Washington Extra – Job prospects
The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in 2010, the biggest GDP gain since 2005, but still too weak to make a big dent in the unemployment rate which ended the year at 9.4 percent.
Egyptian protesters again took to the streets seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak from the job he’s held for 30 years.
Rather than risk a fissure in messages, the White House held its press briefing, while the State Department canceled. In the strongest public message so far, the United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on the government’s response to the massive protests.
“We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Words spoken five years ago by the man who will replace Gibbs in the White House press secretary job are being replayed on the Internet (in the never say never category).
During a 2006 interview on C-SPAN, Jay Carney made the following comment about the post of White House press secretary: “It’s a tricky job. I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good at it.”
Here are our top stories from Washington today…
U.S. warns Egypt on aid, urges security restraint
The United States warned Egypt it would review some $1.3 billion in aid based on Egypt’s response to massive protests, urging the government to rein in security forces and allow peaceful demonstrations. The protests have put the United States into a quandary of its own. Washington views Mubarak as a key partner — a linchpin for future Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and a bulwark against Iran‘s regional clout — but U.S. officials have stressed this week their long-standing support for democratic reform in his country.
For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed, read here.
Egypt military chief cuts short US visit
A senior Egyptian military official intends to return home on Friday from the United States, cutting short a visit for defense talks as unrest sweeps his country, the Pentagon said. Lieutenant General Sami Enan was leading a delegation in defense talks that started on Wednesday and were set to run through Feb. 2. A Pentagon spokesman said Alexander Vershbow, an assistant secretary of defense, had urged “restraint” in talks with Egypt’s military earlier in the week.
For more of this story by Phil Stewart, read here.
Mubarak skeptical of US reform push – leaked cables
President Obama’s push for democratic reforms in Egypt has faced resistance from its longtime leader, in part because President Hosni Mubarak believes Washington’s past pressure for change has caused chaos in the Middle East. Diplomatic cables posted by WikiLeaks show Obama has guided the United States to warmer ties with Egypt by avoiding the public “name and shame” tactics of George W. Bush while urging political reforms in private. But they also show U.S. pressure is viewed skeptically by Mubarak, who believes ill-advised U.S. pushes for reform in the Middle East have produced colossal mistakes, from the ouster of the Shah of Iran to the election of Hamas Islamists in Gaza.
For more of this story by David Alexander, read here.
The next generation of WikiLeaks
All across Europe, from Brussels to the Balkans, a new generation of WikiLeaks-style websites is sprouting. Like their forerunner, the fledgling whistle-blowing sites are a chaotic mixture of complex systems engineering, earnest campaigning, muckraking and self-promotion. And though their goals are varied, the activists behind the sites told Reuters that they share one major concern: they all vow not to repeat mistakes they believe were made by Julian Assange, the controversial WikiLeaks creator.
For more of this exclusive story by Mark Hosenball, read here.
Obama: will not refight battle over healthcare law
President Obama said his healthcare overhaul is an important part of efforts to cut the budget deficit and he will not “refight” the battle to pass the law. “We know that health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, are the biggest contributors to our long-term deficit. Nobody disputes this. And this law will slow these costs.”
For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle, read here.
For a factbox on lawsuits challenging the law, click here.
Consumer spending, trade buoy U.S. economy in Q4
The economy gathered speed in the fourth quarter to regain its pre-recession peak with a big gain in consumer spending and strong exports, removing doubts about the recovery’s sustainability. Still, it was not seen strong enough to knock the Federal Reserve off track from efforts to support recovery. “The numbers look very good. The economy has got some real good momentum heading into the new year,” said Joseph LaVorgna of Deutsche Bank.
For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.
A miss, but better-than-expected US GDP data
For a worse-than-expected number, Friday’s GDP data look surprisingly strong. The figures show consumer spending growing at the fastest rate in four years and international trade providing a surprisingly large lift. Both show an economy that is pulling more of its own weight, an important development as government stimulus spending fades.
For more of this snap analysis by Emily Kaiser, read here.
FCC seeks to dismiss challenges to Internet rules
The FCC has filed to dismiss challenges to its new Internet traffic rules. A senior FCC official said the agency filed several motions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking the court to dismiss as premature challenges from Verizon and MetroPCS. “The rules that govern when and how parties may challenge FCC orders are clear, and Verizon and MetroPCS filed too early when they challenged the Open Internet order,” the official said in an e-mail.
For more of this story by Sinead Carew and Jasmin Melvin, read here.
CFTC eyes how to build “bulletproof” ID system
Regulators seeking a barcode-like system to keep track of thousands of traders and millions of swaps contracts face an uphill battle to do it quickly and efficiently. The CFTC is crafting an identification system for the swaps industry — one it wants to mesh with similar ID systems under consideration by securities and systemic risk regulators in the United States and Europe.
For more of this story by Christopher Doering and Roberta Rampton, read here.
U.S. town demolished over lead contamination
Most of its residents left, the school closed, the city government was disbanded, and starting this week nearly every commercial building in Picher, Oklahoma, will be demolished. But the owner of the last-remaining open business in Picher, which has been vacated over the years because of lead contamination, is not ready to go. “It’s not time for me to leave yet,” said Gary Linderman, owner of Old Miner’s Pharmacy in what is left of central Picher.
For more of this story, read here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Gibbs comments on situation in Egypt)