December 24th, 2009
05:04 AM ET
6 months ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: December 24, 2009

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The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.

Compiled by Alison Harding

WASHINGTON/POLITICAL
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Senate reform bill passes last hurdle en route to passage
The Senate health care bill cleared a third and final procedural hurdle Wednesday as Democrats successfully limited remaining debate time on the $871 billion measure.The Senate voted 60-39 along party lines to set a timetable for likely passage of the bill early Thursday morning.

CNN: House Democrats making plans for final health care bill
House Democrats are already home for the holidays, but they huddled on a conference call Wednesday afternoon to discuss the next steps in negotiating a final health care bill with the Senate.Speaker Nancy Pelosi restated that the goal is to get a final bill to the president's desk before his State of the Union address in late January or early February, but she admitted the timeline could slip, according to two senior Democratic aides who were on the call.

Wall Street Journal: Firms Warn of Cuts to Benefits
Some of the biggest employers in the U.S. are warning that a provision in the Senate's proposed health-care overhaul could lead to cuts in retiree benefits and a sharp reduction in reported earnings next year. Companies including Boeing Co., Deere & Co., MetLife Inc. and Xerox Corp. plan to lobby Democratic leaders to drop the provision, which would change the tax status of payments for retiree health benefits.

Albany Times-Union: Skelos to Dems: Sue over health deal
The national health insurance reforms being hammered out in Washington D.C. are causing all sorts of headaches for New York Democrats, especially in light of stories that it may hurt the Empire State in terms of Medicaid reimbursement. Gov. Paterson has already leveled such criticism and both US Senators are drawing flak over why they didn’t or weren’t able to cut a Nebraska-style sweetheart deal (Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson is getting billions worth of new Medicaid assistance in exchange for his vote in support of the plan).

Washington Post: Gates proposes $2 billion in funds to aid unstable countries
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has proposed a major overhaul of the way the Pentagon and State Department do nation-building, seeking to end friction between the bureaucracies by putting them jointly in charge of three huge new funds aimed at stabilizing strife-ridden countries.

Washington Post: Iran warns that it will deal 'fiercely' with protesters
Iran's national police commander said demonstrators will face a fierce crackdown if their "illegal" activities continue, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Wednesday, following several days of anti-government protests and officials calling for the arrest of the political leaders of the opposition.

Wall Street Journal: Kerry Floats Plan to Visit Tehran
Sen. John Kerry has suggested becoming the first high-level U.S. emissary to make a public visit to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a move White House officials say they won't oppose.

Christian Science Monitor: New US stance on Iranian protests: stress human rights violations
The Obama administration has settled on a policy of speaking out modestly but regularly against human rights violations in Iran, even as it continues to focus on Tehran’s nuclear program and the fading hopes of a dialogue with the Iranian regime.

Bloomberg: Taxpayer Burden Eases to $8.2 Trillion as Obama Supplants Fed
Congress and the Obama administration are taking a bigger role in the rescue of the economy from the Federal Reserve, shifting the strategy to stimulus spending from central bank lending. The amount the Fed and U.S. agencies have lent, spent or guaranteed has fallen 15 percent since September to $8.2 trillion, the lowest in a year, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Politico: McCain, GOP secretly courting another Dem to switch
Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade more House Democrats to switch parties and are zeroing in on a second-term Pennsylvanian who acknowledged the efforts but said he has "no plans" to do so.

CNN: Obama tells PBS he's shown he can make tough decisions
President Obama said he wouldn't pat himself on the back for his first year in office, but said Wednesday he showed he can make tough decisions that were unpopular.

CNN: Console families of military suicides, lawmakers urge Obama
President Obama should end a longstanding policy of not writing letters of condolence to families of troops who commit suicide, dozens of lawmakers urged him in a letter Wednesday.

NATIONAL
For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

MSNBC: Report: Hasan asked about killing troops in ’08
A radical Muslim cleric claims Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan asked him about killing American soldiers nearly a year before Hasan allegedly shot to death 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood.

