“My latest album, Breathless, is my attempt to underscore the three words: ‘I Can’t Breathe,’” 53-year-old Blanchard said in a statement. “This is our E-Collective version of a protest album, without the firebrand lyrics of Phil Ochs, but in mood and purpose.”
“I can’t breathe” were, of course, the last words of Eric Garner; who died in New York City after a police officer placed him in an illegal choke-hold. Although the medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, the police officer that choked him to death, Daniel Pantaleo, was not indited and will not stand trial for causing Garner’s death.
Check out the full list of upcoming tour dates below for Terence Blanchard’s “Breathless Tour”
April 24: Hanover, NH – Dartmouth College
April 25: Boston, MA – Celebrity Series at Berklee
May 2: New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
May 2: New Orleans, LA – Le Petit Theatre
May 6: Evanston, IL – SPACE
May 7: Omaha, NE – Holland Performing Arts Center
May 8-10: Denver, CO – Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge
May 27-31: New York, NY – Jazz Standard
June 9: Indianapolis, IN – Jazz Kitchen
June 10-13: St. Louis, MO – Jazz at The Bistro
June 14: Los Angeles, CA – Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl
June 16-21: Washington, DC – Blues Alley
July 4: Madera Island, Portugal – Funchal Jazz Festival
July 5: Sussex, UK – Love Supreme Festival
July 6-8: Paris, France – Duc des Lombards
July 10: Rotterdam, Netherlands – North Sea Jazz Festival
July 13: Czech Republic – Bohemia Jazz Fest
July 16: Perugia, Italy – Perugia Jazz Festival
September 16: Los Angeles, CA – Grammy Museum
September 17-18: Monterey, CA – Monterey Jazz Festival
cforms contact form by delicious:days
Tiger Woods unexpectedly announced Friday that he will return to golf by playing next week at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
The 38-year-old Woods has been recovering from back surgery on March 31 and has not played in a major tournament since the Doral Open, just prior to his operation. He missed both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
Woods’ decision to play the QL came just a couple of hours before the entry deadline. He broke the news publicly with a post to his Facebook page:
The Quicken Loans National is hosted by the Tiger Woods Foundation and pays tribute to U.S. military personnel.
Woods, a 14-time major winner, has not won a tournament this season. The last major victory he captured was the 2008 U.S. Open.
As listeners and angry citizens complained to NPR and public radio stations across the country over the firing of Juan Williams, the news analyst kept up his own criticism of his former employer as he began a bigger role with Fox News Channel.
As the guest host Friday night of “The O’Reilly Factor,” Williams, who was axed for saying he gets nervous on a plane when he sees Muslims, mentioned several remarks made by other NPR commentators that didn’t result in firings.
“My comments about my feelings supposedly crossed this line, some line, somewhere. That crossed the line?” Williams said. “Let me tell you what you can say on National Public Radio without losing your job.”
Williams went on to note that commentator Nina Totenberg said 15 years ago that if there is “retributive justice,” former Republican North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms or one of his grandchildren will get AIDS from a transfusion.
An NPR spokeswoman said Totenberg has repeatedly apologized for her comments.
Meanwhile, a number of major stations said they were meeting or surpassing their fundraising goals in the wake of the furor over Williams’ dismissal, despite it being pledge season.
“We find ourselves kind of caught between NPR and the audience,” said Craig Curtis, program director at KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., which won’t hold its pledge drive until next month. He said the station had received about 150 comments on the firing, mostly disapproving, and three people asked to cancel their memberships.
Conservative leaders including Sarah Palin called on Congress to cut off NPR’s federal funding – an idea that was also raised in the 1990s and didn’t get very far.
Williams was fired Wednesday over comments he made on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“When I get on a plane,” he said, “I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
After his remarks, Fox announced it had re-signed Williams, who has been with the network since 1997, to a multiyear deal that will give him an expanded role.
NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller held a staff meeting Friday and said management was standing by its decision, spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said. Schiller acknowledged that NPR didn’t handle the firing perfectly and executives would review their process, Rehm said.
Veronica Richardson, 38, a paralegal from Raleigh, N.C., said the firing revealed that NPR had a “political agenda.” She said she would stop listening and donating to her local station, WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill.
“I think it’s unfair to fire someone for a comment that was innocuous to begin with. It’s how many people feel,” said Richardson, who describes herself as a libertarian.
