Four actors from the Walnut Street Theatre came to perform an anti-bullying play for middle school students at GAMP on Oct. 3. Students sat in their seats in the auditorium and at times could be seen laughing and talking among themselves about what took place on stage. While the play entertained the students for about an hour, it was the message that Principal Jack Carr hoped his students took away from the performance.
“It was imperative for us to get the message about bullying out to our students,” Carr said. “It’s an issue that is going on a lot in today’s society. There are a lot of kids who have been tormented in their middle and high school years because of bullying. Susan Goodman has a program for anti-bullying and we’re going to bring that to our school. Hopefully, other middle school students will be able to see that program in our theater in October and November of this year.”
Walnut Street Theatre coming to perform for the students is the latest event that GAMP was a part of. For years, the school has given its students experiences in both music and theater.
GAMP’s concert choir has performed nationally. Notable performances in the past have included singing for President Bill Clinton and Governor Ed Rendell. The choir performed with Peter Nero and Philly Pops and has appeared regularly at the Kimmel Center and other professional venues, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Concerto Soloists, and Singing City Community Choir. In theater, the school has done productions in “Rent,” “Hairspray” and the “Sound of Music.”
“This year, our students have sung at that the Liberty Medal award ceremony at the National Constitution Center,” he said. “That ceremony honored boxing legend Muhammad Ali. We have a wonderful association with various artists, the Mann music center and the Kimmel Center. We also work with a number of outside agencies.”
Carr believes that through the music and theater programs at GAMP, his students will grow musically and personally.
“The experience the students receive at GAMP is endless,” he said. “My students work hard in everything that they do and it’s rewarding to see them achieve. Through music and theater they have learned how to cooperate with one another as well as other organizations, how to problem solve, and how to enhance their productivity. For many of our students, music is the catalyst for their learning while they’re here, but they have gone on and succeeded in other fields outside of the arts. Our goal has always been to prepare them for the collegiate experience.”
NEW YORK — Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that the success of the alternative energy movement is hampered by a lack of financing. His comments came as world leaders attending the Clinton Global Initiative expressed fears about rising seas at his annual philanthropic conference.
The ex-president's three-day summit for VIPs with deep pockets began Tuesday with a frank discussion about addressing global climate challenges, co-hosted by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and South African President Jacob Zuma.
There was a sense of frustration among the world leaders over the failure to create a legally binding world agreement on carbon emissions.
"We have seen much less progress than we hoped for," said Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Pointing to Germany's successful creation of solar energy jobs as a model for other nations to emulate, Clinton said the main issue with green energy is a lack of proper funding.
"This has to work economically," Clinton said. "You have to come up with the money on the front end."
Rising seas are a matter of life and death for small island nations, Zuma said.
"Not theoretical, not in the future, now," he said. "And they can't understand why we're failing to realize that."
Noting that the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is set to expire next year, Calderon said progress must be made toward establishing new rules at the United Nations convention on climate change in Durban, South Africa, in November.
Calderon said he is concerned that the world's economic problems are overshadowing the need for action on climate change.
"Last year we had the worst rains ever in Mexico, and this year we are living with the worst drought ever in Mexico," he said. "I know that the world has a lot of troubles, but we are still facing the most challenging problem for human kind in the future, and that is climate change."
Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said rising seas would submerge one-fifth of her country, displacing more than 30 million people. Clinton said the next countries most likely to be affected by climate change are places that are inland and hot — such as Mali, a landlocked nation in western Africa.
"A few years ago, after the south Asian tsunami, I spent a lot of time in the Maldives," Clinton said. "I think it's quite possible that the Maldives won't be here in 30 or 40 years."
Clinton said Caribbean nations are microcosms of the problems associated with combating climate change. Every Caribbean nation should be energy-independent, he said, by generating solar, wind and geothermal energy.
"But only Trinidad has natural gas," Clinton said. "Everybody else imports heavy oil to burn old-fashioned generators at high cost."
Other leaders who participated in Tuesday's panel included European Commission President Jose Barroso, Slovenian President Danilo Turk, Tillman Thomas, the prime minister of Grenada, and Cisse Mariam Kaidama Sidibe, the prime minister of Mali.
Last year's GCI conference generated nearly 300 new commitments valued at $6 billion to tackle major global issues from poverty and disease to climate change.
"We've got to somehow involve the imagination of ordinary people," Clinton said. "They have to understand that this is not a burden, it's an opportunity." -- (AP)
The year 2013 dawns on an American mediascape still dominated by television and radio stations that comprise “cash cows” for their owners, making mo’ money and even mo’ money.
For most Americans — if they didn’t hear it on the radio or see it on TV they don’t believe it.
This dynamic includes Black America who even discount reports in the Black Press, giving those reports in their Black media a lower “believability” factor than reports in so-called mainstream media (a/k/a: white media).
Historically, few African Americans have participated as members in this “cash cow” club of broadcast station ownership.
Blacks didn’t own a radio station until 1949 (Atlanta) and a television station until 1975 (Detroit) — decades after the broadcast industry was dominated by multistation-owned nationwide networks fed by an advertising industry that remains hostile to placements on Black-owned properties.
A November 2012 report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on broadcast station ownership included a sad and dangerous statistic: African Americans own less than one percent of all radio and television stations in the United States.
Where whites own over 9,600 broadcast stations across America, Blacks own a paltry 231 stations according to that FCC report.
This FCC report also paints a glum picture of broadcast ownership by all non-white groups and women. Asians, for example, own 187 broadcast properties and women, the largest population group in America, own 6.8 percent of this nation’s broadcast stations.
This FCC report didn’t reference this but a 1996 law approved during the Bill Clinton presidency killed minority owned radio — condemning it to a slow death by removing FCC rules on the number of stations one corporation could own.
Freed from FCC rules, big corporate/networks started buying up minority-owned broadcast properties, thus lessening diversity in terms of employment and viewpoint expression.
The paucity of Black employment and viewpoints was a problem before then-President Clinton made this issue worse with backing the broadcast ownership rule change.
A putrid example of the “Black-get-back” dynamic operative in the broadcast world is the cable television station founded by Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore.
The lineup during the launch/post-launch phase of Gore’s network resembled a sea of salt on a table long rattled by voices citing the need to include a few flakes of pepper — if for nothing else than fidelity to the First Amendment mandate of viewpoint diversity for that “informed” supposedly underpinning democracy.
If you think that media ownership is no big deal as long as you can get your weather, traffic, some headlines news and favored songs/shows, remember the fact that what people hear and see usually becomes what they believe.
Take the Fox News channel, for example — the preeminent purveyors of malicious right-wing partisanship (a/k/a propaganda) and utter misinformation.
A survey released last November by researchers at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University documented that people who only watch Fox News* are less informed about facts than all other news consumers. (*Fox 24/7 cable channel, not the local Fox stations in cities like Philadelphia.)
The damaging impact of Fox News is the point of this column – not necessarily its daily savaging of President Barack Obama (and his family), its service as the GOP’s Ministry of Fudged Facts or its spewing misinformation like having its viewers believe that ex-Iraq leader Saddam Hussein worked with (his bitter enemy) Osama bin Laden to attack America on 9/11/01.
The most damaging impact from Fox News on democracy and diversity in America is not the misinformation oozed through TV screens but the unseen manipulations of the major players within the body of Fox’s top corporate structure.
The media scandal with the largest worldwide sweep last year involved Fox founder billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch and is News Corp (which owns Fox in the U.S.) got spanked hard in Britain for criminal misconduct involving corrupting complicit British politicians and police in an episode based around hacking into the telephone voicemails of private citizens.
The phone-hacking scandal which had bubbled in Britain for years erupted exponentially about two years ago with revelations of invasion of the voicemail of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler.
America’s PBS broadcast an insightful/engaging “Frontline” documentary on the Murdoch scandal(s) in March 2012 — still available on the “Frontline” website.
That spanking in Britain included the arrests of top News Corp. officials and one ex-News Corp. newspaper executive who had become the press spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
And that spanking included hauling ultra-powerful Rupert Murdoch and one of his sons, James, before a Parliament investigating committee where the Murdochs made asses of themselves through amateurishly-and/or-arrogantly misleading testimony.
The May 2012 report from that a British Parliament committee declared Rupert Murdoch “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international corporation.”
That report blasted Murdoch for “willful blindness” to the misdeeds of his underlings whom he kept close under his thumb until he disavowed knowledge of their misdeeds to evade accountability.
