Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Barack Obama: "The Task of Perfecting Our Union Moves Forward"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President Barack Obama (D) spoke to supporters in Chicago after being re-elected with at least 303 electoral votes and a razor-thin majority of the popular vote.
"We are an American family and we rise and fall together as one nation," he told the crowd. "We have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts, for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
He told his supporters that he had spoken with Gov. Mitt Romney and congratulated him on a hard-fought campaign. He said he would sit down with Romney in the coming weeks to talk about moving the country forward.
"Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated," he said. Big decisions "necessarily stir up passions," he said, "and that won't change after tonight."
"These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty." He vowed to reach out to members of both parties to solve big problems.
The election was called for President Obama shortly after the polls closed on the West Coast, mirroring his 2008 victory path. Obama ultimately won at least 303 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed to win, with Florida still too close to call.
Unlike in 2008, however, the margin for the popular vote was razor thin, with President Obama winning by around 0.7% of the over all vote.

Updated: Wednesday at 10:04am (ET)

2008 Barack Obama Victory Speech

Election Night, 2008
Election Night, 2008
Sunday, November 4, 2012

Illinois Senator Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election with 53% of the popular vote, while his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, won 46%. Sen. Obama addressed his supporters in Chicago's Grant Park.
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 at 11:16am (ET)

Dow closes below 13,000 for first time since August

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Stocks took a sharp nosedive in a post-election selloff Wednesday, with the Dow logging its biggest decline in nearly a year, prompted by concerns over the looming "fiscal cliff" and amid renewed worries over Europe's weak economy.
The Dow closed below 13,000 for the first time since early August, while the S&P 500 finished below 1,400. (Read More: Top Post-Election Market Declines)
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 300 points in its biggest one-day drop in almost a year, dragged heavily by Bank of America and JPMorgan.“It’s now how quickly we can focus on the ‘fiscal cliff’ and coming up with a resolution—that's certainly the next item on the agenda for the market,” said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets. "And you still have Europe."
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also finished sharply lower. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, jumped near 19.
All key S&P sectors ended firmly in the red, led by energy and financials.

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Apple fell more than 3 percent, pushing the tech giant down a jaw-dropping 20 percent from its all-time high of $705.07 in mid-September. The stock is now trading in bear market territory.
Obama was re-elected president Tuesday night, put over the top by the crucial battleground state of Ohio following the most expensive election in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, ratings agency Fitch said Obama needs to move quickly to avoid the "fiscal cliff," adding that failure to address the issue would likely result in a downgrade in 2013. Moody's said it would make a decision following the budget negotiations, though going over the "fiscal cliff" would not immediately trigger a downgrade.
Wall Street had favored Romney and the Republican ticket in part because it preferred their approach of retaining tax cuts, and making spending cuts. The Obama Administration favors raising taxes on the richest Americans, and also increasing capital gains and dividend taxes. (Read More: Fixing 'Fiscal Cliff' Will Mean 'High, Higher' Taxes)

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Across the pond, European shares reversed their gains to close sharply lower following ECB President Mario Draghi's negative comments on the region's economy. Draghi said economic activity in the euro zone area is expected to remain weak and the slowdown may have reached Germany.
And the members of Greece’s parliament are expected to vote on a new package of austerity measures with the government’s majority under threat. If the bill doesn’t pass, Greece will not receive its next financial aid installment of 31.5 billion euros ($40.2 billion) on Monday.
Among earnings, Macy's reported a higher profit, thanks to sales gains, and the department-store chain also boosted its full-year earnings guidance.“The U.S. election temporarily flipped worries over Europe, but Europe still has an important role in global markets,” said Quincy Korsby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. “They’ve obviously been a chronic condition, but it’s flare ups like today that grab attention.”
Time Warner edged higher after the media company posted better-than-expected earnings.
And Kraft Foods struggled to hold gains even after the newly independent food manufacturer reported a higher profit and affirmed its 2013 outlook.
Qualcomm, CBS and Activision Blizzard are among companies slated to post earnings after the closing bell.
Treasury prices slipped from session highs after the government auctioned $24 billion in 10-year notes at a high yield of 1.675 percent. Bid-to-cover was 2.59.
On the economic front, weekly mortgage applications declined last week as Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast and disrupted normal business activity, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
And consumer borrowing expanded by $11.36 billion in September, according to a Federal Reserve report. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected a gain of $10.1 billion.

