Washington Extra – Consequential choice

March 18, 2011

Truth or Consequences?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message on Libya’s ceasefire declaration was basically: she’ll believe it when she sees it.

“We are going to be not responsive or impressed by words. We would have to see actions on the ground. And that is not yet at all clear,” she said. USA

President Barack Obama put it in starker terms: “Muammar Gaddafi has a choice.”

The Libyan government must comply with the U.N. resolution or face the repercussions, Obama said. “Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable.”

And if Gaddafi doesn’t comply? “The international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Obama said.

He also sought to reassure an American public weary of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that any military action on Libya would not include U.S. boots on the ground. Of course that also told Gaddafi where the limits were.

Clinton heads to Paris on Saturday for a meeting with European leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the next steps on Libya.

This weekend if you’ve got Spring fever and feel like howling at the moon, look to the sky Saturday night for a big full lunar sight as the moon comes closer to Earth than it has in 18 years.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama warns Gaddafi U.S. will act to stop violence

President Barack Obama gave Muammar Gaddafi an ultimatum — comply with U.N. demands for a ceasefire or face military action as Washington moved toward risky direct involvement in Libya‘s turmoil. Obama, laying out the rationale for deeper U.S. involvement in Libya, said the United States would work with its partners to enforce U.N. demands but promised that no U.S. ground troops would be deployed in the oil-producing North African country. Although Obama has called on Gaddafi to leave, he stressed the United States would not use its power beyond a well-defined goal: “specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.”

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

Japan storage pools big worry: U.S. nuclear expert

Dangerous radiation has the potential of spewing uncontrollably from open-air pools storing spent nuclear fuel at Japan‘s crippled Fukushima power plant. About one-third of U.S. nuclear facilities are designed in the same way, said Robert Alvarez, a senior Department of Energy official during the Clinton administration. One of the immediate problems facing Japan is the cooling water in the pools may already have drained partially or completely. When spent fuel rods are exposed to the air they can easily catch fire, raising a deadly mix of radiation into the atmosphere.

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

U.S. nuclear panel urged to give daily Japan updates

A lawmaker called on the top U.S. nuclear regulator to provide daily briefings assessing the nuclear crisis in Japan. Representative Edward Markey said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to provide more details about what the commission’s experts in Japan have observed as they assist in the response to the nuclear disaster.

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

Lawmakers urge Obama to lead on deficit reduction

With the Congress fighting over short-term spending levels, Senate lawmakers are urging President Obama to lead broader efforts to get stubborn budget deficits under control over the long term. In a letter, a bipartisan group of 64 senators said he should help craft a deficit-reduction package that included spending cuts, tax reform and changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Separately, a group of 23 Republican senators warned Obama they might not vote to increase the United States’ debt limit without a commitment from him to tackle the cost of entitlements.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

JPMorgan, Wells Fargo boost payouts after Fed tests

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other major banks plan to boost their dividend payments after passing stress tests evaluated by the Federal Reserve. The dividends, and announcements of share buybacks in some cases, signal that regulators view banks as healthy enough to withstand uncertainties in the economy. “This is one of the final steps in terms of showing the redemption of the banks from 2008,” said Matt McCormick of Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel, which owns bank stocks.

For more of this story by Maria Aspan and Rachelle Younglai, read here.

Lorillard shares rise as menthol ban seen unlikely

The shares of top menthol cigarette maker Lorillard Inc jumped nearly 10 percent as investors bet U.S. regulators would not follow the advice of a report that said banning menthol cigarettes would improve public health. “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States,” an advisory panel said in a draft report.

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

From elsewhere…

Rio taps spiritual help for sunny Obama visit

Rio de Janeiro, famed for its warm beaches and sunny skies, has hired a spiritual guru to keep the clouds away for President Obama’s visit this weekend. Adelaide Scritori, a medium who followers believe can help control climate patterns, claims to make contact with an ancient spirit known as Chief Cobra Coral who, according to legend, is powerful enough to influence natural phenomena. She may have her work cut out for Obama’s visit. Brazilian weather website Climatempo was forecasting partially cloudy weather with occasional showers.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama makes remarks about Libya)

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