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The Charger Bulletin

Letter to the Editor: State of the Union

by The Charger Bulletin | February 27, 2013

By Cliff Vosberg

Contributing Writer

Every year, the new president of the United States of America delivers a speech. The State of the Union, to be exact. This speech outlines what this president plans on doing in their upcoming term. Our fantastic President Barack Hussein Obama just delivered his on Feb. 13. Our president, I must first say, is fantastic. Let’s first go through some things he did in his first term, shall we?

He made $500,000 on the job! Oh, but wait, we lost $600,000 with him in. But wait, we are stopping global warming by being green! Oh, but wait…all those emails were uncovered a couple of years ago, where all the scientists where saying how it was a natural cycle, but a great way to make some money. So that doesn’t help our argument about how great he is either.

What about Obama Care? That’s great! It’s going to raise everyone’s taxes and give health care to people who don’t work and live on welfare! Also it’s going to put a whole bunch of health insurances out of business. And one more thing—you have to pay for this! It’s a mandate; you pay a fine if you don’t.

But wait a second…America is a democracy, not a socialist government, so Obamacare is just going to screw over hard working tax payers and force socialist government on Americans. That’s not so good either. I could go on, trust me, but this is about the State of the Union.

In President Obama’s State of the Union, it has been estimated that he has lied 13 times to the American people, or just said things that contradict or are hypocritical to his true plans. The first is when Obama was talking about what built America, saying that America must go back to a time where any hard working person can come to America and, if they are hardworking, make a life for themselves.

Last summer, Barack Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” So every small business that an entrepreneur started didn’t actually build that according to Obama.

The second lie was about Medicare. Obama wants those who care about Medicare to accept modest reforms. Obama care will cut $716 billion from Medicare, hardly modest. The next was on budgeting. The democratically-controlled Senate hasn’t passed a budget in four years. That’s how long Obama has been in office. On top of this, Obama said, “Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.” America’s credit rating has fallen for this first time in the country’s history under Obama.

The fifth lie was on oil. Obama said that the USA is producing more oil than we have in the last 15 years. When Obama took office, gas prices were $1.86. Now they are on the upwards of $3.40. Obama has done nothing but stop American oil drilling by shutting down offshore drilling, drilling bans and stopping the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

The sixth ignorant comment was about the housing market. Obama said that the housing market is finally healing after the 2007 crash and home prices are rising. Also, that home purchases are up 50 percent. The home prices are rising because the prices have finally stopped dropping or are dropping slower. I know that my house is currently worth thousands less than it was. So it is currently a great time to buy because homes are worth next to nothing.

The next comment was about preschool, saying that every state needs to have a state-run pre-school. I guess having four-year-olds playing with blocks and singing miraculously drops crime rates and will up high school graduation rates. I’m not saying pre-school is bad, I went and it’s a good system, but I went to a private pre-school. There are tons of them; billions of dollars do not need to be spent on this.

The next comment that I found humorous was about the border. Obama said; “Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” Let’s look at America: what job can you get without a GED? Nothing. You will not get hired almost anywhere. So why would anyone want to illegally immigrate to America now? There is still great opportunity here, but you have to have qualifications. It’s becoming more risk than gain to illegally immigrate to the USA now, which is why the rates are dropping.

Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour across America. There is a federal minimum wage, then a state-set minimum wage. As a poor college student, this sounds great! But this will make it extremely difficult to find a summer job because this will drop employment due to business not being able to afford as many workers. The government hires more employees than the private sector at this time; this is not good.

The next is on foreign relations. Israel is our best ally in the Middle East. Obama has been ignoring cries for help from them; he has destroyed foreign relations with them. Also, Benghazi: for those that do not know, Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty all died in a terrorist attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi. The Embassy begged multiple times for extra security and it was ignored. When the terrorist attack came, two former Navy SEALs gave their lives to try to save the ambassador and were killed in action. According to Obama, in the beginning this was not an act of terror. He has now switched to saying this was an act of terror. Obama is trying to cover up the fact that neither himself, nor anybody else, did anything to prevent this attack.

