Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Reuters set to spotlight financial regulation in DC

FINANCIAL-REGULATION/OBAMA
The fight over new rules that will dramatically change Wall Street and financial markets is approaching the finish line in Washington, with both lawmakers and the financial industry making last-ditch efforts to put their stamp on the reform effort. Reuters will be hearing from the key players in the debate on April 26-29 during the 2010 Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit.

Top regulators, watchdogs, lawmakers and stakeholders will provide their perspectives on how this landmark legislation will impact banks, investors, traders and consumers. The talks will focus in on proposals for a strong new consumer agency, strict oversight of derivatives and attempts to end the perception that some financial firms are “too big to fail.”

Oh wow…. “Kumar” heads back to Hollywood – in 3D?

USA/

From the White House back to White Castle….

Nine months after leaving Hollywood for the White House, the actor Kal Penn is returning to Tinseltown to reprise his most famous role, as the marijuana-loving “Kumar” in the raucous “Harold and Kumar” feature film comedies, according to media reports. 

As Kalpen Modi — Kal Penn is his stage name — the 32-year-old actor has been working in the Obama White House since July as an associate director of public engagement. 

“Entertainment Weekly” reported on its website that Penn was leaving to make a new Harold and Kumar movie, this one with a Christmas theme, which might be shot in 3-D.

No. 43 slips under the radar in DC

Ole 43, otherwise known as former President George W. Bush, was in Washington today to address hundreds of people who worked for him over the years.

USA-BUSH/The whole thing was closed press and so we don’t have a complete read-out of the proceedings but suffice to say that Bush steered clear of the current volatile political climate in Washington.

This has been a consistent position of Bush. While he might chafe privately at some of the blame tossed his way by President Barack Obama, he doesn’t talk about it publicly. Having seen how tough the job is being president, he reckons Obama doesn’t need one more critic telling him how to do it.

Wasn’t Groundhog Day last week? Another blizzard slams East Coast

WEATHER-USA/It is starting to feel a lot like that (in)famous movie “Groundhog Day” with a powerful blizzard again pelting the East Coast  from Washington, D.C. up to New York with a foot or more of snow and pummeling winds.

The federal government in Washington is closed for the third straight day, the United Nation’s headquarters in Manhattan is also shuttered — in fact it may be easier to say what’s open, which is probably next to nothing except the random coffee shop and well of course Wall Street.

Already about 15,000 customers in the Baltimore/Washington area are without power and that number will likely jump with wind gusts reportedly hitting more than 40 miles per hour at Dulles International Airport and near whiteout conditions.

Obama Braves “Snowmaggedon” to Rally Democrats

OBAMA/

The Obama family hails from Chicago, where heavy snowfalls are not uncommon. But that’s not the case in Washington, D.C., which was largely shut down on Saturday morning  by a blizzard when the president headed to the Capital Hilton Hotel to rev up a gathering of the Democratic National Committee.

The short ride from the White House was not without glitches. First, a couple of the 15 or so vehicles in the presidential motorcade had a hard time getting up the icy White House driveway. Then an ambulance that was accompanying the group had a slight fender-bender accident with one of the SUVs. As the cars approached White House grounds on the return trip, a tree branch fell on the same vehicle that had been scraped earlier, momentarily blocking the way.

Obama had serious things on his mind, such as healthcare and financial reform, as he spoke to a Democratic Party that has becoming increasingly concerned about the shifting tides of public opinion ahead of November’s Congressional elections. But the weather was an unavoidable topic.

Washington blizzard finally gets respect from ‘flinty’ Obama

President Barack Obama, who famously chided Washington for not being “flinty” enough in dealing with snow compared with his hometown Chicago, isn’t scoffing any more as a winter storm threatens to dump up to 30 inches on the U.S. capital this weekend.

WEATHER-USA/SNOW“I think even a transplanted Hawaiian to Chicago has sufficient respect for a forecast of nearly two feet of snow,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters as snowflakes fluttered against the window of his West Wing office.

Midwesterners like Obama like to brag how tough they are in winter weather compared with their East Coast brethren. That said, Gibbs noted the president was not going to have to shovel the White House’s many paths, although he allowed that the Obama daughters Sasha and Malia  might well play in the drifts or get out the First Family’s sled.

from Summit Notebook:

Steven Chu: “I’m an energy efficiency nut”

He unplugged the extra refrigerator in the basement. He got a tankless water heater and reduced the heat setting. He turned down the air conditioning last summer and used fans to keep cool.

Yes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu acknowledged, "I'm an energy efficiency nut."

The Nobel physics laureate said he's slowly weatherizing his home in the Washington DC area, but "weatherizing" isn't a word he likes. "I'm decreasing its energy consumption and making money," was how he put it at a Reuters Washington Summit. Chu figures his energy bills are about half what the home's previous owners paid.

But he said that he, and most people, could still do more.

"In terms of energy efficiency, it's what the economists would say is a market failure ... Most people don't have the knowledge or inclination, there's inertia, they just can't be bothered, they let some things slip," Chu said. And he himself is not immune: "We've been living in the house for five months and it's still a work in progress -- and I'm an energy efficiency nut."

Michelle Obama’s close encounters with Elmo, Big Bird and U.S. diplomats

Michelle ObamaU.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience at the U.S. mission to the United Nations that she was “thrilled” to be back in New York for the first time since her husband Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. president in January. But she said some things are even more exciting than addressing an audience of 150 U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other government officials.

“I’m thrilled to be here but I was just at ‘Sesame Street’, I’m sorry,” she said, referring to the long-running U.S. children’s television program. “I never thought I’d be on ‘Sesame Street’ with Elmo and Big Bird and I was thrilled. I’m still thrilled. I’m on a high. I think it’s probably the best thing I’ve done so far in the White House.”

Elmo
One of the biggest rounds of applause during the first lady’s 20-minute appearance at the U.S. mission in midtown Manhattan came when she read a letter the son of one of the mission staffers, Scott Turner, recently sent to the president.  According to Michelle Obama, Turner’s son Jack, a first grader,  wrote to the president:

Is “shirtless cover” okay?

obamaparkWashingtonian is making the most of the buzz on its May issue with a shirtless President Obama on the cover.

Obama didn’t pose for the picture. It’s the same shirtless paparazzi photo taken  while he was on vacation in Hawaii in December.  But the magazine took some creative license and changed the color of his swim trunks from black to red.

The glossy magazine that bills itself as the guide to life, media, gossip and politics in Washington used the photo to illustrate its cover story “26 Reasons to Love Living Here” (he’s reason #2 – “Our New Neighbor is Hot,” according to the cover).

U.S. Senate goes two ways on estate taxes

The U.S. Senate went two different ways on the estate tax, which has been a contentious issue for years — a tax congressional Republicans have villified as the “death tax”.BRITAIN-RICHARDSON/

Senators voted 51-48 to include a provision in the fiscal 2010 budget that called for exempting estates at $5 million for individuals and limiting the tax to 35 percent — though the measure is non-binding and could be stripped out when the legislation is melded with a separate budget that passed the House of Representatives.

The amendment provoked a moment of drama in an otherwise long day of voting in the Senate where Democratic leaders scrambled to find the votes to kill the amendment, which scores some political points to those who have rallied against the estate tax for years.