The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
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CNN: Obama pays tribute to Americans who have served in S. Korea
U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute Thursday to American troops who 60 years ago fought a Communist regime that he said continues to be a provocative threat to peace in the region. Speaking on Veterans Day at the U.S. Army garrison in Yongsan, South Korea, the president drew parallels between America's ally and North Korea. "Today, the Korean peninsula provides the world's clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change," the president said in remarks prepared for U.S. military personnel and members of their families.
CNN: Obama: Trade agreement with S. Korea weeks away
Free trade needs to grow even freer, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday, as he and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak held a joint news conference in Seoul. Obama spoke of weeks, rather than months, till a new free trade agreement is reached with South Korea. Lee has agreed to send a team to Washington to work on the trade pact, which Obama said could mean $10 billion in U.S. exports and 70,000 jobs for Americans.
Huffington Post: White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts
President Barack Obama's top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers. That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week's electoral defeat. "We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. "The world of what it takes to get this done."
CNN: Draft deficit plan launches likely grueling political battle
The release Wednesday of a draft proposal for reducing the federal deficit made clear how hard it will be to devise a sustainable plan that can win the necessary political support. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of President Obama's federal deficit commission, offered up a wide-ranging set of ideas that would bring $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. Their package touched every aspect of government, combining deep spending cuts with tax increases to eventually bring both expenditures and revenue to 21 percent of gross domestic product.
CNN: First unofficial Alaska write-in count looks good for Murkowski
Officials in Alaska have released fresh numbers in the nation's last, undecided Senate battle. The numbers look good for GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the write-in candidate, and could be a sign of trouble for her opponent, Republican Joe Miller. The state's Division of Elections released the first tallies for write-in ballots counted on Wednesday in the unresolved battle between the two candidates. According to the unofficial results, 7,638 write-in ballots have been counted. None of the results have officially been added to any candidate's vote result. Instead, these counted write-in ballots were "sorted" into various stacks. Of the 7,638 figure, 6,804 – or 89 percent – were sorted as clear, unambiguous votes for Murkowski. Six hundred and seventy eight write-in ballots were sorted as votes for Murkowski, but are being challenged, likely by the Miller campaign.
Roll Call: Possible Rival Says He Has No Confidence in RNC’s Steele
Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy is strongly considering a bid to replace Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and on Wednesday he unleashed a scathing critique of Steele’s leadership. “I think at some point someone has to step up and say the emperor has no clothes. I’m more than willing to do that,” Healy told Roll Call. “I think I can give the RNC what it needs over the next two years. I don’t have any confidence that the current management can get it done.”
Las Vegas Sun: Harry Reid won his hometown of Searchlight by three votes
Republicans maintained throughout the U.S. Senate race that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sold out his small-town roots in favor of a lavish Washington lifestyle. But Reid won his hometown of Searchlight in last week's election, according to precinct voter tallies released today. Just barely. Reid bested Republican Sharron Angle by three votes in the tiny town of about 600.
Politico: Rick Santorum: No real tea party candidates in 2012 mix
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum says none of the GOP presidential hopefuls can truly be called tea party candidates — but he and Gary Johnson come close. "There isn't a single candidate running for president who can claim to be a tea party candidate," Santorum told POLITICO Wednesday. "That's by definition. The people involved in the movement weren't involved in politics, and were only activated by what they saw in Washington."
Dallas News: Tea party freshman lawmakers from Texas head to U.S. House full of ambition
The biggest congressional freshman class in a generation will include a trio of Texas tea partiers, heading to Washington brash, impatient and confrontational. Each ousted an entrenched Democrat, and they're in no mood for compromise – not with President Barack Obama , not with the GOP establishment. They want to repeal Obama's health care law, cut taxes, slash spending and teach the old guard of both parties a thing or two.
Newsweek: The Democrats’ 2012 Rust Belt Problem
Amid the rubble of the midterm results last week, two small signs of hope for Democrats—their strong performance among Latinos, which helped them save a handful of officeholders in the West, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, and their continued advantage among young voters—were widely noted in the press. Every wag loves counterintuition. So, at the apparent apogee of Democratic unpopularity it seemed worth noting that, if present trends continue, Republicans will be in for a rude awakening sometime between now and, oh, 2050, when the U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation. But 2050 is a long way off, and even then the electorate, which excludes noncitizens and children, changes more slowly than the population. Meanwhile, the Democrats have a problem: if they remain as unpopular in 2012 as they currently are among older white voters, it could make them vulnerable in the Rust Belt states that have been essential to successful Democratic presidential campaigns and Senate majorities.
