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: Alaska Sen. Murkowski claims victory in re-election bid
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska Wednesday declared victory over fellow Republican Joe Miller in the nation's last Senate race, saying the result of her write-in candidacy was a "miracle." "Against all odds, we as Alaskans together made history," Murkowski told cheering supporters in Anchorage. If she prevails in a potential challenge, Murkowski would become the second person to ever win a write-in bid for the U.S. Senate.
CNN: Ethics committee to determine Rangel sanctions
The House ethics committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to discuss sanctions against longtime Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was found guilty of multiple violations of House rules. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct can recommend penalties ranging from a fine to expulsion. However, most observers believe Rangel is likely to be reprimanded but not expelled. The committee will forward its report to the full House. Rangel was found guilty Tuesday on multiple violations of House rules by an ethics subcommittee.
Roll Call: Even if Expelled, Rangel Could Return Next Year
As the House ethics committee prepares to levy punishment today on Rep. Charlie Rangel, he may take some comfort in knowing that the penalties available to the committee expire at the end of December when the 111th Congress adjourns. That means even if his House colleagues were to expel the New York Democrat from the chamber — a scenario almost no one on Capitol Hill actually expects to take place — Rangel, who has been re-elected to the 112th Congress, could walk right back onto the House floor next year.
CNN: Pelosi wins Democratic leadership fight
House Democrats voted Wednesday to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, their leader for the 112th Congress, overcoming objections from moderates who argued that she was partly responsible for the party's overwhelming defeat at the polls two weeks ago. Republicans, who won a net gain of at least 61 seats in the elections, will control the House next year. They unanimously chose to be led once again by veteran Ohio Rep. John Boehner, now in line to inherit the speaker's gavel from Pelosi. Pelosi turned back a challenge from North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a member of the party's diminished centrist "Blue Dog" faction, in a 150-43 vote.
CNN: For Boehner's birthday: Cake but no press conference
It's John Boehner's birthday, and on his 61st he got quite a present from his House Republican colleagues – a vote electing him to be their leader and the next Speaker of the House. But a planned afternoon press conference with Boehner to roll out his new GOP leadership team for the new Congress hit a snag on Wednesday. That's because Republicans are still trying to figure out procedures for electing new slots in the GOP leadership for freshmen.
Los Angeles Times: U.S. appears ready to acknowledge a long haul in Afghanistan
President Obama built his Afghanistan strategy around the bet that he could quickly turn around a "must win" war by narrowing his goals and sending more troops. This weekend he will make his clearest acknowledgement yet that doing so will actually take years. At a summit in Lisbon this weekend, Obama and other NATO leaders will endorse a plan to gradually turn combat responsibility over to the Afghan army and police by 2014, a timetable that will keep tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan well beyond the end of Obama's first term.
Wall Street Journal: Afghan Auditor Faces U.S. Inquiry
The top U.S. official charged with rooting out corruption in Afghanistan is expected to face tough questions this week, as a congressional panel examines his track record as the government's chief Afghanistan watchdog. Over the past several months, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Arnold Fields has faced a crescendo of bipartisan criticism in Washington, with several senators calling publicly for his ouster over what they say is poor performance. But the embattled inspector general has dug in his heels, saying his organization, known as Sigar, until recently lacked the resources to do its job properly.
Huffington Post: FCIC Delays Report Despite Republican Opposition, Citing 'Very Powerful Interests' Seeking To Undermine Investigations
The bipartisan panel created to investigate the roots of the financial crisis voted Wednesday to delay the Dec. 15 publication of their report despite Republican opposition, foreshadowing disagreements that are sure to arise when the commission attempts to reach a consensus on the causes of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's 6-to-3 vote came after the panel's four Republicans argued privately against the decision to ignore the statutory deadline set by Congress. One of the Republicans, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, was unable to participate in the vote, though he made his dissent known. The report will now be released in January.
CNN: Could Palin beat Obama?
In a yet to be aired interview, Sarah Palin said she believes it would be possible for her to beat President Obama if she ran for President. During an interview for an upcoming Barbara Walters special, Palin said "I believe so," when Walters asked Palin "If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?" "I'm looking at the lay of the land now, and ... trying to figure that out, if it's a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it's a good thing," Palin said.
Politico: Michael Steele backers see path to victory
Allies of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are engaged in talks designed to keep the coalition that elected him from fracturing and maintain a viable path to reelection. While Steele ponders whether to seek a second term as chairman of the RNC, those close to him say that his supporters are following a wait-and-see strategy, believing that if no firm consensus forms around one of Steele’s potential challengers he will be able to follow a game plan that is similar to the one that elected him in January 2009. The chairman's allies believe he has a solid bloc of 45-to-50 votes on the committee—a figure that even some of his detractors do not dispute—and they feel that no other candidate will be able to muster enough votes to prevent Steele from getting to the 85 needed to win, especially if the election takes several ballots as in 2009.
CNN Money: Jobless benefits cost so far: $319 billion
Unemployed Americans have collected $319 billion in jobless benefits over the past three years due to the federal government's unprecedented response to the Great Recession, according to a CNNMoney analysis of federal records. The cost of such benefits will be central to the heated debate in Congress in coming weeks over whether to extend this safety net for the fifth time this year. Lawmakers must act by Nov. 30 or two million people will start losing extended benefits next month.