One big winner in Tuesday's vote: health reform

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President Barack Obama gives a victory speech Tuesday after being elected to a second term in the White House.

By Maggie Fox, NBC News

One of the biggest winners Tuesday night was health reform. Now that President Barack Obama has won a second term and kept a Democratic majority in the Senate to back him up, Republicans have lost any chance at repealing his biggest domestic initiative.

“Health reform goes ahead,” Timothy Jost, an expert on health law at Washington and Lee University, told NBC news. “It has survived two near-death experiences, with the Supreme Court decision (in June) and now with the election. Now it is time to move forward.”

For most Americans who get their health insurance through their employers, that could mean some significant changes as they are asked to make more and more of their own decisions about how coverage they want.

Republican analysts agree. “What it means is implementation of the law,” said Christopher Condeluci, a former Tax and Benefits Counsel to the Senate Finance Committee who is now at Washington law firm Venable LLP.

It doesn’t mean smooth sailing, however. Many rules have yet to be rolled out – and there is little time to do that before the law begins to take full effect in 2014.

Much of the law’s implementation is up to the states. And Republicans still control the House, which means they hold the initiative on setting the budget. As they’ve done over the past four years, they can hold the budget hostage. And this year the administration and Congress will have to negotiate on an especially tricky budget issue – the fiscal cliff.

Now that he's won, the six splitting headaches waiting for Obama

Unless Congress makes a budget deal fast, $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts - known as the fiscal cliff – go into effect in January. Some of the money used to fund the health care law will undoubtedly be on the table for the last-minute bargaining. The Congressional Budget Office has projected the law will cost about $1.2 billion over 10 years.

“I would expect that Republicans are going to push pretty hard to get some money out of the Affordable Care Act,” Jost said. “There is a lot of money there,” Condeluci agreed.

Some parts supposedly cannot be touched – the money to be used to subsidize health insurance for people who want to buy it on the new marker provided by health insurance exchanges, for instance. People who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $92,000 for a family of four, would be able to get a subsidy and conservatives may want to bargain against some of this money to try and cut the federal deficit.

And the federal government has promised to pay the full cost of expanding Medicaid in the states for the first few years. It’s not clear how much this will cost until states choose what to do. The Supreme Court ruling that upheld the health care law in June made it clear that states get to decide whether they’ll offer Medicaid to more people. Congress may want to try to negotiate against that money, also.

But Harry Conaway, who heads the Washington office of consulting group Mercer, notes that budget projections show the Affordable Care Act will save money over 10 years, so it may be risky to play with it too much.

Victorious Obama 'more determined' in face of challenges

States that have refused to set up their own health insurance exchanges can expect the federal government to do it for them. But it now has just under a year to get that done.

“The administration has a mountain to climb,” Condeluci said. “There are a lot of rules that it appears that they slow-walked until after the election. I understand why they did slow-walk those rules. Those rules are related to some very, very important parts of this law.”

One rule everyone is waiting for is the so-called essential benefits package -- the list of minimum requirements for plans to cover.

Condeluci worries that the process will be rushed now, which may not allow for proper consideration of public comments on administration proposals.

“We haven’t seen the rules on the federally facilitated (health insurance) exchange. We don’t even know if will be up and running by open enrollment, which is October 2013,” Condeluci said.

Conaway thinks the administration may have to delay some of the deadlines. "The Obama administration will have to make an assessment later this year or early next year about whether a 2014 implementation will go smoothly or be chaotic and disruptive," he said.

What it means for you

Mercer's Tracy Watts says employers are already beginning to make changes to what they offer workers. "Over the next several years everybody will continue to see changes to their benefits," she said. More people may see bare-bones plans, because of changes in the rules about how much employers have to cover.

