Happy Friday folks…here's the news—enjoy your weekend!
OBAMA/HOUSE GOP-Today an extraordinary example of just how difficult “bi-partisanship” will be to implement in the DC political world. The House GOP was gathered today in Baltimore, and President Obama dropped by for an on-camera chat. Jake Tapper, reporting for WORLD NEWS, tells us “the goal-the President and the loyal opposition would hold a serious discussion of issues and how to forge bipartisan consensus going forward. But it became in some ways an airing of grievances.” As you might imagine-health care reform was a particularly thorny topic. The President bemoaned Republican attacks on his health-care reform ideas that he felt were so fierce "you'd think that this thing was some kind of Bolshevik plot." Republican attendees fought back-Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz calling the President on his “transparency” by noting “When you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-Span, you didn’t.” Another House Republican member griped over the White House’s assertion that “Republicans have no ideas and no solutions”. “The President,” Jake Tapper noted, “appeared to grow increasingly frustrated”-Obama: “You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you’ve been telling your constituents is ‘this guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.” The President had no monopoly on feeling wronged today-Tapper reports that “Republicans pushed back particularly hard on the notion that they are a party of No, and a party of No Ideas.” There were other choice moments but I’m sure you’ve gotten a sense. Tapper opined in his WORLD NEWS piece that the event “at times seemed almost like group therapy”. Tapper notes “reactions were mixed” from Republicans as to whether the Obama visit “cleared the air”. But a former Republican congressman’s take on the meeting highlights the problems facing “change”-Tapper: “Former Republican congressman Tom Davis says the real issue is structural-Democrats control Congress by substantial margins and the President doesn’t want to hurt friends to win over opponents.” While Tapper noted that “the President and the White House feel good about the exchange” Tapper himself was more circumspect in his assessment of whether today’s meeting would lead to greater bi-partisan cooperation in Washington: “The President feels, aides say, that this does at least open the door. and he was sincere in his offer to meet with Republican leaders at least once a month. I have to say in an election year with an electorate this volatile, the Republicans seem reluctant to give the President any victories…and a bipartisan victory would be a victory. So it's tough to see how in an election year this process goes forward.”
ECONOMIC GROWTH: The U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, the second straight quarter of growth. Betsy Stark says it’s a big deal: “ This is a big number, a welcome surprise…and the clearest sign yet that an economic recovery was indeed taking hold at the end of last year.” President Obama was happy to take responsibility for the good economic news: “We received a report that affirms our progress and the swift and aggressive actions that made it possible.” The President was talking to workers at a small machine company in Chesapeake, Maryland, where he renewed his call for tax incentives to create jobs. As Betsy explains: “The key to a sustained recovery is jobs…and many employers remain reluctant to hire…waiting to see just how this recovery unfolds.” Most analysts doubt the gross domestic product will continue to expand at the fourth quarter rate, when exports surged 18 per cent and business spending climbed 13 per cent. The experts expect the rate this quarter will be closer to 2.5 to 3 percent. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
WINTER STORM-A winter storm packing snow and sleet continues its’ march eastward after leaving its’ mark on the southern Plains states. The storm left 13 inches of snow in the northern Texas Panhandle, where nearly all of Interstate 40 from the Texas-Oklahoma line to New Mexico was closed for part of the day. Heavy ice brought down electrical lines and trees limbs, leaving more than 179,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma without power Friday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Tonight into Saturday it will be the Southeastern states, with some parts of North Carolina and Virginia looking at more than a foot of snow.
TOYOTA REELING-The fallout from Toyota’s “sudden acceleration” problems continue. The company finally said Friday that details on a fix for the problem will be made available next week and should take about a month to implement. But damage has certainly been done.“Toyota’s image for quality,” Chris Bury noted on WORLD NEWS, “has taken an unprecedented pounding.” And there’s no sugar-coating this “crisis”. Harlan Loeb, a crisis management director, was quoted in Bury’s piece saying “the danger for Toyota here cannot be understated. How this is handled will define Toyota for many years to come.” Bury notes the company hasn’t started off on the best of footing: “It may not help that Toyota’s CEO, grandson of the company’s founder, kept quiet until today…or that the first response from headquarters came from a spokesman…wearing a mask. Not the public display of concern American consumers expect.” What to do going forward? Bury: “Crisis managers say Toyota should follow the lead of U.S. firms that have weathered such storms by putting top executives out front…explaining exactly how it will fix the problem.” Bury, in his close, tells us that “Toyota now plans full page ads explaining its fix for the accelerator failures. The question is: will that begin to repair its once-sterling reputation?”
