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Wednesday
Jan192011

Ala. Gov. Robert Bentley Apologizes for Christian-Only Comments

Governor dot Alabama dot gov(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama met with religious leaders and issued an apology Wednesday for saying after his inauguration Monday that he wished non-Christians would become his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Several civil rights groups said the comments Bentley, a Republican, made at church service following his inauguration were offensive and tantamount to proselytizing.

"If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way," Bentley said outside his office at the state capitol.

Bentley was supposed to meet with members of the Birmingham Jewish Federation later this month, but moved the meeting to Wednesday and included leaders of other religious groups.

Addressing a crowd Monday at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church in Montgomery, the new governor said, " Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

Following the initial comments many civil right groups objected to the comments and called on the governor to apologize.

"It is stunning to me that he'd make those remarks. It's distressing because of the suggestion that he feels that people who aren't Christian are not entitled to love and respect," said Bill Nigut, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Following the meeting, Montgomery Rabbi Elliot Stevens said, "I do not think the governor meant anything negative," according to WSFA-TV.

"The governor had intended no offense by his remarks. He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike," a spokesman for the governor told ABC News following the meeting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Jan192011

Supreme Court: NASA Can Ask Employees about Drug Use

Photo Courtesy - NASA(WASHINGTON) – The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the government's right to ask federal contract employees about past drug use.

Twenty-eight employees of the California Institute of Technology, who work at a multi-billion dollar research and development facility owned by NASA, filed suit against the government arguing that its background checks violate their constitutional right to privacy.

In an 8-0 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court said that the background check was constitutional because of the government's interest as an "employer and proprietor" to manage its internal operations.
 
"The Government has good reason to ask employees about their recent illegal-drug use," Justice Alito wrote. “Like any employer, the Government is entitled to have its projects staffed by reliable, law-abiding persons who will efficiently and effectively discharge their duties."

It was only in 2007 that NASA changed its policy and required the contractors -- many of whom had worked for years in the facility -- to undergo the same background checks as federal employees.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

Democrat Compares Republicans to Nazis

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The newfound civility didn’t last long.  Political rhetoric in Congress doesn’t get much nastier than the words of one House Democrat during the debate on repealing the health care law.

In an extraordinary outburst on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) invoked the Holocaust to attack Republicans on health care and compared rhetoric on the issue to the work of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it.  Like blood libel.  That's the same kind of thing. And Congressman Cohen didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it -- believed it and you have the Holocaust.  We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.  Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," Cohen said.

Cohen made his comments late Tuesday night, but they have attracted no attention because his speech was made to a virtually empty House chamber with no reporters around to watch.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

New RNC Chairman Taps GOP Vets To Run Transition Team

Photo Courtesy - Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Less than a week after taking over as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus has named two powerful GOP operatives, Ed Gillespie and Nick Ayers, to lead his transition effort.

Gillespie, who served as RNC chairman from 2003-2004, and Ayers, who most recently served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will help Priebus navigate a 30-day transition period.

Ayers will serve as transition director and Gillespie, a former counselor to President George W. Bush, will be chairman. Both are veterans of Republican politics.

“When I ran for Chairman of the RNC, I promised to make changes and begin the outreach process with key Republican donors,” Priebus said in a statement on Wednesday. “Today, I am honored to announce the team that will help ensure Republicans have a top-notch ground game in the 2012 election cycle. Together, we will build on our success in 2010 and take back the White House and the United States Senate.”

Priebus also appointed Wisconsin RNC National Committeeman Steve King, Mississippi National Committeeman Henry Barbour and Montana National Committeewoman Betti Hill to RNC’s Executive Committee. Barbour helped orchestrate Priebus' successful campaign for chairman.

The transition effort signals that Priebus is attempting to make good on his promise to clean house at the RNC following his election last week after seven rounds of balloting at the committee’s winter meeting.

Gillespie said that he would focus on helping Priebus “reach out to GOP donors and grassroots in the coming weeks and months." It's a point of particular concern for a party that is staring at debt in the $20 million range and a deflated major donor program.

The new chairman also named a 20-member transition team that includes RNC leaders and committee members from across the country.

Priebus prevailed over the controversial incumbent party chairman, Michael Steele, and defeated four other high-profile contenders last Friday.

“We have to get on track, and together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012 -- together unified as a committee,” he said last week. “I want you to know that I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you, and I'm going to start working right now as your chairman.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

Clinton on Cheney’s Terror Comments: 'Unfortunate Language'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Almost biting her tongue, Hillary Clinton told ABC News Wednesday that Dick Cheney should not worry about President Obama’s “absolute commitment” to fighting terrorism.

“I was certainly taken aback by it. I don't know how anyone who was in the White House, before or now, could doubt any president's absolute commitment to stopping the terrorists from attacking us,” the secretary of state said.

In an interview with NBC News the former vice president said he hopes Obama has the same level of commitment to preventing another 9/11 as the Bush administration did, but “we might never find out until there's actually another attack."

Clinton said she “completely” rejected Cheney’s “unfortunate language,” adding that President Obama’s “entire team is single-mindedly focused” on preventing another terror attack.

