Washington Extra – Reaching for the stars

December 6, 2010

Democrats are pulling out the big guns in tax talks. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are meeting with Democratic congressional leaders today to discuss the “progress being made” in negotiations with Republicans. The meetings will give Obama a first-hand account of the lay-of-the-land on Capitol Hill, and perhaps a chance to discuss areas of potential compromise. Of course without Republicans in the room, it will be a one-sided discussion, but may provide some fresh ammo. OBAMA/

Sometimes tackling the big issues in Washington can seem a bit like reaching for the stars. Obama spoke today about America facing a “Sputnik moment” in its quest for economic recovery. When President John F. Kennedy had his “Sputnik moment” a half-century ago, he called for an American to be sent to the moon, and ultimately succeeded. Will Obama’s “Sputnik moment” end just as well? 

Be sure to look at Scot Paltrow’s special report on the depth of questionable signing and notarization practices at Lender Processing Services, a Florida-based firm that handles more than half of the country’s foreclosures. LPS is not a household name, but it is a central player in the so-called robo-signing controversy.

It’s all in the lingo. The Global Language Monitor says “Palinism” and “Obama-mess” are likely to be among the top global words of 2011, which will likely be commonly pronounced “Twenty-Eleven.”

And speaking of lingo, searched far and wide for a Britishism for our departing Bureau Chief Simon Denyer, and came up with – Cheeri    

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama presses for tax-cut compromise

President Obama, closing in on a deal with Republicans to extend tax cuts, said he might not get “100 percent of what I want” but compromise was necessary to head off a rate increase for the middle class. In a speech at a community college in North Carolina, Obama hinted at a possible agreement that would at least temporarily extend Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans — as Republicans want — rather than strictly for families making less than $250,000, as he and his Democrats preferred. 

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here. 

Special report: Legal woes mount for a foreclosure kingpin

Lender Processing Services is riding the waves of foreclosures sweeping the United States, but in late October its CEO, Jeff Carbiener, found himself needing to reassure investors in the $2.8 billion company. Although profits were rolling in, LPS’s stock had taken a hit in the wake of revelations that mortgage companies across the country had filed fraudulent documents in foreclosures cases. Earlier in the year, the company, which handles more than half of the nation’s foreclosures, had disclosed that it was under federal criminal investigation and admitted that employees at a small subsidiary had falsely signed foreclosure documents.

For more of this story by Scot J. Paltrow, read here. 

House eyes funding for Dodd-Frank, other needs

The House of Representatives is likely to vote this week on a measure that could fund the new Dodd-Frank financial-industry crackdown and other priorities of the Obama administration. Though the spending bill has not taken its final shape, it could give the administration the resources it has requested for Dodd-Frank, counter-insurgency efforts, nuclear nonproliferation and other initiatives that have been stalled due to a partisan standoff in Congress over spending. It also would secure funding for government operations through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. That would make it more difficult for Republicans to enact budget cuts when they take control of the House in January. 

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here. 

SEC to toughen custody rules for broker-dealers

The top securities regulator plans to hold broker-dealers more accountable for their customers’ assets after Bernard Madoff duped his clients out of billions of dollars. “We are considering enhancing oversight of broker-dealer custody by providing new information and tools to regulatory examiners,” SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said at an accounting conference.

 For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai, read here.

 U.S., allies seek China, Russia help on North Korea

The U.S., Japan and South Korea pressed China and Russia to help defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula as Chinese President Hu Jintao warned President Obama the situation could “spin out of control.” Japan’s and South Korea’s foreign ministers said all three countries hope for more cooperation from Beijing and Moscow, which have appeared less eager to get tough with Pyongyang.

For more of this analysis by Arshad Mohammed and Michael Martina, read here. 

U.S. eyes trade ‘triple crown’ as APEC host

The United States plans a big push toward freer trade in the Asia Pacific region in 2011, starting with approval of bilateral free trade agreement with South Korea. “The ‘triple crown’ in 2011 is the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement passed and implemented, significant progress on the TransPacific Partnership and a very strong APEC year with a lot of concrete outcomes on trade and investment issues,” said Kurt Tong, senior U.S. official for APEC at the State Department.

For more of this interview story by Doug Palmer, read here.

US looks beyond espionage to deal with Wikileaks

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday the Obama administration was considering using laws in addition to the Espionage Act to possibly prosecute the release of sensitive government information by WikiLeaks. “That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools at our disposal,” Holder told reporters.

For more of this story, read here.

US court to hear utilities’ emissions suit appeal

The Supreme Court will hear an appeal by four big coal-burning utilities of a ruling that a group of states and New York City can proceed with a global-warming lawsuit seeking to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of the power companies.

For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.

What we are blogging…

Obama has his “Sputnik moment,” will it succeed like JFK’s?

Trying to get the economy back on track may sometimes seem a bit like reaching for the stars. President Obama today declared that America is facing a “Sputnik moment.”  “If this is truly going to be our Sputnik moment we need a commitment to innovation that we haven’t seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the Moon,” he said. Obama, who was not born at the time of Sputnik, was trying to make the point that the country needs the same drive to tackle its economy that was used when it responded to the Soviet Union winning early challenges in the space age.

For Tabassum Zakaria’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

“Palinism”, “Obama-mess” among top words for 2011

“Palinism” and “Obama-mess” are likely to be among the top global words of 2011, as the United States gears up for its next presidential elections, according to a language monitoring group. The coming year will also likely be commonly deemed “Twenty-Eleven” as the English-speaking world moves away from disagreement over how to pronounce the first years of the decade, the Global Language Monitor said.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama speaks at a community college in North Carolina)


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