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: Senate defeats three more amendments to START accord
Senate debate on a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia intensified Monday, with Democratic supporters touting the backing of military leaders for the pact while Republican opponents used to Cold War terminology to portray it as a threat to national security. The Senate met behind closed doors for more than two hours Monday to consider classified details of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as New START, that resumes inspections of each countries nuclear arsenals while limiting each nation to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers. Later, Senate Democrats, joined by some Republicans, defeated three Republican amendments to the treaty. Those votes brought the number of proposed GOP changes voted down so far to five. With a key procedural vote set for Tuesday and time winding down in the lame-duck session of Congress, the showdown over the pact took on a dramatic atmosphere with senators making floor speeches and statements infused with rhetorical flair.
CNN: Census numbers to help determine which party controls Congress and the White House
How many people live in the United States, and in each state? And which states will gain congressional seats and electoral votes and which states will lose them? These are all questions that the Census Bureau is expected to answer Tuesday, when it releases the results of the 2010 Census. The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be conducted every ten years to accurately reflect the population shifts in the country. The new numbers spell out congressional reapportionment, as the states divvy up the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
CNN: Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell': the next steps
Although Congress has now voted to repeal the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, it will be at least a few months before the historic change takes effect. President Barack Obama will sign the repeal on Wednesday morning, the White House says, setting the stage to allow gay people to serve openly in the armed forces. But the Pentagon has an 87-page implementation plan for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Over the next several weeks, military officials need to examine and rewrite a series of policies, regulations and directives related to the current law.
Boston Globe: After 4 decades, Harvard opens door to ROTC
Harvard University will welcome ROTC back to campus now that Congress has repealed a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, university president Drew Faust said. The move will end a four-decade standoff between one of the nation’s most prestigious universities and its armed forces. The tension began over the Vietnam War and continued in recent years as university administrators, faculty, and students objected to what they saw as discrimination against gays and lesbians. Faust, the daughter of a decorated World War II veteran, said she expects to begin talking with military officials about bringing the program back to campus soon. Faust has repeatedly said that the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy was the final barrier to reinstating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
CNN: FCC to vote Tuesday on 'net neutrality' rules
The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Tuesday on a set of regulations designed to ensure that internet providers grant everyone equal access to the Web. The "net neutrality" rules, proposed by the Obama administration, would be the government's biggest foray yet into one of the Web's fiercest debates. In announcing the proposed rules earlier this month, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said they would require high-speed internet providers to treat all types of Web content equally. The rules would, in effect, keep the companies that own the internet's real-world infrastructure from slowing down some types of websites or apps - say, those belonging to a competitor - or speeding up others from high-paying clients.
CNN: Murkowski camp: Senator could be certified as winner this week or early next
It's been nearly 17 weeks since Alaska's Republican Senate primary and nearly seven weeks since Election Day. Could the end finally be in sight in the nation's last, undecided Senate race between Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Republican challenger Joe Miller? Ask one side and the answer appears to be: yes. Murkowski's campaign said that the state could certify the incumbent Republican as the winner within days. "I'm confident that, in the worst case scenario, this goes into next week," Murkowski Campaign Manager Kevin Sweeney told CNN, referring to Alaska's certification of the senator as the winner.
Roll Call: New Hampshire Seeing Mixed Messages on Thune’s 2012 Ambitions
New Hampshire Republican operatives, already navigating recruitment calls from prospective 2012 presidential candidates, say they’re getting mixed messages about Sen. John Thune’s intentions. The South Dakota Republican is one of Capitol Hill’s favorite rumored contenders. In the state that will host the nation’s first presidential primary, however, Thune has been slow to prove he’s serious about a White House bid. He was in touch with Granite State political players regularly in the first half of 2009, but the calls dried up months ago. “I haven’t heard from him since August. Nobody’s heard from him since then,” said one prominent GOP strategist who has yet to commit to a 2012 campaign but played a leading role in New Hampshire’s 2000 and 2008 GOP primaries. “I would love to work for him, but I’m convinced he’s not running.”
CNN: Wagner urges RNC rivals not to back Steele
Ann Wagner, one of six candidates seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, is promising not to support Chairman Michael Steele under any circumstance if she happens to come up short in her bid to lead the organization. The former Missouri GOP Chairwoman and onetime Ambassador to Luxembourg told CNN Monday that she will "absolutely not" endorse Steele or tell her supporters to do so if she fails to make it to the final round of what is likely to be a multi-ballot election come January.
