The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com
CNNMoney: House OKs Wall Street reform bill
The House voted 237-192 Wednesday to pass a sweeping package of reforms to the financial regulatory system, moving the bill a step closer to the finish line. But the Senate isn't likely to take up the measure until the week of July 12. And it's not clear whether Democrats have secured the votes they need.
CNN: Kagan pledges judicial independence
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was hit with a blizzard of questions about politically thorny social and economic issues on the third and final day of her part in her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. In keeping with the tradition of other recent high court nominees, the 50-year-old solicitor general repeatedly declined to indicate how she might rule if confirmed, leading one senator to bemoan what many observers now characterize as a confirmation process devoid of substance.
CNN: Petraeus confirmed as new U.S. Afghan commander
The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to confirm Gen. David Petraeus as the new top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan - an unusual display of bipartisan unity in the politically divisive conflict. Petraeus was tapped by President Barack Obama to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was relieved of his duties last week after the general and his staff were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article criticizing and mocking key administration officials.
CNN: DNC names four cities as finalists to host 2012 convention
The Democratic National Committee has named four cities as finalists to host the 2012 Democratic convention. The potential sites for the convention, to be held during the week of September 3, 2012, are St. Louis, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Cleveland.
CNN: Portland police reopen therapist's complaint about Gore
Police in Portland, Oregon, say they have reopened their investigation into a massage therapist's allegation that former Vice President Al Gore had "unwanted sexual contact" with her in 2006, a police spokeswoman said Wednesday. The therapist told police in a prepared statement in January 2009 that she was "repeatedly subjected to unwanted sexual touching" by Gore during an October 2006 massage she performed on the former vice president at his hotel room, Portland police disclosed last week.
CNN: California congressman calls activist 'wacko'
Rep. Pete Stark must like going viral, at least amongst his conservative detractors. "Who are you going to kill today?" is how he solicited a question from a self-proclaimed Minuteman – the volunteer organization, which tries to prevent illegal crossings of the U.S. border – at a recent town hall meeting in Fremont, California. It went from there.
CNN: Angle defends positions in interview, laughs off notion she's hiding in 'bunker'
The woman who wants to defeat the most powerful Democrat in the Senate has taken part in a rare interview as critics claim she's avoided reporters by hiding in an "underground bunker." Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle spoke with well known Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston on Tuesday on the program, "Face to Face." The interview was seen by KVBC Las Vegas and KRNV Reno viewers.
CNN: Poll suggests health care reform becoming more popular
Nearly half of all Americans have a favorable view of the new health care reform law, according to a new national poll. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Wednesday indicates that 48 percent of the public views the law in a favorable light, up seven points from May, with 41 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. One in 10 questioned said they were unsure.
CNN: Poll indicates Ohio Senate race wide open as Biden visits
The battle for Ohio's open Senate seat remains deadlocked, according to a new poll. The Quinnipiac University survey's Wednesday release comes as Vice President Joe Biden heads to Cleveland to lend a helping hand to Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the Democratic nominee. The poll indicates that 42 percent of Ohio voters back Fisher, with 40 percent supporting former Rep. and Bush administration budget director Rob Portman, the GOP nominee. Fisher's two point advantage is basically unchanged from Quinnipiac surveys conducted in March and April and is within the poll's sampling error.
Politico: Eric Cantor's ambition raises concerns, debate
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has asked the ethics committee to greenlight a national book tour this August for a new GOP manifesto he’s co-authoring with two younger members of Congress, according to sources familiar with the situation. This is classic Cantor: a hyperambitious move to publish and push ideas he thinks will help rebrand the GOP, on his terms — and not necessarily those of his boss, Minority Leader John Boehner. If this were an isolated incident, it would pass without a peep. But it’s not: Cantor is earning a reputation for pushing his ideas so hard and so often that some GOP colleagues are questioning his motives.
Kansas City Star: Parkinson warns of school cuts if federal money doesn’t appear
Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson joined more than a dozen governors Wednesday to plead with Congress for $25 billion in additional aid to states. Parkinson warned that he will have no choice but to slash school funding if Congress doesn’t approve an extension of emergency Medicaid dollars.
Washington Post: Conservatives use Pelosi as face of liberalism in campaign ads
Beware! Nancy Pelosi is a colossal tax-dollar-engorged monster who ravages small towns and must be brought down by Republican ray guns. Or at least that is what a cartoon version of the House speaker looked like in "Attack of the 50-Foot Pelosi," a television ad that a conservative group called Right Change aired in Pennsylvania last month. A new Web site by the National Republican Congressional Committee portrays her as a malevolent puppet master, yanking the strings of 10 vulnerable House Democrats.
Lexington Herald Leader: Paul tempers opposition to federal farm subsidies
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul tempered his opposition to federal farm subsidies Wednesday, saying he is "much more moderate" on the issue than he has been portrayed in the media. Appearing on WHAS-AM radio in Louisville with host Mandy Connell, Paul did not repeat a previous blanket statement against farm subsidies. "The interesting thing is they start out with that being my position, and I'm actually much more moderate than that. You know how moderate I am," Paul said during the one-hour radio interview. In a May 10 appearance on KET with other Republican primary candidates, Paul said he was not in favor of agricultural subsidies.