The next was on gun control. This topic has been chewed up and spit out, and I do not wish to go deeply into this argument. But Obama turned his whole speech into an anti-gun rally. He talked about a shooting in Chicago, in his home state of Illinois. Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the country, so I’m not sure what Obama’s argument states. It does show that strong gun laws do not stop gun violence. In 2011, there were 496 murders in which a hammer or club where used, compared to 323 connected to a rifle. Looks like we need to register our hammers and have stricter laws on those bad boys!

The next was on voting. Obama said, “We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours…Desiline is 102 years old.” Seems like people in North Miami are just mean! I don’t know about you, but if there was a woman who was 102 years old and I was in charge, I would let her vote and be on her way. I’m not sure who is proud of forcing a 102-year-old woman wait six hours to vote. But I do tip my hat too Miss Victor on exercising her right at the ripe age of 102!

Lastly, Obama’s last words, “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.” I ask God to bless America every day. This is one thing that I can agree with Obama on. He has increased my faith in God through fear for my future in this great nation.

We live in a nation where when a singer overdoses and dies, Obama orders all flags to be flown at half-staff and gives a speech about it. However, when Chris Kyle, an American hero, gets murdered, Obama does nothing. Chris Kyle has the most confirmed sniper kills in American history. It scares me to think that Obama will do so much for Whitney Houston and so little for Chris Kyle. Kyle was an American hero and needs to be respected and remembered as such. I am disappointed and ashamed that Obama did nothing for this man.

I love this country. America is a beautiful place where opportunity flourishes. You and I have a dream that we know we can achieve. I want my children to be able to have their own dreams. It scares me that they may not if the country continues on the road that it is on with President Obama. God bless America. God bless every dream that any person in this nation has. You may need every blessing that God can give.

 

Are the States Going to Secede?

by The Charger Bulletin | November 28, 2012

Letter to the Editor

By Ross Weiner

Are states planning to leave the Union? There been talk of this since the re-election of President Barack Obama because there been a petition circulation on whithouse.gov asking for all 50 states to secede from the United States.

Technically, in the United States Constitution states do have the right to secede from the United States. But what is the reality of this happening?

The reality of this happening is slim to none. The reason is the states get money from the federal government to operate their budget. Most of the states are pretty much bankrupt and they rely on the federal government for money. No state Legislature or Governor in their right mind would secede from the United States of America if they wanted there state to be bankrupt.

Finally, I want to touch up on the fact that the State Legislature would have to vote on seceding the Union. Most of the state Legislature would not vote for seceding the union because they need federal money.

So many people are reacting to the petition of the states seceding as a something that is real. Well the fact is nothing is going to happen. This petition was not motivated because of race. This petition was motivated because it our federal government violates the United States Constitution and the public trust of the people of the United States.

I am not advocating for the secession I am advocating for we the people to throughout all corrupt politician who represent us in the federal or state level.

 

Election Night 2012

by Liana Teixeira | November 14, 2012

The NAACP brought students of all political ideologies together for a night of election coverage.

The NAACP brought students of all political ideologies together for a night of election coverage.

Dozens of students crowded inside the Bartels dining hall on election night, anxiously watching CNN’s coverage of the 2012 presidential election results.

The fierce campaigning finally came to an end on Tuesday, Nov. 6, as the battle between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney played out for the entire nation. The University of New Haven’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted the event along with the WNHU, the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA), and the Office of Intercultural Relations.

Bartels was patriotically decorated for the occasion, with red and blue-colored streamers lining the walls. Blown-up photos of Obama and Romney adorned two of the pillars in the room, and students handed out festive beads, hats and necklaces to those in attendance. A large projector screen displayed CNN’s coverage of the election results as WNHU broadcasted live to the rest of the campus. A wide variety of food, drinks and snacks were also provided.

Attendees ranged everywhere from freshmen to graduate students. “It only happens every four years, so I wanted to be here,” said freshman Jessie Edelman. This was Edelman’s first time voting in a presidential election.

She was also happy and impressed that the UNH campus strongly promoted voting in the months leading up to the election.

Grad student Marinda Brown also had good things to say about the coverage. “It’s very festive,” she said. “I’m hoping Obama comes out and gets another opportunity.”

NAACP President Arnold Lane said extensive preparation went into planning this event. “Initial planning started in July,” he said. Coverage of the beginning stages of the election also started as early as August and September. In 2008, an election night party was held in the Quad following the results. “We wanted to mimic that,” Lane said.