JOHN EDWARDS/20-20-Reminder that 20/20 tonight features Bob Woodruff’s exclusive interview with Andrew Young, former long-time aide and friend to John Edwards, who details (among other things) the Senator’s efforts to hide the affair that he had and the baby it produced.
ABORTION SHOOTING-Guilty. A Kansas jury took just 37 minutes to deliberate before convicting Scott Roeder of murder in the shooting of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. The task was made much simpler for the jury when a judge rejected a defense appeal for a lesser conviction of voluntary manslaughter in a ruling yesterday. Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Missouri, had admitted his actions on the witness stand. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
PLANE DIVERTED/NO-FLY QUESTION-A Continental Airlines flight bound from Newark, New Jersey to Bogota, Colombia, was forced to divert to Jacksonville, Florida after concerns were raised that a passenger aboard may have been on the government’s no-fly watch list. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The passenger – one of 75 on board – was cleared by the FBI at Jacksonville International Airport and permitted to continue on the flight to Colombia, the Transportation Security Administration said.Dan Harris asked Pierre Thomas “why did they only figure out there was a possible problem passenger on board this plane after it took off?” Thomas: “occasionally you have some confusion between the airlines and government. What appears to have happened here is the airline thought that everyone on board that plane was fine. There was a name similar to someone who is on the no-fly list. When the plane gets in the air, the government looks at that list and goes over the manifest and says ‘oh this might be someone on the no fly list’. the discrepancy was cleared up before the plane was landed and ultimately everything was cleared.”
BANK CLOSURES- Regulators have shut down a big bank in California, along with two banks in Georgia and one each in Florida and Minnesota. That brings to 14 the number of bank failures so far in 2010 atop the 140 shuttered last year. The failure of Los Angeles-based First Regional Bank, with nearly $2.2 billion in assets and $1.9 billion in deposits, is expected to cost the federal deposit insurance fund $825.5 million. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the bank Friday as well as the others: First National Bank of Georgia, based in Carrollton, Ga.; Community Bank and Trust of Cornelia, Ga.; Florida Community Bank of Immokalee, Fla.; and Marshall Bank of Hallock, Minn. (AP)
RUNAWAY MUSLIM TEENAGER-An update on the Ohio Muslim turned Christian teenager who ran away from her parents fearing for her safety. Her parents have now rejected an earlier agreed-to deal meant to resolve the conflict. The following from AP: “Mohamed and Aysha Bary of New Albany, Ohio, withdrew their consent in a court filing Thursday that alleges misrepresentation in the plan approved Jan. 19. The Barys and their daughter, 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, had agreed she would stay in foster care and they would undergo counseling instead of going to trial to determine where the girl should live. The Barys now allege that Franklin County, (Ohio) Children Services are permitting Rifqa to communicate with a Florida pastor and his wife who helped her run away last summer.”
TRANQUILITY BASE-From AP: “A California preservation panel has taken the unusual step of naming the Apollo 11 moon landing site as a state historical resource. The vote Friday by the California State Historical Resources Commission is part of a five-state effort to have Tranquility Base become a national historic landmark and then a world heritage site. The designation applies to everything left there by astronauts Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, not the lunar surface. State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson says similar moves will be made in Texas, New Mexico, Georgia and Florida – the other states highly involved in the Apollo program. Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon after the lunar module Eagle landed on the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969.”
–NORTH KOREA CONFIRMS IT IS HOLDING AMERICAN CITIZEN- State Dept spokesman PJ Crowley says North Korea has now confirmed to the US directly that it is holding a 2nd US citizen. The notification was made through NK's UN mission in New York. Crowley said NK didn't provide a name or any details about how or when the individual was detained, so they're still going off Wednesday's statement. Swedish diplomats are still trying to gain access to the individual on behalf of the US. As for the 1st US citizen being held…a refresher-In late December North Korea said it was holding a U.S. citizen for illegally entering through the North Korea-China border. It did not identify the man, but the State Department has said he is Robert Park, an American missionary. (Kirit Radia)
–NOW THIS IS BIPARTISANSHIP- Dozens of states will begin selling both Mega Millions and Powerball tickets on Sunday, moving the U.S. a step closer to having a national lottery. By the time all the states sign on to the new system this spring, the nation's two biggest lotteries will be sold in 43 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (AP)