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Three weeks after his election as president, the public’s confidence in Barack Obama remains “remarkably consistent” and “doesn’t yet appear to be have been affected, positively or negatively, by news coverage of the president-elect’s staff and Cabinet appointments, or by reports of his economic and other policy plans,” Gallup reports this morning.

The polling firm’s daily tracking poll now shows 65% of those surveyed say they’re confident in the Democratic president-elect’s ability to be a good president. The figure has stayed between 63% and 67% since Election Day. Margin of error: +/- 3 percentage points.

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Source: USA Today

US soldiers hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan's Khost province. President Hamid Karzai has told the UN Security Council that the international community sets a "timeline" for ending military intervention in Afghanistan.

US soldiers hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai demanded on Tuesday at a meeting with a UN Security Council team that the international community set a “timeline” for ending military intervention in Afghanistan, his office said.

Karzai told a delegation from the Council that his country needed to know how long the US-led “war on terror” was going to be fought in Afghanistan or it would be forced to seek a political solution to a Taliban-led insurgency.

“The international community should give us a timeline of how long or how far the war on terrorism will go,” Karzai’s chief spokesman Homayun Hamidzada cited the president as telling the meeting.

“If we don’t have a clear idea of how long it will be, the Afghan government has no choice but to seek political solutions,” he told AFP.

Source: France 24

Obama and Maliki at their Baghdad meeting

Obama and Maliki at their Baghdad meeting

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the Pentagon is developing plans to get troops quickly out of Iraq and into Afghanistan to battle a more confident and successful Taliban.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the AP in an interview that the military has already identified and practiced traveling out of Iraq along exit routes through Turkey and Jordan to determine “what the challenges might be.” The governments in those two countries, he said, have supported that effort.

While he was careful to note that he is still following the orders of President Bush, Mullen said he was clearly aware of President-elect Barack Obama’s battle plan to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months.

“I’ve been listening to the campaign, and I understand,” Mullen said. “And he has certainly reinforced that since the election, so from a planning standpoint we are looking at that as well.”

He said he is working to get as many troops into Afghanistan as quickly as possible and noted he’s not surprised that Taliban leaders said this week that they would not entertain settlement talks with the Afghan government as long as foreign forces remained in the country.

“It’s my belief that you negotiate from a position of strength and right now the Taliban is doing pretty well,” said Mullen. “I think that’s important as we discuss how we negotiate, and with whom we negotiate, that we do so from a position of strength.”

Source: MSNBC

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Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. spoke at a news conference at the Treasury Department on Tuesday in Washington.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. spoke at a news conference at the Treasury Department on Tuesday in Washington.

The United States government unveiled $800 billion worth of new loans and debt purchases on Tuesday, hoping another massive infusion of cash would smooth troubled credit markets and make borrowing easier for homebuyers, small businesses and students.

The Federal Reserve said it would buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed assets from government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It would buy up to $100 billion in debt directly from the companies and up to $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

“This action is being taken to reduce the cost and increase the availability of credit for the purchase of houses, which in turn should support housing markets and foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.

Separately, the Fed and Treasury Department announced a $200 billion program to ease commercial lending on debt like student loans, car loans or business loans. The Fed would lend up to $200 billion to holders of asset-backed securities supported by car loans, credit card loans, student loans, and business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

The program would be seeded with $20 billion in “credit protection” from the Treasury Department, which is drawing the money from the original $700 billion bailout.

“It gives institutions liquidity and it’s clearly direct lending that will help consumers,” Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference.The announcements came one day after President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team and tried to assure Americans that he was seeking to fill any leadership vacuum, and said his economic advisers would begin working “today.” The advisers include Timothy F. Geithner, his choice for Treasury secretary. 

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WASHINGTON — Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

The analysis undercuts Obama’s claim that his supporters “changed the way campaigns are funded” by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.

“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Michael Malbin, the institute’s executive director. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”

About $156 million, or a quarter of Obama’s record-shattering campaign account, came from donors of $200 or less, according to the institute’s analysis of federal election reports through Oct. 15. That compares with $205 million, or about a third, from those who gave between $2,300 and $4,600, the maximum allowed by law.

Forty-eight percent of Obama’s total take came from donors of $1,000 or more, compared with 56% for John Kerry and 60% for both Bush and John McCain, the analysis found.

The small-donor percentage is lower than figures previously reported in news stories because the institute’s analysis accounted for people who gave several small donations over the course of the election that added up to a larger sum, Malbin said.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail that the campaign had more than 3.95 million donors, and “91% of our contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. … There’s no doubt that small-dollar contributors played a critical and unprecedented role” in Obama’s victory.

The study said Obama brought in a total $638 million, the most ever raised in a political campaign, compared with $206 million by McCain, who accepted $84.1 million in taxpayer financing for the general election. Obama reported 580,000 donors who gave more than $200.

Donors giving $200 or less need not be disclosed, but by the Obama campaign’s count, there were nearly 3 million of them.

McCain reported 170,000 donors of $200 or more.

Obama opted out of public financing, raising private money through November and significantly outspending McCain in battleground states.

When Obama announced in June that he would forgo public financing, he told supporters in a video message that “instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded, because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.”

Meredith McGehee, a campaign-finance reform advocate at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said Obama cannot claim “this election somehow created an alternative system for public finance. … The data doesn’t show that.”

Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees or registered federal lobbyists, but many of his top fundraisers have keen economic interests in federal policies.

Source: USA Today

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WASHINGTON – The government introduced a pair of new programs Tuesday that will provide $800 billion to help unfreeze the market for consumer debt and to make mortgage loans cheaper and more available.

The new programs from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department are the latest effort to provides billions in government support to get the U.S. financial system back to more normal operations and keep the country from sliding into a deep and prolonged recession.

The Fed program for consumer debt will lend up to $200 billion to the holders of securities backed by various types of consumer loans such as credit cards, auto and student loans. The goal is to provide greater demand for these securities as a way of lowering interest rates consumers are paying and to make these loans more available.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had signaled that the government was working on this new program. It will be supported by $20 billion of credit protection provided by the $700 billion government rescue fund.

The Fed also said Tuesday it will buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed assets in a separate attempt to deal with the financial crisis.

The Fed said it will purchase up to $100 billion in direct obligations from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the Federal Home Loan Banks. It also will purchase another $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities, pools of mortgages that are bundled together and sold to investors.

The severe financial crisis rocking global markets began more than a year ago with rising defaults on subprime mortgages, loans provided to borrowers with weak credit histories.

The billions of dollars of losses financial institutions have suffered on their mortgage loans have caused banks to stop making new loans of various types. The huge loan losses have also caused multiple failures and takeovers, resulting in the biggest upheavals in the financial system since the Great Depression.

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Since Barack Obama’s election, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups have been warning that the new president will take away their second amendment rights. This multi-million dollar campaign is already having effects. Not only is the NRA trying to profit off this fear-mongering by increasing its membership, many gun sellers are holding “Obama Sales.”

On Friday, ThinkProgress visited The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, where 1,000 vendors took over a building the size of two football fields. The NRA’s fear-mongering was all over the event. An ad in the Washington Post read, “GET YOUR GUNS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!” While we waited in a long line in the cold, visitors willing to begin or renew their NRA membership were able to get in free and skip the line.

We spoke with an NRA coordinator at the event who confirmed that the organization had seen a dramatic increase in membership after Obama’s election and noted that the turnout at this gun show was much higher than at one two months ago. When we asked whether Obama would revoke gun owners’ rights, she strayed from the official line and admitted that with important issues like the economy, he may not go after it right away. Some of the materials that were being handed out at the NRA booth:

gunsticker1Click for pdf.

Traces of these myths infiltrated some of the vendors’ tables as well:

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One vendor with Liberty Firearms was wearing a button with Obama’s name crossed out and warned a couple, “Get ready for the Obamanation.” He told us that he was actually having trouble restocking and ordering new wares because suppliers were canceling orders and getting ready to dramatically increase prices to take advantage of the hype, as they did in 1994. The man selling the “NObama” shirts said that his business was also way up. “People are afraid,” he said.

