Clem's Chronicles: Jobs/Gate Crashers/Near Miss

Howdy-Clem Lane here. Plenty of news tonight.....

WH JOBS SUMMIT-Afghanistan. Health Care Reform. Fixing the Financial Crisis. President Obama has plenty on his plate, not the least of which is how to get tens of millions of laid-off Americans back into the work force. As Jake Tapper said in his WORLD NEWS open tonight “It is the single most confounding challenge of his domestic agenda. The US economy is growing again…but so is unemployment”. To help tackle the issue, the President convened a jobs summit today at the White House. In his opening remarks the President pointed to the good news portion of the economy-productivity up, corporate profits returning, a more robust stock market. But missing from the recovery? President Obama: “How do we get businesses to start hiring again?” The answers and ideas suggested by the more than 100 business leaders (and others) in attendance, Tapper tells us, were many. Tapper: “There was no shortage of ideas today…some pushed for hundreds of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending…others pushed tax credits for small businesses and ways to increase US exports….(as well as) lowering tax rates for corporations (that) would lead to more hiring.” For those hoping for quick solutions, Tapper has some bad news. Tapper: “Most of the ideas raised today would take months to enact…fueling criticism that today was mostly about public relations.” A point backed up by comments made in Tapper’s piece by economic researcher Daniel Clifton. Clifton: “A lot of this is to buy time rhetorically, that they’re not going to get something done until the springtime of next year if they were going to do something. And at that point there will be no reason to do it because jobs will be positive.” The President starts his “White House to Main Street” jobs tour with a visit tomorrow to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

JOBS AND THE STIMULUS-One of the suggestions at today’s jobs summit as mentioned above was a call for “hundreds of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending”. But wait….didn’t we do this already? While there’s been much to-ing and fro-ing over how many jobs have been saved/created under the stimulus, Chris Bury filing for WORLD NEWS tonight, notes there’s plenty of good news examples to report. Bury: “For these police cadets in Missouri…teachers in Virginia and construction workers in Pennsylvania, the stimulus means paychecks.” Bury looked at the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which got $127 million from the stimulus, which enabled them to hire “painters, carpenters and masons…to fix up broken down public housing in Philadelphia.” Carl Greene, the executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority tells Bury “without the stimulus money, 3000 less people would have the opportunity to work.” And we’re not talking all construction jobs. Bury notes the ripple effect, introducing us to Alan Levin, CEO of a Pennsylvania window company. Levin’s initial reaction to the stimulus plan was skeptical at best, but Bury reports that “now his firm is building the windows for that public housing. Hiring another 100 workers to run 3 shifts, 7 days a week.” Success stories no doubt but far short of the number needed to put 25 million Americans back to work. Still proponents of the stimulus plan, Bury notes would argue that “any jobs are better than none….and they see the benefits spreading beyond mere paychecks…to safer streets, stronger schools and better housing.”

JOBS REPORT OUT TOMORROW-We’ll get the November jobs report tomorrow-Dan Arnall notes “The current consensus estimate is predicting a month with no change in the unemployment rate – 10.2%.” Betsy Stark’s take? Stark:“There are conflicting signals from the data ahead of tomorrow’s jobs report. The ADP report (released yesterday/Wednesday) is signaling an uptick but first-time jobless claims, released every Thursday, were down today for the fifth consecutive week, suggesting stabilization in the job market and diminishing losses. Keep in mind, too… sometimes you see a jump in the unemployment rate when the economy is improving because discouraged workers are encouraged enough to re-enter the job market… and once they’re actively looking, they get counted in the unemployment rate.”

GATE CRASHERS: The fallout from the Gate-crashing Salahis continued today on the Hill. “The aspiring reality TV stars – the Salahis – today were a no show at a Congressional hearing where they would have been star witnesses,” Pierre Thomas reported on WORLD NEWS. “The chairman of the committee that summoned them issued the threat of subpoena. The other star witness did appear.” That other star witness is Mark Sullivan, Director of the U.S. Secret Service, who today testified the Salahis’ State Dinner-crashing was “an unforgivable and indefensible mistake that we’ve made.” At least three Secret Service officers have been place on administrative leave pending an internal inquiry. Thomas also reports the Secret Service has opened a criminal investigation and the Salahis risk possible charges if they misled a federal agent: “The [Secret Service] director…suggested that the Salahis did say to the officer at that first checkpoint that they were supposed to be on the list. This raises the possibility that the couple may have indeed crashed and misled a federal agent—a possible violation of federal law. The Salahis have an argument this was a misunderstanding, but the emails we’ve seen show no evidence anyone told them they were authorized to come, only that an effort was made to get them in.” And what about Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, who did not follow past protocol and stand with the Secret Service at the initial guest checkpoint? She too opted out of testifying at today’s hearing, and Thomas reports that Sullivan “says that the White House and Secret Service decided jointly that the service would solely be responsible for the first check point and that White House Social Secretary staff would float, available as necessary. While taking full responsibility ---the director added---it ‘would have been helpful’ if the White House staff had been at the initial checkpoint.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

NEAR MISS: The FAA is investigating how two planes approaching the Denver airport last week nearly collided. The incident occurred the morning of November 23. A Skywest regional jet was in line to land at Denver International Airport; a second jet, operated by Republic, was flying parallel to the landing line and needed to be put into the same line-up for landing. “That’s when the mistake happened,” Lisa Stark reported on WORLD NEWS, “Controllers gave the Republic pilots an incorrect heading – forcing them to make a U turn. That put the Republic jet right in the path of the Skywest plane – which was just 200 feet above it… and only a little more than a mile and a half away – closing quickly, just seconds apart…on board the jets, collision avoidance systems…sounded in the cockpits, forcing the pilots to take the evasive action to head off a collision.” ABC News’ Denver affiliate KMGH reports that an aviation source said the planes “were within a blink of an eye of colliding.” The FAA has confirmed to ABC News that it is investigating the loss of required separation – the distance required between two aircrafts to ensure safety – and that they “want to fully understand how this event occurred and ensure all the necessary safety measures are in place." (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

