The AFP Blog – Weekend of Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2009

– Singletary’s #44 to be retired, Saturday, 7:10 p.m.
– President Obama’s weekly address, Saturday, 8:04 a.m.
– Gannett, Media General slump deepens, Friday, 12:55 p.m.
– Free-speech organizations offer support to Gloucester 40, Friday, 12:55 p.m.
– Statement from Council of Economic Advisors chair Christina Romer on the fourth quarter 2008 advance GDP estimate, Friday, 10:02 a.m.
– Statement from President Obama on CHIP, Friday, 8:51 a.m.
– Webb applauds reauthorization of CHIP, Friday, 8:51 a.m.

News: Singletary’s #44 to be retired, Saturday, 7:10 p.m.

Sean Singletary will join six other former Virginia men’s basketball players whose uniform numbers have been retired when his No. 44 is retired at halftime of the Cavaliers’ game with Clemson on Feb. 15. Singletary currently plays for the Charlotte Bobcats of the National Basketball Association and will be in attendance at the game because of the break for the NBA All-Star Game.

The other former Virginia men’s players whose numbers have been retired are Jeff Lamp (3), Barry Parkhill (40), Ralph Sampson (50), Bryant Stith (20), Wally Walker (41) and Buzzy Wilkinson (14). Their numbers and Singletary’s No. 44 will not be worn again.

“Sean is very deserving of this honor,” said Virginia men’s head basketball coach Dave Leitao. “He meant so much to this program and his name deserves to be mentioned with the names Lamp, Parkhill, Sampson, Stith, Walker and Wilkinson as one of the great players in the history of Virginia basketball.”

Singletary is the first Virginia player to have both his jersey and number retired. His jersey was retired in ceremonies prior to his final regular season home game last season. The numbers of players honored with jersey retirement remain active, but Singletary’s No. 44 will now be retired.

Singletary finished his Virginia career in 2008 as one of three Cavaliers to earn first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors three times (only 25 players in the history of the ACC have accomplished the feat), one of five UVa players to score more than 2,000 points and ranked among the program’s leaders in a number of statistical categories. He concluded his UVa career by scoring in double figures in a program-record 55 consecutive games and he became the first player in ACC history to have 2,000 points, 500 assists, 400 rebounds and 200 steals in a career.

In his final season with the Cavaliers in 2007-08, the 6-0 point guard from Philadelphia, Pa., averaged 19.8 points, 6.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds a game. He was the only player in Division I that season to have a 40-point scoring game, a 10-rebound game and a 10-assist game. Singletary ranked second in the ACC in assists, third in scoring, fourth in free throw percentage (.851, 189-222), and sixth in steals (60, 1.82 spg.) and minutes played (34.0 mpg.) in 2007-08. He earned first-team All-ACC honors for the third consecutive season and was an honorable mention All-America selection by The Associated Press and CollegeHoops.net. He scored a career-high 41 points at Miami on March 1, 2008.

Singletary earned third-team All-America honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and CollegeHoops.net in 2007. He was the first player to earn first, second or third-team men’s basketball All-America honors for Virginia since Ralph Sampson in 1983. Singletary averaged 19.0 points, 4.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 33.2 minutes played a game for the 2006-07 season.

A three-time team captain, Singletary finished his Virginia career ranked second on the Cavaliers’ career steals list (200), third in assists (587) and three-point field goals (222), fourth in free throws made (573), fifth in scoring (2,079 points) and ninth in field goals made (642). He led the Cavaliers in assists and steals each of his four seasons in the program, and in scoring his last three seasons.

  

News: President Obama’s weekly address, Saturday, 8:04 a.m.

 

This morning I’d like to talk about some good news and some bad news as we confront our economic crisis.

The bad news is well known to Americans across our country as we continue to struggle through unprecedented economic turmoil. Yesterday we learned that our economy shrank by nearly 4 percent from October through December. That decline was the largest in over a quarter century, and it underscores the seriousness of the economic crisis that my administration found when we took office.

Already the slowdown has cost us tens of thousands of jobs in January alone. And the picture is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Make no mistake, these are not just numbers. Behind every statistic there’s a story. Many Americans have seen their lives turned upside down. Families have been forced to make painful choices. Parents are struggling to pay the bills. Patients can’t afford care. Students can’t keep pace with tuition. And workers don’t know whether their retirement will be dignified and secure.