“I think it’s very successful,” Lane continued. “No matter who wins, it will be a historical election. I’m just glad people are here.”

As the race neared its end, students expressed their passion toward the candidates by cheering whenever their favorite candidate won the electoral votes of an additional state.

Early in the night, Romney was leading in the number of Electoral College votes. However, it became apparent that Obama would be the one to reach the coveted 270 votes needed for re-election. In the end, Obama came out on top with over 300 electoral votes in his favor, guaranteeing him another four-year term as President of the United States.

Election coverage night proved to be a successful event, unifying students on a topic that affects each and every member of the UNH community and the country.

 

No Winners in Politics

by Amy Reidy | November 7, 2012

The final debate, in terms of its main topic, lacked the focus and finesse of the earlier debates. Many topics, besides the ones that were meant to be brought up (foreign policy), were brought up quite frequently by both Mitt Romney and President Barak Obama. It seemed as though the candidates had very different strategies going into this debate, ones that may have left the ultimate winner of the debates very hard to distinguish overall.

According to the man tasked with helping Romney prepare for the debate, Senator Rob Portman, the strategy was “to come across thoughtful, knowledgeable, reassuring…” He followed that strategy greatly, clearly knowing what he was talking about, and seeming as if he had the answers to the problems of the United States’ predicaments on more than one front. This strategy seemed to be very helpful to Romney and helped him to hold his own.

Obama’s strategy, from the start, was one of criticism of Romney and his ideas. Although he was mocking at some points, the overall strategy seemed to prove effective for Obama. However, it is not the strategy that he has demonstrated throughout the entire campaign.

There seemed to be a bit of a role reversal in terms of the strategies and manners of the candidates. In general, the Republican Party may have been expecting more of an attack on the current president rather than the more cordial appeal that Romney seemed to have for President Obama.

In terms of the actual content, the winner of the debate is totally up to the viewer. Romney “won” in terms of sticking to the topic. Viewers who believe that fixing our nation on the home front is an integral part of strengthening our presence around the world would have agreed with Romney’s main points in the debate.

This, however, was how he would often get off topic. Although this does deal with foreign policy in the sense that our power has weakened around the world, it still brings the debate back to the economy here at home, rather than focusing on the events outside of our nation.

President Obama brought a different view to the debate. He tended to be on the offensive, calling Romney’s plans “wrong and reckless.” Obama also attacked his challenger by stating that he waivers on the issues. Obama’s main hit was the following: “Governor, the problem is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map.”

Neither candidate really stayed on topic, so it is difficult to distinguish a clear winner. It is up to personal preference. Obama played an offensive game, while Romney maintained a dignified appearance and seemed to keep his cool. For those Republicans expecting Romney to throw down, you may be very disappointed. For those wishing that politics would remain more dignified and less attack oriented, you would be proud of Romney.

For Obama, those wishing he would throw more, you would be pleasantly surprised. For those looking for finesse in politics, you may have been swayed more towards Romney. In terms of the actual issues, they did not get very far. There was back and forth on both sides and foreign policy was quite a rarity. Some good points were made, but many issues fell by the wayside.

 

Obama Enlisting A-List to Act as Surrogates

by The Associated Press | November 7, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) — President Barack Obama is counting on former President Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen, top surrogates for his campaign, to carry his message. But he also has enlisted an army of A-list performers and public figures — from Lady Gaga to Billie Jean King, from Jay-Z to Crosby, Stills and Nash — to promote his re-election.

The Obama campaign provided a who’s-who of 181 actors, musicians, authors, athletes, mayors, Congress members, and more that fit any and all demographic groups in the president’s target zone. All are being deployed to carry his message to television and radio in the waning days of a nip-and-tuck campaign.

On Saturday, Stevie Wonder played an unannounced concert for voters waiting in line to vote early in Cleveland. Wonder opened a rally for Obama by rocking the arena at the University of Cincinnati with a rendition of “Keep on Running.”

Songwriter John Legend, actor Laurence Fishburne, and congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, D-Ga., were among those who went to Ohio to lead a “Souls to the Polls” effort with local churches.

