Happy Friday everybody — Clem Lane here with our Evening Editorial Note. Next week should be a busy one (and controversial with Monday’s Stem Cell announcement expected) for the Obama Administration, and it’s probably going to be busy for your fine self as well. Here’s hoping your weekend is filled with nothing but family, college basketball and spring baseball. GO CUBS!
J-O-B-S, JOBS JOBS JOBS!-So how was the February jobs report? Not good-651 thousand jobs were cut in the 28-day month, pushing the unemployment rate to 8.1%, the highest rate in 25 years. Betsy Stark, reporting on WORLD NEWS, tells us "the number of Americans officially unemployed has now grown to 12 and a half million. Add in the under-employed and it swells to 23 million." Making things even worse for the legions of jobless? The length of time it now takes to find a job. Stark says that "one in four Americans has been out of work for more than six months." Stark breaks down who’s been impacted the most. Stark: "Across the country, the job cuts have been broad as well as deep. But some fared worse than others. More men are out of work than women (8.1% vs. 6.7% unemployment). Blacks (13.4%) and Hispanics (10.9%) are losing jobs faster than Whites (7.3%)." Looking forward, things are probably gonna get a whole lot worse before they get better. Stark says that "one economist calculated today that if Americans continue to lose jobs at the pace we’ve been seeing over the last six months, the unemployment rate will top 10 percent by June and over 12 percent by the end of year." Where’s the hero in the white hat? If you mean the stimulus bill, Stark says "that’s why the stimulus plan is so important. If it’s successful, these huge job losses should slow down." Let’s hope so.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BANKS-The President has been out a lot this week, acting as First Cheerleader for his economic stimulus plan. His efforts may have paid off to some degree but as George Stephanopoulos told Charles Gibson tonight "(The Obama Administration) know that there’s not going to be any real sense of stability in the markets, any sense that we’re coming out of this crisis until people know what is going on with the banks. How big is the problem? How much is it going to cost? And when is it going to be fixed?" George’s sense? "The Treasury Department says that they are about 75% of the way there. They’ve already made deals with banks like Citigroup to provide more capital, but they haven’t reached a final decision and don’t yet know how much more ($) it’s going to take to fix the top four or five troubled banks."
STEM CELL RESEARCH-ABC NEWS learned today that President Obama is about to end the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He will have an event in the White House Monday. Obama’s move will reverse 8 years of Bush Administration policy. The expected move by the Obama Administration is manna from heaven for some and a license to kill for others. Lisa Stark filed for WORLD NEWS and explains what Monday’s move by the Obama Administration will mean: "Federal dollars will be freed up for more widespread research on embryonic stem cells-the so-called master cells of the body-which researchers hope will lead to cures for diseases such as diabetes or alzheimers." Sounds like a winner-what’s not to like? Stark says this type of research is controversial because "using human embryonic stem cells means altering or destroying them in the process.". Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn is an opponent of the practice and was quoted in Stark’s piece as saying "I’m concerned for the short period of time they’re going to kill a lot of unborn children as they do this." Even supporters recognize the sensitivity of this issue-Stark tells us that "the National Institutes of Health has been working on ethical guidelines for how this research is carried out." But for the multitude of people (and their families) suffering from so-far incurable diseases, today’s news gives them another reason to hold on.
BERNARD MADOFF NEWS-Brian Ross and Rich Esposito reported today that accused swindler Bernard Madoff may have cut a plea deal. Ross said on WORLD NEWS that "(Earlier this evening), a federal judge filed papers indicating he will accept a guilty plea from Madoff next Thursday in a Manhattan courtroom and put a call out for victims to come and testify and give their thoughts." Ross says that "we don’t know the details of the deal" yet but it’s sure to end his penthouse house arrest. It’s also unclear how much time Madoff might spend behind bars. Ross says that with Madoff already 70 years old, "a federal prosecutor says he’s unlikely ever to get out of prison alive." So is that it? If I was one of the victims, I’d sure want to know who else was involved in the scheme. Ross can alleviate some of your worry- "the criminal investigation is continuing," Ross told Charles Gibson. "In some deals like this, family members are excluded from further prosecution. We’re told that may not be the case here."
KEPLER MISSION-From Gina Sunseri: "NASA’s Kepler mission to seek other Earth-like planets is undergoing final preparations for liftoff Friday, March 6, from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft launch aboard a Delta II rocket has two windows of opportunity Friday, from 10:49 to 10:52 p.m. EST and 11:13 to 11:16 p.m. EST. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars in habitable zones — regions where water could pool on the surface of the planets. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life."
PROGRAM REMINDER/20-20-Reminder that Elizabeth Vargas hosts a special 9pm edition of 20/20 tonight-the return of Siegfried & Roy. The 10pm edition of 20/20 looks at some of the claims that companies promise consumers-are their claims too good to be true?
–BRITAIN TO RECOGNIZE HEZBOLLAH–From Kirit Radia: "Great Britain has decided to re-establish contacts with Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by the United States but also the holder of a significant number of seats in the Lebanese government. The Brits are distinguishing between the political and militant wings of Hezbollah, deciding to talk to the former but still rejecting the latter. The State Department today said it will not follow suit. ‘We are not ready to take the same step, no. Our position on Hezbollah has not changed,’ said acting deputy spox Gordon Duguid. The US refuses to talk to any faction of the group."
–SUSPECTED KILLER OF FIVE FOUND DEAD– Police say a man suspected of murdering his wife, his sister-in-law and three young children has killed himself after being confronted by police. Cleveland police Lt. Thomas Stacho told Associated Press that 33-year-old Davon Crawford shot himself in the head this afternoon while holed up in a bathroom at a house believed to be the home of a relative.
–17TH BANK CLOSURE THIS YEAR-Regulators have shut down Freedom Bank of Georgia, marking the 17th failure this year of a federally insured bank. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has been appointed receiver of the bank, located in Commerce, Ga. It had about $173 million in assets and $161 million in deposits as of March 4. The FDIC says the bank’s deposits will be assumed by Northeast Georgia Bank, located in Lavonia, Ga. Its four branches will reopen Monday as offices of Northeast Georgia Bank.