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Former Space Man Talks Politics, Accomplishments

Joshua Chaney

Posted:  Apr 23rd 2009 5:28PM

Filed Under: Politics, Culture, The Economy, Muskingum College

Perhaps one of the most distinguished and certainly one of the most recognizable people in American history spoke humbly of his life accomplishments and reviewed Obama's first 100 days earlier this month.

On April 9, 2009 - 50 years ago this month - John Glenn was named a member of the Mercury 7, the United States' first astronauts. Glenn grew up in the village of New Concord - a small, college town in southeastern Ohio. He was a member of the village band and eventually a student at Muskingum College.

Since those days, his name has been one that is familiar to most anyone. He was a fighter pilot, a test pilot, one of America's first astronauts, the first man to orbit earth in space, an Ohio senator, a presidential candidate and later the oldest man to fly in space.

"It's hard for me to believe it's been that long," he said. "Part of that is because it seems to vivid to me."

One thing made clear by speaking with Glenn is his keen interest in politics and history. In fact, Glenn, a former Ohio Senator from 1974 to 1999, ran for president in 1984 but was unsuccessful. A close friend of the Kennedy family, Glenn was with Robert Kennedy when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Texas.

Glenn campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and President Barack Obama in 2008. Glenn has said Obama is "doing an exceptional job" dealing with America's economic crisis.

"I can't speak with any certainty about the economy, because nobody knows what's going to happen, and I think we had to do something because this was the biggest drift down since the Great Depression."

Full Article »

national newspolitics

Obama Announces $13 Billion Train Project

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Apr 17th 2009 12:11AM

Filed Under: Politics, National News, The Economy, Towson University

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a $13 billion high-speed American rail transit development project on Thursday.

The transportation project will be funded by an initial down payment of $8 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and an additional $1 billion per year for five years, beginning with the 2010 budget.

Ten regional rail systems have been identified for the project: the California Corridor, the Pacific Northwest Corridor, the South Central Corridor, the Gulf Coast Corridor, the Chicago Hub Network, the Florida Corridor, the Southeast Corridor, the Keystone Corridor, the Empire Corridor and the Northern New England Corridor.

Amtrak, the passenger rail system founded in 1971, operates with revenue below expenses and receives an annually increasing federal subsidy reaching $6.3 million for fiscal year 2013, as mandated in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Additionally, Amtrak received $1.3 billion of the 2009 ARRA funds.

Full Article »

Bank Failures in 2009 Outpace 2008 Five-Fold

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Apr 12th 2009 10:26PM

Filed Under: The Economy, Towson University

Two bank closings announced on Friday bring the tally of bank failures in 2009 up to 23 in just 15 weeks.

New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado closed with $2.0 billion in assets and $1.5 billion in deposits. Cape Fear Bank of Wilmington, North Carolina closed with $492 million in assets and its $403 million deposits were absorbed by First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Charleston, South Carolina, according to FDIC Bank Failures and Assistance records.

The announcement of bank failures early in the second quarter of 2009 outpace those in 2008 five-fold. From January through May, 2008, four banks had failed. Throughout 2008, 24 banks closed nationwide, just one more than 2009 to date. In 2007, only three banks failed, according to FDIC records. There were no bank failures in either 2006 or 2005.

The results of recent bank stress tests are expected to be released by the end of April.

The basic FDIC insurance coverage limit for depositors is $250,000 per account, raised from the previous limit of $100,000 through December 31, 2009.

The FDIC provides a tool to help depositors of failed banks determine if their accounts are fully insured.

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College Seniors Leaving Jobs to Search for Employment

Bright Hall explores the far-reaching effects of the financial crisis on the youth and campuses of America. Click here for the full series.

In an e-mail to fellow student workers in a university office, my colleague penned a letter which was at once both sad and terrifically ironic.

"I'm having a much harder time finding a full-time job after graduation than I anticipated," my friend, a senior majoring in print journalism, wrote.

"Unfortunately, I am going to have to cut back on my hours ... in order to dedicate more time to the job search," she said, asking if anyone could pick up her Friday shift for the rest of the semester.

The mood among campus seniors hinges on whether one has plans for after graduation. With final exams approaching and graduation ceremonies only a few weeks away, a sense of anxiety is increasingly apparent -- and it's not just the print journalism majors who are struggling.