The 2010 health care law actually lowers the average actuarial value for a plan -- the percentage of the total bill that an employer has to cover. On average, a health insurance plan now pays for about 85 percent of the costs, with the patient making up 15 percent. The health reform law says plans only have to pay 60 percent -- meaning some people may end up being on the hook for 40 percent of their costs with a new, slimmed-down plan.

"Let's say you have an outpatient procedure that costs $3,000," Watts said. A new-style plan might require a $2,000 deductible and 50 percent co-insurance, meaning the patient has to pay $2,500 for the procedure and the employer picks up $500. But, she adds, employees will have the option to add better coverage a la carte. The difference is the employers will no longer simply offer a single package -- people will have to work out what particular pieces of coverage they want, and pay a little more each month for the extras.

Watts says Mercer's surveys show that 90 percent of employers who currently offer health insurance to their workers will continue to do so.

Another Supreme Court challenge?
Rules that insurers are waiting to see include the community rating requirements — these are the different premiums that insurers may charge people based on their sex, age and health status. For instance, the law aims to stop the common practice of insurers charging women more than they charge men of similar age and health status. But they will be able to charge people higher premiums as they get older, and just how much more needs to be laid out.

There’s also the guaranteed issue rule – this will require insurers to cover people even if they have existing health conditions. Again, this isn’t detailed yet.

And then there are the states. Many Republican governors are already resisting some of the most important aspects of healthcare reform, such as expanding Medicaid to cover people who can’t easily get health insurance any other way.

“At this point it really comes down to the states,” Condeluci said. “The biggest bogey out there is what the states are going to do. We could have a situation where states continue to resist implementing the law.’

That, Condeluci predicts, could even create another Supreme Court challenge to the law.
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GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gives his concession speech Tuesday after President Barack Obama was declared the winner of the 2012 presidential race.

“Dare I say it -- if their resistance continues, we will have a federalism issue where a federal law is essentially telling a state to do something and the state is saying ‘no’ to that federal law. Arguably, that would have to be decided by the Supreme Court.”

Jost is a little more hopeful. “I think we will see states move toward a more cooperative and less confrontational relationship,” he said. “One hopes that at some time, people are going to act practically rather than ideologically.”

There could also still be friction over the law’s requirements that insurers and employers provide birth control coverage free of charge to women. Conservative employers continue to challenge the requirement in court.

Lisa Maatz, policy director for the American Association of University Women, thinks that issue galvanized many women voters – especially when some conservatives framed the issue as one of religious freedom as opposed to women’s health.

“The conversation itself was not only disheartening, but it also shook women down to their toes,” Maatz told NBC News. “It was an eye-opener for younger women who never believed such rights could be taken away, and a galvanizer for older women as well.”

Related links:
State elections key to health reform
Free birth control starts under health care law
Who falls through the cracks when states don't expand Medicaid
Much left to do on health reform
Supreme Court upholds health care law
Slideshow: Election 2012                  53 photos

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Campaigning with Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, voting and election results.
Launch slideshow

Slideshow: Voting 2012                         46 photos

William Barney, 27, holds his ballot after voting in the US presidential election at the polling place of Star Mazda car dealership on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in Glendale, Calif. Californians are voting in dozens of tight races including Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan, abolishing the death penalty, easing the state's strict 'three strikes' sentencing law and also in the Presidential race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Slideshow: Campaign 2012                       104 photos

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets volounteers during a visit to a campaign call center in Green Tree, Pa., on election day, Nov. 6.

Nor'easter snow falls atop Sandy destruction; new power outages reported

Towns in New Jersey scrambled to prepare for their first major winter storm not long after Hurricane Sandy destroyed huge swaths of coastline. NBC's Katy Tur reports.

By Miguel Llanos, NBC News

Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET: Snow fell on the tops of damaged homes and debris piles in parts of the New York City area as a nor'easter moved in Wednesday, causing new power outages ahead of gusts that could reach 60 mph overnight.

Linemen install a transformer on Nov. 7 to help restore power in the Staten Island community of Oakwood Beach in New York City. The linemen were from Chain Electric, a contract utility crew that drove in from Mississippi to help out.