CNN: Unemployment benefits extension introduced in House
The unemployed would have three more months to file for extended jobless benefits under a bill introduced in the House Wednesday. The legislation would extend the deadline to file for federal unemployment benefits to Feb. 28, sparing 4 million people from falling off the rolls. The deadline is now Nov. 30. "Terminating this emergency unemployment assistance will not only devastate families, but it also will hurt the entire economy by depressing consumer confidence and demand," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who is introducing the bill with Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
CNN: President George H.W. Bush to receive highest civilian honor
Former President George H.W. Bush is one of 15 individuals who will receive America's highest civilian honor early next year, the White House announced Wednesday. Bush will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to a White House statement.
Salt Lake Tribune: Utah lawmakers gag, but accept fed education funds
Kicking and screaming all the way, state lawmakers reluctantly agreed Wednesday to accept $101 million in federal assistance aimed at helping Utah schools avoid teacher layoffs. “I don’t think we should be continuing to accept this crack cocaine that the federal government keeps peddling to the states,” said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper. “There has to be a time where we say enough is enough. We will not put up with it anymore.” The federal money was part of a $10 billion aid package to the states, but Congress structured the law so that even if legislators voted to refuse the money, the U.S. Department of Education could send it directly to the state’s school districts.
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CNN: Landmark terrorism trial ends in acquittal on all but 1 count
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was acquitted Wednesday of all but one count of conspiracy-related charges in a landmark civilian trial involving the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court. Ghailani was convicted by a federal jury on a charge of conspiracy to destroy buildings and U.S. property in connection with his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The trial had been widely considered a testing ground for the Obama administration, which has said that it could try some terrorism suspects outside military tribunals and in civilian courts.
Bloomberg: Clinton Prepares to Propose Blueprint for More Staff, Conflict Prevention
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon release a blueprint for the State Department’s future that envisions expanding its staff and putting a new emphasis on preventing conflicts. The agency’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review lays out how a department still oriented to a 1945 world order will cope with rising powers such as India and the end of ideological blocs like the Warsaw Pact of communist countries. The review is a high priority for Clinton, who wants more funding so that development and diplomacy are on a par with defense in U.S. foreign policy. She points to Afghanistan, where she has tripled the number of State Department staff as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw, and Iraq as examples of why her agency needs to change.
CNN: Humane Society: Undercover video shows alleged abuse at egg farm
A group that protects the welfare of animals has released an undercover video it claims shows animal abuse at a Texas farm operated by the largest egg producer in the United States. The Humane Society of the United States says one of its investigators worked at the Cal-Maine farm in Waelder, Texas, for almost a month this fall and documented multiple abuses and food-safety violations. The video shows dead birds, birds stuck in their cages, overcrowding and what appears to be hens covered in feces. At one point the video shows a dead bird as eggs roll by just inches away on a conveyor belt.
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CNN: Death toll climbs from Indian building collapse, owner arrested
The owner of a five-story residential building that collapsed in the Indian capital, New Delhi, killing dozens, has been arrested and charged with culpable homicide, police said Thursday. The development comes as the death toll from Monday's incident climbed to 69 and authorities evacuated nearly 40 neighboring buildings that were found with water in their basements, officials said. The finding is important, because the building apparently collapsed after its foundation had weakened after exposure to water from this year's heavy monsoons, said City Municipal Spokesman Deep Mathur and Chief Minister of New Delhi Sheila Dikshit.
Wall Street Journal: Moscow Expands NATO's Routes
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign an agreement with the leaders of the NATO alliance on Saturday aimed at expanding the use of supply routes through Russia into Afghanistan, as part of an effort to improve ties between the former antagonists. The leaders of the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, including President Barack Obama, also will agree with Russia at a meeting in Lisbon to investigate ways in which they can cooperate on defenses against the dangers posed by ballistic missiles.
CNN: Hong Kong diagnoses 1st case of bird flu in a human in 7 years
The first human case of bird flu in seven years has been diagnosed in Hong Kong, health officials said Thursday, urging the public to take precautions. A 59-year-old woman was hospitalized in serious condition after a trip to mainland China, the Hong Kong Department of Health said. Her illness was diagnosed as influenza A (H5), a variant of bird flu. It was unclear where she had contracted the disease. She did not have any contact with live poultry and did not visit farms while in China, Hong Kong health officials said.
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CNN: GM IPO biggest ever
General Motors will raise a record $20.1 billion in its initial public offering. The automaker priced its common shares at $33, the upper end of its price range, Wednesday evening. GM's common shares will begin trading Thursday morning on the New York Stock Exchange under its traditional GM stock symbol. The company will raise far more than the $13 billion it had projected when it first announced price details for its IPO earlier this month.
CNN: In tough times, financial planners say their business is in demand
It's been a rough couple years for many Americans, watching the value of their retirement accounts dip and their home values drop. But conditions are improving again for many. The stock market is up for the year and investors are seeing their accounts begin to grow again. With that, plenty of Americans are also conducting their business differently than they once did. They're saving more and spending less, and cutting down on credit-card use. And more are using personal, fee-only financial planners.
In Case You Missed It
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says an insurance mandate in the fed's new health care law crosses the line.
Sarah Palin recently told ABC's Barbara Walters that she is considering a 2012 run for the White House.
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