August 20th, 2010
04:51 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Friday, August 20, 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: Obama's stump speech blends partisan rhetoric with populist themes
With the approach of congressional elections and the midpoint of what he hopes will be his first of two four-year terms, President Barack Obama is honing a humor-laced stump speech that is part pep talk, part populist ideology. Obama delivered similar versions of the speech at six fundraising events this week, kicking into full campaign mode with calls to continue the progress made so far by his administration. His poll numbers are shrinking, and Democrats are resigned to losing some congressional seats in November.

CNN: Obama renews call for passage of jobs bill
President Barack Obama on Thursday renewed his call for Senate Republicans to stop blocking a jobs bill intended to help small businesses. Just before leaving for vacation, Obama told reporters at the White House that political gamesmanship instead of legitimate policy differences is stalling the bill. He noted that the legislative process includes "times when good people differ in good faith."

CNN: White House strikes back at 'Muslim' tag
The White House is responding to new polls Thursday that show an increasing number of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. "President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life," Deputy White House Communications Director Jen Psaki told CNN. "He prays every day, he seeks a small circle of Christian pastors to give him spiritual advice and counseling, he even receives a daily devotional that he uses each morning. The President's Christian faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday."

CNN: Palin defends controversial talk show host in Facebook post
Sarah Palin defended Dr. Laura Schlessinger on Thursday, comparing her own critics to those who have called for the resignation of the embattled radio talk show host in the wake of Schlessinger's repeated use of the N-word during a broadcast. Palin's defense of Schlessinger, which Palin posted on her Facebook page, is the second time the former Alaska governor has defended the talk show host. Palin came to Schlessinger's defense on Wednesday via Twitter, telling the radio host: "don't retreat...reload!" Palin expounded on those thoughts in the Facebook post.

CNN: Santorum being "pulled along" to 2012 race
Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, moved one tiny step closer to declaring himself a 2012 candidate on Wednesday, saying he feels as if he is "being pulled along" into the race. "I sort of feel in some respects I'm being pulled along in this," Santorum told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday. "I'm still seriously going through this process. And at this point I'm very encouraged by everything that's happening." In July, Santorum met privately with several of his former Capitol Hill staffers to pitch the idea of a presidential bid in 2012, something the Republican is now talking openly about.

CNN: Organizing for America fundraising off News Corp. donation
Organizing for America, President Obama's political organization that is now run out of the Democratic National Committee, sent a fundraising email to supporters Thursday that highlights a $1 million donation from News Corp. to the Republican Governors Association. News Corp. is the parent company of Fox News, an organization the White House has sparred with in the past. In October, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said, "The reality of it is that Fox often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party." That sentiment was echoed in Thursday's fundraising email.

CNN: Police looking into damage to senator's home
A window in Sen. Al Franken's Minneapolis residence was damaged by what could have been a pellet or BB fired from a gun, according to the Minneapolis Police Department. Sgt. Bill Palmer of the Minneapolis Police Department told CNN that members of the Franken family recently reported finding a hole in a window of their Minneapolis condominium that appeared to be made by either a BB gun or small rock. The hole damaged a double-paned window, but did not penetrate the second pane, Palmer also said.

Politico: GOP outside cash has Dems scrambling
With less than three months until Election Day, Democrats are becoming increasingly concerned that the independent groups they are counting on for support won’t have the money to counter what they fear will be an unprecedented advertising campaign waged by their Republican counterparts. Republicans and their allies have been working for months with single-minded focus on plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ads funded by a combination of existing special interest groups and newly formed political outfits. But Democratic operatives trying to raise money for expensive ad campaigns report that the wealthy liberals (and, to some extent, labor unions) who wrote huge checks to independent groups for advertising campaigns in the past three election cycles are sitting on their wallets.

Anchorage Daily News: Election regulators investigate anti-Pebble radio ads
State election regulators said this week they plan to investigate alleged campaign-law violations by an anti-Pebble group that has been running local radio ads telling Alaskans to vote for candidates who oppose the massive copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska. Truth about Pebble, a nonprofit group that defends the controversial project, filed the election-law complaint against the anti-Pebble group, Alaska Wild Salmon Protection Inc., in early August.