Given the criminality explicit in the British Murdoch scandal and 24/7 Fox News savaging of Obama, why would the Obama administration consider relaxing ownership rules again to permit Murdoch to buy the top newspapers in Chicago and Los Angeles?
Such a rule change would further erode diversity in employment and viewpoints.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —In a Democratic National Convention that featured memorable speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton, the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, spoke to the American people Thursday night about his first-term accomplishments, and urged voters to elect him to a second term on November 6.
The threat of rain, thunder and lightning during an outdoor speech was the reason the Democratic National Committee and the Obama for America campaign decided to move the speech from the 73,000-seat Bank of America stadium into the smaller 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two days of events were held.
Obama for America campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds told the Tribune an estimated 65,000 people from all around the nation were expected to see Obama speak at Bank of America stadium, and another 19,000 people had standby tickets.
In an effort to please the thousands of potential voters who were disappointed they could not see Obama speak in person in Charlotte, the president participated in a conference call Thursday before his speech to thank supporters. Obama supporters around the nation, including thousands in Charlotte who had tickets, saw the speech at watch parties or in their hotel rooms.
Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Jim Burn said Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are key to Obama’s chances of winning the election. He said in order to win, the state party must continue to stress the president’s record over the past three and a half years of job creation (including 29 straight months of national job growth) and saving the country from the possible worst fiscal collapse since the Great Depression.
“African-American voters are as important to Pennsylvania turnout and the success of President Obama as any of our bases,” Burn said. “Sure he (Obama) has a lot of work to do. Every campaign is like a snowflake — there are no two identical campaigns. Most Pennsylvanians, and most Americans, have already made up their minds about who they’re voting for. It’s all about the ground game now, and all about voter turnout. There is nothing in this Republican ticket that is conducive to African-American voters voting for it.”
The delegates to the convention from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are leaving Charlotte fired up about the final weeks of this year’s campaign and ready to go do everything possible to re-elect President Obama and homegrown Vice President Joe Biden, a Delaware senator and Pennsylvania native. Biden also gave a speech accepting his vice-presidential nomination right before the president’s speech.
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, the wife of Philadelphia State Sen. Vincent Hughes, attended the convention with her husband. She says she cannot fathom that any African-American would vote for Romney over Obama.
“Don’t look at me with your Black self and ask, ‘Why should I support the brother?,’” Ralph said. “Stop that foolishness about sitting this thing out. If you’re confused about who to vote for, vote for Barack Obama. What are you going to do? Give your vote to Mitt Romney by voting for nobody? That is madness.”
“Brothers and sisters in the beauty shops and the barber shops know when the okie doke is being played on them,” Sen. Hughes added. “ They know what’s up. We just have to act now like we got some sense and send the message out. When the president says ‘Do you have my back?, we need to stand up and say “yea brother, we’ve got you back and we’re going to stand with you and we’re not going to stand for this foolishness.’”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who delivered a speech yesterday, said a Romney administration would be a disaster for the nation.
“To Mitt Romney, education is a luxury,” Nutter said in prepared remarks. “ As governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed universal pre-K. In his first year, K-12 schools saw drastic cuts that lead to teacher layoffs. He failed his students. Whose values do you want in the Oval Office? I know who Philly wants, who Pennsylvania wants, and who you want — President Barack Obama.”
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, a delegate to this year’s convention, said now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are over, it is a two-month sprint to Election Day to convince Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians to vote for Obama and Biden.
“I think the public will understand that he (Obama) needs the next four years to complete his agenda,” Tasco said. “From day one, the Republicans made up their minds they weren’t going to do anything to help the president succeed. They don’t want him, and it is personal. I just have to say it — I just think it is outright racism.”
Political conventions are supposed to be the place where candidates shore up the base while reaching out over the airwaves to appeal to the independents and the fence sitters.
But for any politically active potential voter paying even cursory attention for the past two weeks, I don’t see how there can be many undecideds left in the country.
Last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa was a full-on Obama hate fest, with enough snark and ridicule to last several administrations. If there’s one thing you took from that weeklong spectacle, it’s that those folks really, really dislike the president on a gut level. They hate him, they hate his wife, and they hate everything he’s done since taking office.
