The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
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CNN: Dems on financial reform bill: 'The games are over'
Senate Democrats called out Republicans on Thursday for what they said was the promotion of "falsehoods" on the financial reform bill and vowed to move the bill forward. On Thursday, Reid filed a motion to end debate on the bill, setting up that vote for Monday. The expected outcome of the vote is too close to call. Reid said Democrats are willing to work with Republicans if they are earnest about pushing the bill forward.
CNN: Dodd to tweak Wall St. reform bill, lawmaker says
The Democratic lawmaker taking the lead in crafting the Senate’s financial regulatory reform bill has agreed to a key change that would limit taxpayers’ exposure if the government must step in to wind down a large, failing financial institution, a key House Democrat said Thursday. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, told CNN that Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has agreed to change a provision in the Senate bill to limit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to borrowing no more than 90 percent of the value of the assets of a failing firm.
Roll Call: Lincoln’s Derivatives Plan Meets Resistance in Her Caucus
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) appears to be fighting an uphill battle to get her piece of the financial regulatory reform bill into the larger package before it hits the floor, possibly next week. Though the Agriculture panel approved a bill this week that would regulate complicated financial instruments known as derivatives, Senate Democratic leaders and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) do not appear to be making it easy for Lincoln to plant her flag in Dodd’s broader measure, which already includes a less rigorous derivatives piece.
New York Times: Friend to Wall Street, Schumer Is Suddenly Quiet
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has long been known as one of Wall Street’s best friends on Capitol Hill, but there are apparently limits to that friendship. After years of being a go-to guy for the elite of high finance, Mr. Schumer has embraced new legislation that would put constraints on his hometown’s leading industry. The stance has put him at odds with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, caused consternation among his allies at the investment houses and led to suggestions that he was putting political ambition ahead of protecting New York’s interests.
CNN: Source: Rubio campaign asked for Cheney's backing
Marco Rubio's campaign asked former Vice President Dick Cheney to endorse the former Florida House Speaker as part of a concerted effort to put pressure on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and isolate him from fellow Republicans, a Rubio campaign source tells CNN. On Thursday, Cheney became the latest prominent Republican to line up behind Rubio's Senate campaign in Florida, following recent endorsements by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, ex-Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City mayor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
St. Petersburg Times: George LeMieux in awkward spot over Charlie Crist's Senate decision
With Crist's Republican career at its nadir, the 40-year-old [Senator] Georgo LeMieux could be seeing his own ambitions fade. Should Crist run as an independent, LeMieux will have to decide whether to back him or get behind Crist's nemesis, Marco Rubio. If he sticks with Crist, LeMieux would be distanced from the Washington Republicans he has tried hard to fit in with, his eye on returning to the Senate full time.
CNN: Pawlenty makes moves in South Carolina
His top advisers have already started talks with key political players in South Carolina, and now Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 presidential contender, is planning his first foray into the crucial early primary state. Pawlenty will travel to Spartanburg on May 7 to attend a reception benefiting the South Carolina Republican Party at the home of state GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd, giving him a chance to meet with party activists and donors who could support him if he decides to seek the White House.
Politico: North Carolina cools on President Obama
President Barack Obama jets off Friday for a weekend getaway to a funky corner of Appalachia in North Carolina, a state that boosted his presidential chances and now offers him a more tepid political embrace. Obama will ponder his Supreme Court candidates, tee it up on the golf course and add a fresh presidential element to the hippie-hillbilly mix of Asheville. While North Carolina Republicans feel emboldened by the national political climate, the state’s Democrats, once united by their support for Obama, are beginning to fracture.
CNN: Biden hits trail to help fellow Democrats
Vice President Joe Biden heads to Pennsylvania Friday to lend a hand to two fellow Democrats. Friday morning Biden headlines a fundraiser in Pittsburgh for Mark Critz, the Democratic candidate in the May 18 special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Jack Murtha, a Democratic source tells CNN.
Wall Street Journal: In Hawaii, the Most Powerful Waves Can Be Found at the Side of the Road
Daniel Inouye has represented Hawaii in the U.S. Senate since 1963. But every six years, he stands by the side of a road with a campaign sign as motorists drive by. Stanley Chang is a first-time candidate for city council in Honolulu. He stands by the H-1 on-ramp waving his own sign. "If you don't do it, people think there's something wrong with you," says the 27-year-old. Some Hawaii voters associate assiduous sign-waving with having a good work ethic. So, virtually every office-seeker does it, from incumbent U.S. senators to the rookie running for a seat on the school board.
Kansas City Star: Jordan’s departure from U.S. House race in Kansas helps fellow Republican Yoder
With Nick Jordan out of Kansas’ 3rd District race for Congress, fellow Republican Kevin Yoder emerged Thursday as a near-consensus favorite to win the GOP nomination. Jordan, the 2008 nominee beaten by 16 points, was viewed this year as Yoder’s chief competitor. But he surprised Republicans with his decision Thursday to end his campaign. The winner of the Aug. 3 primary is expected to face Democrat Stephene Moore, wife of incumbent Dennis Moore, in November.
