Recently in National News Category

Obama subpoenaed in Blagojevich case

According to an article from the AP, the defense lawyers for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich have asked a for a subpoena Thursday of President Barack Obama for Blagojevich's corruption case.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the defense lawyers say that there is some pertinent information to the case that only the president and the former governor know. This information could possibly prove the governor innocent.

The filing of the subpoena request had much "classified" information redacted, but a "computer glitch" has allowed the full redaction to be posted on the Internet.

Security officials for the president have requested that a pre-recorded video of Obama's testimony be used in the case, rather than having the president present in the courtroom.

Dems. and White House team up to push financial reform

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have united once again to back a bill that creates new financial reform earlier this week, reported The New York Times.

The new bill looks to curb risk-taking expenditures by large financial firms--the cause of the 2008 recession--and put such companies under the oversight of the Federal Reserve. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury would be able to "take over any company that posed systemic risk to financial stability, and essentially force the company out of business."

But Republicans have rigidly opposed the bill. All 41 Republican senators signed a letter promising to filibuster once the bill hits the floor in the coming week, according to ABC News.

In response, President Obama and other leading Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Christopher Dodd have harshly admonished the Party of No for trying to halt the reform. Republicans have been accused of working in favor of Wall Street.

The impetus for the reform, reported ABC News, was the federal governments recent civil suit against Goldman Sachs for mortgage fraud.

Obama requires hospitals to give visitation rights to LGBT couples

A recent article from Reuters reported that President Obama wrote a memo to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that LGBT couples should be allowed to visit their partners in the hospital.

In his memo, Obama ordered that all hospitals that receive Medicaid or Medicare should adhere to his new policy, according to The L.A. Times.

"Every day across America, patients are denied the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay," Obama wrote. President Obama also noted that hospitals deny visitation to widows or widowers without children and people of religious orders when the patient has no relatives.

The memo marks a big step for the Obama administration in LGBT politics. Supporting the LGBT movement and giving more rights to homosexual couples was one of President Obama's platforms during his campaign and now, over a year into his presidency, he has been slow to act on the issue. But since January, President Obama has been looking to repeal the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

E.P.A.'s Regulations on Water Pollution Affect Mining Industry

The Environmental Protection Agency enacted new regulations Thursday that set higher standards for permissible water pollution, and in doing so forced the mining industry to change their practices, said The New York Times.

The administrator for the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson, said, "The underpinning of the guidance is a growing body of science demonstrating that devastation of ecosystems in Appalachian states is being caused by mountaintop mining," according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Mountaintop mining is a process wherein the top of a mountain is detonated to expose the valuable minerals within. The rubble is then deposited in a valley, where rain runoff can pick up dangerous metals and minerals, increasing the water's conductivity and ruining natural ecosystems.

Mining companies have called the E.P.A.'s new regulations "disingenuous" and claimed that the rules would effect the job market in already poor states like West Virginia and Kentucky.

March job report promising, but still a long way to go...

162,000 new jobs were added to the United States economy in March, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday, reported The New York Times.

The report revealed the best improvements to the economy in the last three years, although the economy, though slowly strengthening, is still far from full recovery, said The Chicago Tribune.

The New York Times said the figures for March, though promising, were inflated due to the 48,000 temporary workers the government hired for the census and the fact that the snowstorms that harangued the East Coast in February kept more people out of work than anticipated.

Also, many of the jobs created in March were part-time positions, and the people that filled them were looking for full-time work. This caused the underemployment rate to rise from 16.8 percent to 16.9.

Even though the economy and the jobs market has yet a steep hill yet to climb, President Obama called the report "the best news we've seen on the job front in more than two years."

Changing the Rules to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

In February, I noted here on The Query the Pentagon's intentions to change the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Now, NPR reported that preliminary changes to the policy have indeed been made.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced at a press conference on Thursday the major changes which essentially makes pressing charges against a homosexual soldier more difficult, reported USA Today.

The changes ensure that third-party information and hearsay are not included when examining a soldier's sexuality. Also, the bar has been raised on the rank of officer who can authorize investigations and discharges.