Not that there isn’t room for criticism in Obama’s policies, because there is. You can certainly differ with the man’s agenda, or take issue with his methods, without despising him personally or disrespecting the office.
You didn’t see much of that last week, though. The GOP reaction to President Obama is a visceral one — an anger that comes from deep within, and probably has little to do with the man’s policies.
That anger, though, was not reserved for the president alone. Women, gays, immigrants, and ethnic minorities got a taste of what life would be like under a Romney presidency, if only through the fact that so few minorities were visible at the convention.
Contrast that with the diversity on display at the Democratic National convention this week in Charlotte, and the subtle coding of GOP rhetoric becomes clearer. Not only was there a plethora of strong women, Black and brown skinned speakers and delegates, and a significant gay contingent, those groups were encouraged to stand proudly out front.
It’s as if convention organizers had conspired to show America just how progressive, or regressive, their parties can be. Several Republicans noticed, too, and some took to social media to express their derision. One GOP pundit tweeted a sneeringly offensive comment about the podium in Charlotte looking like a scene from the play, “The Vagina Monologues,” because of the number of women represented.
There were other nasty tweets and blog posts, seething about the Democrats’ ability to draw strength from their diversity, as though it really doesn’t matter if everyday Americans see a political party that looks like them.
Note to Republicans: it matters.
America is getting less and less white every year, and most experts estimate that white folks could find themselves a statistical minority in a few short years. If they lose this election, the GOP fade into irrelevance as the good old boys network slowly dies off, leaving the party without its traditional base of rich old white men.
The Democrats, for their part, went out of their way to show up the Republicans, and did so in grand fashion. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, fairly unknown prior to this week, wowed the crowd with his personal story of the immigrant experience, and in doing so blew the GOP’s favorite Hispanic Marco Rubio out of the water.
First lady Michelle Obama reminded Americans why they like her husband, and why she loves him. Her affection for her spouse was evident, and even GOP talking heads had to admit that she has transformed herself into quite a political force in her own right.
Even Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who was called nasty names by the right for her principled stance on contraceptives, made mincemeat of her former detractors in a well-received speech that belied her status as a political amateur.
But if anyone stole the show from the president, even for one night, it was former president Bill Clinton. Looking strong and fit, Ol’ Bubba recreated his magic spell for the better part of an hour, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his trademark combination of masterful delivery and boyish charm. Clinton laid out the case for Obama’s reelection while throwing left hooks at Romney and Paul Ryan that couldn’t miss.
Following Clinton’s brilliant oratory, President Obama took the stage briefly to walk Clinton off. The crowd went completely nuts. The two alpha male rock stars embraced warmly and strode offstage while the audience whooped, cried and blubbered as if they’d seen a holy vision.
Sure, I’m biased, but I’m not a ride-or-die zealot. I see the flaws and blemishes in the Democrat way of governing, but I’ve decided I’ll go with the folks who mean well, rather than folks who are just plain mean.
Because if you’re still undecided at this stage, those are your two choices.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Boxing great Muhammad Ali, known for his unabashed self-confidence inside and outside the ring as well as his outspokenness on social and humanitarian causes, is the recipient of the 2012 Liberty Medal.
Ali, 70, will receive the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 13 in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. The three-time world heavyweight champion was not in attendance for Thursday's announcement.
Previous recipients of the Liberty Medal, which was established in 1988 to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, include rock singer and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter. Six winners have subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
"Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution — freedom, self-governance, equality and empowerment — and helping to spread them across the globe," said former President Bill Clinton, chairman of the National Constitution Center, an institution dedicated to increasing public understanding of the Constitution and the ideas and values it represents.
Liberty Medal sponsors and partners said Ali's lifelong courage and conviction exemplify the qualities that the award was established to honor, from his outspoken advocacy for civil and religious freedom to his philanthropy, social activism and humanitarian efforts.
"Muhammad Ali symbolizes all that makes America great, while pushing us as a people and as a nation to be better," said National Constitution Center president and chief executive officer David Eisner. "Each big fight of his life has inspired a new chapter of civic action."
The fast-talking, boisterous fighter who referred to himself as "the greatest" was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942. He took up boxing at age 12 and flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medalist.
Ali won the heavyweight title in 1964, defeating the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Soon after, Ali — who was raised in a Baptist family — announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.
