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Wednesday
Mar092011

Wisc. Senate Votes to Strip Public Employees of Collective Bargaining Rights

Mark Hirsch/Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- In a 18-1 vote, the Wisconsin Senate Republicans approved a bill Wednesday night to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. The vote took place with no Democrats present. 

By stripping the collective bargaining item from the budget repair bill, they could bypass the requirement for a quorum (20 senators).

The Senate's vote on the issue was put on hold three weeks ago when 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois to stop state lawmakers from passing the bill.

Governor Scott Walker is expected to sign the bill soon, which will no longer make it possible for public employees to negotiate benefits items such as pensions and group health care plans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Obama Raises $1 Million for Dems at Boston Fundraiser

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- After making his pitch for winning the future at an inner-city school in Boston, President Obama lent his presence to a fundraiser expected to generate $1 million for congressional Democrats at the city's Museum of Fine Arts.

At the $5,000 a plate dinner ($50,000 for couples to get the VIP treatment), Obama told a group of 152 donors that under his leadership -- and with the help of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- “we didn’t just rescue the economy, we put it on the strongest footing for the future."

Though TV cameras were excluded from the event, a pool of several reporters was permitted to listen to Obama's campaign-style, rally-the-Democrats remarks and distribute notes.

Obama said his administration has “had to make a series of quick decisions, and often times unpopular decisions."

“Not only were we able to yank this economy out of the recession ... Not only were we able to get this economy going again, that in the last 15 months we’ve seen the economy add jobs…but under Nancy’s leadership we were able to achieve historic health care legislation that over the last 15, 20 years will end up benefiting millions of families across the country," Obama said, adding that, “along the way we saved the auto industry and a few other things” -- a quip that drew laughter.

“There will be cases when Democratic constituencies aren’t happy with us because we have to rationalize government,” Obama said, responding to criticism about some of his own cuts.

But he says that government will have to continue investing in education in order to make it possible for kids to receive a good tech-based education.

Obama also trumpeted the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military, his clean energy initiatives and defended his plans in Afghanistan.

Pelosi attended the event as did Vicky Kennedy and Massachusetts Rep Ed Markey, who called Obama the “true fulfillment” of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for America.

Before he made his remarks, White House representatives said Obama met briefly with members of the Boston Celtics basketball organization.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar092011

'Washington Post' Political Correspondent David Broder Dies

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Political writer David Broder has died at 81. The longtime Washington Post columnist, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Watergate story, had diabetes and died Wednesday in Arlington, Virginia.

Mr. Broder was often called the dean of the Washington press corps -- a nickname he earned in his late 30s in part for the clarity of his political analysis and the influence he wielded as a perceptive thinker on political trends in his books, articles and television appearances.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who knew Broder as a fellow journalist and also from Stephanopoulos' days as a White House spokesman, says Broder played it straight: "He was the definition of a reporter's reporter who always wanted to start out with what he could find out...With the facts, with the questions." 

In 1973, Mr. Broder and the Post each won Pulitzers for their coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard M. Nixon's resignation. Mr. Broder's honor was for explaining the importance of the Watergate fallout in a clear and compelling way. "Those were the glory days of the Washington Post and David Broder was already the lead of their political team," added Stephanopoulos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Obama Formally Nominates Locke for U.S. Ambassador to China

George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama made it official Wednesday morning in the Diplomatic Reception Room, formally nominating Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next US Ambassador to China

Flanked by Locke, Secretary of State Clinton, and Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the president first said a few words first about his outgoing Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, a possible Republican White House contender in 2012. 

"During his tenure, Jon has been an outstanding advocate for this administration and for this country," Obama said, "and has helped to strengthen our critical relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese people.  And so I am very grateful for his service."

President Obama highlighted Secretary Locke's family ties to China – calling him the "grandson of a Chinese immigrant who went on to live the American dream." Locke's grandfather left China on a steamboat bound for Washington State where he worked as a domestic servant in exchange for English lessons.

"A century later, his grandson will return to China as America's top diplomat," Obama noted of the symbolism of his nomination.

"I'm going back to the birthplace of my grandfather, my father, my mom, and her side of the family, and I'll be doing so as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where I was born and raised," Secretary Locke said.

The president also emphasized Locke's work in his two years as the Commerce Secretary, advocating for American businesses and exports around the world. He said this would be a role Mr. Locke would continue to play in his new job.

