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A National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Moments ago, in his first official act since taking the oath of office, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation, calling on Americans to serve one another and our common purpose on this National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation.

NATIONAL DAY OF RENEWAL AND RECONCILIATION, 2009

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION


As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God.

We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright -- it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

The White House

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President Barack Obama's Inagural Speech

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Barack H. Obama

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Obama should tell Israel to face facts

By Roula Khalaf
Financial Times


For the past year the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has negotiated with Israel on a peace settlement, knowing full well that nothing would come out of it. Why bother? Palestinian officials insisted a “process” was worth pursuing if only to hand the new American administration something to work with as soon as it takes office.

Barack Obama will be dragged into the Middle East conflict from day one. Unfortunately, before he picks up a peace process, he has to manage the aftermath of a devastating Gaza crisis, where a fragile ceasefire needs urgent American attention, an enraged Middle East urgently needs calm, and America’s sinking image needs urgent damage control.

During Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza, Mr Obama said very little beyond expressing concern about civilian casualties and underlining US commitment to peace. But unless he is planning to adopt a different attitude from the outgoing administration, the Middle East can brace for more bloodshed.

There have been many surreal moments over the past three weeks. One of the strangest was watching Condoleezza Rice on her last day in office as secretary of state signing a deal with Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, and promising US assistance to curb the smuggling of weapons to Hamas in Gaza.

The memorandum of understanding made it easier for Israel to claim that it had met one of the war’s main objectives and so wrap up its offensive. But as they stood in Washington congratulating each other, both officials seemed oblivious to the fact that they were making a deal about an illegal trade on someone else’s border – Egypt in this case. The next day, an Egyptian official described the memorandum as “fictional”....(Click for remainder).

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Mexican tycoon bails out New York Times

By Kenneth Li and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Financial Times


Carlos Slim Helu, the second richest man in the world, threw a $250m lifeline to the New York Times on late Monday evening, but extracted a steep interest rate for easing the group’s impending financing pressures.

The financing comes in the form of senior unsecured notes with detachable warrants. The debt notes, repayable in 2015, have a coupon of 14.053 per cent, of which the company may pay 3 per cent in kind. The publisher said it would use the proceeds to refinance a $400m debt facility due in May.

Entities owned by Mr Slim also received warrants totaling 15.9m class A shares at a strike price of $6.357. If he exercises his warrants before they expire in January 2015, he will become one of the top shareholders of the New York Times with close to a 20 per cent stake, but without the votes to challenge the controlling Sulzberger family.

Mr Slim, whose wealth is estimated at $60bn by Forbes, is a Mexican telecommunications tycoon who made his fortune from ownership of Telefonos de Mexico and America Movil.

Slim purchased 6.4 per cent of the New York Times last September in what a representative said at the time was a purely financial move. The stake has since been more than halved in value to about $60m from $127m.

“This agreement provides us with increased financial flexibility to continue to execute on our long-term strategy,” said Janet Robinson, the New York Times’ chief executive, on Monday night....(Click for remainder).

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Obama Supporters in DC Want Bush Arrested

By David Swanson
Democrats.com


Sunday evening I spoke on a panel in Washington, D.C., about war crimes, and in walked a group of spirited activists led by Laurie Arbeiter wearing "Arrest Bush" sweatshirts and carrying "Arrest Bush" signs, and they were absolutely dumfounded by what they had just experienced. They'd spent the day at the train station in D.C. and on the streets of D.C. as excited Obama celebrators poured in by the tens of thousands, and they'd been unable to walk a dozen steps without people stopping them to have their photo taken with an "Arrest Bush" sign.

It's worth remembering that Bush is approved by 22 percent of Americans and a smaller percentage of non-Americans. It's hard to get under 20 percent in any poll in this country. More people believe in UFOs than approve of Bush. The media meme that prosecuting Bush would cost Obama political capital has not been proven false, but it is absolutely baseless until someone produces something to base it on.

So we had a little strategy meeting Sunday night and produced hard copies of an already running petition asking Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor. We got clipboards and pens and identified teams. As I write this Monday morning we are preparing to gather at Dupont Circle for a rally at 11 a.m. followed by a march to the White House where we will throw shoes at the outgoing war criminal. On Tuesday we have a permit for the whole sidewalk in front of the FBI Building along the parade, and we'll let you in if you have a sign that says "Arrest Bush." No other ticket required. At these and many other events and all over the city in the next two days, we hope to add many thousands of new people to the petition and collect their contact information to integrate them into the movement to get tough on (the biggest) crime.