About 1,200 flights were canceled across the Northeast, while residents of a few areas hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy last week were urged to evacuate in case of new flooding. Long Island Rail Road service was also suspended before 7 p.m. because of weather-related signal problems, NBC New York reported.

By Wednesday afternoon, the winds had caused some 75,000 new power outages in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, the U.S. Energy Department stated. That brought the total number to 715,000, most of those remaining from Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29.New York Mayor Bloomberg directed police to use their patrol car loudspeakers to warn the 20,000 to 30,000 residents in vulnerable areas to evacuate.

One local resident refuses to be driven out by the latest storm, a combo of snow and rain that is threatening areas already ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Those who had weathered Sandy told NBC New York on Wednesday that they were petrified.

"It's like a sequel to a horror movie,"said James Alexander, a resident of the hard-hit Rockaway Peninsula. "Here we are, nine days later — freezing, no electricity, no nothing, waiting for another storm."

Alexander's home was spared when Sandy hit, but homes around him burned to the ground, and the boardwalk near his home was washed out to sea.

The nor'easter, dubbed "Athena" by The Weather Channel, could produce strong gusts that could also turn up piled debris from Sandy into projectiles.

A punishing nor'easter is expected to dump snow  on 
storm-battered New York and New Jersey. NBC's Jay Gray reports.

"One of the bigger concerns ... would be the debris that's been piled up from all the residences and the businesses," Kevin O'Hara, police chief in Point Pleasant, N.J., told The Weather Channel.

(Last month, The Weather Channelannounced it will name noteworthy winter storms in an effort to “better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events.")

"With winds picking up to 30-, 40-, 50-mile-per-hour gusts," he added, "our fear is that if people are out and about they could be hit by flying debris. We would urge people to stay in their houses, stay home, and let the storm pass."

"It's not a massive nor'easter by winter standards," added Weather Channel expert Tom Niziol, "but at this time of year immediately after Sandy's wrath and destruction, this isn't what we want."

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The snow from the latest Nor'easter is expected to continue through midnight before finally winding down in the early hours of Thursday morning. NBC's Janice Huff reports.

Sea Bright, N.J., is among the areas fearing new 
flooding on Wednesday. Katy Tur reports.

"Mother Nature is not cutting us a break along the East Coast," he said.

As the day cooled into night, The Weather Channel was forecasting three inches of snow in Philadelphia with wind gusts over 30 mph, a combination of wet snow and wind in New Jersey, and snowfall totals of six to 12 inches in southeastern New York and New England.

Tuesday evening, Bloomberg ordered three nursing homes and an adult care facility evacuated from Queens' vulnerable Rockaway Peninsula. About 620 residents were moved. In New York, snow was falling Wednesday evening. Mayor Michael Bloomberg expected up to three inches of snow and said no new flooding occurred along the city's coastal areas "through the first and most dangerous cycle of high tide" on Wednesday afternoon.
Volunteers walk through falling snow while bringing food to residents of homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy on Nov. 7 in the Staten Island borough of New York City.
Fearing winds could down more trees, the city also closed all parks, playgrounds and beaches at noon Wednesday, and ordered all construction sites to be secured.

The Long Island Power Authority dedicated more than 12,000 workers to restoring power to its customers -- 8,000 of those workers were linemen and tree trimming crews from around the country, including some who had been airlifted in by the National Guard.

In New Jersey, Brick Township and Middletown ordered mandatory evacuations of the most vulnerable areas.

U.S. Marines work to clean up debris on Nov. 7 in the Staten Island borough of New York City.

Sandy killed more than 100 people, mainly in New York City and New Jersey, and left more than 8 million homes and businesses without power.Airlines cancel flights ahead of nor'easter

John Makely / NBC News
Postal carrier Kenneth Henn delivers mail in the evacuated section of Belmar, N.J., on Tuesday as earth moving machines pile sand along the beach.

Fearing looters, Alex Ocasio told The Associated Press that he planned to ride out the latest storm in his first-floor Rockaway apartment — even after seeing cars float by his front door during Sandy.

