Perry hits Romney: ‘We don’t need Obama lite’
By Byron York Chief Political Correspondent
ORLANDO — In the hours before another high-profile Republican debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leveling some of the campaign’s sharpest rhetoric yet at rival Mitt Romney. In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night, Perry said Republicans “don’t need to nominate Obama lite — someone who’s going to blur the lines between President Obama and our nominee.”
When Hannity noted that, in Republican circles, “Obama lite” is a “pretty rough term,” Perry explained, “I think it’s important that we have a clear distinction between the candidates. When you take a look at what Mitt did from the standpoint of Romneycare in Massachusetts, you’re going to have a hard time finding a difference between Obamacare and Romneycare.” With that answer, Perry left no doubt that “Obama lite” refers to just one person: Mitt Romney.
The response from the Romney camp late Wednesday night suggested the campaign’s charges and countercharges are becoming more personal. “It’s amusing to listen to Al Gore’s campaign chairman from Texas lecture Republicans on who they should nominate for president,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “What we need to turn around this bad economy is Mitt Romney, who has a solid record of accomplishment creating jobs in the private sector.”
Perry’s stepped-up rhetoric comes amid a growing sense that his campaign has lost altitude in recent days. Recent polls have shown Romney narrowing Perry’s lead, and a survey in South Carolina showed Perry’s margin shrinking from 20 points to just four. The Perry and Romney camps spent the day before the debate lobbing attack press releases at each other on the subjects of jobs, Social Security, and health care.
On Social Security, it had appeared in recent days that Perry was subtly backing away from his use of the phrase “Ponzi scheme.” He did not use the words in an op-ed on Social Security for USA Today, and he did not use them in the last Republican debate except to say that others have also used “Ponzi scheme” to describe Social Security. But on Wednesday night, Perry made clear he’s still willing to use the term, saying at one point that young people “know what a Ponzi scheme is” when they look at Social Security. A moment later, Perry said, “I agree that this is a Ponzi scheme for our young people.” So Perry appears to be all in on the “Ponzi scheme” question.
The debate, sponsored by Fox News, Google, and the Republican Party of Florida, is scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday night in Orlando.
Palestinians won’t accept vote delay on UN bid
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY and STEVEN R. HURST – Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A top Palestinian official said Wednesday that President Mahmoud Abbas would accept no political delays on his bid for membership in the United Nations, rejecting mounting pressure from the United States and France to first return to negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians plan to submit their letter of application on Friday when Abbas is to speak to the U.N. General Assembly, but he faced a withering lack of support as the world body opened its annual meeting. President Barack Obama said there could be no “shortcuts” in the quest for Middle East peace, a message that was echoed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“We will not allow any political manoeuvring on this issue,” said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Abbas and former chief of negotiations.
Erekat said Abbas had made that plain in discussions with all parties involved over the last three days of meetings in the lead-up to the annual UN global gathering of presidents, heads of state and ruling royalty.
Sarkozy proposed a one-year timetable Wednesday for Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace accord, part of a concerted push with the United States to steer the Palestinians away from an application for U.N. membership.
Sarkozy spoke shortly after Obama warned against action on the Palestinian bid before there was a peace agreement. He said negotiations, not U.N. declarations, were essential to a lasting peace.
While Obama stopped short of calling directly for the Palestinians to drop their bid for full membership – an effort the U.S. has vowed to veto in the Security Council – Sarkozy sounded a more compromising tone and urged each side, and the international community, to approach the deadlocked process with new ideas and tactics.
US Stocks Drop After Fed Announcement; DJIA Down 1.3%
SEPTEMBER 21, 2011, 3:45 P.M. ET
By Jonathan Cheng
U.S. stocks dropped as investors questioned the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve’s latest unconventional attempt to bolster the faltering U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 148 points, or 1.3%, to 11260. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index shed 19 points, or 1.6%, to 1183 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 14 points, or 0.6%, to 2575.
The bulk of the declines came late in the trading day, after the Fed said it would increase its share of longer-term Treasurys by $400 billion by June 2012 in an effort to make credit cheaper and spur spending and investment.
The policy move, dubbed “Operation Twist,” effectively changes the composition of its securities portfolio so it holds more longer-term debt. To help keep mortgage rates low, the Fed also said it would reinvest the proceeds from maturing agency debt and mortgage-backed securities into mortgage-related debt.
While the market had largely expected the news, investors remained skeptical about the long-term effectiveness of the action to spur borrowing, hiring and spending. Underscoring the broad-based skepticism, three out of 10 voting officials opposed the action at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the Fed’s policy making body — the Federal Open Market Committee — highlighting continued divisions within the central bank as it tries unorthodox new ways to provide support to the economy.
“The twist is like a popsicle when you have a sore throat — it makes you feel good but it doesn’t address the underlying disease, and the disease is confidence, not that liquidity is too expensive,” said Ron Florance, managing director of investing strategy and asset allocation for Wells Fargo Private Bank. “The Fed has been as accommodative as it can, and now it’s the other side of the balance sheet that needs to make a longer-term prudent fiscal policy…The super-committee on the budget is really the one that people are waiting for now.”
Perry Brings Israel to the Forefront
By CARL J. KELM
In recent days, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has revived Israel as a campaign-trail topic, despite the fact that foreign policy has played but a small role in the GOP primary so far.
Mr. Perry’s newfound interest in the Middle East dovetails with a Palestinian effort to secure recognition from the United Nations and a Republican special election win in a New York congressional district with a large number of Jewish voters. The Texan’s latest move, after publishing op-eds in The Wall Street Journal and in the Jerusalem Post, was speaking alongside American and Israeli leaders Tuesday at a Manhattan event.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry during a press conference with American and Israeli Jewish leaders in New York.
“We would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move,” he said, referring to the Palestinian gambit, “if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous.”
The Texan’s views on the subject aren’t necessarily unique for a Republican candidate, but his decision to highlight Israel, a topic thus far neglected in the campaign, could be strategically useful. If the Jewish vote (or, more accurately, a greater-than-usual share of it) is indeed in play in 2012, taking a strong stand in Israel’s defense could help drive a wedge between Mr. Obama and a traditionally Democratic constituency.
But highlighting Israel could also be helpful in the primary. Showing leadership in this area allows Mr. Perry to cover up a foreign policy weakness that many governors share.
Michele Anders (center) and Deirdre Power, Kaiser Permanente nurses, make picket signs at the California Nurses Association headquarters in Oakland in preparation for Thursday’s planned strike.
Nurses to strike California hospitals Thursday
Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
As many as 23,000 registered nurses are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday at Kaiser Permanente, Children’s Hospital Oakland and many Sutter Health medical centers in Northern and Central California.
The Kaiser strike – which will involve about 17,000 nurses represented by the California Nurses Association-National Nurses United – is in sympathy with 1,500 mental health and optometry employees at Kaiser facilities in Northern California represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Mental health workers at Kaiser said they’re striking over proposed cuts to their health and retirement benefits, and what they described as exceptionally long wait times for patients to receive individual psychiatric care. They are also expected to be joined by another 2,000 equipment engineers from another union.
Registered nurses at Children’s Hospital Oakland and Sutter Health centers are also holding a one-day walkout Thursday, but the strike is over their ongoing contract disputes at those facilities. In total, 34 hospitals in Northern and Central California will be affected by Thursday’s labor action.
Officials from the hospitals affected by the strikes said they will continue to provide care by hiring replacement workers and rescheduling elective procedures.
Americans freed from prison leave Iran
Sep 21, 1:35 PM EDT
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI – Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two Americans jailed in Iran as spies left Tehran on Wednesday bound for the Gulf state of Oman, closing a high-profile drama with archfoe Washington that brought more than two years of hope then heartbreak for the families.
In the end, however, Iran’s clerics opted for a near mirror image of last year’s release of a third American captured with the other two – opening the doors of Tehran’s Evin prison in exchange of $500,00 bail each while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was preparing for the spotlight in New York for the U.N.’s annual gathering of world leaders.
Although the fate of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal gripped America, it was on the periphery of the larger showdowns between Washington and Tehran that include Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions to widen military and political influence in the Middle East and beyond. But – for a moment at the United Nations at least – U.S. officials and rights group may be adding words of thanks in addition to their calls for alarm over Iran.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Bauer and Fattal left Iran just as darkness fell in the capital Tehran. The fast-moving final steps – from the gray prison gates to Tehran’s urban Mehrabad airport in a diplomatic convoy – came after a week of mixed signals and political brinksmanship within Iran’s leadership.
It began last week with Ahmadinejad promising their release within days. But then came the voice of the hard-line ruling clerics, who have waged a stinging campaign against the president and his allies in recent months as part of power struggle.
The clerics’ appeared to be sending a message that only they have the power to set the timing and ground rules to release the men, who were detained along with friend Sarah Shourd along the Iran-Iraq border in July 2009. The three strongly denied the charges of espionage and said they were merely hikers in Iraq’s relatively peaceful Kurdistan region who wandered close to Iran’s border.
An Omani official told The Associated Press the men were flying to the capital, Muscat. He added that family members are in Muscat to be reunited with Bauer and Fattal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He did not say how long the two men will stay in the Gulf state before heading home to America.
This was the same route followed by last September by Shourd, who received a marriage proposal from Bauer while in prison. Oman has close relations with Tehran and Washington and has acted as mediator in the releases and the apparent transfer of the bail money because of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. Oman plays a strategic role in the region by sharing control with Iran of the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which is the route for 40 percent of the world’s oil tanker traffic.
In one possible parting shot by Iran, the release came just minutes before President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly. There was no direct evidence that Iran timed the American’s freedom to overshadow Obama’s speech, but Iran has conducted international political stagecraft in the past.
Most famously, Iran waited until just moments after Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration in January 1981 to free 52 American hostages held for 444 days at the former U.S. Embassy after it was stormed by militants backing Iran’s Islamic Revolution. The timing was seen as a way to embarrass ex-President Jimmy Carter for his backing of Iran’s former monarch.
Associated Press reporters saw a convoy of vehicles with Swiss and Omani diplomats leaving Evin prison bound for Mehrabad airport, which is near Tehran’s massive Azadi Square. The site is used for military parades but also was a temporary hub for protesters after Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009.
Switzerland represents American interests in Iran because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Tehran since after the storming of the embassy.
“I have finished the job that I had to do as their lawyer,” said their defense attorney Masoud Shafiei. He obtained signatures of two judges on a bail-for-freedom deal. A $1 million bail – $500,000 for each one – was posted.