First it was health care, now Democrats and Republicans are facing off on financial reform…the First Lady is in Mexico City…and rescuers in China are searching for survivors from a massive earthquake…I'm Marisa Bramwell and here's the latest from the ABC News desk:
FINANCIAL REFORM: The fight over financial regulatory reform is heating up, with bipartisan leaders sparring over what should be included in a bill to regulate how business on Wall Street is conducted. “The centerpiece of the bill is a new consumer protection agency designed to protect consumers from abusive practices by the financial industry,” Jon Karl reports. The bill will also “give the government authority to take over failing banks, put them into bankruptcy and sell-off their assets” Karl says, and also regulate the derivatives market. But as Jake Tapper reported tonight, Republicans argue the Dems’ bill paves the way for future bank bailouts, and some suggest protections should be included to avoid another round of tax payer-financed bailouts.
CHINA QUAKE: Rescuers are digging through the rubble of a remote community in western China where a series of earthquakes left hundreds dead and thousands injured. The initial quake registered magnitude 6.9. Our Clarissa Ward, in Beijing, fills us in: “It was 749am when the quake hit this remote community of farmers and yak herders…followed by three strong aftershocks – the largest a 6.3. In the town of Jiegu, near the epicenter, more than 85 percent of the buildings have collapsed…most made simply of wood and mud, not designed to withstand a strong quake.” To make things even worse, getting to the earthquake site, according to Clarissa, is something of a nightmare: “The government here has deployed 5,000 soldiers, firefighters and medical workers to help relief efforts. But reaching the devastated area is challenging. Yushu County is mountainous and remote – some 13,000 feet above sea level and 500 miles from the provincial capital. That’s the distance from Chicago to Memphis. The roads are primitive and many have been damaged. On a good day it can take 12 hours to drive there.” In the meantime, those who have reached the scene continue to look for survivors, some using shovels, others using their bare hands to dig – in below freezing temperatures. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
FIRST LADY IN MEXICO: Michelle Obama was serenaded by public school kids on her first visit to Mexico today. The First Lady is there to launch an international effort to engage young people everywhere and encourage them to become leaders and problem solvers in their communities. At an elementary school in the capital city, dozens of students welcomed Mrs. Obama with a colorful show that included one group dressed as Aztecs, performing a Mexican ritual dance. Our Yunji de Nies went along: “Michelle Obama got the warmest welcome today from a gaggle of squealing Mexican school children. She joined them in their calisthenics, encouraging physical activity much the way she does with children back home.” The First Lady also addressed some 2,000 invited high school and college students gathered in an outdoor plaza. She reminded them that it won’t be long before they will be helping to solve everything from poverty to climate change: “We’ll need the passion, the daring and the creativity of every last one of you, “ she told the group. Obama didn’t mention the drug problems plaguing Mexico but that subject did come up during a meeting she had with Mexico’s First lady Margarita Zavala at the presidential residence. The two discussed drug addiction treatment and early prevention programs, according to a statement released by Mrs. Obama’s office. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
MINE DISASTER: West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has ordered inspections for the state’s 200 coal mines after an explosion killed 29 mine workers last week. Governor Manchin also requested the mines cease production on Friday to honor the memory of the lost miners. On Thursday the President will be briefed by Secretary Solis and Mine Safety and Health Administrator Joe Main on their early assessment on what may have caused the accident.
HOLDER TESTIMONY: During testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said New York City is still an option as a possible venue for the trial against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad. Holder also clarified his statements about Bin Laden, saying it was the government’s policy to capture or kill the leader of al Qaeda, but that intelligence suggests he would rather be killed than captured alive by U.S. forces.
IRAQ TERROR PLOT: Iraqi security forces foiled an al-Qaeda plot in which militants would hijack planes and fly them into Baghdad’s holy landmarks.