Friday, July 8, 2011

President Obama on June Job Numbers

President Obama speaks to the press about the June job numbers report and calls on Congress to work with him to strengthen the economy and produce more jobs.

White House Briefs

Seven Dead, Including Suspect, in Michigan Shooting Spree

The dead include two children and two women believed to be former girlfriends of the suspect, who led police on a car chase through Grand Rapids.

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By Jennifer Meckles

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World News: Former Cameron Aide Arrested in Phone-Hacking Scandal

Prime Minister David Cameron takes "full responsibility," but refuses to apologize for hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

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By Steven Hsieh

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Patient Saved With World's First Lab-Grown Windpipe

The 36-year-old patient's cancerous windpipe was replaced by the world's first artificial trachea made of his own stem cells.

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By Jiaxi Lu
Anchor Ana Compain-Romero

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Gay History Bill Passes Assembly; Heads to Governor

California assembly has passed a bill that would introduce contribution of GLBTQ activist to public school history books.

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By Lexa Deckert
Anchor Ana Compain-Romero

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Cuomo Nominates Cox For Top Post

Nominee Tapped as New York State Medicaid Inspector General

Governor Andrew Cuomo has nominated James C. Cox to serve as the New York State Medicaid Inspector General.

"Jim Cox is exactly who we need to serve as the New York State Medicaid Inspector General," Governor Cuomo said.

"He is an exemplary professional with an impeccable public service record and extensive knowledge of health and human services. In addition, his experience with the auditing process will help create a more efficient and cost effective system that will monitor the delivery of crucial services across the state. I look forward to working with Jim as we continue to put the needs of New Yorkers first."

For 23 years, Cox has worked in the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General's Office of Audit Services. He served most recently as Regional Inspector General for Region V, which consists of six Midwestern states.

In this role, he coordinated national and regional audits for Medicare and Medicaid, and helped create a joint Department of Justice and Health and Human Services task force to combat waste, fraud and abuse in government programs.

Previously, Cox was Supervisory Auditor for Region II, responsible for three field offices; Puerto Rico, New York City, and Albany. He organized joint efforts between Federal and State law enforcement and auditing agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations, New York State Office of the Comptroller, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

He also served as National Audit Manager, during which nine audit reports were issued resulting in disallowances totaling $35 million. Prior, he was a Senior Auditor in the Albany Field Office.

Cox received his B.A. from Russell Sage College in 1988. He was a recipient of the Association of Governmental Accountant's (AGA) National President's Award and was named AGA's Financial Manager of the Year.

He has served as Chapter President of the AGA, during which the New York Capital Chapter received many awards including the national Chapter Education award.

Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said, "Jim Cox has been a valuable member of our senior management team for more than two decades. Although we'll miss Jim's steady hand as our Regional Inspector General for Audit Services in Chicago, we look forward to continuing our collaboration in his important new role as New York's Medicaid Inspector General. We know he'll serve the state with distinction."

Richard Fair, who was the New Jersey State auditor for eighteen years and is now on the faculty of Rutgers University stated, "Jim Cox is an extremely qualified auditor. He is dedicated to the profession and stays current with new audit approaches and techniques. He is well respected by his staff as well as his peers. He is, in my mind, a true professional and I highly recommend him for the position of New York Medicaid Inspector General."

Established pursuant to Chapter 442 of the Laws of 2006, the Office of Medicaid Inspector General is an independent agency within the Department of Health. The OMIG's mission is to improve the efficiency and accountability of the New York State Medicaid program by preventing and detecting fraudulent, wasteful and abusive practices.

The OMIG coordinates the fraud, waste and abuse control activities of all state executive branch agencies and works in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, including the New York State Attorney General's Fraud Control Unit.

'The Unemployment Rate Remains Unacceptably High'

The Employment Situation in June

WASHINGTON - Today, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Austan Goolsbee issued the following statement.

Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 57,000 in June and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.2 percent. While the private sector has added 2.2 million jobs over the past 16 months, this month’s report reflects the recent slowdown of economic growth due to headwinds faced in the first half of this year.

The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high and faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. Today’s report underscores the need for bipartisan action to help the private sector and the economy grow – such as measures to extend the payroll tax cut, pass the pending free trade agreements, and create an infrastructure bank to help put Americans back to work. It also underscores the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that instills confidence and allows us to live within our means without shortchanging future growth.

Overall payroll employment rose by just 18,000 in June. Sectors with employment increases included leisure and hospitality (+34,000), health care (+13,500), and manufacturing (+6,000). Sectors with employment declines included government (-39,000), financial activities (-15,000), and construction (-9,000). Manufacturing has added 251,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010, the best period of manufacturing job growth in over a decade. Meanwhile, local governments lost 18,000 jobs in June and have shed 355,000 jobs since the start of 2010.

The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

White House Briefs

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Unraveling?

Is the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful political force, falling apart?

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By Lexa Deckert

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Politics in Action: H.R. 1309


H.R. 1309 – Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011

(Rep. Biggert, R-IL, and 19 cosponsors)

The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 1309 to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This bill would strengthen the NFIP’s current financial position and increase its ability to fund future claims.

