Washington Extra – Game on

February 4, 2011

Think legacy. That’s what President Barack Obama advised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama tried to appeal to Mubarak’s ego and sense of place in history as he pressed for movement on a political transition. “I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he is also a patriot,” Obama said. USA-CANADA/

He didn’t call for the Egyptian leader to immediately step down, but brought up Mubarak’s promise not to run again. “The key question he should be asking himself is how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period?”

Obama capped his comments at the news conference by urging Mubarak to do the right thing: “And my hope is, is that he will end up making the right decision.”

The president will have a lighter dilemma on Sunday in deciding who to root for in the Super Bowl — the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers. Obama says he’s neutral, but it’s no fun to watch a football game without cheering for someone.

If the Chicago Bears had been playing it would be a no-brainer for the president. If the Miami Dolphins were in it, he would have had to cheer for them out of politeness to his Sunday guest Jennifer Lopez, who is part owner of that team.

I just have one question for those (including my colleague CD) who plan to wear giant wedges of cheese on their heads Sunday — do you have crackers to go with that hat?

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama urges Mubarak to make the “right decision”

President Barack Obama appealed to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make the “right decision” as the United States kept up its push for an orderly transition of power in the face of mass protests. Obama stopped short of calling for Mubarak to immediately resign — the demand of the thousands of protesters on the streets of Cairo. But Obama pointedly noted that the Egyptian president has already made a decision not to run for re-election.

For more of this story by Arshad Mohammed and Matt Spetalnick, read here.

Egypt in focus as Clinton heads to security meeting

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed for a global security conference in Germany on Friday as U.S. planners struggle to assess how Egypt’s political crisis may rewrite both the future of the Middle East and the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Clinton will meet her European Union counterpart Catherine Ashton and other world leaders at the Munich conference, where she is also due to finalize the new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms pact with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

For more of this story by Andrew Quinn, read here.

Payrolls barely grow, but jobless rate plummets
The economy added a meager 36,000 jobs in January, far less than expected, as severe snow storms slammed large parts of the nation, but the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since April 2009. Despite the conflicting signals in the Labor Department’s report, economists agreed a job market recovery was proceeding apace, if not gaining speed.

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

Outgunned by Wall St., U.S. SEC warns of fraud

Tighter budgets at the Securities and Exchange Commission could mean killing vital technology upgrades needed to catch swindlers, the agency’s chief said in a blunt appeal for more funding. With Republicans in Congress threatening to restrain her budget, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said the agency faces severe challenges in doing its existing job and in taking on new duties mandated under 2010’s Dodd-Frank market reform law.

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

Transportation secretary optimistic about bill

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he is optimistic that Congress will pass a sweeping bill to authorize funding for road and transit by August. President Barack Obama recently renewed his push for building up the country’s infrastructure, in the hopes of spurring new jobs and boosting economic recovery, while many governors of states are keen for help to repair roads and employ construction workers displaced by the end of the housing boom.

For more of this story by John Crawley, read here.

The FDA casino and the high rollers of health funds

Speculating on whether a drug will get approval in Washington is difficult enough. With the regulator sometimes rejecting advice from its own consultants, the risk can go off the charts. Just ask several prominent hedge funds and other investors burned by gambling that Orexigen Therapeutics Inc’s weight-loss medicine would soon reach the U.S. market.

For more of this story by Lisa Richwine and Daniel Bases, read here.

Corporate split slows U.S. tax cut plan

You might think President Barack Obama’s talk of cutting the corporate tax rate would have the entire business world cooing, but instead the idea could lead to a wrenching split in corporate America. The reason: Obama wants to fund a rate cut by closing tax loopholes and slashing deductions enjoyed by America’s biggest companies. Opposition from corporate giants who could lose cherished tax breaks, along with the political risk of tackling tax issues in the runup to the 2012 presidential election, will likely push off reform for several years.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

From elsewhere…

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband to command space shuttle flight

The astronaut husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman critically wounded in an assassination attempt last month, will be aboard space shuttle Endeavour when it lifts off on its final mission in April, NASA said on Friday. The U.S. space agency confirmed that Mark Kelly will serve as Endeavour’s commander, after taking leave from training when Giffords was shot in the head outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona.

For more of this story, read here.

Super Bowl fans scramble for flights to Dallas

Super Bowl fans may have to scramble for alternate flights after American and Southwest Airlines canceled hundreds of flights to and from hubs in Dallas because of another winter storm. American said it canceled 630 flights to and from Dallas, and Southwest said it canceled 130 flights in all of Texas.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama talks about Egypt at news conference)

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