Saturday, November 06, 2010
Image via WikipediaPresident Obama: Offshoring Fears Are Outdated, Unwarranted - PCWorld
U.S. President Barack Obama softens on outsourcing to India, but expects India to import more from his country.
By John Ribeiro
Nov 6, 2010 11:20 am
The perception that Indian call centers and back office operations cost U.S. jobs is an old stereotype that ignores today's reality that two-way trade between the U.S. and India is helping create jobs and raise the standard of living in both countries, U.S. President Barack Obama told a gathering of business executives in Mumbai on Saturday.
President Obama's remarks come after some moves in the U.S. that had Indian outsourcers worried that the U.S. may get protectionist in the wake of job losses in the country. The state of Ohio, for example, banned earlier this year the expenditure of public funds for offshore purposes.
U.S. exports to India have quadrupled in recent years, and currently support tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., he said in a speech that was also streamed live. In addition, there are jobs supported by exports to India of agriculture products, travel and education services.
Indian investment in the U.S. also runs into billions of dollars, and supports jobs in the country, he said.
President Obama, who is in India on a three-day visit, said that more than 20 deals worth about US$10 billion were announced on the first day of his visit. The deals, in a variety of areas including aircraft, turbines, and mining equipment, could potentially create over 50,000 jobs in the U.S., he added.
President Obama said his objective was to create jobs in the U.S., and to rebuild the country's economy, but it would not be at the expense of the creation of jobs in other countries. The U.S. will instead discover, create and build products that are sold all over the world, he said.
President Obama's speech is a recognition that jobs cannot be created by protectionism but by a growth in trade, said Som Mittal, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom). The message for India's outsourcing industry in the speech was very positive, he added.
India's top outsourcers like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Technologies, have posted strong revenue and profit growth in the quarter ended Sept. 30, and are adding staff by the thousands.
Besides the Ohio decision, the Indian outsourcing industry was hit earlier this year by a $600 million measure for increased surveillance of the U.S.-Mexican border to prevent illegal immigrants. The funds for the bill, which was signed into law by President Obama, are to be raised from an increase in visa fees paid by tech workers brought into the country by companies with more than 50 staff, and in which more than 50 percent of the staff are on these visas.
Indian outsourcers, who send a large number of staff to customer sites in the U.S., were saddled as a result with an increase in visa costs. But they were more alarmed by the threat of increased protectionism from the U.S.
Cool The Earth With Geoengineering? Some Say Wait : NPR
At a recent meeting in Japan of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, diplomats tried to set some rules for future geoengineers. They issued what some are calling a moratorium on all geoengineering activities until the science is clear and there are global regulations in place.
If you want to see what geoengineering might look like, go back to 1991, to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines.
The volcano spewed almost 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. Those particles can reflect sunlight back into space, and for a while, that's exactly what happened. Temperatures around the world dropped by an average of half a degree.
It turns out you don't need a volcano to get the same effect. Scientists could use airplanes to inject sulfur dioxide directly into the stratosphere and bring down global temperatures. What's more, says David Keith who directs the University of Calgary's Energy and Environmental Systems Group, it would be pretty easy to do.
"It takes so little material to alter the whole planet's climate," he says. "The costs of doing it are just absurdly cheap."
The Mt. Pinatubo effect, as it's called, is just one way scientists believe they might use technology to counteract climate change, or at least its effects. Another way would be growing algae in the ocean to suck up carbon dioxide.
But in order to have a real impact on climate change, the project would have to take place on a massive scale. And that could have all sorts of unintended consequences. For example, rainfall patterns could change. That could mean drought and starvation for thousands of people in East Africa, according to Diana Bronson of the ETC Group, which has been skeptical of geoengineering.
Image via WikipediaIn India, Obama Casts Asia Trip as Economic Mission - NYTimes.com
MUMBAI, India — President Obama, fresh off a stinging electoral defeat for the Democrats, opened a 10-day tour of Asia on Saturday with a courtship of corporate America, including private meetings with American business executives visiting here and an announcement that he will lift longstanding restrictions on exports of closely held technologies to India.
After an election season dominated by voter dissatisfaction with his management of the economy, the president is casting the four-nation trip, which will also take him to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, as an economic mission. His agenda is heavy on taking steps to open foreign markets to American goods; he hopes to come home from South Korea, for instance, with a renegotiated free trade pact.