The new procedures will be enacted across the entire military immediately. Although, many Democratic lawmakers, including the president and Sen. Carl Levin, call for a full repeal of the exclusive policy.

In response to the calls for repeal, Mullen and Gates said that it is important to wait for results from a governmental research study about the policy due to for completion in December in order to make a comprehensive decision.

White House Scouts 3 Officials for Fed Board

The White House identified three possible candidates, two economists and one lawyer, Friday for the openings on the Federal Reserve Board, according to an article in The New York Times.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the officials are Jane Yellen, current president of the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, Peter Diamond, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, and Sarah Raskin, a Harvard graduate currently serving as commissioner on Maryland's board of financial regulation.

But the candidates are not yet official nominees. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Yellen is "a leading contender" for vice chairwoman while the other candidates are "under strong consideration for additional vacancies."

The candidates represent a wide range of financial experience and expertise. Yellen concentrates on creating jobs and economic growth, Diamond's strength is Social Security, and Raskin promotes more financial regulation.

These views could bring a new outlook to a Federal Reserve Board that has been more focused on decreasing inflation and interest rates in recent years.

Nation's Capital Allows Same-Sex Marriage

LGBT citizens of Washington, D.C., were granted the opportunity to apply for marriage licenses Wednesday, according to an article in The New York Times.

The District of Columbia now joins five other regions across the country that allow same-sex marriage, including Iowa, West Va., N.H., Mass., and Conn.

Couples of all ages and ethnicities lined up at the Moultrie Courthouse to apply for their licenses early on Wednesday morning. Tears and exclamations of joy pervaded the scene, reported The Washington Post.

Only a handful of protesters from Kansas arrived, but many more college students LGBT alliance members provided support to those receiving their historic licenses.

The event came after a long-awaited legislative debacle. In December, the city's same-sex marriage bill passed easily with a 11-2 vote in the city council, which has two openly gay members. But since the nation's capital is not part of any state, the legislation had to go under Congressional review, which finally passed on Tuesday.

In the wake of Washington's new law, more states are looking at a same-sex marriage option. Maryland may begin to recognize same-sex couples married in other states, and Minn., just proposed a same-sex marriage law in the State Senate.

Obama revives health care debate with his own proposal

In what the New York Times is calling a gamble, President Obama introduced his own health care overhaul plan Monday, thus reviving the heated debate of national health care.

The president's $950 billion proposal is based mostly off of the original bill that appeared in the Senate, according to The Chicago Tribune. But there are still differences between the two documents.

For example, Obama's plan eliminates the special Nebraska Medicaid bargain and also offers less strict language on abortion insurance.

By basing the proposal on the Senate bill, the president would be able to employ a parliamentary tactic known as budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority in order to pass legislation. In this way, the Democrats can avoid an obstructive Republican filibuster.

The White House did offer the Republicans a chance to create their own version of a health care plan that could be posted alongside the president's on the Web. But many Republican legislators find the presidents actions subversive, especially only four days before the health care summit, which has been highly-publicized to be bipartisan.

Plane crashes into Texas IRS building

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A single-engine plane crashed into a seven-story office building that housed both IRS and FBI offices on Thursday, causing a massive fire that left thirteen people injured, two of whom were hospitalized, according to The New York Times. Federal and local officials are calling the event a criminal act.

The pilot was identified by authorities as Joseph A. Stack III. A recent publication on Stack's Website, signed in his name, denotes much animosity toward the federal government, especially the tax system and lack of health care. Authorship has not yet been confirmed as Stack's, though federal officials are still investigating.

But it is this quote that keyed officials in to the author's violent intentions:

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different," the note concluded. "I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

The web post was signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)."

Federal officials say that the incident is not linked to an organization or a greater plot. Though as a precaution, the North American Aerospace Defense Command sent two F-16 fighter jets as a part of antiterrorism protocol.

Also Thursday morning, in an event that has not yet been confirmed to be connected to the crash, NPR reported that Stack's home caught fire, causing Stack's wife and daughter to seek safety at a neighbors house.

Stack reportedly had tax problems. Both local and federal officials continue to investigate the incident.

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