Entries in United States (31)


US Intelligence: China Economy to Surpass US by 2030

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A report on global trends prepared by the U.S. intelligence community notes that by 2030 China is likely to have surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy. The report suggests the United States would likely serve as, “the first among equals” in a multi-polar world.

“China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030,” The report “Alternative Worlds” prepared by the National Intelligence Council notes in their findings released Monday at the National Press Club.

“In terms of the indices of overall power in gross domestic product, population size, military spending and technological investment, Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined,” said Christopher Kojm, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the press conference.

But a lot could happen in the next seventeen years. And there is uncertainty about how China will evolve.

“China is…the wild card. I mean, its actions itself can be its worst enemy, particularly if it becomes, as we’ve seen in a couple -- starting a couple of years back, a lot more aggressive in the neighborhood, then actually is sowing a lot more support for continued U.S. -- a continued U.S. role in the region,” said Dr. Matthew Burrows, counselor to the National Intelligence Council at a press conference Monday morning.

Despite the findings about China’s economy, the report notes that the United States will remain a dominant power militarily with a strong economy as the boom in domestic natural gas production possibly helps lower costs for manufacturing and reduces unemployment.

“When you broaden your definition of power beyond just the basic ones of GDP [Gross Domestic Product], military spending, R&D [Research and Development] and GDP, and you look broader at what a lot of the other -- what a lot of people would call more softer powers, the U.S. still in 2030 stands head and shoulders above China, India and actually all other powers in the world,” Burrows said.

“The U.S. most likely will remain ‘first among equals’ among the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership role. More important than just its economic weight, the United States’ dominant role in international politics has derived from its preponderance across the board in both hard and soft power. Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of other countries, the ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana -- the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 -- is fast winding down,” The assessment noted.

Noting the abundant shale gas reserves in the United States the NIC report notes, “With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come. Increased oil production from difficult-to-access oil deposits would result in a substantial reduction in the US net trade balance and faster economic expansion.”

Among the reports other major trends and concerns noted are the growing demand for food and water with climate change exacerbating the need for these resources as the world’s population is expected to approach 8.3 billion people in 2030. The report also notes that the Middle East and South Asia could face increased instability as 2030 approaches.

“The Middle East’s trajectory will depend on its political landscape. On the one hand, if the Islamic Republic maintains power in Iran and is able to develop nuclear weapons, the Middle East will face a highly unstable future. On the other hand, the emergence of moderate, democratic governments or a breakthrough agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have enormously positive consequences,” the report noted.

While terrorism has been the main national security concern for the United States for over a decade the NIC report notes that Islamist terrorism is likely to decline but not completely disappear.

“The current Islamist phase of terrorism might end by 2030, but terrorism is unlikely to die completely. Many states might continue to use terrorist group out of a strong sense of insecurity, although the costs to a regime of directly supporting terrorists looks set to become even greater as international cooperation increases. With more widespread access to lethal and disruptive technologies, individuals who are experts in such niche areas as cyber systems might sell their services to the highest bidder, including terrorists who would focus less on causing mass casualties and more on creating widespread economic and financial disruptions.”

The report also notes that technology will help shape global-security, social and economic developments with increased productivity, automated technologies, precision agriculture and advancements in health care.

Noting the potential for major crisis the report notes the possibility of a severe pandemic as well as weapons of mass destruction and cyber attacks being carried out by non-state actors.

“Our work is invaluable to the administrations past and present. It helps to inform the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. It has helped to inform the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. And the policy planning staffs across the national security agencies are keenly interested in our work, and we know that senior policymakers are as well,” NIC Chairman Kojm said at the press conference.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fat Shaming of Middle America: Americans Too Big for Zara Clothes

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Spanish fashion chain Zara, now the world's largest retailer, is being accused of missing a "huge opportunity" in the United States by refusing to offer plus-size clothing to women.

Zara has beaten out major retailers like Forever 21 or H&M in the "fast fashion" market, which introduces a new line of fashion-forward, low cost clothing every two weeks. But one thing you won't find on their racks at the chain's stores across America is larger sizes. According to a recent New York Times article, that is no design flaw. Larger sizes cost more to make.

Across the globe there are nearly 1,700 Zara stores, but in the U.S, there are only a few dozen, and experts say Zara isn't expanding more in the U.S. because the country has a problem with expanding waistlines. More than one-third of U.S. adults -- 35.7 percent -- are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. France, by comparison had an 11.3 percent obesity rate in 2004, the lowest in Europe.


