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: Senators say deal likely on extending tax cuts, jobless benefits
Top senators from both parties indicated Sunday that a deal was likely soon on temporarily extending Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, along with unemployment benefits that have expired. However, Republican senators made clear they are unlikely to budge in their opposition to other Democratic priorities in the final weeks of the lame-duck session of Congress that ends in early January.
CNN: Lugar: Senate has votes to pass START
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee laid out his plan Sunday for the lame-duck session of Congress, which includes the passage of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar said he thinks there are enough votes for the treaty – a nuclear arms agreement between Russia and the United States – to pass through the Senate. "The votes are there," Lugar told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
CNN: RNC official quits, considers bid for chairman
Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus stepped down Sunday as the general counsel for the Republican National Committee, and he is mulling a bid to run for the chairmanship. “I informed the chairman in a private letter that I was resigning and why I was resigning,” Priebus said in an interview Sunday, confirming that he told RNC Chairman Michael Steele of his decision to leave the post. It is a major blow to the chairman, who is considering whether to seek a second two-year term as head of the RNC, because Priebus was a close Steele ally.
CNN: Gingrich's harsh words for Obama
Sounding more and more like a presidential contender, Newt Gingrich came out swinging Sunday against the Obama administration's foreign policy. "I've never seen an administration, even the Carter administration was never as routinely chaotic," Gingrich told CNN in reference to Obama's recent trip to Afghanistan. "Every time you turn around, this administration is fumbling somewhere around the world." He said there appears to be a gap between "the clarity and focus of that campaign and the confusion of the presidency."
CNN: Rangel responds to punishment
New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was formally censured by the House last week for violating House ethics rules and tax laws, said Sunday that members' standing in their home districts influenced the vote outcome. Rangel said the low approval rating of Congress and the past election swayed congressional leaders, who he said were afraid of appearing to go "easy on anybody in Washington." "I can understand that feeling back home, but I tell you, individually, whether it's Republicans or Democrats, they knew what I had done did not reach the level of a censure," Rangel said on CNN's "State of the Union."
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CNN: Military chaplains debate their role without 'don't ask, don't tell'
As Congress debates the repeal of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, military chaplains are doing their own soul-searching. About 3,000 chaplains currently serve in the military, endorsed by a multitude of faiths, including Christian, evangelical Protestant, Jewish and Muslim denominations. It's a unique culture where chaplains of various beliefs serve alongside one another counseling and caring for an equally diverse congregation of armed service members. "Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about Don't Ask, Don't Tell exists among the chaplains," states the Pentagon report, released last week, on the potential impact of repealing the policy.
USA Today: Proposed 1.4% pay raise for military draws fire
Military servicemembers are fighting what would be their lowest pay raise in decades as the nation wages two wars, including a 10th year of combat in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has proposed a 1.4% raise for the military in 2011, which would be the lowest since 1962, when no raise was given. The administration, which wants to freeze non-military pay for federal workers to tackle the deficit, says a 1.4% raise for the military would match average private-sector-wage growth and is in addition to earlier increases in housing and food subsidies. …"This is absolute garbage," says Marine Corps Sgt. John Ellis, 26, a squad commander who recently returned from Afghanistan, his fourth deployment. "The U.S. government can bail out GM and other major corporations, but for us little guys who make beans for money (and) risk getting killed these people think we don't need a raise."
CNN: Judge's ruling to overturn same-sex marriage ban goes to appeals court
Attorneys on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate will face off in a California appeals court Monday, as a panel of judges hears arguments in a case over Proposition 8. In August, a federal judge ruled that the voter-approved measure, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider an appeal of that judge's ruling Monday. Arguments begin at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. ET) and will be divided into two hour-long sessions - one over the legal standing of those appealing the decision, and one over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
Bloomberg: Are Americans as Poor as They Feel?
For many Americans, thinking back to the days of 99¢ gas and 50¢ cups of coffee, it may be cathartic to grumble about how expensive life has become, especially during the current economic downturn. The reality, however, is that a lot of things aren't as expensive as we think—and many things actually cost less in relative terms. A look at the cost of living between 1980 and 2010 shows that nominal income rose more than overall consumer prices (nominal income is income not adjusted for inflation). The price of many day-to-day expenses such as food and even energy increased at a slower pace than overall consumer prices, which means their relative costs are lower, while some big-ticket items, such as education and health care, became more expensive, causing a shift in spending.
Washington Post: Unusual methods helped ICE break deportation record, e-mails and interviews show
For much of this year, the Obama administration touted its tougher-than-ever approach to immigration enforcement, culminating in a record number of deportations. But in reaching 392,862 deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics. ICE also ran a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than ever before, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that, without the program, would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol.
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CNN: Top diplomats from South Korea, Japan head to Washington for talks
South Korea's foreign minister headed Sunday to Washington, in preparation for much anticipated talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts about the tense situation in and around the Yellow Sea. Speaking shortly before his departure from Incheon International Airport, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the three attendees will discuss coordinating their outreach with other nations, according to Seoul's state-run Yonhap news agency.
CNN: Under pressure, WikiLeaks asks supporters for mirror sites
Under heavy pressure from the United States and allied governments, WikiLeaks appealed to supporters worldwide to mirror its website Sunday as it continued the process of releasing thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables. "Wikileaks is currently under heavy attack. In order to make it impossible to ever fully remove Wikileaks from the Internet, we need your help," the site told followers Sunday. The message was followed by instructions on how website operators could set up mirror sites that would distribute the documents as WikiLeaks released them.
CNN: Iran nuclear program self-sufficient, top official claims
Iran now produces everything it needs for the nuclear fuel cycle, making its nuclear program self-sufficient, the head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization told state media Sunday. The Islamic republic has begun producing yellowcake, Ali Akbar Salehi told Press TV. Salehi's announcement came just a day before Iran is to continue stalled nuclear talks with the so-called P5 plus 1 countries - Germany and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.
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CNN Money: Bernanke on '60 Minutes': Grim outlook for jobs
On the heels of a disappointing jobs report, the country's top economist told 60 Minutes the outlook isn't much brighter. "At the rate we're going, it could be four, five years before we are back to a more normal unemployment rate," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told 60 Minutes in an interview that aired Sunday night. The 60 Minutes broadcast comes just a couple days after the government released a jobs report bringing two downbeat surprises: the economy added only 39,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate rose to 9.8%.
USA Today: Jobless rate up among those with at least bachelor's degree
Last month's increase in unemployment was especially discouraging for the well-educated. The jobless rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970 when records were first kept, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. October's 4.7% rate was up from 4.4% in September. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate last month rose to 9.8% from 9.6%.
Des Moines Register: Why farmland is skyrocketing
A wave of farmland sales bringing $8,000 per acre and higher rolled across Iowa last month, prompting farmers, Realtors and lenders to ask: "How high will land prices go?" A 50 percent rise in the price of corn since June is putting more cash in the pockets of farmers, who in turn are bidding up the price of land at the traditional post-harvest auctions. On Tuesday, a 120-acre parcel near McCallsburg in northern Story County, complete with two wet spots, sold for $8,100 per acre at auction in Nevada. A year ago, that price would have been considered exceptional. But it seemed almost ho-hum compared with an auction sale last month in cattle-rich Sioux County for $13,950 per acre.
In Case You Missed It
Many military chaplains conflicted on repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell." CNN's Kate Bolduan reports.
A split lip and saying "superfluous" causes President Obama to be tongue-tied at the Kennedy Center Honors reception.
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