July 5th, 2010
04:24 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, July 5, 2010

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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.

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

CNN: Republicans line up on opposite sides over latest Steele controversy
Republicans lined up on opposite sides Sunday over comments by the chairman of the Republican National Committee that the Afghanistan war launched by former President George W. Bush was "of (President Barack) Obama's choosing" and may be unwinnable. Speaking from Afghanistan, GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina lambasted Michael Steele for the comments, which McCain called "wildly inaccurate" and Graham characterized as "uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely," while follow Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said Steele should apologize to the military.

CNN: Two more GOP senators to oppose Kagan
Two more Republican senators have announced they will oppose Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski both issued statements Friday afternoon indicating their opposition to Kagan's nomination. The announcements come hours after Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch indicated he would oppose Kagan's nomination.

CNN: Obama and Netanyahu to talk peace in the Oval Office
The White House says President Obama will attempt to "seize momentum" in the Middle East peace process when he sits down Tuesday morning for a rescheduled Oval office meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The gaps have narrowed," said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.

Washington Post: Democrats hope Obama 2008 model will help stem midterm losses
To become the nation's first black president, Barack Obama not only won heavy percentages of the black and Hispanic vote but also managed to trim the Democratic Party's traditional deficit among white voters. Four years after Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) lost the white vote by 17 percentage points, Obama lost it by 12, according to exit polls. While the 2008 gains were generally attributed to Obama's strength with young voters - he won by 10 points among whites 18 to 29 years old - he managed to improve on Kerry's showing with white voters across every age demographic. Fast-forward to today. With the November midterm elections less than four months away, Obama's standing among white voters has sunk - leading some party strategists to fret that the president's erosion - and the party's - could adversely affect Democrats' chances of holding on to their House and Senate majorities.

Politico: Dems fret about New York gravy train
A perfect storm of events – the recession, Wall Street anger at Washington, donors who feel ignored by the White House and interest group dissatisfaction – have Democrats bracing for a brutal fundraising period and fearful of losing dominance in longtime donor stronghold and mega-rich New York. While the exact quarterly figures won’t be known until after the July 15 filing deadline, a number of Democratic campaign insiders said the past few months were a mighty struggle to raise cash for candidates.

New York Times: Companies Find Ways to Bypass Ban on Earmarks
Just one day after leaders of the House of Representatives announced a ban on earmarks to profit-making companies, Victoria Kurtz, the vice president for marketing of a small Ohio defense contracting firm, hit on a creative way around it. To keep the taxpayer money flowing, Ms. Kurtz incorporated what she called the Great Lakes Research Center, a nonprofit organization that just happened to specialize in the same kind of work performed by her own company — and at the same address. The proposed earmarks are among dozens — totaling more than $150 million — from around the country that would indirectly benefit profit-making companies, according to an examination by The New York Times of House appropriation requests submitted after the new rule was imposed in March.

Washington Post: FedEx, UPS send out fleet of lobbyists to shape labor law
For more than a year, FedEx and its bitter shipping rival, United Parcel Service, have been engaged in one of the fiercest lobbying battles in recent memory, with millions of dollars spent on advertising, Web sites, grass-roots organizing and other tactics more commonly seen in political campaigns. The reason for all the excitement? An obscure, 230-word provision that would require FedEx Express to comply with the same labor laws as UPS, making it easier for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other unions to organize.

Los Angeles Times: Brown's frugal campaign may be too little, too late
Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman barely paused to take a breath after her landslide primary victory, saturating the airwaves with ads, raising money across the state, trying to woo traditionally Democratic voters and using her massive campaign machine to drive the conversation in her race against rival Jerry Brown. Brown, meanwhile, is off the air, has yet to reach out to key voter blocs in any strategic way and has gotten more attention for gaffes than for policy proposals. Part of the contrast is the result of the yawning funding gap between Whitman, a billionaire who has put $91 million of her own money into her effort, and Brown, who has had to scramble for donations in a stressed economy.