Full Article »



Obama Okays Purchase of 17,600 American Cars

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Apr 11th 2009 3:31PM

Filed Under: Politics, Breaking News, The Economy, Towson University

The Obama Administration pledged to buy thousands of cars from American automakers that have been practically insolvent for months, in a press release dated April 9.

"The General Services Administration will spend $285 million of Recovery Act Funds to purchase about 17,600 commercially available fuel efficient vehicles for the government fleet before June 1, 2009," the press release states. "All purchases will be made from manufacturers with an existing contract with the GSA, which are General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. This includes the purchase of 2,500 hybrid sedans that will be ordered by April 15. This is the largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles for the federal government fleet in history."

Chrysler and GM had already been collectively granted $17.4 billion worth of Troubled Asset Relief Program loans in December, with the obligation to present the Obama Administration with restructuring plans to avoid bankruptcy by March 31. Having missed the deadline, they were granted another 30 and 60 days, respectively.

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Predictions Begin for End of Recession

Adam Kirchner

Posted:  Apr 9th 2009 11:21PM

Filed Under: The Economy, Towson University

White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers predicted that the U.S. economy's "free fall" will end mid-year, speaking at an Economic Club of Washington event on Thursday.

Summers' statements are in complete contrast with data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics within the past week.

"Labor market conditions continued to deteriorate in March," Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall announced to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on April 3. "Total non-farm payroll employment decreased by 663,000, and the unemployment rate increased from 8.1 to 8.5 percent."

"Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007," Hall continued, "job losses have totaled 5.1 million, 3.3 million of which occurred in just the past 5 months. These declines have been widespread across industry sectors, but particularly sharp in manufacturing, construction, and temporary help services. Together, these industries have accounted for nearly two-thirds of the job loss during the recession."

In fact, the last time that unemployment did not increase, month-over-month, was a year ago when there were 145,000 fewer unemployment claims in April than there were in March. From April 2008's trough at 5.0 percent unemployment, the rate has risen to 8.5 percent. Hall added that the employment-to-population ratio in March reached the lowest point since July 1985.

Again, in spite of the BLS report, White House National Economic Director Lawrence Summer stated "I think we can be reasonably confident that [economic trends are] going to end within the next few months and you will no longer have that sense of free fall."

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What's Really Funny About Tribune's April Fools' Prank

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Apr 3rd 2009 3:11AM

Filed Under: Breaking News, Boston University, Media, The Economy

The bankrupt brains at Tribune Co. sure had a laugh Wednesday. After filing for bankruptcy, shrinking their papers' Washington bureaus and firing hundreds of employees across the country, Tribune thought it could make it all better with a joke.

So on April Fools' Day, they issued a press release -- accompanied by a mysteriously well-designed homepage -- that boasted the creation of something called the "Accelerator," some kind of super-communications thingy that threatens to make the Internet obsolete in a year. It uses nanotechnology, it displays holographs, it has voice recognition in every language, and it has a plutonium battery. All this (and so much more) is detailed on Tribune's release and website, which looks like it took hours, and maybe days, to perfect.

When crafting this prank, Tribune's idea men -- Sam Zell, Lee Abrams and Randy Michaels -- must have put a lot of effort into it, maybe even working overtime. Michaels, the chief operating officer, says in the fake news release that the Accelerator team "put in long hours, many of them sober. And this marvelous device is the result -- The Accelerator(TM) will mean billions in revenue, and the end of the extremely competitive advertising environment in which we've been operating."

Nobody laughed very hard upon reading this. And given Abrams's propensity for writing "think pieces" full of misspellings, ALL-CAPS DECLARATIONS and stream-of-consciousness ideas from a dream-like state, it's no surprise that the Tribune team made its highest priority for April 1 wiping out its website to promote a product that isn't real. (Abrams's style is not representative of the papers his company owns; in addition to not proofreading, he also doesn't check facts, which is evident in this January blast about a quote from Mariah Carey that she never said.)

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The 3 Most Awkward Recession Stories

Tony Romm

Posted:  Mar 31st 2009 8:32PM

Filed Under: Media, The Economy, American University

It is hardly a secret that journalists relish crises of all flavors. Distress, economic or otherwise, satiates our inner-most desires to break important news. Occasionally this excitement verges on nauseating.

