Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the hostage situation at the BP natural gas facility in Algeria remains “very fluid,” with “a lot of planning going on,” despite the onset of an Algerian military operation earlier this morning.
** QUICK HITS. Nearly twelve hours after Algerian forces raided the BP natural gas facility seized by jihadists, we still have no comprehensive report on what happened or, crucially, the fate of dozens of Western hostages, including seven or more reported Americans. It looks to me like it will fall to British Prime Minister David Cameron to lay it all out in a planned appearance tomorrow morning in London. Cameron has cancelled a long-planned address on the future of the European Union scheduled for Friday to deal with this crisis. … Cameron complained earlier today that Algeria moved on the facility without consulting or notifying the UK, which has a great deal of experience in special operations. … Governor Jerry Brown spent a second day today at the University of California Board of Regents meeting, getting to know university leadership and seeking to win them over to his general point of view after winning support yesterday for his plan to to introduce online courses to the curriculum mix. … Meanwhile, the California Department of Finance found major problems at the Public Utilities Commission in an audit of its financial practices. The audit characterized the situation as one of “general confusion and lack of knowledge,” including an $81 million typographical error and poor forecasting on consumer programs.
** NEW SURVEY: EMPLOYMENT PICTURE TOUGH BUT IMPROVING. A new Gallup Poll survey has the highest number believing that now is a good time to find a high-quality job in nearly five years.
The problem is that number is only 25%.
Fully 70% say it is a bad time to find a quality job.
Still, an improvement is an improvement, though we are long past having already identified this economic recovery with a very large asterisk.
And it’s important to keep in mind that Republicans are dragging down the numbers with an incredibly pessimistic view of the economy.
In contrast, it is young people and people of color who demonstrate the highest levels of optimism, despite the fact that their prospects may be lower than others.
Americans have been very negative about the job market since the recession began and the U.S. unemployment rate climbed. From 2009 through 2011, an average of 11% of Americans said it was a good time to find a quality job. Those sentiments generally improved in 2012, including a 24% reading in November, one percentage point below the current level.
Gallup has asked the quality job question at least monthly since October 2001. The best assessment of the job market during that time came in January 2007, when 48% of Americans said it was a good time to find a quality job. In fact, that is the only time in the Gallup trend when the percentage saying it was a bad time (47%) did not exceed the percentage saying it was a good time (48%). This suggests that, in general, Americans may have a tendency to view the job market negatively.
This general tendency may not hold during an economic boom, however. Data collected in the late 1990s by the University of Connecticut and Rutgers University using the same question Gallup uses found upward of seven in 10 Americans who were employed or unemployed but looking for work saying it was then a good time to find a quality job. By comparison, 26% of Americans who are working or looking for work now say it is a good time to find a quality job in the new Gallup survey.
Among political groups, Republicans are most pessimistic about the job market, with 12% saying it is a good time to find a quality job. That compares with 33% of Democrats and 29% of independents. Liberals are about twice as likely as conservatives to express optimism about the job market. Gallup sees this typical pattern on several measures of the economy and overall U.S. satisfaction. …
With unemployment still high from a historical perspective, it is not surprising that Americans continue to give a much more negative than positive evaluation of the U.S. job market. However, their assessments are clearly becoming more positive, especially compared with 2009 through 2011, when eight in 10 and sometimes nine in 10 Americans said it was a bad time to find a quality job.
Americans’ increasingly positive perceptions of the job market are also apparent in the declining percentage who say unemployment is the most important problem facing the U.S. Now, more mention the federal budget deficit and dissatisfaction with government as the nation’s biggest challenge. …
Several hours after the beginning of an Algerian military operation to free hostages taken by jihadists at a joint BP/Norwegian/Algerian natural gas facility in the desert, there are still no clear reports on the outcome.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama has no scheduled public events.
First Lady Michelle Obama celebrates her 49th birthday today.
Obama is closely monitoring the chaotic situation surrounding yesterday’s multi-national hostage-taking by jihadists at a BP natural gas facility in Algeria.
Algerian forces moved in to free the hostages but, hours after the first reports of the move, there are still no clear reports on the outcome. There have been scattered and wild reports of deaths among the hostages, in sharply divergent numbers.
Seven Americans were reported to be among dozens of foreign hostages taken by the Al Qaeda-linked group. Their fate is yet unknown.
Obama will name longtime aide and current Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough as his new White House chief of staff. McDonough was Obama’s traveling foreign policy aide during his 2008 campaign and before that was a top aide to former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He will be Obama’s fifth White House chief of staff.
His predecessor? Rahm Emanuel, Pete Rouse (for a few months on an interim basis), Bill Daley, and Jack Lew.
Obama yesterday unveiled a sweeping gun control agenda, which is being opposed in nearly all its particulars by gun lobbyists, with the possible exception of new background checks for gun ownership.
Meanwhile, France continues ramping up its forces in Mali. Promised West African troops are just now beginning to move, but it will be several days at least before they can be pressed into service next to the French and Malian government troops fighting jihadists in the desert.
Right now, the battle for the town of Diabaly, subject of hours of French air strikes, and on the way to the capital city Bamako, is underway.
President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping gun control agenda in the wake of the latest massacre last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Obama is monitoring several other geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: West Africa is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, the Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in San Francisco and Sacramento.
Brown is taking part in a second day of meetings with the University of California Board of Regents in San Francisco.
Brown had a busy day of participation yesterday at the University of California Board of Regents meeting where he found agreement with his call for new online course offerings from the board and from UC President Mark Yudoff.
UC will move forward developing a program of online courses with an emphasis on high-volume classes needed for to launch a major.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. …
From my January 9th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S FUTURIST AGENDA: A TALE OF THREE GOVERNORS. … From my January 4th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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