As the water receded during Sandy, men dressed in dark clothes broke down the door and were surprised to find him and other residents inside, he said.

"They tried to say they were rescue workers, then took off," he said.

He put up a handmade sign — "Have gun. Will shoot U" — outside his apartment and started using a bed frame to barricade the door. He has gas, so he keeps the oven on and boils water to stay warm at night.

"It gets a little humid, but it's not bad," he said. "I'm staying. Nothing can be worse than what happened last week."

NBC's Isolde Raftery, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Members of the National Guard walk past a house damaged by Sandy as it is painted with an American flag in the New Dorp section of Staten Island, N.Y. on Nov. 6. Voting in the U.S. presidential election is the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by superstorm Sandy.

What the election results mean for your wallet

Why you may want to sell stocks, max out your retirement accounts

Image: Elizabeth Warren
Shannon Stapleton  /  Reuters
The election of Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren to the Senate could mean more support for the consumer protection measures she has championed.
updated 11/7/2012 5:56:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON — The election results were clear, but the path forward is not. With Washington moving on with essentially the same trilateral team that froze fiscal policy for the last two years, it's not obvious or certain what will happen to taxes, interest rates, markets and the economy under President Barack Obama, the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"We still live with uncertainty on this that puts us all in planning-land dilemma," says Greg Rosica, a tax partner with Ernst & Young. That doesn't mean individuals can't start to place some bets. There will be financial effects they can't control and some they can.

Here is what you can expect now, and what you can do about it.

Talk to your broker. Make an appointment with your broker and your tax adviser for the week between Christmas and the new year; don't let them take vacation. If Washington does anything to extend important tax breaks that expired at the end of 2011, like the alternative minimum tax patch, it is likely to finish that work the week before Christmas. That means you don't have to jump now to implement your year-end tax and investment strategy. You just have to plan ahead for what that strategy should be under the extended/not extended alternatives. You'll need to get a sense of whether you'd be hit by the AMT under current law.

Though President Obama's reelection captured the main headlines of the 2012 election, women candidates etched themselves i...

Sell winning stocks in taxable accounts.Some of today's sell-off could be prompted by people wanting to lock in low tax rates on gains before they expire at the end of the year. Currently both capital gains and dividends are taxed at a top rate of 15 percent. Absent a new law, gains will be taxed at a maximum rate of 20 percent and dividends will be taxed as ordinary income -- as high as 39.6 percent plus a 3.8 percent Medicare tax for high earners.

That isn't expected. Most observers believe Congress and the White house will preserve low rates for both of those categories, but maybe not as low as they currently are. This year, anyone with taxable income under $35,350 ($70,700 for couples filing jointly) faces a zero percent tax rate on capital gains this year. If you're in that bracket, sell now. In addition to selling those winners you could give some shares to your low-earning young adult kids.

Max out tax-favored retirement contributions. There's no reason to hold off on contributions to individual retirement accounts, Roth IRAs, and 401(k) accounts, even though you have until April 15, 2013, to make 2012 contributions.

Here's why: (1) If you miss a year's contribution you can't make it up in another year; (2) Tea-leaf readers do expect some income tax rates to rise over the next several years, making the tax-favored buildup in those accounts more valuable; (3) An Obama-driven tax reform measure could hurt the tax breaks people get for 401(k)s and other retirement accounts.

The framework-providing Simpson-Bowles deficit-cutting proposal, put forth by Erskine Bowles, Clinton-era chief of staff, and Alan Simpson, former Republican senator, called for elimination of tax deductions for contributions to 401(k) plans and IRAs. Even if a future tax-reform bill doesn't get that extreme, "It's hard to see how those incentives don't get trimmed at least a little bit in a big grand bargain," said Geoff Manville, a principal in Mercer's Washington Resource Group. "They could very well be at risk."

