News Wrap: Boehner Standing Firm on Extending Bush Tax Cuts
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama shifted his focus today to the problems of global economic recovery. He did so hours after concluding his latest appeal to the Muslim world.
The president’s Asian tour took him this evening to South Korea for a major summit on world economic problems. The gathering of 20 nations formally convenes tomorrow.
Mr. Obama arrived in Seoul after a strikingly personal address to more than 6,000 university students in Jakarta, Indonesia. He spent four years there as a child, and he began today by saying: “Indonesia is a part of me.”
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian named Lolo Soetoro. And as a young boy I was — as a young boy I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.
And while my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim, he firmly believed that all religions were worthy of respect.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president then renewed his call again for a new era of U.S. engagement with the Muslim world.
BARACK OBAMA: I went to Cairo last June, and I called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world — one that creates a path for us to move beyond our differences.
I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Obama praised Indonesia for its efforts to stamp our terrorism, and he stressed again that the war on terror is not about religion.
BARACK OBAMA: America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must work together to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion — certainly not a great, world religion like Islam.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In a show of respect, the first couple toured a mosque in Jakarta that is the largest in Southeast Asia. But clouds of volcanic ash from Mount Merapi forced the Obamas to leave Indonesia earlier than planned to avoid being grounded.
The official death toll from the volcano jumped to 191 today. It roared back to life two weeks ago and has since forced more than 350,000 people to evacuate.
General Motors reported today it made $2 billion in the third quarter. The strong showing was fueled in part by sales of new models in North America. And the Labor Department reported fewer Americans filed first-time claims for jobless benefits last week. It was the third decline in four weeks.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points to close at 11357. The Nasdaq rose more than 15 points to close at 2578.
Talk of taxes was in the air at the U.S. Capitol, as House Republicans met to plan their transition to power. The man in line to be speaker, John Boehner, stood firm on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, even for wealthier Americans. Otherwise, they would expire at the end of this year.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), House Minority Leader: I have only said this about 500 times. I’m going to say it one more time. I think extending all of the current tax rates and making them permanent will reduce the uncertainty in America and help small businesses begin to create jobs again.
You can’t — you can’t invest when you don’t know what the rules are, when you don’t know what the tax rates are going to be next year. And that’s why making these permanent would be the most important thing we could do to create jobs in the country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama had wanted to keep the tax cuts only for the middle class, but, since the election, White House officials have suggested he might consider an across-the-board extension for a year or two.
In Alaska, elections officials began counting nearly 100,000 write-in ballots in the U.S. Senate race. Incumbent Lisa Murkowski is trying to keep her job through a write-in campaign. The overall write-in category finished ahead of Republican nominee Joe Miller in last week’s election. The Democratic candidate in the race already conceded.
Violence erupted in London today, as thousands of students protested plans to triple college tuition to the equivalent of $14,000 a year. Crowds stormed a building where the ruling Conservative Party has its main office.
We have a report from Tom Bradby of Independent Television News.
TOM BRADBY: At the end of the march, a few students charged into Tory H.Q., and a long standoff began. The courtyard outside the building filled up, and the temperature began to rise. A few bottles were thrown. One or two connected.
The students kept charging the doorways to try and get in, and get their colleagues inside out. Shortly after that, the students did get in, and it really did begin to turn ugly. The students repeatedly tried to smash the glass front of Tory H.Q., filled, one would imagine, with bomb-proof glass.
Before long, they had got up onto the roof. The police officers on the ground were gradually reinforced, some of their colleagues now in riot gear. But they were taking casualties of their own. The students let off fire extinguishers and quite often, it seemed, threw whatever else came to hand. And, as the afternoon wore on, many seemed to have mixed feelings.
WOMAN: It’s a shame, because it deflects from the actual cause. But I still think that most of the people out there are not, like, looking to cause problems.
MAN: Things have been taken too far, but we did need to make a point.
TOM BRADBY: The National Union of Students said it condemned the violence utterly.
The anger of the students here was certainly real, though their violence may not have done their cause much good. Many predicted riots as a result of the cuts. Today, we got one.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Elsewhere in Europe, investors dumped Irish bonds, amid growing fears that Ireland may need a bailout from the European Union.
And, in France, a new cost-cutting pension reform measure became law, despite widespread protests. It will raise the partial retirement age to a minimum of 62, and the full-time retirement age to 67.
U.S. health officials have announced plans for large, graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. They’re designed to illustrate the dangers of tobacco use. Some of the labels show diseased lungs to demonstrate what smoking can do to healthy tissue. Others warn against exposing children to secondhand smoke from their parents.
The long-term decline in smoking in the U.S. has stalled since 2004. More than 20 percent of American adults, about 46 million people, still smoke.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.