The list includes some of Hollywood’s big names — Samuel L. Jackson, Anne Hathaway, and Scarlett Johansson — who were talking to Top 40 radio stations. Jackson and comedian Chris Rock were on stations with primarily African American audiences urging voters to go to the polls Tuesday.

Danny DeVito and members of the FX sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have canvassed neighborhoods in Wisconsin, made phone calls and visited colleges in the state.

Others on the Obama list include Black Eyed Peas’ front man Will.i.am and rock band leaders such as Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.

Celebrity sells. Now it remains to be seen if voters buy.

 

The Optics of Winning: Musings about the Second Presidential Debate

by Simone Quartey | October 24, 2012

Ah, yes. “There you go, again,” as Ronald Reagan once said. We have arrived at the storied and much mythologized second presidential debate of the 2012 election season.

It would be nice to think that presidential debates are a forum of mature and honest discussion about the issues of the day. But who am I kidding, right? Save the wonky policy details for The West Wing. I have tried to grapple with the fact that modern politics will never be the gauzy, intellectual haven like my favorite television show. However it is nice to dream…

Instead, politics is a gritty, cynical world in which fresh-faced Senators from Illinois with bold visions and big dreams can be put through the proverbial meat grinder of Washington D.C. In four years, fresh-faced Senators turn into grey-haired technocrats.

After the first debate, one in which President Barack Obama lost by all accounts, it reinforced a very obvious notion. Politics is an optics game. A game in which style over substance almost always triumphs, especially in a media age that forces otherwise smart and capable men to be reduced to actors playing the role of the most competent and aggressive Alpha male on the planet.

Debates can rarely divulge into the policy minutia of taxes, whether a drone strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is a good geopolitics in the Middle East or whether Simpson-Bowles is practical when austerity measures have clearly failed Europe.

So this debate, like all Presidential debates, became a kabuki theatre performance. For nearly two hours, the American people were subjected to a testosterone, battle-for-turf war between President Obama and Governor Romney. Forget the undecided voters in the audience. Let’s face it; neither man really answered the any of the questions adequately. This was a battle for winning the hearts of the nearly 70 million Americans watching at home.

President Obama, who over the years has been almost Spock-like in his temperament, became unleashed. He was blistering, sharp and sound-bite ready, a far cry from his middling first debate performance in Denver. He made a fairly adequate case for why his first term had been successful (the usual suspects: cutting taxes, Bin Laden, healthcare, etc.) However, with the exception of vague references to education, manufacturing energy policy, the President did not lay out a precise vision for what he would do in his second term. I was very surprised he did not mention the upcoming fiscal cliff and what that would mean for the American economy as a whole.

Governor Romney on the other hand, was a lot more specific when it came to speaking about the issues, but made the same dubious claims that he has been making from the beginning of the 2012 election season. Between “self-deportation” when referring to immigration policy and claiming that the President has “doubled the deficit” (the CBO estimates the Obama administration’s latest budget will drop the deficit from a high of 1.4 trillion in 2009 to 702 billion dollars in 2014), he played fast and loose with the facts. Then again, he always does.

For me, the moment of high drama came when a voter Kerry Ladka asked a question pertaining to Libya. Instead of making the effective case that the public handling by the Obama Administration of the deaths of four Americans at the Benghazi consulate was inadequate and troubling, Governor Romney lost the debate. An argument that could have effectively teed up the Republican contender’s argument against the Obama administration’s foreign policy became a moment for the President to turn a weakness into strength.

The moment had nothing to do with policy. After all, Governor Romney had a point; the White House did mishandle the Benghazi tragedy publicly, even allowing UN Ambassador Susan Rice to deny that the event was a terrorist attack on Meet the Press.

The brilliance in the moment was President Obama, as cool as a cucumber, saying “Please precede Governor,” allowing his political opponent to get bogged down in a semantic swamp and getting fact checked in real time by a very quick Candy Crowley. Of course, there was the infamous moment in which the President let the Governor know he was the guy in charged.

The optics could not have been worse for the Republican challenger. As Governor Romney sat with an uncomfortable grin like a school boy being scolded, the president, channeling Michael Douglass’s character in The American President, looked determined, mad and righteously indignant as he lectured him on how to be Leader of the Armed Forces.