"He's earned the trust of business leaders across America by listening to their concerns, making it easier for them to export their goods abroad, and dramatically reducing the time it takes to get a patent. When he's in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China's top leaders."

Locke said he is eager to manage "one of America's most critical and complex diplomatic, economic, and strategic relationships," as he takes on the new challenge.

The president singled out Locke's family -- his wife and three kids -- who will be packing up shortly to move to Beijing. The president said he was commiserating with the family's 14-year-old daughter about having to move around a lot as a child.

"I assured her it would be great 10 years from now. Right now it's probably a drag," the president joked.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Newt Gingrich Speaks of Plagued Past

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich has an explanation for his well-publicized personal failings: he worked too hard.

In an interview Tuesday night with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich offered his most extensive comments yet on a tumultuous personal life that includes three marriages and an affair with a Congressional aide (now his wife) who is 23 years his junior.

Sounding a little like newly minted college graduate asked by a job interviewer to name his greatest weakness, Gingrich says, is that his great passion for his country caused him to work too hard.

"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate," Gingrich told CBN's David Brody.

More: "And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situational ethics, I was doing things that were wrong and yet I was doing them."

Gingrich says he has asked for and received God's forgiveness.

"I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts, hope there's a forgiving God," he said. "Somebody once said that when we are young, we seek justice, but as we get older, we seek mercy. There's something to that, I think."

On a different note, answers.com advises interviewees to never say "I work too hard" when asked about weaknesses: "It's a cliche, completely transparent, and rarely makes the desired impression," according to the website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Rep. Holt: Watson May Not Have Been Trying Hard, but 'Jeopardy!' Highlights ‘Thoughtful Research’

holt[dot]house[dot]gov(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) drew headlines last week as something of a savior for humanity, with his victory over IBM supercomputer Watson in an exhibition round of Jeopardy!

Holt, a five-time Jeopardy! champion back when that was the limit, pointed out on ABC's "Top Line" Wednesday that it was only a demonstration game, and that Watson may not have been trying its hardest: "I'm not sure that Watson wasn't operating on low voltage that night."

But there's a larger point to the experiment, he said: "I was there for a purpose, and so was IBM," said Holt. "The reason they spent five years developing a computer to play a game was to demonstrate what goes into research. And that's why I was there, too."

The technological prowess displayed by Watson, Holt said, shows the importance of public investment in research.

"What's happening now in Congress, we saw this with the HR 1 spending bill for the rest of this year that passed the House of Representatives -- they just want to cut everything, regardless of whether it's going to produce jobs in the future, regardless of whether it's going to produce jobs in the short run," he said. "The reason I played this game was to highlight what comes from thoughtful research."

Watson, he said, is a "tool" that should be celebrated: "It's a tool that has been built by human ingenuity, and that's the kind of thing we want to invest in. That's what builds our economy, that is what has made America great over the decades. And it's true."

"It's science education that underlies that. So we mustn't either vilify teachers or cut the very source of our innovation which is the education in our schools."

We also got Holt's take on some college basketball news -- Holt represents Princeton, N.J., in Congress, and is a former director at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

His call in Saturday's playoff, to determine who will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament? "Tigers. They beat Penn yesterday. They're on their way. I don't know how they'll do against Duke in the Final Four, but watch Princeton."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Obamas Use Facebook To Preview Bullying Prevention Conference

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and the first lady released a video on Facebook Wednesday, in advance of the conference on bullying prevention to be held Thursday.

The Obamas will convene students, parents, teachers, and others to the White House for the conference, which will "bring together communities from across the nation who have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it," the White House said in announcing the summit.

"We want you to be a part of it," President Obama says in the Facebook video of Thursday’s meetings.

"We'll be talking with students, teachers, and parents about how to stop bullying and the responsibility each of us has to make sure our children treat eachother with respect," Mrs. Obama says. "It's something that we care about not only as president and first lady, but also as parents. It's tough enough being a kid today, and our children deserve a chance to learn and grow without constantly being picked on, made fun of, or worse."

The president says that for a long time bullying was treated "as an unavoidable part of growing up," but notes that more and more the harmful effects can be seen.

"The good news is that there's a growing movement, led by young people themselves, to make our schools and communities places where no one is made to feel alone, or afraid for being different; where all of our children can thrive," he says. "They understand that while technology has allowed us to connect as never before -- and that's a good thing -- it shouldn't affect how we treat each other.”

