Egypt’s vice president met with several major opposition groups for the first time yesterday and offered new concessions including freedom of the press, the release of detained protesters and an eventual lifting of the country’s hated emergency laws. Meanwhile, the military “has rounded scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists in recent days without formal charges, according to watchdog groups.”
President Obama will address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today “to show a new era of warm feelings” between a Chamber “in need of bipartisan bona fidas” and a president “seeking credibility with centrist voters and corporate donors.” Obama still intends to defend new restrictions on insurance companies in the health care law and tell executives they have an “obligation” to “hire our workers, and pay decent wages.”
In his pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Obama insisted he “didn’t move” toward the political center to raise his approval ratings, adding “I’m the same guy.” Sounding off on the recent ruling declaring health reform unconstitutional, Obama said the Florida judge “was wrong” and that he is not interested in “refighting the battles of the last two years.”
In a New York Times op-ed, White House OMB Director Jacob Lew said Obama’s budget proposal makes “tough choices” in spending cuts “since every decision to invest in one program will necessitate a cut somewhere else.” Lew cited cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, community service block grants, and community development block grants as three of the “indiscriminate cuts” that will offered on February 14.
Sudan’s president accepted the results of the vote held in the southern part of the country to secede from the North, paving the way for the country to split this summer. “Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people,” Bashir said in an address on state TV today.
The Obama administration is courting Al-Jazeera “in an attempt to improve a history of testy relations with one of the most influential news outlets in the Middle East.” The State Department has sought to put U.S. officials on the network in recent weeks. “If we are not in the conversation, people will be speaking for us or about us,” a State Department media relations official said.
The U.S. and Russia exchanged documents this weekend that formally activated the New START arms control treaty. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “traded so-called instruments of ratification” that “starts the clock ticking on verification and inspection procedures for the two sides’ nuclear arsenals.”
And finally: Nothing is sexier to conservatives than Ronald Reagan, so the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA is now offering “The Reagan Honeymoon Package,” allowing couples to stay in same room in which President Reagan and First Lady Nancy slept on their 1952 honeymoon at the resort. For just $1,199, honeymooners get “Deluxe Accommodations for Two in the Alhambra Suite,” where the Reagans stayed the first night of their marriage, along with dinner, massages, and passes to the Reagan Library.