“Both parties seem focused on passing some type of tax reform this year, and in order to do that Republicans will likely have to concede on at least some of the president’s wishes,” ValueWalk said.

President Obama’s budget proposes to assist middle-income families and “help America’s hard-working families get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change,” the White House claims. The right’s instantaneous flogging of Obama’s budget proves one thing: “They’re more interested in helping special interests than middle class families,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

White House Puts $100 Million Into Tech Worker Training And Hiring

March 10th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

President Obama has announced a $100 million federal government grant program to improve training and hiring of high-tech workers, which is great news for individuals interested in the field. Tech employees can earn much more than the average American worker; according to the White House,  high-tech jobs pay 50 percent more than average private-sector American jobs.

According to Obama, the U.S. sorely needs tech workers in order to keep up with the rest of the world. “If we’re not producing enough tech workers, over time that’s going to threaten our leadership in global innovation,” he said.

White House Launches “Let Girls Learn” Global Education Initiative

March 5th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Education is the single-most important civil rights issue we face today. #BlackHistoryMonth #ReachHigher

A photo posted by First Lady Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

A new program just announced by President Obama will help get tens of millions of young girls in school globally. And First Lady Michelle Obama its hitting the road to promote it. First she’ll travel to Japan and Cambodia later this month.

Obama is pursuing his “Let Girls Learn” initiative because more than 60 million girls are being denied schooling for a variety of reasons.

“We’re making it clear to any country that’s our partner or wants to be our partner that they need to get serious about increasing the number of girls in school,” Obama said.

And according to Mrs. Obama, her office and the Peace Corps will work jointly to highlight community-based solutions.

The Peace Corps’s  “Let Girls Learn” program will begin in Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda, reports The Huffington Post.

Mrs. Obama will travel alone to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan, from March 18-20 and Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia from March 21-22.

Mrs. Obama said she wants the initiative to inspire girls in the United States.

“I want our young people to be awed by these girls, but more importantly I want them to be inspired and motivated by these girls,” she said.

President Obama Focuses On Economic Growth, The Middle Class During SOTU

January 21st, 2015 - By Tonya Garcia
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President Obama, who some had expected might deliver a State of the Union address befitting a lame duck, instead touted economic growth and pressed for more policies to help the middle class. Obama used the annual podium to talk about low gas prices (below $2 per gallon), job creation, more Americans getting healthcare, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to a close and high graduation rates. He also talked about the future, a discussion that started a couple of weeks ago when he proposed free community college for those who can maintain the GPA, enhancements to cybersecurity, paid and sick leave for workers, more access to broadband internet and more tax breaks for the middle class. ICYMI, here’s the transcript of his speech. Overall, the theme was one of “middle class economics.”

He challenged the Congress to discuss policies with solutions and compromise in mind. And he hit on some controversial topics, from further opening relations with Cuba to tackling climate change.

But the topic of helping the middle class is where he spent a good chunk of time as opposed to benefits for poor Americans, which Republicans tend to frame as “entitlements” that the country can’t afford.

Still, in order to help the middle class, Obama suggested higher taxes for the rich, which Republicans have a problem with as well. And now they have big wins in the midterm elections to fall back on, saying the people have spoken and it’s their policies that they’ve selected.

“He has ignored the will of the people, instead choosing to offer up the same tired and failed policy proposals we’ve seen unsuccessfully implemented for the past six years,” The Wall Street Journal quotes Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

For the President, helping the middle class means enacting laws and benefits that help women, such as help paying for child care and equal pay. He also talked about raising the minimum wage and the struggle to live on $15,000 per year.

The Daily Beast framed the proposals as a “dare”; that the American people will be looking for a piece of the prosperity that seems to be going almost exclusively to the one percent. And now that the economy is doing better people will start to feel like these are investments we can make. With an approval rating on the rise, the President can afford to apply some pressure.

So even faced with a majority Republican Congress, President Obama gave a confident SOTU. And then there was this epic shade.

OMG… for days. And then VP Joe Biden on backup with the mean mug remix. Also, this.

The environment. Unemployment. ISIL. Which moment has you talking this morning?

Obama Wants To Repeal State Laws Blocking Communities From Creating Broadband Networks

January 18th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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President Obama wants to make broadband available for the masses. He has called for repeal of state laws preventing communities from creating broadband networks. Speaking at Cedar Falls Utilities in Iowa, Obama talked about steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the United States.

This has been a mission for Obama, who, for the second time in three months, spoke out against large cable and telephone companies that provide the bulk of the nation’s Internet service.

According to Obama, having access to faster speeds would create jobs and let local businesses to compete in the global economy. “Today high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” Obama said.

While 94 percent of Americans living in urban areas can purchase an Internet connection of 25 megabits per second, only 51 percent of Americans in rural areas have access to such Internet speeds, found a new White House report.

