NEW YORK (CNN) - A New York Post cartoon Wednesday drew fire from civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who says the image invokes a history of racism to suggest an ape wrote President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.
The cartoonist, Sean Delonas, called Sharpton's umbrage "ridiculous," and the newspaper defended its decision to run it.
The comic showed two police officers standing over the body of a chimpanzee they just shot - a reference to the recent mauling of a Connecticut woman by a pet chimp, which was killed by police after the attack. In the cartoon, one of the officers tells the other, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best, given the racist attacks throughout history that have made African-Americans synonymous with monkeys," Sharpton said in a statement condemning the cartoon.
The stimulus bill was the top priority for Obama, the first African-American U.S. leader, who signed it Tuesday. Sharpton questioned whether Delonas - who has brutally lampooned him in the past - "is making a less-than-casual inference to this form of racism."
"The Post should at least clarify what point they were trying to make in this cartoon, and reprimand their cartoonist for making inferences that are offensive and divisive at a time the nation struggles to come together to stabilize the economy if, in fact, this was yet another racially charged cartoon," he said.
But in a brief phone interview with CNN, Delonas called the controversy "absolutely friggin' ridiculous."
"Do you really think I'm saying Obama should be shot? I didn't see that in the cartoon," Delonas told CNN.
"It's about the economic stimulus bill," he added. "If you're going to make that about anybody, it would be [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, which it's not."
And Col Allan, the Post's editor-in-chief, said the cartoon "is a clear parody of a current news event."
"It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist," Allan said in a written statement.
Updated 2:30 p.m.
(CNN) - A new poll indicates Florida Gov. Charlie Crist would be the immediate frontrunner for the Republican nomination should he decide to run for Senate in 2010.
If Crist were to jump into an already crowded Republican primary, a Quinnipiac poll suggests he would immediately freeze out the competition. In a hypothetical match-up, Crist leads his next closest GOP rival - Rep. Connie Mack IV - by a 53 to 13 percent margin.
Others mulling a Senate bid, including former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan, each garner five percent or less in a race with Crist.
Crist can also count on job security if he opts to remain in Tallahassee instead: if he were to stay out of the Senate battle and seek the governorship once again, nearly 60 percent of voters say he deserves another term. Voters also want him to stay. A plurality believe Crist should seek re-election as governor and not run for Senate.
Crist is buoyed by a 68 percent approval rating among voters, which includes the support of 65 percent of Democrats. And although Crist angered some within his party for his vocal support of President Obama’s stimulus package, he retains the support of 77 percent of Republican voters.
The poll hints that Democrats will face an uphill battle in the Senate race no matter who wins the Republican nomination: Among the many Democrats seeking the seat, none appear to be well-known among voters statewide.
The Quinnipiac poll of 1,001 Florida voters was conducted February 11-16 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) - As President Barack Obama unveils his $75 billion plan aimed at preventing home foreclosures, the mayor of Philadelphia is proud the scheme contains an aspect that was first put to the test in the City of Brotherly Love.
Under President Obama's foreclosure fix, judges would able to intervene and mediate loan modifications between the servicer and homeowner.
Philadelphia introduced mandatory court interventions for homes entering into foreclosure in June of 2008. Since then, 600 homes have been saved from foreclosure and about 1,400 are in the process of rescue.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter first presented details of his city's Mortgage Foreclosure Protection Program to then President-elect Barack Obama at the National Governors Association meeting in early December.
Listen: How does Philadelphia's program work?
"What we're all committed to is helping to make sure that people stay in their homes, that they do not lose their homes because they did not have an opportunity to renegotiate whatever their rate was, whatever their term was," Nutter said.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - President Obama unveiled a $75 billion multi-pronged plan Wednesday that seeks to help up to 9 million borrowers suffering from falling home prices and unaffordable monthly payments.
Watch: Obama unveils housing plan
The long-awaited foreclosure fix marks a sharp departure from the Bush administration, which relied mainly on having servicers voluntarily modify troubled mortgages.
Obama, on the other hand, will make it easier homeowners to afford their monthly payments either by refinancing the mortgages or having their loans modified. The president is vastly broadening the scope of the government rescue by focusing on homeowners who are still current in their payments but at risk of default. And he puts billions of federal funds into enticing servicers to modify the loans of those who've already stopped paying.
Updated 12:58 p.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Even before President Obama unveiled his home foreclosure plan Wednesday afternoon, some Republicans and political commentators questioned how exactly it would work to stave off a crisis plaguing the country.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, along with Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter Wednesday to the president "seeking clarification on six important questions about [Obama's] broad housing proposal," according to a press release from Cantor's office.
Obama unveiled his $75 billion multipronged plan in Phoenix, Arizona, that seeks to help up to 9 million borrowers suffering from falling home prices and unaffordable monthly payments.
But there could be fierce resistance among Republicans and some conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Already, top Republicans want several questions answered, an early sign that Obama may once again face stiff opposition to the plan when it comes before Congress. Last week, not one House Republican voted for his economic stimulus package, and only three GOP senators voted for the bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed Wednesday that he will travel to the Guantanamo Bay military detention center next week as a "first step" in a process to determine what to do with detainees held there.
Holder told reporters after a speech on civil rights that he will make the trip to Cuba on Monday with the Justice Department's point man on counterterrorism, Matt Olsen, who serves as acting assistant attorney general for the National Security Division.
Spokesman Dean Boyd termed the trip "the beginning of a review process."
Holder told reporters review of the Guantanamo detainees' individual cases has begun and officials are "making progress," but he declined to be more specific.
WASHINGTON (CNN) –– Just two weeks after withdrawing his name from consideration for Commerce Secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg has finally accepted an invitation from President Obama: The New Hampshire Republican will attend the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House at the end of the month.
“Reform is urgently needed, especially as long-term entitlement spending threatens to strangle our economy, and action must be taken sooner rather than later,” Gregg said in a statement released Wednesday. “I will certainly do everything I can to work with the President and others in Congress to set a course for the long-run that addresses the issue of how we pass on to our children a government they can afford.”
Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, will join other members of Congress to help the administration develop a plan to reduce the costs of entitlement spending programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Last week, Gregg cited “irresolvable conflicts” with Obama administration policy for his decision to pull out of the nomination process.
(CNN) - The Washington Post added its voice Wednesday to a growing chorus of demands for the resignation of Sen. Roland Burris two days after he detailed conversations with impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother that he failed to mention under oath.
Burris, appointed by a scandal-wracked Blagojevich to fill President Obama's vacant Senate seat, told reporters Monday night in Peoria, Illinois, that he had three conversations with the governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich.
In them, the Democratic senator said he discussed possibly raising money for the governor before ultimately declining to do so.
Burris said he had talked to some people about holding a fundraiser but told the governor's brother shortly after Obama's election that no one was willing to donate. In a third conversation, he finally said it would be inappropriate to raise money because he was interested in the Senate appointment.
"This latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo," the Post argued on its editorial page. "It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign."
The paper also said, "Mr. Burris's story has more twists than the Chicago El, and none of them good."
On Tuesday, the largest newspaper in Illinois also called for Burris to resign. In an editorial on its Web site, the Chicago Tribune said that "the benefit of the doubt had already been stretched thin" with Burris' explanations of his appointment, and that with his most recent comments, "[i]t finally snapped like a rubber band, popping him on that long Pinocchio nose of his."
Updated 12:33 p.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that 17 native Chinese Muslims cannot be transferred and released into the United States from American military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The three-judge panel concluded by a 2-1 vote there is no legal or constitutional authority for the prisoners to be immediately freed even though they are unlawfully detained, and no countries currently are willing to accept them.
The 17 men are Uighurs, an ethnic group from western China. They are accused of receiving weapons and military training in Afghanistan. Some of the prisoners have been cleared for release since 2003, but the United States will not send them back to their homeland because of concern they would be tortured by Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government has said no returned Uighurs would be tortured.
"We do not know whether all petitioners or any of them would qualify for entry or admission [to the United States] under immigration laws," wrote Judge Raymond Randolph. "We do know there is insufficient evidence to classify them as enemy combatants - enemies that is of the United States. But that hardly qualifies petitioners [the Uighurs] for admission. Nor does their detention at Guantanamo for many years entitle them to enter the United States."
(CNN) – President Obama sent an e-mail to his online backers thanking them for their pushing for his stimulus plan, his first e-mail to supporters since his inauguration.
”You organized thousands of house meetings. You shared your ideas and personal stories. And you informed your friends and neighbors about the need for immediate action. You continue to be a powerful voice for change throughout the country,” the president wrote in the e-mail to his internet followers. “This is a historic step - the first of many as we work together to climb out of this crisis - and I want to thank you for your resolve and your support.”
Organizing for America — now an arm of the Democratic National Committee — called on the president’s supporters to hold house parties and distribute state-by-state aid breakdowns earlier this month to help boost public support for the plan as Congress weighed the package.
The president also highlighted Recovery.gov, his new website aimed at tracking dollars spent and jobs created by the bill. Visitors to the site are able to weigh in with comments and questions regarding the allocation of funds distributed by the bill, and submit their own economic hardship stories.