Washington Extra – Royal news

February 17, 2011

bahraintowerCalling Bahrain.

As is increasingly the case, the United States is finding that talking pro-democracy is one thing. Dealing with the aftermath of uprisings another.

U.S. officials have been on the telephone with officials in Bahrain urging restraint after police attacked anti-government protesters.

The tiny Gulf kingdom that is home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet becomes another U.S. ally in the Middle East seeing unrest with protesters wanting their leaders gone.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke by telephone with Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.

Other royal news. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are going to visit the Queen of England in May. (They are not going to THE WEDDING which is in April, they weren’t invited – gasp!)

Remember all the commotion about Obama giving the British monarch an iPod during his visit to Buckingham Palace in 2009? Wondering whether it will be an iPad this time.

Be sure to read Paul Eckert’s special report on the U.S. view of China’s next leader from an unpublished WikiLeaks batch of diplomatic cables.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Cables show U.S. sizing up China’s next leader

What does the United States make of Xi Jinping, the man widely expected to take over from Hu Jintao late next year and lead China for the next five or 10 years? An unpublished WikiLeaks batch of U.S. diplomatic cables portrays the 57-year-old Xi as untainted by corruption — he is referred to as “Mr. Clean” — and disdainful of China’s nouveau riche and consumer culture. He is also depicted as an elitist who believes that the offspring of Maoist revolutionaries are the rightful rulers of China.

For more of this special report by Paul Eckert, read here.

U.S. concern grows over Bahrain, a key Gulf ally

The United States urged Bahrain’s government to show restraint amid deepening concern over unrest in the country, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a strategic ally on oil supply lines from the Gulf. As anti-government protests rock the Middle East, the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon all urged Bahrain’s leaders to pull back after police attacked demonstrators in the Gulf kingdom’s worst violence in decades. Clinton said she expressed her “deep concern” in a telephone call with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa and emphasized that violence should not occur on Friday, when many in Bahrain may attend funerals of those killed or prayer services.

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

BP workers could have prevented rig accident-report

BP had workers on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig that could have prevented the missteps that led to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but they were not consulted, the White House oil spill commission said. In an expanded report on the causes of the drilling disaster, the commission released new details about the events that preceded the BP accident. The commission’s investigators said workers failed to ask a knowledgeable company engineer who was visiting the rig about unexpected results from a critical negative pressure test on the rig.

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

Geithner warns of market risk on debt limit fight

A delay in raising the $14.3 trillion statutory debt limit could make markets price in risks of a default and undermine economic recovery, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. Congress has routinely raised the limit, but Republicans have threatened not to unless Democrats agree to cut spending. “We cannot afford to let the markets lose any confidence that ultimately the Congress will act well in advance of any time that we’re going to hit the limit, because that would be catastrophic, and cause grave damage to the expansion underway,” Geithner said.

For more of this story by David Lawder, read here.

Taxing offshore profit up for debate-US aide

The debate over overhauling the corporate tax system will have to include whether to cut taxes on profits earned abroad, a Treasury Department official said. Michael Mundaca, assistant secretary for tax policy and a White House point man on revamping the corporate tax code, also said that corporate tax reform could be done before individual tax reform. His comments are friendly to corporate America, which contends that it has been hobbled internationally by being saddled with the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world.

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

Dodd-Frank tensions headline U.S. Senate hearing

Republicans escalated their push to delay and defund the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms as top regulators warned the Senate Banking Committee of a staff and funding crunch. The chiefs of major agencies that are writing hundreds of rules told the panel that they need more money to carry out the law. For investors and Wall Street, the Senate hearing represented another act in a long-running drama that analysts expect will lead to few, if any, changes in the Dodd-Frank reforms due to political gridlock.

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

Bank regulators see flaws in debit fee crackdown

Banking regulators acknowledged flaws in plans to cut debit card processing fees, adding to pressure on the Federal Reserve to modify how it implements part of the Dodd-Frank financial law. Sheila Bair, chairman of the FDIC, cited the likelihood that lower debit transaction fees would force smaller banks to make up for lost revenue with higher account fees for customers. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, also testifying to the Senate Banking Committee, said the exemption for small banks in Dodd-Frank might not be effective.

For more of this story by Dave Clarke and Maria Aspan, read here.

Consumer prices show inflation turning up

U.S. core consumer prices rose at the quickest pace in 15 months in January, suggesting a long period of slowing inflation had run its course. Economists largely agreed inflation had bottomed but they said the turnaround in prices was unlikely to be so swift as to trouble policymakers at the Federal Reserve, who are still pumping money into the economy.

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

House to vote on debt idea, healthcare funding

Conservative Republicans are pushing a congressional amendment to give the Treasury Department the ability to avoid a debt default if U.S. borrowing authority runs out, highlighting possible dire consequences of political gridlock over government spending. The plan by first-term Republican Representative David Schweikert would require Treasury to keep making debt payments if Congress fails in the coming months to raise the limit of the amount the United States can borrow.

For more of this story, read here.

US asks: How big an Afghan army can we afford?

President Obama’s government is unsure whether the U.S. can afford a further buildup of Afghan security forces, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. Speaking before a Senate committee, Gates pointed to the $12.8 billion called for in Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget to pay for training of Afghan security forces and said “you cannot do that indefinitely.” “The issue is under discussion in no small part because of the question of sustainability. How big an army can we afford?” Gates asked.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Susan Cornwell, read here.

Chances of closing Guantanamo jail very low -Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said prospects for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp were “very, very low” given broad opposition in Congress. President Obama has so far not been able to meet his promise to close Guantanamo, but the White House said this week he remained committed to doing so. The facility has drawn international condemnation for the treatment of detainees.

For more of this story, read here.

Apple’s Jobs to attend Obama meeting

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave from the company, will attend a meeting in California with President Obama, a source familiar with the meeting said. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will also attend the meeting. Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, stepped away from Apple on medical leave last month. It was the third time in seven years that Jobs has taken leave for health-related reasons.

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

What we are blogging…

Who to blame for a U.S. government shutdown?

Never mind that it hasn’t happened yet. Lawmakers want to make sure everyone knows who is responsible if it does. If Congress deadlocks over spending for the rest of this fiscal year and forces a shutdown of government services when the money runs out on March 4, who will be to blame? Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much, but they do agree on one thing – if the government shuts down it will be the other party’s fault.

For Donna Smith’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

U.S. China envoy to decide on White House run soon

Jon Huntsman, the departing ambassador to China, will likely decide on a possible bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination “in the next couple of weeks,” his brother, head of chemicals maker Huntsman Corp, said. Huntsman, a popular former governor of Utah, told President Obama last month that he would resign from his ambassadorship in April. Speculation has swirled that he would run for president. “He’ll be announcing that soon, one way or the other, I hope in the next couple of weeks,” Peter Huntsman said.

For more of this story, read here.

U.S. city to get RoboCop statue with fan funding

From sci-fi cult film, to Twitter phenomenon to Detroit landmark-in-the-making. Plans for a statue honoring RoboCop, the half-man, half-machine crime fighter of the 1987 movie, are moving ahead after a group of artists and entrepreneurs in Detroit, Michigan raised more than $50,000 via Facebook and an online fund-raising site.

For more of this story, read here.

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

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed (A Bahraini woman holds a picture of Prime Minister  at pro-government rally in Riffa; Cranes move at the Bahrain Pearl Roundabout to clear the tents set up by protesters in Manama)

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