Obama challenges Cantor on jobs bill
DALLAS, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, speaking to a Texas audience Tuesday, openly challenged Republicans to explain what they don't like about his jobs bill.
The president is pushing hard for his American Jobs Act, but on the flight to Dallas, his spokesman reiterated Obama would be open to signing parts of the legislation if it doesn't reach his desk intact.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the president wants to see a vote on the whole act, but has said he will then sign provisions "piece by piece" if that's how it comes to him.
In prepared remarks on the jobs legislation in Mesquite, the home of Eastfield College near Dallas, Obama said, "Yesterday, the Republican majority leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now he won't even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. He won't even give it a vote.
"Well I'd like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn't believe in," the president said in the remarks supplied by the White House. "Does he not believe in rebuilding America's roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?"
Part of Obama's jobs plan would rehire unemployed educators, like Kimberly Russell, the laid-off social studies teacher who was scheduled to introduce him on stage when he speaks in Dallas.
"Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye, and tell her why she doesn't deserve to get a paycheck again," Obama said. "Come tell her students why they don't deserve to have their teacher back."
The president said the Virginia Republican should also explain his position to Dallas construction workers and small business owners "why you'd rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle-class. And if you won't do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every member of Congress stands."
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thwarted an effort by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to add the jobs bill as an amendment to legislation on Chinese currency, The Hill reported. Reid, using a procedure called "filling the tree," declared the currency bill closed for amendments.
McConnell said he was simply trying to do what the president wants.
"I think the president of the United States, whose polices I generally do not support ... is entitled to know where the Senate stands on his proposal that he has been out talking about ... and suggesting that we are unwilling to vote on it," McConnell said.
Reid said voting on the jobs bill with no debate is "ridiculous on its face."
Obama also had two campaign fundraisers at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas.
He was also scheduled to fly to St. Louis for campaign events at the Renaissance Hotel and a private residence before returning to Washington.
Wall Street protest gains union support
NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Several top unions Tuesday threw their support behind protests on Wall Street and across the nation demanding U.S. social and economic policy change.
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union all issued statements supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders called the protests a "Main Street Movement" and said "Priority # 1 should be rebuilding Main Street, not fueling the power of corporate CEOs and their marionette politicians."
McEntee and Saunders said the economic downturn "that has wrecked so many lives, obliterated jobs, and left millions of Americans homeless and hopeless is the fault of banks that gamble with our future. Their reckless pursuit of profits, at the expense of working families' pursuit of the American dream, must come to an end."
The CWA Executive Board said the union's 700,000 members "strongly support the Occupy Wall Street Movement," which it called "an appropriate expression of anger for all Americans."
"We support the activists' non-violent efforts to seek a more equitable and democratic society based on citizenship, not corporate greed," the CWA statement said.
Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley said Occupy Wall Street protesters "are speaking for the vast majority of Americans who are frustrated by the bankers and brokers who have profited on the backs of hard working people."
"While we battle it out day after day, month after month, the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street sit by -- untouched -- and lecture us on the level of our sacrifice. It's about time this happened," Hanley said.
The protests have spread from New York to many other cities -- including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, N.C., and Albuquerque -- driven by social media Web sites.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was asked about the protests Tuesday during testimony on Capitol Hill. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., asked Bernanke whether "Wall Street's greed and recklessness caused this recession that led to so many people losing their jobs?"
"Excessive risk taking on Wall Street had a lot to do with it and so did some failures on the part of regulators," Bernanke said.
Sanders asked whether federal bank regulations "have made any significant progress since the collapse of Wall Street to suggest that we will not ... once again see a collapse on Wall Street and the necessity of a bailout?"
Bernanke said the government was "making substantial progress" but he noted many rules provided for in financial sector reform legislation "are not yet enforced or fully implemented."
Knox arrives home on first day of freedom
SEATTLE, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Amanda Knox landed in Seattle Tuesday on her first day of freedom in four years, after an Italian court overturned her conviction in the murder of her roommate.
Speaking briefly to reporters and onlookers at Sea-Tac Airport, Knox said she was "really overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane and it seemed like everything wasn't real."
"Thank you to everyone who's believed in me, who's defended me and who has supported my family," she said. "My family is the most important thing to me right now and I just want to go be with them."
Witnesses in the Fiumicino Airport, where Knox and her family were preparing to board a flight for London then on to her home in Seattle, said she looked "very tired, worn out," Italian news agency ANSA reported.
An Italian appeals court Monday tossed the murder convictions of Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and their respective 26- and 25-year sentences in the 2007 slaying of Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Before leaving, Knox left a letter with an Italian-American association that supported her court battle to prove her innocence and thanked her Italian supporters.
"There were Italians who held my hand and offered me support and respect across the barriers and controversies," she told the association in the letter. "There were Italians who wrote to me, defended me, sympathized with me, prayed for me."
"I will always be grateful to you. I love you. Amanda," Knox said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ANSA.
Prosecutors said they will appeal the decision.
Knox and Sollecito successfully appealed their convictions, challenging the original DNA findings as unreliable.
Sollecito was home in Puglia Tuesday.
A third person, Rudy Guede of Ivory Coast, was convicted of murder and sentenced. Observers told ANSA Guede may seek a retrial based on Monday's decisions for Knox and Sollecito.
In a statement Tuesday, Kercher's family repeated their confidence in the Italian justice system and appealed to those "who are the other people responsible" for Kercher's death in 2007.
"Our family is not interested in seeing Amanda or Raffaele in jail, or anyone else who has shown they aren't guilty," the statement said. "But there's still the question mark over who else [committed the murder] as well as Rudy."
Kercher's brother, Lyle, said the family believes they're "to square one" in trying to determine what happened, CNN reported.
He said the Kerchers are cool to any reaching out by the Knox family since another appeal remains.
Knox and Kercher were students at a university for foreign students in Perugia when Kercher's semi-nude body was found stabbed and her throat slit in the house they shared.
Mogadishu blast kills dozens
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A suspected suicide explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed dozens of people, officials said Tuesday.
Witnesses told the BBC a truck carrying explosives drove into a gate near a government building and detonated. A spokesman for the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, which has links to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The New York Times reported Africa Union officials said at least 50 people had died and the toll could go as high as 100.
"We have targeted the attack to 150 young Somalis who were planning to be flown to Sudan to be trained as spies," al-Shabaab said in a statement.
Witnesses told the Times, however, those killed were students hoping for scholarships to Sudan and Turkey.
Al-Shabaab controls large portions of south and central Somalia but had retreated from Mogadishu in recent months, the BBC reported.
In the United States, Obama administration spokesman Jay Carney called the attack by al-Shabaab "despicable and cowardly."
"The United States strongly condemns the outrageous terrorist attack carried out earlier today by al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia," Carney said. "Those who carried out these attacks have nothing to offer the people of Somalia except murder and destruction, and they must be held accountable."
He went on to say the United States stands with the victims' families and the Somali people. He said the attack underscores the need for the international community to support the Somali transitional government and the African Union Mission in Somalia.