Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Revolutionary wrath

February 22, 2011

Revolutionaries have a tough time dealing with revolutions.

LIBYA-USA/When Muammar Gaddafi took power in Libya in 1969, he was not yet 30. Today he faces an uprising from youthful protesters who want him gone. His response: You deserve the death penalty. So far it appears about 300 have been killed in the protests.

The United States has little leverage with Libya — the countries have not been on the friendliest of terms for most of Gaddafi’s rule.

So the administration is left issuing words like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s repetition that Libya immediately stop “this unacceptable bloodshed.” Is that enough? Others are calling for sanctions to military intervention.

In a novel explanation, Gaddafi says he can’t step down because he is not president but is in fact a revolutionary.

Not known for subtlety, Gaddafi chose as location for his angry discourse the residence damaged in the 1986 U.S. bombing raid that also killed his baby daughter. Next to him stood a monument of a fist crushing a U.S. fighter jet.

Oil is at a 2-1/2 year high on the Libya revolt, no small issue for the world’s largest consumer of oil. And stocks racked up their biggest daily loss since August on the turmoil.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Obama under pressure to intervene in Libya

Pressure is mounting on the White House to stop Muammar Gaddafi’s bloody crackdown on democracy protests as a lawmaker close to President Obama urged oil firms to halt work in Libya. The administration faced calls ranging from bombing Libyan airfields and imposing no-fly-zones, to criticism of Obama’s silence on the violence. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the administration to consider re-imposing tough sanctions on Libya. His outspoken Republican House counterpart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said the United States should freeze assets and issue a travel ban on senior Libyan government officials.

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

US unable to move its diplomats from Libya Tuesday

The United States said it had been unable to move any of its nonessential diplomats and embassy family members out of Libya and expected them to depart in coming days. Witnesses said Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi used tanks, warplanes and mercenaries to try to crush protests against his 41-year rule. Secretary of State Clinton has demanded that Libya stop what she called “this unacceptable bloodshed” in the latest uprising against autocratic rulers in the Arab world.

For more of this story, read here.

Obama kicks off listening tour of U.S. businesses

President Obama, with much of his Cabinet in tow, visited the economically hard-hit Midwest as part of his effort to mend fences with entrepreneurs. “My administration is going to go to bat for America’s businesses around the world. You should know that,” Obama said. Since his Democrats were trounced in the November elections, Obama has sought to rebuild ties with business that became strained over companies’ complaints about Obama’s regulatory agenda and healthcare reform law.

For more of this story by Caren Bohan and Kim Palmer, read here.

Pirates kill four U.S. hostages near Somalia

Pirates shot dead four U.S. hostages on a private yacht, the deadliest incident involving Americans kidnapped for ransom in the increasingly dangerous waters off Somalia. The U.S. military said the pirates shot the hostages before American special forces boarded the vessel. Troops killed two pirates as they took control of the boat, and took 15 into custody. Another two pirates were found dead when the special forces arrived but they were not killed by U.S. forces, the military said.

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

White House expects to avoid government shutdown

The risk of a government shutdown appeared to ease on Tuesday after a top Republican backed passing a stopgap measure to keep programs running, although at a reduced level, and the White House said it expected a shutdown to be avoided. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said his chamber “will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running — one that also cuts spending,” if the Democratic-led Senate refused to vote on a tough spending-cut bill which was passed by the House on Saturday.

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

Oil spike 2008 all over again? Not for U.S. economy

Don’t panic. That was the message from Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, to those who fear it is 2008 all over again as unrest in oil-producing Libya pushes crude prices back up toward the triple digits. Even if oil prices remain above $100 a barrel this year that would most likely put a moderate counterweight on consumer spending, but not nearly enough to halt a recovery which is gaining momentum.

For more of this analysis by Emily Kaiser, read here.