Houston Chronicle: Texas population booms amid lean times
While bubbles burst around the nation, Texas booms. U.S. Census estimates released Wednesday show that Texas added more residents than any other state in the year ending July 1. The Lone Star State has 478,000 more people than it did a year ago — roughly the equivalent of packing up all of Fresno, Calif., and moving it here.

Wall Street Journal: Recession Alters Migration Patterns in U.S.
The recession has had a profound effect on migration patterns in the U.S., reversing the flow of people to former housing-boom states such as Florida and Nevada, the latest data from the Census Bureau show.

Chicago Sun-Times: Blagojevich brother wants some taped calls blocked
Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert, is asking a judge to keep private 208 phone calls he says the FBI wrongly intercepted as part of its investigation into the former governor.

Austin-American Statesman: Austin man discovers his clunker might not have been junked
The Nalick family recently got a Cash for Clunkers surprise it wasn't planning on. In September, Austinite Michael Nalick traded in his parents' 1994 green Dodge Dakota pickup at a Houston dealership so he could buy a 2009 Honda Civic through the popular federal program. A month later, the Nalick family got a letter from a state agency, which said the truck had been seen emitting smoke pollutants on a road in Pasadena.

INTERNATIONAL
For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

Times of London: Army halts soldiers’ training to cut costs
The Ministry of Defence has cancelled dozens of army training exercises as it struggles to cut costs. The savings affect the regular Army as well as the Territorial Army and have forced Britain to withdraw from a major Nato exercise alongside the United States, The Times has learnt.

CNN: U.S., Russia say arms control talks to resume next year
The United States and Russia say they will be unable to reach a deal on an arms control treaty by the end of the year to replace their existing one, which expired this month. …Talks are expected to resume in mid-January with new proposals.

CNN: Ship seized with cocaine worth $600M
Spanish police have seized a ship carrying nearly $600 million worth of cocaine, in a joint operation with London's Metropolitan Police, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, and maritime authorities, Scotland Yard announced.

Daily Telegraph: Vatican tries to calm anger over Pope Pius XII
Vatican officials tried to patch up a growing dispute with Jewish leaders by saying the decision to move wartime Pope Pius XII closer to sainthood was based on his "piety" not his "politics". Pope Pius XII has been condemned for not doing enough to prevent the Holocaust and his path to canonisation has sparked outcry.

CNN: Brazilian family says it won't appeal ruling of chief justice returning boy to dad, U.S.
Brazilian relatives of a 9-year-old boy, caught in an international custody battle with the child's father, will not file any further appeals after the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled against them, their attorney told CNN Wednesday.

BUSINESS
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNN: Madoff transferred to prison medical facility
Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff has been transferred to a medical facility at the prison where he's incarcerated in North Carolina, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Wall Street Journal: Fannie, Freddie Executives Get Big Payday
The top regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is expected to announce millions of dollars in pay packages for top executives at the government-run mortgage-finance titans, people familiar with the matter said.

New York Times: New Programs Aim to Lure Young Into Digital Jobs
Hybrid careers like Dr. Halamka’s that combine computing with other fields will increasingly be the new American jobs of the future, labor experts say. In other words, the nation’s economy is going to need more cool nerds. But not enough young people are embracing computing — often because they are leery of being branded nerds.

Boston Globe: Last-second Santas
Tim Gadon found himself in a procrastinators’ paradise as the clock struck midnight. After the weekend snowstorm blew off the start of his Christmas shopping, Gadon launched a 9 p.m. gift-buying spree at South Shore Plaza Tuesday night. …In three hours, he dropped about $700 on everything from books to shoes to Disney toys.Across the region, anxious merchants battered by last weekend’s wicked northeaster are offering holdouts like Gadon a cornucopia of promotions and extended hours during the final countdown to Christmas.

In Case You Missed It

Relief might be coming for people irritated by loud TV commercials. CNN's Louise Schiavone reports.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6967063.ece

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