News in Brief: Ousted USDA Official Gains Support, but States She Might Not Want Job Back, and More

Despite calls to reconsider the decision, the Obama administration is standing with the Department of Agriculture’s firing of a USDA employee accused of racial bias, the AP reports.

Shirley Sherrod, who until yesterday was USDA’s head of rural development in Georgia, was fired after an edited video of a speech she gave at an NAACP Awards Banquet emerged on a right-wing blog, leading to a conservative media firestorm.

In the two-minute video segment – snipped from a 45-minute speech – Sherrod discusses a 1986 incident in which, while working with a rural aid nonprofit, she was approached by a white farmer and felt hesitant about giving him “all of her help.” Contrary to the conservative spin, the speech was not a racist manifesto; it was a story of racial reconciliation, detailing Sherrod’s long struggle for reconciliation after her father was murdered by white men.

Sherrod, the farmer she assisted and his wife appeared together on CNN on Tuesday. The couple emphasized that Sherrod is not racist and, in fact, did all she could to help them.

A USDA spokesperson reported that the Agriculture Department is reviewing the case. Sherrod told reporters on Tuesday that even if she is offered her job back, she may not take it.

United States to Enact More Sanctions Against North Korea

After a series of meetings with high-level South Korean officials, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new round of sanctions against North Korea today, The New York Times reports.

“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered for too long due to the misguided and maligned priorities of their government,” said Secretary Clinton. “They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government.”

Secretary Clinton called on North Korea to take responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean ship that killed 46 soldiers, and urged the country to give up its nuclear arsenal.

The Guardian UK reports that the US and South Korea will soon engage in four days of military exercises in the Sea of Japan. Both North Korea and China, the country’s closest ally, condemned the operation.

House Democrats Introduce Jobs Initiative as Campaign Season Gears Up

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) introduced the Democrats’ latest job initiative on Tuesday, CQ Politics reports. The plan, titled “Make It In America,” encompasses 18-20 bills, including measures to disincentivize outsourcing, enforce existing trade laws and promote alternative and clean energy products. Many worry that the bills will wind up stalled in the Senate, especially during a campaign year when controversial provisions like limiting outsourcing may be stifled.

TARP Financial Commitments Surge to $3.7 Trillion

The government’s top Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) watchdog released a report yesterday revealing an increase in TARP spending, and criticizing the Obama administration’s failure to deal effectively with the housing crisis, according to The Hill. Spending for the TARP, the large-scale financial bailout program initiated in 2008, has increased by around $700 billion over the past year, according to the report, which was written by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general of the program. Though the newly committed money is largely intended to help the housing market, the loan modification program has only effectively adjusted 12 percent of loans.

“Treasury’s refusal to provide meaningful goals for this important program is a fundamental failure of transparency and accountability that makes it far more difficult for the American people and their representatives in Congress to assess whether the program’s benefits are worth its very substantial cost,” the report states.