BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) - The United States backs Lebanon's democratic process, but U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden warned Friday the United States will reconsider its assistance to the country if its next government strays from certain "fundamental principles."
He spoke shortly after arriving in Beirut, a visit that comes two weeks before a key vote there that could usher in a Hezbollah-dominated government.
"I do not come here to back any political party or any particular person," Biden said at a joint news conference with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman.
"The shape and composition of Lebanon's government is for the Lebanese people to decide, to state the obvious."
However, the United States "will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates," Biden said.
Biden urged those Lebanese "who would think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away from the spoilers."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A top aide to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy told fellow Democrats on Friday to get ready for President Obama's Supreme Court pick to come as early as next week, according to an e-mail obtained by CNN.
"It is possible the President will designate his nominee to the Supreme Court as early as next Tuesday or some time next week," Jeremy Paris, Leahy's chief counsel for nominations, wrote in the e-mail to fellow Democratic aides.
The Judiciary panel will handle the nomination process for whomever Obama picks to replace retiring Justice David Souter, and three senior Obama administration officials confirmed to CNN that the latest thinking at the White House is the president could make the pick as early as next week.
The White House's new point person for managing the process for the eventual nominee, Stephanie Cutter, was also spotted in the West Wing on Friday afternoon meeting with other aides, a sign the administration could be edging closer to announcing the pick.
But the three senior administration officials said flatly the president has not yet settled on his pick, and they noted this weekend would be pivotal in the decision-making process. "He's mulling it over," one top aide said of the final stages of the process.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Rep. John Kasich plans to announce next month that he will run for governor of Ohio, two Republican sources tell CNN.
Kasich has already filed paperwork with the state that allows him to raise money, established a Web site and posted a YouTube video encouraging supporters to join him at a June 1 event in his hometown for a "very special announcement." Kasich has not yet officially announced his plans to challenge Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010.
"Really like to see you there," Kasich said in the video. "Hope you can make it. I am excited. I hope you will be too."
In a head-to-head match-up, Strickland holds a 19 point lead over Kasich, 51 percent to 32 percent, according to a May 6 Quinnipiac University poll.
WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) - President Obama signed a bill on Friday that makes it tougher for credit card issuers to raise fees and interest rates.
During a bill-signing ceremony at the White House, President Obama praised the new law, which was the culmination of several years of work by consumer groups and Democrats to rein in what they say are abusive practices that prey on consumers.
"We're here today for a bill that will make a big difference," said Obama.
Obama was joined by, among others, the bill's Democratic sponsors: Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, a top Senate Republican who negotiated a final deal to pass the bill, also attended.
The House and Senate passed the legislation by overwhelming bipartisan margins earlier this week, despite strong objections by banking industry advocates who say it could result in tightened credit to Americans.
President Obama shakes the hand of John McCain IV, son of 2008 campaign rival Sen. John McCain, during graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
(CNN) - President Obama stood Friday before the graduates of the Naval Academy and made a vow that reflected the criticisms of the previous administration that filled much of his presidential campaign.
"It's a promise that as long as I am your Commander in Chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done," he told the crowd in Annapolis, Maryland.
"This includes the job of bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end and pursuing a new comprehensive strategy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
He noted that the government has "halted reductions in Navy personnel and increased the size of the Marine Corps," and he said, "we will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen."
(CNN) - Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told CNN former Vice President Dick Cheney's repeated charge the Obama administration has made the country less safe is wrong.
"Yeah, I disagree with Dick Cheney," the Pennsylvania Republican and former Bush administration official told CNN's John King, adding he does not think the country is more vulnerable to an attack under President Obama.
Ridge's comments come after both Obama and Cheney gave dueling speeches on national security, during which the president sharply condemned Bush administration interrogation practices while Cheney vigorously defended them.
In the interview with CNN, set to air in full on State of The Union with John King Sunday, Ridge said he disagrees with "the approach both men are taking."
"It's just the whole notion of a Republican vice president giving a speech after the incumbent Democratic president," he said. "It's gotta go beyond the politics of either party."
The former Pennsylvania governor also took issue with a portion of Obama's speech, during which he said some Bush national security decisions were based on "fear, rather than foresight."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - How high will gas prices soar this summer?
A new national poll suggests that nine out of ten Americans think prices at the pumps will top $3 some time this year, and nearly three out of four feel that gas could cost up to $4 a gallon this summer.
Only 27 percent of people questioned in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey think they'll pay $5 a gallon some time this year. The poll's Friday afternoon release comes at the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, which is the traditional kickoff of the summer driving season.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline stood at $2.39 on Friday, according to motorist group AAA. Even though gas has jumped by 30 cents a gallon over the past month, it's still far below last summer's $4-a-gallon prices.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted May 14-17, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll suggests Americans are becoming slightly more positive about the condition of the country, but the vast majority still say things in the nation are going badly.
Twenty-eight percent of people questioned in the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday think things are going well in the country today, up 12 points from November. Still, more than seven in 10 Americans think things are currently going badly in the country.
"This poll question has a record of being a good political indicator," said CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider. "When the number of Americans who say things are going well is this low, bad things happen to people in power. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter was thrown out of office. In 1992, the same thing happened to the first President Bush. And last year the Republican got wiped out."
The poll also indicates that 42 percent of people questioned think the country's in a serious recession, up 10 points from last October. Another 35 percent said the nation's suffering from a moderate recession and 12 percent labeled it a mild recession. One out of 10 said there's no recession.
As millions of Americans head into a long weekend and the unofficial start of summer, consider this: About 28 million Americans, that's a quarter of the work force, don't get any paid vacation. Enter Florida Congressman Alan Grayson - who has introduced the Paid Vacation Act.
The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to give a week of paid vacation to both full-time and part-time workers who've been with the company for a year. Once the law is in effect three years - they'd have to give two weeks of paid time off; and companies with more than 50 employees would have to give one week vacation.
Grayson, a Democrat, says his bill would double the number of paid vacations in the U.S. It’s also meant to increase worker productivity by having fewer sick days, and to boost tourism - hey, he's from Florida after all.
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