Washington Extra – Chaos theory

February 3, 2011

Something to ponder while thinking about the crisis in Egypt: Chaos Theory or Domino Effect?

EGYPT/Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tells ABC’s Christiane Amanpour that he’d like to step down but… “If I resign today there will be chaos.”

It seemed fairly chaotic on the streets of Cairo where protesters were fired upon and journalists were detained. Egypt’s prime minister told the interior minister not to obstruct peaceful marches at tomorrow’s “Friday of Departure” rally.

Mubarak’s image with Official Washington appears shattered. White House correspondent Steve Holland broke the story that a draft resolution sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator John Kerry called on Mubarak to transfer power to an inclusive caretaker government. The measure shows broad, unified American concern about Egypt.

The United States continued to condemn the violence in Egypt and urge political transition. And while a handful of lawmakers have said publicly that Mubarak should leave, there has not been an official U.S. call for him to immediately step down.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Lawmakers demand Mubarak transfer power in Egypt

Lawmakers called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to transfer power to an inclusive caretaker government in a draft resolution that demonstrates broad, unified American concern about Egypt. Two influential senators who are former candidates for president, Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry, combined to write a proposal that follows President Obama’s demand for a transition in Egypt to begin now. The measure means that Mubarak, who for years had the confidence of Washington as a Middle East powerbroker, has now seen his image completely shattered in the United States.

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

Journalists attacked, detained in Egypt protests

The US condemned efforts to intimidate foreign reporters covering the protests against President Hosni Mubarak. Two reporters working for The New York Times were detained overnight and released. The Washington Post’s Cairo bureau chief and a photographer were detained covering protests. They were later released but told they were not permitted to leave a hotel near the airport. “There is a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting. We condemn such actions,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement.

For more of this story, read here.

Economic impact from Egypt protests unclear – IMF

The IMF said it was too early to know what impact violent protests in Egypt will have on the economy and neighboring countries, but the IMF was ready to offer advice once the situation calmed. “We just don’t know yet how the economic situation will develop because it is not yet clear how the political situation will develop,” spokeswoman Caroline Atkinson told a regular news briefing. “There is an issue of who is in charge of what now.”

For more of this story, read here.

Bernanke warns of catastrophe if debt limit not raised

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a stern warning to Republican lawmakers that delays in raising the United States’ $14.3 trillion debt limit could have “catastrophic” consequences. “Beyond a certain point … the United States would be forced into a position of defaulting on its debt. And the implications of that on our financial system, our fiscal policy and our economy would be catastrophic,” he told the National Press Club. Bernanke coupled his warning with a call for the Obama administration and Congress to put in place a credible plan to curb future budget deficits.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal and Pedro da Costa, read here.

See also Bernanke: growth, inflation still missing Fed goals, read here.

Data point to stronger growth momentum

Growth in the services sector in January was the fastest in more than five years, another sign the economy started 2011 on a solid footing, with measures of employment showing more strength. Reports, including a sharp fall in weekly claims for jobless benefits, painted a more bullish picture for the world’s biggest economy as it recovers. Inflation pressures appeared mostly under control even as commodity prices surge — in stark contrast with other parts of the world — helped by businesses keeping a tight grip on labor costs.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

House Republicans seek $32 bln in spending cuts

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives will seek $32 billion in spending cuts this year as part of an effort to reduce a forecasted $1.5 trillion deficit. These spending cuts would become part of a bill to fund a wide range of federal government programs through the current fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30. The House Appropriations Committee still must fill in the details of how the spending cuts would be carried out and the Democratic-led Senate will consider its own version of a spending bill.

For more of this story by Richard Cowan, read here.

Virginia to ask top court to review US health law

Virginia will ask the Supreme Court to hear its challenge to President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, bypassing the appeals process in a rarely used move to try to speed up a definitive ruling on the year-old law. The administration said the case should follow the regular process, which could put off until 2012 a ruling on the sweeping law.

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

Obama announces clean energy plan for buildings

President Obama announced a new clean energy program in Pennsylvania, seeking to show he remains focused on jobs in a state that may be essential to his 2012 re-election prospects. The plan would improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by offering incentives to help pay for upgrades of offices, stores and other buildings, which he said consume 40 percent of the energy Americans use and could save $40 billion a year. “Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America,” Obama told a jammed sports hall at the Pennsylvania State University.

For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle, read here.

Oil price surging on demand, Arab unrest-IEA

Stronger oil demand from rebounding economies and concern over unrest in Arab countries have pushed crude prices above $100 a barrel, the IEA told Congress. Claims that speculators were behind the 25 percent rise in the oil price since September are not valid, IEA Deputy Executive Director Richard Jones said. “Data on supply-and-demand fundamentals for the fourth quarter of 2010 that has recently become available points more towards a market tightening due to stronger-than-expected demand in key consumers and a concurrent drawdown of commercial oil stocks,” he said.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett and Ayesha Rascoe, read here.

US Commerce chief eyes India military, nuclear deals

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said he will press India to buy U.S. fighter jets and other advanced technology products when he leads Boeing, Lockheed Martin and 22 other Companies on a trade mission next week. The trip, which follows President Obama’s visit to India in November, “underscores the importance we attach to the commercial relationship between our two countries,” Locke told reporters.

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

Warning signs missed in US Fort Hood killings

Authorities had information indicating that an Army psychiatrist was a threat before the mass killings at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas but did not heed clear warning signs, according to a report. Major Nidal Malik Hasan is charged in a shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded 32 others on November 5, 2009. “Although neither DOD nor the FBI had specific information concerning the time, place or nature of the attack, they collectively had sufficient information to have detected Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed both to understand and to act on it,” the report stated

For more of this story by Joanne Allen and Thomas Ferraro, read here.

AXA units to pay $240 mln for trading model glitch

Global equity investment firm AXA Rosenberg has agreed to pay more than $240 million to settle accusations by the SEC that it concealed a major computer glitch that cost investors millions of dollars. AXA Rosenberg entities agreed to pay back $217 million in losses plus a $25 million penalty. The AXA entities agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying the allegations.

For more of this story by Sarah N. Lynch, read here.

What we are blogging…

At prayer breakfast, Obama calls Jesus “my Lord and Savior”

President Obama made a clear declaration of his Christian faith and seemed to express some frustration that his beliefs continue to be called into question. “Let me tell you, these past two years, they have deepened my faith,” Obama said at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “The presidency has a funny way of making a person feel the need to pray.”

For Jeff Mason’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

California cities top most miserable list

If the saying “as goes California, so goes the nation” still rings true, then Americans are facing a depressing future. Ravaged by falling house prices, high unemployment, a massive budget deficit, rampant crime and high state taxes, California filled four of the top five spots in the Forbes list of unhappy urban areas.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic (man throwing rock during rioting in Cairo)

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