Teresa Kopec, 42, of Spartanburg, S.C., backed the firing, saying, “I thought what he said was kind of offensive. I think it was probably the last straw. He had a pattern of saying things that were not appropriate.” But she said his association with conservative Fox News may have been more troubling, because it damaged NPR’s reputation for objectivity.
At KUNC, an NPR affiliate in Colorado, general manager Neil Best said that Thursday, the start of a pledge drive, was one of the station’s best fundraising days ever. Best said some callers who criticized the firing seemed to be reading from a script since they used some of the same words, such as “totalitarian.”
Rehm said several other stations also reported callers may be reading from a script. In other cases, it was clear the callers weren’t listeners or supporters, she said.
“When people say, ‘I’m never going to watch you again,’ that’s an indicator,” she said, because NPR isn’t on TV.
Stations in some big cities such as New York, Washington and Philadelphia, all three of which have been holding pledge drives, said fundraising remained strong even as complaints rolled in. In Denver, Colorado Public Radio President Max Wycisk said the episode could boost fundraising. “It might actually help, because it reinforces how seriously public radio takes its integrity,” Wycisk said.
At least one station wants to distance itself from the firing. In Miami, WLRN general manager John Labonia said he was hearing dozens of complaints from angry citizens and loyal donors. He said one called to cancel a $1,000 pledge. The station’s fundraising drive had already ended when the furor erupted.
“We don’t want that negative halo of NPR’s decision to affect us, so we are making it perfectly clear that we were not part of this decision and we do not agree with it,” Labonia said. “It was a short-sighted and irresponsible decision by NPR.”
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he will introduce legislation to end federal funding for public radio and television.
“Once again, we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree,” he said in a statement. “With record debt and unemployment, there’s simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize a liberal programming they disagree with.”
In June, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., introduced similar legislation in the House. He said the Williams firing will help his bill.
NPR radio stations are independently owned and operated and, like the nation’s public TV stations, receive government funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which got about $420 million this year from Washington.
As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent – or $3.3 million – of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.
This isn’t the first time public broadcasting has been in the crosshairs of conservative politicians. In 1994, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for an end to all federal funding for public broadcasters.
NPR’s Rehm warned that if Congress cut off funding, “stations across the country would be hurt by that and would have to make up that balance elsewhere. In many places that would be difficult to do.”
Associated Press Writers Dan Elliott in Denver, Jeff Wilson in Los Angeles, Ben Nuckols in Baltimore, Suzette Laboy in Miami, Kendal Weaver in Birmingham, Ala., Ula Ilnytzky in New York City and JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
Magic Johnson told the Los Angeles Times that he would be interested in bringing an NFL team back to L.A., but he hasn’t had any talks with the league.
Johnson recently sold his small ownership stake in the Lakers to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and sold his Starbucks outlets back to the company, fueling speculation about his future.
The Hall of Famer told the newspaper he has no plans to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers or purchase a stake of the Golden State Warriors or Detroit Pistons. He says he talked to the Warriors, but nothing came of it.
The 51-year-old Johnson says he “really, really wants the NFL to come back to L.A.” but hasn’t had any conversations with the league.
A spokeswoman for the NBA great told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Johnson wasn’t available.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
The official inauguration of Danny Tabor as the mayor of the City of Inglewood will be held Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at Inglewood City Hall in Council Chambers at 7 p.m.. Friends, relatives, government officials, business leaders and members of the religious community will gather, as the Hon. James Reese (ret.) administers the oath of office to Mayor Tabor. Prior to the swearing in there will be a community reception in Community Room A located on the first floor of City Hall.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Reception – 5 p.m.
Ceremony – 7 p.m.
Inglewood City Hall
One Manchester Boulevard Inglewood, CA
Community Room A – Reception
Council Chambers – Ceremony
Parking in adjacent city parking lot.
President Obama’s plan to extend tax cuts only for middle-class earners, not the wealthy, receives support from House Minority Leader John Boehner, saying he would vote for if that were the only option available to House Republicans.
Boehner, R-Ohio, said it is “bad policy” to exclude the highest-earning Americans from tax relief during the recession, and later Sunday he accused the White House of “class warfare.” But he said he wouldn’t block the breaks for middle-income individuals and families if Democrats won’t support the full package.
Income tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts and Obama signs the bill. Obama said he would support continuing the lower tax rates for couples earning up to $250,000 or single taxpayers making up to $200,000. But he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refused to back continued lower rates for the fewer than 3 percent of Americans who make more than that.
The cost of extending the tax cuts for everyone for the next 10 years would approach $4 trillion, according to congressional estimates. Eliminating the breaks for the top earners would reduce that bill by about $700 billion.
