Posts Tagged ‘obama’

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama‘s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. (Please pass this on) These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

 

The 10 Most Brazen War Profiteers

Halliburton has become synonymous with war profiteering, but there are lots of other greedy fingers in the pie. We name names on 10 of the worst.
The history of American war profiteering is rife with egregious examples of incompetence, fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, bribery and misconduct. As war historian Stuart Brandes has suggested, each new war is infected with new forms of war profiteering. Iraq is no exception. From criminal mismanagement of Iraq’s oil revenues to armed private security contractors operating with virtual impunity, this war has created opportunities for an appalling amount of corruption. What follows is a list of some of the worst Iraq war profiteers who have bilked American taxpayers and undermined the military’s mission.

No. 1 and No. 2: CACI and Titan

In early 2005 CIA officials told the Washington Post that at least 50 percent of its estimated $40 billion budget for that year would go to private contractors, an astonishing figure that suggests that concerns raised about outsourcing intelligence have barely registered at the policymaking levels.

In 2004 the Orlando Sentinel reported on a case that illustrates what can go wrong: Titan employee Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, an Egyptian translator, was arrested for possessing classified information from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Critics say that the abuses at Abu Ghraib are another example of how the lines can get blurred when contractors are involved in intelligence work. CACI provided a total of 36 interrogators in Iraq, including up to 10 at Abu Ghraib at any one time, according to the company. Although neither CACI, Titan or their employees have yet been charged with a crime, a leaked Army investigation implicated CACI employee Stephen Stefanowicz in the abuse of prisoners.

CACI and Titan’s role at Abu Ghraib led the Center for Constitutional Rights to pursue companies and their employees in U.S. courts.

“We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money,” says Susan Burke, an attorney hired by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), whose lawsuit against the companies is proceeding into discovery before the Federal Court for the District of Columbia.

The private suits seem to have already had some effect: In September 2005 CACI announced that it would no longer do interrogation work in Iraq.

Titan, on the other hand, has so far escaped any serious consequences for its problems (in early 2005, it pleaded guilty to three felony international bribery charges and agreed to pay a record $28.5 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act penalty). The company’s contract with the Army has been extended numerous times and is currently worth over $1 billion. Last year L-3 Communications bought Titan as part of its emergence as the largest corporate intelligence conglomerate in the world.

No. 3: Bechtel: precast profits

The San Francisco-based construction and engineering giant received one of the largest no-bid contracts — worth $2.4 billion — to help coordinate and rebuild a large part of Iraq’s infrastructure. But the company’s reconstruction failures range from shoddy school repairs to failing to finish a large hospital in Basra on time and within budget.

Recall that USAID chief Andrew Natsios originally touted the reconstruction as a Middle Eastern “Marshall Plan.” Natsios should have known that all would not go smoothly with Bechtel in the lead: Prior to joining the Bush administration, he was chief executive of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he oversaw the Big Dig — whose costs exploded from $2.6 billion to $14.6 billion under Bechtel’s lead.

In July, the company’s reputation for getting things done unexpectedly plummeted like a 12-ton slab of concrete when Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), released an audit of the Basra Children’s Hospital Project, which was $70 million to $90 million over budget, and a year and half behind schedule. Bechtel’s contract to coordinate the project was immediately cancelled.

Now that the money is running out, American officials are beginning to blame Iraqis for mismanaging their own infrastructure. But as Bowen warns, contractors like Bechtel, the CPA and other contracting agencies will only have themselves to blame for failing to train Iraqi engineers to operate these facilities (esp. water, sewage and electricity) when they leave.

No. 4: Aegis Defense Services

The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates 48,000 private security and military contractors (PMCs) are stationed in Iraq. The Pentagon’s insistence on keeping a lid on military force requirements (thereby avoiding the need for a draft) is one reason for that astronomical growth, which has boosted the fortunes of the “corporate warriors” so much that observers project the industry will be a $200 billion per year business by 2010.

Yet the introduction of PMCs has put “both the military and security providers at a greater risk for injury,” the General Accounting Office says, because PMCs fall outside the chain of command and do not operate under the Code of Military Justice.

George Washington University professor Deborah Avant, author of Market for Force and an expert on the industry, says that while established PMCs may act professionally, the government’s willingness to contract with a few cowboy companies like Aegis — a U.K.-based firm whose infamous founder and CEO Tim Spicer was implicated for breaking an arms embargo in Sierra Leone — only reinforces the fear that U.S. foreign policy is being outsourced to corporate “mercenaries.”

An industry insider told Avant that the $293 million contract was given despite the fact that American competitors had submitted lower bids, suggesting the government wanted to hire the foreign company to shield both sides of the transaction from accountability for any “dirty tricks.”

Industry critics, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., say that, at a minimum, Spicer’s contract suggests that government agencies have failed to conduct adequate background checks. While it’s hard to say how often PMCs have committed human rights violations in Iraq, the Charlotte News-Observer reported in March that security contractors regularly shoot into civilian cars. The problem was largely ignored until a “trophy video” of security guards firing with automatic rifles at civilian cars was posted on a web site traced back to Aegis.

Although the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division says no charges will be filed against Aegis or its employees, critics say that only proves how unaccountable contractors are under current laws. Since the war on terror began, just one civilian, CIA contract interrogator David A. Passaro, has been convicted for felony assault associated with interrogation tactics.