Despite the NRA’s best efforts, many individual gun owners recognize the campaign as nothing but hype. ThinkProgress spoke with Gary Foster of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who said that while he could not speak for his organization, his personal opinion was that many media stories about a rush on guns are overblown:

As FactCheck.org has explained, much of the NRA’s information is completely inaccurate: “Obama has spoken in favor of government registration of handguns, for example, but has not called for registration of all ‘firearms’ including hunting rifles and shotguns. [Many of NRA] TV spots and fliers also make claims that are directly contrary to what Obama actually says about guns.” Obama has also reassured voters that he has no intention or desire to take away their guns.

ThinkProgress

ABC News has learned that Dr. Susan Rice has emerged as the leading candidate to be President-elect Obama’s nominee as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Neither Dr. Rice nor the Obama Transition Team had any comment. The usual caveats apply — nothing is yet a done deal, nothing has been officially offered or accepted, national security team announcements will not come until after Thanksgiving.

Obama 2008 Foreign Policy

Dr. Rice, a member of President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was involved in President-elect Obama’s campaign as a senior foreign policy adviser.

The former Rhodes Scholar in 2000 received the National Security Council’s Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between nations, and U.S. security policy for global peace.

The purpose of Al Qaeda’s latest video message is to get Muslims to hate Barack Obama. It didn’t work.

NEWSWEEK: Ahmed Benchemsi

The video message from Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called Barack Obama a “house Negro,” demonstrates, if anything, that the terrorists are always damn good in PR. You feel disgusted? Horrified? That’s exactly their aim. In this regard, Zawahiri’s diabolical comparison of Obama and Malcolm X (“an honorable American who converted to Islam,” as Zawahiri put it) is an even bolder move: not only do they insult the American president-elect, but they rub it into one of America’s deepest wounds—the racial divisions and the profound antagonisms generated by Malcolm X’s radical claims. In terms of “hatred arts,” this is just brilliant. Those who are shocked by Zawahiri’s words have merely to remember: spreading hate is the terrorists’ job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes on unchallenged.

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Al Qaeda and all its followers badly need to perpetuate Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” paradigm. The West and Islam are deadly enemies, in the radicals’ view. The more irreconcilable the former, the happier the latter. In this regard, the agenda of Bush and the neocons was a true blessing for the terrorists. Consider this: after 9/11 and the U.S. strike on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was badly hit and its leaders were piteously hiding in caves. Later, by attacking Iraq for no valid reason–which caused, as a direct or indirect consequence, hundreds of thousands of deaths among innocent civilians–Bush’s administration provided Al Qaeda leaders with a new rationale. They reinvigorated, prospered and recruited hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new adeptsfollowers, infused with a strong willingness for jihad. “War on terror”? If they could, they would just keep it on forever.

Al Qaeda’s true problem with Obama has indeed nothing to do with the color of his skin. By proposing to meet Iran’s Ahmadinejad without preconditions instead of just bombing him out, the American president-elect thinks outside of the confrontation box. The radicals just hate that. And above all, they hate the idea of the United States resuming the chase of Al Qaeda operatives in the mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders. He’s coming to them, how could they not react fiercely?

There is something else, which I witness everyday in the streets of Casablanca, where I live: Muslims tend to claim Obama as their own—because he’s black, because he comes from an oppressed minority, because his middle name is Hussein. I presume this holds true for all the nonradical Muslims (the vast majority of them) throughout the world. Not that they think Obama is a Muslim himself—he made clear that he was not. Yet he could have been. His father was. Anyway, this man looks like a “brother” to many Muslims, which is indeed a good thing for the prospect of global peace.

Not surprisingly, Zawahiri’s video message targeted this specific point: “Obama is not a Muslim, he’s a renegade who abandoned his ancestor’s religion to embrace the ‘crusaders faith’ and the ‘Zionists’ ideology’,” Zawahiri suggests. The genuine message being: please don’t like him!

