World News Brief, Thursday January 27

Obama wants to spend on education, high-speed rail and clean-tech and freeze discretionary spending; China's premier encourages public criticism; Toyota recalling 1.7 million vehicles with faulty fuel pipes and pumps; Lebanon calm again after protests; World Economic Forum opens in Davos; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama Calls for New Spending and Cuts


In his State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a plan for investment (NYT) in critical areas like education, high-speed rail, and clean-energy technology, as well as streamlining the tax code to help the United States meet the challenge of globalization and that from emerging economies such as China and India. "We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," he said in his speech. At the same time, Obama, who is facing massive deficits in the future (WashPost), did not call for new programs. Instead, he pledged a five-year budget freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, which he said had the potential to reduce the deficit by $400 billion over ten years.

Though he laid out the stark challenges facing the nation, Obama was short on details about how to reduce the growing deficit. And stressing the need for new investment over budget cuts led many commentators, especially conservatives, to question Obama's priorities. "No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation," said Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, who gave the GOP reply speech to the State of the Union. "The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country." When Obama did address foreign policy, he primarily focused on his latest wins--such as ratifying the New START arms control deal with Russia and the trade agreement with South Korea--and bypassed a host of troublesome issues like drug violence in Mexico, instability in Pakistan, and climate change.


In this Expert Roundup, CFR's Sebastian Mallaby and James Lindsay examine the economic and foreign policy aspects of the speech.

In a blog, CFR's Michael Levi looks at Obama's pledge to have 80 percent of electricity come from "clean energy" sources by 2035.

David Sanger writes in the New York Times that one of Obama's "subtexts on Tuesday night was that doing big things these days may require a bit more humility, a lot more work, and some international partners that Americans rarely thought about twenty years ago but whose competition they have now grown to fear."

Politico's Daren Samuelsohn says a "clean energy standard" could be the most politically feasible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Capitol Hill in this Congress.

The National Journal provides eight pieces of analysis on issues raised in the speech, ranging from education to clean energy to foreign policy.


This CFR Issue Guide provides background on the numerous challenges facing the nation.


PACIFIC RIM: Chinese Leader Urges Public Criticism


In an unusual meeting at China's central complaints department (Guardian), the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao listened to criticism, urging petitioners “don't hold anything back.” Some critics have dismissed the display as propaganda, while other argue it is the first time a premier has met petitioners face to face since the Communists took power.

Japan: Toyota announced a global recall (NYT) for 1.7 million of its vehicles due to defective fuel pipes and high-pressure fuel pumps. The Japanese carmaker issued a total of eighteen separate recalls in the United States last year, twice its previous record.



- Lebanon Returns to Calm after Protests
- World Economic Forum Opens in Davos


This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on