Even The International Peace Operations Association, a fledgling industry trade association that insists the industry abides by stringent codes of conduct has rejected Aegis’ bid to join its ranks.

No. 5: Custer Battles

In March, Custer Battles became the first Iraq occupation contractor to be found guilty of fraud. A jury ordered the company to pay more than $10 million in damages for 37 counts of fraud, including false billing. In August, however, the judge in the case dismissed most of the charges on a technicality, ruling that since the Coalition Provisional Authority was not strictly part of the U.S. government, there is no basis for the claim under U.S. law. Custer Battles’ attorney Robert Rhoad says the company’s owners were “ecstatic” about the decision, adding that “there simply was no evidence of fraud or an intent to defraud.”

In fact the judge’s ruling stated that the company had submitted “false and fraudulently inflated invoices.” He also allowed the jury’s verdict to stand against the company for retaliating against the whistleblowers that originally brought the case under the False Claims Act, the law that allows citizens to initiate a private right of action to recover money on taxpayers’ behalf. During the trial, retired Brig. Gen. Hugh Tant III testified that the fraud “was probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in the Army.”

When Tant confronted Mike Battles, one of the company’s owners, with the fact that 34 of 36 trucks supplied by the firm didn’t work, he responded: “You asked for trucks and we complied with our contract and it is immaterial whether the trucks were operational.”

The Custer Battles case is being watched closely by the contracting community, since many other fraud cases could hinge on the outcome. A backlog of 70 fraud cases is pending against various contractors. Who they are is anyone’s guess (one case was recently settled against Halliburton subcontractor EGL for $4 million), since cases filed under the False Claims Act are sealed and prevented from moving forward until the government decides whether or not it will join the case. The means some companies accused of fraud have yet to be publicly identified, which makes it difficult for federal contracting officers to suspend or debar them from any new contracts. The U.S. Air Force moved to suspend Custer Battles from new contracts in September 2004, after the alleged fraud was revealed.

In May, however, the Wall Street Journal reported that attempts were made to bypass the suspension order by two former top Navy officials who had formed a company that purchased the remnants of Custer Battles. Meanwhile, Alan Grayson, the attorney who filed the Custer Battles case, says that because of orders passed by the CPA, Iraqis have no chance of recovering any of the $20 billion in Iraqi money used to pay U.S. contractors. The CPA effectively created a “free fraud zone,” Grayson says.

No. 6: General Dynamics

Most of the big defense contractors have done well as a result of the war on terror. The five-year chart for Lockheed Martin, for instance, reveals that the company’s stock has doubled in value since 2001.

Yet The Washington Post reported in July that industry analysts agree that of the large defense contractors, the one that has received the most direct benefit from the war in Iraq is General Dynamics. Much of that has to do with the fact that the company has focused its large combat systems business on supplying the Army with everything from bullets to tank shells to Stryker vehicles, which made their debut during the 2003 invasion.

In July, the Post reported that the company’s profits have tripled since 9/11. That should make some people happy, including David K Heebner, a former top aide to Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who was hired by General Dynamics in 1999, a year before the Stryker contract was sealed. According to Defense watchdogs at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), General Dynamics formally announced it was hiring Heebner on November 20, 1999, just one month after Shinseki announced a new “vision” to transform the Army by moving away from tracked armored vehicles toward wheeled light-armored vehicles, and more than a month prior to Heebner’s official retirement date of Dec. 31, 1999.

Less than a year and a half later, Heebner was present for the rollout of the first Stryker in Alabama, where he was recognized by Shinseki for his work in the Army on the Stryker project.

Although the Pentagon’s inspector general concluded from a preliminary investigation that Heebner had properly recused himself from any involvement in projects involving his prospective employer once he had been offered the job, critics say the current ethics rules are too weak.

“It’s clear that the Army was leaning toward handing a multibillion-dollar contract to General Dynamics at the very time Heebner may have been in negotiations with the company for a high-paying executive position,” says Jeffrey St. Clair, author of Grand Theft Pentagon, a sweeping review of war-profiteering during the “war on terror.”

Heebner’s case is similar to Boeing’s infamous courtship of Darlene Druyan, the Air Force acquisition officer who was eventually sentenced to nine months in prison and seven months in a halfway house for arranging a $250,000 a year job for herself on the other side of the revolving door while negotiating contracts for the Air Force that were favorable to Boeing.

This March, Heebner reported owning 33,500 shares in the company, worth over $ 4 million, along with 21,050 options.

Not everyone has been happy with the outcome of the Stryker contract. Tom Christie, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing and evaluation, sent a classified letter to Donald Rumsfeld before it was deployed in Iraq, warning that the $3 million vehicle was not ready for heavy fire. Meanwhile, the GAO warned of serious deficiencies in vehicle training provided, a concern that turned serious when soldiers accidentally drove the Stryker into the Tigris rivers. Despite public praise from top Army officials, an internal Army report leaked to the Post in March 2005 revealed that the vehicles deployed in Iraq have been plagued with inoperable gear and maintenance problems that are “getting worse not better.”

Perhaps as insurance against any flap, General Dynamics has added former Attorney General John Ashcroft to its stable of high-powered lobbyists. Working the account are Juleanna Glover Weiss, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former press secretary, Lori Day Sharp, Ashcroft’s former assistant, and Willie Gaynor, a former Commerce Department official who also worked for the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

No. 7: Nour USA Ltd.