While in his prime, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967 for refusing to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs. The decision resulted in a draft-evasion conviction and spurred a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
Three years after his retirement from boxing in 1981, Ali announced he had Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain condition that some researchers believe may be brought on by repeated blows to the head. Despite the diagnosis, he devoted himself to traveling the world on humanitarian missions bringing food and medical supplies to developing nations throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia. He also continues to work at home in the U.S. to raise funds for organizations including the Special Olympics and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center in Phoenix.
In 2005, Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. -- (AP)
There’s a lot being said this week about last Friday’s sudden resignation of PHA Administrative Receiver / Executive Director Michael Kelly. The circumstances surrounding his departure are as old as time itself. A married man has a consensual affair, and trouble inevitably follows.
When I spoke to Kelly on Friday afternoon, he insisted he was stepping down for “family reasons” — one of the oldest partial truths in the political playbook. He admitted, though, that there was more to the story, and that a vital piece of information would probably be revealed after the weekend.
About 10 minutes after I got off the phone with Kelly, Tribune Managing Editor Irv Randolph came into my office, closed the door, and sat down. I told him exactly what Kelly had told me.
“What does your nose tell you?” he asked, newsman’s code for any public statement that doesn’t pass the smell test. We media types, as you may imagine, are lied to quite often. Often enough that most news people have highly sensitive, built-in lie detectors — and mine, like Irv’s, was sending off alarm bells.
But you don’t need to be a walking lie detector to see through this one. Here’s a big, fat clue: any time any politician or political appointee holds a press conference to say he’s stepping down because of “family reasons” — it’s because his wife is about to perform elective surgery on him with a pair of kitchen shears. It’s not exactly a lie, but it’s nowhere close to the whole truth.
Sure, the dutiful wife might be standing right there beside him at the press conference, her face frozen in a tight, joyless smile; but inside she’s planning his torturously long, exceedingly painful road back to redemption — if indeed he ever makes it that far.
In my previous dealings with Kelly, he struck me as a highly intelligent, competent manager with great ideas and the enthusiasm to get things done. That’s still my opinion of the man. He took an agency that some said was broken beyond repair, and he set about repairing it. I haven’t heard anyone this week say Kelly was anything less than a top-flight administrator — albeit one with obvious personal failings.
From Bill Clinton to Tiger Woods to John Edwards, and going clear back to King David, the list of mighty men brought low is endless — and almost always for the same reason.
So what is it? What accounts for the adult male’s seeming inability to resist temptation? Poor impulse control? Some irresistible animal instinct?
If I knew the answer to that, I’d make a fortune on the talk show circuit.
I just know that Michael Kelly isn’t the first, and won’t be the last.
And that’s a shame, because it immediately puts him in the same loathsome category as his sleazy, serial groping predecessor, which is a bit unfair. Carl Greene was a man of wild appetites and outrageous behavior. Kelly simply fell into the oldest trick bag in history: thinking you’ll get away with it, and everything will be fine as long as the wife doesn’t find out.
And while we’re on that subject, here’s another inconvenient truth for you: The wife always finds out. Maybe not right away, but she always finds out. Always. (Wives have built-in lie detectors too.)
In the end, nobody wins.
Talented managers are forced to resign, leaving the taxpayers with who-knows-who as a replacement; families are unnecessarily humiliated; and leadership is forced to scramble to find someone willing and able to take on a difficult task while their every move is monitored for public consumption.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not absolving Michael Kelly, or Tiger Woods, or Bill Clinton of blame or personal responsibility here. They had choices, and knew the consequences, but chose poorly anyway. That’s life.
I’m just saying that the entire sordid spectacle of shame and stupidity played simply for public titillation has gotten old. As long as there have been marriages, there have been people who step out on their spouses, the vast majority of whom never make the news.
It’s one thing if the offender has stained their oath of office, or misused taxpayer funds, or has in some other way violated the public trust. But if the only aggrieved party is the person’s family, I’d just as soon leave they leave the private life at home.
Which is where, in my opinion, Kelly and all the other men like him should face their judgment: at home, at the hands of their wives. And let the punishment fit the crime.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats beckoned Americans to return Barack Obama to the White House despite the agonizingly slow economic recovery as they opened their national convention, casting the president as someone who understands the struggles of ordinary Americans while depicting Republican rival Mitt Romney as privileged and out-of-touch.
