WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama offered Congress a $48 billion legislative package Tuesday to accelerate small-business growth that includes ideas previously offered by Republican lawmakers, an effort to garner bipartisan support in an election year.
Obama’s proposals, which build on the Startup America initiative the administration launched last year, include eliminating taxes on capital gains from investments in small businesses, a 10 percent tax credit for companies that create jobs or increase wages this year and ending country-specific immigration caps in order to attract highly skilled workers.
In his State of the Union address last week, Obama touted small businesses as a core element of his pledge to create an economy that strengthens the middle class. Yet administration officials said the number of new businesses that have been launched annually has fallen by 23 percent in recent years.
LA school officials chided for molestation case silence
LOS ANGELES — Angry parents confronted school officials Wednesday, demanding to know why they weren’t told for a year that a teacher was suspected of photographing children in class for sexual thrills.
The clash came at a forum staged at Miramonte Elementary School to discuss the investigation of Mark Berndt, a third-grade teacher who is charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010 at the campus where he taught for more than 30 years.
Berndt was removed from classwork in January 2011 and fired within the month, but only parents of children identified as victims were told by authorities at that time of the investigation.
Berndt’s bail was raised to $23 million Wednesday as he appeared in court for the first time on the felony charges that could bring multiple life sentences if he is convicted.
Planned Parenthood says Komen decision causes donation spike
Donors reacting to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood contributed $650,000 in 24 hours, nearly enough to replace last year’s Komen funding, Planned Parenthood executives said Wednesday.
The organization had raised more than $400,000 from more than 6,000 online donors as of Wednesday afternoon, compared with the 100 to 200 donations it receives on an average day, said Tait Sye, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He said donations were still coming in.
Komen officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that they had decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood, saying a new national policy barred support for organizations under government investigation. A House committee began a probe in September into Planned Parenthood’s compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions.
U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan will end next year, Panetta says
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military plans to change the focus of its Afghanistan mission from combat to training local forces by the end of 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday, apparently accelerating the timeline for Afghan forces to take over security responsibilities from NATO troops.
Panetta’s comments to reporters traveling with him to Brussels — where he was scheduled to attend a meeting of NATO defense chiefs beginning Thursday — marked the first time that a top Pentagon official had stamped an earlier end date on the decade-old U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. However, U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at least through 2014, when all NATO combat forces are scheduled to withdraw from the country.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the announcement would lead to an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces. From the 90,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, the Pentagon plans to draw down to 68,000 by the end of September — far more than most think would be needed to train.