Boehner’s comments signaled a possible break in the logjam that has prevented passage of a tax bill, although Republicans would still force Democrats to vote on their bigger tax-cut package in the final weeks before the November congressional elections.
“I want to do something for all Americans who pay taxes,” Boehner said in an interview taped Saturday for “Face the Nation” on CBS. “If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for it. … If that’s what we can get done, but I think that’s bad policy. I don’t think that’s going to help our economy.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement Sunday saying, “We welcome John Boehner’s change in position and support for the middle class tax cuts, but time will tell if his actions will be anything but continued support for the failed policies that got us into this mess.”
Boehner responded to that press release with one of his own. “Instead of resorting to tired old class warfare rhetoric, pitting one working American against another, the president and the Democratic leadership should start working with us this week to ensure a fair and open debate to pass legislation to cut spending and freeze tax rates without any further delay,” he said.
Austan Goolsbee, new chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he hopes that Democratic lawmakers who also want an across-the-board extension will join Obama and others in the party in supporting legislation aimed at the middle class before the November elections.
In response to Boehner’s initial comments, Goolsbee said, “If he’s for that, I would be happy.”
With congressional elections less than two months away, both parties have been working to score points with voters generally unhappy with Congress. Democrats are bearing the brunt of voter anger over a stubborn recession, a weak job market and a high-spending government, giving the GOP an opening for taking back control of the House and possibly the Senate.
Democratic leaders would relish putting up a bill that extends only the middle-class tax cuts and then daring Republicans to oppose it. In response, GOP lawmakers probably would try to force votes on amendments to extend all the tax cuts, arguing that it would be a boost to the economy, and then point to those who rejected them.
A compromise over the tax-cut extensions had been suggested by some senior Democrats. In a speech last week in Cleveland, Obama rejected the idea of temporarily extending all the tax cuts for one to two years.
The tax-cut argument between Obama and Republican lawmakers focuses on whether the debt-ridden country can afford to continue Bush’s tax breaks, which were designed to expire next year. Republicans contend that cutting back on government spending ought to be the focus of efforts aimed at beginning to balance the federal budget.
If Republicans regain control of the House, they would remove Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California as speaker, a position that is second in line to the presidency after the vice president. Boehner would be the most likely successor, and he already is the focus of criticism from the Democrats’ re-election campaign.
Obama himself has been leading the charge against Boehner, traveling last week to the Republican minority leader’s home state to accuse him of offering little but stale ideas that led to the economic meltdown.
In keeping with that tactic, the Democratic National Committee said Sunday it plans to begin airing an ad Tuesday in Washington and on national cable that portrays Boehner as a supporter of tax cuts for the wealthy and a foe of spending for teachers, police officers and firefighters.
“Boehner has a different plan,” the ad states. “Tax cuts for businesses and those that shift jobs and profits overseas. Saving multinational corporations 10 billion.”
At a White House news conference Friday, Obama described the Republican proposal for a tax extension for the highest of earners as an effort “to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires.” Instead, he said, both parties should move forward on their areas of agreement.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.
The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.
Census figures for 2009 – the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat’s presidency – are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings.
It’s unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase – from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent – would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.
“The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there,” Obama said Friday at a White House news conference. He stressed his commitment to helping the poor achieve middle-class status and said, “If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle.”
Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.
Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the energy crisis.
Among the 18-64 working-age population, the demographers expect a rise beyond 12.4 percent, up from 11.7 percent. That would make it the highest since at least 1965, when another Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, launched the war on poverty that expanded the federal government’s role in social welfare programs from education to health care.
Demographers also are confident the report will show:
_Child poverty increased from 19 percent to more than 20 percent.
_Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.
_Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, Calif.; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.; Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“My guess is that politically these figures will be greeted with alarm and dismay but they won’t constitute a clarion call to action,” said William Galston, a domestic policy aide for President Bill Clinton. “I hope the parties don’t blame each other for the desperate circumstances of desperate people. That would be wrong in my opinion. But that’s not to say it won’t happen.”
Lawrence M. Mead, a New York University political science professor who is a conservative and wrote “The New Politics of Poverty: The Nonworking Poor in America,” argued that the figures will have a minimal impact in November.
“Poverty is not as big an issue right now as middle-class unemployment. That’s a lot more salient politically right now,” he said.
But if Thursday’s report is as troubling as expected, Republicans in the midst of an increasingly strong drive to win control of the House, if not the Senate, would get one more argument to make against Democrats in the campaign homestretch.