Fashion bloggers Shainna Tucker and Alissa Wilson, who are both size 18 and say they can usually fit into XL or 1XL, told ABC News that though they are frustrated that large retailers continue to "ignore" their sector and said "our money is as good as anyone else's," they add that it's something the fashion brand is actually able to get away with.

"They feel like they can," Wilson said. "As if plus-sized women are like aliens, we came from Mars [or] somewhere."

On a shopping trip to Zara, both Tucker and Wilson said that they weren't able to fit into the clothing.

Although Americans are in fact more obese than the populations of most foreign countries, unlike Zara, other European and Japanese retailers have seized the American waistline by the belt, and are making millions.

"Zara is missing a huge opportunity here in the United States," Adweek's Tony Chase said. "H&M and Uniqlo have done tremendous business here. Other retailers have done it here. I don't know why it would be an issue for Zara, and they have done business here."

Chase adds that the retailer already has 45 stores in the U.S., and that other retailers that do offer plus-sizes are on target to have more stores, and expand even further.

"I don't know why in this sector, the fast fashion sector, the retailer would opt to not be aggressive," he said. "Why are you even playing if you are not going to be aggressive in a market?"

Still, there are plenty of women that are just a size 6 or a size 8, but in Zara, they are large and extra large.

"If [a size 8 is] trying on an extra large -- imagine us," Wilson said. "We are going in there with our MacGyver eye – like, 'how can we make this work.'"

Tucker and Wilson have found some innovative ways to make the clothes at Zara work for them, by turning a skirt into a tube top, and even finding ways into the smaller sizes, like buying the store's tops because they are more likely to fit than a bottom.

They say that the brands' petite-sized clothing is no match for their quest for the perfect find.

"I still love Zara as a brand," Tucker said. "To be perfectly honest, if the options they have are still trendy, it is still a place to go look. I love their handbags and shoes. I still have a place somewhere in my heart for Zara."

When contacted by ABC News, a representative for Zara said that the retailer's "expansion pace in the U.S. market remains as planned, with several new openings scheduled for next year." The representative did not comment on ABC News' queries on sizing considerations within the U.S.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Seven Most Expensive Places to Live in the US

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You may have suspected it all along, but the data backs it up: Manhattan is, once again, the most expensive place to live in the United States.

That's according to an index of 300 cities published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), which found that the cost of living in the borough of Manhattan in New York City is 133.5 percent higher than the national average of 100, with an index score of 233.5.  Harlingen, Texas, is the least expensive city, with a cost of living 18.4 percent below the national average.

"The top 10 most expensive cities are pretty stable, they remain almost static," said Dean Frutiger, project manager for the Cost of Living Index project at C2ER.  "There's more change with the bottom."

The council has published the quarterly data for 45 years (previously, it was released by the government) and bases its information on the prices of 60 consumer goods and services in six categories: grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous items.

Not surprisingly, housing carries the largest weight, said Frutiger, noting that about 29 percent of our income is spent on housing.  That's the reason Washington, D.C., wound its way into the top 10 this year instead of hovering around the 11th or 12th spot.

"Housing prices have been hurt very badly by the recession.  However, D.C.'s housing has remained relatively strong because there's a built-in market in D.C.  You wouldn't believe the construction going on there relative to other cities," Frutiger said.

Here's a list of the seven cities with the highest cost of living out of 300 regions analyzed by C2ER:

1. Manhattan, New York City - Index Score: 233.5
2. Brooklyn, New York City - Index Score: 183.4
3. Honolulu - Index Score: 170.8
4. San Francisco - Index Score: 163.2
5. San Jose, California - Index Score: 156.5
6. Queens, New York City - Index Score: 151.4
7. Stamford, Connecticut - Index Score: 146.7

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fisker May Never Build Electric Cars in US

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The luxury carmaker Fisker Automotive continues to signal it could ditch plans to build its next generation hybrid electric vehicle in the United States, despite the nearly $200 million in Obama administration loan money it has already received.

Fisker received federal funds in part to help purchase a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware, where it predicted it would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble the clean-burning gas-electric family car, known as the Atlantic.

But company executives began hinting in February that it would reconsider that plan and look for a cheaper place to build the car after the Department of Energy froze the $529 million green-energy loan the company had received, and had been drawing on since 2010.

Fisker used the first $169 million in taxpayer funds to bring to market the Karma, a flashy $100,000 hybrid sports sedan that it assembles in Finland. After a series of delays and stumbles, the company announced it had sold its first 1,000 Karmas, bringing in $100 million in revenues so far this year. The sleek, high-end model has been well received by critics, and the company reported this week it has started to sell in Europe, and could soon be on sale in the Middle East.