CNN: DNC ad targets Boehner and Barton
The Democratic National Committee is rolling out a new television commercial that criticizes two Republicans – one for his comments on the Gulf oil spill and the other for his recent comments about Capitol Hill's response to the financial crisis that began in late 2008. The ad hits House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, over his comments last week to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he said the financial regulatory overhaul favored by Democrats amounted to "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon."

Charlotte Observer: TV ads portray Burr as beholden to oil
The television commercial airing across North Carolina shows an oil-soaked man being pulled out of the surf by workers who clean him up like a pelican rescued from the Gulf of Mexico. "We pulled one out of the water this morning completely covered in oil," says a worker in the ad, which first ran Thursday. "The name is Senator Richard Burr." The BP spill may not have worked its way into the Atlantic, but oil has come ashore as the first issue in North Carolina's Senate race.

Las Vegas Sun: Harry Reid, Sharron Angle on opposite sides of every issue
The two major candidates for U.S. Senate in Nevada have sharply different views on how the federal government should help the state withstand an economic blow more severe than nearly anywhere else in the country. In a 10-issue questionnaire from the Las Vegas Sun, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican rival, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, took opposite stances on nearly every topic.

Lexington Herald Leader: Paul's embrace of GOP establishment rankles some supporters
Republican Rand Paul's opponent in the U.S. Senate race isn't the only one who thinks Paul compromised his stance against business as usual in Washington, D.C., by taking campaign cash at a high-dollar fund-raiser there last month. It rankled some Republicans, too. Last year, with the primary election still months away, Paul pledged not to accept contributions from any senator who voted for a federal bailout of the banking industry.

Politico: NRA on firing line over Harry Reid
The National Rifle Association is in unfamiliar terrain on the conservative firing range this election year: It’s the target. The conservative Netroots are abuzz over the possibility that the NRA may endorse Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). This would be the second major slight by the NRA for political conservatives — the gun group also just negotiated a big exemption on a campaign finance bill loathed by the right. Conservatives say there’s a clear political calculation at work: If Reid loses, he’s almost certain to be succeeded as majority leader by a fierce gun-control advocate, either Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin or New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The Hill: Democrats told to press Social Security fears over recess
Democratic leaders encouraged their rank-and-file to use recent controversial remarks by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to differentiate their party from Republicans over the weeklong recess break. Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Thursday that his members head home for the recess focused on five issues; key among those is how Democrats would handle Social Security.

CNN: Critics press Obama on Afghanistan withdrawal deadline
The July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan is unrealistic and unhelpful, Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday." First, if you over-emphasize a deadline that is not realistic, you are making the enemy a lot more bold," Jawad said. "You are prolonging the war. That deadline should be realistic. The line should be based on the reality on the ground and we should give a clear message to the enemy, to the terrorists who are a threat to everyone, that the United States, NATO, Afghans are there to finish this job."

CNN: Senators: Iraq needs new government soon
A delegation of U.S. senators on a visit to Iraq said they were impressed with the progress the country has made over the past few years, but urged political factions to form a new government soon. Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, spoke to reporters at a news conference during their visit Saturday.

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

CNN: Large-scale skimmer continues testing in Gulf
Initial results from test runs of a ship billed as the world's largest oil skimming vessel could come back Monday after a weekend spent plowing the seas atop the undersea gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. The converted cargo ship A Whale spent the weekend attempting to separate crude oil from seawater in a 25-square-mile area north of the ruptured BP oil well at the heart of the disaster. If the test is successful, the massive vessel could play a key role in efforts to clean up the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Initial results from tests are expected Monday, Bob Grantham, spokesman for the company that owns the ship, said.

Washington Post: BP has steady sales at Defense Department despite U.S. scrutiny
The Defense Department has kept up its immense purchases of aviation fuel and other petroleum products from BP even as the oil company comes under scrutiny for potential violations of federal and state laws related to Gulf of Mexico well explosion, according to U.S. and company officials. President Obama said last month that the company's "recklessness" in the gulf contributed to the disaster, and he promised that BP will "pay for the damage." Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on June 2 that Justice Department lawyers were looking into possible violations of civil and criminal statutes. "If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response," he said. BP, meanwhile, remains a heavy supplier of military fuel under contracts worth at least $980 million in the current fiscal year, according to the Defense Logistics Agency.