The Administration is pleased that the bill would provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with greater flexibility to set premium rates. The bill provides improved protection for American taxpayers by requiring FEMA to use actuarial principles in determining full flood risk rates for certain properties. The bill would also phase in changes to let policyholders and communities adjust. The bill would authorize studies and pilots to test alternative approaches to flood insurance that is sustainable and cost-effective.

The Administration recognizes the importance of improving the quality of flood risk information to the public and looks forward to working with the Congress to ensure that implementation concerns related to notification requirements are addressed in the final version of the bill. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on further reform to strengthen the NFIP.

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Military Suicides Now Recognized With Condolence Letters

The Obama administration overturned the ban on condolence letters for members of the military who commit suicide.

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By Megan Farokhmanesh

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11-Year-Old Could Be Tried As Adult For Murder

An 11-year-old boy shot his 6-year-old brother in the head. He may be tried as an adult in Indiana.

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By Kylie McGivern

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China Raises Interest Rates Again

Is inflation getting out of control? That’s the concern after China raises interest rates for the third time this year.

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By George Dumontier

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Obama Administration Offers Additional Mortgage Relief to Unemployed Homeowners

Adjustments to FHA and MHA Requirements to Allow 12-Month Forbearances

Washington, DC - Today, the Obama Administration announced adjustments to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements that will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners to 12 months.

The Administration also intends to require servicers participating in the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) to extend the minimum forbearance period to 12 months wherever possible under regulator and investor guidelines. These adjustments will provide much needed assistance for unemployed homeowners trying to stay in their homes while seeking re-employment.

These changes are intended to set a standard for the mortgage industry to provide more robust assistance to unemployed homeowners in the economic downturn.

The changes to FHA's Special Forbearance Program announced today will require servicers to extend the forbearance period for FHA borrowers who qualify for the program from four to 12 months and remove upfront hurdles to make it easier for unemployed borrowers to qualify.

"The current unemployed forbearance programs have mandatory periods that are inadequate for the majority of unemployed borrowers," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

"Today, 60 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than three months and 45 percent have been out of work for more than six. Providing the option for a year of forbearance will give struggling homeowners a substantially greater chance of finding employment before they lose their home."

Changes to MHA’s Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP) will require participating servicers to extend the minimum forbearance period from 3 months to 12 months for eligible unemployed homeowners, whenever possible subject to investor and regulator guidance for each mortgage loan. Additionally, forbearance under UP will become available to borrowers who are seriously delinquent.

All FHA-approved servicers must participate in FHA’s Loss Mitigation Program, which includes the Special Forbearance program. In addition to extending the forbearance period and removing the up-front hurdles for borrowers, the FHA also reemphasized its requirement that servicers conduct a review at the end of the forbearance period to evaluate the borrower for all additional, applicable foreclosure assistance programs and notify the borrower in writing whether or not he/she qualifies for any other available option.

If the borrower does not qualify for any foreclosure assistance option, the servicer must provide the borrower with the reason for denial and allow the borrower at least seven calendar days to submit additional information that may impact the servicer’s evaluation.

These reforms build on successful Administration initiatives to support unemployed borrowers through the $7.6 billion Hardest Hit Fund and the $1 billion Emergency Homeowner Loan Program (EHLP).

The Hardest Hit Fund, first announced in February 2010, provides support to 18 states and the District of Columbia, which represent the areas hardest hit by steep home price declines and unemployment, to design and implement programs to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Participating states have dedicated approximately seventy percent of program funds toward programs to help homeowners struggling with unemployment or underemployment. As of this month, each participating state is accepting applications from borrowers and providing direct mortgage assistance to those that qualify.

The EHLP program complements the Hardest Hit Fund, by serving the remaining 32 states and Puerto Rico. Congress provided $1 billion dollars to HUD, as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, to implement the recently launched program.

EHLP assists homeowners who have experienced a reduction in income and are at risk of foreclosure due to involuntary unemployment, underemployment due to economic conditions or a medical condition. EHLP is expected to aid up to 30,000 distressed borrowers, with an average loan of approximately $35,000.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Twitter Town Hall

President Obama answers your questions on the economy and jobs submitted via the Twitter hashtag #AskObama.

World News: Syria Continues to Crack Down in Hama

Syrian security forces extended their crack down in Hama. At least 22 people were killed by July 5.

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By Una Lue
Anchored by Christina Hartman

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World News: Court Holds Netherlands Accountable for Srebrenica Deaths

An appeals court in the Netherlands ruled the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

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By Jing Zhao
Anchor Christina Hartman

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Politics in Action: H.R. 2354


H.R. 2354 — Energy and Water Appropriations Act, 2012

(Rep. Rogers, R-KY)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on H.R. 2354, making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.

The Administration is committed to ensuring the Nation lives within its means and reducing the deficit so that the Nation can compete in the global economy and win the future.

That is why the President put forth a comprehensive fiscal framework that reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, supports economic growth and long-term job creation, protects critical investments, meets the commitments made to provide dignity and security to Americans no matter their circumstances, and provides for our national security.

