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Ed Stein: New Chapter

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

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Obama halts all regulations pending review

By Associate Press via Google News

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Barack Obama's first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama's White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The waning days of former President Bush's administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

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Cartoon: The Inaugural Ball

Robert Ariail / The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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Republicans get a chilly reception from inaugural crowd

By Halimah Abdullah
McClatchy Newspapers


WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans received a reception Tuesday that rivaled the frigid winter weather, as hundreds of attendees greeted GOP lawmakers with boos, chants, hisses and -- in some cases -- stony silence.

The chilly display toward McConnell, who was flanked by other high-ranking Republicans as he took the stage at President Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony, was a momentary break in the otherwise jubilant spirit of the day.

The reception spoke volumes about the awkward position members of Kentucky's predominantly Republican congressional delegation find themselves in as Obama enters the honeymoon phase of his presidency. With the economy and the nation's housing market in a free fall, unemployment at record highs and a battle brewing over an Obama-backed stimulus package that policy experts say could reach $1 trillion, Republicans feel they have been made the scapegoat for many of the nation's woes.

"There's definitely a feeling out there. Anytime a party has been in power and had as many problems as the country has, when you have difficulties like that it's natural to pin the blame on that party," said Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Lexington, "I'm sure the truth is more complicated than that, but they have been in power for eight years."

Still, most Republican lawmakers eagerly embraced the symbolism of Obama's place in history as the first African American to hold the nation's highest office and have pledged to work in a bipartisan manner to resolve the country's financial woes. On Tuesday, as he did following the November elections, McConnell issued a statement congratulating Obama on his win.

"Inauguration Day is a day for all Americans to celebrate. For more than two centuries, the peaceful transfer of power between U.S. presidents has served as an inspiration to millions here and around the world," McConnell said. "And on this Inauguration Day, we witness another inspiring event as America's first African American president takes the oath of office from the Capitol steps. I congratulate President Obama and his family on this historic day."...(Click for remainder).

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US Senate begins confirming Obama Cabinet

By Thomas Ferraro
Reuters


WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The Democratic-led U.S. Senate began confirming new President Barack Obama's Cabinet on Tuesday, but it put off until Wednesday a vote on the designee for secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a single unanimous vote, the Senate confirmed Steven Chu as energy secretary, Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, Arne Duncan as education secretary, Ken Salazar as interior secretary and Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security. It also approved Peter Orszag as head of the White House budget office.

Obama's fellow Democrats had wanted Clinton also approved on Tuesday. But Sen. John Cornyn of Texas demanded a debate first regarding his concerns about foreign donations to a foundation created by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton. A vote on that nomination was scheduled for Wednesday.

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Obama declares US 'ready to lead'

An estimated one million people witnessed the swearing-in ceremony in Washington DC [AFP]

By Al Jazeera English

Barack Obama has declared the US is "ready to lead once more" and promised "mutual respect" for the Muslim world after being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

The first African-American to assume the office said in his inauguration address on Tuesday "all other peoples and governments who are watching" that "America is a friend of each nation ... who seeks a future of peace and dignity".

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, reporting from the US capital, said Obama's pledge was something of a rebuke to the outgoing president, George Bush, clearly implying that the US had failed to show leadership in the last few years.

The new president also warned the estimated one million people gathered in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC that the country faced many difficult challenges.

But he spoke of hope and resolve and urged Americans to usher in a "new era of responsibility".

"Today, I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

"They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: they will be met. We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America," he said....(Click for remainder).

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Obama's economic plan

By Lawrence Summers

Below are excerpts from a letter Lawrence Summers, director-designate of the National Economic Council, sent to the leaders of the House and Senate about President-elect Barack Obama's reforms to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

These are the changes that Barack Obama is committed to making happen. In particular, he will call for:

❖ Use our full arsenal of tools to get credit flowing again to families and businesses.

We also must do everything in our power to ensure our efforts are more directly reaching Main Street. We will work in close cooperation with the Congress, the Federal Reserve and other agencies to strengthen financial institutions and restart lending for small businesses, auto purchases and municipalities.

Reform our system of oversight, regulation and management of financial crises: Obama is committed to ensuring a full and accurate accounting of how the Treasury Department has allocated the funds spent to date and going forward. We will report on a continuous basis the earnings and repayments the federal government receives from institutions that have received financial rescue assistance. We will work with Congress to strengthen oversight and reform a weak and outdated regulatory system. Obama has asked his Treasury Department and economic team to analyze the recommendations of the Congressional Oversight Panel and other oversight bodies and implement those we believe will make the program more effective. Since this is a global crisis, we will work with the G-8 and within the G-20 to ensure international coordination on recovery, financial and regulatory policies.

Launch a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis: Obama has directed his White House and Cabinet to work with Congress to implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners while also reforming our bankruptcy laws and strengthening existing housing initiatives like Hope for Homeowners. Confronting this challenge is imperative if we are to restore the health of our housing sector and the financial system as a whole.

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President Obama (WhiteHouse.gov) Statement of Support of the LGBT Community

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

  • Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

  • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

  • Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

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