Earlier this year, one of the Karmas stopped working in the middle of a Consumer Reports road test -- an embarrassing breakdown that Fisker later blamed on a faulty battery. The lithium-ion batteries became the subject of a recall, including for a defect that raised the risk of fires.

More recently, one of the high-priced cars went up in flames in the garage of its Texas owner. Fisker said the car was unplugged at the time of the fire and the battery pack was intact and still working after the blaze -- all clear indications, they said, that neither the car nor its battery had anything to do with the fire. A spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told ABC News the agency is "aware of the incident and is working with local authorities to evaluate whether there are any potential safety implications."

The U.S. Department of Energy has said little about its decision to freeze the balance of Fisker's loan, which was intended to pay for the development of the Atlantic. The department confirmed it hired a restructuring advisor to study the terms of the agreement and assess the performance of the company.

"The Department continues to review Fisker's financial and operating status and is working with the company to review its revised business plan, but no decisions have been made," an Energy Department official said in response to questions from ABC News.

Roger Ormisher, a Fisker spokesman, acknowledged that Fisker had failed to meet the government's milestones for the rollout of the Karma, and that those delays "put us into the process of negotiation with the DoE, who put further monies on hold until we could settle on mutually agreeable milestones" for the rollout of the next car.

It now appears that the company's decision about where to assemble the Atlantic could hinge on whether it will continue to receive federal support. ABC News asked Ormisher if Fisker still felt bound to manufacture the car in Delaware if federal funds were no longer available, or if the company would look for a cost-effective location in or outside the U.S. to build the car.

"If Fisker no longer gets government monies, then obviously we are in a place where other options are open to us and have to be considered from a business perspective," Ormisher said. "However, given the work that we have done at the plant in Delaware and the fact that we own it, it is still our primary option to consider."

Fisker appears to be preparing for the possibility it will need to move forward without further government support. The company has continued an aggressive push for outside investors.

"It is important to note that Fisker Automotive's success is not dependent on government money," Ormisher said. "We are primarily privately funded, having raised more than $1 billion in private equity financing since 2007."

One of the company's major backers is the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to published reports. The firm's partners include John Doerr, a billionaire tech mogul who serves on President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


9 Most Expensive American Cities

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What drives costs in the most expensive cities in the U.S.? The answer is housing. But the nationwide trend of falling home prices won't knock the city with the highest cost of living, New York, out of the top spot anytime soon.

According to an index of 306 cities published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the cost of living in the borough of Manhattan in New York City is 128 percent higher than the national average, with an index score of 228.

The council has published the quarterly data since 1968, after it was originally published by the government, and uses the prices of 60 consumer goods and services in six categories: grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous items.

Housing, which is weighted the heaviest in the analysis, created challenges for the data collection with its plummeting prices across the country.

"This is the worst economy the project has seen since 1968," said Dean Frutiger, project manager of the Cost of Living Index project at C2ER.

Frutiger said the project usually does not use new home prices below $365,000 for its data collection, but he has been seeing "prices that are far below that."

"The economy forces us to be pretty flexible," he said.

Here's a list of the nine cities with the highest cost of living out of the 306 regions analyzed by C2ER:

Manhattan (New York), N.Y.

While C2ER aims to collect uniform data about mortgage rates, housing prices and rental costs across the country, the densely populated area of Manhattan requires certain attention with its 1.6 million residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

C2ER works with local organizations to collect data on designated days so the information is as consistent as it can be across the country.

Frutiger said C2ER usually looks at homes with four or more bedrooms at about 2,400 square feet.

"In Texas, that's a closet, but that's going to be huge in Manhattan," he said.

For that reason, C2ER will have to pro-rate housing data from New York to compare to the other cities in the index.

Brooklyn (New York), N.Y.

The borough of Brooklyn creates similar challenges to that of Manhattan. With a population of 2,504,700, according to the U.S. Census, Brooklyn is the most populous of the New York's five boroughs. It is however, the second largest, which arguably may make housing more affordable than in Manhattan.

New York boroughs make it to the top of the list frequently, Frutiger said.

"I don't think anyone would be surprised looking at that," he said.

San Francisco, Calif.

The cost of living is 66.5 percent higher in San Francisco than the national average. While housing is more affordable in San Francisco than in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Golden Gate region's transportation costs and health care were slightly more expensive Brooklyn's, according to the data submitted to C2ER.

Honolulu, Hawaii

The cost of living in Honolulu is 65.8 percent higher than the national average, closely following San Francisco. While its housing costs are below that of San Francisco, Honolulu's five other categories -- its grocery items, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services -- were higher than in San Francisco.

San Jose, Calif.

