Updated: 12:21 p.m. ET
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doesn't put up with much guff from reporters, but the famously brash Republican governor showed his laid back side last night in an interview with CBS' "The Late Show," laughing off host David Letterman's repeated questions about his weight, and answering them with fat jokes of his own.
"I love you, Dave," Christie told Letterman, shortly before taking out and snacking on what appeared to be a jelly donut. "A deep and abiding love."
Christie, who has brushed off past suggestions that his weight might impact his abilities as a politician - either in his current station as governor or, potentially, a higher office - told Letterman his health is "startlingly good" and that he has normal blood sugar and cholesterol both.
"I'm basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life," he said.Continue »
Kicking off his first day as the head of the State Department today, newly-minted Secretary of State John Kerry marked the beginning of his tenure with a short address to his new team, briefly outlining his top priorities for the department while thanking both the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their commitment to him as well as their advocacy for American values on the world stage.
Kerry's first day as Secretary of State: "I have big heels to fill"
Kerry, whose remarks were relatively brief and informal, particularly thanked Clinton and her team for having "tirelessly advocated the values of our country," and wondered, quippily, "can a man actually run the State Department? I don't know."
"The nation is grateful, the world is grateful. Thank you Hillary Clinton, and thank you, her team," Kerry said. "As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill."
Relaying a few anecdotes from his personal history - including the use of his first diplomatic passport, which he said showcased an 11-year-old, 4'3'' John Kerry, to ride his bike into East Berlin - the former senator said that as much as the Senate was "in his blood," the Foreign Service "is in my genes."Continue »
President Obama today awarded 23 researchers and inventors with national medals for science, technology and innovation, lauding the recipients for their hard work and contributions, and joking that they represented "the greatest collection of brainpower we've had under this roof in a long time."
The medals represent the highest honors the U.S. government can give to scientists, engineers, and inventors.
Speaking in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama thanked the recipients for "the sacrifices they've made, the chances they've taken, [and] the gallons of coffee they've consumed," before launching into a few of their personal stories. He also thanked Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who announced today he's stepping down next month.
The president also used the opportunity to make a pitch for increased focus on science and technology education, as well as immigration reform.
"In a global economy, where the best jobs follow talent, whether in Calcutta or Cleveland, we need to do everything we can to encourage that same kind of passion" that has led to scientific breakthroughs and innovation, he said.
See below a full list of the winners:
National Medal of Science
Dr. Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Dr. Sallie Chisholm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford University, CA
Dr. Sandra Faber, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
Dr. Sylvester James Gates, University of Maryland, MD
Dr. Solomon Golomb, University of Southern California, CA
Dr. John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin, TX
Dr. M. Frederick Hawthorne, University of Missouri, MO
Dr. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology, WA
Dr. Barry Mazur, Harvard University, MA
Dr. Lucy Shapiro, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA
Dr. Anne Treisman, Princeton University, NJ
National Medal of Technology and Innovation
Dr. Frances Arnold, California Institute of Technology, CA
Dr. George Carruthers, U.S. Naval Research Lab, DC
Dr. Robert Langer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
Dr. Norman McCombs, AirSep Corporation, NY
Dr. Gholam Peyman, Arizona Retinal Specialists, AZ
Dr. Art Rosenfeld, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, CA
Dr. Jan Vilcek, NYU Langone Medical Center, NY
Dr. Samuel Blum, IBM Corporation, NY
Dr. Rangaswamy Srinivasan, IBM Corporation, NY
Dr. James Wynne, IBM Corporation, NY
Raytheon BBN Technologies, MA, *Represented by CEO, Edward Campbell
Updated: 2:17 p.m. ET
Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., will not seek the senate seat being vacated by former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., he announced this afternoon.
Brown, who was voted into the Senate in a special election in 2010 following the death of longtime Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, recently lost his re-election bid to Elizabeth Warren in a brutal, costly campaign.
In a statement this afternoon, he said that while "representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate was the greatest privilege of my life," he was not "at all certain that a third Senate campaign in less than four years, and the prospect of returning to a Congress even more partisan than the one I left, was really the best way for me to continue in public service at this time."
"I know it's not the only way for me to advance the ideals and causes that matter most to me," he said. "That is why I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for the United States Senate in the upcoming special election."
There was much speculation as to whether Brown would seek Kerry's seat in light of his recent confirmation as Hillary Clinton's successor as Secretary of State.
With Brown opting out of a run, there are few Republicans in Massachusetts with statewide recognition who could make a serious play for Kerry's seat. The Hill newspaper has reported that former state senate minority leader Richard Tisei, who narrowly lost a House bid in November, may be interested in running for the Republican nomination.
In a statement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said it was time to "move forward" now that Brown had opted out of the race.
"This was no doubt a tough personal decision for Senator Brown and his family, who understandably need to recharge after several long, hard-fought campaigns," said Rob Collins, executive director of the NRSC. "Now that he has made a decision, it's time to move forward."
