April 28, 2008

Edwards Endorsment Being Pushed at North Carolina Primaries

That is where John and Elizabeth Edwards retreated after he dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination on Jan. 30. Neither Mr. Edwards, a former North Carolina Senator, nor Mrs. Edwards have endorsed a candidate. However, with the increasingly intense race between Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama landing in Edwards own state, the pressure is on for him to endorse a candidate, reports the New York Times.

“I don’t get it,? said Kathi Lewis of Wilmington, as she waited with two friends for Senator Clinton to arrive at a campaign event Sunday evening. “We were just talking about it on the way over here. It’s too bad he’s not the candidate, but if he endorsed, it would sway people in one direction or the other.?

Clinton’s supporters, in particular, are anxious for the endorsment, hoping their endorsement would narrow the race and increase Clinton’s chances against a leading Obama.

“People talk about it all the time,? said Alina Szmant, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “The rumor on the street is that he’s holding out for a V.P. position.?

This week, he Edwards family planned to decamp for Disney World, away from the campaign events grabbing headlines throughout the state.

One former aide said that Mr. Edwards is angling for a role in a Democratic administration, and with the contest still undecided, he is hesitant to commit to a candidate.

“He doesn’t want to pick the loser,? the aide said.

While several of Edwards close aides have come out with endorsments for Obama, Mrs. Edwards has made it clear that she favors Clinton; aides said she has recently tried to persuade Edwards to do the same.

Although Edwards and Clinton have clashed in debates, more recently, their relationship has warmed, and they speak on the phone regularly.

Some, though, said the Edwardses’ influence is overstated.

“We don’t wake up every day wondering who John Edwards is going to endorse for president,? said Dan Baden, the director of the Center for Marine Science Research in Wilmington. “I don’t think it’s a factor at all.?

April 15, 2008

Pope Expresses Shame Over Priests’ Sexual Abuse

Pope Benedict XVI, on the airplane for his first visit to the United States on Tuesday, said that he was “deeply ashamed? by the Roman Catholic Church’s child sexual-abuse scandals in the United States, and said it is causing “great suffering? for the church and “me personally,? reports the New York Times.

He addressed the scandal in the U.S. that has produced more than 5,000 sexual abuse victims since it erupted in 2002 and cost the church more than $2 billion.

The Pope said he is personally injured by the abuse scandal and said the church is increasing its efforts to get pedophiles out of the priesthood.

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,? he said. “As I read the histories of those victims it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way. Their mission was to give healing, to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.?

The Pontiff seemed to be linking pedophila to homosexuality saying, “I would not speak at this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia which is another thing. And we would absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.?

“Who is guilty of pedophilia cannot be a priest,? he added.

Church officials were going to go through seminaries to assure that preisthood candidates have no such tendencies. “We’ll do all that is possible to have a strong discernment, because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests.?

“We hope that we can do, and we have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.?

The Pope has expressed his views on the issues before, refering to the abusing priests as 'filth', but has done or said or done little publicly about the abuse issue until now.

"One of the repercussions of the child abuse scandals in the United States is that lay Catholics across the country are demanding more financial accountability from their bishops and more control over decisions, particularly when it comes to parishes," reported the New York Times.

The Pope will spend several days in the Washington area before traveling to New York to hold services, address the United Nations and visit a synagogue.

April 8, 2008

General Resists Troop Withdrawl from Iraq

The commander of multinational forces in Iraq refused to offer an estimate of American force levels by the end of this year on Tuesday, reports the New York Times.

Gen. David H. Petraeus warned Congress against removing “too many troops too quickly. ? He was met by sharp criticism from senior Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, that the Bush administration had adopted “a war plan with no exit strategy.?

General Petraeus said that security progress has been “significant but uneven.? He declined to estimate American troop levels beyond the withdrawal by July of five additional combat brigades sent to Iraq last year.

He recommend a 45-day pause in which senators could review once again whether there should be further troop reductions. He called it a period of “consolidation and evaluation.?