“We've had some successes in preventing terrorists from you know, wreaking havoc on our country and working with our friends and allies around the world.  I don't think it's useful to make such a statement,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

President Obama Welcomes Chinese President Hu to White House

President Obama meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Seoul, South Korea. Photo Courtesy - The White House/Samantha Appleton(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama formally welcomes Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House Wednesday, even as the administration acknowledges that distrust still remains between the United States and China.

This is the first time in history that a Nobel Peace Prize winning U.S. President has rolled out the red carpet for the leader of a country who has a different Nobel Peace Laureate in jail -- begging the question for some observers: does the U.S. need China more than China needs us?

Tuesday night's airport arrival ceremony, a rare honor for a visiting foreign leader, featured Vice President Joe Biden personally greeting the Chinese president on the tarmac.  The ceremony marked the start of Hu's two-day visit that includes an Oval Office meeting with Obama and a joint press conference, a meeting with U.S and Chinese business leaders and an elaborate state dinner, only the third such gathering in Obama's presidency.

No major breakthroughs are expected.  Asian experts said that one key focus for the two presidents is simply mending fences.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

Obama to Announce Center for Nuclear Security in China

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is expected to announce Wednesday an agreement between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China to establish a “Center of Excellence” in China to promote effective nuclear security and safeguards, ABC News has confirmed from Obama administration sources.

The Center of Excellence, to be jointly financed, will be a place where technical information can be shared, training courses can be offered, and collaborations can be promoted to “enhance nuclear security in China and throughout Asia,” the White House says.  “It will also help meet the training needs for China’s expanding nuclear sector, and promote nuclear security best practices throughout the region.”

The White House says that the agreement will allow the Pentagon and the National Nuclear Security Administration -- which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy -- to work with officials of the China Atomic Energy Authority to develop a central site “for training in all aspects of nuclear security.”

A memorandum of understanding has already been signed by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and CAEA Chairman Chen Qiufa, who also serves as Director of China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense as well as Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

Analysts: Rapidly Changing Senate Landscape Favors GOP in 2012

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 112th Congress isn't even three weeks old yet, but already the focus is turning to the 2012 elections as a slew of key senators announce their plans.

A source told ABC News Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with the Democrats, will announce Wednesday afternoon that he will retire.  On Tuesday, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said he will retire, the first Senate Democrat to decide not to run for re-election, but surely not the last.  Meanwhile, on the Republican side Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said last week that she will leave, but Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana has said he will seek re-election.

It all makes for a rapidly changing 2012 landscape with control of the Senate up for grabs.

In the aftermath of Conrad's announcement, Republicans sounded even more confident that they can wrestle the Senate from Democratic hands 22 months from now.  Just last fall, Republican John Hoeven easily won North Dakota's other Senate seat which had been held by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who also chose to retire.

"With yet a second member of the Senate Democrat caucus preparing for retirement within a 24 hour period, all of us are left to wonder how many more Democrats may follow in their footsteps," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

In all, a whopping 23 Senate seats currently held by Democrats will be decided by voters in two years.  By contrast, only 10 Republican seats are in play.  After the midterm "shellacking" that saw the GOP win control of the House of Representatives, Senate Democrats appear to have cause for concern.

The Democrats' majority in the upper chamber of Congress has already shrunk from 59 seats to 53, including two independents: Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders.  That means the GOP only needs to win four seats to wrest control of the Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

China a Friend or Foe? Question Better Answered in Future, Clinton Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday morning shows that 69 percent of Americans consider China an economic threat, and they’re divided on the question of whether China is a friend or foe.

When asked whether China is on the United States' side, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News, “We think that we'll be able better to answer such a question as we move forward.”

"My hope is that we have a normal relationship, a very positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship where in some areas we are going to compete, there's no doubt about that,” she added.  “But in many areas we're going to cooperate.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer accused China of seeking an unfair economic advantage by manipulating their currency and has proposed legislation that would sanction the country unless they stop.

Clinton agreed that the friendly yet competitive relationship should not include China having “their thumb or their fist on the scale.”

“That's why we continue to raise issues of currency…of the failure to protect intellectual property...I think it's important to realize that we're going to stand up for our values and our interest and our security; they're going to stand up for theirs as they see it,” she said.

Clinton called it an “ongoing discussion” and, despite the high profile state visit, said the U.S. will not “be able to change [China’s] behavior overnight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

House Speaker Boehner Skips State Dinner for Chinese President

Photo Courtesy - The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- China's President Hu Jintao didn't even have time to take off his coat upon arriving in the U.S. Tuesday before there was controversy brewing.

The meetings scheduled this week between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart are considered crucial by administration officials, given that Beijing seems to have had the upper hand in relations between the two countries since Obama took office.

While Obama and Hu are expected to broker business deals to assist each other's economies, it's unlikely Hu will abide by U.S. demands that China raise its artificially low currency, which has kept Chinese goods cheap at the expense of American exports.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner threw the first curveball of Hu's four-day visit by skipping Tuesday night's state dinner in Hu's honor.

A spokesman for Boehner said the House speaker would make up for his no-show by holding "a substantive meeting with President Hu later this week."

Still, the snub was bound to irk the White House, which has been criticized by Republicans for hosting a dinner while China continues to act slowly on allowing basic human rights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio