HARI SREENIVASAN: The Nigerian man accused in the Christmas Day airliner attack is said to be cooperating again with the FBI. Wire service reports late today said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab began talking with agents last week. The reports quoted a law enforcement official who said he’s provided useful intelligence.
Abdulmutallab spoke briefly to investigators after he allegedly tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. He had refused to say more once he was read his legal rights.
U.S. drone aircraft fired at least 17 missiles into Pakistan today near the border with Afghanistan. Residents and security officials said at least 14 militants were killed. The targets were several militant compounds in the North Waziristan region along the border. It was the heaviest drone assault ever in terms of the number of missiles fired. And it came as the Pakistani Taliban continued to deny that their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, had died of wounds from a drone attack.
President Obama’s new budget drew fire today from both sides of the aisle. White House Budget Chief Peter Orszag defended the $3.8 trillion plan at a Senate hearing. But Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire sharply criticized plans to use $30 billion from the bank rescue program, TARP, to help small businesses. That prompted a heated exchange.
PETER ORSZAG, director, Office of Management and Budget: Remember, the purpose of TARP was to address problems in our financial markets. One of the lingering — and it has been remarkably successful in bringing credit spreads back down to normal levels.
One of the lingering problems in the — in our financial markets, however, is access to credit for small businesses. It’s why, in this budget, we’re…
SEN. JUDD GREGG, R-N.H.: No, no, no.
Let me read it to you again, because you don’t appear to understand the understand the law. The law is very clear. The moneys recouped from the TARP shall be paid into the general fund of the treasury for the reduction of the public debt.
It’s not for a piggy bank because you’re concerned about lending to small businesses and you want to get a political event when you go out and make a speech in Nashua, New Hampshire.
HARI SREENIVASAN: That was a reference to the president’s appearance today at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. But the Senate committee’s chairman also took aim at Orszag. Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota said proposals for reducing future deficits are well short of what’s needed.
SEN. KENT CONRAD, D-N.D.: As the recovery takes hold, we then must pivot and deal with the long-term debt. And the place where I would fault this budget is, I don’t see the pivot. I don’t see the pivot. I don’t see the focus on bringing down that long-term debt. I don’t see us getting below, as I look at the numbers, 5 percent of GDP in the next 10 years.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In response, Vice President Biden said the administration understands how serious the deficits are. He told MSNBC, “If we don’t do something about it, they could and may become a national security issue.”
There was fresh evidence today Toyota’s huge recall is hurting business. The company reported sales fell 16 percent in January, as it stopped selling eight models to fix problems with gas pedals. Taking advantage of Toyota’s troubles, Ford sold 24 percent more vehicles in January than the year before. General Motors saw a 14 percent increase. Nissan’s numbers were also up by 16 percent. But Chrysler was down 8 percent.
For the record, Toyota is a “PBS NewsHour” funder.
Wall Street had another good day, helped by encouraging numbers of home sales. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 111 points to close near 10297. The Nasdaq rose almost 19 points to close at 2190.
The crew of a regional airliner made critical errors before crashing near Buffalo, New York, last February. The National Transportation Safety Board panel released the findings today. The Continental flight was operated by Colgan Air. It went into a stall and dove into a house, killing all 49 people aboard and one man in the house. Investigators found the pilot should have been able to recover, but did the opposite of what he should have done.
The president of Iran said today his government is now willing to send uranium abroad for enrichment. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran has no problem meeting the U.N. demand. He also said Iran may be willing to trade three jailed American hikers for 11 Iranians held in U.S. prisons. Relatives of the Americans, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, have said they were hiking last July when they strayed across the border from Iraq. Iranian officials have indicated they might be charged with spying.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — but, for now, back to Jim.