December 7, 2008

Obama lays out plan to pick up the economy

The Star Tribune reports Saturday that President-elect Barack Obama promised the largest public works construction program since the creation of the interstate highway system.
The article says that he is seeking to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy.
With no end to the recession in sight, Obama began highlighting elements of the economic recovery program he is trying to fashion with congressional leaders. He hopes to get this moving shortly after he is sworn in on Jan. 20.
Obama is looking to expand the definition of traditional work programs for the middle class, such as infrastructure projects to repair roads and bridges.
He also wants to push a federal effort to bring in new-era jobs in technology and so-called green jobs.
"We need action -- and action now," Obama said in the Democrats' weekly address Saturday.
Obama and his team are working with congressional leaders to devise a spending package that some have suggested could total somewhere between $400 billion to $700 billion.
According to the article, "a big part of that will be public works spending, particularly on projects aimed at conserving or expanding energy supplies and cleaning up the environment."

November 30, 2008

Iowa deploys laser plows for more efficient snow removal

USA Today reports Sunday that Iowa state officials are excited about their recent efforts to plow snow with some laser-guided help.
The article reports that the Iowa Department of Transportation has installed a specially designed laser device on a half-dozen snowplow trucks statewide.
The technology of the snowplows is designed to more precisely remove snow.
According to the article, "State officials said it's an effort to eliminate damage typically caused by traditional wing plows, which can bump into mailboxes, signposts, bridge abutments and other obstructions."
Mark Turkal, a veteran Department of Transportation snowplow driver, has tried the new technology and said it's a big help and allows him to plow right on the edge of a curb without being worried.
"I know that I am not going to tear off my wing or hit a sign or anything," said Turkal.
The technology works by using a laser gear, which is located above the truck cab. The laser shoots a beam about 60 feet ahead of the truck's wing plow, alerting the driver the precise location of the blade as it clears snow on the road.

November 21, 2008

Average gasoline price falls below $2, which is the cheapest it's been since 2005 reports Friday that the average price of gasoline in the United States has fallen below $2, which is the lowest it has been since March 2005, the Department of Energy and AAA say.
The article says that the price for regular unleaded gasoline went down for the ninth week in a row, falling to $1.989 a gallon Friday.
Also, according to the article, the AAA travel club says that thirty states have gasoline prices that average under $2 a gallon.
Although consumers all across the nation are content with the falling gas prices, which is putting extra money in their pockets, there is concern some drivers may return to their gas-guzzling vehicles.
The lowered prices of gasoline prove to be a good thing for consumers, but the effects on the environment should also be considered.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman said he was aware that many people are arguing that a high "variable tax" should be put on U.S. gasoline to prevent falling pump prices from encouraging Americans to drive more while making alternative fuels less attractive. reports that such a tax hike "would be very tough to pass," Bingaman said. "I don't think something like that has much prospect of being enacted in my honest opinion."
Also, Americans pay an 18.4-cent federal tax on each gallon of gasoline they buy, plus another 29 cents on average in combined state and local taxes.

November 16, 2008

Wildfires are causing Californians to flee reports Sunday that residents of Southern California were urged to leave their homes today due to wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and blanketed the region in smoke, despite calming winds.
The article reports that fires burned in Los Angeles County, Riverside and Orange counties, in Santa Barbara County, and has affected more than 800 homes since Thursday.
According to the article, no deaths have been reported, but police brought in trained dogs Sunday morning to search the rubble of a mobile home park where nearly 500 homes were destroyed.
"This has been a very tough few days for the people of Southern California," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said after touring damage.
Fire officials ordered 1,400 more residents to evacuate Sunday morning. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said 26,500 people remained under evacuation orders for that fire alone.
A 3-square-mile fire began in the upscale Santa Barbara County community of Montecito on Thursday night, and was contained by Sunday morning. County spokesman William Boyer said that 130 homes burned in the city of Santa Barbara and that 80 burned in adjacent Montecito.
At least half of the 5,400 evacuees had been allowed to return home by Saturday night, and at least 25 people were injured in that fire.

November 9, 2008

N.D. town sitting on potential oil jackpot reports Sunday that a tiny reservation town a hundred miles from the Canadian border where temperatures once hit 60-below zero may be the location of an oil jackpot.
The roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma have traveled to North Dakota hoping to get a piece of the potential oil in Parshall, which the town's 1,000 or so inhabitants will also fight for.
The article reports that while it is the namesake of the Parshall oil field, which sits in the crude-rich Bakken shale formation, a quarter of Parshall's residents live in poverty.
In April, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that up to 4.3 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from the Bakken. According to the article, "The agency said the Bakken, much of which lies two miles under the surface in western North Dakota, was the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed."
"We've never drilled anything like this," Todd Slawson said. "Every time we drill, it is a benefit to someone. This happens to be a benefit to a lot of people."
The oil site will have lasting effects on this area of Western North Dakota.
"That little town of Parshall will never be the same, and I hope everybody really doesn't change that much," Slawson said. "But what I know about North Dakotans, is that the most they would do with all that money would be to paint their houses."