If that general prognosis immediately conjures images of economic recession stories gone sour, you're probably not alone. In the months that have followed the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program, journalists have penned countless stories -- some veritably profound and insightful, many alarmingly pathetic and unsound. Here's a sampling of the best of the worst:

1. Recession Sex!

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posed a question for the ages last Friday -- does the chilly economy heat up the boring bedroom? Presumably, the author augurs, "People are spending less, especially on entertainment and restaurants. They're staying in and looking for cheaper ways to have fun." And because the sex industry has also suffered -- brothels in Nevada are now attributing their staggering losses to the recession, while the pornography industry has all but lost its clientele -- married men and women are hedging their wedding stock options (err, vows) and finally enjoying themselves. The result, experts allege, has been a manifest (yet unmeasurable) increase in relationship success rates. However, if recession sex is anything like its cacophonous predecessor terror sex, the fun won't last long. Case in point...

2. Recession vasectomies!

"In troubled times, vasectomies snip and prosper" -- or so says CNN, which published the story on Tuesday. According to writer Madison Park, a number of males recently left unemployed by the recession (and thus, without health benefits) have sought the "symbolic snip" as the ultimate contraceptive. Some clinics, including one profiled in the CNN article, have even tried to capitalize on this trend with creative gimmicks like "Vas-Madness" -- an awe-inspiring combination of the male community's fear of pregnancy with the popular NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. "[Patients] would love to have a procedure, go home and sit there when you've got all-day programming, watch basketball," the mastermind doctor told CNN. True, you may not be able to afford a television on which to watch those games, but...

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'White People With Blue Eyes' Caused Economic Crisis?

Joshua Chaney

Posted:  Mar 28th 2009 9:42AM

Filed Under: Culture, News, The Economy, Muskingum College

Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recently blamed the global economic crisis on "white people with blue eyes," and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people's mistakes, the Financial Times reported.

Standing next to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a joint press conference in Brasilia, Lula da Silva told reporters: "This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing."

"I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimised more than any other should pay for the crisis," he added.

What a fun position Gordon Brown found himself in!

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Since When Do Politicians Care About Newspapers?

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Mar 24th 2009 11:36PM

Filed Under: Politics, Boston University, Advise & Dissent, Media, The Economy

Animated disagreement between coworkers is a venerable tradition often denied to Bright Hall's far-flung, break room-less staff. Advise & Dissent is an attempt to fix that. Click here for past debates, and click here to read Tony Romm's argument against nonprofit newspapers.

The difference between a newspaper and a press release from a senator's office is that the first usually contains the whole, objective truth, and the latter is full of spin and bias.

So it may be striking some political and media observers as odd that politicians have begun lining up to offer federal help to print journalism. The latest effort comes from Senator Benjamin Cardin, who on Tuesday introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to get a bunch of tax breaks if they work as nonprofits.

There is a catch, though -- they would be barred from political endorsements on their editorial pages.

Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, said his effort is aimed at helping local papers, not big conglomerates that also dabble in TV and radio. Unprecedented numbers of newspapers big and small are on the verge of disappearing, and many have already declared bankruptcy or stopped printing -- like the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The cause is a deadly cocktail that is part terrible economy and part old business model, which relies almost solely on advertisements, which have been steadily declining for years.

"We are losing our newspaper industry," Cardin said. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."

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Obama Dances In Boring Press Conference

Joshua Chaney

Posted:  Mar 24th 2009 10:30PM

Filed Under: Politics, News, The Economy, Muskingum College

Who's sick of hearing the President blame all of his problems on the previous administration?

Evidently some in the press.

The answer to a tough question usual begins with an Obama answer along the following lines: "Well, I would say you have to remember, I inherited (insert any current national crisis or issue here)."

The president didn't disappoint in delivering that answer at a press conference in which he spent most of the night defending his $3.6 trillion budget, saying the budget "is inseparable from this recovery."

Overall, the press conference seemed dull, highlighted only by Obama's eloquence in dancing around each question, giving long-winded answers normally that had little - if any - to do with what was asked and usually ended with health care reform or green energy reform and green jobs.

CNN's Ed Henry and CBS' Chip Reid called the president on the hypocrisy. Asked on the question of whether his budget tramples wishes not to "pass on our problems to the next generation," Obama kicked off his answer by blaming President Bush and Congressional Republicans.

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The Bonuses: Who Is To Blame?

Joshua Chaney

Posted:  Mar 22nd 2009 10:50AM

Filed Under: Politics, The Economy, Muskingum College

It has come to light in the past few days that the Obama Administration pushed the Treasury Department to urge a change in the stimulus bill protecting the AIG bonuses that the country has become enraged over.

