Hillary Clinton on the Crisis in Cairo: 'We Want to See Reforms'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration is trying to send a clear message to the Egyptian government as tens of thousands of demonstrators have flooded the streets of Cairo demanding change: "We want to see reforms."

"We are monitoring Egypt's military," Clinton told ABC News on Sunday. "They are demonstrating restraint, trying to differentiate between peaceful protestors -- who we support -- and potential looters and other criminal elements who are a danger to the Egyptian people."

"There is no discussion of cutting off aid and we are trying to convey a message that is clear -- no violence, no provocation that results in violence, and that we want to see these reforms so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed," she added.

On the topic of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's appointment of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his first vice president, Clinton said that this has been on a list of reforms the administration wanted to see in Egypt for some time. She said that it is the first of several concrete steps necessary for the country to achieve democratic reform.

"I'm hoping that the government will be able to maintain a peaceful relationship with peaceful protesters," she said. "We can see a national dialogue begin, where the government of Egypt must take concrete steps for democratic and economic reform. That is the best way to navigate through this."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Daley: Obama Open to Health Care Changes, Not Overhaul

Photo Courtesy - Luke Frazza/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House Chief of Staff William Daley said Sunday that President Obama is "open to changes" that could improve his health care law, but that the president would not want to completely revamp the new program.

Speaking on CBS's Face The Nation, Daley said Obama was not willing to go through the exhaustive legislative process that would be required for a complete transformation of the original legislation.

Daley, a former businessman, criticized the health care law before joining the White House, but said Sunday he took issue with the political nature of the debate, and not the contents of the bill.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already voted to repeal the health care reform legislation, but the Senate, controlled by Democrats, has said it will not reciprocate.

Bill Daley was most recently an executive at JPMorgan Chase, and also served as commerce secretary under President Clinton from 1997-2000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Conveying Specific Reform Ideas to Mubarak

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- While President Obama is publicly shying away from specifics, the Obama administration is behind-the-scenes conveying to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak some specific steps President Obama feels he needs to take, administration officials tell ABC News.

Mubarak needs to outline a “concrete process” for political and social progress, a senior administration official says, including:

a. Dialogue between the government and opposition groups as well as “Civil Society” (democratic reform groups, human rights organizations and so on) needs to begin immediately.

b. Freedom of information needs to be fully respected -- cell phone service is back but access to the internet is still sporadic. Al Jazeera has been shut down.

c. The emergency law, in place since 1967 -- which gives the government far-reaching powers at the expense of judicial review and civil liberties -- needs to be lifted.

The senior administration official says Mubarak needs to commence at once with democratic, economic and social reforms.
“They’re going to have to do that,” the official said. “Their people are fed up.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man Who Streaked Through Obama Rally Sentenced to Probation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) --  The New York man who was arrested for streaking at a Philadelphia rally for President Obama in October, has been sentenced to two years' probation, according to The Philadelphia Daily News.

Juan Rodriguez, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., stripped down to nothing but his black sneakers while Obama was speaking at a rally Oct. 10 in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on an Internet dare to win $1 million.

Rodriguez ran through the crowd with the name of a website written across his stomach while shouting the name of the site to the crowd, but did not receive his $1 million. Instead, he was arrested on charges of indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and open lewdness.

During a stipulated trial on Friday, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brandyn Hicks argued that Rodriguez caused a hazard when he streaked in front of a crowd with such tight security. He also brought up a 2004 offense in which Rodriguez obtained transportation without paying; Rodriguez explained that this was a case of jumping a subway turnstile as a teenager.

Hicks requested Municipal Judge Lydia Kirkland give Rodriguez three to 23 months in jail. Instead Kirkland gave him two years' reporting probation, to be served in New York.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Address: Slow Recovery, Lack of Jobs Bankrupting America

Photo Courtesy - Office of Sen. Ron Johnson(WASHINGTON) -- In the GOP’s weekly radio address, Wisconsin freshman Sen. Ron Johnson said slow economic activity and high unemployment is leading America into bankruptcy.

Johnson says huge deficits and inadequate job creation are not to blame for America being bankrupted, but the ever-expanding size, scope, and cost of government is.

“I hope the president and his allies in Congress accept a simple truth: big government is blocking job creation, not helping it,” Sen. Johnson said. “The sooner Washington ends its dependence on more spending, the sooner our economy will see real growth.”

Johnson described government regulations as having a detrimental effect on the economy, and said that these regulations are costing taxpayers precious time.

“The small business administration estimates that government regulations cost our economy $1.7 trillion annually,” Johnson said. “According to the IRS’ own figures, it costs taxpayers 6.1 billion hours to comply with tax code, just last year.”

The newly-elected senator said he brings the perspective of someone who has been creating jobs, and said he knows first-hand the consequences of government intrusion into peoples' lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kucinich Settles Olive Dispute for Undisclosed Sum

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich says that he has reached a settlement in his suit against four vendors that service a congressional cafeteria where he suffered a cracked tooth after he bit into a sandwich containing an unpitted olive in 2008.

Kucinich, who filed the suit Wednesday seeking $150,000 in damages, said the terms of the settlement are confidential, but he believes the defendants responded “fairly and reasonably.”

“The parties have exchanged information and after some investigation and discussion have resolved the matter for an amount all parties believe reflects the actual out-of-pocket expenses related to this incident,” Kucinich, D-Ohio, said. “I don't want to have to make another dental visit for a very long time.”

