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May 12, 2012 at 8:47 AM
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Obama touts 'To-Do' list for Congress

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday offered a "To-Do" list for Congress he said would "help create jobs and build a stronger economy right now."

In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president acknowledged the recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is taking longer than "any of us would like," but he said "there are plenty of steps we can take to speed up the recovery."

"Now, the other side isn't so optimistic," the president said, referring to congressional Republicans. "They think all we can do is cut taxes -- especially for the wealthiest Americans -- and go back to letting banks and corporations write their own rules again. That's their plan.

"But I think they're wrong," Obama said. "We tried their ideas for nearly a decade, and it didn't work out so well. We can't go back to the same policies that got us into this mess."

The president said America needs to "build an economy where hard work and responsibility are rewarded -- where you can find a good job, own your own home, maybe start a businesses, and give your kids the chance to do even better."

"And I've been pushing Congress to help us get there by passing a few common-sense policies that would make a difference," he said. "Democrats and Republicans have already done some important work together -- from passing tax cuts for workers, to opening up new markets for American products, to reforming our patent system. But now we need to do more.

"That's why we made Congress a handy 'To-Do' list -- just like the kind I get from Michelle," Obama said. "It's short, but each of the ideas on this list will help create jobs and build a stronger economy right now."

The president called on Congress to "stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that bring jobs back to America." He said Congress should help homeowners refinance mortgages at lower rates and help small business owners "by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages."

He said Congress should extend tax credits for clean energy companies and help military veterans "by creating a Veterans Job Corps. Our men and women in uniform have served this country with honor. Now it's our turn to serve them."

Noem urges Obama to work with Republicans

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said Saturday as a new college graduate, she thought about the tough job market for graduates in "President Obama's economy."

"Over half of the recent college graduates cannot get a job in President Obama's economy," Noem said in the weekly Republican media address. "One of the reasons is that policies like the president's healthcare law, they make our economy worse by making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers."

Noem, who left college at 22 after her father died in an accident on the family's farm, returned in 2008 and graduated from South Dakota State University last Saturday with a political science degree.

She said the House has passed more than two dozen bills that would create jobs and are awaiting approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"If the president is truly serious about doing what's best for women, young people -- and all Americans -- working on these jobs bills should be our focus," Noem said.

She said Republican measures would address high gas prices and create jobs, reduce the national debt, cut small business taxes and reduce government red tape "so government can get out of the private sector's way."

"The president claims to be leading us forward but his policies have us stuck. Instead of working with Republicans to rebuild the economy, the president is ignoring the tough choices and trying to distract from the real issues," she said.

Papoulias seeks emergency government

ATHENS, Greece, May 12 (UPI) -- Greek President Karolos Papoulias talked with party leaders to try to create an emergency government after talks with PASOK failed, officials said.

The socialist PASOK party's leader, Evangelos Venizelos, formally returned the mandate to the president after the party became the third bloc coalition to fail in efforts to form a coalition, the BBC said Saturday.

If Papoulias' effort to create an emergency government fails, another election will have to be held.

Greek voters last Sunday backed parties that oppose Greece's bailout deal, which would require major spending cuts, and Greece could default on its debts and be forced out of the eurozone, the 17 countries that share the euro as currency.

Venizelos had held talks with with center-right New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party came in first in the election, but was unable to find a third party to provide a majority in Parliament.

"I hope that during the negotiations chaired by Mr. Papoulias everyone will be more mature and responsible in their thinking," Venizelos said.

New Democracy and left-wing Syriza, which came in second in the election, also failed to form a coalition.

Syriza has rejected last year's bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which would require austerity measures in exchange for loans of more than $170 billion.

The Fitch ratings agency said if Greece left the eurozone, the remaining 16 countries would be placed on "rating watch negative" -- meaning they'd be in danger of being downgraded.

U.S. resumes arms sales to Bahrain

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- U.S. arms sales to Bahrain are to resume after having been discontinued in the fall because of the Persian Gulf kingdom's response to mass protests.

One official said restrictions have been imposed on sales, with items like tear gas and stun grenades off limits, The Washington Post reported. They could be used, along with other banned equipment like Humvees, against domestic opponents.

The demonstrations in Bahrain began as small and peaceful protests aimed at winning more political freedom under the monarchy. They became larger as the government tried to repress them.

The country is a critical U.S. military ally in the region and base for the Fifth Fleet.

A senior official who briefed reporters said the Obama administration decided to resume some sales because of "our desire to help the Bahrainis maintain their external defense capabilities, and a determination that it is in U.S. national interest to let these things go forward."

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said U.S. interests in the region will be better served by getting Bahrain to institute needed reforms, than by helping it get slightly improved F-16 fighter jets.

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