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Obama’s State of the Union long on US greatness, short on austerity – Christian Science Monitor

President Obama called on America to maintain greatness through innovation. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, he also proposed cuts in defense and a partial budget freeze.


In laying out his vision for government amid a new political reality, President Obama appealed to Americans’ long-held sense of exceptionalism and played down the steep fiscal challenge ahead born of unsustainable federal spending.

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But then, this was the State of the Union address, and “prepare for pain” hardly makes for a stirring headline that reassures citizens – particularly those still looking for a job and wondering if the new economic reality will ever work for them.

Mr. Obama framed his speech Tuesday night around the theme of “winning the future,” a call to maintain American greatness through innovation in a rapidly changing world. He harkened back to the cold-war era, when the space race with the Soviet Union spurred invention and exploration – a race the United States eventually won, as it landed a man on the moon.

RELATED: Top 5 presidential orators of modern times

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” Obama said, referring to the Soviet satellite launch in 1957 that both scared and inspired Americans.

“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” the president continued. “And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Obama also focused on investment in education and infrastructure as essential for the US not just to remain competitive in the global marketplace, but also to “win” – to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

The president followed immediately with a call to “take responsibility for our deficit,” and later laid out budget proposals, including a five-year freeze on all nondefense spending outside Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and cuts in defense spending ($78 billion over five years, as laid out separately from the speech).

Obama was seeking to counter a Republican move to drive through deeper budget cuts, and with Republicans now in control of the House and its committees, they have a bigger platform from which promote their point of view.

But deficit hawks were quick to point out that neither Obama nor the Republicans, in their response to his State of the Union, got into specifics over what exactly they would cut. Obama’s proposed cuts barely make a dent in the trillion-plus-dollar deficit. The five-year freeze on discretionary spending would bring just $400 billion in savings over 10 years. The White House itself hinted at its smallness, by calling it a “down payment” toward reducing the deficit.

“It’s great to hear the president support a five-year domestic discretionary freeze, and to argue for health-care cost controls, Social Security reform, and individual tax reform,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “But the president needs to get specific, and he needs to show members of both parties that he is willing to spend his political capital on getting our fiscal situation under control.”

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Source: Obama’s State of the Union long on US greatness, short on austerity – Christian Science Monitor

Cheryl Cole Informs America That We Should Just Forgive Chris Brown Already

Cheryl Cole Says Chris Brown Should Be Forgiven

It’s been over a month since someone has brought up the time Chris Brown physically assaulted Rihanna back in 2009. Sounds like it’s about time for a famous person completely unconnected to the incident to talk about it for no reason! “I think it’s really kind of Rihanna [to forgive Brown]. She’s come out and publicly forgiven him, really,” British pop star Cheryl Cole proclaimed during a radio interview on In: Demand with Alex James. “I think it’s about time we all [forgave Brown], if I’m completely honest, if you want my opinion,” Meanwhile, we will never forgive Cheryl Cole for making us think about one of the ugliest pop culture moments in recent history. How can we forgive when we aren’t allowed to forget, Cheryl? How?

For his part Brown clearly appreciated the shout-out, tweeting at the singer, “thanks for the support and believing in me as an artist!” No questions as to why anyone would still be talking about this, Chris? Fair enough. “I think it’s time we all moved on,” Cole concluded. “That guy is talented as hell.” Thanks for your input, Cheryl Cole! While you’re at it, we’d also love to hear your thoughts on the Greek government’s austerity measures and Facebook’s falling stock prices. You’re not involved in either of those situations either, right?

[Photo: Getty Images/ Splash News Online]

Source: Cheryl Cole Informs America That We Should Just Forgive Chris Brown Already

Performing Bernstein music from a 1955 Joan of Arc play | Philadelphia … – Philadelphia Inquirer

Bernstein’s creativity was always fueled by the promise of a responsive recipient, and he was already working with Hellman on Candide. Additionally, the Joan of Arc subject matter of The Lark promised choral scenes and court songs. He set various Mass texts to music (and must have been pleased with his work, since he recycled it decades later into his Missa Brevis).

