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The President will announce the 2011 federal budget of $3.8 trillion later today. In a rather dicey tightrope walk, the President has to maneuver the ship of state between a series of economic and political iceburgs towards a high-tech future of green energy, robotics and biotechnology. At the same time, it is imperative to reduce the deficit as the long term budgetary outlook contains a number of obstacles that threaten our financial security as well. According to OMB director, Peter Orszag, the goal of the budget is to set the country on a path of job growth and prosperity through gradual deficit reduction while investing in "education, clean energy and innovation."

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Guests of the So Others Might Eat (SOME) dining hall got a surprise today when they were served by The First Family as part of the Martin Luther King Day of Service initiative, "a day ON, not a day OFF." Mrs. Obama poured coffee with daughter Sasha, while Mrs. Robinson and Malia refilled guests’ plates from platters of barbecued chicken, potato salad, and cornbread. Lively jazz played in the background of the brick basement as over 150 guests dined.

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Yesterday, four of the five members of the Nobel Committee responded to the largely U.S. controversy over the selection of President Obama as this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. "The question we have to ask", said Thorbjoern Jagland, head of the Committee, "is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world, and who has done more than Barack Obama?"

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The President has said he needs us to "stand against the politics of fear and division", and "fight for the security and stability of quality, affordable health care for every American".   So it's time for everybody to jump in with the same kind of enthusiasm and tenacity that we had in November and get this legislation to President Obama's desk.

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Tying health care costs and taxes to our behavior is usually met with resistance because people feel their particular vice is targeted while so many others aren’t taxed at all.  These taxes do reduce these unhealthy behaviors though, cigarette smoking has been cut in half since the increase in taxes for instance.

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Abraham Verghese attended President Obama's recent health care town hall at the White House and shared his thoughts on The Atlantic blog.  He is known for several non-fiction books, including My Own Country, which was based on his experiences as a physician treating persons with HIV in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Dr. Verghese came to Johnson City from India in 1979 as part of a foreign medical graduate program and completed his residency there.  He returned from Boston in 1985 and was surprised to find the signs of the AIDS epidemic which had previously been considered an urban disease.  After several award winning books, his focus turned to medical humanities and the importance of bedside medicine.  He is currently a tenured professor at Stanford.

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Being called "a draft of a draft" by Anthony Coley of Senator Kennedy’s staff, a 170 page document has been circulating the hill today and generating quite a bit of interest.  The legislation will have to be merged with Senator Baucus’ legislation which is expected to be accomplished by July.  A brief outline of the document follows, although it is important to remember this is nowhere near a completed package.  

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Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:34 PM PDT

Racism, White Men and Supreme Empathy

by sandnsea

When Justice Souter’s resignation was announced, it seemed clear to me that a minority female needed to be nominated and I hoped it would be as clear to the President.   Sure, there would be the inevitable "reverse racism" and "oppressed white man" outrage, but as Justice Kennedy himself points out, even while ruling against the school diversity plans in Parents vs. Seattle Schools,  "A compelling interest exists in avoiding racial isolation."

Certainly we do not need to slice up the Supreme Court along pure demographic lines, but we cannot pretend that a body that is 88% white male is an example of the equal opportunity this country claims it is built on.  In fact, this would seem to be more of an example of that "racial isolation" that Justice Kennedy believes should be avoided, and that only exists in one other place that I can think of, the U.S. Senate, which has generally proven useless at addressing disparities in the treatment of its citizens.   Let’s not forget that we just this year, finally, got equal pay protections.

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Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:30 AM PDT

President Obama's Weekly Schedule

by sandnsea

Robert Gibbs announced the President's schedule for the week.  On the President's agenda in Las Vegas, sometimes funny man responds, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  This week's events include the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and a meeting with Palestinian President Abbas.  Full Week after the jump.

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Vice President Biden heads to the Western Balkans on Tuesday for three days of meetings with the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.  The goal, according to a White House press briefing is "intensified U.S. engagement in the region" with the hopes that it will lead to "a Europe whole and free".

 

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After returning from a surprise visit to troops in Iraq, President Obama made good on his promises to them by praising both houses of Congress for preserving his veteran’s health care priorities, and announcing a new veteran’s health care program that will track medical information "from the day they first enlist to the day that they are laid to rest."

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President Obama announced an ambitious program for our education system today that covers kids from pre-school to college.  He is determined that we become a nation of achievers and that our schools are centers of academic excellence with "world-class standards that will bring our curriculums to the 21st century".   It would be excellent to have a country where pre-schoolers are making islands and peninsulas on their sand tables and learning to count and measure in pint-sized kitchen centers.  Where elementary schools teach with the latest technologies and high schools students can succeed at curriculums as advanced as any in the world.   Where anyone can attend college or obtain the training that leads to a rewarding career.

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