The GOP says voters should fire Democrats because Obama’s economic fixes are hindering the sluggish economic recovery. Rightly or wrongly, Republicans could cite a higher poverty rate as evidence.
Democrats almost certainly will argue that they shouldn’t be blamed. They’re likely to counter that the economic woes – and the poverty increase – began under President George W. Bush with the near-collapse of the financial industry in late 2008.
Although that’s true, it’s far from certain that the Democratic explanation will sway voters who already are trending heavily toward the GOP in polls as worrisome economic news piles up.
Hispanics and blacks – traditionally solid Democratic constituencies – could be inclined to stay home in November if, as expected, the Census Bureau reports that many more of them were poor last year.
Beyond this fall, the findings could put pressure on Obama to expand government safety net programs ahead of his likely 2012 re-election bid even as Republicans criticize him about federal spending and annual deficits. Those are areas of concern for independent voters whose support is critical in elections.
Experts say a jump in the poverty rate could mean that the liberal viewpoint – social constraints prevent the poor from working – will gain steam over the conservative position that the poor have opportunities to work but choose not to because they get too much help.
“The Great Recession will surely push the poverty rate for working-age people to a nearly 50-year peak,” said Elise Gould, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. She said that means “it’s time for a renewed attack on poverty.”
To Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland public policy professor, the big question is whether there’s anything more to do to help these families.
The 2009 forecasts are largely based on historical data and the unemployment rate, which climbed to 10.1 percent last October to post a record one-year gain.
The projections partly rely on a methodology by Rebecca Blank, a former poverty expert who now oversees the census. She estimated last year that poverty would hit about 14.8 percent if unemployment reached 10 percent. “As long as unemployment is higher, poverty will be higher,” she said in an interview then.
A formula by Richard Bavier, a former analyst with the White House Office of Management and Budget who has had high rates of accuracy over the last decade, predicts poverty will reach 15 percent.
That would put the rate at the highest level since 1993. The all-time high was 22.4 percent in 1959, the first year the government began tracking poverty. It dropped to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973 after Johnson’s war on poverty but has since fluctuated in the 12-14 percent range.
In 2008, the poverty level stood at $22,025 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth. It does not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits or food stamps, which have surged to record levels in recent years under the federal stimulus program.
Beginning next year, the government plans to publish new, supplemental poverty figures that are expected to show even higher numbers of people in poverty than previously known. The figures will take into account rising costs of medical care, transportation and child care, a change analysts believe will add to the ranks of both seniors and working-age people in poverty.
The image of thick crude gushing from a blown-out oil well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico was turned off when a tightly fitting cap was secured on top a month-and-a-half ago.
Engineers weren’t expecting that sight again Thursday when they planned to delicately remove the cap as a prelude to raising the massive piece of equipment underneath that failed to prevent the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
But the government wasn’t offering a guarantee no more oil would leak. Plans were being made for oil collection vessels to be on standby in case of a problem.
With the cap and failed blowout preventer removed temporarily until another blowout preventer can be installed, a lot will be riding on the stability of a plug that was created when mud and cement were pumped down into the well from the top. Essentially, the pressure exerted downward served to counter the pressure coming up.
But Rice University engineering professor George Hirasaki said there is still uncertainty about whether the cement settled everywhere it needed to in order to keep oil and gas from finding its way up.
“Just because it didn’t flow when they tested it doesn’t mean the cement displaced all of the oil and gas,” Hirasaki said.
That’s why many people have felt that finishing a relief well and pumping mud and cement in through the bottom would be the ultimate solution to the crisis, said Hirasaki, who was involved in the oil containment effort in the Bay Marchand field off Louisiana after a rig burned in the early 1970s.
The government still plans on ordering BP PLC (BP), the majority owner of the blown-out well in the Gulf, to do the so-called bottom kill operation. But it believes the wisest course is to put on a new blowout preventer first to deal with any pressure that is caused when the relief well intersects the blown-out well.
Another potential risk: What happens if the crane attached to the blowout preventer accidentally drops the 50-foot, 300-ton device onto the wellhead?
That might not, in and of itself, cause more oil to spew, as long as the plug held, but it would make it difficult to continue the operation, Hirasaki said.
“It would crush everything,” he said. “It would be hard to place another blowout preventer on top of it. Right now the wellhead condition is in good condition. But if you dropped it, everything could be opened up.”
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point person on the oil spill response, told reporters Wednesday during a visit to BP’s U.S. offices in Houston that engineers believe the crane will be able to handle the weight of the blowout preventer and some fragile pipe that is believed to be lodged inside.