There were a lot of other memorable moments. The infamous “binders of women” comment is getting plenty of attention on social media. There was also the bizarre shouting match over whose pension had the most Chinese investments. However there are some moments that just become a part of presidential debate lore. Not because those moments are about good policy, but because those moments provide good optics for the eventual winner of the debate.

After all, debates have never, and will never be about policy. For continuing the tradition, I tip my hat to the “winner” of the debate, the President of the United States.

 

President Obama: Beer Connoisseur

by Ana Abraham | September 12, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama tends to the first-ever beehive on the White House’s South Lawn, and White House chef Sam Kass recently released where some of the honey is going. President Obama is a novice beer maker, and honey is the secret ingredient in his brews.

President Obama, a novice beer maker, uses a secret ingredient (honey) in his personal brews.

In a blog post titled “Ale to the Chief,” Kass responded to requests from thousands of curious petitioners to the White House’s website. He released the recipes for two different beers that the White House has perfected over the past year: White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter.

According to Kass, the honey does not sweeten the beer, but causes it to smell “rich.” The two recipes were released on Saturday, Sept. 1, with the 2012 Presidential election just a few months away.

President Obama is not the first commander-in-chief to brew his own beer, but he is the first to do so in a few hundred years. As far as records can tell, he is the first U.S. president to brew in the actual White House. George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson shared a passion for brewing beer, but evidence indicates they did so in their personal estates.

Along with the two recipes, Kass posted a four and a half minute video on the process of brewing the presidential beer. He also commented on his surprise that the two beers ended up being such hits, “since none of us had ever brewed beer before.”

With the election so close, critics are viewing this blog release as a well-timed shot at Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Romney’s Mormon beliefs prevent him from consuming alcohol. They say President Obama is trying to appear as more of a common person than his opponent.

President Obama, according to Kass, was simply inspired by the thousands of men and women across the country that brew their own beer.

 

 

“Invisible Obama” Has My Vote

by Liana Teixeira | September 5, 2012

The Republican National Convention came to a close last Thursday night, but if anyone watching the event remembers one thing from the convention, it won’t be Mitt Romney’s speech accepting the nomination for president, but rather the long and somewhat unconventional ramblings of Clint Eastwood.

When I tuned in to watch, I made an immediate double take. Clint Eastwood at the RNC? But hey, I was intrigued. There’s a level of respect attached to the award-winning actor, director and producer. So I figured I’d watch.

And then…I saw the chair. Remember in those old Vaudeville shows, when long shepherd’s hooks would pop out from behind the curtains and yank off the performers who weren’t doing so hot? Well, let’s just say they definitely should have used one on Clint Eastwood.

For those who are unaware of what went down on Thursday night, Eastwood (in a supposed last-minute request) asked that an empty chair be placed next to the podium whilst making his speech.

He then proceeded to talk to the chair throughout the speech, referring to it as President Barack Obama. The “invisible Obama” would then respond in a voice that apparently only a telepathically-superior Eastwood could hear.

Many of the comments suggested that “Obama” was making profane remarks toward Romney.

Okay, let’s get real for a second. Am I the only one who viewed this as completely bizarre? Not only were the comments disrespectful toward Obama, but they showed a real lack of maturity on Eastwood’s part. (He was talking to a CHAIR!!).

We all know Obama and Romney disagree on many levels, but the last thing we needed was an ad-libbed act taking the attention away from the stuff that really mattered that night. It reminded me of that Taylor Swift/Kanye West incident at the 2009 VMAs.

Frankly, I believe Romney deserved his time to shine in the spotlight. For almost 12 full minutes, Eastwood awkwardly entertained the sea of Republicans and Romney supporters, making additional wise cracks at Oprah Winfrey and Vice President Joe Biden.

Each time Eastwood lost his train of thought, he covered up his stuttering by pretending the “invisible Obama” said another nasty comment, making it really hard to tell what points he was actually trying to make.

I feel that everyone will only remember Eastwood’s butchered attempt at comic relief. Even when Eastwood did manage to poke holes in the Obama administration’s policies during the past four years, he seemed to accidentally point the finger at Republicans as well.

