Report Shows Skills Gap Boosts US Unemployment

WASHINGTON — The U.S. unemployment rate is expected to improve slightly when the government releases new data on Friday. Economists tell the Bloomberg financial news service that the jobless rate will probably fall one-tenth of a percent to 7.5 percent, while the economy will have a net gain of 165,000 jobs.  While the U.S. unemployment rate is better than it was during the financial crisis, it is still high in comparison to the average rate over the past couple of decades.

Researchers are seeking reasons for the slow job market recovery.

Economists and others say fast-changing technology and a mis-match between workers’ skills and employers’ needs get some of the blame for the frustratingly slow recovery in the U.S. job market.

With that in mind, researchers at the ACT company have been evaluating millions of workers over five years to see if they have key skills employers want — applied mathematics, reading for information, and finding and analyzing information.

They found that people with more education tended to do better on the tests, but ACT’s Hope Clark said higher education did not guarantee high levels of skill.  She said many applicants struggled with tests of their ability to locate information and organize it in ways that are useful in the workplace, such as charts and graphs.

“If our nation does a better job of understanding the skills and requirements for jobs that are demanded by employers, we can do a much better job of making sure that our existing workforce and our future workforce have those skills that employers are looking for,” said Clark.

ACT is well known for testing prospective college students to see if they are ready for university-level work.

Meantime, some researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say impressive advances in computer technology may be the cause of sluggish employment growth for the past 10 or 15 years.

Past technological surges have destroyed some jobs, changed the nature of work, but eventually created more and often better jobs.

MIT’s David Rotman, who monitors the university’s research, said studies showed this time may be different with a net loss in the job market.  Computers have been taking jobs in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work, and improved machines and software may expand into law, financial services, education and medicine.

“So one scenario is that machines will increasingly do a very broad range of jobs and tasks, and the pace of technology deployment and progress will continue to accelerate,” he said.

Rotman is the editor of MIT’s Technology Review, and said some scholars thought the nature of work was changing, with middle class jobs in the post office and customer service, for example, going away, while highly-paid work creating high technology grows, and hard-to-automate low-wage jobs in the service sector expand.

US Officials Defend Surveillance of Allies

WASHINGTON — Allegations that the United States has been eavesdropping on some its European and Asian allies have created an international uproar. U.S. President Barack Obama and some former top officials are defending the U.S. surveillance as important for national security. But European lawmakers and officials are demanding an explanation and say relations may be damaged.

The National Security Agency [NSA] is at the heart of allegations by the former contractor Edward Snowden that the United States has targeted some of its allies for surveillance.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reports the NSA eavesdropped on European Union offices in Washington, New York and Brussels, and that it has intercepted some half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany alone.

James Bamford has written several book on the NSA. He explains why Germany was a target.

“The interest in Germany would be economic, since it is the economic powerhouse in Europe, and political, because whatever happens in Europe pretty much goes through Germany at one point or another, it is being discussed in Germany,” said Bamford.

Bamford also pointed out that two of the September 11 hijackers studied in Hamburg, Germany.

German officials have expressed outrage at the revelations. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

”We are countries which are friends. There cannot be any justification with security aspects. At this point, clarification is urgently needed,” he said.

During his recent visit to Tanzania, Obama said that European and Asian intelligence services are also trying to pry information from sources that are not open.

“I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders,” said Obama.

Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden told the CBS program Face the Nation that Snowden’s disclosures will hurt U.S. intelligence sharing with its allies.

“Look, we cooperate with a lot of governments around the world. They expect us to be discrete about that cooperation. I cannot imagine a government anywhere on the planet who now believes we can keep a secret,” he said.

NSA’s access and technical capabilities, however, dwarf those of other countries, said author Bamford.

“The United States has the equivalent of a nuclear weapon in terms of eavesdropping. I mean we are armed with nuclear eavesdropping capabilities, basically, compared with the rest of the world.”

Some European experts say Obama will have to do more than deliver speeches to calm the furor over privacy rights, especially as negotiations are set to start next week on a major new free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

Europe Reacts to US Surveillance Allegations

BERLIN — U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed to a meeting of U.S. and German security officials in the coming days to discuss allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on 500 million phone calls, emails, and other data passing through Germany.  This comes as the Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights body based in Strasbourg, suggested that European governments wait for the U.S. to tell its side of the story before “overreacting” to leaks.

Allegations of U.S. spying on European phone and Internet use have dominated headlines across the continent.

And the controversy has also become a hot button issue in Germany’s upcoming elections.  Germany’s Social Democrats – the party set to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats – are demanding that Berlin investigate American intelligence officials.  The Social Democrats want German prosecutors to travel to Moscow to question Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor accused of leaking information about the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance.