Incorporated shortly after the war began, Nour has received $400 million in Iraq contracts, including an $80 million contract to provide oil pipeline security that critics say came through the assistance of Ahmed Chalabi, Iraq’s No. 1 opportunist, who was influential in dragging the United States into the current quagmire with misleading assertions about WMDs. Chalabi has denied reports that he received a $2 million finder’s fee, but other bidders on the contract point out that Nour had no prior related experience and that its bid on the oil security contract was too low to be credible. Another company consultant who hasn’t denied getting paid to help out is William Cohen, the former defense secretary under President Clinton. Many Iraqis now believe that Chalabi is America’s hand-picked choice to rule Iraq, despite being a wanted fugitive from justice in Jordan and despite being accused of passing classified information along to Iran. Iyad Allawi, a potential rival for power in Iraq, has publicly criticized Chalabi for creating contracts for work that he says should be the responsibility of the state.

No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10: Chevron, ExxonMobil and the Petro-imperialists

Three years into the occupation, after an evolving series of deft legal maneuvers and manipulative political appointments, the oil giants’ takeover of Iraq’s oil is nearly complete.

A key milestone in the process occurred in September 2004, when U.S.-appointed Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi preempted Iraq’s January 2005 elections (and the subsequent drafting of the Constitution) by writing guidelines intended to form the basis of a new petroleum law. Allawi’s policy would effectively exclude the government from any future involvement in oil production, while promising to privatize the Iraqi National Oil Co. Although Allawi is no longer in power, his plans heavily influenced future thinking on oil policy.

Helping the process move along are the economic hit men at BearingPoint, the consultants whose latest contract calls for “private-sector involvement in strategic sectors, including privatization, asset sales, concessions, leases and management contracts, especially those in the oil and supporting industries.”

For their part, the oil industry giants have kept a relatively low profile throughout the process, lending just a few senior statesmen to the CPA, including Philip Carroll (Shell U.S., Fluor), Rob McKee (ConocoPhillips and Halliburton) and Norm Szydlowski (ChevronTexaco), the CPA’s liaison to the fledgling Iraqi Oil Ministry. Greg Muttitt of U.K. nonprofit Platform says Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips are among the most ambitious of all the major oil companies in Iraq. Shell and Chevron have already signed agreements with the Iraqi government and begun to train Iraqi staff and conduct studies — arrangements that give the companies vital access to Oil Ministry officials and geological data.

Although Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in August that the final competition for developing Iraq’s oil fields will be wide open, the preliminary arrangements will give the oil giants a distinct advantage when it comes time to bid. The relative level of interest by the big oil companies depends on their appetite for risk, and their need for reserves. Shell, for example, has performed worse than most of its peers in finding new reserves in recent years — a fact underscored by a 2004 scandal in which the company was caught lying to its investors. At this point the key challenge to multinationals is whether they can convince the Iraqi parliament to pass a new petroleum law by the end of this year.

A key provision in the new law is a commitment to using production sharing agreements (PSAs), which will lock the government into a long-term commitment (up to 50 years) to sharing oil revenues, and restrict its right to introduce any new laws that might affect the companies’ profitability. Greg Muttitt of Platform says the PSAs are designed to favor private companies at the expense of exporting governments, which is why none of the top oil producing countries in the Middle East use them. Under the new petroleum law, all new fields and some existing fields would be opened up to private companies through the use of PSAs. Since less than 20 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields have already been developed, if Iraq’s government commits to signing the PSAs, it could cost the country up to nearly $200 billion in lost revenues according to Muttitt, lead researcher for “Crude Designs: the Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth.”

Meanwhile, in a kind of pincer movement, the parliament has begun to feel pressured from the IMF to adopt the new oil law by the end of the year as part of “conditionalities” imposed under a new debt relief agreement. Of course pressuring a country as volatile as Iraq to agree to any kind of arrangement without first allowing for legitimate parliamentary debate is fraught with peril. It is a risky way to nurture democracy in a country that already appears to be entering into a civil war.

“If misjudged — either by denying a fair share to the regions in which oil is located, or by giving regions too much autonomy at the expense of national cohesion — these oil decisions could fracture, and ultimately break apart, the country,” Muttitt suggests.

original source: http://www.alternet.org/world/41083/?page=entire

 

At 4pm today, Barack Obama will have been president for 100 hours. From ordering the closure of Guantánamo Bay to approving missile strikes, we take a look at the first 100 things he did in office.

1 Said: “So help me God.” The phrase is not required by the constitution, so it’s arguable that he, Barack Obama, was president by the time he said it, making these his first words in office.
2 Delivered a 17-minute inauguration address, telling the crowds it was time to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America”.4 Then the words: “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” George Bush, sitting to his left, looks decidedly uncomfortable.

5 With his wife, Michelle, escorted George and Laura Bush to the waiting helicopter, where the two men hugged before the former president began his journey home to Texas.

6 As the helicopter disappeared into clear skies, Obama now had Washington, and the United States
7 Inside the Capitol building, signed his first documents as president, including cabinet nominations.
8 “I’m a lefty. Get used to it,” he said, as he signed. Obama is the fourth southpaw, or left-handed, president out of the past five (Dubya is right-handed).