Kucinich, who has twice sought the Democratic nomination for president, says the injury required three dental surgeries over the course of two years and cost a substantial amount of money to rectify. According to Kucinich, his health insurance and dental insurance did not cover the expenses of the injury, which affected his “ability to chew food properly.”

A complaint filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Wednesday said that Kucinich suffered "serious and permanent dental and oral injuries" in the incident and asserted that the tainted sandwich wrap was “unwholesome and unfit for human consumption, in that it was represented to contain pitted olives, yet unknown to plaintiff contained an unpitted olive.”

Kucinich, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008, bought the sandwich from the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria on April 17, 2008, according to the complaint.

Before settling, Kucinich was seeking $150,000 in damages, plus interest and costs, from Restaurant Associates, which manages the cafeteria, and three other businesses that stock and help run the operation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Pushes SOTU Message of Innovation in Weekly Address

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Continuing to sell his State of the Union message of “out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our competitors” President Obama devotes his weekly address to sparking innovation in businesses across the country.
Taped Wednesday during his visit to the factory floor of Orion Energy System in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the president said that the energy-efficient lighting company is an example of changes he wants made in businesses to lead to hiring and economic growth.
“This business and others like it, are showing us the way forward,” Obama says, “We’ll win the future by being the best place on Earth to do business.”
The president says that sparking innovation at businesses across the country will spur new products and technologies.
“This is going to lead to good, new jobs.  And that’s how we win the future -- by unleashing the talent and ingenuity of American businesses and American workers in every corner of this country.”
Next week the administration, and the president on Wednesday with a trip to State College, Pennsylvania, will fan out to push the message of innovation.
“And in the coming days, I’ll be shining a spotlight on innovators across America who are relying on new technologies to create new jobs and opportunities in new industries,” the president previews.
Ending on a confident note, the president says, “This is the future. And it’s bright.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Dems Demand Gun Safety Hearings; Timing Inappropriate? 

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the recent Tucson shootings, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, called Friday on the chairman of the panel to hold hearings on gun safety, but the committee’s top Republican, Lamar Smith, says that the timing is “inappropriate” and could have a “prejudicing” effect on Jared Loughner’s ongoing criminal proceedings.

“We fully recognize and appreciate the sensitivity of the subjects raised by the recent tragedy in Tucson in which our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and 18 others were wounded or killed, including members of her staff, a Federal judge, and several other citizens,” the letter states. “However, we also believe it is not only possible, but imperative that Congress review the relevant issues in a civil and objective matter.”

Among the issues the group would like to review in the hearing are high-capacity ammunition magazines, mental health records of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and illegal drug use in the database.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, responded to the letter in a statement, saying that he believes it would be inappropriate to hold hearings so quickly after the Tucson shooting because it could interfere with Loughner’s prosecution.

“I appreciate the Minority’s interest in the NICS program.  And the Judiciary Committee should, at the appropriate time, undertake a review of the NICS system as a part of our oversight of Justice Department programs.  But to undertake such a review in the context of the tragic shooting in Arizona, as the Minority suggests, could have the unintended effect of prejudicing the ongoing criminal proceedings against Loughner in which his mental status is likely to be a key issue,” Smith states. “Jared Loughner has not been found to be mentally ill.  It is inappropriate for Congress to hold hearings on NICS that presume otherwise while Loughner is facing trial.”

Conyers, however, says that the shooting in Tucson only proves the urgency of the need to hold hearings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No Kidding! Salmon Is Serious Business, Alaska Dem Says

Photo Courtesy - Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich(WASHINGTON) -- In Washington even a light-hearted joke has serious ramifications. Days after President Obama made a quip about salmon in the State of the Union address, Alaska Democrat Mark Begich sent some of his state’s smoked salmon to the White House – along with a letter with a serious message.

On Tuesday night in his address to Congress, President Obama joked about salmon as part of his call for a more efficient government.

“The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked,” quipped Obama.

That line made Begich’s ears perk up – and his constituents’, too.

“Of the many subjects in your speech, perhaps none caught the attention of my constituents more than your reference to salmon: Alaska’s official state fish and a billion-dollar, sustainable part of our economy,” Begich said in his letter to the president.

“I’ll leave it up to scientists to explain the cycle of this great fish, which are spawned in fresh water and spend their lives at sea, and why managing these species throughout their range is not a duplication of government efforts, but a fulfillment of our responsibility to sustain this iconic species.”

“Instead, I’d rather you just had a taste. Here for you and your family is a sample of smoked wild salmon from one of Alaska’s leading seafood processors. As you noted, the rules for smoked salmon are somewhat more complicated, but the result is a product that is as healthy as it is delicious.”

“I think one taste of Alaska salmon also will convince you why salmon are best kept wild and not grown in a test tube as some are asking the government to consider.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Defends Health Care Bill: 'Granny Is Safe'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama defended the health care law yet again Friday, remarking the bill has been portrayed over the last 10 months as, “a job-crushing, granny-threatening, budget-busting monstrosity,” by opponents who wish to repeal the bill.

“That just doesn't match up to the reality,” Obama said at the Families USA’s 16th Annual Health Conference in Washington, D.C., “I can report that Granny is safe.  In fact, grandma's Medicare is stronger than ever.”

As he did in the State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday, the president said while he is open to “tweaks” in the Affordable Care Act, one thing he is not open to is repeal, as some Republicans have been pushing.

“The Congressional Budget Office have said that repealing this law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit over the next decade, and another trillion dollars to our deficit in the decade after that. They're not just making this up.  And what's more, repeal would send middle-class premiums up, would force large employers to pay that extra two-to-$3,000 per worker, and shift control of your health care right back to the insurance companies.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio