WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama congratulated Afghanistan on Tuesday on the start of the official election campaign for the August 20 presidential vote.
The United States is working with Afghan electoral authorities and the United Nations to help ensure a "credible, secure and inclusive election process," Obama said in a White House statement.
"The United States seeks an enduring partnership with the Afghan people, not with any particular Afghan leader," Obama said. "That partnership will be dedicated to enabling the newly elected president and other officials to deliver governance, security, justice and economic opportunity to all Afghans."
After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the ruling Taliban. But in recent months, the country has seen a resurgence in extremism and a rise in violence.
Last week, America's top general painted a bleak picture of the immediate future in Afghanistan, saying insurgent attacks have risen to levels not seen since 2001.
"There is no question that the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years and that there are difficult times ahead," said Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the U.S. Central Command.
Petraeus' comments came as the United States is embarking on new strategy in Afghanistan, with increased troop levels and a focus on counterinsurgency tactics.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An all-women's club that counts Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor among its members does not "invidiously discriminate on the basis of sex," she told senators.
The remarks came in a letter - along with a supplemental filing of documents and speeches - Sotomayor gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
The confirmation hearings begin July 13.
Sotomayor has been reviewing her record with the help of White House lawyers. She was also meeting with six senators Tuesday, courtesy visits with the lawmakers who will decide whether she will become the nation's 111th justice.
The New York federal appeals judge has provided thousands of pages of material to the committee, but some Republican senators had asked for more information, including her participation in the Belizean Grove.
The New York-based professional women's organization describes itself as helping "women pursue more significant dreams, ambitions, purposes, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment."
About 115 women are in the group, according to its Web site.
"The Belizean Grove is a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, nonprofit and social sectors," a statement on its Web site said. "Who build long term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same."
Its leaders said it was created as a counterpart to the all-male social club the Bohemian Grove, which also has an influential network of leaders.
Sotomayor told senators her group is not purposely exclusive.
NEW YORK (CNN) - Despite an apology Monday night from David Letterman, a protest rally outside of Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theater in New York will still go on as planned Tuesday, according to its organizer.
Political documentarian and conservative radio talk show host, John Ziegler, tells CNN that the point of the rally is to, "Raise awareness and get some sort of accountability."
He says that Letterman's apology, "Would have been fine had it come six days ago. This apology came seven days after the fact and his first apology was completely self serving." He added, "We think our voices should still be heard."
The protest is scheduled to take place as Letterman begins taping Tuesday's program. The group is angry over a joke the talk show host told related to the family of Sarah Palin.
Ziegler could not confirm how many of the more than 2,000 people he originally indicated would be attending had canceled. The rally's page on Facebook has approximately 200 confirmed guests. 1,383 have declined the invitation since the Letterman apology.
A significant number of the people who are attending list their residence as out of state.
Ziegler, who produced "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin was Targeted" is also promoting his upcoming film, "Blocking the Path to 9/11."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Jim DeMint said Tuesday he is "convinced" Marco Rubio can defeat Charlie Crist in the GOP's Florida Senate primary and win the state's open seat next November - even if his endorsement puts him at odds with Senate Republican leaders in Washington who are backing Crist.
Rubio flew up from Florida on Tuesday morning to greet DeMint outside the Capitol rotunda and officially receive the endorsement, his first from a sitting member of the Senate. The South Carolina senator - one of the chamber's most conservative members - described the former Florida House Speaker as one of the young leaders "who will help lead our party out of the wilderness and into the arms of a waiting American public."
Rubio called DeMint a "hero" to American taxpayers and said the endorsement has given his underdog campaign a "great boost."
When Crist announced he would seek the Senate seat in May, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and other prominent party figures in Washington quickly endorsed the Florida governor's bid, much to the disappointment of conservative activists and bloggers who favor Rubio.
DeMint said he had spoken with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chairman John Cornyn about his decision to back Rubio, and that they are "fine" with the move. He said he hopes his announcement will give other legislators breathing room to go with their consciences and back Rubio.
"I don't think there's been any effort by the leadership to intimate anyone one way or another, I certainly haven't felt, so I think you'll see some senators, and I know some House members, jumping in behind Marco," he said.
(CNN) - Man-made climate change threatens to stress water resources, challenge crops and livestock, raise sea levels, and adversely affect human health, according to a strongly-worded report from the Obama administration released Tuesday.
The nearly 200-page document on global climate change - released by the White House science adviser and mandated by Congress - does not include new research, but encompasses several recent studies on the effects of global warming over the last half century.
Among the report's key findings are an "unequivocal and primarily human-induced" rise in the earth's temperate of 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years, and a projection of more rapidly changing temperatures over the next several decades.
The continuing temperature rise is likely to spur a series of negative consequences for the Earth's energy supply, water, transportation, ecosystems and health, the report also states.
"[The report] tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable," said John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser.
President Obama wants to create another federal bureaucracy. This one would be a financial watchdog agency whose mission will be to protect consumers from deceptive or dangerous mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.
Supporters are calling it a "financial products safety commission" and compare it to the federal agency that oversees safety of toys and other products. The banking industry is not a fan of this idea, with critics saying it’s bad for consumers and there are already several regulatory agencies that do this.
This new potential watchdog agency is just the latest in a string of moves by the Obama administration to increase the role of government — including everything from the bailouts and part ownership of the American auto companies GM and Chrysler, to the bank bailouts, to tighter rules on credit card companies and oversight of executive compensation.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will propose new regulatory controls for financial markets Wednesday, but says he isn't seeking to add a "whole host" of new agencies.
In remarks at a joint news conference Tuesday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Obama said his goal is to update a regulatory system that has been relatively unchanged since the 1930s.
"I expect that Congress will work swiftly to get these laws in place," Obama said. "I want to sign them and get them up and running."
Regulatory gaps and a lack of oversight led to "wild risk-taking" that precipitated the U.S. economic crisis, imperiling financial institutions and the United States and global economies, Obama said.
"We have to make sure we have an updated regulatory system," he said, but added he would not be seeking "a whole host of regulatory agencies."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A group of congressional Republicans offered what they call a "centrist, practical" plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system Tuesday, one they say would be the cheapest of any option proposed so far.
Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk said the package put together by moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives would be far cheaper than a plan being drawn up in the Senate. A preliminary review of that plan by the Congressional Budget Office found it would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years to extend health insurance to 16 million people who otherwise would not be covered - about a third of the roughly 45 million now uninsured.
"I think this plan that we put forward is more centrist, more bipartisan and would be at significantly lower cost," Kirk said. He said no cost estimate had been prepared for the measures he put forth Tuesday, but asserted its elements would require less money from taxpayers than other proposals.
The package announced by the GOP "Tuesday Group" includes some perennial Republican favorites such as regulatory relief, an individual tax break for purchasing health insurance, and limits on malpractice lawsuits. It also would encourage insurers to pool their coverage to a greater extent than currently allowed, which Kirk and other supporters say has worked well in California.
But it also emphasizes preventive care, computerizing patient records and reducing "defensive medicine" by promoting treatments proven effective - all principles the White House has endorsed as well.
Programming note: Bill Maher will be on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer tonight at 6 p.m. EST.
(CNN) - President Obama is so busy these days dealing with pressing foreign policy issues like Iran and North Korea, that he can't seem to tell his right from his left.
After holding a bilateral meeting in the Oval office with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the two leaders walked out to the Rose Garden podiums. That's when the left-right two-step happened. Mr. Obama took his place behind the right podium, leaving President Lee a bit confused. He smiled as Obama realized the mistake and switched to the left podium.
That oops moment alone wouldn't have deserved a write-up, but for the fact that there was more confusion after the press availability. After thanking reporters, Obama and Lee turned and walked back toward the Oval Office. Oops again! Reggie Love, President Obama's personal assistant, stepped in and the two leaders pivoted before making the long walk along the colonnade.
They are now having lunch in the Old Family Dining Room. I presume the president will use the right fork.