New York Daily News: Paterson slams GOP governor hopefuls: They 'know nothing'
Gov. Paterson slammed two of the Republicans who want his job this morning, saying they "know nothing" and should not be running for the state's top office. Paterson, during a radio interview on WBEN in Buffalo, criticized Republican candidates Steve Levy and Carl Paladino for suggesting that they would declare state of emergency to tackle New York's fiscal crisis.
Chicago Sun Times: Blagojevich to judge: Make Obama testify
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers asked a federal judge . . . to force President Obama to testify at Blagojevich’s upcoming corruption trial, asserting that Obama played more of a role in the process of selecting someone to replace him in the U.S. Senate than Obama has acknowledged. On the day before he was elected president, then-Sen. Obama personally called a union official about his desire for Blagojevich to appoint Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the Senate, according to Blagojevich’s defense filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
CQ Politics: House Campaign Overhaul Strategy Taking Shape
With their campaign finance bill due to be introduced next week, House Democrats revealed on Thursday how they plan to sell it to colleagues and the public. According to a memo obtained by Roll Call, legislation by Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, would beef up campaign finance disclosure, political coordination and disclaimer requirements, while imposing new limits on political involvement by government contractors and foreign governments.
Washington Post: Cutter rejoins White House to aid in selling health care
The White House named Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic operative, to oversee the White House's messaging strategy on health care, among other large policy matters, in advance of the November midterm elections. This will be Cutter's second stint, and third role, in the Obama White House. She began as counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and transitioned to run the strategic and communications operation surrounding the selection and confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court justice last year.
CNN: Study scores congressional websites
A new study unveiled Wednesday night about use of technology by Congress had some good news for both Democrats and Republicans. The study also concluded that the Senate is doing a better job overall than the House when it comes to communicating online. The study by the Congressional Management Foundation was used to determine the Mouse Awards, a competition intended to encourage technological innovation on Capitol Hill.
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CNN: SEC staffers watched porn as economy crashed
As the country was sinking into its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years, Security and Exchange Commission employees and contractors cruised porn sites and viewed sexually explicit pictures using government computers, an SEC investigation obtained by CNN showed.
CNN: Oil slick spreads from sunken rig
A 1-by-5-mile sheen of crude oil mix has spread across the Gulf of Mexico's surface around the area where an oil rig exploded and sank, a Coast Guard lieutenant said Thursday. Officials do not know whether oil or fuel are leaking from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig and the well below, but BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill." Meanwhile, the Coast Guard continued to search for 11 people missing after an explosion late Tuesday set the rig ablaze forcing workers to be evacuated from the vessel. Officials are still unsure what caused the blast.
Washington Post: Inspectors found negligence at West Virginia mine months before blast
Federal safety inspectors who visited Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine early this year said senior managers showed "reckless disregard" for worker safety by telling a foreman to ignore a citation the mine had received for faulty ventilation, according to the inspectors' handwritten notes. The notes, from inspections in early January, say the president and a vice president of Massey Energy's Performance Coal subsidiary told a foreman at the Upper Big Branch mine "not to worry about it" when he spoke to them about a ventilation problem cited by federal mine safety inspectors three weeks earlier. They told the foreman "it was fine," according to the notes, citing the account of a mine employee.
The Arizona Republic: Arizona border plan: Add National Guard, have Feds pay for it
Gov. Jan Brewer pledged $10 million in federal stimulus funds to beef up local law enforcement efforts along the Arizona-Mexico border, and called on President Obama to pay for deployment of 250 National Guardsmen to the area to combat illegal immigration Brewer said in a Thursday afternoon news conference that she had pleaded five times in letters to Obama for a federal response to help Arizona stanch the flow of illegal immigrants across its southern border by deploying additional troops. "Arizona is frustrated and we're going to push back," Brewer said at her news conference. "The people of Arizona have had it."
USA Today: Military's health care costs booming
Military health care spending is rising twice as fast as the nation's overall health care costs, consuming a larger chunk of the defense budget as the Pentagon struggles to pay for two wars, military budget figures show. The surging costs are prompting the Pentagon and Congress to consider the first hike in out-of-pocket fees for military retirees and some active-duty families in 15 years, said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of TRICARE, the military health care program.
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CNN: Eleven alleged pirates brought to United States for prosecution
Federal authorities are flying 11 suspected pirates from East Africa to Norfolk, Virginia, to be prosecuted for alleged attacks on U.S. Navy ships near Somalia, according to multiple federal law enforcement sources familiar with the operation. The accused pirates have been indicted on a series of charges that remain under court seal until the suspects appear before a federal magistrate in Norfolk early Friday, the officials said.