Washington Post: Worried Democrats courting elderly voters as midterm elections near
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) is no stranger to Greenspring Village, a gated retirement community in Springfield that is a frequent stop for local politicos. It leans Democratic, but that tilt is being tested in a year in which the party faces a perilous erosion of support from an age group that will probably play an outsize role in this year's elections: senior citizens. So Connolly came by again on Tuesday. He brought cake and diabetic-friendly cookies, and made a personal plea to supporters who showed up to clasp his hand and tell them he has their vote. The visit was part of a recent push by Democratic leaders to highlight their commitment to Social Security in tandem with the program's 75th birthday - and also to try to seize on the issue as a way to regain their footing with seniors.

Las Vegas Sun: The makeover of Sharron Angle for the general crowd
In the span of a year, Nevada voters have encountered three different Sharron Angles. First came Primary Campaign Angle, who, trying to distinguish herself from a crowded Republican U.S. Senate field, talked to anyone, anywhere and was unafraid to declare her deeply conservative philosophy. Then she won the primary and voters met Down-in-the-Bunker Angle, who fled reporters and hunkered down to raise money. Now emerges Prime Time Angle. Bolstered by a professional communications staff, she is once again sparring with groups of reporters and granting lengthy sit-down interviews to “mainstream” news outlets such as The New York Times. But the latest edition, while more polished, appears to be missing some of her previous fire, if her speech Wednesday before the Washoe County Republican Women’s Club is any indication.

The Hill: Eyeing Sen. Brown in 2012, Mass. Democrats building war chests
Democrats in Massachusetts are building up their campaign war chests for a possible showdown with Sen. Scott Brown (R) in 2012. The first Republican senator elected in the commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1972 will be a major Democratic target in the next election cycle. The Democratic challenger to Brown in 2012 could receive a major boost from President Obama, who will presumably be running for a second term. Obama won the state in the 2008 presidential contest by 26 percentage points.

CNN: Crist maintains lead in Florida
A new poll in Florida suggests Gov. Charlie Crist is maintaining his lead over Republican Marco Rubio and either Democratic candidate in the battle for that state’s Senate seat less than three months before Election Day. The Quinnipiac University survey shows Crist, who is running as an independent, leading Rubio by a 39-32 percent margin. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is currently in a primary contest with businessman Jeff Greene for the Democratic nomination, registers 16 percent in the poll. If Greene should prevail in the Democratic primary, he wins 15 percent of support in a general election matchup with Crist at 40 percent and Rubio at 32 percent, the poll shows.

Baltimore Sun: Ehrlich rejects question from Democratic Party employee
Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. accused a state Democratic Party employee of "inappropriate" behavior Thursday when the worker directed a question at the former governor while monitoring a campaign event. Isaac Salazar, communications director for the Maryland Democratic Party, was not allowed to finish a question about unemployment benefits and Ehrlich ignored his subsequent interview attempts as a lunchtime session with about 30 small-business owners at a Howard County restaurant broke up. He termed the interaction a violation of unwritten rules of the campaign trail. Political parties and candidates often use operatives to track their opponents and shoot video, hoping for a gaffe or statement they can use to their advantage. Salazar, who was recording the session, is not directly involved in the campaign of Gov. Martin O'Malley, whom Ehrlich is expected to face in the general election.

Charleston Post and Courier: Haley will release 8,000 e-mails today
Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley today will release about 8,000 e-mails she sent and received as a state lawmaker. Media outlets have sought access to the e-mails since two Republican operatives claimed they had affairs with Haley - allegations that arose just days before Haley won the four-way GOP primary on June 8. Haley, a state representative from Lexington, repeatedly has denied the affairs. Her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, previously released his legislative e-mails and challenged Haley to do the same.

CNN: Tancredo on GOP opponent: He's a 'total fraud'
Third-party Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, the former Republican congressman, wants GOP nominee Dan Maes out of the race, telling CNN the Tea Party-backed candidate is a "total fraud." "He's a Republican, but tough crap; I don't care if he's a Republican, he's not the right candidate," Tancredo said. Tancredo confirmed to CNN that until now he was willing to withdraw his third party candidacy if—and only if—Maes was willing to drop out of the race and allow the party to replace him with another candidate.

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

CNN: U.S. troop strength in Iraq put at 52,000
The number of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq is about 52,000, the U.S. military said Thursday. That puts U.S. Forces-Iraq on track to draw down to 50,000 troops by September 1, when Operation New Dawn is to begin and forces are to switch to an advise-and-assist role. The Pentagon on Wednesday had estimated the number of U.S. forces in Iraq at 56,000, which reflected the last calculation conducted August 17, the military said in a news release.

