--> Election 2012: President Barack Obama launched a three-day visit to five battleground states today by pressing State of the Union themes of core American values and having the wealthy pay more taxes.
At an Iowa manufacturing plant that he said represented the kind of job creation needed for the economy, Obama repeatedly drew applause for the apparent central message of his re-election bid -- that the country needs to keep alive equal opportunity for all.
Americans aren't looking for a handout, the president said, but want the security of knowing they can provide for their families, send their kids to college and save for retirement.
"That's all most people want. Folks don't have unrealistic ambitions," he said. "They do believe that if they work hard, they should be able to achieve that small measure of an American dream. That's what this country's about. That's what you deserve."
Later, Obama spoke at a $5 billion factory under construction in Arizona that computer chip maker Intel says will be the most advanced high-volume semiconductor manufacturing plant in the world when completed in 2013.
Standing in front of what's billed as the world's largest land-based crane, Obama called the factory being built "an example of an America that's within our reach" that leads in technology and job creation through investment and innovation.
Obama later heads to Nevada to spend the night. He also will visit Michigan and Colorado on the trip that ends Friday. All five states visited are considered competitive and important to the president's re-election hopes. (Via CNN)
--> Election 2012: President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are neck and neck in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
The poll showed both Obama and Romney at 45%, just months after Romney held a 47-40 lead back in September, and a 46-43 lead two weeks ago.
Obama holds a strong 50-39% lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who along with Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul are battling it out in Florida this week ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary.
Santorum trails Obama 49-40% while Paul trails 47-39 percent, according to the poll. (Via NBC Miami)
--> News: Bodies of more cruise wreck victims ID’d
--> Health Issues: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will inject $750 million into the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced Thursday at the World Economic Forum.
The donation comes in the form of a promissory note, not as cash, which the Gates Foundation said "gives the Global Fund the flexibility and authority to distribute funds efficiently based on immediate needs."
"By supporting the Global Fund, we can help to change the fortunes of the poorest countries in the world," Gates said in a statement. "I can't think of more important work."
At a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gates said the funds could be used immediately to "saves lives, whether it is bed nets (to protect against mosquitoes carrying malaria) or TB (tuberculosis) treatment, those are two diseases that don't get perhaps the visibility of the work done in HIV but they are every bit as important."
The investment comes on top of $650 million the Gates Foundation has already contributed since the Global Fund was launched 10 years ago. More at CNN.