If you're not in DC, you can sign the petition yourself or print out a PDF to collect signatures in the real world at http://convictbushcheney.org

This is not a fantasy, boys and girls. The New York Times' Scott Shane and Attorney General Mukasey agree with me that prosecution is now going to be hard to avoid. When even Nancy Pelosi has figured out where we're going, you know the winds of change are blowing strong. That's the dangerous thing about telling people that anything is possible: they'll end up insisting on what they really want. And they want lots of new laws, but they very dearly want us to start enforcing the old ones too.

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No final pardons from Bush

By Al Jazeera English

George Bush has, on his final full day as US president, commuted the sentences of two border patrol agents but steered clear of a high-profile pardon for former vice-presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Bush commuted the 11-year prison sentence of Ignacio Ramos and the 12-year sentence of Jose Alonso Compean, who had been convicted of assault and violating the civil rights of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, a Mexican drug dealer.

Davila pressed charges against them after he was shot while attempting to smuggle 300kg of marijuana into Texas in 2005.

Davila, who said he was unarmed, was shot in the buttocks as he tried to flee back across the border to Mexico.

The two agents did not report the shooting to their superiors and tried to cover up the incident but their convictions drew sharp criticism from advocates of tough US border security policies who said they were just doing their jobs.

Early release

The agents will still face three years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine, but will not be released on March 20.

A White House official who asked not to be named said this was expected to be Bush's last act of clemency before his presidency ends at noon (17:00 GMT) on Tuesday when Barack Obama takes office.

The two commutations were in marked contrast to predecessor Bill Clinton, who issued a flurry of 140 pardons on his last day as president....(Click for remainder).

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After Declaring 'Impeachment Off the Table', Pelosi Now Backs Bush Probes

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


In a stunning reversal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has for the past two years has staunchly refused to back calls to impeach President George W. Bush, now says she will support congressional efforts to investigate the Bush administration over it's controversial practices, such as the politicization of the Department of Justice.

Pelosi who famously remarked in 2006 after Democrats won control of both Houses of Congress that “impeachment is off the table” indicated during an interview with Fox News she was willing to support legislation proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers,” including torture and warrantless wiretaps.

But Pelosi did not indicate whether she would support Conyers' efforts to investigate the Bush administration’s torture and rendition policies. Such an investigation could prove to be an embarrassment for the Speaker and other Democratic leaders who were briefed by the CIA about the harsh interrogation techniques--including waterboarding--used against detainees in the early days of the program, yet did nothing to stop it from continuing.

In her interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Pelosi spoke specifically about supporting a probe into the politicization at the Justice Department.

Still, when told by Fox News' Chris Wallace that President-elect Barack Obama signaled his unwillingness to support efforts to investigate the Bush administration, Pelosi countered, saying, “I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the — for example, the Justice Department, to go unreviewed. Past is prologue. We learn from it. And my views on the subject — I don't think that Mr. Obama and Mr. Conyers are that far apart.”...(Click for remainder).

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Rick Warren Called “Bigot” During Keynote MLK Day Speech

By David Swanson
After Downing Street


“Rick Warren is a bigot! No ‘common ground’ with bigot Rick Warren!” shouted Sunsara Taylor as Rick Warren began his keynote address at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. She unfurled a banner that read “NO ‘Common Ground’ with Bigot Rick Warren!” and then was dragged out by the ushers. The banner included the website, www.revcom.us, the revolutionary communist newspaper Sunsara writes for.

Following Sunsara, several other people turned their backs on Warren and were also forced to leave the church. Outside the church, protesters continued chanting, "Rick Warren is a bigot! No 'common ground' with bigot Rick Warren and a crowd gathered.

“It is hard to think of anyone more antithetical to the legacy of the Civil Rights movement,” explained Sunsara Taylor. “Rick Warren is a bigot. He has dedicated himself to taking away people’s rights – the rights of gay people, the rights of women to abortion and birth control. He preaches unthinking obedience to biblical literalism and denies evolution. He is aggressively involved in efforts that are causing untold numbers of African people to suffer and die from AIDS by promoting ‘abstinence-only’ and disparaging condoms.”