Here in Mumbai, Mr. Obama lavished attention on American business leaders who timed their visit to his and spotlighted $10 billion worth of deals between American and Indian companies that, the White House said, would support more than 50,000 jobs in the United States.
The easing of the so-called dual-use restrictions, which bar American export of technologies that might be used to build weapons, represents a policy change that is a high priority for companies here and in the United States.
“As we look to India today, the United States sees an opportunity to sell our exports in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world,” Mr. Obama told a gathering of political leaders and Indian and American executives. “For America, this is a jobs strategy.”
Accompanied by his wife, Michelle, Mr. Obama began his day here on a somber note, by paying homage to victims and survivors of the 2008 terrorist siege in Mumbai by Pakistani militants. But the president failed to mention the terrorist threat to India that emanates from Pakistan — an omission that drew some criticism here. He also made a brief stop at the home, now a museum, where Mohandas K. Gandhi stayed while fighting for his country’s independence.
But such symbolic acts quickly gave way to Mr. Obama’s diplomatic and business agenda, aimed at strengthening ties between the nations. India has long sought a loosening of the export restrictions more for political reasons than economic ones — the country does not want to be viewed as a rogue state. Mr. Obama is also taking Indian defense research and space agencies off the so-called entities list of companies that have faced special hurdles in trading with the United States. Executives here welcomed the moves.
“It is a signal No. 1 about India as an ally, and No. 2, it has a business potential,” Anand Mahindra, managing director of the Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra, said in an interview. “Both of these are important.”
Still, one of Mr. Obama’s main audiences in many ways seemed to be America’s chief executives, many of whom spent the recent campaign accusing the White House of being antibusiness and pouring money into the coffers of Republican candidates and groups that aimed to defeat the Democrats.
More than 200 American executives timed a business conference to coincide with Mr. Obama’s arrival in Mumbai — and the president worked hard to reciprocate.
The chief executive officer of Boeing, Jim McNerney, who also leads the President’s Export Council, greeted Mr. Obama when Air Force One touched down, and then flew downtown aboard the presidential helicopter. Later, Mr. Obama met privately with American chief executives, among them Jeffrey R. Immelt of General Electric, who has been critical of the White House in the past.
- Obama pays tribute to victims of Mumbai terrorist attacks (guardian.co.uk)
- Obama touts trade in India (politico.com)
Friday, November 05, 2010
Image via WikipediaBBC News - MSNBC suspends prime-time TV host Keith Olbermann
The US broadcasting network MSNBC has suspended prime-time host Keith Olbermann for making political contributions.
The Politico news website said he had contributed to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates.
MSNBC President Phil Griffin said Olbermann had been suspended without pay.
During coverage of the US mid-term elections, Olbermann was one of the network's key presenters.
"Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay," Mr Griffin said, according to a statement quoted by the Huffington Post.
With Rachel Maddow, Olbermann has been one of the most prominent hosts on the network, which analysts say has come to be seen as liberal-aligned.
The BBC's Jonny Dymond, in Washington says that while America's 24-hour news channels are increasingly politicised and polarised, it appears there is a limit.
The suspension comes just a couple of weeks after America's national radio network, NPR, sacked one of its commentators for saying that he became nervous when flying with passengers wearing what he called "Muslim garb".
Juan Williams' dismissal raised an outcry on the political right which accused the network, which receives some federal funding, of liberal bias.
- Olbermann contributed to three Dems (politico.com)
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Repeal The Health Care Law? Not So Easy : NPR
Republicans regained control of the House on Tuesday in part with a pledge to "repeal and replace" the new health law. But carrying out that campaign promise won't be as easy as making it was.
"Republicans cannot repeal Obamacare with President Obama wielding the veto pen," says Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute. "I mean that's not within a set of possible outcomes."
That's because as large as the new GOP majority will be come January, it's still not large enough to override a presidential veto. In addition,
the Senate will still be controlled by the Democrats, who are unlikely to go along with the repeal effort.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
BBC News - Haiti cholera deaths rise sharply
The number of people known to have died from a cholera epidemic in Haiti has increased markedly.
Health officials say 105 more people have died since Saturday, bringing the total to 442.
They said there had been a 40% jump in the number of new cases.
On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control found that all the Haitian patients had the same strain of cholera, one that is most commonly found in South Asia.