Daryl Lindsey, editor of the English edition of Der Spiegel which published leaked NSA documents, says opposition parties will likely press Merkel on the issue.

“If it turns out that Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, has been openly cooperating with the NSA in this data collection, this could have very serious constitutional implications here.  The government will face legal challenges and there could be political consequences for politicians as well,” said Lindsey.

Outside of Germany, the reaction has been more cautious.  Daniel Holtgen of the Council of Europe, a European human rights group, thinks many governments are waiting to hear from the Obama administration before they react.

“We are now referring to reports from The Guardian and from Der Spiegel, but we should wait in particular from the reaction and the response from the U.S., as it has been promised by President Obama,” said Holtgen.

In Switzerland, the allegations of American spying have been met with pleas by that country’s foreign minister to keep calm.

Relations between the two countries are already strained over alleged tax evasion by Americans using Swiss bank accounts and an earlier accusation by Snowden that CIA agents encouraged a Swiss banker to drive while drunk in a plan to recruit him.

Simon Johner, a spokesman for Switzerland’s intelligence agency, told VOA the latest accusations are not especially surprising.

“Swiss officials have been aware of foreign spying in the country, especially industrial espionage,” he said.

Foreign policy expert Sergey Lagodinsky, with the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, suggests that, in the wake of the allegations, the Obama administration should consider public diplomacy.

“I think the administration will have to do serious thinking regarding public diplomacy.  I think what’s been broken here through these leaks is the trust of Europe’s remaining Trans-Atlanticists,” said Lagodinsky.

Meanwhile, fears that the revelations could derail upcoming EU-U.S. trade talks appear to have been allayed.  On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s president, François Hollande, agreed to drop demands for a delay after the U.S. offered to talk about the spying allegations in parallel with trade negotiations.

Bachmann on Senate Gang of 8 Vote: “Amnesty Now, Border Security Never”

Jun 27, 2013

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06) issued the following statement today in response to the Senate’s Gang of 8 legislation:

“The Senate’s amnesty legislation is symbolic of what’s wrong with Washington: A thousand-plus page bill, special backroom deals to buy votes and empty promises that won’t be fulfilled. It’s Obamacare all over again. Protecting America first must be our top priority, yet the Senate’s fake border security bill only ensures that we’ll throw billions of dollars at the border without any proof it will ever be secured. Have we learned nothing from 1986?

“Amnesty will hurt middle class jobs, wages and benefits and won’t address the danger of an open border.  I am confident my colleagues in the House will see the Senate’s legislation for what it really is—amnesty now, border security never.”

Sen. Cruz Comments on SCOTUS DOMA, Proposition 8 Decisions

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) today released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8:

Today’s Supreme Court decisions on marriage are a regrettable overreach against the will of the people as expressed through large, bipartisan majorities in Congress and directly through referendum in California – a markedly blue state.

Nothing in the Constitution compelled this result, and, once again, the Court has chosen to substitute its own views of public policy for the democratically expressed will of the voters.

The family is the fundamental building block of society, and I strongly support traditional marriage between one man and one woman. The voters of California made that same choice, until the courts improperly substituted their preferences for those of the people.

Our Federalism allows different states to make different policy judgments based on the values and mores of their citizens. Federal courts should respect that diversity and uphold that popular sovereignty, not impose their own policy agenda.

Sen. Cruz Statement on Gang of Eight Bill Vote

Thursday, June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued the following statement regarding today’s vote on S.744, the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill:

Unfortunately, all of the concerns that have been repeatedly raised about this bill remain: it repeats the mistakes of the 1986 immigration bill; it grants amnesty first; it won’t secure the border; and it doesn’t fix our broken legal immigration system.

This bill doesn’t solve the problem because the process it went through was fatally flawed– it was written behind closed doors with special interests; in the Judiciary Committee, the Gang of 8 and Democrats blocked all substantive amendments because of a previously cooked deal; and on the Senate floor, the majority blocked any attempts to fix the bill.

Further, in conjunction with Obamacare, the Gang of 8 bill creates a tax penalty on employers – effectively, up to $5,000 – for hiring U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. But that penalty does not apply to those with RPI status, giving a powerful incentive for job creators to hire illegal immigrants instead of U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. That is indefensible. I filed an amendment to fix this defect, but was blocked by Senate Democrats from receiving a vote on that solution.

Sadly, this bill won’t fix the problem with our immigration system and will only encourage more illegal immigration and human suffering.

I strongly support commonsense immigration reform that secures the border before legalization, fixes our legal immigration system, and upholds the rule of law. This bill isn’t it.

