January 12th, 2011
By JULIE PACE and BEN FELLER
TUCSON, Ariz. – Summoning the soul of a nation, President Barack Obama on Wednesday implored Americans to honor those slain and injured in the Arizona shootings by becoming better people, telling a polarized citizenry that it is time to talk with each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." Following a hospital bedside visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the assassination, he said: "She knows we're here, and she knows we love her."
In a memorably dramatic moment, the president said that Giffords, who on Saturday was shot point-blank in the head, had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his hospital visit. First lady Michelle Obama held hands with Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, as the news brought soaring cheers throughout the arena.
Speaking at a memorial at the University of Arizona, Obama bluntly conceded that there is no way to know what triggered the shooting rampage that left six people dead, 13 others wounded and the nation shaken. He tried instead to leave indelible memories of the people who were gunned down and to rally the country to use the moment as a reflection on the nation's behavior and compassion.
"I believe we can be better," Obama said to a capacity crowd in the university's basketball arena — and to countless others watching around the country.
"Those who died here, those who saved lives here — they help me believe," the president said. "We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."
In crafting his comments, Obama clearly sought a turning point in the raw debate that has defined national politics. After offering personal accounts of every person who died, he challenged anyone listening to think of how to honor their memories, and he was not shy about offering direction. He admonished against any instinct to point blame or to drift into political pettiness or to latch onto simple explanations that may have no merit.
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds," the president said.
The shooting happened as Giffords, a three-term Democrat who represents southern Arizona, was holding a community outreach event in a Tucson shopping center parking lot Saturday. A gunman shot her in the head and worked his way down the line of people waiting to talk with her, law enforcement officials said. The attack ended when bystanders tackled the man, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, who is in custody.
Obama's speech, by turns somber and hopeful, at times took on the tone of an exuberant pep rally as he heralded the men who wrestled the gunman to the ground, the woman who grabbed the shooter's ammunition, the doctors and nurses who treated the injured, the intern who rushed to Giffords' aid. The crowd erupted in multiple standing ovations as each was singled out for praise.
Memories of the six people killed dominated much of Obama's speech. The president, for example, recalled how federal Judge John Roll was on his way from attending Mass when he stopped to say hello to Giffords and was gunned down; Dorothy Morris, shielded by her husband, but killed nonetheless; and Phyllis Schneck, a Republican who took a shine to Giffords, a Democrat, and wanted to know her better. He spoke at length of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the only girl on her Little League team, who often said she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues. She had just been elected to the student council at her elementary school and had an emerging interest in public service.
"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it," Obama said. The little girl was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and had been featured in a book about 50 babies born that day. The inscriptions near her photo spoke of wishes for a happy child's life, including splashing in puddles.
Said Obama: "If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today."
Obama hit an emotional high point when he told of Giffords opening her eyes for the first time not long after his visit to her bedside.
"Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey," Obama said. The announcement drew wild cheers from the crowd.
As finger-pointing emerged in Washington and beyond over whether harsh political rhetoric played a role in creating motivation for the attack, Obama sought to calm the rhetoric.
"Bad things happen," he said, "and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath."
He spoke of decency and goodness, declaring: "The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."
Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 13,000 in the arena and thousands more listened on from an overflow area in the football stadium. About a mile away, at University Medical Center, Giffords lay fighting for her life. Other victims also remained there hospitalized.
__ Gillian Flaccus in Tucson contributed to this report. Feller reported from Washington.
January 12th, 2011
By DEANNA BELLANDI
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers have approved a politically risky 66 percent income tax increase in an effort to solve a historic budget crisis.
The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the plan.
It would temporarily set the personal tax rate at 5 percent, up from 3 percent now. Corporate taxes would climb, too.
Quinn's office says the tax increase would generate about $6.8 billion annually, helping close a budget hole that could hit $15 billion this year.
In sheer percentage terms, the increase could be the biggest on the long list of those passed as states grapple with nationwide economic woes.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure 30-29 early Wednesday. The House had approved it late Tuesday.
January 12th, 2011
My Fox Orlando
MUSCAT, OMAN (WOFL FOX 35) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes a tumble as she departs from Yemen.
Clinton fell as she boarded the plane Tuesday. The former first lady appeared to have graceful steps as she climbed the stairway but then stumbles and falls as soon as she entered the aircraft.
Clinton's trip to Yemen was aimed at helping it's government resolve internal conflicts and make progress in the joint fight against resurgent Al-Qaeda wing.
The State Department says Clinton was not injured in the fall.
January 12th, 2011
In the past few years, we’ve all been careful to choose our words carefully, not calling it a recession until it fit the technical definition and avoiding any inappropriate use of the “D” word — Depression.
Things were bad but the broader economy never reached Depression territory. The housing market, on the other hand, just crossed that threshold.
Home values have fallen 26 percent since their peak in June 2006, worse than the 25.9-percent decline seen during the Depression years between 1928 and 1933, Zillow reported.
November marked the 53rd consecutive month (4 ½ years) that home values have fallen.
What’s worse, it’s not over yet: Home values are expected to continue to slide as inventories pile up, and likely won't recover until the job market improves.
And while the president is physically protected in an emergency, whisked to a bunker at an undisclosed location, the actual White House is not: The value of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has dropped by $80 million, or nearly 25 percent since the peak of the housing boom. It’s current value is $251.6 million, according to Zillow, down from $331.5 million.
Oh-h say can you see … by the dawn’s ear-ly light …
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January 12th, 2011
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Wednesday accused the media of "blood libel" by looking to assign blame for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Palin offered a pointed defense of herself and other political leaders who sometimes used heated rhetoric on the 2010 campaign trail — rhetoric some Democrats say created an environment that fueled the assassination attempt against Giffords."After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event," Palin said in a lengthy statement and accompanying video on her Facebook page.
Palin lashed out at the media, one of her traditional targets, saying they fueled the notion that rhetoric played a role in the Arizona attack.
"But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn," she wrote. "That is reprehensible."
Palin has come under particular scrutiny for her role in campaigning against Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman was one of 20 targeted for defeat by Palin; SarahPac released a map last fall featuring crosshairs over the districts. Palin introduced the map on Twitter by telling conservatives: "Don't retreat, instead — RELOAD!"
The potential 2012 presidential candidate alluded to that map in her statement on Wednesday, saying that gun imagery wasn't used just by the right.
"Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own," she wrote. "They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election."
For Palin, the Arizona shooting presents a delicate situation: She'll have to reconcile her rhetoric, which had faced criticism before last weekend's attack, with the new political reality following the attempted assassination of Giffords.
The third-ranking House Democrat, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), responded on Wednesday to Palin, saying: "You know, Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it, on any front. I think she's an attractive person, she is articulate. But I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here."
The motive of the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is not known; it is suggested he suffers from some form of mental illness.
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