Alicia’s Midday News Roundup
Here’s a breakdown of the top news stories this week. I’m bombarded with this stuff day in and day out at my newspaper, so I have a pretty good handle on current events. Let me crack an egg of knowledge over your head.
1. The economy. Still sucks. The U.S. Labor Department released a report today saying the national unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent in December, which is the highest level in 16 years. More than 520,000 jobs were slashed in December alone. Not only are employers cutting jobs, they’re cutting hours. According to The Associated Press, the average work week in December fell to 33.3 hours, the lowest level on record dating to 1964. (For you souls who don’t yet have full-time jobs, a workweek is typically 40 hours. Or, in my case, 50.)
For 2008, the economy lost a net total of 2.6 million jobs. The nation’s unemployment rate averaged 5.8 percent last year. In 2007, the average was 4.6 percent.
President-elect Obama, who takes over Jan. 20, is pushing a package of government spending and tax cuts that total about $775 billion over two years. Economists predict the jobless rate will continue to rise anyway — some say it could hit 9 or 10 percent at the end of this year. Not good.
Sound smart at parties: Even though the government is pumping billions into the economy, the country is still losing jobs and companies are tanking. It remains to be seen if Obama’s $775B plan will do anything against the economic crisis in 2009.
2. Gaza Strip crisis. Palestine (from where the organization Hamas comes) and Israel are fighting over a territory called the Gaza Strip. That, as usual, is the bottom line with that story, which has basically been going on for as long as I can remember. But it’s been getting much worse, again, lately:
“JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli jets and helicopters bombarded Gaza Friday and Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets on at least two cities as both sides defied a U.N. call for an immediate cease-fire.
One Israeli airstrike killed two Hamas militants and another unidentified man, while another flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza, killing at least seven people, including an infant, Hamas officials said. Israeli aircraft struck more than 30 targets before dawn, and there were constant explosions after first light.”
Ugh. When I left for my day job this afternoon, 23 Palestinians were dead. That bumps the death toll over there to 777 for the past two weeks, which is about how long the intensified conflict has been going on. Gaza health officials say at half of the dead are civilians. Thirteen Israelis have also been killed.
Sound smart at parties: This would be a real downer to bring up at parties.
3. Gov. Blagojevich’s Impeachment. The Illinois House voted 114-1 today to impeach Rod Blagojevich on allegations he tried to sell President-elect Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
This means the Senate will now hold a trial on whether to toss his corrupt ass out off office for abuse of power.
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges he tried to barter away the Illinois Senate seat. As governor, he’s in charge of appointing someone to that position.
The charges include an FBI agent’s description of taped Blagojevich’s conversations, in which he talked about what he could get for the seat, how pressure people into contributing to his campaign, that sort of thing. The arrest triggered, naturally an impeachment hearing in a special House committee.
All along, Blagojevich has been spitting in the faces of the Illinois government. He has refused to step down and has gone ahead and appointed someone to the seat: Roland Burris, former Illinois Attorney General. At first, Senate Democrats were livid and said they’d never seat Burris, and Obama quietly (as is his manner) was behind them. But they quickly retreated. First, a few people were somewhat up in arms because Obama was the only black man in the Senate, and Burris is black. So there was a little noise about that. IRRELEVANT. Blagojevich is almost definitely corrupt, why is he allowed to appoint someone?
The Senate — and Obama — also backed off, saying Burris has a long list of accomplishments and is worthy, even if Blagojevich isn’t. I don’t care if he is or isn’t. That’s not the point. Now it looks like Burris will be seated.
Sound smart at parties: It’s pronounced “blah-GOY-oh-vich.” Roland Burris will probably become the Illinois senator. Blagojevich will probably get impeached.
It’s hard to cover all the news midday, so I’ll take another crack at it when I get back from the newspaper. Stay tuned for the latest on Blagojevich and his devil-may-care attitude, Obama’s big dreams and, hopefully, something more exciting than dead civilians and tanking economies. Maybe Phish will perform at the inauguration! Or at least Vermont.