9 Signed a proclamation declaring 20 January 2009 a national day of renewal and reconciliation.

10 Completed the signing session, looking wistfully at the object in his left hand. “I was told not to swipe the pen,” he said.

11 Attended a lunch with congressional leaders, where he dined on a menu from Lincoln’s day: pheasant, duck and apple cake served on replica Lincoln White House china.

12 Addressed the assembled crowd, minus Ted Kennedy, who was removed on a stretcher with medical difficulties.

13 Entered his limousine, nicknamed The Beast, to begin the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to his new home at number 1600.

14 The armour-plated Beast has tinted windows, but through them Obama could be seen clearly practising his military salute.

15 Walked two stretches of the 1.7-mile route, waving at the crowds lining the street.

16 Briefly entered the White House with his family – the Obamas’ first moments in their new home.

17 As he entered the North Porticoe into the central entrance, he passed a portrait of the elder George Bush on his left and Bill Clinton on the right. Straight ahead of him, above the door to the Blue Room, was the seal of the US president. His seal.

18 Took his position in the reviewing stand outside the White House, to watch 40 bands and other groups parade past, including the World Famous Lawn Rangers from Illinois, who pushed decorated lawn mowers.

19 Tried out that salute, as cadets marched by. Not bad, though he needs to keep his hand straight.

20 Instructed military prosecutors to seek a 120-day halt to legal proceedings involving detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

21 Issued an order instructing government agencies to halt all pending regulations signed by Bush – a way of combating efforts by the outgoing administration to force through last-minute changes without congressional approval.

22 Danced with Michelle to Beyonce’s rendition of At Last, by Etta James, as the opening dance of the Neighbourhood Ball.

23 Appeared to step on the train of Michelle’s custom-designed gown by Jason Wu, but otherwise showed himself to be a decent dancer.

24 Gave a brief interview to ABC News, whose reporter said: “Mr President – sounds good, doesn’t it?” “It’s got a certain ring to it,” he replied.

25 Danced and spoke again at the Home State Ball, for Illinois and Hawaii.

26 A quick transfer to the Commander-in-Chief ball, with many military attendees, and a satellite link to war zones. Obama danced with Army Sergeant Margaret Herrera of Texas, who burst into tears.

27 Visited the Youth Ball, for people aged between 18 and 35.

28 Visited the Home State Ball for Delaware and Pennsylvania, in honour of Joe Biden, his vice-president.

29 Briefly visited the Mid-Atlantic Ball.

30 … And the Western Ball …

31 … And the Midwestern Ball …

32 … And the Southern Ball …

33 … And the Eastern Ball. The couple looked increasingly exhausted as the evening progressed, and sped up their appearances, ending the night ahead of schedule.

34 Back to White House at 12.55am to spend his first night there.

35 The Obamas slept in the master bedroom in the private residence on the first floor of the White House. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, who were treated to a treasure hunt by White House staff on their first evening culminating with a surprise visit by their favourite music act the Jonas Brothers, slept in bedrooms over the corridor once occupied by Amy Carter, Tricia Nixon, Luci Johnson and Caroline Kennedy.

36 Four hours of sleep and he was up and at it on his first full day. Lights were reported in the private residence at 5am.

37 Obama probably squeezed in a visit to the exercise room on the second floor. He has daily 45-minute gym sessions.

38 Spent his first 10 minutes alone in the Oval Office.

39 Got to sit for the first time behind the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to America in 1880.

40 Read the letter that Bush had left for him, according to tradition, in the top drawer of the desk, marked: “To #44, From #43”. Its contents have not been revealed.

41 Discussed the day’s events with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. It’s their first Oval Office meeting.

42 Posed for pictures taken by his personal White House photographer of him and Emanuel in deep discussion. Press photographers later expressed their anger that they weren’t invited to capture the moment.

43 Briefly spoke with his wife, Michelle, in the Oval Office.

44 Attended morning-after post-inauguration service with his family, the Bidens, and the Clintons, at the Washington National Cathedral.

45 Laughed when Rev Samuel Lloyd proclaimed: “This is their first full day on the job and the best way we can imagine to begin is by praying for them.”

46 Listened, with head bowed, to the first sermon at a president’s inaugural church service delivered by Rev Sharon Watkins.

47 Telephoned the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas – according to Abbas’s spokesman, the call was Obama’s first to a foreign leader.

48 Phoned the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

49 Phoned King Abdullah of Jordan.

50 Phoned Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak. The Middle Eastern calls, Obama’s press spokesman said, were intended “to communicate his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term”.

51 Issued executive order limiting the powers of former presidents and vice-presidents to block the release of sensitive records of their time in the White House. It would allow the administration to approve release of former vice-president Dick Cheney’s records, among others, against his objections.

52 Issued instruction to government agencies to be more responsive to freedom of information requests.

53 Announced a tightening of rules on ex-lobbyists working in government.

54 Announced a pay freeze for his staff earning $100,000 (£73,000) or more. “Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington,” he said.

55 Witnessed the swearing-in of about 50 senior members of White House staff.

56 Told his top team that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency”.

57 Biden made a joke about Chief Justice Roberts’s flubbing of the presidential oath as he prepared to lead the swearing in. Obama did not look amused. Was this one transparency too far?

58 Personally greeted each of the newly sworn-in staff.

59 Obama hosted an “open house” in the White House for 200 people who had been granted tickets on a first-come, first-served basis; some were in tears.