The Hill: Watchdog wants probe of Google's 'unusually close' ties to Obama
As House Republicans plan an ambitious oversight agenda for the next session of Congress, a watchdog group is calling for a probe into a company that it says is far too cozy with the Obama administration: Google. The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a group that advocates for a smaller and more ethical government, wrote to leaders of the House Oversight Committee this month urging them to investigate a major privacy breach by Google. It wants to know if the company's ties to the administration helped it dodge penalties after the incident.
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CNN: Government asks Supreme Court to keep 'don't ask, don't tell' for now
The federal government on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to back an appellate panel's ruling that would allow the military to temporarily continue enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers. Acting Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal argued in the government motion that the justices should reject a request by the Log Cabin Republicans to reinstate a federal judge's injunction against the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Washington Post: Sources: Pentagon group finds there is minimal risk to lifting gay ban during war
A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama on Dec. 1. More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report's authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.
CNN: Report: White House edit led to errant claim on drilling moratorium
The Obama administration didn't violate federal law when it incorrectly asserted that its plans for a six-month halt to offshore oil drilling had been "peer reviewed" by experts, an independent watchdog agency reported Wednesday. The erroneous claim was included in a report issued a month into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and stemmed from a White House edit of an Interior Department draft, according to the report Wednesday from the department inspector-general's office. A panel of scientists and engineers did examine new safety recommendations for offshore oil drilling following the undersea gusher in April, but did not study the planned drilling moratorium that was announced in late May, the report found.
CNN: Crippled cruise ship expected in San Diego Thursday
Thousands of passengers on a towed cruise ship will disembark in San Diego, California, Thursday with their own tales from a three-day ordeal that left them without air conditioning and hot showers. Their diet became Spam and Pop Tarts rather than steak and chocolate mousse. And while Carnival Cruise Lines said Wednesday that most passengers knew that the Carnival Splendor's crew was doing the best it could, there were reports of passengers pledging not to take up the company's offer of a free replacement trip. The vessel, which became stranded Monday after an engine-room fire off the coast of Mexico, is expected to arrive early Thursday, Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerry Cahill said at a press conference.
Newark Star Ledger: Gov. Christie says lawyers are reviewing $271M ARC tunnel bill from federal government
New Jersey won’t pay "a nickel more than we think we have to," Gov. Chris Christie declared today, saying lawyers are reviewing the federal government’s demand that the state repay $271 million spent on the halted Hudson River rail tunnel. Christie, during a meeting with The Record’s editorial board, also confirmed that state transportation officials are talking to Amtrak representatives about ways to keep a new trans-Hudson tunnel on the front burner.
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CNN: Clinton: U.S. 'disappointed' with Israel's settlement decision
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in New York, a day after she said the United States is "deeply disappointed" with Israel's decision to build new housing units in sensitive areas of east Jerusalem. "This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties," Clinton said Wednesday, stressing that both parties should avoid actions that might undermine trust, including action in Jerusalem.
New York Times: Tentative Deal in Iraq Keeps Maliki in Power
Iraq’s leaders reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night to create a unity government embracing the country’s major ethnic and religious factions, ending an eight-month political impasse and returning Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to power for a second term as prime minister. The impasse had stoked fears of a return to sectarian violence. Yet the composition of the new government remained murky, and seemed to hold out the potential for more of the infighting, instability and vulnerability to insurgents that have hampered the country’s politics for years.
CNN: Increase in food costs hikes China's CPI to 25-month high
An increase in the cost of food helped hike China's consumer price index to a 25-month high of 4.4 percent last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The growth rate in the CPI - a gauge of inflation - was 0.8 percentage points above September's rate, NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun said. Costs for food products, which represent a third of the goods used to calculate China's CPI, grew 10.1 percent compared to the previous year in October, the agency reported.
CNN: Costa Rica ready to appeal to higher bodies in border dispute
Costa Rica will take its border dispute with Nicaragua to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, if a resolution is not found, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said. Her comments Wednesday came a day after Costa Rica gave a 48-hour deadline to its neighbor to remove troops that it says are stationed on Costa Rican territory. The dispute is over a parcel of land on the Atlantic coast, along the San Juan River, known as Calero Island. Nicaragua claims that the area belongs to it and denies that it is in Costa Rican territory. Costa Rica claims that it has been invaded.
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Baltimore Sun: Baltimore-area home sales dropped 30% in October
Home sales in the Baltimore metro area have plummeted to their lowest point in more than a decade, with the temporary boost from a federal tax credit gone and the economy still struggling. The number of homes sold fell 30 percent in October compared with a year ago — when the $8,000 incentive for first-time buyers was boosting activity — to just under 1,600, according to numbers released Wednesday by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.
In Case You Missed It
Eliot Spitzer challenges Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling to name his cuts to wipe out the $1.3 trillion deficit.
New Mexico Governor-elect Susana Martinez says she looks forward to helping shape the debate on immigration.
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