CNN: Bangkok grenade attacks turn deadly
Thailand's prime minister huddled with the chiefs of the country's armed forces early Friday after a string of grenade attacks killed at least one person and wounded dozens of others in the already-tense capital. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called an emergency meeting of top officials after the Thursday night attacks, which followed weeks of protests aimed at toppling his administration.
Times of London: Cameron edges second leaders’ debate, according to Times poll
David Cameron scored a narrow victory over Nick Clegg in the second leaders’ debate last night after an impassioned contest turned personal. Mr. Brown, during the exchanges on foreign affairs that took up the first half of the 90-minute debate, portrayed himself as the only one of the three who knew what it was like to deal with threats from al-Qaeda. “I have to deal with these decisions every day.” The debate, in Bristol, was characterised by a sharper, angrier tone, with less overt agreement and fewer references to each other by first names.
Der Spiegel: New McChrystal Approach Means Greater Danger for German Forces
During his much-anticipated visit to Berlin, US General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, refrained from making any demands for additional German troops. But McChrystal's new "partnering" strategy means the Bundeswehr will have to get involved in highly dangerous operations.
CNN: Iceland closes airports for first time due to volcanic ash cloud
Iceland will close two airports on Friday for the first time, a week after ash from an Icelandic volcano forced the shutdown of airspace over much of Europe and stranded thousands of passengers around the world, the Icelandic aviation authority announced Thursday. The Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavík International Airport will be closed beginning early Friday morning, the aviation authority said, according to a statement on the Keflavik airport's website.
Financial Times: Fresh outbreak of tension takes Koreans back to the dark days
In the grim old days of tensions between North and South Korea, the people of Seoul were perennially reminded to dial 113 if they spotted a suspected northern agent. In recent years that advice has seemed like a vestige of the cold war. But in the past few weeks, after the sinking of a South Korean warship feared destroyed in a North Korean attack, and the arrest in Seoul of two alleged North Korean assassins, people might be tempted to wonder if those dark days are back.
BBC News: Bosnia gets Nato membership plan
Nato foreign ministers have agreed to launch a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Bosnia-Hercegovina – a penultimate step to joining the military alliance. Bosnia, which was ravaged by war in the 1990s, applied for a MAP in 2009. A MAP is a multi-stage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a candidate country in line with Nato standards.
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CNNMoney: Obama asks Wall Street to back reform
President Obama called on the financial industry Thursday to support his efforts to enact new regulatory reforms or risk repeating the "failure of responsibility" that nearly brought down the nation's economy. Obama said the lesson of the recent financial crash, which sparked a deep recession that claimed over 8 million jobs, is that reform is needed to prevent repeating the mistakes of the past. The highly anticipated speech came as Obama and Democrats in Congress are pushing to get a reform package approved this year, with talk that there may be support from at least some Republicans.
CNNMoney: Wall Street to Obama: Hands off!
Misguided. Unworkable. Hypocritical. Wall Street was unimpressed by President Obama's argument for financial reform on Thursday. The reaction of nearly a dozen financial industry workers ranged from skepticism to animosity. Obama spoke at Cooper Union in lower Manhattan, a short distance from the New York Stock Exchange. In his midday speech, the president said the economic downturn that has cost the nation 8 million jobs is a clear sign for the need to reform the finance industry.
Wall Street Journal: Probe Turns to Buffett Deal
A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director tipped off a hedge-fund billionaire about a $5 billion investment in Goldman by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. before a public announcement of the deal at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, a person close to the situation says. In a filing last week, the government provided more details about the information it alleges Mr. Rajaratnam received, including advance notice about the Buffett transaction with Goldman.
CNNMoney: Big bonuses are back. Backlash isn't.
Whatever happened to bonus rage? This time last year, there was an uproar over the bonuses being paid at bailed-out AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), and big pay packages were turning into a public relations fiasco for taxpayer-supported banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500). Yet few batted an eye this week when Wall Street revealed its latest round of pay excess. Giant Wall Street banks set aside $39.2 billion to pay their workers in the first quarter.
Bloomberg: The Euro, Asian Finance Stocks Decline on Greece Debt Concerns
The euro fell to near the lowest in a year against the dollar and Asian stocks declined as concern about Greece’s deficit added to pressure on Group of 20 finance ministers meeting in Washington to stem the crisis. The Thai baht dropped the most in 10 months, weakening 0.4 percent to 32.35 per dollar, after grenade blasts killed three people and injured 75 others at anti-government protests in Bangkok
CNNMoney: How long should we help the unemployed?
Two years of unemployment benefits just isn't enough for some jobless Americans. Though Congress has extended unemployment insurance to an unprecedented 99 weeks, the safety net is not proving sufficient for hundreds of thousands of people who say they simply cannot find a job in this weak economy. Up to a million people could find themselves with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check by year's end, according to preliminary estimates by one advocacy group.
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