The good news is that we are moving forward with a sense of urgency equal to the challenge. This week the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will save or create more than 3 million jobs over the next few years. It puts a tax cut into the pockets of working families, and places a down payment on America’s future by investing in energy independence and education, affordable health care, and American infrastructure.

Now this recovery plan moves to the Senate. I will continue working with both parties so that the strongest possible bill gets to my desk. With the stakes so high we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington. It’s time to move in a new direction.

Americans know that our economic recovery will take years — not months. But they will have little patience if we allow politics to get in the way of action, and our economy continues to slide. That’s why I am calling on the Senate to pass this plan, so that we can put people back to work and begin the long, hard work of lifting our economy out of this crisis. No one bill, no matter how comprehensive, can cure what ails our economy. So just as we jumpstart job creation, we must also ensure that markets are stable, credit is flowing, and families can stay in their homes.

Last year Congress passed a plan to rescue the financial system. While the package helped avoid a financial collapse, many are frustrated by the results — and rightfully so. Too often taxpayer dollars have been spent without transparency or accountability. Banks have been extended a hand, but homeowners, students, and small businesses that need loans have been left to fend on their own.

And adding to this outrage, we learned this week that even as they petitioned for taxpayer assistance, Wall Street firms shamefully paid out nearly $20 billion in bonuses for 2008. While I’m committed to doing what it takes to maintain the flow of credit, the American people will not excuse or tolerate such arrogance and greed. The road to recovery demands that we all act responsibly, from Main Street to Washington to Wall Street.

Soon my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, will announce a new strategy for reviving our financial system that gets credit flowing to businesses and families. We’ll help lower mortgage costs and extend loans to small businesses so they can create jobs. We’ll ensure that CEOs are not draining funds that should be advancing our recovery. And we will insist on unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight, and clear accountability — so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and whether it is achieving results.

Rarely in history has our country faced economic problems as devastating as this crisis. But the strength of the American people compels us to come together. The road ahead will be long, but I promise you that every day that I go to work in the Oval Office I carry with me your stories, and my administration is dedicated to alleviating your struggles and advancing your dreams. You are calling for action. Now is the time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities.

News: Gannett, Media General slump deepens, Friday, 12:55 p.m.

The parent companies of The News Leader and The News Virginian are reporting sluggish fourth quarters.

Gannett, the parent company of The News Leader, reported net income of $158 million in the final economic quarter of 2008, a 36 percent decline from a year ago, but those profits will be wiped out when the company takes a pretax writedown of as as much as $5.9 billion to reflect the declining value of its properties.

For the calendar year 2008, Gannett reported a net loss, not including the writedown, of $1.78 billion, compared with profit of $1.06 billion in 2007. Revenue dropped 9 percent to $6.77 billion.

Media General, the parent company of The News Virginian, reported an $85.5 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2008. It had reported a small profit of $9.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Revenues for Media General fell about 12 percent to $207 million from $235 million in 2007.

 

News: Free-speech organizations offer support to Gloucester 40, Friday, 12:55 p.m.

The ACLU of Virginia has informed a group of 40 Gloucester citizens that it will file a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that a Gloucester Circuit Court judge erred when he ordered members of the group to pay $80,000 in legal fees after they failed in an attempt to remove four members of the Board of Supervisors from office.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has agreed to assist with the writing of the brief and may formally join the ACLU on the brief before it is filed.

“Voters in a democracy should not be afraid to challenge government officials who appear to be misusing their office or neglecting their duties,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “There is nothing more threatening to liberty than punishment of citizens who try to hold government officials accountable for their actions.”

“In this case,” Willis added, “it seems that reasonable citizens did their homework and then made a good faith effort to follow an obscure law to have certain public officials removed from office. If the sanctions are allowed to stand, not only will the constitutional rights of the Gloucester petitioners be violated, but it will almost certainly have a chilling effect on others who might consider exercising this right in the future.”

Virginia law allows individuals who collect signatures from registered voters equal to 10% of the total number of votes cast in the most recent election in a jurisdiction to petition the court for removal of one or more elected officials who represent them. The court may then remove those officials from office for “neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties.”

