Washington Extra – Syria slap

April 29, 2011

Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball got early word that the White House was going to slap additional sanctions on Syria including on the brother and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials then told White House correspondent Matt Spetalnick that President Barack Obama had signed an executive order for sanctions today, showing that no Syrian official was “immune” from repercussions if the violence against protesters didn’t stop.

A not-so-veiled message was that while President Assad was not on the list, that shoe could drop too if the crackdown did not end. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 48 civilians were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations today.

Sanctions make a statement and are usually the first course of action after verbal condemnation fails. But whether they have any lasting impact is an open question. And the Obama administration is still using far less of a stick with Assad than it has with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

US slaps new sanctions on Syria over crackdown

The United States slapped sanctions on Syria’s intelligence agency and two relatives of President Bashar al-Assad in Washington’s first concrete steps in response to a bloody crackdown on protests. Assad, Syria’s long-serving ruler, was not among those targeted under an order signed by President Obama but could be named soon if violence by government forces against democracy protesters continues, a senior U.S. official said.

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

Gasoline prices dent U.S. consumers’ buying power

Consumers increased spending for a ninth straight month in March as they stretched to cover higher costs for food and gasoline, with inflation posting its biggest year-on-year gain in 10 months. Despite the rising cost of living, Americans grew a bit more optimistic about the economy this month and even dialed down their expectations for inflation over the medium-to-long term.

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

For a graphic on gas prices, click here.

Bernanke says U.S. economy needs more time to heal

The economy is not fully recovered from its deep recession, with housing still weighing on growth, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech spelling out ways the central bank has studied lower income communities. “Our economy is far from where we would like it to be,” he said in prepared remarks to a conference.

For more of this story by Mark Felsenthal, read here.

Obama promises help to rebuild tornado-hit South

President Obama promised federal aid to the tornado-ravaged South after he got a close-up look at the “heartbreaking” impact of deadly twisters that killed at least 328 people. “We are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild,” Obama told reporters after touring scores of smashed homes and talking with survivors in Tuscaloosa, a university city in Alabama that was wrecked by the tornadoes.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Verna Gates, read here.

Business gears up to battle Congress on debt limit

Big manufacturers, fearful of higher borrowing costs, are lining up with Wall Street banks to pressure a divided Congress to raise its $14.3 trillion cap on how much Washington can borrow. Just two weeks are left until the government will have to start taking emergency measures so that it can continue paying its bills. As part of an intense lobbying effort, a broad coalition of business and trade groups plan to send a letter to lawmakers warning of dire consequences if America’s borrowing limit is not increased.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai and Tim Reid, read here.

US court backs federal embryonic stem cells funds

An appeals court ruled the Obama administration can continue using federal money to fund human embryonic stem cell research, a possible avenue toward new treatments for many medical conditions. The appeals court overturned a ruling by a federal judge who found that such research violated the law because it put other researchers working with adult stem cells at a disadvantage to win federal grants. Opponents of human embryonic stem cell research argue that it is unacceptable because it destroys human embryos.

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

For a factbox on embryonic stem cells, click here.

From elsewhere…

World joins in British royal wedding celebrations

They wore Kate and William face masks in Hong Kong, donned plastic tiaras and wedding dresses in Sydney and knocked back jugs of Pimm’s and roast beef served on red, white and blue plates in Paris. As thousands packed the streets of London to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, millions around the world joined in the fun. Royal-themed parties were held from Beijing to New York, while up to 2 billion people worldwide were expected to watch the wedding on television.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama at White House, April 27)


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