60 “Welcome, enjoy yourself,” the president told one young man. “Roam around. Don’t break anything.”

61 Met the joint chiefs of staff and other members of his national security team to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan. His first chance to check out the wizardry in the Situation Room, with its screens receiving satellite images from around the world and its banks of incoming top-secret messages.

62 Met economic advisors to discuss his stimulus package, which could be worth $900bn.

63 Re-swore the oath of office in the White House Map Room out of an “abundance of caution”. Or alternatively as a way of killing off the storm of right-wing agitprop that has been tearing through the internet suggesting that the first botched attempt at the oath means Obama is not rightfully president.

64 This time they got it right. Roberts asked “Are you ready to take the oath?” Obama replied: “I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly.”

65 “We decided it was so much fun.” Obama joked to reporters after the event. “The bad news … is there’s 12 more balls.”

66 Ate dinner with his family at the White House on Wednesday evening in the private dining room on the first floor.

67 Was waited upon by the 95-strong White House staff. Barack and Michelle will not have to make their own bed for as long as they are in the mansion, though Malia and Sasha will, at their mother’s insistence.

68 Gave a speech at a Wednesday night Thank You Ball for campaign workers at the Washington DC Armoury. “You guys dress a lot sharper than you did in Iowa!” he told the crowd.

69 Walked up and down the rope line shaking campaign workers’ hands – officially, the final act of the inauguration celebrations.

70 On Thursday morning, said goodbye to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, who were returning to Washington’s Sidwell Friends school after two days off for the inauguration.

71 Back to the gym for likely work-out.

72 Absorbed the news that the specially commissioned piece of music by John Williams played “live” at his inauguration by a quartet of world-class musicians had in fact been recorded two days’ previously.

73 Released statement on the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade supreme court judgment, reaffirming his commitment to protecting abortion rights.

74 To applause, signed executive order requiring the closure of the military prison at Guantánamo within one year.

75 Obama said: “The message we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism … and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.” Was Bush watching on TV at home in Dallas cringing?

76 Signed second executive order requiring the closure of the CIA’s network of secret overseas prisons, and making a commitment to not using torture in interrogations.

77 Signed third executive order establishing an interagency taskforce on detainees, including Hillary Clinton and the defence secretary, Robert Gates, to decide what to do with the remaining Guantánamo inmates.

78 Signed directive to delay proceedings in the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, currently awaiting a hearing at the supreme court, so that the president’s team can review it. Marri is accused of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent.

79 Visited the state department, where Clinton had earlier made an introductory address to staff.

80 Watched, with impassive face, as Clinton said that she had appointed two special envoys to world trouble zones. The appointments had previously been billed as Obama’s own. Was this a taste of rivalry to come?

81 Endured second gaffe by his vice-president in a week. Biden stepped into the tension between Obama and Clinton, saying at first that the president would announce the envoys and then hurriedly saying Clinton would present them.

82 Clinton got to name George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader and Irish peace negotiator, as special envoy to the Middle East peace process. Obama later claimed him as his envoy. Who is in charge here?

83 Clinton named the former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama later names him as his envoy. Bully to you, secretary of state!

84 Called on Hamas to end its rocket fire into Israel, and for Israel to “complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza”, adding that Gaza’s borders should be opened to humanitarian aid.

85 Paid brief surprise visit to the White House press area, startling journalists. “Good to see you guys. I just wanted to make sure that I had a chance to say hello,” he said. “I gotta say, it’s smaller than I thought.”

86 Observing that CNN and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News had adjacent booths, he likened them to the goal for Israel and the Palestinians: “Living side by side in peace and security,” he noted.

87 Slight tetchiness entered the proceedings when a reporter asked a serious question about his nomination of a former lobbyist as number two at the Pentagon. “I can’t come in and shake hands if I’m gonna get grilled every time,” Obama said.

88 Said that he had won his fight to keep a Blackberry. The president will be given a $3,000 special version with encryption to secure his email exchanges with a very limited number of vetted correspondents.

89 Convened meeting with congressional leaders on the economic crisis.

90 Invited Republican leaders into the White House to air their discontent over the bail-out package. He is proving himself to be adept in defusing potential enemies.

91 Sat in on the daily briefing of the National Security Council giving updates on threats around the world.

92 Approves first American missile strikes under his presidency on tribal areas of Pakistan.

93 Started the first of what will now be a new daily series of briefings on the economy led by Larry Summers.

94 Budget meeting. With projections of an annual deficit of more than $1tr this year, there was plenty to talk about.

95 Rounded off a gruelling first three days with a meeting in the Oval Office with Timothy Geithner, his nominee for treasury secretary who is still embroiled in a drawn-out confirmation process in the Senate.

96 The Obamas had a choice of possible entertainments to round off their week. The choicest of all, most past presidents agree, is the private theatre, where they can watch Hollywood films before they are put on general release.

97 Back to the gym. There is no way Obama would miss his work-out on a Saturday.

98 Finally, a chance to take in the White House and its grounds at a slightly more relaxed tempo. The Obamas have said they will continue to spend weekends in their Chicago home, but this weekend is likely to be a time for acclimatising in their new residence.

99 Obama may take the opportunity to test out the White House basketball court. The court has been modified to put up two nets, allowing for a full game.