Before imposing sanctions on the Gloucester petitioners, the judge threw out the case in part because the signature forms used by the petitioners did not precisely comply with the law.

  

News: Statement from Council of Economic Advisors chair Christina Romer on the fourth quarter 2008 advance GDP estimate, Friday, 10:02 a.m.

Real GDP fell at an annual rate of 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008. This was the largest one-quarter fall since 1982 and the second consecutive quarter of real GDP decline. A substantial increase in real inventory investment (from a large negative number in 2008Q3 to a small positive number in 2008Q4) mitigated the overall decline somewhat. Real final sales, GDP less the change in private inventories, declined at an annual rate of 5.1%. The large decline confirms the evidence from other indicators, such as payroll employment and the unemployment rate, that the U.S. economy continues to contract severely. Aggressive, well-designed fiscal stimulus is critical to reversing this severe decline and putting the economy on the road to recovery and improved long-run growth.

The decline in GDP was spread throughout the economy. Personal consumption expenditures declined at an annual rate of 3.5%, which was similar to the fall in the third quarter of 2008; these falls were the largest since 1980. Nonresidential fixed investment fell 19.1% and exports fell 19.7%. The decline in motor vehicle output was particularly severe, accounting for 2.0 percentage points of the overall fall in GDP of 3.8%. This widespread decline emphasizes that the problems that began in our housing and financial sector have spread to nearly all areas of the economy. Immediate action to support both the financial sector and overall demand is essential.

  

News: Statement from President Obama on CHIP, Friday, 8:51 a.m.

“As the worsening economy causes families to lose their jobs and health insurance, it is vital that we redouble our efforts to ensure that every child in America has access to affordable health care. That is why I am pleased that the Senate has joined the House in passing bipartisan legislation to provide health insurance to children whose families have been hurt most by this downturn. Providing health care to more than ten million children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program will serve as a down payment on my commitment to ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”

 

News: Webb applauds reauthorization of CHIP, Friday, 8:51 a.m.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) expressed his strong support for the passage of the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2009, while at the same time repeating his desire to see a portion of the program funded through an increase on the taxes of hedge fund managers.

This CHIP legislation passed today will ensure continued health insurance coverage for the 6.6 million children from low-income families currently enrolled in the program nationwide, and provide coverage for an additional 4.1 million uninsured children. Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), the name of the CHIP program in Virginia, provided health insurance coverage to 155,289 low-income children last year and will help reach an additional 55,000 low-income children who are now uninsured.

Earlier this week Senator Webb introduced an amendment to the CHIP reauthorization to inject greater fairness into the tax provisions by replacing a portion of the 61 cent per pack tax increase on cigarettes with a tax on compensation received by hedge fund managers, or “carried interest.” “Carried interest” now allows hedge fund managers’ income to be taxed at low capital gains rates, for services that many, including the editorial boards of the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and the conservative Financial Times argue should be taxed at a higher rate for actual income. At the same time, the regressive tobacco tax, which now will equal one dollar per pack not including state and other taxes, falls principally on lower-income smokers who are in the same economic situation as the beneficiaries of the CHIP program, the Senator argued.

“I’m not encouraging smoking,” said Webb, “but we do need to look at who we are asking to pay for a health bill. It’s anomalous to be levying taxes on one industry, and one form of behavior, when there are other, more equitable ways to fund the program. The Financial Times editorialized that the ‘carried interest’ loophole should be fixed immediately—and that was two years ago.”

Webb withdrew his amendment, with assurances from Senate leadership that a more comprehensive debate on this tax would take place at a later date.

“In light of the current economic situation, CHIP is vital for states to provide health care services to uninsured children,” said Senator Webb. “While I objected to the bill’s funding source, the merits of the program at present outweigh those concerns. CHIP is critical to ensuring a basic level of health care for our nation’s children.”

FAMIS has been successful in educating and enrolling children and families that would be unable to afford private health insurance. Virginia’s government has also worked to expand forward-looking health and wellness programs to prevent future health problems.

Many eligible families fail to take advantage of the FAMIS program. Webb urged Virginians who lack health insurance for their children to call: 1-866-87FAMIS or visit FAMIS’s website at: http://www.famis.org/.

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