HEART SCREENING FOR MIDDLE-SCHOOLERS-Early medical screening has been in the news lately, most noticeably the furor over mammograms and whether the benefits outweigh the negatives for forty-somethings who undergo yearly testing. Ryan Owens, reporting for WORLD NEWS, brought us a story of REALLY early screening…tweens and heart-health. Owens: “ (Some) 1500 Houston 6th graders are being screened for heart problems. It’s the work of a group of cardiologists trying to detect heart disease and defects in children. What they are finding is startling. Of just 94 students screened this Spring, 7 had undiagnosed heart conditions, two required surgery.” Wow-great idea. Why haven’t we already been doing this ? Owens notes that “these tests are not cheap. If you took a child to the hospital for all these tests, it could cost up to $2000. Doctors here are able to do it for $150 a child…all covered by donations.” But setting cost issues aside, it’s a no-brainer right? Owens reports that “not all cardiologists agree. They say the focus shouldn’t be on expensive heart tests…but on giving all children access to routine pediatric care.” Tell that to Renee Suchowiecky, whose 15-year-old daughter Nicole died after she went into cardiac arrest during lacrosse practice. Says Ms. Suchowiecky: “Even if you find only one, it’s totally worth it.”

AFGHANISTAN: There have been more briefings, more hearings and more questions about President Obama’s new Afghan war strategy. Let’s begin with our Nick Schifrin in Kabul: “Gen. Stanley McChrystal spent an hour and 15 minutes today briefing Afghan Members of Parliament -- the first time that a senior member of the US military has convened such a meeting, according to the meeting's chair, the deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament. Mirwais Yasini said McChrystal spent most of his time defending Obama's stated plan to begin transferring authority and bringing home troops by July 2011. Some parliamentarians argued to McChrystal that the date emboldened the enemy. McChrystal, Yasini said, argued that the date was "not a withdrawal. We will pull back gradually, focusing on training and transferring authority gradually." McChrystal also argued that the American investment in Afghanistan was for the "long term." Yasini said that McChrystal left a positive impression, and that the parliamentarians praised him for one very important thing…civilian casualties have been dramatically reduced since his arrival.” Here in this country, members of the President’s War Council continued to answer questions from members of Congress. Luis Martinez tells us about an appearance by Defense Secretary Gates before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Asked by Chmn. John Kerry to explain how the nexus between al Qaeda and the Taliban required sending more troops to Afghanistan, Gates characterized the situation in the region as being “more dangerous than it was a year or 18 months ago.” He cited al Qaeda’s linkages to the Taliban, to the Pakistan Taliban’s militant actions in Pakistan and the Mumbai attacks as not only destabilizing to Afghanistan, but the entire region. “And (quoting Gates) al Qaeda is at the heart of it. And whether or not the terrorists are homegrown, when we trace their roots, they almost all end up back in this border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether they're from the United States or Somalia or the United Kingdom or elsewhere.” We also learned today that an infusion of 3,000 troops in two provinces in eastern Afghanistan early this year has already started to pay off. As Martha Raddatz found out during a recent trip to Afghanistan: “Flying between the massive mountains south of can easily spot them. US military outposts where thousands of soldiers have descended since January--a small but steady surge that has made a significant difference .” When the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team took up their positions, their first task was to keep the insurgents out of the villages. Martha says: “Once the insurgents were gone.. the building began. US forces and civilians moved in..paving roads, including this one that runs through the local market.” And Martha found something else at a market in Wardak province: “Another big difference in this market is solar lights. This allows the market to stay open late in the evening.” “The market has become vibrant. This could not have happened without additional presence in the area. It has changed overnight, over 10 months.” And the Obama Administration, no doubt, feels another 30,000 troops will make an even greater difference. And late word that even more troop commitments are forthcoming. Secretary of State Clinton has just arrived in Brussels for talks aimed at rallying more allied support for the Obama administration's plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan. She told reporters traveling with her that she is encouraged that a number of NATO allies - and other countries involved in Afghanistan – plan to begin to publicly announce new troop commitments on Friday. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

AMANDA KNOX- American student Amanda Knox, fighting back tears, told the Italian court trying her for the murder of her British roommate that she doesn't want to be branded an assassin. With her voice breaking, Knox addressed the eight members of the jury Thursday, just before they were scheduled to begin their deliberations, possibly Friday. It was her final statement to the court. (AP)

HEALTH CARE REFORM PASSES FIRST TEST IN SENATE-One down, an untold number to go. In a 58-42 vote, the Senate rejected Sen. John McCain's effort to strip the legislation of more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts. The amendment would have sent the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee for a redo.

OTHER STUFF- -- GM/DEALER CLOSINGS-Earlier this year, GM announced it was shuttering nearly 2600 dealerships as part of its plan to return to profitability. Much howling ensued, including members of Congress who wanted to know exactly how GM decided dealerships’ fates. Charles Herman notes that “Today, GM, the recipient of $50 billion in taxpayer money, announced a plan to resolve questions about the dealerships and perhaps forestall legislation related to GM’s dealership restructuring. GM said the plan would allow the automaker to continue its restructuring even as it might also result in some dealers keeping their business of selling GM cars and trucks.” It’s not certain how many dealerships ultimately might be saved.

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