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Other News: Obama Announces Education Plan

March 10, 2009 at 6:05 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: President Obama appealed today for a new approach to shoring up the nation’s public schools. He backed merit pay for teachers and asked teachers unions to do the same. And he also pushed for removing state limits on charter schools. The president said Republicans and Democrats have to stop bickering and embrace reforms.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding us — holding ourselves accountable is here.

What’s required is not simply new investments, but new reforms. It’s time to expect more from our students. It’s time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones. It’s time to demand results from government at every level.

GWEN IFILL: The president also called for a longer school day, but he acknowledged it might not be popular in many families.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants a broad range of companies to begin reporting how much greenhouse gas they release. The proposal would affect more than 13,000 facilities, including auto plants, refineries, and coal mines. The reporting will begin in 2011, if the rule becomes final.

At least 33 Iraqis died in a suicide bombing today. It followed a Sunday bombing that killed 30 people. The latest attack targeted Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders west of Baghdad. They’d just held a reconciliation meeting.

Still, the U.S. commanding general said there’s no sign Iraq will ask U.S. troops to stay longer than 2011, the current deadline. Army General Ray Odierno said, “The progress we’re making now, and what I see today, I don’t see anything that would have us have to renegotiate.”

Top U.S. intelligence officials today played down fears about Iran’s immediate nuclear capability. The director of national intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told a Senate hearing Iran does yet not have the nuclear fuel for a bomb. He was also asked what the future might hold.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Mich.: Does the intelligence community assess that Iran currently has made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium for a warhead or a bomb?

DENNIS BLAIR, director of National Intelligence: We assess that Iran has not yet made that decision. Our current estimate is that the minimum time at which Iran could technically produce the amount of highly enriched uranium for a single weapon is 2010 to 2015.

GWEN IFILL: The testimony contradicted statements by Israel’s top military intelligence official. Last weekend, he said Iran is already capable of producing nuclear weapons.

The man nominated to run the U.S. National Intelligence Council has withdrawn under fire. Charles Freeman had held several posts, including ambassador to Saudi Arabia. But conservatives attacked his strong criticism of Israel and past statements that U.S. support for Israel contributed to 9/11.

Five men charged in the 9/11 attacks issued a detailed defense of their actions today. The five included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind. They called themselves, quote, “terrorists to the bone” who acted to defend Islam. The statement was submitted to a U.S. military war crimes court at Guantanamo, Cuba. President Obama has suspended the case, pending a review.

A suspected al-Qaida agent appeared in U.S. federal court today for the first time to face terror charges. Ali al-Marri had been held without charge as an enemy combatant for five-and-a-half years. He remains at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., until his transfer to Illinois to stand trial.