CNN: Perry campaign aide loses hair over fundraising
Texas Governor Rick Perry's campaign is losing hair over fundraising, literally. Perry's Political Director David White and Central Texas Field Director Jon McClellan challenged each other to see who could raise the most money for the Perry campaign in a 24-hour period. The loser had to receive a buzz-cut. In last 24 hours, White and McClellan raised more than $15,000 together, said Perry's press secretary, Alejandro Garcia. Garcia could not specify how much each participant raised individually but confirmed that McClellan did receive a buzz-cut.
CNN: Poll: Close contests in California
A new poll indicates that the Democratic candidates hold single-digit leads over their Republican counterparts in California's gubernatorial and senatorial battles. According to a Reuters/Ipsos survey, California Attorney General Jerry Brown holds a 45 to 39 percent advantage over Meg Whitman in the race for governor, with 14 percent undecided.
Arizona Republic: Ariz. panel recommends good PR to deal with fallout
There's no need to rebrand Arizona to counteract negative publicity from the state's new immigration law, a tourism task force has concluded. But a little publicity on what Senate Bill 1070 does – and doesn't – do would help, the task force concluded. Its members on Wednesday recommended to Gov. Jan Brewer that the task force hire a public-relations firm to develop and disseminate a fact sheet on the law, which takes effect July 29.
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CNN: BP plans to get rid of safety watchdog, sources say
BP has been trying to shut down an internal safety watchdog agency it set up under congressional pressure four years ago, according to sources close to the office and a leading congressman. The Ombudsman Program was set up after a 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 workers and a massive oil spill in Alaska the following year. Its chief, former federal judge Stanley Sporkin, would not comment for this story - but a source inside his office told CNN, "I'm surprised we're still here."
New York Times: Banned Trailers Return for Latest Gulf Disaster
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they became a symbol of the government’s inept response to that disaster: the 120,000 or so trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to people who had lost their homes. The trailers were discovered to have such high levels of formaldehyde that the government banned them from ever being used for long-term housing again. Some of the trailers, though, are getting a second life amid the latest disaster here — as living quarters for workers involved with the cleanup of the oil spill.
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CNN: Suspected Russian spy missing in Cyprus
A suspected Russian spy is missing after being arrested in Cyprus and released on bail, a police spokesman told CNN on Wednesday. Authorities arrested Robert Christopher Metsos, 55, in Larnaca after an Interpol "red notice" was served on him, Cypriot police said Tuesday.
CNN: Optimism rises in Japan, manufacturing slows in China
A key reading on business sentiment shows that optimism is on the rise in the country’s business sector. The closely watched Tankan survey is out, and it shows – for the first time in a long time – the country's big businesses are feeling good about the state of the economy. The quarterly survey had a reading of plus one. Most economists were expecting a reading of minus four. That means optimists outnumber pessimists.
Bloomberg: Chinese Provinces Raise Minimum Wages to Curb Labor Disputes
At least nine Chinese provinces and cities will raise minimum wages from today by as much as a third after Premier Wen Jiabao called for measures to head off growing worker unrest in the world’s third-largest economy. Beijing is increasing the lowest monthly salary employers may pay in the Chinese capital to 960 yuan ($142) from 800 yuan, according to the city government’s website.
CNN: Somali president leads drive against hard-liners on the front line
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed joined his troops on the front line Wednesday to fight hard-line anti-government Islamists, a presidential aide told a journalist in Mogadishu. "The president is on the front line leading the fight against Al Shabaab and he is armed with an AK-47," said the aide, who declined to be named. The aide said that the president is accompanied by government soldiers and forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia.
BBC News: Death penalty for Iran jail abuse
An Iranian military court has sentenced two men to death in connection with the killings of three anti-government protesters, the state news agency said. Prosecutors said the three died after a series of beatings in Iran's Kahrizak jail, where they were held for taking part in last year's election protests. Nine other officials were sentenced to jail and lashes over the deaths, Irna said quoting a court statement.
Wall Street Journal: Iran Arms Syria With Radar
Iran has sent Syria a sophisticated radar system that could threaten Israel's ability to launch a surprise attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, say Israeli and U.S. officials, extending an alliance aimed at undermining Israel's military dominance in the region. The radar could bolster Syria's defenses by providing early warning of Israeli air-force sorties. It could also benefit Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group based in Lebanon and widely believed to receive arms from Syria.
Washington Post: Muslim cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi is linked to Christmas Day bomb attempt
A radical Muslim cleric who was born in the United States and resides in Yemen "had a direct operational role" in the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said Wednesday. The remark by Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, is the most specific assertion so far regarding Anwar al-Aulaqi's involvement in the failed plot, which allegedly employed a would-be suicide bomber who is accused of boarding the flight with explosives in his underwear.
