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New home sales see biggest monthly jump in 47 years

Sales surge 27 percent, the strongest month since July

WASHINGTON - Sales of new homes surged 27 percent last month, bouncing off the previous month's record low and blowing past expectations as better weather and government incentives boosted sales.

The Commerce Department said Friday that new-home sales rose in March to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 411,000. It was the strongest month since last July and the biggest monthly increase in 47 years.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a sales pace of 330,000. February's results were revised upward to 324,000, but remained an all-time low. Sales had been especially weak over the winter, partly due to bad weather in much of the country.

The median sales price was $214,000, up more than 4 percent from a year earlier but down more than 3 percent from February.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi held an unusual press conference yesterday, answering questions from both the media, and later from youngsters as a part of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. The transcript is very long, but a good read.

Q: Would you ever run for President since you have so much experience?

Speaker Pelosi: No. Dare I repeat the question?  Did I understand it correctly?  Would I ever run for President since I have so much experience?  Was that the rest of it?  Says she.  

No.  I love the job that I have. And I believe that one of the reasons that I do it with the success that I have is that my Members know that I am here for them, for the House of Representatives, and I'm not thinking
of another career path for myself. But I'm very proud to be the Speaker of the House. It is a great honor, especially being the first woman.
To become Speaker with President Barack Obama as President of the United States was just glorious, because he has a vision for America that is so big.  He has an eloquence to communicate with the American people. He thinks in a way, in a planned way. And he is a great leader. So, while I love being Speaker of the House, I love it even more with Barack Obama as President of the United States.  

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New survey: Obama, Dalai Lama world's most popular. Hillary Clinton at number 3

PARIS (AFP) – US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama are the world's two most popular leaders, according to a poll conducted in six countries and released on Friday.

Obama won 77 percent backing, one percentage point higher than in November, in the poll conducted by Harris Interactive for France24 and Radio France-Internationale.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was at second place at 75 percent, followed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 62 percent.

Pope Benedict XVI was the seventh most popular leader with 36 percent support.

The survey was carried out on the Internet between March 31 and April 12 and covered 6,135 adults aged between 16 and 64 in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was at fourth position with 54 percent support. She was followed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy who tied for fifth place with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at 37 percent.

The most unpopular leaders according to the survey were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

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I guess this is more or less the whole story.
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Solar Power to the People, With a Lot of Public Help

...The Solar Power market almost stalled in late 2008, when the federal tax credit was set to expire. With much pressure from industry groups, Congress extended the credit to 2016. And when the recession tightened credit markets and flattened investors’ profits, making tax credits less attractive, the federal government offered the option of a 30 percent upfront grant instead of the tax credit, as part of the 2009 recovery act.

// snip

This year has started strong, and many of these companies are finding they have more work than workers. Paul Detering, chief executive of Tioga Energy, a California solar project developer, said his company has added 40 percent to its payroll since the beginning of 2010, based on growing customer demand. Navigant Consulting estimates that the eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit in 2008 could create up to 230,000 jobs by 2016 in the solar photovoltaic market....

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In Obama's Financial Reform, a Message to Minorities in Crisis

While President Obama traveled to New York Thursday to make his case for financial reform legislation, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors explained its particular importance for African Americans and minorities, who have been disproportionately hard hit.
In a conference call, Cecilia Rouse, like the president, highlighted the creation of a consumer financial protection agency that she said would hold financial firms to high standards. Some companies have been going after "the most vulnerable consumers," she said, making money off of them in a way that was "unacceptable." She said evidence has shown that African-Americans are more likely to be victimized.

Rouse said the president's plan would target practices surrounding payday lenders, check cashers and other alternative financial services companies. While "payday lenders serve a role in our financial system," Rouse said, it's important that consumers taking out a payday loan understand the terms in order to avoid hidden fees.

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When the financial crisis hit, low-income and minority borrowers -- sometimes more than banks and financial institutions -- found themselves blamed for taking on loans they could not afford. Based on an analysis of Census data, the Pew Hispanic Center found in a 2009 report that black householders "raised their homeownership rate from 41.9 percent in 1995 to 49.4 percent in 2004. By 2008, the black homeownership rate had decreased to 47.5 percent."...

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"President Obama in New York, on a roll"

Before a packed crowd at New York's Cooper Union, Barack Obama made a forceful appeal for regulation of the financial markets. "The American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle," he said. "A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it."

The date was March 27, 2008, and Obama had not yet won the Democratic primary. He had traveled to New York, to speak near where George Washington took his oath of office, to burnish his economic credentials. At the time, markets were beginning to decline, but nothing had collapsed. People still believed that the system would hold together, that bad bets on mortgage values would not cause a crises that rocketed unemployment rates to 10 percent and forced taxpayers to bail out private companies with hundreds of billions of dollars.

On Thursday, he returned to the same place, with a similar message, now a president who had been struggling for more than a year with the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. "It's really good to be back," he said. The crowd, which immediately got the joke, burst into laughter.

// snip

For Obama's aides, the Thursday speech was a return to first principles. "Look at what the President said at Cooper Union in 2008," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters who traveled to New York on Air Force One. I think you'll find a remarkable similarity in the way the President has talked about this issue."

The difference, of course, is the circumstance. By all appearances, Obama appears to be marching towards a legislative victory on financial reform, with key Republicans sounding increasingly likely to support the measure in the coming weeks. If this does come to pass, it will be a major victory for the President, not only for the bipartisan support his effort can attract, but for the extent to which it moves his presidency beyond the tangle of health care reform.
Already the White House is moving to capitalize on the new momentum, by pushing long-shot efforts to come to bipartisan compromise on energy and immigration reform. "I do think there's time to get more done," Gibbs said on the flight to New York. "We will watch gas prices rise again as we get into summer and see the desire and need again to take additional steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And as I talked about yesterday, the President made some phone calls on this plane a few days ago to try to get additional support for immigration."

Just two months ago, Obama's presidency appeared to hang in the balance. But political prognostications never last very long.

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Earth Day reception, yesterday at the WH:


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This week at the West Wing, worth mainly for the final minute:
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The moving naturalization ceremony for 24 members of the United States Armed Forces. Obama's comments regarding Arizona's immigration bill comes near the end of the speech, around the 14:00 mark:
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All photos by AP.
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President Barack Obama salutes a newly sworn in active duty service member at a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday April 23 (AP)
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President Barack Obama shakes hands with US Marine Corps Sergeant Ledum Ndaanee, with the Outstanding American by Choice recognition, which highlights the outstanding achievements of naturalized US citizens, during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, April 23, 2010. Born in Nigeria in 1982, Ndaanee joined the Marines in September 2004 and has been deployed to Iraq twice. In August 2007, he was injured during an attack with improvised explosive device (IED) leading to a Purple Heart, and became a US citizen in November 2007
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Actress Sigourney Weaver attends the Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House with President Barack Obama, in Washington, Thursday, April 22.

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The president and first lady arrive in Asheville, N.C., Friday, April 23, at the start of a weekend vacation:*

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First lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama wait in line to order at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville.
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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama go for a nature walk on a Blue Ridge Mountain trail near Asheville.

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Originally posted to blackwaterdog on Fri Apr 23, 2010 at 01:58 PM PDT.

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