Democratic Reps. Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch have both announced candidacies and will face off in the April 30 primary. The special election itself has been set for June 25.
With a new jobs report out showing the addition of 157,000 new jobs last month, the White House is touting "further evidence" that the U.S. economy is improving, but noted the importance of implementing "the policies needed to build an economy that works for the middle class as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007."
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the president's council of economic advisers, in a blog post. "Today's report is a reminder of the importance of the need for Congress to act to avoid self-inflicted wounds to the economy."
The jobs report, released monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, revised upward its employment figures from November and December by 127,000 jobs.
The report also showed the unemployment rate ticking up from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent.
The White House pointed to growth among jobs in retail trade, construction, health care and social assistance, professional and business services, and restaurants and bars.
But Krueger emphasized, as he does every month, that due to the volatility of the monthly employment and unemployment figures, "it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report."
Weeks after the November elections, while failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney was winding down his campaign and largely withdrew from the public eye, his campaign quietly made a donation of nearly $90,000 to the Red Cross, FEC filings show.
The January 31 filings show the Romney campaign gave $89,585.18 to the Red Cross on November 30, as New York and New Jersey struggled to provide food and shelter to the thousands of people who had lost power, heat, and even their homes in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Between the official Romney for President campaign committee and Romney Victory Inc., the joint RNC and Romney fund, the campaign had approximately $4 million remaining in cash on hand as of December 31, according to the committees' FEC filings. The campaign is likely still receiving and paying bills leftover from the election, however, any excess funds could eventually be donated to other political campaigns or could be held by Romney in the unlikely event he decides to run for office again.
The Red Cross did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether or not the Romney campaign's donation was earmarked for Sandy relief aid. But in the days following the October storm, Romney struggled to find ways to stay in the headlines and was criticized by his detractors for staging photo ops aimed at touting his relief aid efforts.
Gov. Rick Perry, R-Tex., wants to send unused state taxes back to Texas citizens, he announced today, addressing the Texas state legislature for his annual "state of the state" speech in his 13th year as governor.
The governor, who launched a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, spoke for more than a half hour before Texas lawmakers, touting accomplishments and job creation, education, and innovation while also insisting that the "burden" Texas places on its residents must be lightened
Part of his plan for doing so involved getting rid of "the practice of using dedicated funds and specific fees for anything other than the purpose for which they were intended" -- specifically when it comes to taxes.
"If we don't need taxpayer money for that purpose, let's not collect it at all," Perry said. "We've never bought into the notion that if you collect more you need to spend more.
"Today, I'm calling for a mechanism to be put in place so when we do bring in more than we need, we'll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it. Currently, that's not something our constitution allows. We need to fix that."Continue »
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will not serve out a second term in the White House, he announced this morning, marking the departure of the last Republican cabinet member from President Obama's first term.
In an email announcing his resignation to Transportation Department employees, LaHood said it had been "an honor and a privilege to lead the Department," and that he plans to stay on until his successor has been confirmed.
"I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity," LaHood said in the email. "As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas. But what I am most proud of is the DOT [Department of Transportation] team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better."
He pointed to programs like the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue as among the department's "significant" achievements during his tenure, as well as "great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows."
"I've told President Obama, and I've told many of you, that this is the best job I've ever had," LaHood added. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you and I'm confident that DOT will continue to achieve great things in the future."
In a statement responding to the announcement, Mr. Obama lauded LaHood for "his dedication, his hard work, and his years of service to the American people - including the outstanding work he's done over the last four years as Secretary of Transportation."
But he also thanked LaHood "for his friendship."
"Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent," Mr. Obama said. "And Ray has never wavered in that belief.... Under his leadership, we have made significant investments in our passenger rail system and laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future. And every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger."
"I am grateful to Ray for everything he's done, and I wish him only the best going forward," he added.
LaHood served as a Republican congressman from Illinois for 14 years before becoming Mr. Obama's transportation secretary in 2009, continuing a recent tradition of presidents reaching across the aisle for cabinet members.
Mr. Obama has nominated former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and, if confirmed, he would be the lone Republican in the president's current cabinet.
Obama and Clinton, part one
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to announce her next career move, but that hasn't deterred her supporters from getting a head start on a possible 2016 presidential bid: Last Friday, Clinton fans launched a new super PAC in her honor, according to FEC filing records.
The group is called Ready for Hillary PAC, and the paperwork names Allida Black, a Clinton supporter and professor at George Washington University, as its chair. Black, who according to the university's website is a scholar on Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, human rights, and the early United Nations, also founded the pro-Clinton PAC WomenCount in May of 2008, in direct response to calls for Clinton to drop out of the presidential race.
- Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes: No tea leaves to be read for 2016
- Obama and Clinton: The 60 Minutes interview
In an email to the Center for Public Integrity, Black characterized Ready for Hillary as "a small group of skilled and dedicated Hillary supporters and Obama supporters" who want to provide their "organizational expertise and energy to helping Hillary become president."Continue »
When the Iranian government announced this morning the successful launch of a monkey into space, animal lovers and national security experts alike had reason for concern: Such a move would represent a significant scientific development with regard to Iran's ability to launch long-range ballistic missiles; also, in pictures provided by the Iranian government, the monkey looked pretty terrified.