Invest strategically. Some sectors will do better than others under a second Obama administration, says Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. He has highlighted alternative energy areas, such as hydro, geothermal, wind and solar power, and also, surprisingly, aluminum - it can be produced with lower carbon emissions than steel. He also thinks homebuilders stand to profit from administration efforts to slow or stall foreclosures; fewer homes will come onto the market and more will need to be built. He also believes healthy dividend-paying stocks will hold up well and that taxes on dividends won't revert to punishing pre-Bush era levels. His favorites in a variety of sectors: Darden Restaurants, Atria Group, Chevron, Bank of Nova Scotia, Waste Management, Microsoft and UGI Corp.

Bet on low interest rates now and higher ones later. The Obama victory was widely interpreted as a sign that the Federal Reserve Board has the go-ahead to keep buying bonds and holding short-term rates low for a while; the central bank's stated timetable was at least into 2014. But those same expansionist policies could lead to higher inflation and higher interest rates down the road, as the economy recovers.

That means you still have a window to refinance your mortgage and lock in other low-cost loans. And you don't have to sell your bonds in a big hurry, according to Guy Le Bas, chief fixed income strategist, at Janney Capital Markets. He views the Obama victory as shaving about 0.25 percentage point off bond yields in the near term. Eventually, though, higher rates would harm bond investors.

Expect some consumer protections. Consumer financial advocates and bankers focused on the Senate run of Elizabeth Warren, the consumerist who dreamed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and helped establish it. She is already talking about being the Senate's primary watchdog on such issues as banking disclosures and student loans. At the same time, the Obama administration can be expected to revive its stalled efforts to have financial advisers, brokers and retirement plan advisers all face a fiduciary standard -- meaning they would have to put the interest of their clients ahead of their own. "That proposal will come roaring back," says Manville.

Linda Stern is a Reuters columnist. Follow her on Twitter @lindastern.

  Video: Democrats pull off upsets, hold onto Senate

President Obama raps 'U Can't Touch This' in new viral music video
By Randee Dawn, TODAY contributor

Tuesday night, President Barack Obama won another four years in office, which means someone else also just got re-elected: Fadi Saleh, the genius behind BaracksDubs, will now have a second term to keep producing hilarious, quick-cut videos of the president "singing" to popular tunes.

In the short video, Obama may look presidential at the podium, standing in front of numerous cheering crowds, but thanks to the terrific editing and vocal tweaks, he gets down and funky, even removing his jacket at one point and uttering "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" randomly at the end.

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And Saleh, a 19-year-old biochemistry major, is wasting no time; last night, he posted his first post-election mash-up of clips from Obama speeches married with MC Hammer's 1990 hit "U Can't Touch This."

Check it out

Barack Obama: 'I think I can do' 'Gangnam Style' dance moves
By Rolling Stone

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Barack Obama says he might be able to do Psy's "Gangnam Style" moves.

The virus known as "Gangnam Style" has spread all the way to the Oval Office.

During an Election Day interview with New Hampshire radio station WZID-FM, Barack Obama was asked about the sensation sparked by K-Pop star Psy, whose "Gangnam Style" video is up to nearly 660 million views on YouTube as of Tuesday (the song itself has been perched at Number Two on Billboard's Hot 100 for weeks).

"I just saw that video for the first time, and I think I can do that move," said Obama, referring to the horse-dance move that Psy performs throughout the clip. Asked whether he would do the "Gangnam Style" dance if he is reelected president, Obama said, "I'm not sure that the inauguration ball is the appropriate time to break that out," then suggested an alternative. "You know, maybe do it privately for Michelle."

Obama has been chiming in on pop culture hot topics – from Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj's "American Idol" feud to his friendship with Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ© – during radio interviews throughout the campaign

Breaking Down Psy's 'Gangnam Style'
Korean pop star explains each shot of absurdist video smash
SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 12:31 PM

For 48 straight hours in early July, Korean pop star Psy and his crew drove Seoul's crowded highways in search of absurdist settings for his sexy horse dance. Obviously, they succeeded – "Gangnam Style" is not only spontaneously, ridiculously funny, it has snagged more than 167 million YouTube views since its release in mid-July and is climbing up the iTunes charts. "This is history in my country," Psy says, from a promotional tour in New York City, during an enthusiastic 45-minute phone interview that had been strictly scheduled for 15 minutes. Following is the singer's scene-by-scene breakdown.