When mentioning the war in Afghanistan, Eastwood argued that the U.S. did not consider the fact that Russians were unsuccessful in Afghanistan for ten years. If history serves me correctly, I believe we entered war with Afghanistan during the Bush administration, not Obama’s.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow probably summed up my reaction perfectly: “That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a political convention in my entire life.”

And as we all have probably seen by now, a new Twitter craze has exploded with photos of people “Eastwooding.” That is, angrily pointing to empty chairs. The president even caught on and posted a photo of the back of the presidential chair with the caption, “This seat’s taken.”

Maybe I am being a little harsh about this whole thing. I mean, it is a presidential race after all; there’s supposed to be an exchange of finger-pointing and blame. However, Eastwood’s display took it a little too far.

And honestly, it was just weird.

I give credit to Romney, though. Once he got up on stage, he had his poker face on and totally played it off. If he had any disapproval about Eastwood’s stunt, it was obviously not reflected in his address.

Now that the RNC is over, I’m pretty excited to see how the Democratic National Convention plays out. Who knows? Maybe Obama will put an empty chair on stage imitating Eastwood. Or maybe he won’t mention the incident at all. Either way, the 2012 presidential race has gotten off to an interesting start.

I consider myself moderate, but I admit being a personal Obama fan. That being said, I don’t think there is an obvious winner like there was in previous elections.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone voted for the chair.

 

 

 

Jay Z Mimics Rocky at Philly Made In America Fest

by The Associated Press | September 5, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jay-Z’s entrance said it all: He bounced up and down on top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, mimicking Rocky before he took the stage in front of nearly 50,000. His song “Made In America” played in the background.

Jay-Z mimics Rocky at Made-In-America festival in Philadelphia.

Jay-Z, like Rocky Balboa, has a rags-to-riches American dream story, and the 42-year-old entertainer — who grew up in the Brooklyn projects and released his debut album in 1996 — shared some of that through songs in his 90-minute set Saturday night at the Budweiser Made In America festival.

He entered from the back of the stage after running down the steps to perform “Public Service Announcement.” That was followed with the night’s first cameo: a prerecorded video with President Barack Obama. Obama urged the crowd to vote this fall. He also said Jay-Z’s story is “what Made In America means” and added that he enjoys listening to the rapper’s music on his iPod.

Jay-Z headlined the first night of the two-day festival he curated, performing hits like “99 Problems,” ‘’Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” ‘’Big Pimpin’” and “Empire State of Mind.” The event is the first of its kind for the entrepreneurial Jay-Z, who is married to superstar Beyonce and owns a music management company, fashion line, nightclub and restaurant; he’s also a co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets.

“Since you were so good to me, Philly, I’m going to be good to you tonight, Philly,” Jay-Z yelled.

Rappers Pusha T and Big Sean hit the stage, and Kanye West followed, receiving an electrifying roar from the crowd. They performed a medley of hits, such as “Mercy,” ‘’Dance” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.”

Jay-Z also brought out his former protégés and Philadelphians Freeway, Chris and Neff, as well as Memphis Bleek. Common, 2 Chainz and Swizz Beatz also made appearances.

The scene was colorful and energetic, as thousands of music fans shifted from the three stages on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch Skrillex, D’Angelo, Passion Pit, Janelle Monae, Calvin Harris and 10 other acts. Sunday’s line-up includes Pearl Jam, Run DMC, Odd Future and Drake, who was in the crowd Saturday night.

The festival is being filmed as a documentary and will be directed by Ron Howard. Proceeds from the ticketed event will benefit United Way chapters.

Jay-Z closed the night with West, performing the smash hit “…In Paris.” Then fireworks blasted.

 

 

Congress Passes Student Loans, Highway Jobs Bill

by The Associated Press | August 29, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress emphatically approved legislation Friday preserving jobs on transportation projects from coast to coast and avoiding interest rate increases on new loans to millions of college students, giving lawmakers campaign-season bragging rights on what may be their biggest economic achievement before the November elections.

Congress approves legislation preserving jobs on transportation projects and avoiding interest rate increases on new loans to college students.

The bill sent for President Barack Obama’s signature enables just over $100 billion to be spent on highway, mass transit and other transportation programs over the next two years, projects that would have expired Saturday without congressional action. It also ends a bare-knuckle political battle over student loans that raged since spring, a proxy fight over which party was best helping voters muddle through the economic downturn.