The opening of the three-day convention on Tuesday was effectively a rebuttal to last week's Republican convention in which Obama was depicted as driving down the U.S. economy by favoring a welfare state over private enterprise.
The star speaker, Michelle Obama, played up her husband's strong suits, declaring that after nearly four years as president, he is still the man who drove a rust-bucket car on early dates, rescued a coffee table from the trash, and knows the struggles of everyday Americans because he lived them in full.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are," the first lady said to huge cheers Tuesday night in a deeply personal, yet unmistakably political testimonial highlighting the Democratic National Convention's opening night.
Bill Clinton, the last president to preside over sustained economic growth and a balanced budget, gets the star turn Wednesday night in a speech placing Obama's name into nomination — a high point in a checkered relationship between two men who sparred, sometimes sharply, in the 2008 primaries, when Clinton was supporting wife Hillary's campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Romney, a businessman and former Massachusetts governor, appeared nowhere in Mrs. Obama's remarks. But there was no mistaking the contrast she was drawing when she laid out certain values, "that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself."
Such subtleties were otherwise missing from the stage as speaker after speaker blasted Romney and the Republicans. The party's up-and-coming Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, captured the tone in branding Romney a millionaire "who doesn't get it." Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said, "If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."
Delegates cheered as a parade of speakers extolled Obama's support for abortion rights and gay marriage, for consumer protections enacted under his health care law and for the successful auto industry bailout he pushed through Congress in his first year in office.
Polling gives Obama a consistent advantage over Romney as the more empathetic and in-touch leader. But the sputtering economy is the topmost voter concern and Obama's toughest mountain to climb after more than 42 months of unemployment surpassing 8 percent, the longest such stretch since the end of World War II. No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with joblessness so high.
A new report found manufacturing activity declined for a third straight month. The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that the government's debt passed $16 trillion. And the latest unemployment report, coming Friday, offers more potential fodder for Romney's case against his rival's stewardship unless it shows marked improvement. Romney took a few days off from the campaign trail, preparing in Vermont for three fall debates with Obama that could prove pivotal in this close election.
Mrs. Obama described a marriage of kindred spirits, built from humble roots, and said the president's work on health care, college loans and more all come from that experience. "These issues aren't political" for him, she said. "They're personal."
"Barack knows what it means when a family struggles," she said. "He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids."
The first lady took the stage as the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. Michelle Obama earns higher favorability ratings than her husband, Romney, his wife, Ann, or either candidate for the vice presidency, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. And views of Mrs. Obama tilt favorably among independents and women, two focal points in her husband's campaign for re-election.
Democrats looked to use the convention and its national television coverage to help Obama recapture the hearts of Americans once drawn to his message of hope and change, but now weary after years of economic weakness and political squabbles.
Castro's selection to deliver the prestigious keynote address during prime viewing time was a sign of his rising stardom in the party and the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote, which Democrats are relying on to win several battleground states in the West.
After highlighting the humble roots of his Mexican-born grandmother, Castro ridiculed the advice Romney gave at a campaign event that students could borrow money from their parents to start businesses.
"Gee, why didn't I think of that?," Castro said. "Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams."
The president closed a pre-convention tour of battleground states in Norfolk, Virginia, summoning a crowd at Norfolk State University to resist apathy and make sure to vote.
Republicans are "counting on you, maybe not to vote for Romney, but they're counting on you to feel discouraged," he said. "And they figure if you don't vote, then big oil will write our energy future, and insurance companies will write our health care plans, and politicians will dictate what a woman can or can't do when it comes to her own health."
Obama later returned to the White House to watch his wife's speech with their two daughters, two nights before his own convention-closing speech in the 74,000-seat Bank of America football stadium.
That speech will seek to recreate some of the grandeur of Obama's acceptance address in a Colorado stadium four years ago. At the time, the United States was in the midst of a devastating financial crisis while unpopular wars were dragging on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama — young, magnetic and eloquent — captured the imagination of many Americans as the first black nominee of a major party. He promised a fresh start after eight years of George W. Bush's presidency and new hope for the economy.