100 Obama retreats to his office on the first floor, puts his feet up on the desk, leans back and goes to light one of the cigarettes he has been struggling to give up. But alas smoking is banned in the White House.

 , all to himself. His relief was palpable.

3 Invoked biggest cheer of the day from the 2 million-plus crowd with the words: “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many … But know this, America – they will be met.”

Key women in the Obama White House

It is obvious which woman is expected to be a key – if unofficial – adviserto the new US president, and from her Princeton education to her green leather gloves, we know plenty about the first lady, Michelle Obama. But other women are set to be central to Barack Obama’s White House too, including well-known figures such as Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett and Jill Biden.

          

Some consider Obama to be a distinctly feminist choice of president – the current cover of Ms magazine depicts him in a T-shirt with the slogan, “This is what a feminist looks like.” But questions have also been asked about whether he has made enough female appointments; only five of the 20 cabinet-level posts in his administration have been given to women. One commentator sniffed that “the numbers really aren’t any more impressive than [those of] any other previous president”.

Is this a new era for women in US politics then? We shall have to wait and see. For now, what the women of the current Obama White House may lack in quantity, they will, we hope, make up for in quality.

Hillary Clinton, secretary of state

Clinton, of course, needs no introduction. At 61, she has given up her Senate seat after eight years, and has a lot to prove in her new role. Doubts linger over whether she is too independent or ambitious to be secretary of state, which has been called “the second most prestigious job in the country”. Will she be able to achieve what she wants while hovering in second place? Or is she just biding her time until another presidential bid? Also, can she keep that pesky husband in check? Whatever happens, she will be fascinating to watch.

Jill Biden, second lady

The 57-year-old wife of vice president Joe Biden was the unsung hero of the presidential election, and although she doesn’t have an official political role in the Obama White House, she promises to be a high-profile role model for working women. A mother of three and grandmother of five, she worked a four-day week as an English teacher in Delaware until last December, and was seen marking school work on the campaign bus. She is currently lookingfor a teaching job in Washington.

Biden is originally from Pennsylvania, where her father was a banker and her mother stayed at home to bring upfive daughters, of whom Jill was the eldest. She took her first job at the age of 15, and said in an interview in 2007 that she “wanted my own money, my own identity, my own career”. Wary of marrying into politics, she only agreed to marry Joe after he had proposed five times. Biden is known as discreet, loyal and principled: many of her school colleagues were surprised to discover that her husband was a senator – she hadn’t mentioned it. What else? She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate, runs five miles a day, used to be a model, and set up a breast cancer charity in honour of four of her friends.

  Janet Napolitano, homeland security secretary

Napolitano, 51, is a New York-born Italian American, and former governor of Arizona, with a background in law. A fighter and an idealist, she was diagnosed with breast cancer while attorney general of Arizona, and famously gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention three weeks after a mastectomy. Napolitano is single, and is not exactly an advocate of work-life balance – she reportedly often works 19-20 hour days. But don’t let that put you off. A huge basketball fan, she also loves whitewater rafting and hiking, and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

  Susan Rice, UN ambassador

Rice, 44, a mother of two, is a Rhodes scholar who became the youngest ever assistant secretary of state – in Bill Clinton’s administration – and the first African-American woman to be US ambassador to the UN. Unapologetically ambitious, she most recently acted as senior foreign policy adviser to Obama and is not afraid to speak frankly about conflict in Africa or the need for military intervention. (This doesn’t necessarily make her a hawk. She supported Obama because of his stance against the Iraq war.) Supporters call her “brilliant”. Critics, however, describe her as “inflexible”.

  Hilda Solis, labour secretary

Born in California to parents who came from Nicaragua and Mexico, Solis, 51, was the third of seven children and helped raise her younger siblings, before going on to become the first Hispanic woman to serve in the state senate. Described as having “patience, passion and guts”, she is known for her devotion to environmental causes. Solis was originally a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and Obama actively sought her on his ticket because of her appeal to Hispanic voters. Her appointment is seen as a sign that Obama supports “green jobs” – and won’t put environmental issues on hold just because of the economic climate.

 


   Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief

The first African-American head of the EPA, Jackson, 46, is a Princeton-educated chemical engineer and was, most recently, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Amidst general optimism about Obama’s choices, Jackson’s appointment has been harshly criticised, with detractors saying that she has a “disastrous record”, and one report claiming that she failed to use her authority to speed up the cleaning process in seven toxic waste sites in New Jersey. She is seen as a member of Obama’s inner circle.

  Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser

Known variously as “Barack’s rock”, “the other half of Obama’s brain” and “the female version of Barack”, Jarrett, 52, is one of the Obamas’ closest friends and is now a senior adviser – the only woman in a team of four. She responded gracefully to mealy-mouthed concerns this week that Michelle Obama is too outspoken to be first lady, saying that she “would call her thoughtful, honest and candid”.

Jarrett has been close to the family since July 1991 when she hired Michelle to work for her in the offices of Chicago mayor Richard Daley. The meeting was fateful: Jarrett has said that she felt that she “had” to hire the future first lady (at that time, Michelle Robinson) because their backgrounds and life choices were so similar. Both women gave up promising careers in corporate law in exchange for jobs where they hoped to “make a difference”.

Jarrett has an impressive track record: she has chaired the Chicago Stock Exchange and retains her title as CEO of Chicago real estate management and development giant The Habitat Company where she has worked for more than adecade. Her role in the Obama administration is shrouded with mystery.