“This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit,? General Petraeus said. “This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable. However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.?

Senator Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that Bush’s attempt at creating “breathing room? for political progress by sending five additional combat brigades last year “has not been achieved.?

“That reality leads many of us to once again challenge President Bush’s policies,? Levin said.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican Party presidential nominee, called rapid withdrawal from Iraq "reckless and irresponsible", and said an early departure of American troops would be “a failure of moral and political leadership.?

"It is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq and the outcome of our efforts there," McCain said.

March 31, 2008

HUD Cheif Resigns

Alphonso R. Jackson, the top U.S. housing official, resigned on Monday under federal suspicion and investigating into possible lucrative housing contracts, reports the New York Times.

Jackson said he needs to spend more time with his family, but the timing of his resignation, effective April 18, also comes as the Bush administration is increasingly relying on the department’s Federal Housing Administration to help stanch the widening foreclosures.

“There comes a time when one most attend more diligently to personal and family matters,? Jackson said in the 10th floor briefing room of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “ Now is such a time for me.?

“Seven years ago, President Bush gave me an extraordinary opportunity to serve HUD and the nation,? said Jackson, who first joined the department as deputy secretary in 2001. “As the son of a lead smelter and nurse midwife, and as the last of 12 children, never did I imagine I’d serve America in such a way. I am truly grateful for the opportunity," reports the New York Times.

The pressure to resign has been increasing for Jackson in the past few weeks. The FBI has interviewed several of his employees, and two senior Democratic senators called on him to resign. "Lawmakers have also raised concerns about accusations that Mr. Jackson had threatened to withdraw federal aid from the Philadelphia Housing Authority after its president refused to turn over a $2 million property to a politically connected developer," reports the New York Times.

According to MSNBC, The FBI has been examining the ties between Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Jackson's department as a construction manager in New Orleans. Jackson's friend got the job after Jackson asked a staff member to pass along his name to the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

The Philadelphia housing authority also alleges that Jackson retaliated against the agency because it refused to award a vacant lot worth $2 million to "soul-music producer-turned-community developer Kenny Gamble" for redevelopment of a public housing complex.

March 27, 2008

Puerto Rico Governor Faces Charges

Aníbal S. Acevedo Vilá, the governor of Puerto Rico, has been charged with 19 criminal counts related to the financing of three political campaigns from 1999 to 2004,reports the New York Times.

Among the charges was, "conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, wire fraud and illegally using campaign funds for his personal use," according to a federal indictment unsealed on Thursday.

12 of Mr. Acevedo’s political associates on the Caribbean island and in the United States were also charged with participation in the various schemes. The indictment stemmed from a grand jury investigation that lasted more than two years.

“Electoral fraud undermines the essence of our representative form of government and operates to the detriment of every Puerto Rican,? said Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Vélez, the United States attorney in San Juan.

The governor and the other defendants face possible prison terms of 3 to 20 years and fines of up to $250,000 on each count if convicted, the authorities said.

But Acevedo denies all charges, saying that the indictment was “the result of three years of leaks, rumors and spectacle designed to harm me," reports the New York Times.

Acevedo also gave a false testimony to the FBI, and The 55-page indictment alleges that Acevedo also personally helped a group of Philadelphia-area businessmen in their efforts to obtain Puerto Rican government contracts after they delivered illegal campaign contributions from their own staff and family members, according to MSNBC.

“Nobody is above the law. We all lose when electoral processes are compromised ... for our part, we are not politicians, we do not make political decisions,? Rodrigez said.

March 13, 2008

SNL Pro-Clinton

Lorne Michaels has declined claims that have accused his show, “Saturday Night Live,? of favoring Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton during primiares with Senator Barack Obama, reports the New York Times.

“I’m in show business and I never, ever forget that,? Michaels said in a telephone interviewwith New York Times on Tuesday night. “We put on a comedy show.?