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

CNN: Petraeus formally assumes command in Afghanistan
Gen. David Petraeus formally assumed command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force during a ceremony Sunday at the command's headquarters in Kabul. In a speech, Petraeus said NATO's strategy in Afghanistan had not changed.

CNN: Mortars hit Green Zone during Biden visit
Three mortar rounds struck harmlessly inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Sunday night during a weekend visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. No damage or injuries were reported from the bombardment, which occurred about 10:30 p.m. Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET). The district, formally known as the International Zone, houses Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy. But there were no injuries or damage reported from the shelling, Iraqi Interior Ministry and U.S. officials told CNN.

CNN: Komorowski leads Poland vote count
Official results from Poland's presidential runoff weren't expected until Monday, but exit polls gave interim President Bronislaw Komorowski a slight lead over challenger Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president. President Lech Kaczynski was killed in a plane crash in April. Sunday's vote was a runoff ballot, demanded by Polish law when an earlier round of voting failed to give either candidate more than 50 percent of the vote.

CNN: Mexicans head to polls with security in mind
Polls opened in Mexico on Sunday in an election that could provide a boost for the opposition party amid concerns over escalating violence. Elections were underway in 15 states, where 12 new governors and dozens of mayors and local lawmakers will be elected.

CNN: Fuel hike sends Indians to the streets
India is moving to roll back fuel subsidies. The government recently lifted state controls on gasoline and is determined to market-link diesel prices as well. But India's bold plans to reform the decades-old regulations are meeting stiff resistance. Opposition parties have called for a nationwide strike for Monday over fuel-price rises that threaten to stoke India's double-digit inflation further.

Guardian: Women will bear brunt of budget cuts, says Yvette Cooper
The coalition's financial plans are the "worst for women since the creation of the welfare state" according to an analysis of last month's emergency budget. As the government warned some departments to prepare for cuts of up to 40%, a study by the House of Commons library on behalf of the shadow welfare secretary, Yvette Cooper, revealed that women will shoulder nearly three-quarters of the burden.

CNN: Cleric, considered Hezbollah's first spiritual leader, dies
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, considered Hezbollah's first spiritual leader, has died, his office told CNN Sunday. According to Hezbollah's website, Fadlallah will be buried Tuesday after the noon prayer at Beirut's al-Imamain al-Hassanein mosque in the capital's Shiite-dominated southern neighborhood.

Washington Post: As Turkey looks to West, trial highlights lagging press freedom
For a country that is trying to demonstrate its reliability as a partner of the West, Turkey faces an awkward moment next week: An Istanbul judge is set to weigh the legality of enormous tax-related fines imposed on a media firm whose newspapers had sharply criticized the government. The case, which pits Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against one of Turkey's wealthiest businessmen, has exposed what some observers say are the prime minister's autocratic tendencies. Critics also point to recent arrests of journalists and Erdogan's allegations that some Turkish columnists are agents of Israel.

BBC News: China police on alert for Xinjiang riot anniversary‎
Security is tight in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region ahead of the first anniversary of deadly ethnic riots. Armed police have been deployed in the city and thousands of "riot-proof" CCTV cameras set up in public places. A government-run website said that all police leave had been cancelled. The violence that erupted on 5 July 2009 between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese was the region's worst ethnic violence in decades. Almost 200 people were killed.

CNN: Congo declares days of mourning after deadly tanker blast
The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared two days of mourning Monday and Tuesday for the victims of the massive oil tanker explosion that killed more than 230 people over the weekend. The toll from the explosion in the central African nation rose to 232 on Sunday, up two from earlier reports, government spokesman Mende Omalanga said. President Joseph Kabila's declaration of a day of mourning requires flags to be lowered around the country and at Congo's embassies worldwide, Omalanga said.

