President Barack Obama announced today that his administration has initiated a series of bilateral negotiations with the Republic of Panama over the fate of the Erie Canal system in upstate New York. As a procedural matter, Panama readily concedes that it has no territorial claims of sovereignty over the Erie Canal (which was completed 78 years before Panama declared its independence from Columbia in 1903). Nevertheless, when asked about the talks during a regularly scheduled press briefing at the White House earlier today, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that in the interest of improved relations with all of Latin America, President Obama was willing to consider a wide variety of options, including ceding portions of Upstate New York to Panama in return for twelve barrels of molasses and a guaranteed three-year contract with Mariano Rivera.
"I'm confident we can reach an agreement acceptable to all parties," the president told reporters in the Rose Garden. He went on to say that while he was willing to bend over backwards to find common ground with the Panamanians, he was unwilling to consider a deal that did not include at least some parts of New Jersey.
Privately, the president acknowledged that the likelihood of significant resistance from firmly entrenched special interests (such as homeowners) could complicate or even potentially derail the delicate negotiations. But he hastened to remind disgruntled New Yorkers that failure to reach an agreement acceptable to all parties could result in a crippling domestic shortage of tapioca and cheap baby clothes.
"That's not a risk our country can afford to take," the president declared.
Seeking to quell rumors of widespread fear among the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that an invasion of "Spaniards" was imminent, Obama offered some reassurances to that community, as well as to all Pennsylvanians.
"When it comes to drawing new territorial boundaries as part of a larger treaty of friendship with Panama, I can assure the American People that I have no plans to cross the Delaware, at least not in the foreseeable future."
In a related story, curriculum advisors at Penn State campuses across the Keystone State report a sudden and substantial spike in late enrollment for the university's 1st year Spanish Language courses.
Later in the day, President Obama visited the United States Mint in Philadelphia, where he reportedly cut a deal with a nine-year-old boy who showed up outside the building with nineteen dump trucks full of nickels. Pulling a roll of nickels from one of his pockets and a roll of dimes from the other, the president shared details of what he described as "an historic opportunity to set our country's fiscal house in order."
"This young man approached us and offered to trade 900 billion of these big shiny coins straight across for 900 billion of these little ones," said the president. "But after several rounds of grueling negotiations, we were able to reach agreement on a far more comprehensive and equitable exchange - namely, three of our dimes for every two of his nickels. And while I'm sure that certain aspects of this agreement will set off a whole new round of grumbling and grousing on the part of our progressive friends on the Left, it is, nonetheless, the right thing to do."
The president's plans for the rest of the week reportedly include launching a nationwide search for a left-handed monkey wrench, writing blank checks to unidentified Nigerian diamond merchants, purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge from a homeless man in Times Square, and going on a snipe hunt in Outer Slobbovia with Billy Shears and D.B. Cooper.