“SNL? has put itself back into the national discussion for a series of sketches that have centered on the premise that Mrs. Clinton has been the target of an unfair press that see Obama as a star. Tina Fey, the former “SNL? star who returned on Feb. 23 to be the host of the first show after the recent writers’ strike, also provided a very open endorsment of Senator Clinton saying, “Bitches get stuff done.?

Some say that such sketches have helped Clinton gain victories in both Ohio and Texas, and has made the press look more critically at Sentator Obama. However, this isn't the first time "SNL" has been accused of political rallying. Many feel sketches about president Bush in the past have tried to sway viewers towards Al Gore.

Michaels, who has been the executive producer of “SNL? off and on since 1975, said that he was happy the show had benefited from the attention (the Feb. 23 show attracted 7.5 million viewers, the biggest audience for the show in a year) but that he still worried about such a perception.

“I’m sensitive to the suggestion that we’re in the service of Hillary Clinton this year,? he said. “That obviously is not the case.? He added, “We don’t lay down for anybody.?

March 10, 2008

Spitzer Linked to Prostituion Scandal

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, reported the New York Times.

The wiretap captured Spitzer on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to a Washington hotel room, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Manhattan. Spitzermade a brief public appearance today during which he apologized for his behavior, describing it as, “private matter.?

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,? said Spitzer. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.?

Spitzer spoke with his wife at his side, and the New York Times reported that both looked on the verge of tears. When asked about his political future, Spitzer did not respond.

Prostitution cases rarely make it to the federal court because they are seen as state crimes. But the Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, states that human trafficking is criminal when it inovles transporting people between states.

According to the Constiution, should Spitzer resign, the lieutenant governor, David A. Paterson, would become governor for the remainder of Spitzer’s term.

March 4, 2008

Possiblitiy of More Dams in West

The West and Northwest's booming population and increasing concerns about climate change have governments studying the construction of dams to capture winter rain and spring snowmelt for use in the dry summer months, reported MSNBC.

“The West and the Northwest are increasing in population growth like never before,? said John Redding, regional spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Boise. “How do you quench the thirst of the hungry masses??, MSNBC reproted.

The West and Northwest states era of excessive dam construction ended in 1966 with the completion of Glen Canyon Dam. However, the population of the area grew by nearly 20 percent in the 1990s to more than 64 million, and continues to increase even as climate change poses new threats to the water supply.

There are environmental concerns present and in opposition to the idea of creating new dams. Other ideas for increasing water supplies in the West have been presented and include conservation, pipelines to carry water from the mountains, desalination plants to make drinking water from the ocean,storing water in natural underground aquifers, and small dams to serve local areas.

"Most of those ideas are much more popular than big new dams," says MSNBC.

February 26, 2008

Recent Polls Show Obama Likely to Beat Out McCain

Senator Barack Obama has gained strong hold among Democratic voters, "and is now viewed by most Democrats as the candidate best able to defeat Senator John McCain," reported the New York Times.

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, Obama has made major gains across most demographic groups in the Democratic Party, including liberals and moderates, higher- and lower-income voters,men and women,and people of varying levels of college education.

However the news poll showed that Obama has a weak following in certain areas. "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is still viewed by more Democrats as better prepared for the job of president. And while he has made progress among women, he still faces a striking gender gap: Mr. Obama is backed by two-thirds of the Democratic men and 45 percent of the women," reported the New York Times.

The theme of better preparedness is not limited to the Democratic Party. The poll also indicated that people also felt that the likely Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, is also more prepared to handle the presidency that either Obama or Clinton.

However Obama still seems to be making gains. The news poll shows that Obama’s coalition has increased greatly. "In December, for example, he had the support of 26 percent of the male Democratic primary voters; in the latest poll, that figure had climbed to 67 percent," reported the NYT/CBS news poll.

About 60% of pollers say he has the best chance of beating McCain, double the numbers who believed Clinton could. His campagin for change also seems to have made an effect as more people thought he would be able to bring about "real change" to the country.

February 20, 2008

Clinton and McCain Focus on Obama

With Senator Barack Obama having won primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday, Hilary Rodham Clinton and John McCain are on the offensive towards the Illionois senator, reported the New York Times.