San Jose may be a world away from San Francisco in terms of urban and suburban aesthetics, but it is just a one-hour drive to the south in good traffic. The heart of Silicon Valley had higher costs than San Francisco, according to the index, in the categories of utilities, transportation and healthcare.

Stamford, Conn.

A suburb of New York, Stamford has a cost of living 47.4 percent higher than the national average. Though finance professionals have been known to escape to Stamford for lower costs and more real estate space, the index indicates utilities costs higher in Stamford than in Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Queens (New York), N.Y.

The largest New York City borough by area, Queens is an expensive real estate market. Though housing prices are lower than in Brooklyn, Queens had higher costs than Brooklyn for grocery items, utilities, transportation and health care.

Orange County, Calif.

Encompassing the metropolitan area of Santa Ana, Anaheim and Irvine, Orange County's housing costs were higher than in Queens, New York. However, its utilities and healthcare costs were lower than those of Queens. Lacking an efficient public transit system, Orange County had transportation costs higher than those of Queens, San Francisco and San Jose.

Washington, D.C./Arlington/Alexandria, Va.

In previous years, Washington D.C. was not on the top ten list, but has become one of the most expensive cities in recent years, Frutiger said.

"The housing market in D.C. has remained very strong, unlike the rest of country," Frutiger said. "Housing can drive the index very easily."

Housing costs in Washington, D.C. were higher than in Orange County, but were lower than in the other cities of the top nine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Made in America, Please? China Shells Out for US Exports

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In China, there is a hunger for all things American -- and U.S. businesses, small and large, are taking note.

According to the U.S.-China Business Council, the Chinese spent $104 billion in U.S. exports in the last year -- up 542 percent from 10 years ago.

In China recently, Oscar Atkinson, a CEO at Silicone Arts Labs in Memphis, Tenn., visited with potential partners in Beijing and then went to a medical trade fair in Shenzhen, shopping around his company's new skin concealer product called Dermaflage.

"The Chinese consumer is just as image-conscious as the American consumer," he said. "We could have great success if we could find the right partner [and] overcome the regulatory hurdles, which are not significant. I'm looking forward to it."

Even U.S. giants like Pringles and Coca-Cola have figured out there's money to be made across the Pacific.

In Jackson, Tenn., a Pringles chip plant changes the flavors of its chips to soft-shell crab, grilled shrimp and seaweed before shipping to the Chinese middle class. Currently, one of every three Pringles cans goes overseas.

Skippy peanut butter, which is made in Little Rock, Ark., now ships to 70 countries. And Coca-Cola has created a beverage -- which tastes like a sweet version of orange juice -- to cater to the Chinese. The oranges come from the groves of Florida but are sold 11,000 miles away in Shanghai in a drink named Pulpy.

It's not just food. Mack's, the world's largest manufacturer of moldable, silicone earplugs, now provides labels for the Chinese market.

And most of the makeup in China bears U.S. labels -- which is why Atkinson was there, traveling from city to city making his sales pitch for Dermaflage.

He said the Shenzhen trade show was packed with people and international companies.

"It's really something to behold," he told ABC News.

But other U.S. entrepreneurs like Lion Brand Yarn in New Jersey have found another way to reach the masses in China -- through Export Now, an business that helps small- and medium-size U.S. businesses sell to Chinese consumers.

"Much like customers in other parts of the world, Chinese customers are often skeptical about the quality of Chinese-made products," Export Now said. "U.S. products...are getting more and more welcome in the local market."

The company, which sells everything from flip-flops to T-shirts and skateboards, said that 370 million Chinese had logged in to shop for U.S products on its website so far and that last year the site had sold $60 billion in U.S products.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Employees Working Remotely Are Seen Not as Productive

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ONTARIO, Canada) -- Most employees in the U.S. and Canada are open to flexible work arraignments, which includes working remotely, but a new survey shows a majority of bosses in the Great White North don’t think staffers are as productive when they work outside the office.

A survey commissioned by Microsoft Canada finds just 25 percent of Canadian bosses feel employees are more productive working remotely than inside the office.

In comparison, 55 percent of Canadian workers believe they are more productive when they work remotely.

Still, 42 percent of the bosses polled say they do support remote working arraignments.

The bosses surveyed also listed their complaints when it comes to dealing with employees who work remotely.  Here are the top pet peeves, along with the percentage of bosses who feel that way:

  • Inability to talk face-to-face, 49 percent.
  • Lack of focus, 26 percent.
  • Lack of accountability, 22 percent.
  • A belief employees are doing less work, 22 percent.