The original version came off incredibly fresh and pithy, making an immediate impression with distinctive harmonies suggesting the austerity of Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Notre Dame (which preceded Joan by a century), but with a modern accent similar to 20th-century Arthur Honegger. Bernstein also adapted a song by Adam de la Halle (a 13th-century hunchbacked poet) in ways that never seemed like antique window dressing. He somehow found the essence that speaks to modern ears. There were aural whiffs of his 1954 Serenade.

In the not-inappropriate environs of First Baptist Church in Center City, the Mendelssohn Club presented the music in context with abbreviated dialogue. Acting wasn’t great, but didn’t have to be. The rest of the program included the popular Maurice Durufle Requiem, and – as part of the concert’s moniker, Audience InCHOIRing – listeners were invited, prior to the performance, to sing the Gregorian chants on which the piece was based. It’s a great way to get one’s feet wet with the music and to separate the chant from the sonic upholstery in which Durufle wrapped it.

Mendelssohn Club director Alan Harler has the right personality for such audience interaction, and performances of Durufle and Bernstein had the music quite well in hand. Baritone Kurt Ollmann, a longtime Bernstein collaborator, was a guest artist in both, sounding as handsome as he looked.

The program ended with a world premiere, Rain Sequence, that didn’t feel like one. Though the young composer/conductor, Rollo Dilworth, now on the Temple University faculty, employed outside texts (Langston Hughes, among others), he allowed them to be overwhelmed by an extroverted pop-crossover manner and borrowed tunes, such as “Amazing Grace” – not radically reimagined as George Crumb might or in the context of something larger such as Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. One hopes this doesn’t reflect Dilworth’s lack of confidence in his own thematic invention.

Contact music critic David Patrick Stearns at [email protected].

Continue reading here: Performing Bernstein music from a 1955 Joan of Arc play | Philadelphia … – Philadelphia Inquirer

Brazil Rate Futures Yields Drop on Minimum Wage Bill Passing Lower House – Bloomberg

Yields on most of Brazil’s interest-
rate futures contracts due after this year fell as investors bet
on falling borrowing costs after the Lower House of Congress
voted last night to approve a minimum wage bill that the
government said won’t undermine its austerity drive.

The yield on the contract due in January 2013, the most
traded today in Sao Paulo, fell 6 basis points, or 0.06
percentage point, to 12.67 percent at 9:39 a.m. New York time.
The January 2015 contract fell 10 basis points to 12.56 percent.

The chamber, in a voice vote late yesterday, set the wage
used to calculate monthly pension payments at 545 reais ($326),
a 6.8 percent increase from last year. Lawmakers rejected two
amendments, pushed by the opposition with the support of unions
and a few dissenting members of President Dilma Rousseff’s
alliance, to lift the wage to as high as 600 reais. The bill now
goes to the Senate.

The difference in yields between shorter-term and longer-
term rate futures contracts is shrinking as investors from
outside Brazil are betting the government won’t have to keep
interest rates as high for as long, said Mariano Cirello, who
manages 5 billion reais in Brazilian assets as chief investment
officer at Mapfre Investimentos in Sao Paulo.

“The long-term curve is flattening a lot,” he said by
phone. Traders are betting “they will come back to the lower
interest rates faster than we thought,” Cirello said.

Annual Inflation

Policy makers last month raised the benchmark interest rate
for the first time since July to 11.25 percent in a bid to cool
annual inflation that in January reached 5.99 percent, near the
upper end of the bank’s target range of 2.5 percent to 6.5
percent. The bank will boost the overnight rate by at least an
additional 50 basis points at its March meeting, Bloomberg
estimates based on interest rate-futures show.

Rousseff, who took office Jan. 1, set a goal last week to
cut spending by 50 billion reais in a bid to help the central
bank contain inflation running at the fastest pace in 26 months.
The government has yet to give specifics about where the cuts
will take place, though it has vowed to eliminate waste at all
ministries and freeze hiring.

The real was little changed at 1.6693 per dollar, from
1.6692 yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Benjamin Bain in New York at
[email protected];
Josue Leonel in Sao Paulo at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
David Papadopoulos in New York at
[email protected]

Continue reading here: Brazil Rate Futures Yields Drop on Minimum Wage Bill Passing Lower House – Bloomberg