Washington Extra

July 21, 2010

The special relationship has been upgraded. It is now “extraordinary”, “truly special” and “absolutely essential”.

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, both repeatedly calling each other by their first names, were at pains today to demonstrate the warmth of ties between their two nations, despite an embarrassing row about BP, the oil spill and Lockerbie.

Joking about the temperature beer should be served and the tidiness of their children’s bedrooms, the two men, both left-handers we now realize, clearly wanted to show they enjoyed a personal rapport. A deliberate contrast to the businesslike tone of the relationship with Gordon Brown?

In the substance too, there was no argument that BP needs to pay for the oil spill but should not be forced out of business, and “violent agreement” that the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison last year was plain wrong.

Elsewhere today, evidence that getting involved in legislation to curb Wall Street excesses might not be a huge vote winner come November.

A Reuters/IPSOS poll showed Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a chief architect of the financial regulation overhaul, trailing Republican candidate John Boozman, by 19 points, by 54 percent to 35.

For more on Cameron’s visit, check out Matt Spetalnick and Matt Falloon’s story, Steve Holland’s analysis on Barack and David, Toby Zakaria’s blog on beer diplomacy.

For the Arkansas poll, click here.

Here are our other top stories from today:

Why Lockerbie bomber’s release caused an uproar

Last year’s release of a Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and what role BP had in his case cast a shadow on David Cameron’s talks with Barack Obama. BP has drawn close scrutiny from U.S. politicians, angry over oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion and leak at one of the company’s offshore wells.

For some questions and answers about the case, click here.

US Senate breaks deadlock on jobless benefits

The Senate cleared the way to extend long-term unemployment benefits, breaking a partisan stalemate that has caused 2.5 million jobless Americans to lose the weekly checks that help them stay afloat. Minutes after he was sworn in, Senator Carte Goodwin cast his first vote to give his fellow Democrats the 60 votes they needed to overcome a Republican procedural hurdle and move toward restoring the lapsed jobless benefits.

For the full story by Andy Sullivan click here.

Climate and energy bill options in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to forge energy legislation that may affect everything from offshore drilling to renewable energy, but it is uncertain whether it will be completed by year’s end as President Barack Obama wants.  Unless Reid can muster more support, including from fellow Democrats, the measure will not include even a scaled-back cap on emissions blamed for global warming.

For more of this story by Tim Gardner visit here.

J&J troubles could boost generic drugmaker Perrigo

Johnson & Johnson’s deepening recall troubles — a dark spot on the drugmaker’s sterling reputation — may prove to be a bright spot for a pint-sized competitor.  Analysts are predicting a sales boost for smaller rival Perrigo Co, whose widely available store-brand alternatives are filling the gap left by Children’s Tylenol and other children’s medicines J&J recalled.

Breaking Views’ columnist James Pethokoukis says Banks’ new watchdog master could give it real bite

The newest banking watchdog could have real bite, especially given the frontrunner to be its master. Elizabeth Warren, a gadfly academic, would have vast power to create rules that could crimp lenders’ profit. That’d force Wall Street’s financial innovators to redouble their efforts on the retail side. The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection created by the sweeping U.S. financial reform legislation will put Main Street protection under one roof. The agency’s first director will set the tone, as well as precedent, for how far it can go.

And our favorite stories from elsewhere…

Accent can impact speaker’s credibility

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger overcame his accent and secured the trust of voters but new research shows that an accent can impact a person’s credibility. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers from the University of Chicago found that people unconsciously doubt harder to process statements more than easily understandable ones.  Read more here.

Air France attendant held for robbing passengers

French police have arrested an Air France stewardess on suspicion of stealing thousands of euros in cash, cards and jewellery as passengers slept on long haul flights, a newspaper reported on Tuesday. “Her bank accounts showed an absurd gap between her lifestyle and her declared income,” Le Figaro quoted a police investigator as saying. Click here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents, visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS//Larry Downing (Obama and Cameron (L) meet in the White House Oval Office, 7/20/10)

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