Top court rules for vaccine makers on lawsuits

The Supreme Court ruled that federal law shields vaccine makers from product-liability lawsuits in state court seeking damages for a child’s injuries or death from a vaccine’s side effects. The high court ruled for Wyeth, is now owned by Pfizer, in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, who suffered seizures as an infant after her third dose of a vaccine in 1992. Pfizer and other vaccine makers had argued that a Supreme Court ruling for the plaintiffs could open the door to a flood of lawsuits — many by families who believe vaccines cause autism — and threaten the supply of childhood vaccines.

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

FDA cites Sanofi over drug side effect reporting

Health regulators have warned Sanofi-Aventis for failing to submit reports of possible serious drug side effects in a timely manner. In a January 28 letter made public on Tuesday, the FDA said an early response from the drugmaker and its “promised corrective actions are inadequate to address the deficiencies.” “We remain concerned that your …. adverse drug experience reporting system has not been fully validated, and may have resulted in inaccurate assessment and untimely submission of 15-day alerts,” FDA said.

For more of this story by Susan Heavey, read here.

Credit cards still in US watchdog Warren’s sights

Consumer regulator Elizabeth Warren warned the credit card industry of further reforms even while praising it for going beyond the requirements of last year’s crackdown on fees and interest rate increases. “The data we have assembled indicate that much of the industry has gone further than the law requires in curbing re-pricing and overlimit fees,” Warren said, citing a government survey of the impact of the CARD Act.

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

Ex-U.S. mortgage exec to plead to criminal charges

The former treasurer of the now-defunct Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage, Desiree Brown, is set to enter a plea agreement to federal criminal charges on Thursday. No details of the charges were available but a hearing is set for 9:15 a.m. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Such hearings are typically held when a defendant is expected to plead guilty. Taylor, Bean & Whitaker filed for bankruptcy in August 2009 and federal prosecutors have accused the former chairman of the mortgage firm, Lee Farkas, of orchestrating a scheme that led to billions of dollars in losses that are still being tallied.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

Existing home sales overcounting “minor” -NAR

The National Association of Realtors said any overcounting of existing home sales in its data was “relatively minor”, dismissing claims it could have overstated sales by as much as 20 percent. The group said it was consulting with a range of experts to determine whether there was a drift in its monthly existing home sales data. “At this point, we believe any drift in our data to be relatively minor,” the NAR said.

For more of this story, read here.

Dallas, KC Feds sought discount rate hike -minutes

Directors at the Federal Reserve Banks of Kansas City, Dallas and Chicago sought quarter percentage-point hikes in the discount rate before an August 5 policy meeting to keep inflation at bay, Fed documents show. Directors at the other nine regional Fed banks all voted to hold the discount rate steady at 2.25 percent in the same period leading up to the Fed’s most recent interest rate-setting meeting, according to minutes of discount rate meetings released by the Federal Reserve Board in Washington.

For more of this story, read here.

Thune decides against White House bid

Republican Senator John Thune, long seen as a rising political star and possible White House contender, said he will not run for president next year. “At this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate,” he said in a statement.

For more of this story, read here.

What we are blogging…

Budget-cutters take aim at nuclear modernization funds

In hardball negotiations over the START nuclear arms treaty last year, Senate Republicans wrested a commitment from the White House to redouble work to overhaul the nation’s nuclear infrastructure. Somebody should have told House Republicans.

For David Alexander’s full post, click here.

From elsewhere…

No royal wedding invite? Get a job at the palace

If you were not lucky enough to be one of the 1,900 people invited to Prince William’s upcoming wedding, then fear not: you could always get a job making coffee for the guests or washing up afterwards. Queen Elizabeth has placed two job adverts on her website, for a General Assistant (Coffee Room) and a General Assistant (Wash-up). Both pay about $22,700 a year and the posts are based at the monarch’s Buckingham Palace residence in London, although both will have to travel to other royal homes around Britain.

For more of this story, read here

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Libyan protesters demonstrate in front of White House)

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