Job Losses Slow in August; Factory Orders Rose in July

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According to a report released yesterday, the pace of U.S. job losses slackened in August, as 298,000 jobs disappeared last month compared to 360,000 in July. The decrease is less than half the pace of declines earlier this year, but the numbers still suggest that a return to job growth could may be months away. In the meantime, revised figures show worker productivity growing steadily over the spring, likely from job cuts that forced employees to take on increased responsibilities.
A separate report from the Commerce Depart showed American factory orders up 1.3 percent in July, the largest gain in a year.
For details: “Pace of Monthly Job Losses Slows” [Wall Street Journal]

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At GW, Women Unbothered by Bob McDonnell’s Views

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Since the Washington Post reported that Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell’s 1989 master’s thesis called working women and feminists “detrimental to the family,” we’ve wondered how much this news would hurt him among female voters.

But if the crowd of 300 he addressed at George Washington University on Wednesday night was any barometer, the answer might be: not much. In fact, among the women I spoke to — all of whom said they plan to vote — many said they were either unaware of the candidate’s controversial thesis, or were untroubled by it.

Maura Reilly, a 21-year-old student at GW, said that her support for McDonnell boiled down to a core issue. “He’s pro-life,” she said, “that is the number one issue that’s important to me.” For Eva Hansen, a 19-year-old from California who plans to campaign for McDonnell, it was his fiscal policy and being “a family man” that first drew her to his candidacy. The statements in his thesis didn’t rankle her at all: “If a woman decides to have a child, that’s a career path she’s choosing.”

Some women did express concern over the positions McDonnell advocated in his thesis, written when he was a 34-year-old student at Regent University, an evangelical school in Virginia Beach. “I’m someone who wants to be both a mom and a CEO. We should be able to do it all,” said Rosemary Holt, a GW freshman majoring in Middle Eastern studies. Still, because McDonnell has backed away from the statements about working women, Holt said she would still support him — “if his actions bear him out.”

Taylor Lofquist, a student studying political science, was familiar with the controversy — but thought it had been “blown out of proportion, especially in times like these, with our economic troubles.” She added that, as a student herself, she could understand how his views would have changed. “I think for any college student, you’re met with ideas beyond your usual spectrum, and any student with intellectual curiosity is going to be confronted by those.”

Asked why she supports McDonnell, there was no hesitation: “Jobs,” she said.

Even some of those registered to vote in states other than Virginia said they planned to campaign for McDonnell. It’s women like Casey Welch, though, that McDonnell, 55, will most need to convince. A resident of Virginia Beach who wants to join the Peace Corps when she graduates, Welch is wavering between McDonnell and Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds; she’s weighing each candidate’s views on Virginia’s transportation needs. And the state of the economy was also on her mind. “My mom was unemployed for 1½ years,” she said. “She retired, and then trying to get back into the workforce was nearly impossible.”

Though he didn’t address the thesis issue directly during his appearance at GW, McDonnell did suggest forming a working mothers task force. Asked by Politics Daily if the recent controversy had prompted the proposal, McDonnell was adamant: “No, absolutely not.”

“It was my wife who originally had the idea,” he said. Expanding on the topic, McDonnell said the task force wouldn’t just be mothers working outside the home but “moms in general,” and added, “We’ve been talking about it since back in March.”

Undecided voter Casey Welch found that hard to believe: “It seemed kind of like a plug for his thesis,” she said. Nonetheless, McDonnell is still in the running for her vote, despite the controversy. “It’s been 20 years,” she said. “He’s come a long way.”

 

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USAID to Investigate Report of Aid Money Flowing to Taliban

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has opened an investigation into allegations that millions of dollars in funds for road and bridge construction in Afghanistan have ended up in the hands of the Taliban through a protection racket for contractors. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, vowed to hold hearings on the issue in the fall.

A GlobalPost news report revealed a web of financial connections between major international contractors and the Taliban, in which the insurgents agree to lay off bombing and other violence in return for up to 20 percent of the proceeds from the contract. The Taliban receives kickbacks from almost every major contract in Afghanistan, the report said. When the money is not paid out, bridges are blown up, engineers are kidnapped and projects tend to stall. If the numbers are correct, the Taliban makes as much off of the American government as it does from its chief source of income: Afghanistan’s highly lucrative drug trade.

“It’s a real hard thing to prove,” said Dona Dinkler, chief of staff for congressional affairs at USAID. “Who’s going to testify about that?” Most of the financial transactions happen at the sub-contractor level and are invisible to oversight committees. They usually take place between individuals, though the Taliban reportedly mans an office in Kabul to review the major deals.
For details: “Are US Taxpayers Funding the Taliban?” [GlobalPost]
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Federal Government Needs to Hire 275,000 Over Next Three Years

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The federal government needs to hire 275,000 people for “mission-critical” jobs over the next three years, according to a study of the federal workforce conducted by the Partnership for Public Service. The openings will be left by baby boomers reaching retirement age and by President Obama’s ambitions to repair the financial sector, fight two wars, and address climate change. “Mission-critical” jobs are those designated by federal agencies as necessary to delivering their services.

 

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Finger Bitten Off In Scuffle at Health Care Rally

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A 65-year-old man demonstrating in support of health care reform at a rally near Los Angeles had his finger bitten off after a violent confrontation with a reform opponent Wednesday night. According to one bystander’s account, the reform supporter, part of a group of 100 or so MoveOn.org demonstrators, had aggressively threatened a small group of anti-Obama protesters who were “peaceful people holding up candles and signs.” (Police reports concur that the Obama supporter moved across the street into the group of protesters.) He landed a heavy blow to the face of one protester, who responded by chomping off his pinky.

 

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The Rev. Steven Anderson: American Taliban?

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Not so long ago, it’s likely that the Rev. Steven Anderson would have lived and died known only to a small circle of friends. Instead, for the past couple of weeks, he’s become one of the most famous pastors in America.

Don’t recognize the name? I bet you know of him: A member of his congregation named Chris Broughton showed up at an Obama speech in Phoenix legally carrying an AR-15 automatic rifle and a handgun. When the local Arizona media did a bit of digging, they discovered the Web site for Broughton’s church. And a recording of the sermon his pastor had delivered the day before Obama arrived.

 

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Obama Clearly Not ‘The Great Communicator’

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“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory . . . Abandoned by his party, betrayed by his friends, stripped of his offices, whoever can command this power is still formidable.” – Winston S. Churchill

“(I) won a nickname, ‘The Great Communicator.’ But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.” – Ronald Reagan

“Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream’– just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’– just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’– just words? Just speeches?” – Barack Obama (borrowing heavily from Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts).

As President Obama’s approval numbers continue to fall, (a Rasmussen poll shows his public support down 19 points since the start of the year), pundits are beginning to ask why. After all, approval ratings rise and fall, but the rate of Obama’s decline in popularity is unprecedented for a newly elected president.

Perhaps it’s all about the economy. Or maybe Obama is being rightly blamed for flawed policies, such as his proposals to exert more government control over health care. Or maybe Afghanistan is more politically problematic than we imagined. More likely, though, his fundamental problem is that he has, thus far, failed as a communicator.

 

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