On top of this, due to the lack of competition three out of four Americans lack a choice for such Internet service.

“Tens of millions of Americans have only one choice for that next-generation broadband. So, they’re pretty much at the whim of whatever Internet provider is around,” Obama said.

Obama now wants the Federal Communications Commission to “pre-empt state laws that stifle competition and said his administration will work to cut red tape so more communities can get connected,” reports Chicago Tribune.

Obama promises that his administration will give technical and financial assistance to towns and cities that want to improve Internet service for residents. Through this initiative, the White House also announced that the Commerce Department would promote greater broadband access by offering regional workshops and technical assistance to communities. And, the Agriculture Department plans to provide grants and loans of $40 million to $50 million to assist rural areas.

Of course, the industry isn’t too happy about Obama’s stance. In fact, president Meredith Attwell Baker of industry lobbying group, CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in a statement:  “The president’s focus today on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward. The wireless industry has invested $100 billion in the last four years alone. In such a vigorously competitive market, government-owned networks would only serve to chill private-sector investment, tilt the competitive playing field and harm consumers.”

Right now, 19 states have restrictions on municipal broadband networks and many have laws encouraged by cable and telephone companies.

“The FCC is already considering requests for Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, to prevent state laws from blocking the expansion of their broadband projects,” reports the Tribune.

North Korea Experiencing Second Wave Of Internet Blackout After Calling President Obama A Monkey

December 27th, 2014 - By Courtney Whitaker
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Image Source: WENN.com

North Korea is experiencing it’s second country-wide internet blackout.

The news comes after North Korea called President Obama “a monkey”, blamed the U.S for their first internet blackout and the release of the comedy “The Interview.” On Saturday, North Korea representatives said, “Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest,” in regards to the release of The Interview.  The rep also said the U.S was behind the outages of North Korean websites.

According to the North Korea commission’s spokesman, “the U.S., a big country, started disturbing the Internet operation of major media of the DPRK, not knowing shame like children playing a tag.”

North Korea is believed to have been behind the devastating hack on Sony Pictures. However, North Korea has denied involvement with the cyberattack. Korea has expressed rage against the movie, The Interview, being released and made period.

North Korea has threatened to retaliate against the U.S on multiple occasions. The U.S and North Korea have technically remained in a state of war since the 1950s.

Obama Announces $263M For Police Body Cameras, But Militarization Of Forces Will Continue

December 2nd, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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In response to the unrest spurred by the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case, President Obama has pledged $263 million to outfit police officers with body cameras. But the militarization of local police forces will continue.

The government funds ($74 million of it) will help supply 50,000 cameras, with state and local governments footing part of the bill. The cameras will fit onto the lapels of the police uniform. Studies have shown that complaints against police dropped like a stone (88 percent) when cops wear the cameras. Back in September, members of the Ferguson police department began wearing cameras. Chicago will also test the program within the next 60 days.

President Obama also announced an effort to come up with some “common standards” for handing over and training officers in the use of military-style equipment. Local forces have been getting things like tanks in the years since the September 11 attacks; the program is a popular one. That program is not likely to change in any meaningful way.

As a result, The New York Times characterizes Obama’s announcement as “limited,” though we would argue that it actually is a pretty big step. “The limited nature of the White House response also reflects the reality that transferring military-style surplus gear to police departments remains politically popular in Congress and in the municipalities,” the paper says.

One of the major demands from civil rights groups has been widespread use of police body cameras. It appears that the beginning steps are being taken in that direction.

According to the President, there is a “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and many communities of color,” which makes clear that the problem goes beyond Ferguson. President Obama made the announcement after speaking with a collection of leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Attorney General Eric Holder also commented on the Justice Department’s plans to announce new guidance on racial profiling from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Back in October, The Guardian broke down the $172,669 that the Ferguson police department spent since August to fortify itself. That included nearly $25,000 on 650 tear gas canisters, sting grenades and smoke grenades; $18,000 on bean bag rounds and pepper balls; $77,500 on riot gear helmets, shields, shin guards and batons; and $2,300 on plastic handcuffs.

And while the police will argue that this equipment is all in the name of keeping the peace, it’s clear that members of the force don’t know how to properly use some of the equipment they’ve been given and other members use it unnecessarily. Outside of Ferguson, there was this story out of the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that describes how a 75-year-old man (he’s White) was greeted by an armored vehicle and 24 armed officers in order “to seize and remove tractors and wooden pallets” to pay an $80,000 civil court judgment. Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean was unapologetic about the use of the heavy machinery, calling it “necessary now” as part of law enforcement. While the man was called “argumentative” and has filed complaints and, based on the description in the article, was unruly, excessive much?