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

CNNMoney: Stocks: Pursued by a bear
Investors returning from a long holiday weekend better come back well rested, as the weeks ahead bring something of a battle. "The market is near a critical point where if it loses just a few more percentage points, it's really going to collapse," said Stephen Carl, head equity trader at Williams Capital Group. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite are within shouting distance of a bear market – a drop of 20% off the highs. The Dow is slightly less bruised and battered – it's down just 13.5% from the April highs versus a drop of 16% for the S&P 500 and 17% for the Nasdaq.

Bloomberg: Asia Stocks, Commodities Snap Declines; Won Gains on Goldman
Asian stocks snapped four days of decline while commodities and the won gained on optimism the region will continue to grow amid mounting concerns about the pace of the global recovery. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.2 percent to 111.90 as of 12:40 p.m. in Tokyo. Oil increased for the first time in six days and copper advanced in London for a second day. The won strengthened 0.5 percent to 1,222.15 per dollar in Seoul, after sliding 1.1 percent last week as purchasing surveys showed manufacturing growth was slowing in the U.S., Europe and China.

CNNMoney: Stimulus: The big bang is over
The job market and economy need a serious jumpstart, but the stimulus program likely won't be able to do it. This summer will be the peak of the $787 billion stimulus program in terms of creating jobs and pumping money into the economy. In fact, the Obama administration is calling it the Summer of Recovery because more than 30,000 miles of highways are being improved, more than 2,800 water projects have been started and 120,000 homes will be weatherized. After that, it will be a downhill slide for stimulus even as the economy is expected to continue sputtering.

New York Times: Nickelodeon Tries Again to Move to the Big Screen
The Nickelodeon brand is finally getting the red-carpet treatment from Paramount Pictures. Viacom has long wanted its movie studio, Paramount, to tap into the brand equity and marketing muscle of its children’s television empire, Nickelodeon. But corporate squabbling, management upheaval and more immediate needs — like jump-starting Paramount’s primary movie pipeline — have stalled the Nickelodeon effort since Brad Grey took over as studio chairman in 2005. With those fires doused, Mr. Grey and his lieutenants say they are at long last turning their attention to Nickelodeon Movies.

CNNMoney: GM's Chinese sales top U.S.
China has become the top sales market for General Motors, the iconic American automaker owned by U.S. taxpayers. Through the first six months of the year GM and its Chinese joint venture partners have sold 1.21 million vehicles in China, the company announced Friday. Its U.S. sales, announced Thursday, came in at 1.08 million. GM's Chinese auto sales are growing at a blistering pace, up 48.5% over the first half of the year.

Bloomberg: AgBank Shrinking Discount Makes Record IPO Hard Sell
Agricultural Bank of China Ltd.’s valuation discount to its closest rivals has halved in seven trading days, making the world’s biggest initial public offering in almost four years less appealing to investors. Shares in the Hong Kong part of Agricultural Bank’s IPO are valued at an average 5.3 percent less than its three biggest competitors as measured by book value, based on the top end of the IPO price range and data compiled by Bloomberg. When the bank priced the offering on June 24, the gap was 10.5 percent.

CNNMoney: Job recovery hits a wall
The U.S. economy lost jobs in June, for the first time this year, as modest hiring by businesses only partly offset the end of Census jobs. The Labor Department on Friday reported a net loss of 125,000 jobs in the month. That was due primarily to the loss of 225,000 Census jobs that had swelled payrolls in May. Business hiring rebounded to 83,000, which was still a bit weaker than hoped. While it's up from the jobs private sector employers added in May, it was well below hiring levels in March and April.

CNNMoney: 'Stunned' Apple to fix iPhone signal bug
The iPhone 4 "grip of death" signal-strength problem stems from a bug that has been with Apple's bestselling smart phone all the way back to the original iPhone, Apple announced Friday, saying it had found a "simple and surprising" cause for the widely reported reception issues. But Apple's "explanation" raised more questions than it answered.

In Case You Missed It

Rep. Ron Paul discusses his support of comments made by RNC Chairman Michael Steele about Afghanistan.

Arwa Damon reports on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Iraq and the latest on the attack in the Green Zone.

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