While overall funding limits and subsequent allocations remain unclear pending the outcome of ongoing bipartisan, bicameral discussions between the Administration and congressional leadership on the Nation's long-term fiscal picture, the Administration has concerns regarding the level of resources the bill would provide for a number of programs in a way that undermines core government functions, investments key to economic growth and job creation, as well as national security. Programs adversely affected by the bill include:

Department of Energy (DOE)

Clean Energy Research and Development (R&D). The level of funding provided for R&D of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies would undermine the ability of the United States to develop a clean energy economy and create jobs for the future.

By reducing funds for key programs including Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, and the Office of Science, the bill places at risk U.S. competitiveness in technologies and expanding markets such as electric vehicles and batteries, new "drop-in" hydrocarbon biofuels, cost-saving energy-efficient systems for homes and businesses, advanced manufacturing materials and processes, and cost-competitive solar energy and offshore wind power.

Climate Research. The funding level for the Office of Science's Biological and Environmental Research program would hamper the Administration’s efforts to conduct and support scientific research on the relationship between energy production and the environment.

The Administration also strongly disagrees with the Committee Report suggestion that climate and atmospheric research are unrelated to DOE's core basic science mission.

Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program (Title XVII). The bill significantly reduces credit subsidy budget authority for the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program, which helps finance renewable energy and efficient end-use projects.

The bill also does not provide any additional loan volume authority for nuclear power projects or any of the requested funds for a new Better Building Pilot Loan Guarantee Program. These programs are an important part of the Nation's efforts to deploy innovative clean energy technologies, and these reductions may slow progress toward a clean energy future.

Yucca Mountain License. Continued funding of the Yucca Mountain license application will divert funds from the Nation’s efforts to advance fuel cycle technologies and develop waste management options. The Administration has established a Blue Ribbon Commission to inform the development of a new strategy for nuclear waste management and disposal.

Environmental Management. The level of resources in the bill may affect DOE's ability to meet its goals for cleaning up legacy waste from its nuclear programs.

Nuclear Posture Review Goals and Maintaining a Safe, Secure and Effective Nuclear Deterrent. The Administration objects to the funding reduction in Title III, Weapons Activities, which will delay the achievement of a number of important Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) goals.

The full request supports the Administration's commitment to modernization of the nuclear weapons complex made in the NPR and reaffirmed as part of the New START treaty ratification process.

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The Administration objects to funding reductions in Title III, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Fissile Materials Disposition and Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Reactor Conversion. These reductions will undermine U.S. ability to begin disposing plutonium in 2018 and delay efforts to reduce usage of HEU in nuclear reactors worldwide.

Corps of Engineers (Corps)

Construction and New Starts. The bill provides excess funding for the Corps' construction program while also underfunding some of the highest priority construction projects, including the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program, a nationally significant effort that includes the Everglades.

The bill's "no new start" prohibition would preclude funding the limited number of priority new starts in the President's Budget, including an important new program to reverse damage to the coastal Louisiana ecosystem and a study called for by the Congress to examine flood risks nationwide in order to improve existing programs.

Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

Indian Water Rights Settlements. Absorbing funding for Indian water settlements in the Bureau's primary funding account would limit the Bureau's ability to fund other high priority programs, such as its water conservation activities.

San Joaquin Rescission. Rescinding unobligated balances from the San Joaquin Restoration Fund would undermine the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement's goals to restore and maintain fish populations and reduce or avoid water supply impacts.

Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration

High Speed Rail Balances. The Administration opposes the rescission of unobligated balances that have already been competitively awarded to projects across the country. These projects will create jobs and make needed improvements to the intercity passenger rail network. Rescinding funds now would significantly disrupt States' planning and construction efforts, which count on their committed amounts.

The bill includes the following problematic policy and language issues:

Clean Water Act. Section 109 of the bill would stop an important Administration effort to provide clarity around which water bodies are covered by the Clean Water Act. The Administration’s work in this area will help to protect the public health and economic benefits provided to the American public by clean water, while also bringing greater certainty to business planning and investment and reducing an ongoing loss of wetlands and other sensitive aquatic resources.

The existing regulations were the subject of two recent Supreme Court cases, in which the Court itself indicated the need for greater regulatory clarity regarding the appropriate scope of the Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

Fighting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. The Administration is concerned with sections 606 and 607 of the bill and looks forward to working with the Congress to achieve the intended purpose of protecting the interest of the Nation's taxpayers, which is consistent with the Administration's efforts to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal contracts, grants, and other Federal assistance.

Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program (Title XVII). Section 312 of the bill, requiring release of pre-decisional, business-sensitive information, could negatively impact the Title XVII loan program, potential applicants, and related private-sector entities.

Not protecting business-sensitive information of applicants to the program could have significant market implications for the companies and could encourage "gaming the system" by applicants, including by discouraging them from sharing information with the Department which is critical to ensuring the Government establishes accurate cost estimates.

Regulatory Restriction. Section 313 of the bill unnecessarily limits and delays the Department's activities on regulations as defined under Executive Order 12866 for energy efficient appliances and potentially other regulatory activities.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process moves forward.

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