- - Monday, July 16, 2012

The Republican National Committee is airing a television ad that says President Obama tried and failed to fix the economy, and that it’s OK to make a change.

The ad is critical of Mr. Obama, but in milder terms than many other commercials. Instead, it appears designed to persuade voters to back a new president even though Obama’s favorability ratings remain high. It doesn’t mention Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

The ad says Mr. Obama took office with big plans to repair the economy, but the country now has an economic crisis with no end in sight. It concludes: “He tried. You tried. It’s OK to make a change.”

The commercial is airing in Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa at a cost of about $5 million.


Report: Bank’s lax control led to money laundering

A Senate investigation has found that Europe’s largest bank had lax controls that allowed Mexican drug cartels to launder money through its U.S. operations for seven years.

The Senate permanent subcommittee on investigation’s extensive report on HSBC Holdings PLC also says U.S. regulators knew that the bank had a poor system to detect problems but failed to take action.

The report also says some bank affiliates skirted U.S. government bans against financial transactions with Iran and other countries.

The panel released the report ahead of a Tuesday hearing on the topic. HSBC says its executives will apologize for the lapses and promise to fix the problems.

The Justice Department says it is conducting a criminal investigation into HSBC’s operations.


Democrats ready $272B tax-cut extension bill

Senate Democrats are readying a one-year, $272 billion bill extending income tax cuts for all but the highest earning Americans that would also boost their capital gains and dividends taxes next year to 23.8 percent.

A draft bill being circulated by Democrats would keep income tax rates for families earning less than $250,000 where they are through next year, rather than automatically rising in January when those rates expire. Those earning above $250,000 would face a top rate of 39.6 percent.

The top rate on capital gains and dividend income is 15 percent this year. The draft bill sets those rates at 20 percent, and President Obama’s health care law will add another 3.8 percent for high earners.

Democrats hope to debate the measure as soon as next week.


First lady plans stops in battleground Virginia

First lady Michelle Obama will pick up where her husband left off in Virginia with campaign stops scheduled in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg on Friday.

Campaign aides confirm that the first lady is making the quick trip into the battleground state where polls show President Obama with a slight lead over Republican nominee-apparent Mitt Romney.

The president barnstormed Virginia last weekend, holding campaign events in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Roanoke, the Richmond suburb of Glen Allen and Clifton in Northern Virginia on Friday and Saturday.

Mr. Obama is trying for a strategically critical encore of his 2008 Virginia victory and the swing state’s 13 electoral votes, the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Details for Mrs. Obama’s visit were not finalized Monday.


Obama attends USA basketball preview

Hoops fan President Obama is getting an Olympic preview of USA Basketball.

Mr. Obama planned to be in the stands Monday night for the U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic basketball exhibition games against Brazil at Verizon Center. The games are tune-ups before the start of the London Olympics later this month.

Mr. Obama is an avid basketball fan and the games allow him to wrap himself in the Olympic spirit during his re-election campaign. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to use the Olympics to highlight his leadership role during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Mr. Romney, who helped turn around the Salt Lake City Games after they became caught up in a bribery scandal, plans to be in London for the opening ceremonies next week. First lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies.

ESPN play-by-play commentator Mark Jones was to interview Mr. Obama during halftime of the men’s game. Vice President Joseph R. Biden wasti join Mr. Obama at Monday’s exhibition games.

Some members of the men’s team are Mr. Obama supporters. A handful of Olympic team members, including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, had agreed to participate in a basketball game fundraiser for Mr. Obama’s campaign last December but the event was cancelled because of the resolution of the NBA lockout. The fundraising game has not been rescheduled.

Mr. Obama’s campaign held a fundraiser last February at the Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks. Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

Basketball has been a longtime passion of Mr. Obama‘s. He played high school basketball in Hawaii and likes to play pickup basketball with friends. He helps coach his daughter Sasha’s youth team and keeps close tabs on his hometown Chicago Bulls.

During Veterans Day last year, he was courtside for a game between Michigan State and North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of San Diego. In March, Mr. Obama invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to an opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Ohio.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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