Clinton has now lost 10 contests in a row since Super Tuesday.Clinton must win the party’s next two major contests, in Texas and Ohio, on March 4. According to David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Mr. Obama, Obama had amassed a 159-delegate lead over Clinton, who would need to win in Texas and Ohio by double-digitsin order to stay competitive in the fight for delegates.

Wednesday, in a speech at Hunter College in Manhattan, Clinton charged that Obama has "substituted rhetoric for practical experience," reported the New York Times.

It is time to get real,? Clinton said. “To get real about how we actually win this election and get real about the challenges facing America. It’s time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions,? said the New York Times.

Senator John McCain, essentially assured of the Republican nomination, has turned his attention to Mr. Obama as well, calling him out, yet again, on his need to pledge to abide by the limits of public financing for the campaign.

February 12, 2008

Immigrants Flee From Arizona

The weakening economy and recent curbs on illegal immigration are steering Hispanic immigrants out of Arizona, the New York Times reported.

Immigrant families moving out of apartment complexes, students are dropping out of school, and business owners are complaining about a declining clientel. The state has recently enacted one of the country’s toughest laws to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and many think this may be the cause of immigrant flight. This combination of factors causes “ a disincentive to stay in the state,? says Frank Pierson, lead organizer of the Arizona Interfaith Network, which advocates for immigrants’ rights and other causes.

Although some see the decrease in illegal immigrants as a negative to the economy, others are pleased by the results. “The desired effect was, we don’t have the red carpet out for illegal aliens,? said State Representative Russell K. Pearce, a Republican from Mesa and leading advocate of the crackdown on illegal immigration. He adds that while “most of these are good people? they are a “tremendous burden? on public services.

Signatures are being gathered for two ballot initiatives, one that would toughen the law on employers knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, and another meant to soften it. Would both end up on the November ballot, the one with the most votes would be enforced.

February 5, 2008

Bush's Budget Would Increase Federal Deficit

President Bush proposed a $3.1 million budget to Congress Monday that would place the country $250 million further into debt, reported the New York Times.

The budget proposed an increase in military spending and would curb the growth of Medicare and Medicaid. He also wants to make his tax cuts permanent and pledged to balance the budget by 2012. But the budget proposal has almost no chance of being passed, as even Republicans admitted its value was mostly symbolic.

For Bush this final budget offers a chance to rewrite his fiscal history, which has often been critisized by more economic conservatives. One such conservative, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee said that he didn't feel the President worked very hard on the proposal. “It’s almost a pro forma exercise,? he said.

However, despite dwindling support, the president still feels his proposal is legitimate. “This is a good, solid budget,? he said at the White House on Monday morning.

According to budget documents released Monday by the White House, federal debt held by the public has grown substantially. Debt held by the public stood at $3.3 trillion in 2001, when Bush took office, and is expected to climb to $5.4 trillion this year and $5.9 trillion by 2009 under Bush's budget.

January 29, 2008

Final Bush Speech Looks Back Instead of Ahead

President Bush's final State of the Union address Monday night at Capitol Hill focused on the continuing war in Iraq, and a speedy passage of his tax rebate package, the New York Times reported.

A prevelant theme of the president's speech was future uncertainty. “As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty,? Bush said, including that “at kitchen tables across the country, there is concern about our economic future," reported the New York Times.

Although the White House ensured that the speech would look ahead, the president's speech was more a summation of the past seven years. “We have faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens,? Bush said. “These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve answered that call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose.?

Bush mentioned little about forgein affairs, but made a strong push for signiture education bill, No Child Left Behind, and an agenda to provide low-income students with $300 million in scholarship money. He hopes that this plan will lower high school dropout rates, and aid struggling schools.

With 51 weeks left in his predidency, Bush indicates that he will move forward, but not drastically. It seems that the president plans on taking small steps towards change, and indicates that there will be both war and economic hardships in the future.