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Gov. Ted Strickland says he will stay politically active; resents lack of support from Northeast Ohio
Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland plans to stay politically active by supporting a startup liberal think tank whose objective will be to scrutinize every action of the incoming Republican-controlled governor's office and legislature. In a wide-ranging interview Monday, the Democratic leader, who will leave office on Jan. 9, also said that he did a lot for Cleveland but never got the support he deserved from Northeast Ohio leaders and local media, who he says thought of him as a country bumpkin who never understood the big city.
Dallas News: Federal enforcement of environmental rules has dropped
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has warned that the Environmental Protection Agency is punishing Texas by rejecting a state clean-air permitting program and advancing a scheme to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. But new data shows that EPA enforcement of existing regulations under the Obama administration has fallen by several key measures. In Texas, the amount of pollution that companies agreed to reduce – as a result of enforcement cases – fell 74 percent in 2009-10 from 2007-08. Nationwide, it fell 57 percent. Furthermore, the amount that polluters agreed to spend nationwide to upgrade controls and cleanup fell to $17.4 billion in 2009-10, from $22.3 billion in 2007-08. In Texas, the amount increased, from $742 million to $823 million. Granta Nakayama, former EPA enforcement chief during the Bush administration, said the decrease in some results was surprising given the recent recession, when struggling companies would be expected to cut corners on pollution controls and compliance.
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CNN: Executions continue steady nationwide decline
Executions in the United States continued to decrease in 2010, with the 46 death sentences carried out representing a 12% drop from the year before, according to a report issued Tuesday. The 2010 figure is just over half the 85 people executed a decade ago in 2000. Meanwhile, 114 people were added to death rows around the country this year, just under half the number from 2000, said the report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington-based group that opposes capital punishment.
Houston Chronicle: SBOE standards for social studies appealed to feds
A school curriculum teaching children about violent Black Panthers while playing down Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks is not only inaccurate but discriminatory, the Texas NAACP and LULAC said Monday in a joint complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint asks the department's Office of Civil Rights to review Texas' new social studies curriculum standards approved by the State Board of Education and to take legal action if the state tries to implement the standards the groups call "racially or ethnically offensive," as well as historically inaccurate. The new standards also balance the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and attempt to point out positive aspects of slavery.
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CNN: Iran quake toll climbs many buried
The death toll from a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in southeastern Iran rose to 7, with officials fearing that it will continue to climb, state-run Press TV said Tuesday. Felt as far away as the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the quake was particularly strong between the cities of Zahedan and Bam. It struck late at night and hardest in mostly rural, relatively sparsely populated areas of Kerman province, officials said. "Considering the dimensions of the damage, the death toll is expected to rise," the governor general of Kerman was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.
CNN: S. Korean official calls North's lack of retaliation political play
South Korea downplayed North Korea's decision to not follow through on threatened retaliation to its live-fire military drill this week as political maneuvering, according to a key South Korean military official. Seoul is working to adjust its security approach, believing that North Korea might launch less conventional attacks - including possible terrorist strikes on large civilian gatherings, according to the South Korean government official. South Korea might also strengthen its intelligence capability, the official said, calling it increasingly crucial to its defense. The South Korean live-fire naval drill ended peacefully Monday after an hour and 34 minutes. After once threatening the exercise could spur a war, North Korean military leaders said retaliation wasn't necessary but issued a stern warning to South Korea and the United States, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
New York Times: Russia Was Misled Over Fuel for U.S. Use, Report Says
For a number of years ending in April, two Pentagon middleman companies misled the Russian authorities into thinking that the large quantities of jet fuel they were purchasing were for civilian use, not military, apparently with the intention of evading a tariff, a Congressional report scheduled for release on Tuesday concludes. But the fuel was being bought by the Pentagon for shipment to the American airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, and from there on to Afghanistan, the report said. Once Russian officials discovered the true identity of the recipient, they cut off supplies, creating a major logistical headache for United States military commanders. Officials for the contractors expressed little remorse for their actions, the report shows. “We got one over on ’em,” the report quotes one company official, Charles Squires, as telling investigators. “I’m an old cold warrior, I’m proud of it, we beat the Russians, and we did it for four or five years.”
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CNN: Toyota to pay U.S. $32.4 million over recalls
Toyota has agreed to pay more than $32 million in penalties after two federal investigations that faulted the Japanese automaker for its handling of recent auto recalls, the U.S. Transportation Department announced Monday night. The fines - $16.375 million in one case, and $16.05 million in another - are the steepest allowed by law, the department said in a statement. They come amid on ongoing investigation that Toyota did not comply with federal requirements when it came to reporting safety defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The penalties are on top of the $16.375 million fine that Toyota paid last April, for failing to notify the safety officials within five days of learning of the "sticky pedal" effect, which caused some of its cars to accelerate with no way to slow down.
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