People at home are also being asked to participate in the conversation online.  The Obamas direct people in their message to go to StopBullying.gov or to go to Facebook for updates on the summit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Rep. Peter King to Examine Threat of Radical Islam at Home

PeteKing [dot] House [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- The chairman of a key congressional committee is scheduled this week to examine the apparent threat posed by homegrown Islamic radicals.

But some members of the Muslim community fear that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is on a witch hunt, holding hearings that recall the days of Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communism crusade.

Hundreds of people in New York City this weekend protested the hearing entitled "Radicalization in the American Muslim community," which is scheduled for Thursday.

"Peter King, we are on to your game, dividing people and using fear and intolerance," one female protester said.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress who will be testifying at the hearing, said, "These hearings, as presently organized, won't do any good.  And they may well do a lot of damage."

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, "These hearings have the potential to demonize Islam."

But King has said the goal of the House Committee on Homeland Security is not to target all Muslims but to deal with the reality of terrorism.

Forty-nine suspects have been charged with acts of international terrorism in the past two years.  They are nearly all Muslim men, typically in their 20 or 30s.  The charges include plotting to blow up a car in Times Square, targeting the New York City subway and the shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.

And there have been numerous stings, including one involving New York City men who allegedly wanted to use a shoulder-fired missile to shoot down U.S. military planes.  Other stings involved young men radicalized on the Internet.

The members of the Muslim community believe it is being unfairly maligned because of the actions of a few.  Muslim leaders have also pointed out that a number of terrorism suspects were arrested based on tips from their community. Wednesday on Good Morning America, Rep. King countered that claim saying there have been documented cases in which Islamic leaders in New York and elsewhere have advised followers not to help law enforcement personnel -- and in at least one case, the leader of a mosque warned a follower the FBI was investigating him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Sarah Palin Again Schedules Event on Day of GOP Debate

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(DENVER) -- For the second time this year, Sarah Palin has scheduled an event on the same day as the first GOP presidential debate.

Instead of appearing with other presidential hopefuls in California on May 2, Palin is now set to speak at a fundraiser in Colorado on the same day.  As first reported by the Denver Post, Palin will headline the "Tribute to the Troops with Sarah Palin" at Colorado Christian University.

The speech falls on the day when candidates will participate in the first debate in the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

This is not the first time that Palin, who continues to flirt with the idea of running in 2012, has scheduled a public engagement in Colorado on the day of this debate.  Last month, the former Alaska governor signed on to be the keynote speaker at a fundraising event for soldiers and veterans in Denver on May 2.  The day after the announcement, however, the event was cancelled due to an “onslaught of negative feedback.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Ben Affleck Advocates for Increased Aid to Congo

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Advocates and government officials joined actor and director Ben Affleck Tuesday in an impassioned plea to Congress for increased government aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“In this time of heightened concern over federal spending some suggest that austerity demands we turn a blind eye to the crisis in Congo,” Affleck said to a full crowd at Tuesday’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.  “I believe nothing could be more misguided.  It would simply be a penny wise and a pound foolish to allow the Congo to again fall into a state of crisis or further humanitarian chaos.”

The Academy Award-winner has teamed up with Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to highlight the intense suffering of the Congolese people.

After visiting the country multiple times, Affleck founded the non-profit Eastern Congo Initiative to help establish schools and bring medical assistance to victims of sexual abuse.  The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world and had been plagued by political turmoil since the Rwandan civil war spilled over its borders in 1996.  More than 1,100 women and girls are raped every month, 50 percent of whom do not have access to medical treatment, according to the State Department.

“Our moral compass is fixed.  Our sunrise, our East as a nation, even when we have failed, has always pointed us toward what's right,” Affleck said.  “We must be able to look ourselves in the eye and say that we did what our principles demanded.  We helped democracy emerge in a place where tragedy was the alternative.”

Affleck urged the U.S. to increase its involvement in the Congo ahead of November’s elections.

“The path to stability in today's Congo requires fostering stable elections and preventing another disaster that could easily require hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance,” he said.  “I humbly suggest that the U.S. government take a hard look at its current commitment and find a way to do more.”

The panelists called for Congress to appoint a special envoy to coordinate the efforts of non-governmental organizations and government agencies working in the country.  Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, who also testified, said the United States gives $6.8 billion in assistance to the war-torn nation.  Non-governmental organizations account for 85% of that aid.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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