Smith: Senate Fails to Protect American Workers and Taxpayers

Washington, Jun 27 -

Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s passage of legislation that gives amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants.

Congressman Smith: “The Senate has chosen to put illegal immigrants and foreign workers ahead of the interests of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.  The Senate bill does not secure the border. And it does not support effective interior enforcement of our immigration laws.  Instead, it rewards lawbreakers by legalizing millions of illegal immigrants almost immediately.  Meanwhile, those who played by the rules and followed the law are forced to continue to wait in line.

“America has the most generous immigration system in the world, admitting one million legal immigrants each year.  While we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws.  And we have the right to expect that those who come to the U.S. do so legally.

“Amnesty will not stop illegal immigration.  As we’ve seen in the past, it only encourages more illegal immigration. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not fix the problem.  By offering amnesty, it only makes matters worse.

“The Senate has failed to protect American taxpayers and workers.  The House should reject this bill and instead support immigration policies that put the interests of American workers and taxpayers first.”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Closing Remarks

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Comprehensive Immigration Reform, S.744
Closing Remarks
Thursday, June 27, 2013

As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, immigration is an emotional issue that engenders strong feelings from both sides of the aisle.  Everyone wants reform, but everyone has their own ideas and different solutions.

Coming into the debate, my position was clear.  I voted for legalization in 1986, and it didn’t solve the problem.  We screwed up.  And, today, we’re right back at the same place, talking about the same problems, and proposing the same solutions.

Unfortunately, the process hasn’t allowed us to fundamentally improve the bill.  We haven’t been able to vote up or down on common sense amendments.

Despite the fact that the American people want the border secured before we provide a path to legalization, there appears to be a majority in this body that believe legalization must come first.

Despite what the Gang of Eight wrote in their framework for immigration reform, legalization is not contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.  The bill won’t ensure that a future Congress isn’t back here in 25 years dealing with the same problems.

We need a bill that ensures results. We need a bill that puts security before legalization, not the other way around.

We are a nation based on the rule of law.  We have a right to protect our sovereignty and a duty to protecting the homeland.  Any border security measures we pass must be real and immediate, not 10 years down the road.

We also need meaningful interior enforcement, including allowing immigration officers to do their job and work with state and locals officials.

Enforcement of the immigration laws has been lax and increasingly selective in the last few years.  Because federal immigration enforcement officers have been handicapped from doing their job, the states have tried to step up.   Yet, they have been denied the opportunity to control their own borders.

The unfortunate reality is that the bill does almost nothing to strengthen our interior enforcement efforts.  It does nothing to encourage cooperation between the federal, state and local governments.  The federal government will continue to look the other way as millions of new people enter the country illegally.  Meanwhile, the bill gives the States no new authority to act when the federal government refuses.

One of the major reasons why immigration is a subject of significant public interest is the failure of the federal government to enforce existing law.  Eleven million people have unlawfully entered the country or overstayed their visa because the federal government did not deter them or take action to remove them.  The bill significantly weakens current criminal laws and will hinder the ability of law enforcement to protect Americans from criminal undocumented aliens.

In addition to weakening current law, the bill does very little to deter criminal behavior in the future.  It ignores sanctuary cities, and increases the thresholds required for actions to constitute a crime.  And, regrettably, the bill is weak on foreign national criminal street gang members.

Furthermore, the bill falls short in protecting American workers who need and want jobs in this country.  While I support allowing businesses to bring in foreign workers, they should only do so when qualified Americans are not available.

I have long argued that we must enhance and expand opportunities for people who wish to work legally in the country.  Yet, as we do that, we cannot forget the American worker.   We need to fight for them as well.

Finally, I empathize with people who come into this country to have a better life.  We would do anything to give our kids a better life.

We’re a compassionate people.  And, we’re also the best country in the world.  But, we’re a great country because we’ve always abided by the rule of law. The rule of law is what makes all opportunities that we have possible.

I will vote against the bill today, but I have hopes for a better product to come out of a conference committee.  My hope is that we send a bill to the President that will make America stronger, make our border more secure, and make our immigration system more effective.  That’s what Americans deserve, and what we have a responsibility to deliver.

Sessions Issues Statement Following Senate Passage Of Immigration Bill

Thursday, June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate passage of the immigration bill:

“Sponsors of this legislation—despite the array of financial, establishment and special interest support—failed to hit their target of 70 votes. The more people learned about the bill the more uneasy they became. Failure to reach 70 votes is significant, and ensures the House has plenty of space to chart an opposite course and reject this fatally flawed proposal.

So while the bill passed the Senate, this is just the beginning.