Major Networks Didn’t Air Obama’s Immigration Address, But Many Tuned In Elsewhere

November 21st, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Image Source: WENN.com

So what were the ratings on such a circumscribed broadcast? According to Deadline, the initial numbers show network primetime ratings were disrupted as people went to other networks to hear the 17-minute speech.. NBC’s Biggest Loser was substantially impacted by Obama’s speech. so too was the start of the NFL game.

Maybe the White House’s social media promotion helped ratings. The White House previewed the address the day before it was to air on television in a minute-long Facebook video post, reports NBC Atlanta affiliate 11 Alive.

“Hi everybody,” the president said while leaning on his Oval Office desk. “Tomorrow night, I’m going to be announcing, here from the White House, some steps that I can take to fix our broken immigration system.”

The video got a whopping 1.5 million views on Facebook in its first four hours.

The actual speech got mixed reviews. The New Yorker praised the speech. “It was direct and to the point; it had some uplifting moments, particularly at the end; and it was relatively short—about fifteen minutes,” reports the magazine.

Bloomberg meanwhile called the speech incoherent.

Obama ISIS Terror Speech Pulled In More Than 34 Million Viewers

September 12th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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A whopping 34 million-plus people tuned in to watch President Obama’s speech on the terror group ISIS on Wednesday night, according to the Nielsen company. During the speech, Obama promised to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. The speech, however popular for viewing, got mixed reviews from the Hill. And, as with most things, responses were divided along party lines.

“The speech was immediately criticized by some of Obama’s fiercest foreign policy opponents. Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dubbed the speech ‘fundamentally unserious’ on Fox News. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), using another acronym for ISIL, said on CNN that ‘the president really doesn’t have a grasp for how serious the threat from ISIS is,’” reports Politico.

But Senate Democrats praised the speech. According to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Obama’s plan was a “forceful strategy.”

The particular speech pulled in a larger audience than several previous speeches by the president, even one on Iraq in 2010 and another on health care in 2009. The latest speech was carried on 14 different television outlets.

But it was not Obama’s most popular televised speech. Two speeches he delivered on television in 2009 had more viewers. One he gave on the stimulus plan reached 49.4 million viewers, and another to a joint session of Congress had 52.3 million viewers. The latter was Obama’s biggest audience.

“On the broadcast networks on Wednesday, NBC had about twice as many viewers as its primary news competitors. It averaged 10.4 million viewers compared with 5.4 million for ABC and five million for CBS,” reports The New York Times.

Looking at the cable news numbers, Fox News attracted the largest audience for the speech, with 4.45 million people watching. Surprisingly, CNN, which usually gets a boost in viewers from live news, did not catch up to Fox News’ figures, with 1.83 million. MSNBC even beat them, with 1.9 million, even though NBC was also broadcasting the speech.

Obama’s US-Africa Leaders Summit Hampered By Actions Of The GOP

August 6th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

Leaders from all over Africa are meeting in DC with President Obama and American leaders for the much-anticipated US-Africa Leaders Summit.

Other countries such as China, Portugal, France, Russia have all taken advantage of business opportunities on the African continent while the U.S. relegated its relationship to one of aid provider. That is until now. President Obama is looking to create that business relationship with the continent.

Of course, as most know, Obama has strong blood ties to Africa as his father was an U.S. immigrant from Kenya. And now he has become the first president to convene a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. But Obama’s efforts to make a real impression in Africa have been hampered.

“Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. Senate, determined to stop Obama from doing anything rational, have created a diplomatic logjam. More than 30 ambassador candidates, stifled from representing American interests to about a quarter of the world, are frozen in political limbo, their embassies without steady leadership. The candidates are waiting for the Senate to confirm them, but the Senate Republicans won’t vote,” reports The Root.

According to The Root, there are 13 African nations that do not have American ambassadors. Among those are Sierra Leone, Niger, Namibia, Cameroon, Lesotho, Mauritania, Zambia and Algeria.

“It sends the message that the United States doesn’t care,” says U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Africa Taskforce and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Meeks says he wants the Republicans in the Senate to “stop playing political games” and give Obama the 60-vote threshold he must have to approve these appointments. By doing so, business opportunities between African and Americans, particularly  African Americans, will open up.

According to Moses K. Tesi, a professor in the political science department of Middle Tennessee State University and editor of the Journal of African Policy Studies, ambassadors are more than necessary in foreign relations.

An ambassador, Tesi tells The Root, is an on-the-ground liaison between the business communities of both nations as well as a leader in cross-cultural exchanges. Without an ambassador, Tesi cautions, the US will be unable to leverage a more powerful role in Africa’s 54 countries.

It should also be noted that some African leaders — Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir,  Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki and Central African Republic’s Catherine Samba-Panza — have been excluded from the Summit because of human rights abuses. Experts say they stand to lose a lot by not taking part.

The Summit ends today.