November 2, 2008

Candidates keep up the competition as election nears end

USA Today reports Sunday that Presidential contenders Barack Obama and John McCain ignored polls showing the Democrat leading and urged voters to make it to the polls Nov. 4.
The article goes on to mention that the latest Gallup polls show Obama ahead 51 to 43 among likely voters. State surveys also suggest that Obama's path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win is closer than McCain's.
"I've been in a lot of campaigns. I know the momentum is there," McCain, the Republican candidate, told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania.
Obama urged voters at his rally in Colombus, Ohio to go directly to the polling places, which stayed open until 5p.m.
"Columbus, don't believe for a second that this election is over," the Illinois senator said.
Republican Rick Davis, told ABC's This Week that he believes there is a "structural imbalance" in the polling by independents toward McCain.
Davis said McCain was in a position to win Pennsylvania, a traditionally Democratic state that is critical to a Republican victory in the electoral votes.
"It's a state that I believe we can snatch from the Democrats and add to our coalition," Davis said.
According to the article, David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said Democrats were hewing to a strategy to expand the electoral map by aggressively campaigning in traditional Republican states like Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.
"We did not want to wake up on the morning of Nov. 4 waiting for one state. We wanted a lot of different ways to win this election," Plouffe said on Fox News Sunday.
"Here we find ourselves two days out from the election with a lot of different ways to get to 270 electoral votes," Plouffe said. "We do not have to pull an inside straight."

October 26, 2008

In the home stretch of the campaign, the candidates spar from afar

The Star Tribune reports Sunday that in the nine days left of the 2008 presidential contest, the White House competitors both remain confident.
Republican John McCain declared "I'm going to win it," dismissing polls showing him behind in the presidential race. A confident Democrat Barack Obama drew a jaw-dropping 100,000 people to a single rally and rolled out a new TV ad asserting his rival is "running out of time."
The state-by-state Electoral College map tilts strongly in Obama's favor. Democrats and Republicans alike say it will be extremely difficult for McCain to affect the movement of the campaign before the Nov. 4 election.
"Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to that long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected," McCain's fellow senator from Arizona, Republican Jon Kyl, told the Arizona Daily Star editorial board in an interview published Sunday.
The article said the candidates sparred from a distance, each criticizing the other anew in hopes of swaying the roughly one-fourth of voters who are undecided or could still change their minds.
At each stop Obama portrayed McCain as more of the same, saying, "For eight years, we've seen the Bush-McCain philosophy put our country on the wrong track, and we cannot have another four years that look just like the last eight."

October 17, 2008

Families Strain to Pay Tuition While the Economy Suffers

The New York Times reports Thursday that college students and their parents are having uneasy table conversations on how to pay tuition as personal finances weaken and lenders get tough.
Accoriding to the article, Diana and Ronnie Jacobs, of Salem, Ind., thought their family had a workable plan for college for her twin sons, using a combination of savings, income, and scholarship aid. Then her husband lost his job at Colgate-Palmolive.
“It just seems like it’s really hard, because it is,? Ms. Jacobs, an information technology specialist, said of her financial situation. “I have two kids in college and I want to say ‘come home,’ but at the same time I want to provide them with a good education.?
A rising unemployment rate and a recession mentality gripping the country are not making the situation any easier. The article reports that, "More families are applying for federal aid, and a recent survey found that an increasing portion of families expected to need student loans."
College administrators worry that as these cracks appear in family finances, they will not have enough aid money to go around. Also, given that their own endowment returns are disappointing, states are making cutbacks and fund-raising will become more difficult.
The concern is widespread, even though college officials say it’s too soon to say how many students will be hit by this in the long run.
The article also mentions that the credit crisis is making it harder for parents to obtain student loans to pay for their childs' education.