“My intention is to rip away the moral and ideological cover Rick Warren and his bigotry are being given by being associated with the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,” explained Sunsara, continuing, “This is all the more important given that Rick Warren and his re-branded Christian bigotry is being elevated in the country as a whole. He is giving the invocation at the inauguration – he is no minor figure and people must know what a bigot he truly is. By exposing Warren, I am standing up for people’s rights and calling on others to do likewise. No common ground with bigots.”

This action is built on the protests held by the World Can’t Wait organization in Los Angeles outside Warren’s Saddleback Church yesterday, Sunday January 18th. Protesters there handed out pink triangles, the symbol the Nazis used to label homosexuals and sexual deviants. Tomorrow, as Warren delivers the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, more protests are expected....(Click for remainder).

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HBO Blames Obama Transition Team for Robinson Blackout

By Advocate.com

When Rev. V. Gene Robinson took to the stage at a star-studded, pre-inauguration event Sunday afternoon in Washington D.C., millions of LGBT Americans eagerly anticipated what the openly gay bishop would have to say about equality in America.

But Robinson’s invocation never aired on television – he was cut from the telecast of the Lincoln Memorial event.

In a call placed to HBO, the premium pay channel on which the Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial aired, a spokesperson told After Elton the decision not to air Robinson’s prayer was made by the Obama transition team.

HBO's senior vice president, Jeff Cusson, gave a similar account. "HBO had no involvement in the scheduling of those who appeared as part of the televised event. You'll have to talk to [the Presidential Inaugural Committee] about all of the scheduling decisions. We had a set broadcast time and went forth accordingly," Cusson told gay activist Leah McElrath.

But explanations from the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) failed to illuminate how the decision was made and by whom. "We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program," PIC communications director Josh Earnest said. "We regret the error in executing this plan – but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event."...(Click for remainder).

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Washington is ready for 44

By 365 Gay

(Washington) At 11:30, Barrack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States in a ceremony dating back to George Washington, who took the oath of office in New York, then the capital of a new nation.

Obama comes to office with the highest approval ratings of any President in history. George W. Bush leaves with an approval only slightly higher than Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign the presidency.

At the Capitol Monday evening, the final touches were made to the inaugural stage on the steps of the massive building. Dozens of streets are closed to traffic and Homeland Security, the FBI and DC police were checking everything from pedestrians going into the area to ensuring manhole covers are secure. It is the tightest security of any inauguration.

Packages, coolers, glass containers, backpacks, laser pointers, animals other than guide dogs, bicycles, and even baby strollers are banned.

The weather will be brisk - in the mid 30s - but sunny, and people planning on attending are being told to dress warmly and to wear comfortable shoes.

It is estimated that as many as 2 million people will be there, capturing their place in history.

About 240,000 people have been given tickets allowing them a better vantage point - mainly Congressional aides and campaign workers.

Invitations went out to a number of prominent gays and lesbians including at least four who will be part of the Obama administration - John Berry, who will be the next director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay in the administration; Nancy Sutley, who was tapped to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Fred P. Hochberg, who will head the Export-Import Bank; and David Medina, the deputy chief of staff for Michelle Obama....(Click for remainder).

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Obama urges US to work together

By BBC News

Barack Obama has called for Americans to come together for the common good, hours before he is sworn in as the first black president in US history.

Evoking the spirit of the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, he called on people to dedicate themselves to public service.

With so many people facing hardship, he said, there could be no idle hands.

At least two million people are expected to attend the inauguration in a record turnout for such an event.

The roar of approval that will greet Barack Obama when he takes the oath of office will be heard around the world and will be genuine and heartfelt and will come from all corners of America, BBC North America editor Justin Webb reports.

Mr Obama has been a hugely active and visible president-elect - probably the most active in history - and the nation has on the whole approved of his demeanour and choices, our editor says.

It will, of course, get much more difficult but to suggest that his honeymoon might be shortlived would seem at the moment to fly in the face of a general mood of optimism, he adds.

Put a different way, there is a desperate hope that someone has got some answers to America's problems, our editor says....(Click for remainder).

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