According to the State Department, however, the U.S. can't confirm whether or not "the poor little monkey" ever actually made it into orbit.
"I saw the monkey - the pictures of the poor little monkey preparing to go to space," said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, when asked about "extraterrestrial primates." "We don't have any way to confirm this one way or the other with regard to the primate."
Still, Nuland noted general U.S. concern with "Iran's development of space launch vehicle technologies," and said the State Department would be working closely with partners and allies "to address our concerns about Iran's missile developments, including by promoting implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions."
If such a launch were to have taken place, according to Nuland, it would be illegal under the 1929 U.N. Security Council resolution, adopted in 2010, that prohibits Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.
"But I'm not in a position here today to confirm whether or not there was a launch," she insisted.
Asked to clarify if she meant whether she could not confirm the successful launch of the monkey, or a launch at all, Nuland said she could confirm "neither monkey nor launch... nor launched monkey."
Iran would hardly be the first country to send a monkey into space: NASA sent a monkey, named Albert, to space in 1948. Unlike Iran's monkey, which according to its government returned from orbit safe and sound, Albert died.
Carney on President Obama's skeet shooting
As debate builds over the White House's recent gun control proposals, President Obama is raising eyebrows anew with another gun-related comment: In an interview with the New Republic released yesterday, Mr. Obama claimed he goes skeet shooting "all the time" during his time at Camp David.
Not everyone, it would seem, believes him.
In a White House briefing today, one reporter asked about the frequency with which Mr. Obama dusts off his shotgun for the sport, which involves shooting clay disks mid-air.
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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney laughed and said he didn't know.
"I would refer you simply to his comments," he said. "I don't know how often - he does go to Camp David with some regularity but I'm not sure how often he's done that."Continue »
In the first congressional hearing on gun violence since President Obama announced sweeping new gun control proposals, stakeholders on both sides of the issue - including both the husband of a victim of gun violence and the CEO of the National Rifle Association -- will share a platform next week to testify on the subject in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The January 30 hearing, entitled "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?", will feature testimony from both the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and Mark Kelly, the husband to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a mass shooting two years ago.
Kelly and Giffords recently co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, an advocacy group meant to combat the lobbying power of the NRA.
LaPierre, meanwhile, has been an outspoken and unapologetic ambassador for his pro-gun lobby: In comments a week after the Newtown shooting, LaPierre gave a press conference railing against gun control advocates, calling not for stricter gun laws but for an armed guard in every school in the country.
Other witnesses at the hearing include James Johnson, chief of police for Baltimore County, Md., and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence; Nicholas Johnson, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law, and Gayle Trotter, an attorney and senior fellow of the Independent Women's Forum.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, will make a foray into politics next month, hosting a fundraiser for Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Mike DuHaime, a campaign spokesperson for Christie, confirmed to CBS News.
Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan will host the event on Feb. 13th in their Palo Alto, Calif., home. Christie is in the midst of a bid for reelection as governor.
The 28-year-old Facebook founder, who maintains a famously low-profile lifestyle in California, met the outspoken governor in 2010 after donating $100 million to Newark's public school system. And while Zuckerberg isn't active for either political party, he has shown signs of support for President Obama in the past: In 2011 he attended a dinner with Mr. Obama. He also appeared with the president in April 2011 at a town hall style meeting at Facebook headquarters.
"Gov. Christie has earned respect and support across the political spectrum for his willingness to speak hard truths and take on difficult political fights, like on education reform, the issue on which he and Mr. Zuckerberg first worked together," said DuHaime.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Zuckerberg donated $10,000 to Facebook's PAC between 2011 and 2012.
President Obama will tap Mary Jo White, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this afternoon, according to a White House official working on the announcement.
White, the first woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, served as a director of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.
The official told CBS News' Peter Maer the president will make the announcement at 2:30 p.m. ET in the White House.
Mr. Obama will also re-nominate Richard Cordray, a former Ohio Attorney General, to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Mr. Obama first tapped Cordray for the job in 2011, but Senate Republicans blocked his nomination amid pushback over the agency's regulatory powers. Mr. Obama gave Cordray the job anyway, via executive action, in an appointment that will expire at the end of this year.
Both White and Cordray, if approved, will prove critical in the Obama administration's efforts to regulate Wall Street. But Senate Republicans have long been resistant to the CFPB, as well as the general idea of giving the Obama administration enhanced regulatory powers over the financial sector.
The 65-year-old White is widely considered a tough prosecutor who, as U.S. Attorney, won convictions of several high-profile criminals, most notably, Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
If confirmed, she would deviate from the template of the typical Wall Street-connected SEC chairman. Mr. Obama's choice of White is a possible signal that he's looking for the SEC to be more aggressive about enforcement following the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
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