companies.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Andrew Torgan • Economy
October 30th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Is that you, coffin?

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Long before Washington became the killing ground for health care’s public option, it was a popular place for young doctors to get their start tending to the ailments of the influential; and a busy town for grave robbers who supplied…well, let’s call them lab assistants…to the aspiring medicos. Prowling cemeteries in the DC darkness, they looked for freshly turned earth to turn a profit. And each year around Halloween the story-telling crowd here digs up tales of the undead who still supposedly haunt the seat of government. And no, Ralph Nader does not count.

Abraham Lincoln has generated the most stories of paranormal activity. He, quite famously, dreamed of his own assassination. In the almost century-and-a-half since it came to pass, a great many White House visitors have reported his spectral form roaming the halls. Winston Churchill allegedly shared a bowl of soup with Honest Abe, who kept saying, “Is this cold, or is it just me?” Something like that.

President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, was widely reported to have dragged sleepover friends and a Ouija Board into the Lincoln bedroom to try a little inter-realm instant-messaging with him. And people have for decades claimed that they’ve seen Lincoln’s funeral train, blue, silent and glowing along the tracks outside of DC.


Filed under: Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
October 30th, 2009
11:41 AM ET

Stimulus creates 650,000 jobs

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Tami Luhby
CNNMoney.com senior writer

The largest stimulus program in the nation's history has created or saved about 650,000 jobs, Obama administration officials said Friday.

Based on approximately $150 billion in spending from the $787 billion recovery package, the tally is the first broad, concrete look at the stimulus program's impact on the economy. The numbers are drawn from tens of thousands of reports from state and local recipients and include as many as 30,000 jobs from private companies.

The White House continued to maintain that the actual number of jobs created so far is closer to 1 million. The reports did not reflect measures such as tax cuts, boosted unemployment benefits or jobs created indirectly by stimulus spending. A total of $339 billion has been drawn down so far under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Economy
October 30th, 2009
11:25 AM ET

50on50 Countdown: My Under Armour Shopping Spree


Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

The other day I went to Sports Authority to buy a few ping pong balls for my children. I left with two arms full of high-tech athletic wear. I practically tripped over it: the mother lode of Under Armour. I grabbed everything in sight. Layer after layer. Long sleeve. Short sleeve. Cold gear. Heat gear. I even grabbed a pair of those tight-fitting spandex-type jogging pants. The person wearing them was shocked.

And so, as I checked out, weighed down, I had to ask myself, is this typical behavior of a man 48 days from turning 50? Am I a typical customer of Under Armour and the other popular athletic performance brands? Or, given my age, am I a potential brand killer? If the younger demo sees people my age jogging down the street in "compression wear" will they run the other way? I called Under Armour's chief of marketing to find out.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/30/muscle.mike.jpg caption="The author, Michael Schulder, in his new workout shirt." width=292 height=320]

The Gear

I hoped my spontaneous Under Armour shopping spree was more evidence that the highly prized 18-49 year old audience demo is a myth – that the 49 year old "cutoff" is arbitrary and meaningless given the 2009 lifestyle.

I was shocked – not appalled – but shocked to have the Senior VP of Marketing for Under Armour, Steve Battista, reveal the age range of his company's core consumer. Hint: "We have a definite target that skews young."

18- 49?

Nice try.

How about "8-24." That is not a typo. Under Armour's core demo begins at age 8, and lasts until 24. Based on that assessment, I concluded that I MAY not have behaved like the typical on-the-verge-of-50 year old during my Under Armour shopping spree.


Filed under: Michael Schulder
October 30th, 2009
11:18 AM ET

Secretary of state urges openness between U.S., Pakistan

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday she did not come to Pakistan for "happy talk."

Her three-day trip is aimed at getting frank, open discussions going about the fight against terrorism - and that includes presenting U.S. concerns, she said.

In an interview with CNN, Clinton said it's time to "clear the air" with a key U.S. ally. She added, "I don't think the way you deal with negative feelings is to pretend they're not there."

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Pakistan
October 30th, 2009
10:28 AM ET

Take talk of food racism with grain of salt

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/30/bob.griese.jpg caption="ESPN broadcaster Bob Griese has been suspended for one week for a comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya."]

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board, a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to CNN.com.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

This week, I was on a talk radio show when the host - a white male conservative (what are the odds?) - asked me if Americans are so sensitive that we now have to worry about "food racism."

