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Top of the News

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The latest headlines.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Hey, welcome back to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. And we are available to you on digital AM, FM, satellite, iTunes, and, of course, online at npr.org/bryantpark. Don't miss us, in other words. I'm Alison Stewart.

BILL WOLFF, host:

And I'm Bill Wolff.

Coming up: The best punter in the world. Yes, it's Super Bowl week, and we're talking about the punter because according to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT's great producer Dan Pashman, the New York Giants' Jeff Feagles is the greatest punter that ever was.

STEWART: And Dan, he took part in the interview.

WOLFF: Well…

STEWART: He had to.

WOLFF: Look, journalistic…

STEWART: He had to.

WOLFF: …objectivity is just not part of the game when your team is in the Super Bowl.

But before we get to that, let's get to the news with Rachel Martin.

This is NPR.

(Soundbite of music)

RACHEL MARTIN: Thank you, Bill.

Good morning, everyone.

So getting an economic stimulus package passed may not happen as quickly as President Bush had hoped. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a $157-billion economic stimulus plan that rivals the one agreed on by Bush and House congressional leaders. The president and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had hoped the Senate would just rubberstamp the plan they came up with so rebate checks could be cut and mailed to taxpayers by May.

The more expensive Senate bill extends unemployment benefits and includes a tax rebate for retirees. A final Senate vote on the competing stimulus packages is expected tonight.

In the meantime, the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates again. Following a two-day meeting, the Fed approved a half a point cut to the short-term interest rate. The move comes eight days after the Feds' dramatic three quarters of a percent rate cut. The federal funds rate is not at 3 percent, the lowest it's been since 2005. The cuts are part of a broader effort by Washington to boost consumer spending and reinvigorate the sagging U.S. economy.

The economy has taken front and center in this year's presidential campaigns. Polls say it was the big issue for GOP Floridians who went to the polls Tuesday. That primary was, essentially, Rudy Giuliani's first and last. The former New York City mayor came in a disappointing third and dropped out of the race yesterday. Speaking in California, Giuliani officially endorsed John McCain.

Here's what he said.

Mr. RUDOLPH GIULIANI (Former Republican Mayor, New York): Someone with the will and perseverance to get great goals accomplished. Obviously, I thought I was that person.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIULIANI: The voters made a different choice.

MARTIN: Later on, the remaining GOP candidates squared off in the final debate before Super Tuesday.

Here's NPR's Mara Liasson with details.

MARA LIASSON: Romney went through a list of all the ways he said McCain was out of the mainstream of conservative thought: immigration, campaign finance reform and global warming - even newspaper endorsements.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Governor, Massachusetts: Republican Presidential Candidate): If you get endorsed by The New York Times, you're probably not a conservative.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON COOPER (Moderator): Senator McCain?

Senator John McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Let me note that I was endorsed by your two hometown newspapers…

Mr. ROMNEY: I know.

Sen. McCAIN: …who know you best, including the very conservative Boston Herald…

Mr. ROMNEY: I'd say the same thing.

Sen. McCAIN: …who know you well better than anybody. So I'll guarantee the Arizona Republic will be endorsing me, my friend.

MARTIN: McCain got a boost right before the debate when Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the race and endorsed him. On Thursday, he'll get another when the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, appears at an event with McCain and offers his endorsement.

Finally, if you're the most popular coffee shop franchise in the world, it might be tempting to expand your product lines. There's coffee, then pastries, then sandwiches, then the world - well, it appears Starbucks is getting rid of its breakfast sandwiches in an effort to streamline and get back to its comparative advantage: coffee.

The ham and egg toasties boosted Starbucks revenue by about $35,000 per store every year. But executives say, in the long run, removing the sandwiches will help boost overall profit. The company's stock is down about 15 percent since late 2006, when it was trading at $40 a share.

That is the news. It is always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: Alison and Bill.

STEWART: Man, that new CEO is wasting no time.

MARTIN: Right.

STEWART: The former CEO came back and took over Starbucks, and said he just want to get back to the principles of the company.

WOLFF: What's old is new. Do what you do best.

STEWART: There you go.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: What do you best? Gamble?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Nicely done, Alison.

STEWART: Thank you.

MARTIN: Nicely done.

STEWART: The man likes Vegas. What can I say?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: I don't do it.

STEWART: And football.

WOLFF: I don't do it well, though.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: If I did, why, I wouldn't be here. I'd be there.

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