CNN: Feds begin crackdown on online pharmacies
Pharmacies in Utah and Illinois are at the heart of an illicit nationwide network providing prescription drugs over the internet, federal agents state in court papers filed in two cities. In search warrant affidavits obtained by CNN, agents that the business was centered around two pharmacies, one in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Illinois, and the other here in this small town south of Salt Lake City.

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

CNN: U.S. to boost aid as number of homeless doubles in Pakistan floods
The estimate of the number of Pakistanis left homeless by massive flooding has doubled to 4 million, the United Nations said Thursday as Washington ramped up assistance. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an additional $60 million in U.S. aid, bringing to $150 million the amount pledged by the United States.

New York Times: U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent
The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials. Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.

CNN: Wyclef Jean challenges report he's not among Haiti candidates
Hip-hop singer and Haiti presidential hopeful Wyclef Jean pushed back on news reports Thursday that he is not on the list of candidates approved to run in this year's presidential election. "I wanted to clarify a rumor on Reuters that there's a list of candidates that came out and that (my) name isn't on it," Jean told CNN's Larry King on Thursday. "That's not true. The list is supposed to come out tomorrow ... It's looking good for us." Haiti's election commission has said it will decide Friday whether Jean is eligible to run for president.

CNN: Yemen says leading al Qaeda militant surrenders
An al Qaeda leader in Yemen accused of aiding operatives in the 2002 bombing of the French-flagged oil tanker Limburg has surrendered to authorities, Yemen's embassy in the United States said Thursday. Hezam Mujali also had been sentenced to death in August 2004 for killing an army officer and he was charged with attacking a helicopter from the Texas-based Hunt oil company in November 2002.

Wall Street Journal: U.S.-South Korea Exercises Rile China
Plans by the U.S. and South Korea to conduct military exercises in the Yellow Sea aimed at North Korea, despite China's strong objections, are ratcheting up tensions between Beijing and Washington, already at loggerheads over sensitive regional security issues. Chinese officials warn that the exercises threaten a crisis on China's doorstep by provoking North Korea, and could inflame public opinion in China.

CNN: Russia set for Iran's nuclear plant launch, top nuclear official says
Russia's top nuclear official Thursday called the pending supply of nuclear fuel to Iran's first atomic energy plant "an event of crucial importance" that proves that "Russia always fulfills its (international) obligations." Sergei Kiriyenko, general director of Rosatom, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, debriefed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the August 21 arrival of fuel at the Bushehr facility, which Iran says will create atomic energy but which other nations fear could be used for nuclear weapons.

Washington Post: U.S. presses Thailand to hand over accused Russian arms dealer
The Obama administration and members of Congress are ratcheting up the pressure on Thailand amid worries that the Bangkok government will soon free a Russian arms merchant who is fighting extradition to the United States. The State Department called in Thailand's ambassador this week to tell him of U.S. concerns about the potential release of Viktor Bout, who will appear in a Thai appeals court Friday.

BBC News: Australia election rivals neck and neck
Campaigning in Australia's national elections has entered its last day with the two main parties neck and neck. An opinion poll suggested the governing Labor Party had lost its narrow lead to be tied with the opposition coalition. Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, is facing a fight to the finish with centre-right coalition leader Tony Abbott. Ms Gillard became prime minister in June after ousting her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

CNN: Former Bolivian dictator arrested on exposure charge, government says
A former Bolivian dictator has been arrested on a charge that he exposed himself to a group of children and has been sent to a drug rehabilitation center, the state-run news agency reported. Former air force Gen. Juan Pereda Asbun, who ruled the South American nation for four months in 1978, was arrested Tuesday after a father and a group of young people detained him because he tried to get a girl to get into his car after exposing himself to other children, the government's ABI news service reported Wednesday.

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

CNNMoney: Stocks socked by economic trifecta
Investors were hit with a triple whammy of bad economic news Thursday: manufacturing still stinks, more people are jobless and confidence in the future is less than hoped. As a result, stocks finished sharply lower: the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) tumbled 144 points, or 1.4%, to 10,271 and the S&P 500 (SPX) slipped 19 points, or 1.7% to 1,076. The tech-heavy Nasdaq (COMP) composite fell 37 points, or 1.7%, 2,179. Stocks were coming off two days of gains, driven by solid earnings outlooks from retail giants Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target. But even during this week's earlier rallies, traders were saying they were remaining cautious given fears about a double-dip recession - or at least, a slower recovery.