Well, too bad for them: we do. We will like him more, of course, if he keeps his promise of backing out of Iraq within 16 months and putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Meanwhile, let’s all of us, Muslims and Westerners, take advantage of the honeymoon period. And let’s enjoy the terrorists’ embarrassment: it’s a rare occasion.

Benchemsi is editor and publisher of the Moroccan newsweekly magazines TelQuel and Nichane

11-10-2008-11-04-36-am1 We’ve never had a First Lady quite like Michelle Obama. How she’ll change the world’s image of African-American women—and the way we see ourselves.

NEWSWEEK: Allison Samuels

At a recent Sunday brunch after church, my “sista friends” and I sat on the patio of a Los Angeles restaurant gabbing about the election of Barack Obama. Sure, we were caught up in the history of the moment. Most of us never thought we’d see an African-American president. But as a group of six black women in our 30s and 40s, we were equally excited by who is coming along with Obama to the White House—his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters. We all praised—OK, maybe even envied—Michelle’s double Ivy League pedigree, her style, her cool but friendly demeanor. And yet we’re all aware of how much we have riding on her. At 44, Michelle Obama will be the youngest First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. And many are expecting her to usher in a similarly glamorous era in Washington. (“Bamelot,” as some are already calling it.) But Michelle’s influence could go far beyond the superficial. When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world’s most visible African-American woman. The new First Lady will have the chance to knock down ugly stereotypes about black women and educate the world about American black culture more generally. But perhaps more important—even apart from what her husband can do—Michelle has the power to change the way African-Americans see ourselves, our lives and our possibilities.

Read On…

WILMINGTON, Del. – Edward “Ted” Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, was named Monday by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Biden is leaving for the vice presidency. Kaufman, co-chair of Biden’s transition team and an Obama-Biden transition project advisory board member, plans to serve until the 2010 election, when a new senator is elected. He said he is comfortable stepping down after two years in office.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

Ted Kaufman speaks after being appointed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Joe Biden is leaving for the vice presidency, in Wilmington, Del. Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, is president of a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington.

“I don’t think Delaware’s appointed senator should spend the next two years running for office,” Kaufman said. “I will do this job to the fullest of my ability, and spend my days focused on one thing and one thing only: serving Delaware.”

Speculation on Biden’s successor had centered in recent weeks on his son, Attorney General Beau Biden. But last week the younger Biden announced that he planned to fulfill his National Guard duties and wouldn’t accept an appointment to his father’s U.S. Senate seat.

Biden is a prosecutor for the 261st Signal Brigade, which left for Iraq last week. The unit is due back in September 2009, in time for Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat.

Kaufman, 69, said Monday night that he was “not a placeholder for anyone. At the end of the two years, anyone who wants to run can run.”

The elder Biden said in a statement, “It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General Beau Biden, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own.”

Just before announcing Kaufman as the appointee, Minner acknowledged speculation about the younger Biden being picked for the post and said she would have strongly considered him.
“The fact that Beau Biden is committed to fulfilling his obligation and not seeking appointment to this office tells us everything we need to know about his character,” she said. “Should Beau choose to run for this office in 2010, he will — as will whoever runs — have to earn on his own the trust of the people of Delaware.”

Minner said she thought Kaufman was the best qualified candidate and she also looked for an appointee whose political views were close to the Biden’s.

Kaufman said he couldn’t think of anything he and Biden disagreed on and he was impressed by that even back in 1972 when Biden was first running for office.

“I was struck by how many things he believed that I also believed,” he said.

However, Kaufman’s experience in Washington will differ from Biden’s in one respect. He does plan to spend time in Delaware, but he and his wife will get a home in Washington, unlike Biden, who rode Amtrak between Washington and Wilmington.

Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 6, but in mid-January he will step down and Kaufman will be sworn in, Kaufman said.

Kaufman held a senior position in all of Biden’s federal campaigns. He served on Biden’s Senate staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff.

He is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University and has served by presidential appointment since 1995 as a charter member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also heads a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del., and previously worked for the DuPont Co.

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