News Wrap: Obama Plans to Nominate Chief of Staff Lew to Treasury Position
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HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama is ready to name a new treasury secretary, his own chief of staff, Jack Lew. It was widely reported today that the announcement will come tomorrow. Lew played a key role in the recent fiscal cliff negotiations with Congress, and he previously headed the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would replace Timothy Geithner, who’s stepping down later this month.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis submitted her resignation today, after four years on the job. She made the decision public in an e-mail message. Labor unions have praised Solis for aggressively enforcing wage laws and job safety. Business groups have complained she refused to take a more cooperative approach.
American International Group, or AIG, will not join a shareholder lawsuit over its federal bailout. AIG’s directors said today they were legally obligated to consider taking part, but they opted against it. The company had faced mounting criticism since news of the suit broke. The 2008 rescue of AIG cost $182 billion, the largest of the financial crisis. All of it was paid back, leaving the U.S. government with a profit of $22 billion.
Vice President Biden called in gun safety organizations and victims groups today and heard personal stories of gun violence. It was the first in a series of meetings to brainstorm on ways to reduce gun violence. The vice president was given that responsibility by President Obama after last month’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: We’re here today to deal with a problem that requires our immediate action, urgent action. And the president and I are determined to take action. This is not an exercise in photo opportunities or just getting to ask you all what your opinions are. We are vitally interested in what you have to say.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Tomorrow, the vice president meets with members of the National Rifle Association and other gun owner groups.
A pretrial hearing ended today in the Colorado movie shooting. Prosecutors finished outlining their evidence against James Holmes, and the defense opted not to make a presentation. Holmes allegedly shot and killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at a late-night movie showing in the town of Aurora last July. The judge says he will rule by Friday on whether Holmes should go to trial.
A large-scale prisoner exchange has begun in Syria. The government said today it will swap more than 2,100 civilian prisoners for 48 Iranians that rebel forces captured in August. The Iranians were greeted in Damascus by their ambassador, who called them visitors. The rebels insisted they were fighters supplied by Iran to support President Bashar al-Assad. It was unclear how many of the Syrian political prisoners were freed today. Opposition groups said there are tens of thousands being held.
The Middle East struggled today with its worst January storm in 30 years. At least a foot of snow fell in Jordan, blocking roads in Amman and cutting off remote villages. That followed days of heavy rain in Lebanon that touched off severe flooding. The rain, wind and nighttime dips below freezing were especially hard on thousands of Syrian refugees living in tent camps and homemade shelters.
In China, the ruling Communist Party resolved a censorship dispute with an influential newspaper. Staffers with Southern Weekly in Guangzhou said today officials will no longer directly censor content before publication. Other controls will stay in place. Protests erupted after censors rewrote a New Year’s editorial that called for political reform.
The Washington National Cathedral will begin performing same-sex marriages. The cathedral announced the decision today as part of an effort to build a more inclusive community. The 106-year-old cathedral is a spiritual center for the nation, hosting presidential inauguration services and state funerals. It will be one of the first Episcopal congregations to allow gay marriage rites.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 61 points to close at 13,390. The Nasdaq rose 14 points to close above 3,105.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.