Obama did withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq and the United States emerged from the recession. But economic growth has been tepid. Though he stepped up drone strikes on suspected terrorists and gave the order that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Republicans cast him as a weak leader. He won congressional approval of an overhaul of the U.S health care system, but his plan remains largely unpopular.
The two conventions highlight the contrasting visions of government that voters will face in the Nov. 6 election. Romney's Republicans, increasingly guided by the anti-tax tea party movement, want to minimize the role of government, which it sees as an obstacle to enterprise and liberty. Obama's Democrats see government as a potential force for good, helping the downtrodden and providing the education and infrastructure needed to help the country prosper.
Candidates traditionally get a bounce in the polls from political conventions, though there is little sign that Romney improved his standing after the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. Once dramatic events for selecting candidates and debating issues, political conventions are now carefully scripted shows put on by the parties, making them less compelling television programming. -- (AP)
This is a very troubling article to write. Because it is about how sinister Black Americans can agree with white Americans about how they can rip off the people of African nations for quick money. It is ugly but somebody has to call it out. Since I am the one who first noticed it, I guess it is my Christian duty to call it out. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is meant to enhance trade activity and business development between entrepreneurs in Africa and the United States. It allows business transactions between firms in the certified nations of Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States to ship products from those African nations into the United States free of tariffs.
In the beginning, it was a beautiful roadmap for enhanced business activity and wealth building. I was happy to see it enacted but was curious as to why two white congressmen, the very conservative Philip Crane of Illinois and very liberal Jim McDermott of Washington, got together and crafted the bill. If this is a bill about African nations’ economic progress shouldn’t some members of the Congressional Black Caucus be involved? That was the first hint.
The bill passed with much support from Black activists. However, President Bill Clinton never got around to signing it. Eventually, President George W. Bush willingly signed the bill, and trade enhancement with the Motherland was established. This made sense as Bush would do more for Africa’s advancement than any other American president in history. We were all overjoyed. I remember sitting next to basketball great Hakeem Olajuwon at the White House signing, he was so happy that his motherland Nigeria would participate in this new trade agreement. We were all excited. But as the saying goes: “The wolves are of another mind.”
Enter the Textile Lobby. They would hire a Black lobbyist with the assignment of working on a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The assignment would be to craft an amendment that would open the doors for very cheap China cotton to be included in AGOA. China cotton is the cheapest cotton in the world as prisoners process it (slavery). Somehow, a CBC member agreed to it and the Third Country Fabric Exemption was amended to AGOA. Believe it or not, this allowed China to ship its cotton to African nations, make apparel and then ship it to America duty free under AGOA. This dirt cheap cotton quickly knocked our African cotton farmers and textile mills right out of business. It had a devastating impact on the agribusiness of African nations. Instead of being an enhancer of African commerce, AGOA became a cancer.
I saw it for myself. I was in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry took me to a new textile mill. Before going, the Kenyan Cotton Farmers Association met me in the lobby of my hotel and protested the fact that the United States had set up cheap China cotton to destroy their industry. They had been cut out and were going out of business. I went to the facility that was extremely high tech. There were dozens of women making clothing for $50 per month. The facility was managed by a citizen of India. When we observed the inventory it was ceiling high with bales of cotton that was marked “Product of China.” This is what enraged the Kenyan cotton farmers. They were being cut out of AGOA via the Third Country Fabric Extension Amendment — placed by Black lobbyists and a Black congressperson. On the site were representatives of Walmart, Target and JC Penney’s to approve the production. I became sick at the sight. I quipped to the guide “Who owns this, Kabaki?” Kabaki is the president of Kenya. He replied, “How did you know? It is in his sister’s name.”
The damage spreads beyond Kenya. Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania and many other nations in Africa have had their textile industries destroyed by this sinister amendment. The amendment was due to expire in 2009, and I pressed to ensure the expiration. The textile industry was waiting for the NBCC and successfully prevented us from letting the expiration take affect. They extended it for another three years. It is set to expire in September 2012. This time we will do our “homework” and create a groundswell of opposition to this sinister act. We can’t let the textile industry pimp Africa and cannot let hired flunkies do their bidding. AGOA is a good act but we must keep it pure. Africa is the fastest growing economy among all the continents and we must ensure that our Motherland gets the maximum result from its efforts. Woe to those who try to get over at the expense of our Motherland!