THE SCENE: Lounging on a beach that's actually a playground
THE TIME: 0:16
PSY SAYS: "It was my idea. There was some playground in Korea. My thought was, the song releases on July 15th, and in Korea it's really hot in summer. You know there's a program called America's Got Talent? We had a version of the program, which is called Korea's Got Talent, and the boy [a miniature dancing version of Psy in the scene] came from there. He was not trained. He was just born like that. Isn't he amazing?"

THE SCENE: Horse stable
THE TIME: 0:18
PSY SAYS: "When we made this choreography, we called it 'horse dance.' I told [the director], 'Hey, this is horse dance, so let's find some horse place.' In that way, it can be more cheesy. It can be more ridiculous. So we did that. It was somewhere in Seoul."

THE SCENE: Debris and snow whooshing into Psy's face
THE TIME: 0:33
PSY SAYS: "Did you feel that I moved like Michael Jackson in that scene? [Laughs] I tried some things serious, to be ridiculous, you know. The snow and trash and everything . . . I asked them, 'Hey, throw it harder, throw it harder, so that way it's going to look really hilarious!' So they used a propeller. We edited a lot, and actually we tried a lot more than this."

THE SCENE: Dozing off in the sauna
THE TIME: 0:48
PSY SAYS: "It was a real sauna, so it was hot, and I was so exhausted, and all of a sudden I feel like getting sleepy on his shoulder. That was 100 percent ad-libbed. At this sauna, every staff, even me, was out of their consciousness. We were like, 'Hey, what are we doing right now? Why are we at the sauna?' The fat guy? Yeah, he was an actor."

THE SCENE: On the tour bus with the disco balls
THE TIME: 1:04
PSY SAYS: "It's like a tour bus, and a lot of older guys and older ladies are traveling to somewhere on the highways. Honestly, that's illegal, I think: They are standing when they are riding. When we were moving to this location, to that location, I suddenly found some bus on the highway, and I talked to the director: 'Hey, let's do that, the illegal thing, the older guys' party time.' The situation was ad-libbed on the highway. There's some lighting going on and mirror balls – that's not suitable for transportation, right? I cannot play that scene in the Korean National Broadcasting System. That's funny!"

THE SCENE: Explosion behind Psy's head
THE TIME: 1:08
PSY SAYS: "I've used very highly big-budget special effects in my own concerts for 12 years in Korea. So that was just a tiny piece of my concerts. That kind of explosion is kind of like a trademark of me in Korea."

THE SCENE: Dancing forward while the ladies march backwards
THE TIME: 1:15
PSY SAYS: "I try to show I'm dancing this horse-riding dance everywhere, and with everybody. The two women – they are walking back, right? In Korea, some aged women walk back to lose their weight, you know? That's a very normal situation in Korea. Younger people feel like, 'Hey, why are they walking back?' and aged women say, 'Hey, that's the kind of thing in Korea for 20 years.'"

THE SCENE: Dance-off with the Man in Yellow in the parking garage
THE TIME: 1:42
PSY SAYS: "The yellow-suit guy – he's a Number One comedian in Korea. His name is Yoo Jae Suk. In the music video, he danced very serious, right? Overseas, they are watching, just 'Oh, some unique yellow-suit guy's dancing, who is he?' But in Korea, everyone's going crazy: 'Wow, he's dancing so serious. He's a really busy man in Korea so we didn't have that much time with him. He's my very good friend. He just volunteered to do that for free so I cannot say, 'Hey, let's do that one more time.' We did it like three times, that was all. That was also ad-libbed – his moves, my moves, everything. We just played the whole song and we just danced what we know in our lives. There were some dirty moves and there were some horrible moves we couldn't use in the video. We have a lot of cut scenes. At the spot, everyone was crying – dying!"