October 12, 2008

John McCain says he plans to whip Barack Obama's 'you know what' in their next debate

The Star Tribune reports Sunday that amongst the heated political battle for the presidency, Republican John McCain plans to "whip" Democratic rival Barack Obama's "you-know-what" when the two meet Wednesday in their final televised debate.
This statement was made by McCain as he is weighing new economic proposals to help the nation manage the financial crisis. After being asked by a reporter, McCain refused to mention what plans he might be considering.
The article also reports that while national and many battleground state polls have shown him trailing Obama amid the deepening market crisis, McCain promised some of his signature "straight talk" about the state of the race.
"The economy has hurt us a little bit in the last week or two, but in the last few days we've seen it come back up because they want experience, they want knowledge and they want vision. We'll give that to America," McCain said.
McCain said he and running mate Sarah Palin plan to continue campaigning hard in the next three weeks before Election Day, in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado.
"We're going to spend a lot of time and after I whip his you-know-what in this debate, we're going to be going out 24/7," McCain said.
The Star Tribune also reports that the two men will debate Wednesday at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y. CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer will moderate the 90-minute forum.
And still, despite his comments on the upcoming debate, McCain promised to run a "respectful" campaign in the weeks to come.

October 5, 2008

O.J. Simpson faces life in prison and the public seems not to notice

The Star Tribune reports Saturday O.J. Simpson is facing possible life in prison after hearing the verdicts on robbery and kidnapping charges late Friday.
It has been so many years since the height of Simpson's fame and notoriety that an entire generation of young Americans have no idea that he was once a prominent football star.
The article reports that more than 14 years ago, Simpson, who was a a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer, led police on a car chase in a white Ford Bronco after they went to arrest him for the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald L. Goldman.
Throughout his recent four-week trial period, Simpson came and went for his hearings, and the media tents set up for a city-block were nearly empty.
Simpson was convicted on Friday of gathering a group of five men, most with lengthy criminal records, and bursting into a Las Vegas hotel room to steal a trove of sports memorabilia from two collectibles dealers, exactly 13 years after being acquitted of killing his wife and her friend in Los Angeles.
The Star Tribune article makes it quite clear that Simpson has lost much of his notoriety and the public seems not to want to hear about him anymore.
An article by The Mercury News also indicated that the public has lost much of its interest in Simpson.
According to the article, many feel that Simpson is not only having a hard time staying off the public stage, but he wants to be there. "I think he just wants to get a little fame, maybe have someone offer him a show or something," said Frank Snowden, 23.
"I just don't want to talk about O.J. Simpson anymore," said Gerald Uelmen, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School and the former dean.

September 24, 2008

Not nearly enough Americans are getting their flu shots

USA Today reports Wednesday that the government is warning that far too few Americans get their flu shots each winter.
The article goes on to say that this year promises an ample vaccine supply of 143 million to 146 million doses. Last year, just 113 million of the 140 million doses produced were used.
"It's the fact that the influenza vaccine saves lives," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Without the vaccine, peoples' lives are in danger. According to the article, "flu kills about 36,000 Americans a year and leads to about 200,000 hospitalizations."
Also, the article explains how imperative it is for those who have a chronic illness such as asthma or heart disease, or a weak immune system, to get a vaccination because they are in special need of it.
Parents should also be alarmed because although children under 5 are more likely to be hospitalized, healthy school-age children have higher rates of flu than other age groups. In addition, research increasingly shows that youngsters are key spreaders of influenza to the rest of us.

September 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike Leaves Toxic Remains

A New York Times article reports that in Galveston, Texas, there are more things to worry about than searching for injured and stranded civilians.
After the disaster of Hurricane Ike, a "toxic soup" of mud, waste, asbestos, lead and gasoline has been found running through the streets and is posing serious health risks.
According to city officials, total damages to the island are estimated to surpass $10 billion. The officials also mention that it may take more than a year to remove all of the debris.
Not only are the "toxic soup" and debris causing a problem, but there is an overwhelming amount of bugs in the area emerging from the sludge.
A resident of Galveston, John Strange, says that, "They could fly away with your hat." He goes on to say that, "The roaches are bigger than a New York roach .. and the mosquitos are as big as your thumbnail."
According to the article, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin taking samples of the sludge and floodwater this week to check for contaminants.
Despite the seemingly impossible situation of the city, the article reports that "there were small signs of progress on Monday.. Water was restored to some buildings. The National Guard has been handing out ice, water and packaged meals at two locations."

Continue reading "Hurricane Ike Leaves Toxic Remains" »

September 10, 2008

Obama Fights Back in 'Lipstick Pig' Controversy

Wednesday Senator Barack Obama refuts the controversy that he made a derogatory slur against his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin.
Obama made it quite clear in his speech that he does not have time for the phony accusations of his rivals.
“Enough!? Mr. Obama said to address the latest controversy of this campaign. “I don’t care what they say about me, but I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift boat politics. Enough is enough.?
The controversy began when Obama made a comment about John McCain’s economic policies by saying, "‘You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig."
The news media immediately diverted this comment to be an insult to Gov. Palin, rather than focusing on it's intended message.
Obama goes on to say that, "The McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future.?
Obama seemed not be thrown by the controversy and devoted only a little more than five minutes discussing the matter.