New York Times: Economies in Latin America Surge Forward
While the United States and Europe fret over huge deficits and threats to a fragile recovery, this region has a surprise in store. Latin America, beset in the past by debt defaults, currency devaluations and the need for bailouts from rich countries, is experiencing robust economic growth that is the envy of its northern counterparts. Strong demand in Asia for commodities like iron ore, tin and gold, combined with policies in several Latin American economies that help control deficits and keep inflation low, are encouraging investment and fueling much of the growth.
Der Spiegel: Botched Presidential Election Strains Germany's Government
The rebellion in the first two rounds of the presidential election on Wednesday amounts to the biggest setback of Angela Merkel's career. The chancellor's candidate came through in the third round, but the political damage will linger. On Wednesday, that which Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition had been fearing - yet never officially allowed as a possibility - came true. Her candidate for German president, Christian Wulff, needed three rounds of voting to be elected.
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CNNMoney: Stocks dive as second quarter ends
Stocks finished lower after a late-session retreat, as investors piled out of a downbeat quarter that ended with Wednesday's session. The major indexes had teetered on either side of breakeven throughout the day as investors weighed a weak jobs report against an improved European bank outlook that provided earlier support. But all three indexes turned down sharply as the session ended. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 96 points, or 1%, to finish at 9,774.02. The S&P 500 (SPX) closed down 1% at 1,030.71 and the Nasdaq (COMP) lost 1.2% to end at 2,109.24.
Bloomberg: Asian Stocks, Oil Fall on China Manufacturing, Spain’s Rating
Asian stocks fell for the third day, continuing the global first-half slump, as China’s manufacturing growth slowed and Moody’s Investors Service said it may cut Spain’s top credit rating. Commodities and the euro declined. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of shares sank to a three-week low, dropping 1.4 percent to 111.25 at 10:27 a.m. in Hong Kong. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.8 percent. The euro weakened 0.3 percent to $1.2201 and reached a record low against the Swiss franc. Crude oil slipped 1.1 percent to $74.81 a barrel and copper dropped 0.8 percent.
CNNMoney: BP claims czar: Not everyone will get paid
The new head of the Gulf Coast disaster's claims fund says his first two priorities will be to cut bigger checks and send them out faster to the oil spill's economic victims. In his first appearance before Congress since taking on the job, Kenneth Feinberg on Wednesday criticized BP's (BP) process for compensating those who have lost their livelihoods in the spill's wake. The oil company has paid out almost $130 million so far on 41,000 claims - but more than 80,000 claims have been submitted.
Investors Business Daily: Private Hiring Stalls, Home Demand Falls, But Factories Solid
Private payrolls grew much less than expected in June, according to a report Wednesday, as employers remain reluctant to hire amid an uncertain economic outlook. Meanwhile, Midwest manufacturing continued to expand at a robust pace in June while loan demand for buying a home hovered near a 13-year low last week. Companies added 13,000 workers last month, the fifth straight gain, according to the ADP National Employment Report. But that was far below the 57,000 jobs added in May and much lower than the expected gain of 61,000.
Washington Post: Washington region's unemployment rate rises to 6 percent in May
The Washington region's unemployment rate rose to 6.0 percent in May from 5.9 percent the previous month, according to federal government data released Wednesday, illustrating for some experts a slowdown in the hiring surge seen earlier this year. While job growth remains sluggish nationwide, economists have seen hopeful signs this spring of a labor market recovery in the D.C. area. The region's jobless rate, which peaked at 6.9 percent in January and February, has been falling faster than economists had projected. The District, Maryland and Virginia have all reported net employment gains, adding private-sector jobs faster than other parts of the country.
CNNMoney: Amazon snaps up deal-a-day site Woot
E-commerce behemoth Amazon is snapping up shopping site Woot, a cult favorite of gadget geeks. Dallas-based Woot announced the deal on its company blog Wednesday in typically irreverent style, with a self-deprecating letter from chief executive Matt Rutledge and a video of a dancing and rapping plush monkey.
Business Week: Verizon May Sell 12 Million IPhones the First Year
Verizon Wireless may sell as many as 12 million iPhones next year after the largest U.S. mobile-phone carrier begins offering the device, widening its lead over AT&T Inc., analysts say. Verizon Wireless will start selling Apple Inc.’s iPhone to customers in January, two people familiar with the plans said yesterday. AT&T has had exclusive claim on the device in the U.S. since it was introduced in 2007.
CNNMoney: 233,000 Sony Vaio laptops recalled
Sony is recalling hundreds of thousands of laptops because of the risk of overheating, creating a potential "burn hazard," said the company and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday. The commission said that Sony is recalling about 233,000 Vaio laptops.
CNNMoney: AIG villain: I would have saved taxpayers money
Joseph Cassano, the man who ran the business at the center of AIG's collapse, spoke unapologetically about his tenure during a hearing Wednesday, suggesting he could have perhaps helped save the insurance giant had he been allowed to stay on at AIG. During his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, his first public appearance since the fateful days of September 2008, Cassano detailed his efforts to keep the company's troubles in check as head of the firm's now infamous financial products division, which was the source of billions of dollars of losses for the firm.
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