Nation briefs 1/27/13

Published:

WASHINGTON -- Reviving an issue that has languished for years, President Barack Obama will launch a campaign next week aimed at overhauling the nation's immigration system and creating legal status for millions, as a bipartisan Senate group nears agreement on achieving the same goals.

The proposals from Obama and lawmakers will mark the start of what is expected to be a contentious and emotional process with deep political implications. Latino voters overwhelmingly backed Obama in the 2012 election, leaving Republicans grappling for a way to regain their standing with an increasingly powerful pool of voters.

The president will press his case for immigration changes during a trip to Las Vegas Tuesday. The Senate working group is also aiming to outline its proposals this week, according to a Senate aide.

Even before those plans are formally unveiled, there is emerging consensus on several components, most notably the need for some kind of pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

The proposals will commence what is sure to be a contentious and emotional debate following 2012 election results that saw Latino voters turn out in large numbers to re-elect Obama -- a signal to many Republican leaders that the party needs to change its posture on immigration.

GOP must stick together: Rep. Paul Ryan said Saturday that Republicans need to stick together and pick their fights during President Barack Obama's second term, rejecting some White House proposals outright and trying to infuse others with conservative principles. In a speech to conservatives, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee said Obama would attempt to divide Republicans but that the party must avoid internal squabbles as it seeks to rebound from a second straight presidential loss. "We can't get rattled. We won't play the villain in his morality plays. We have to stay united," Ryan said at the National Review Institute event. "We have to show that if given the chance, we can govern. We have better ideas."

Obama announces new chief of staff: President Barack Obama announced Friday that his new chief of staff is Denis McDonough, whom the president described as a close friend unafraid to deliver straight talk. McDonough has been a longtime foreign policy adviser to the president and is popular among the White House staff. Obama made the announcement in the East Room of the White House with McDonough and outgoing chief of staff Jack Lew, who has been nominated as treasury secretary.

Harkin won't seek re-election: U.S.Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said Saturday he will not seek a sixth term in 2014, a decision that eases some of the burden the national Republican Party faces in retaking the Senate. Harkin, chairman of an influential Senate committee, announced his decision during an interview with Associated Press, saying the move could surprise some. The 73-year-old cited his age as a factor in the decision, saying it was time to pass the torch he has held for nearly 30 years, freeing a new generation of Iowa Democrats to seek higher office.

Accused friar commits suicide: A Franciscan friar accused of sexually abusing students at Catholic high schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery, police said Saturday. Brother Stephen Baker, 62, was found dead of self-inflicted wounds at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning, Blair Township Police Chief Roger White told Associated Press. Baker was named in legal settlements recently involving 11 men who alleged that he sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements announced Jan. 16 involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio from 1986-90.

Catch limits to be reduced: New England's top fishing regulator said Friday that crippling cuts in catch limits this year are unavoidable and will devastate what remains of the region's once-flourishing fishing industry. Officials are set to meet next week to decide catch limits for fishermen who chase bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as cod and haddock. But New England Fishery Management Council committees have already recommended massive cuts that fishermen have repeatedly warned will destroy the industry. On Friday, John Bullard, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast office, said key fish populations are so weak, "draconian" cuts in catch limits are unavoidable.

Illinois credit downgraded again: Standard & Poor's has lowered Illinois' credit rating due to concern over the state's failure to address its $96 billion pension fund deficit. The company said Friday that it downgraded Illinois' general obligation bonds from A to A-minus and has given an A-minus rating to $500 million in general obligation bonds that the state plans to issue in February. Ratings agencies have been downgrading Illinois' credit over the last several years.

Sets record: Chicago didn't get much snow Friday, but it was record-breaking. The 1.1 inches that settled on Windy City streets and sidewalks marked the latest first seasonal snowfall of at least an inch in the Midwest metropolis since at least 1884, when records were first kept, National Weather Service forecaster Matt Friedlein said. The previous record was set on Jan. 17, 1899.

Hackers say they avenged death: The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide. The FBI is investigating. The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago "a line was crossed." The hackers say they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public.

Sheriff ad a result of cutbacks: A Wisconsin sheriff who released a radio ad urging Milwaukee-area residents to learn to handle firearms so they can defend themselves while waiting for police said Friday that law enforcement cutbacks have changed the way police can respond to crime. In the 30-second commercial, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. says personal safety is no longer a spectator sport. "I need you in the game," he says. "With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option," he adds. "You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. ... Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there."

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.