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BEHIND THE NEWS: Presidents Club

January 7, 2009 1:54:07 PM PST
It was a nice photo, I suppose. The three ex-Presidents, the not-for-long current President, and the soon-to-be President - all together, chatting over lunch at the White House. No staff, just the guys, all members of an oh-so-exclusive club.

The two former Democratic Party Presidents wearing Republican red ties, and the two Bush men wearing Democratic Party blue. Barack Obama also wore blue - in solidarity with his Republican colleagues? Or with his Party? We're not sure.

We'll show you the picture, tonight at 11. It is, no matter who you vote for, or if you vote, a fascinating reminder of the peaceful transition of power that occurs every four or eight years in this country. And, for better or worse, it's a stark symbol of the country's democracy.

So too, unfortunately, is the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO says that the recession and the huge government efforts to keep certain industries from drowning will yield the biggest annual budget deficit in history: $1.2 trillion, or more than 8% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

You don't have to be a university economist to know that's not good. Ditto for this prediction by the CBO: GDP will drop by 2.2%, and there will be a "slow recovery" next year, with real GDP growing by just 1.5% - hardly a balls-of-fire boom.

Here are some other not-so-nice predictions: The unemployment rate will exceed 9% by early next year. And the national average price of a home will fall an additional 14% between the third quarter of last year and the second quarter of next.

Ouch and double ouch.

We'll have the latest on the economy, tonight at 11.

We're also in the Middle East again, as our reporter N.J. Burkett documents the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel. There was a brief cease fire this morning, so that humanitarian aid could be brought into Gaza, where power is mostly out and there are shortages of vital supplies. It officially lasted three hours, although it seemed to last but three minutes before rockets once again filled the skies.

The numbers there, like the numbers in the economy, are simply depressing.

So far, nearly 700 Palestinians have been killed, more than 100 of them were children. Nearly 3,100 have been wounded, nearly 1,000 of them children. And 10 Israeli soldiers have been killed.

Yesterday's assault by Israel on a United Nation's school in Jabalia is still stirring debate. At what point does a country make the determination to attack a school?

43 people were killed, at least 100 hurt - many of the victims were kids.

And there are questions for Hamas as well? Why in the world were they near or in that school? And what kind of people launch a rocket into Israel? And launch it from a school, knowing that the Israeli military will locate the school on its GPS? What kind of people use children as shields?

The war goes on, and if there's an exit strategy by either side, it has not been explained.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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