THE SCENE: Elevator dance
THE TIME: 1:55
PSY SAYS: "He's also a very famous comedian in Korea. His name is Noh Hong-cheol. He's really a good friend of mine. He just came to my music-video spot to cheer me up. That was all. He didn't expect any filming. He didn't make [anything] up. The move – that was his trademark. He'd done that kind of move for several years. When he stepped in the elevator, I asked him, 'Hey, why don't you do that move in the elevator?' And he said, 'What are you going to do?' I said, 'I'm going to be between your legs, how about that?' He said, 'What?' And we were laughing. 'Let's see what's up.' All the staff was, 'What the fuck? . . . Oh, that's disgusting, that's nasty!' We didn't do that on purpose at all – as a result, I love the scene most."

THE SCENE: Dancing with the beautiful redhead in various locations
THE TIME: 2:11
PSY SAYS: "She is the leader of a very famous K-Pop girl group. The group name is 4Minute; her name is Hyun-a. She's kind of a sexy symbol among girl groups. She didn't do that kind of thing at all before. She asked, 'Why? Why? Why did I . . . ?' She was like, 'Oh, what is this? He keeps asking me to do some dumb shit. I don't have any clue. What are you talking about?' At some point she realized what's going on and she says, 'Oh, Psy, you idiot! This is genius, this is awesome!' That's what she told me in the middle of the video. And then she did it right."

THE SCENE: Splashing in a small pool with swim goggles
THE TIME: 2:38
PSY SAYS: "That was the same place with the sauna! The guy was one of my staff. After doing the sauna scenes, we are like, 'All right, it's done!' And we cheered. Honestly, that scene I copied Lady Gaga, you know? 'I want a volunteer from my staff. Take off the upper shirt. Who's it going to be?' He sat down there and I tried this move, that move.

THE SCENE: On the toilet
THE TIME: 3:16
PSY SAYS: "That was right outside of the sauna. [Laughs] That was the last spot, and we didn't expect anything. We were totally exhausted. Every staff, including me, we were thinking, 'Why don't we just finish here?' We went inside and found three scenes in there – sauna, water and toilet."
Donald Trump, Ted Nugent, others tweet election disappointment

Steve Marcus / Reuters file

Ted Nugent said on Twitter: "I cry tears of blood for The Last Best Place & the warriors who died for this tragedy."

By Randee Dawn, TODAY contributor

The election of President Barack Obama to a second term Tuesday night had many cheering in the streets, and the Twitterverse alight with commentary (and his most-ever-retweeted photo, once he posted a picture of himself hugging wife Michelle). But not everybody was so happy.

In fact, some were downright furious.

Donald Trump may have been the most outraged, releasing a stream of Tweetsthat ran the gamut from calling for a revolution ("He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!" which was later deleted) to declaring, "We are not a democracy!"

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That kind of commentary led NBC's Brian Williams to call Trump out, noting the businessman has now "driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible." Trump was back at it on Wednesday, firing off a series of tweets aimed at the "Nightly News" anchor.

Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Victoria Jackson also sent through a list of tweets,noting "I can't stop crying" multiple times and that "America died" last night. "Thanks a lot Christians, for not showing up. You disgust me," she tweeted. That kind of commentary led NBC's Brian Williams to call Trump out, noting the businessman has now "driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible." Trump was back at it on Wednesday, firing off a series of tweets aimed at the "Nightly News" anchor.


Meanwhile, Ted Nugent kept things blunt, tweeting: "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav a president to destroy America." (Typos left as tweeted.) Later, he added, "Goodluk America u just voted for economic & spiritual suicide. Soulless fools"


Stephen Baldwin felt similarly, tweeting: "2nite Gods Spirit lifted within me&joy came over me, I will serve the Lord, my hope is in Jesus not Obama, Gods wrath is upon US. 2Thes2:11" (Typos left as tweeted.)


"The Middle's" Patricia Heaton, however, was disappointed but kept her comments relatively mild. "Bracing for 4 more yrs of high taxes, high unemployment, high debt," she tweeted, adding later, "At least the president can't blame the mess he's 'inheriting' on anyone else but himself!"


Still, for anyone who did find last night's results heartening, here's a quick look through some of the top Tweets about not just the election, but ballot issues that dealt with gay marriage and marijuana, among others.
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