Insiders describe her as the ultimate big-sister figure for Obama, a sounding board, unofficial strategist and brilliant diplomat. After a short-lived marriage to her childhood sweetheart (who died shortly after their divorce), she was a single parent to her daughter Laura, now 22 and at Harvard Law School. Looking at the White House on Tuesday, she said, “You have to pinch yourself to think that that’s home.”

Desiree Rogers, White House social secretary

Rogers, 49, is a communications powerhouse who has worked in everything from the energy sector to the arts. An arch networker and possible fashion rival to Michelle, she has been interviewed for the February issue of US Vogue.The Obamas are nothing less than old family friends: Rogers’s ex-husband played basketball with Michelle’s brother. She has a reputation as the ultimate hostess and is very much a part of the Chicago socio-political scene, where her closest friends include Oprah Winfrey and Valerie Jarrett.

Rogers regularly tops lists of the most powerful African-American women in the US and her favourite saying is apparently: “Laissez les bon temps rouler.” (Let the good times roll.) From now on she is responsible for every White House social event.

Tracing the arc of history to a day many thought would never come, Barack Obama was to be sworn in Tuesday as America’s 44th and first black president — and wade into a sea of troubles.

Climaxing the unlikeliest of journeys, , the son of a black Kenyan and white mother from Kansas was to take the oath of office at noon (1700 GMT) on the steps of the Capitol, a congressional building built by slave labor.

Guarded by an unprecedented security operation, millions were expected to pack the National Mall stretching from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1963 of a dream of racial unity.

To his successor, President George W. Bush bequeaths an economy in crisis, a war on two fronts and a patchwork of frayed alliances. For Obama, drawing inspiration both from Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the perils of the age call for a spirit of national sacrifice unseen since World War II.

“Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King’s dream echoes still,” Obama said Monday, paying tribute to the slain civil rights hero on the national holiday commemorating King’s birth.

“As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked,” he said.

“We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together. And as we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let’s remember King’s lesson — that our separate dreams are really one.”

Tuesday morning, in the first presidential handover since the September 11 attacks of 2001, Obama and his wife Michelle were to meet the departing president and First Lady Laura Bush at their new home in the White House.

Then, after swearing to “preserve, protect and defend” the US constitution, Obama was to deliver his most important yet in a career littered with memorable oratory since his explosion onto the national stage in 2004.

Braving the cold, a vast crowd was expected to line the Mall, watching the either near the West Front of the US Capitol for the lucky few, or in front of giant television screens for the rest.

Renita King, 46, said she had flown from Houston, Texas with her six-year-old son Arthur to mark the years of racial prejudice endured by her 73-year-old mother.

“I am here for her, and every time that she was called a nigger — that is how I see this, as an American,” she said.

Aides said Obama’s call for all Americans to embrace public service would dominate his inaugural address, as he gets to grips with the nation’s longest recession since World War II and his plans to pull US troops out of Iraq.

“Given the crisis we’re in and the hardships so many people are going through, we can’t allow any idle hands. Everybody’s going to have to be involved. Everybody’s going to have to pitch in,” Obama said during a visit Monday to a teen shelter in Washington.

Bush’s White House said Defense Secretary Robert Gates would sit out the inauguration at an undisclosed location as the “designated successor” in the event of a catastrophe.

Gates was a fitting choice: Bush chose him to be his defense secretary in November 2006, and Obama has decided to keep him on at the Pentagon to tackle the withdrawal from Iraq and launch a new offensive in Afghanistan.

Outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney, 67, pulled a muscle in his back Monday — the latest in a series of health problems — while moving boxes and will be in a wheelchair for the inauguration, the White House said.

The “war on terror” is just one part of Obama’s groaning in-tray of challenges. From Gaza to Guantanamo, he confronts a in tumult, a point underscored by the latest bellicose noises from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Following the inauguration of Obama and vice president-elect , the new US leaders were to lunch with members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and Obama’s cabinet, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Marching bands, military veterans, union workers and schoolchildren were to then join a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House for Obama to take up the reins of power in the Oval Office and his place in history.

The whirlwind day was to end with 10 official inaugural balls before the Obamas could retire with their daughters Malia and Sasha, becoming the youngest First Family since that of John F. Kennedy, who occupied the White House in the early 1960s.

The celebrations have an acute poignancy for many in the United States, and the world, given Obama’s mold-shattering bi-racial heritage.

But the new administration has no time to rest on its laurels. Obama aides have spelt out an action-packed first week, topped by action in Congress to pass a 825-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan.

Federal Shortfall To Double This Year

A weak economy and a sharp increase in government spending will drive the federal budget deficit to a near-record $407 billion when the budget year ends later this month, and the next president is likely to face a shortfall in January of well over $500 billion, congressional budget analysts said yesterday.

A deficit of that magnitude could severely constrain the next administration’s agenda, regardless of whether Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican candidate, or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), his Democratic opponent, wins in November. Each has promised billions in new tax cuts or new spending. The expanding deficit also will increase the national debt and could impair future economic growth, particularly if lawmakers are forced to pay down that debt by raising taxes.

This year’s deficit will be more than double last year’s $161 billion, and it will rise from 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product to nearly 3 percent. If the next president extends some or all of President Bush’s signature tax cuts, as both candidates have promised, annual deficits could balloon to as much as 5 percent of the economy, rivaling the dark fiscal days of the early-1990s and those of the Reagan administration, said Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office.