Yet Obama has walked away virtually unscathed; not many are blaming him. In listening to him speak, I almost expected him any minute to deflect blame in his usual way by blaming the Bush Administration, but that didn't happen. Obama said he "didn't write the contracts," but that the "buck stops here."

The president will announce a plan this week that seeks increased oversight on all executive pay for banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies. The House voted Thursday to place a 90 percent tax on the bonuses.

There is much more rage aimed at Chris Dodd, the Democratic senator from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, who has essentially said Obama's Treasury Department coerced him into making the change for "technical" reasons. If only he had known, he would have not made the change, he said.

If only he had known what he was doing. Great excuse, Senator.

Full Article »


The Huffington Post: Whose Side Are They On?

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Mar 19th 2009 8:32AM

Filed Under: Politics, Featured Stories, Boston University, Media, The Economy

Chris Dodd, the Democratic senator from Connecticut, yesterday admitted to his role in allowing AIG to pay its executives bonuses with taxpayer money. He told CNN that he was responsible for adding language to the stimulus bill that would allow such contracts to retain their legality, despite saying Tuesday that he had nothing to do with the language.

The news isn't great for Dodd, who is already stumbling in his home-state polls. But one place you'd never suspect that is The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post -- or "HuffPo" -- has long been a Democrat-friendly news aggregator and blog hub, known for its screaming, all-caps banner headlines pertaining to the issue du jour. So yesterday, following Dodd's admission, the Huffington Post decided to instead put the blame on the Federal Reserve.

"WHOSE SIDE ARE THEY ON?" HuffPo asked, above the more specific headline, "Fed Failed To Tell Obama About AIG Bonuses." That second statement has certainly been a talking point from the White House, which has insisted that Barack Obama did not know about the bonuses until just before the public found out.

That's not all, though. Below the website's main picture of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the AIG building and Obama, another sub-headline reads, "Dodd: Treasury Insisted On Weakening Bonus Provision," again playing to the Democrat's spin that he was pressured by the administration to add the language to the stimulus bill.

This should not be a surprise to many people, and this is by no means the first time such selective headlining has appeared in the Huffington Post. Yet with nearly 8 million visitors per month, the Huffington Post is trailblazing the way for online opinion molding.

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Somebody Bring Wall Street a Big Chocolate Cake

Matt Negrin

Posted:  Mar 18th 2009 9:34PM

Filed Under: Politics, Boston University, The Economy

It seems to me that the stock market is like a bipolar kid at a birthday party. At any point he could be wailing and running around, knocking over lamps and chairs, or he could be perfectly complacent while he eats ice cream.

The difference is instead of lamps breaking, people lose millions of dollars.

Sometimes the peaks and valleys in the Dow Jones index make about as much sense as a Jackson Pollock painting, and even financial experts are befuddled. Last week, the Dow -- a composite mix of 30 "indicator" stocks -- inexplicably jumped nearly 6 percent in one day.

Why? Nobody knows. Some said it was because investors were itching to buy stocks and leaped at the first signs that the day's market wasn't dropping dramatically. Maybe traders were scanning the news looking for just a glimmer of hope, such as Citigroup's CEO announcing a profit in the first two months of the year. Citigroup's shares rose a remarkable 38 percent that day, even though the CEO's comments weren't entirely meaningful because they didn't reflect a full quarter of business.

The point is that stock market trading is almost entirely psychological. Investors take risks when they feel good and draw stalemates when in lousy moods. If something as superficial as monitoring Google News for company highlights can lift the market to record heights for no material reason, surely there's a better way to revive the economy than hoping that companies begin making profits.

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Obama Hypocrisy: Fundamentals of the Economy Are 'Sound'

Joshua Sharp

Posted:  Mar 17th 2009 12:02AM

Filed Under: Politics, USC, The Economy

"The fundamentals [of the economy] are sound," Obama economic adviser Christina Romer declared Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press.

The irony of the statement was not lost, even on the ears of the media elite, in light of candidate Obama's harsh rhetoric towards then-rival John McCain for saying "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."

"It's not that I think John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of most Americans," Obama said then. "I just think he doesn't know ... Why else would he say, today, of all days -- just a few hours ago -- that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong?

"Senator – what economy are you talking about?"

President Obama
last week: "If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this," Obama said, contradicting his own budget director's recent assertion that "fundamentally, the economy is weak."

So what has changed since the campaigns ended?

Full Article »

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