WASHINGTON — An economic calamity looming, President Barack Obama on Friday signaled willingness to compromise with Republicans, declaring he was not "wedded to every detail" of his tax-and-spending approach to prevent deep and widespread pain in the new year. But he insisted his re-election gave him a mandate to raise taxes on wealthier Americans.
"The majority of Americans agree with my approach," said Obama, brimming with apparent confidence in his first White House statement since securing a second term.
Trouble is, the Republicans who run the House plainly do not agree with his plans. Speaker John Boehner insisted that raising tax rates as Obama wants "will destroy jobs in America."
So began the "fiscal cliff" political maneuvering that will determine which elected power center — the White House or the House — bends more on its promises to voters. The outcome will affect tens of millions of Americans, given that the tax hikes and budgets cuts set to kick in Jan. 1 could spike unemployment and bring on a new recession.
An exhausting presidential race barely history, Washington was back quickly to governing on deadline, with agreement on a crucial goal but divisions on how to get there. The campaign is over, but another has just begun.
The White House quickly turned Obama's comments into an appeal for public support, shipping around a video by email and telling Americans that "this debate can either stay trapped in Washington or you can make sure your friends and neighbors participate."
Obama invited the top four leaders of Congress to the White House next week for talks, right before he departs on a trip to Asia.
In laying their negotiating markers, all sides sought to leave themselves wiggle room.
"I don't want to box myself in. I don't want to box anybody else in," Boehner said at the Capitol.
Outside all the new the talk of openness, the same hard lines seemed in place.
Obama never expressly said that tax rates on top earners must return to the higher levels of the Bill Clinton era, leading to speculation that he was willing to soften the core position of his re-election campaign to get a grand debt deal with Republicans. "I'm not wedded to every detail of my plan. I'm open to compromise," he said.
But his spokesman, Jay Carney, seemed to slam that door. He said Obama would veto any extension Congress might approve of tax cuts on incomes above $250,000.
Obama's remarks were choreographed so that a diverse-looking group of Americans stood behind him and dozens more were invited to pack the East Room. In the weeks ahead, he plans to pull in the public as a way to pressure Congress.
"I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I'm not going to do that," said Obama.
He said voters plainly agreed with his approach that both tax hikes and spending cuts are needed to cut the debt.
"Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people," Obama said.
About 60 percent of voters said in exit polls Tuesday that taxes should increase, either for everyone or those making over $250,000. Left unsaid by Obama was that even more voters opposed raising taxes to help cut the deficit.
The scheduled year-end changes, widely characterized as a dangerous "fiscal cliff," include a series of expiring tax cuts that were approved in the George W. Bush administration. The other half of the problem is a set of punitive across-the-board spending cuts, looming only because partisan panel of lawmakers failed to reach a debt deal.
Put together, they could mean the loss of roughly 3 million jobs.
Since the election, Boehner and Obama have both responded to the reality that they need each other.
Compromise has become mandatory if the two leaders are to avoid economic harm and the wrath of a public sick of government dysfunction.
Obama says he is willing to talk about changes to Medicare and Medicaid, earning him the ire of the left. Boehner says he will accept raising tax revenue and not just slashing spending, although he insists it must be done by reworking the tax code, not raising rates. The framework, at least, is there for a broad deal on taxes.
Yet the top Democrat and Republican in the nation are trying to put the squeeze on each other as the public waits for answers.
"This is his opportunity to lead," Boehner said of Obama, not long before the president said: "All we need is action from the House."
Obama said the uncertainty now spooking investors and employers will be shrunk if Congress extends — quickly — the tax cuts for all those except the most-well off.
The Senate has passed such a bill. The House showed no interest on Friday in Obama's idea.
Obama and Republicans have tangled over the Bush tax cuts for years. The president gave in to Republican demands to extend the cuts across the board in 2010, but he ran for re-election on a pledge to allow the rates to increase on families making more than $250,000 a year.
Also lurking is the expiration of the nation's debt limit in the coming weeks. The last fight on that nearly led the United States to default on its bills.
When asked if he would try to use that issue as leverage, Boehner said it must be addressed "sooner rather than later."
The national debt now stands above $16 trillion. The government borrowed about 31 cents of every dollar it spent in 2012. -- (AP)