The budget picture is likely to grow even bleaker once government analysts factor in the anticipated costs of the Treasury Department’s decision last weekend to take over struggling mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Orszag declined yesterday to attach a price tag to the takeover, under which Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has pledged to invest as much as $200 billion to keep the companies solvent. However, Orszag said Paulson’s action has bound the government so tightly to the two companies that he will incorporate them directly into the federal budget when he reexamines the nation’s fiscal picture in January.

The massive companies, which together hold or guarantee about half the nation’s 12 million residential mortgages, claimed more than $1.5 trillion in debt at the end of the second quarter. Because that debt is backed by a nearly equal amount in assets, Orszag said it will not significantly increase the nation’s indebtedness.

Orszag said it was also unclear how the takeover will affect the annual budget deficit. Government accounting methods do not reflect the risk inherent in assuming control of billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities in the middle of the worst housing bust since the Great Depression. As a result, budget analysts said it is possible that the takeover could add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit — or little to nothing.

“One of the ironies of what we’re experiencing is the shortcomings in the way in which the federal government currently accounts for credit transactions. When you engage in actions that do contain risk, it can look like there’s a profitable opportunity because the system does not reflect the cost of risk,” Orszag said.

The complex question of how to value the companies and their assets on the government’s books will be decided in coming weeks. Meanwhile, the White House budget office has yet to decide whether to follow Orszag’s lead and fully incorporate the companies into its budget, an act that could increase the perception of complete government control.

Regardless of the White House’s decision, the government’s underlying financial condition is likely to get worse, an administration budget official said. “Treasury will still have to raise money to keep these guys whole,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. “We will be spending money on these companies. It would be hard to say we’re going to make money on this.”

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were less focused on the implications of taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than on casting blame for the rapidly rising deficit.

“This is a doubling by the Democratic Congress, and Congress controls the purse strings,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

Democrats called that assertion preposterous, noting that much of the increase was the result of measures that received strong Republican support: one to return billions of dollars to taxpayers as part of the economic stimulus package and another to increase war funding. Bush signed legislation this summer to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the rest of his presidency, bringing total Iraq spending to more than $650 billion and the total for Afghanistan to nearly $200 billion.

“So they’re fully responsible for the increase in the deficit,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). “All of this happened on their watch, under their president.”

In January, congressional budget analysts had estimated the deficit would be only $219 billion by year’s end. By July, however, the White House was predicting that the number would spike to $389 billion because of new spending. Yesterday, the congressional analysts upped it even further, saying the increase over 2007 had been driven equally by two factors.

The weak economy has clobbered corporate profits, halting the growth of tax collections. And spending has jumped sharply, in part because of tax rebates, as well as a hike in expenditures to cover unemployment insurance and deposits of insolvent financial institutions.

This year’s deficit will rival the record of $413 billion set in 2004. With the economy expected to remain sluggish for at least the next several months, the Congressional Budget Office projects that next year’s deficit will rise to $438 billion. But Orszag said that number could easily climb to $540 billion if Congress acts in the coming months, as expected, to restrain the growth of the alternative minimum tax and to extend a variety of expiring business tax breaks.

Despite the gloomy budget outlook, Democrats said they would press ahead with plans for a second stimulus package of about $50 billion, a proposal opposed by Republicans but supported by Obama. “We would probably be in a worse situation if we didn’t do a second stimulus,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who heads the Joint Economic Committee.

ad_icon

Economic advisers to the presidential campaigns said the big deficits would do little to change their plans for cutting taxes or, in Obama’s case, for increasing spending on priorities such as health care and education. “A weak economy is not the time to dramatically reduce your budget deficit,” said Jason Furman, an adviser to Obama, who wants to extend some of Bush’s tax cuts. “The top priority is creating jobs and getting the economy going again.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser for McCain, acknowledged that the deeper budget hole will make it much harder for McCain to keep his promise to balance the budget while extending all of Bush’s tax cuts. “But that doesn’t mean the first and best thing to do is raise taxes,” Holtz-Eakin said. “The best thing to do is get the economy going again and create jobs.”

Obama wants more crackdowns against Taliban in Pakistan
Obama wants more crackdowns against Taliban in Pakistan US presidential candidate Barack Obama said that without Pakistani security forces’ cooperation and more crackdowns against militants it is highly imperative or not possible to win war of terror in Afghanistan against Taliban.

In an interview to a US channel, Barach Obama said that US is providing military aid to Pakistan without any check and Pakistan is using this aid to enhance its military abilities against its war with India.

To a question he replied that Pakistan use American military aid to build up its arsenal against its preparation in war with India rather in war on terror. He also said that we have to create more pressure on Pakistan against its operation on militants.

He said that it is not important what we have done but now we have to focus more on Afghanistan and it’s needed to build pressure on Pakistan.

Replying negatively to the question about sending armed forces inside Pakistan he said that to overcome terrorism menace we would provide more military aid to Pakistan and would help to establish true form of democracy in Pakistan.

Barack Obama claimed that US government had wasted military aid of 10 billion dollars of aid during Musharraf’s regime without checking if the provided aid was used accordingly or not.

He also emphasized that if we would have Osama bin laden within our reach we would definitely attack him.