Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Obama sets tight auto aid terms

Extract from BBC News online, 30 March 2009

US President Barack Obama has given US carmakers General Motors (GM) and Chrysler strict deadlines to restructure before getting more aid. General Motors will be given 60 days and Chrysler just 30 days to submit new plans for recovery.

Soon after ordering the resignation of GM chief Rick Wagoner, Mr Obama said bankruptcy protection could speed up the restructuring process. But he also offered conditional assurances about the industry's future.

"We cannot, we must not and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish," said Mr Obama.

"But our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed."
He said the car firms had run into trouble because of a "failure of leadership - from Washington to Detroit".

Restructuring plans may "mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger", he said. This could make it easier for the firms to "quickly clear away their old debts that are weighing them down so they can get back on their feet and on to a path of success".
Mr Obama said this would not have to involve breaking the companies up.

"My administration will offer GM and Chrysler a limited period of time with creditors, unions, and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional tax dollars."

The president also said he would work with Congress on a programme to encourage consumers to replace old, less fuel-efficient cars with newer, cleaner vehicles. Germany and others have adopted such schemes, thus boosting vehicle sales.

Friday, 20 March 2009

"Obama promotes reforms on TV show"

From BBC News online, Friday 20 March 2009

US President Barack Obama has appeared on a popular TV chat show to promote moves to resolve the economic crisis. He told NBC's Tonight Show he was taking full responsibility "to fix" the economy, in the first-ever appearance on the show by a serving US president.

Mr Obama said he was "stunned" by the huge bonuses that bailed-out insurance firm AIG was paying its employees.
The bonuses - totalling $165m (£113m) in a company now 80% government-owned - have caused outrage in the US. On Thursday, US lawmakers in the House of Representatives backed a bill to levy a 90% tax on big bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers.

Mr Obama told programme host Jay Leno in Burbank, California: "The immediate bonuses that went to AIG are a problem but the larger problem is we've got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough and people have a sense of responsibility.

"And if we can get back to those values that built America, then I think we're going to be OK."
Promoting his plans for broad reform of financial regulation, Mr Obama said they were needed because "most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal".

The president also mounted a strong defence of his embattled Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "This guy has not just a banking crisis. He's got the worst recession since the Great Depression," he said, adding: "I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job."

Mr Obama also exchanged jokes with Leno during the 35-minute interview.
Referring to his critics, he said: "I do think in Washington it's a little bit like American Idol, except everybody is Simon Cowell."

Questions veered away from politics and into the personal life of the president and his family in the White House.
He said it was "pretty cool" to fly on Air Force One, and that his daughters Sasha and Malia would get their promised pet dog "shortly".

For fans of the president it was an opportunity to see him looking calm and humorous, the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says. Mr Obama's staff also felt that they needed to use any opportunity they have to allow him to explain himself to the widest possible audience.

But his opponents say that the appearance demeaned his office and was a distraction from serious issues, our correspondent says.

"US offers Iran a 'new beginning'"

US President Barack Obama has offered "a new beginning" of engagement with Tehran in an unprecedented direct video message to the Iranian people.

Extract from: BBC News online, Friday 20 March 2009

"My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us," Mr Obama said.

An advisor to Iran's president welcomed Mr Obama's message but said Washington had to fundamentally change policy.

Relations between Iran and the US have been strained over Tehran's controversial nuclear activities.

The US fears Iran's uranium enrichment programme is a cover to build atomic weapons, a charge Iranian officials deny.

Mr Obama, like his predecessor, wants Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme, but is trying to build up diplomatic capital before confronting the issue, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana described Mr Obama's appeal as "very constructive" and urged Teheran to pay close attention to it.

The message is a dramatic departure from the policies of the George W Bush's administration, which described Iran as part of the "axis of evil", the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says.
Earlier this year, President Obama said he was looking for "openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face-to-face" with Iran.

Click here to read the article in full

Saturday, 14 March 2009

"We will create green new deal", says Gore

Extract from The Guardian, UK - Saturday 14 Oct 2009
[by Leo Hickman]

Gore says that, since the election of Barack Obama last November, he feels much more bullish about the chances of political progress in tackling climate change. But one group who are unlikely to ever "get it" are the ever-vocal contingent of climate change sceptics, the most prominent of whom were gathered at a conference this week in New York.

Al Gore, the world's best-known climate change "alarmist", as the sceptics like to say, was a popular source of ridicule and ire at the conference. Gore brackets the sceptics with those who believe in creationism: "It's fed by a huge amount of funding from carbon special interests who have been financing these phoney, pseudo-scientific reports and they have a self-interest in sowing doubt. Doubt is their product.

"It's also fed by an ideological opposition and, coming out of the 20th century, the battle against excess statism in various forms became a deeply held view, and I share that view if it's stated properly, but some take it to such an extreme that anything which implies a new regulation or a new role for government is automatically attacked."

(Click here to read the article in full)