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eyes on the U.S.

Barack Obama's State Of The Union, Morning-After Crunched



WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama's fourth State of the Union address -- the first of his second term -- is history. Politics aside, Obama was generally commended for his delivery of the hour-long discourse Tuesday night, which was described as both more "loose" than previous editions of the State of the Union, and ever-more "presidential."

Of course, the speech to both houses of Congress is all about politics, and Politico characterized both Obama's plan and posture as "aggressive." Though Republicans, led by Florida Senator and top 2016 presidential contender Marco Rubio, attacked the substance of Obama's remarks, the President is perhaps better positioned than in any of his previous State of the Union to lay out his agenda.

Five Presidential Priorities:

1. GUNS - Obama chose to end the speech with the topic all had been waiting for from the start: gun control. After December's school shooting in Connecticut and Colorado, and with some of the victims' families in the audience, it was the most powerful moment of the evening. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote," Obama said. "The families of Aurora deserve a vote.”

2. CLIMATE CHANGE - A topic many progressive critics say got short shrift in the first term is the environment. Obama is showing more and more signs that it is on the front burner, especially in the wake of this summer's death and destruction from the storm Sandy. “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late."

3. IMMIGRATION - Obama is already working with Congressional leaders on addressing immigration reform, especially what to do with the some 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Here's how he laid it out before the nation on Tuesday: “Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally."

4. ECONOMY - In what was seen as a slight turn to the left, the president pivoted from deficit reduction to increasing demand with a surprising call for a higher minimum wage: "In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."

5. AFGHANISTAN - The drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over,” Obama said. About one-half of American forces (34,000 troops) still in Afghanistan will come home from the country over the next year, putting the United States on pace to have all its combat forces out by the end of 2014, as planned.

Tweet peaks - Below graphic shows what moments triggered upticks in reactions on Twitter.

[rebelmouse-image 27086299 alt="""" original_size="940x580" expand=1]

And for those who like their presidential discourses "crunch-free," here's the video of the entire speech:

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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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