The Microsoft Canada survey involved 1,249 employees and bosses.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Companies Move Manufacturing Jobs Back to America

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A factory sits empty. It’s not in the Rust Belt, nor is it part of a manufacturing exodus that has cost the U.S. thousands of jobs. It is a factory in Shenzhen, China, and the American company that once employed Chinese workers is now packing up, coming home and bringing the jobs with them.

John Higgins, CEO of Neutex, an LED lighting company, said it will be cheaper to manufacture in Houston.

“I’ve gotten in fights, I’ve gotten in arguments with CEOs on planes telling me what an idiot I am for coming back,” Higgins told ABC News.

A decade ago, a factory worker in China made 58 cents an hour. Today, wages are more than $3.00 and there are predictions of $6.00 an hour by the year 2015. It may sound cheap, but some economists argue when you factor in productivity those wages add up.  The Boston Consulting Group argues the American worker combined with technology in the U.S. makes the American worker more than three times as productive as the Chinese worker.

“When you factor in that the American worker is nearly four times as productive, that math quickly adds ups,” said Hal Sirkin, senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

Master Lock in Milwaukee, Wis., sent as many as 1,000 jobs overseas in the 1990s and just brought back the first 100. Nat Labs is doing the same; it’s now making dental molds in Florida instead of China and hopes to hire 300 people.

The story is true in Detroit too, where GalaxE.Solutions, a custom software development company, decided to move in, taking over an office building that had been vacant for nearly a decade.

Detroit, of course, is much closer to the company’s American clients than are the workers in Bangalore, India.

Even though a worker in Bangalore makes $20,000 a year and an American worker doing the same job makes between $40,000 and $60,000, CEO Tim Bryan said once other costs are factored in, the economics balance out.

“This work is coming back to the U.S. There’s no stopping it,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


America Already No. 1 In International Tourist Spending

John Foxx/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- With a quintessential icon of American tourism, Disney World’s Cinderella Castle, rising prominently behind him, President Obama declared Thursday that his goal was to make America the “top tourist destination in the world.”

But in terms of tourism dollars spent, the United States is already No. 1.

According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourists spent more than $103 billion in the U.S. in 2010, nearly double the next highest-grossing country, Spain.

When it comes to the sheer number of visitors, though, America falls to second place, with France attracting about 17 million more tourists in 2010 than the U.S.

It is this number, a White House official told ABC’s Jake Tapper, that the president aims to improve by making it easier and faster for people from countries like China, India and Brazil to get tourist visas.

“This effort is about making sure that we are taking the right steps to position America to capitalize on the changing dynamics in international travel and tourism, where there is increased competition from other countries to attract travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes,” the official said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 


Obama at Disney: 'America Is Open for Business'

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Standing on Main Street, USA in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, President Obama on Thursday promoted the need for a strategy to encourage international tourism and boost job creation in the battleground state of Florida, and across the country, ahead of the 2012 election.

“The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work.  It's that simple,” the president said. “That's why we're all here today, to tell the world that America is open for business.”

Announcing his goal to make America the, “top tourist destination in the world,” Obama outlined plans to speed up the visa process and make it easier for tourists in fast-growing nations, such as China, India and Brazil, to travel to the U.S. Tourists from these countries currently spend more than $5,000 per trip, according to the White House, and one job is created for every 65 additional people who visit the U.S.

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The Walt Disney Company President and CEO Bob Iger told ABC News that streamlining the visa process has “enormous” potential to create jobs in the U.S.

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“Changing our visa policy and investing more in the process to make it easier for people to get visas and travel to the United States would be a great boon for the American economy because the international tourist comes, stays longer, spends money, and that creates jobs,” Iger said. The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

Obama’s trip to Florida comes before the January 31 presidential primary, though the White House claims the decision to make the announcement in the contested state was not political.
“We've got the best product to sell.  I mean, look at where we are,” the president said as he stood in front of Cinderella Castle. “We've got the most entertaining destinations in the world.”

Even the president seemed swept up by the, “most magical place on earth.”

“I confess, I am excited to see Mickey,” Obama said. “It's always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me.” While he was standing at a premier commercial destination, the president also emphasized the nation’s natural wonders and monuments.

Republicans, however, claim Thursday’s event marked yet another stop on the president’s campaign trail.

“We need to call this visit today what it actually is. It’s a campaign trip to a very important battleground state of Florida where the president, quite frankly, is doing very poorly in the polls at best,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich also pounced, apologizing to tourists for Obama's appearance, which, ironically, for security reasons shut down portions of the Magic Kingdom to the very tourists the president spoke of attracting. "I apologize to all those people who for months had planned to take their children and go to the Magic Kingdom," Gingrich reportedly said at a stump event in Beaufort, South Carolina. "But after all -- who are they, compared to Obama?"

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio