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Evangelical pastor says he loves ‘gays and straights,’ met Melissa Ethridge

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The first openly gay member of Congress said Sunday it was a mistake for President-elect Barack Obama to invite evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a broadcast interview.

“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”

Under fire for opposing gay marriage, influential evangelical pastor Warren said Saturday that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, and he also loves “gays and straights.”

Says it’s OK to disagree
The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.

Warren also defended President-elect Barack Obama’s invitation that he give the invocation at the Jan. 20 inauguration in the keynote speech he delivered at the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s annual convention in Long Beach.

Obama’s choice of Warren earlier this week sparked outcry from gay rights and other liberal groups, who said choosing such an outspoken opponent of gay marriage was tantamount to endorsing bigotry.

“Three years ago I took enormous heat for inviting Barack Obama to my church because some of his views don’t agree (with mine),” he said. “Now he’s invited me.”

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself: integrity, humility and generosity.

Obama defends ‘wide range of view points’
Obama defended his choice on Thursday, saying that he has also invited Joseph Lowery, a Methodist minister and civil rights leader who supports same-sex marriage and gay rights, to deliver the benediction.

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The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

It is worth mentioning that auto CEO’s did give Congress assurance that they would not use this bailout money to sue states over their emission standards. It is a big about turn for the auto industry – almost everything they have been against now they have to be – for, one of the auto CEO’s did say that they thought electric cars were the way forward – as everyone has a plug – hybrid-electric is a good step, until battery life improves – at the moment we have car batteries that can go 240 miles without recharging – but they are heavy – and they weigh a tonne literally – though there is car battery technology being developed in Japan (always Japan) that is half the weight 450 lbs – their car companies quite sensibly work with the battery companies – the Japanese are also working on bringing down recharging times to about a half an hour.

Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.

Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they’re also upset the bailout doesn’t ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.

“We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency,” says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.

“The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January.”

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A state-by-state look at auto industry jobs

What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.

Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We’re very disappointed.”

Still, even though they aren’t getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient cars. As Congress debated the bailout bill Wednesday, Ford showed off its 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid in Marina del Rey, Calif., and said that at 39 miles per gallon, it will be the highest-mileage midsize car.

“We’re going squarely after the imports with this,” says Frank Davis, executive director for North American product. The goal: “not only to compete but lead.” It’s exactly the pitch that Detroit needs to win the hearts of a skeptical Congress and American public, and the environmental lobby. Ford has not asked for loans now. General Motors and Chrysler say they need loans to stave off bankruptcy filings.

While it makes a play for environmentalists, the new hybrid will also be aimed at being a commercial success for Ford. Davis says it should add up to 25,000 sales of Fusions a year. While pricing isn’t set, the hybrid system is 30% less expensive than the last generation, like that in the Ford Escape hybrid SUV.

Ford plans to spend $14 billion in the U.S. on advanced technologies and products to improve fuel economy in the next seven years, it told Congress in the business plan it submitted as part of the bailout consideration. It plans a pure electric sedan by 2011.

Source: USA Today

President-elect Barack Obama turned from national security to domestic concerns on Tuesday, telling the country’s governors that his administration would not delay in pushing an economic recovery plan that would bring relief to the states, 41 of which are forecasting budget shortfalls this year or next.

Speaking at a conference of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama said his background in the Illinois state senate made him particularly sympathetic to the needs of state and local governments. And he declared himself open to good ideas that work, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans.

“We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track,” he told the governors, many of whom he met for the first time at the conference. “We want to figure out what works.” Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. also attended the meeting.

Aides to Mr. Obama have suggested that a recovery plan, which the president-elect hopes to be able to sign not long after taking office on Jan. 20, might carry a price tag of as much as $700 billion.

But even as the president-elect spoke on Tuesday, the dimensions of the challenges facing him at home and abroad continued to grow more stark. The three American automakers were due to announce more weak results and detail their revamped requests for federal aid during the day, while overseas, the terror attack in Mumbai, renewed violence in Iraq and difficult conditions in Afghanistan further darkened the picture.

In dealing with the worsening climate that faces state governments, many of them now obliged to balance their budgets by cutting jobs and programs, Mr. Obama asked the governors not just for their support but for their input in drafting a national recovery plan.

“To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we need action, and action swiftly,” he said. “That means passing an economic recovery plan to help both Wall Street and Main Street, and this administration does not intend to delay in getting you the help that you need.”

The importance of the federal help Mr. Obama offered was underscored on Monday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared a fiscal emergency in his state and urged lawmakers to “get off of their rigid ideologies” to close a $28 billion budget gap. He said the state could run out of cash within two months.

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One of the few notable losses for the left on Tuesday came in California, where Proposition 8, which “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry,” passed by a bit more than three percentage points, even as — or perhaps because — Barack Obama won the state by a whopping 24 points.

Much of that margin came from a surge of about half a million new black voters turning out to cast ballots for Obama in the safely blue state. Exit polls showed black voters favored the ban by a whopping 70-30 percent, while whites were slightly opposed and Hispanics evenly split.

Fallout over the apparent black-gay split within the Democratic coalition has been fierce, with Dan Savage claiming black homophobia, reports of racial slurs and abuse directed at blacks at a marriage equality rally on Thursday, and Andrew Sullivan, among others, calling for calm.

It’s one early sign of the diverse and sometimes divergent interests of members of the party base Obama will have to choose amongst and navigate between as president.

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