But if the crane were to swing like a pendulum, that could cause problems, which is why officials have been waiting for rough seas at the site to calm down before continuing with the removal of the blowout preventer. They don’t believe the surface conditions will cause problems with removing the cap, which is why they feel comfortable going forward with that around midday Thursday.
After the cap is removed, the Helix Q4000 will latch its hooks onto the blowout preventer and wait for instructions to begin lifting it up. Engineers are prepared to exert a tremendous amount of pressure to get the blowout preventer free, but they must be careful not to damage it because it is a key piece of evidence in ongoing investigations.
Allen said there is no “significant risk” of more oil leaking into the environment. But he said that after the cap and blowout preventer are removed, “The goal there will be to secure the annulus as quick as we can.”
The annulus is an area between the inner piping and the outer casing.
Based on an updated timeline Allen released Wednesday, the blowout preventer could begin being raised late Thursday or early Friday, but Allen cautioned that timeline could be stretched again if high seas continue to kick up. The final plugging of the well isn’t expected until after Labor Day.
A 12-person government evidence team is waiting to take possession of the blowout preventer when it reaches the surface.
The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion April 20 killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from BP’s undersea well.
BP was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.
Meanwhile, BP PLC said it has spent more than $5 million a week on advertising since the Gulf oil spill began – more than three times the amount it spent on ads during the same period last year.
BP told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it spent a total of $93 million on advertising from April to the end of July. The company says the money was intended to keep Gulf Coast residents informed on issues related to the oil spill and to ensure transparency about its actions. The increased spending was largely targeted at TV, newspapers and magazines. A small portion was directed to the Internet.
BP said it actually aired fewer TV spots from April to July than during a similar period last year.
As President Barack Obama prepares to officially end the lengthy and divisive U.S. combat operation in Iraq, he’ll personally thank some of the soldiers who fought there for their service to a mission he forcefully opposed from the start.
Many of those soldiers deployed from Fort Bliss, the sprawling Army base in El Paso, Texas, that Obama will visit Tuesday. After speaking with the troops, Obama will return to Washington to address the nation and formally end a combat mission in Iraq that lasted more than seven years, leaving more than 4,400 U.S. troops dead and thousands more wounded.
Obama was an early critic of the war, speaking out against it during the U.S. invasion in early 2003 and promising during his presidential campaign to bring the conflict to an end. The White House sees Tuesday’s benchmark as a promise kept and has gone to great lengths to promote it as such, dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq to preside over a formal change-of-command ceremony and raising Tuesday night’s remarks to the level of an Oval Office address, something Obama has only done once before.
Among Obama’s goals on Tuesday is honoring those who have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, many returning to the battlefield for multiple tours of duty. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that while the Iraq war would have never happened had Obama been commander in chief at the time, the president holds the service and sacrifice of the troops in high regard.
Appearing on nationally broadcast interviews Tuesday morning, Gibbs repeatedly brushed aside questions about whether Obama would credit President George W. Bush’s troop surge with helping to pave the way for the withdrawal.
Top Republicans, however, were in no doubt. “Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results,” House GOP leader John Boehner said, in excerpts of a speech he was to give to the American Legion convention in Milwaukee. “Today we mark not the defeat those voices anticipated – but progress.”
In Gibbs’ appearances, he said it’s “not up for question” that candidate Obama agreed sending 30,000 more troops to Iraq would bolster security. But “a number of things” brought the United States to this point, including the move toward greatrer political accommodation among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions, the spokesman said.
Pressed on this point, Gibbs said, “Again, I think the president has always stated, and always believed” that adding significant numbers of American troops would stabilize the security environment, “but obviously the leaders in Iraq had to make some political accommodation to move that nation forward.”
Asked if Obama would support sending combat troops back if new waves of violence threatened the country, Gibbs said that Obama had been assured recently by commander Gen. Ray Odierno that such a scenario would be very unlikely.
“This is not a victory lap,” he said. “You’re not going to see any ‘Mission Accomplished’ banners that will be unfurled. ”
Since the start of the war, 200,000 personnel from Fort Bliss have deployed to Iraq, serving in every major phase of the war. Fifty-one soldiers from the base died there and many more were wounded.
Last week, some 600 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team returned to the base as part of Obama’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline for having all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq. Just about 50,000 U.S. troops will remain, down from a peak of nearly 170,000 in 2007. U.S. troops will no longer be allowed to go on combat missions unless requested and accompanied by Iraqi forces.
