Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Cool science

February 18, 2011

In the cool equation, can science equal sports in school?

President Barack Obama today tried to promote math and science as exciting pursuits for America’s youth.

OBAMA/At the Intel Corporation in Oregon, Obama showcased the possibilities by describing his encounters during the visit.

“It gave them a chance to talk about things like quantum ternary algorithms, and it gave me a chance to nod my head and pretend that I understood what they were talking about,” he said.

Then there was the group of seventh-grade girls working on a science project using Legos. “I used to build some pretty mean Lego towers when I was a kid,” Obama said. “I thought I could participate — only these students used their Legos … to build robots that were programmable to model brains that could repair broken bones.”

Maybe the time for scientist star power has come. After all, “The Big Bang Theory” television show about the antics of super smart, geeky, young physicists is wildly popular.

Here’s an unscientific question for the long weekend. How does a president celebrate Presidents Day? Apparently with nothing public on his schedule.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama touts innovation agenda for spurring US jobs

President Obama touted his agenda to foster innovation as a way to spur job creation and boost global competitiveness during a high-tech visit to the Pacific Northwest. With a brewing budget fight in Washington, he sought to showcase research, development and education as keys to rejuvenating the economy. “Even as we have to live within our means, we can’t sacrifice investments in our future,” he said. “If we want to win the future, America has to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate and out-hustle the rest of the world.”

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

‘Flash crash’ panel calls for US market overhaul

Regulators should stem the growing tide of anonymous stock-trading and consider charging high-frequency traders for their disproportionate amount of buy and sell orders, said a panel of experts advising how to avoid another “flash crash.” The 14 recommendations contained some bold ideas that would overhaul the electronic trading market. Yet many of the ideas called only for “consideration” or “further study” — potentially raising more questions as the first anniversary of the May 6 flash crash nears.

For more of this story by Roberta Rampton and Jonathan Spicer, read here.

Will politics get in the way of QE3?

Is the Federal Reserve caving in to political pressure against further monetary easing? Some analysts say the Fed, an institution that prides itself on independence, has been swayed by critics at home and abroad. Others say the central bank is simply holding fire on further easing until it sees how current efforts pan out. Minutes from the central bank’s January meeting contained new forecasts from top policymakers showing most believe the central bank will fall short of both its price stability and full employment mandates well into next year. Yet rather than talking about doing more, the Fed appears to have set a really high bar for any bond purchases beyond the $600 billion announced in November, the second round of quantitative easing that became popularly known as QE2.

For more of this story by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, read here.

US alarmed by Bahrain violence, appeals to government

President Obama called on Bahrain to exercise restraint after the kingdom’s security forces ignored Washington’s earlier call for calm and opened fire on protesters. Amid unrest across much of the Middle East, U.S. officials have voiced concern about the violence on the island in direct talks with the government of Bahrain, which hosts a major U.S. military base and borders Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter.

For more of this story by Ross Colvin, read here.

House votes to deny Obama healthcare law funds

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to choke off cash to fund President Obama’s healthcare reform law. The move is certain to be rejected by the Senate, but it has escalated tensions over federal spending that could lead to a government shutdown. Financial markets are closely watching fights over spending, as Obama and Republicans position themselves for the 2012 presidential election, and Republicans flex their muscles after congressional election victories last year.

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

US launches diplomatic ‘surge’ to end Afghan war

The U.S. is mounting a “diplomatic surge” to end the war in Afghanistan even as military pressure is forcing Taliban insurgents to consider whether to break with al Qaeda, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. She said the Taliban’s only option was to split from al Qaeda, accept the Afghan constitution and join peaceful dialogue on the country’s future. “They cannot wait us out. They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice,” Clinton said in a speech that was broadcast live over the Internet.

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

Shooting case tests US-Pakistan relations

The arrest of an American man for killing two Pakistanis has created the worst crisis in years between uneasy allies in Washington and Islamabad, threatening the war in Afghanistan and the stability of the Pakistani government. U.S. officials are putting heavy pressure on Pakistan‘s fragile government to secure the release of Raymond Davis, a former special forces soldier who they say is a U.S. consular employee with diplomatic immunity.

For scenarios on how the case might play out, click here.

Economy spikes U.S. power plant carbon output-report

A stronger economy helped push up power plant emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in 2010 by the highest annual rate on record, a report said. The economy and air conditioning demand from a warm summer sent emissions up 5.56 percent to 2.42 billion metric tons in 2010, according to the report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

For more of this story by Timothy Gardner, read here.

Watchdog clears US Air Force in tanker data mix-up

The Pentagon’s internal watchdog agency said it sees no need to further investigate a data mix-up in the $35 billion aerial tanker competition between Boeing and Europe’s EADS. Inspector General Gordon Heddell said a review by his office showed the Air Force “fully complied” with federal law after it learned of the data release, and that all relevant evidence confirmed the Air Force’s determination that the data release was inadvertent and not a violation of federal law.

For more of this story, read here.

What we are blogging…

Napolitano says no to running for Senate seat in Arizona

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ended the political speculation on whether she will leave President Obama’s Cabinet to run for Senate. Napolitano, a former governor from Arizona, told Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she would not seek the open Senate seat. “She cares deeply about Arizona, but the secretary intends to continue doing the job that the president asked her to do — protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country,” her spokesman said in a statement.

For James Vicini’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

Once-feared Tunisian ministry sets up Facebook page

Tunisia‘s Interior Ministry, long feared as an instrument of repression, is hoping a new Facebook page will help it thaw relations with its citizens. The move marks an about-face for the organization, which tried to stamp out social networking during the uprising last month that forced President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down and sent shockwaves through the Arab world. “We want to create a new way to communicate with Tunisians, that provides total transparency and instant information,” a spokesman for the ministry said.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama autographs Lego robot)

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