Nation briefs for February 3


Obama defends self from array of GOP criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama defended himself against an array of Republican criticism in an interview during Fox’s Super Bowl pregame show.

The president traded barbs with interviewer Bill O’Reilly in a live interview that covered his troubled health care law rollout, the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya and revelations the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

“I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next plan,” Obama said.

Obama would not say why he didn’t fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the failed launch of the government’s online health care marketplace. He also declined to say the biggest mistake of his presidency was telling Americans if they liked their health care they could keep it.

He defended against O’Reilly’s questions about why administration officials initially described the attack in Benghazi, Libya, as a spontaneous protest. He rejected “the notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes” when the attack came less than two months before the presidential election.

And he said there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” contributing to the IRS targeting of tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

With two hours until kickoff in the Super Bowl, Obama declined to pick a winner between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. He predicted a score of 24-21, but said he didn’t know which side would come out on top.

Report: US abortion rate at lowest since 1973

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. abortion rate declined to its lowest level since 1973, and the number of abortions fell by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, according to the latest national survey of abortion providers conducted by a prominent research institute.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion, said in a report being issued today there were about 1.06 million abortions in 2011 — down from about 1.2 million in 2008. Guttmacher’s figures are of interest on both sides of the abortion debate because they are more up-to-date and in some ways more comprehensive than abortion statistics compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, the abortion rate dropped to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2011, well below the peak of 29.3 in 1981 and the lowest since a rate of 16.3 in 1973.

Guttmacher and other groups supporting abortion rights have been apprehensive about the recent wave of laws restricting abortion access passed in Republican-controlled legislatures. However, the report’s authors said the period they studied — 2008 to 2011 — predates the major surge of such laws starting with the 2011 legislative session.

Lead author Rachel Jones also said there appeared to be no link to a decline in the number of abortion providers. According to the report, the total number of providers dropped by 4 percent, to 1,720, between 2008 and 2011, and the number of abortion clinics declined by just 1 percent to 839.

According to Jones, the drop in abortions was likely linked to a steep national decline in overall pregnancy and birth rates.

“Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods,” she said. “Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

Top Republicans stand by NJ Gov. Christie

(AP) High-profile Republicans were adamant Sunday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should not resign from his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after a recent claim from a former ally there is evidence Christie knew about an apparently politically motivated traffic jam earlier than he said.

The support from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan put Republicans on the offensive and the Democratic chairman of a state legislative committee investigating the September lane closures near the George Washington Bridge on the defensive the day Christie’s state hosted the Super Bowl.

Christie, a potential 2016 presidential contender, went about Super Bowl ceremonial duties and did not take questions about the scandal in recent days. He didn’t respond Saturday when some spectators booed him at an appearance in New York City’s Times Square.

Democrats have taken to other forums to bash the governor. The Democratic National Committee started posted an online ad Sunday comparing Christie to a football player who seemed unstoppable before the scandal.

 

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