Administration officials have been careful to avoid equating the end of the combat mission with a mission accomplished. That was the phrase on the now-infamous banner that flew on an aircraft carrier seven years ago when Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, a symbol the Bush White House came to deeply regret as the war dragged on.
“You won’t hear those words coming from us,” Gibbs said Monday. “Obviously tomorrow marks a change in our mission. It marks a milestone that we have achieved in removing our combat troops. That is not to say that violence is going to end tomorrow.”
Under a security agreement signed between the U.S. and Iraq before Obama took office, all U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011. But the Obama administration insists the U.S. is not abandoning Iraq and is ramping up a diplomatic corps to help stabilize the country’s government and economy over the coming years.
“This redoubles the efforts of the Iraqis,” Gibbs said. “They will write the next chapter in Iraqi history, and they will be principally responsible for it. We will be their ally, but the responsibility of charting the future of Iraq first and foremost belongs to the Iraqis.”
Ahead of Tuesday night’s remarks, Obama also planned to speak with Bush. While Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was criticized by many, the troop surge Bush ordered in 2007 has been credited with tamping down violence in Iraq and helping keep the country from falling into a civil war.
Gibbs was interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today” show, CBS’s “The Early Show,” CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and National Public Radio.
The government is about to confirm what many people have felt for some time: The economy barely has a pulse.
The Commerce Department on Friday will revise its estimate for economic growth in the April-to-June period and Wall Street economists forecast it will be cut almost in half, to a 1.4 percent annual rate from 2.4 percent.
That’s a sharp slowdown from the first quarter, when the economy grew at a 3.7 percent annual rate, and economists say it’s a taste of the weakness to come. The current quarter isn’t expected to be much better, with many economists forecasting growth of only 1.7 percent.
Such slow growth won’t feel much like an economic recovery and won’t lead to much hiring. The unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, could even rise by the end of the year.
“The economy is going to limp along for the next few months,” said Gus Faucher, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. There’s even a one in three chance it could slip back into recession, he said.
Many temporary factors that boosted the economy earlier this year are fading. Companies built up their inventories after cutting them sharply in the recession to match slower sales. The increase provided a boost to manufacturers, but now many companies’ stockpiles are in line with sales and don’t need to grow as much.
In addition, the impact of the government’s $862 billion fiscal stimulus program is lessening.
That leaves the private sector to pick up the slack. But businesses are cutting back on their spending on machines, computers and software, according to a government report earlier this week. And the housing sector is slumping again after a popular home buyer’s tax credit expired in April.
“What we’re seeing is that the hand-off to the private sector is not looking as robust as we had previously hoped,” said Ben Herzon, an economist at Macroeconomic Advisors.
Many analysts say the uncertainty surrounding the economy is holding back consumers from spending and companies from investing and hiring.
Consumers can’t be sure their jobs are safe, with unemployment so high. Business executives don’t know if sales and profits will grow enough to justify adding jobs. And potential changes to tax laws at the end of this year and other policy reforms also make it hard to plan ahead, economists say.
“People have been overwhelmed by uncertainty,” said Ethan Harris, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
A big reason the government will mark down its estimate of last quarter’s gross domestic product is that imports surged much more in June than expected. GDP is the broadest measure of the economy’s output and covers everything from auto production to haircuts.
Imports rose by 3 percent to just over $200 billion in June, while exports fell to $150.5 billion, pushing the trade gap to almost $50 billion, the biggest in nearly two years. Friday’s report may show that the higher imports knocked as much as 3 percentage points off second quarter growth, economists at Goldman Sachs estimate.
But trade isn’t likely to be as big a drag in the current quarter. With businesses slowing their spending on inventories and capital equipment, imports are likely to slow.
Housing, which added to the economy’s growth in the second quarter, is now likely dragging it down. The homebuyer’s tax credit boosted home sales in the spring, raising real estate brokers’ commissions.
But home sales fell sharply in July, and new home construction also declined. That will weigh on economic growth this quarter, but its impact won’t be as bad as earlier in the recession. That’s because housing has shrunk so sharply.
It made up more than 6 percent of the economy at the height of the boom in 2005, but now accounts for only 2.5 percent.
High unemployment is making it harder for people to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes.
About 9.9 percent of homeowners had missed at least one mortgage payment as of June 30, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. That number, adjusted for seasonal factors, was close to a record high of more than 10 percent at the end of April.
Friday’s report is the second of three estimates the government issues for each quarter’s GDP.