Bloomberg: Asian Stocks Fall for First Time in Six Days as Yen Strengthens
Asian stocks fell for the first time in six days and the yen strengthened to a seven-week high against the euro after a report said Sharp Corp. will cut production of screens used for televisions and computers, and as concern increased that global economic growth is slowing. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.1 percent to 118.80 as of 12:18 p.m. in Tokyo. The yen appreciated to as much as 109.02 per euro. A measure of the risk of bond defaults in Australia climbed the most in more than a week. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were unchanged after the index dropped 1.7 percent yesterday to its lowest close since July 21.

CNNMoney: CBO offers mixed take on tax cuts and stimulus
If the Bush tax cuts for the majority of Americans are extended, and stimulus spending is allowed to continue, that could boost the economy and help lower unemployment in the near term, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday. But that lift comes with a big trade-off: Higher debt and ultimately lower economic growth by the end of the decade.

CNNMoney: Long-term debt: The real problem
Starting next month, lawmakers will argue until they are hoarse over what to do about various spending bills and the Dec. 31 expiration of the Bush tax cuts. But make no mistake: The fevered debates will take place in a vacuum. That's because lawmakers have yet to seriously address how to rein in the country's long-term debt. And that broader debate will involve significant policy changes: A likely overhaul of the federal tax code and a reduction in spending across the board.

CNNMoney: Another Hyundai exec jumps to GM
Chris Perry was just named head of marketing for Hyundai last May, but he's already leaving to join General Motors and lead marketing for Chevrolet. At Hyundai, Perry replaced Joel Ewanick who left the head marketing job there in March to go to Nissan. But within weeks Ewanick jumped to GM. Together, Ewanick and Perry were credited with creating effective marketing programs, including the "Hyundai Assurance" program, that helped the South Korea-based automaker weather last year's brutal downturn in auto sales. In his new position, Perry will report directly to Ewanick.

Investors Business Daily: New Jobless Claims Hit 9-Month High; Factory Activity Falls
Jobless claims unexpectedly rose to a half-million last week while mid-Atlantic manufacturing activity shrank in August, according to separate reports Thursday showing the economic recovery losing steam, sending stocks lower. New claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 in the week ended Aug. 14 to 500,000, the fourth gain in the last five weeks and the highest since last November, the Labor Department said. Wall Street had expected a drop to 475,000.

CNNMoney: Intel's McAfee buy is a Buffett-like play
Intel's $7.7 billion purchase of security company McAfee makes plenty of financial sense, but it's a head-scratcher from a technology standpoint. The deal seemed to come out of the blue: Intel is the world's largest chipmaker, so a security software company wouldn't seem to be a good fit for the hardware-focused vendor. Intel has previously stated that security is one of its top priorities as it tries to get its processors into every type of connected device. But existing relationships with security companies, including McAfee, appeared to many analysts to be sufficient for Intel to execute on its technology goals.

Bloomberg: McDonald’s Yuan Bonds Set Benchmark for China: Credit Markets
McDonald’s Corp.’s yuan bond sale, the first by a foreign company in Hong Kong, may pave the way for a new global debt market as China seeks to capitalize on its status as the engine of the world’s economic recovery. McDonald’s, which opened its first 1,000 restaurants in China faster than any other country outside the U.S., sold 200 million yuan ($29 million) of 3 percent notes due in September 2013. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has said it’s considering issuing such notes.

Wall Street Journal: Deals Stage a Comeback
Global merger activity is sweeping to its highest levels since late 2009, presenting a glimmer of economic confidence while the bond and stock markets continue to price in a weakening U.S. economy. On a day of bleak jobless news and a 144-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Intel Corp. surprised investors by unveiling plans for a $7.7 billion all-cash takeover of Internet security company McAfee Inc. That came just hours before First Niagara Financial Group Inc. in Buffalo announced the biggest bank merger since the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, a $1.5 billion acquisition of NewAlliance Bancshares Inc. Both deals pale in size next to BHP Billiton's hostile $39 billion offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, disclosed Tuesday.

CNNMoney: HP reports sales lift, stays mum on CEO
As expected, Hewlett-Packard reported quarterly earnings and sales on Thursday that that strongly topped its year-ago results. The Palo Alto, Calif., company said its net income for the third quarter, ended July 31, rose 6% to $1.8 billion, or 75 cents per share. Results included one-time charges totaling 33 cents per share, due to cost-cutting and acquisitions. Without the charges, HP said it earned $1.08 per share. HP's quarterly sales rose 11% to $30.7 billion.

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