The UN is investigating allegations that excrement from Nepalese peacekeepers caused the epidemic.
But Health Minister Dr Alex Larsen said it was unlikely the outbreak's origin would ever be known.
Haiti had not seen a cholera outbreak for about half a century, and initially many people were unsure of what steps to take to avoid the disease.
Doctors say poor sanitary conditions after January's earthquake made the country vulnerable to cholera, which is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food.
Jocelyn Pierre-Louis of the Haitian Health Ministry says almost 2,000 people have been taken to hospital with cholera infections since Saturday.
- Haiti cholera 'like Asian type' (bbc.co.uk)
Coons defeats O'Donnell in Delaware - CNN.com
(CNN) -- Democrat Chris Coons defeated Tea Party-backed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware's U.S. Senate race Tuesday, bursting Republican hopes of taking a seat that Vice President Joe Biden held for nearly four decades.
With an estimated 99 percent of precincts reporting, Coons led O'Donnell 56 percent to 40 percent.
The result will be a major disappointment for some establishment Republicans, who thought the candidate that O'Donnell defeated in the GOP primary -- former governor and current Rep. Mike Castle -- stood a better chance at taking the seat and edging the GOP closer to control of the Senate.
Coons, the executive of New Castle County, will succeed the retiring Democratic Sen. Ted Kaufman, who was appointed to replace Biden nearly two years ago.
"You sent a message that the politics of no, the politics of division, the politics of negativity have no place in this great state," Coons told supporters in his victory speech Tuesday night. "You said today that Delawareans want, that Delawareans deserve, not slogans but solutions to your concerns. ... And you want the people that you send to Washington ... to be optimistic about our nation and its future and further the belief that our best days are not behind us, but ahead of us."
- Coons defeats O'Donnell in Delaware (cnn.com)
- Chris Coons Defeats Christine O'Donnell In Delaware Senate Race (huffingtonpost.com)
Cuomo Beats Paladino in New York Governor’s Race - NYTimes.com
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, completing a painstakingly plotted comeback from political ruin nearly a decade ago, won a resounding victory on Tuesday in the race for governor of New York, easily beating his Republican rival, Carl P. Paladino.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, triumphed with the help of independent voters, suburbanites and city dwellers from all corners of the state, a broad sweep that stood out as his party suffered setbacks in Congress and other statehouse races around the country.
The rise of Mr. Cuomo, 52, fulfills the restoration of a political dynasty and marks the first time a son of a New York governor has been elected to that office. Mario M. Cuomo was elected in 1982 and served three terms.
“The people of the state of New York want a government that they can trust, a government that they can be proud of once again, the government that they deserve — and they are going to get it,” Mr. Cuomo told a cheering crowd at a Midtown Manhattan hotel.
Mr. Cuomo’s campaign was aided by the virtual implosion of Mr. Paladino, a Buffalo real estate developer whose blunt manner and fiery rhetoric thrilled some disaffected voters, but ultimately thrust him into so many controversies that it forced him off his message of major tax and spending cuts.
Mr. Cuomo rolled up impressive tallies not only in Democratic strongholds like New York City, where early exit polls showed him collecting 8 in 10 votes, but also in the counties surrounding the city. Even upstate, he either outpolled or ran even with Mr. Paladino.
Mr. Cuomo’s margin was especially lopsided among women and African-Americans, suggesting that some of Mr. Paladino’s more incendiary behavior, like forwarding racially tinged and pornographic e-mails, had alienated those groups. Over all, Mr. Cuomo won by more than 20 points.
Mr. Cuomo drew support from more than 90 percent of blacks, according to the exit polling, conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool. He attracted the votes of two-thirds of women, 9 in 10 liberals and 7 in 10 moderates. White men were closely divided; Mr. Paladino ran best among less-educated whites and conservatives, who backed him three to one.
- Democrat Andrew Cuomo Wins Governor's Race in New York (politicsdaily.com)
- Cuomo Far Ahead in Race for Governor, Poll Finds - NYTimes.com (armwoodnews.com)
G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate - NYTimes.com
Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and expanded their voice in the Senate, riding a wave of voter discontent as they dealt a setback to President Obama just two years after his triumphal victory.
A Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and government spending, delivered defeats to House Democrats from the Northeast to the South and across the Midwest. The tide swept aside dozens of lawmakers, regardless of their seniority or their voting records, upending the balance of power for the second half of Mr. Obama’s term.
But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, narrowly prevailed and his party hung onto control by winning hard-fought contests in California, Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia. Republicans picked up at least six Democratic seats, including the one formerly held by Mr. Obama, and the party will welcome Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky to their ranks, two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by the Tea Party movement.
“The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is positioned to become the next speaker of the House. “We have real work to do, and this is not the time for celebration.”
The president, who watched the election returns with a small set of advisers at the White House, called Mr. Boehner shortly after midnight to offer his congratulations and to talk about the way forward as Washington prepares for divided government. Republicans won at least 58 seats, not including those from some Western states where ballots were still being counted, surpassing the 52 seats the party won in the sweep of 1994.
The most expensive midterm election campaign in the nation’s history, fueled by a raft of contributions from outside interest groups and millions in donations to candidates in both parties, played out across a wide battleground that stretched from Alaska to Maine. The Republican tide swept into statehouse races, too, with Democrats poised to lose the majority of governorships, particularly those in key presidential swing states, like Ohio, where Gov. Ted Strickland was defeated.
- US midterm election results herald new political era as Republicans take House (guardian.co.uk)
- Chris Coons Defeats Christine O'Donnell In Delaware Senate Race (huffingtonpost.com)
Monday, November 01, 2010
Appeals Court Extends Military's Ban On Gays : NPR
A federal appeals court on Monday indefinitely extended its freeze on a judge's order halting enforcement of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the U.S. government's request for a stay while it challenges the trial court's ruling that the ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional.
The same panel, composed of two judges appointed by President Reagan and one appointed by President Clinton, on Oct. 20 imposed a temporary hold keeping "don't ask, don't tell" in place.
Monday's decision means gay Americans who disclose their sexual orientations still can't enlist in the armed forces and can be investigated and ultimately discharged.
In an eight-page order, two judges said they were persuaded by the Department of Justice's argument that U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips' worldwide injunction against the policy "will seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change."
"The public interest in enduring orderly change of this magnitude in the military — if that is what is to happen — strongly militates in favor of a stay," Judges Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain and Stephen S. Trott wrote in their majority order. "We believe that prudence mandates restraint until the final judgment is entered."
Another reason they gave for imposing the freeze was decisions by four other federal appeals courts that cast doubt on whether Phillips exceeded her authority and ignored existing legal precedents when she concluded gays could not serve in the military without having their First Amendment rights breached.
Judge William Fletcher entered a partial dissent, saying he would have preferred the panel had heard oral arguments before granting the stay. Fletcher said he would have prevented "don't tell, don't tell" from being applied to discharge any existing service members while the case was on appeal.
More than 14,000 men and women have been forced to leave the military since "don't tell, don't tell" took affect in 1994. Monday's ruling heightens pressure on the Obama administration to persuade the U.S. Senate to repeal the law before a new Congress is sworn in. President Obama repeatedly has said he opposes "don't ask, don't tell" but favors ending it legislatively instead of through the courts.
- 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Extended Indefinitely By Federal Appeals Court (huffingtonpost.com)
Image by Getty Images via @daylifeMcConnell: Dem attacks 'laughable' - POLITICO.com
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he has no regrets about saying the GOP’s top priority over the next two years will be to make Barack Obama a one-term president, calling Democratic attacks over the line “laughable.”
“I know the president’s goal is to get a second term. It’s not surprising that Republicans would want him to not get reelected,” McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO.
Democrats have been criticizing McConnell for telling the National Journal last week that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Democrats took that to mean that McConnell and the GOP have no intention of effectively governing.
But McConnell said in a phone interview Monday that the attacks are “kind of laughable” and said Democrats are only focusing on him because “they don’t have much to talk about.”
“They can’t talk about any of the things they passed,” the Kentucky Republican said. “They almost have nothing to say to the American people.”
McConnell argued that counter to what Democrats have been saying, he is actually looking forward to working with the president — though only if Obama does a “Clintonian back flip” and focuses on spending, debt and the economy.
McConnell would not name specific policies he could work with the White House on, saying he’ll assess just what kind of hand Republicans have to play with after Tuesday’s election.
“We’ll let you know,” McConnell said.
Asked if he would name anything specific, McConnell responded: “Not today.”