Obama signed a one-week temporary measure Friday evening, permitting the highway and loan programs to continue until the full legislation reaches his desk.

Under the bill, interest rates of 3.4 percent for subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduates will continue for another year, instead of doubling for new loans beginning on Sunday as scheduled by a law passed five years ago to save money.

Had the measure failed, interest rates would have mushroomed to 6.8 percent for 7.4 million students expected to get the loans over the coming year, adding an extra $1,000 to the average cost of each loan and antagonizing students — and their parents — four months from Election Day.

The Democratic-led Senate sent the measure to Obama by a 74-19 vote, just minutes after the Republican-run House approved it 373-52. The unusual display of harmony, in a bitterly partisan year, signaled lawmakers’ eagerness to claim credit for providing transportation jobs, to avert higher costs for students and their families and to avoid being embarrassed had the effort run aground.

This year has seen the two parties mostly drive each other’s plans for tax breaks and economic revival into a stalemate, although lawmakers have enacted bills retaining the Social Security payroll tax cut for a year and renewing a government agency that promotes U.S. exports.

“It’s important for Congress to act, not just talk about problems we have but to get things done,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., a chief House author of the transportation measure.

“We have a bill that will boost this economy,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a sponsor who said the measure would create or save 2.8 million jobs. “We have a bill that is supported by conservatives and liberals, progressives and moderates. I think this is a great day.”

All the no votes were cast by Republicans.

The compromise ended up sprinkled with unrelated nuggets dealing with Asian carp, roll-your-own tobacco and federal timber aid. But its most significant provisions dealt with transportation and student aid.

The final transportation measure dropped a provision — which had drawn an Obama veto threat — that would have forced government approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas coast. But it contains curbs on environmental reviews of transportation projects. Republicans sought those curbs in hopes of cutting construction time almost in half.

The bill consolidates federal transportation programs and gives states more flexibility in spending money from Washington. It also contains an array of safety initiatives including requirements aimed at enhancing bus safety. And it makes advocates of bike and pedestrian paths compete for money with other transportation projects.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration was glad Congress acted “before middle class families pay the price for inaction.” He said Obama will keep pressing for approval of more of his job-creating proposals from last year, to hire teachers, police officers and firefighters and for tax credits to companies that hire new workers.

Most of the overall measure was financed by extending federal taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel for two more years. Those levies, unchanged for nearly two decades, are 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel and now fall well short of fully financing highway programs, which they were designed to do.

About $20 billion would be raised over the next decade by reducing tax deductions for companies’ pension contributions and increasing the fees they pay to federally insure their pension plans. In return, a formula was changed to, in effect, let companies apportion less money for their pensions and to provide less year-to-year variation in those amounts.

To raise other revenue, the government will start charging interest on subsidized Stafford loans no more than six years after undergraduates begin their studies. Today no interest is charged until after graduation, no matter how long that takes.

In addition, a loophole was tightened to make it harder for businesses with roll-your-own cigarette machines to classify the tobacco they sell as pipe tobacco — which is taxed at a lower rate than cigarette tobacco. The change is expected to raise nearly $100 million.

Some federal workers would be allowed to work part-time as they gradually retire, saving the government money because the workers would receive only partial salaries and retirement annuities.

As often happens with bills that are certain to win the president’s signature, the measure became a catch-all for other unrelated provisions.

One would order the government to accelerate work on a plan for preventing Asian carp, which devour other species, from entering the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River. It drew opposition from Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and some other lawmakers arguing that blocking the fish could interfere with shipping, but the Senate turned their objections aside.

Federal flood insurance programs that protect 5.6 million households and businesses were extended, allowing higher premiums and limiting subsidies for vacation homes to help address a shortfall in the program caused by claims from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

The measure also steers 80 percent out of billions in Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP and others for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion to the five Gulf states whose beaches and waters were soiled by the disaster. The money would have otherwise gone to federal coffers.

Federal timber subsidies worth $346 million would be distributed for another year to rural counties, while other funds would be steered to rural school districts. The bill also eases restrictions that force most American food aid to be shipped abroad on U.S.-flagged vessels.

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