When I first heard the phrase, I thought he was talking about the time that Hillary Clinton, during the Democratic primary, went looking for Latino votes in a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trying to explain to her mostly Mexican-American audience that Americans' concerns are intertwined, Clinton wound up showing everyone that her knowledge of Latino issues is a side order short of a combination plate when she said condescendingly:

"We treat these problems as if one is guacamole and one is chips, when ... they both go together."

Gulp! I remember thinking at the time: "Ay gracias, Señora Clinton. I have difficulty with challenging political issues, but now you're speaking my language. Come on, donkey!"

Instead, the radio host was talking about the latest tempest - a taco in a teapot. One of the most recent skirmishes in the culture wars is about a Latino race car driver and a TV broadcaster who spun out and hit the wall after telling a lame joke that some are calling racist.

Keep reading...

October 30th, 2009
10:07 AM ET

Ron Paul: Let the dollar prove itself

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Editor's note: Ron Paul is an 11-term Republican U.S. representative from Texas who made a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. His book, "End the Fed," was recently published by Grand Central Publishing.

Ron Paul
Special to CNN

A growing number of Americans are becoming aware of the Federal Reserve System, what it is, how it has precipitated our financial crisis, and how it continues to pursue policies that delay economic recovery and weaken the dollar.

The Fed's actions, combined with the federal government's bailout bills and stimulus packages, have struck a nerve in the American people.

Recent polls have shown that more than 75 percent of Americans support efforts to audit the Fed, something which my bill, HR 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, aims to do. HR 1207 has the support of 304 members of Congress, and the Senate version of the bill, S. 604, is supported by 31 U.S. senators.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has embarked on an ambitious program of monetary expansion, more than doubling the monetary base to almost $1.9 trillion and doubling the size of its balance sheet to over $2 trillion, placing the American economy in a precarious position.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Raw Politics • Ron Paul
October 30th, 2009
08:48 AM ET

An Iraqi woman clings to faith in the midst of horror

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Charity Tooze
AC360° Contributor

Hana Al Badree, not her real name, a 57-year-old Iraqi refugee living in Amman, Jordan, had just received a message from Iraq when I called to check on her. Al Badree’s 12-year-old nephew had just died.

He jumped over a fence attempting to retrieve a ball in his Baghdad neighborhood when he fell on his head. Her last surviving brother, his father, then went into cardiac arrest due to the shock of his son’s death.

Al Badree’s life has spanned two wars. She has lost nearly a dozen family members to violence. She said this was her “fate.” This was not the first time Al Badree had said this. Now, her gravelly voice struggled to conceal the onslaught of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her.

One week earlier, I had served her hummus and black tea garnished with mint at my apartment in downtown Amman. She had been working with me as an interpreter for five weeks while I interviewed dozens of families for a documentary. She translated my questions and lent her credibility with the community to the project. Families, who otherwise might have been less open, welcomed me and shared their stories and pain. Now it was time to interview Al Badree about what had driven her into asylum.

Because of threats of violence, we agreed to change the names of the family members for the purpose of this report.


Filed under: Middle East • Refugees • Women's Issues
October 30th, 2009
08:43 AM ET

Dear President Obama #284: The phantom jobs

Reporter's Note: The White House continues to talk about all the jobs being created by the stimulus spending, but now some of the numbers are looking a little squishy. That’s an economics term. Here is my daily ( and also somewhat squishy) letter to President Obama.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Here’s how it goes: Friends don’t let friends count jobs. I think your team needs to just quit talking about how many jobs have been “saved” or “created” under the stimulus plan. I’m not giving you a hard time, but no matter how straight up you say it, such statements always sound like political doublespeak. I mean, unless we have a really clear, distinct paper trail, how can anyone really prove that a job was “saved”?

For example, if I am running a state government office, and I give everyone a raise with my stimulus money, I might argue that some of them will stay as a result. But were those jobs actually saved? What if I shift money from my payroll budget to buy much needed equipment because I know stimulus money will cover the shortfall? Again, did I “save” jobs?

I spent part of the afternoon reading an Associated Press report in which they say they found instances of jobs being counted more than once, and jobs that were “created” but only lasted a month or two. I had the impression (and I suspect a lot of other voters did too) you were creating lasting jobs. Or at least more lasting than a few weeks. Imagine how you’d feel if a month after Inauguration you were told, “OK, you’ve had enough of the presidency. Pack your bags.”


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