The legislation adopted today guarantees three things: immediate amnesty before security, permanent future illegal immigration, and a record surge in legal immigration that will reduce wages and increase unemployment.

There will be no border fence, no border surge, nothing but the same tired illusory promises of future enforcement that will never occur. Americans have begged and pleaded time and again for Congress to end the lawlessness. But this amnesty-first bill is a surrender to lawlessness. As ICE and USCIS officers have warned, it will decimate immigration enforcement and erode the constitutional rule of law upon which our national greatness depends. And it remains unfair to the legal immigrants who put enormous time and expense into following the rules our nation has established.

This legislation demonstrates that the governing body in Washington has become severed from the people it is supposed to represent. It is a broken promise 1,200 pages long.

The Senate’s loyalty must be to the American people—immigrant and native-born alike—who work hard, pay their taxes, fight our wars, and obey our laws. 21 million Americans cannot find full-time work. Medium household income is almost ten percent lower today than it was in 1999. But this proposal would double the number of guest workers for businesses and provide permanent legal status to more than 30 million mostly-lower skill legal immigrants in the next ten years. This huge increase in the legal immigration flow will reduce wages and raise unemployment, and displace those who have suffered the most economically. As wise observers have said, we are a nation with an economy—not an economy with a nation.

We can create a lawful immigration system that makes us proud. But for that to happen, this bill must never become law. We must return to the drawing board and produce legislation that serves the just and legitimate interests of the nation, its people, and all who wish to call America home.”

This Day in History from Infoplease, June 30th


French acrobat Charles Blondin, AKA Jean Francois Gravelet, walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.


A powerful natural explosion from an unknown cause rocked the Tunguska Basin, in eastern Siberia, flattening hundreds of square miles of forest and resulting in tremors that could be felt hundreds of miles away.


President Warren G. Harding appointed former president William H. Taft chief justice of the United States.


Adolf Hitler secured his position in the Nazi party by a “blood purge,” ridding the party of other leaders such as Ernst Roehm and Kurt von Schleicher.


Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was published.


The 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, was ratified by the states.


The remains of a Vietnam War serviceman buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers were identified as those of Air Force pilot Michael J. Blassie.

This Day in History from Infoplease, June 29th


London’s Globe Theatre burned down during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.

The British Parliament approved the Townshend Acts.

The Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty could constitute “cruel and unusual” prompting some states to revise their laws.

The shuttle Atlantis and the Russian space station Mir docked, forming the largest man-made satellite ever to orbit Earth.

Actress Katharine Hepburn died

Senate Roll Call Vote 168: On Passage of the Bill (S. 744 As Amended )

image not available

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On Passage of the Bill (S. 744 As Amended )
Vote Number: 168 Vote Date: June 27, 2013, 04:11 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Bill Passed
Measure Number: S. 744 (Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act )
Measure Title: A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.
Vote Counts: YEAs 68
NAYs 32

Grouped By Vote Position

YEAs —68
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chiesa (R-NJ)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cowan (D-MA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Heller (R-NV)
Hirono (D-HI)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Kirk (R-IL)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs —32
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Grassley (R-IA)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lee (R-UT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State

This Day in History from Infoplease, June 28th


The fourth president of the United States, James Madison, died at Montpelier, his Virginia estate.


Labor Day became a federal holiday by an act of Congress.


Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife were assassinated, setting off World War I.


The Treaty of Versailles was signed in France, ending World War I.


The Supreme Court ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that the use of quotas in affirmative action programs was not permissible.


The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, voted to admit women.

This Day in History: June 27 from Infoplease


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Ill.


Joshua Slocum became the first person to successfully circumnavigate the earth alone when he landed his sloop Spray in Newport, R.I., a 46,000-mile trip.


The Newbery Medal for children’s literature was first awarded.


President Harry S. Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy into the Korean War.


The world’s first atomic power station opened at Obninsk, near Moscow.


Police and gays clashed at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, fostering the gay rights movement.


The legendary Route 66, running from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., was decertified, the victim of the Interstate Highway System.


The national do-not-call registry, formed to combat unwanted telemarketing calls and administered by the Federal Trade Commission, enrolled almost three-quarters of a million phone numbers on its first day.

This Day in History: Yet Another List from Infoplease for June 26th


The bicycle was patented by W. K. Clarkson.


Hong Kong was proclaimed a British crown colony.


The first Grand Prix motor race was held in Le Mans, France.


The St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, was opened.


President John Kennedy gave his, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) speech in West Berlin.


The CN tower in Toronto opened, the world’s tallest free-standing structure.


The first map of the human genome, which required decoding more than 3 billion biochemical “letters” of human DNA, is completed.


Former South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond died at age 100.