The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com
CNN: In Hawaii this year, White House better prepared for possible crisis
Every day before 8 a.m. Hawaiian time, President Barack Obama gets an extensive briefing about all of the national security threats that have been bubbling around the world overnight while he's been vacationing.
CNN: Obama makes 6 recess appointments
Taking time out from his Hawaiian vacation to assert some executive authority, President Barack Obama on Wednesday used a series of recess appointments to override Republican objections to several nominees. Obama used his constitutional power to appoint six people who have had their nominations pending for an average of 147 days, according to White House officials.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Seeks Chief For Financial Consumer Agency
White House adviser Elizabeth Warren and a top lieutenant are quietly asking business and consumer groups for names of people who might run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people familiar with the matter said. The hunt suggests that Ms. Warren, a lightning rod for some bankers, might not be selected to lead the bureau, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that passed this summer.
McClatchy: With ink barely dry on START, fight looms over test-ban treaty
The latest salvo in President Barack Obama's campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons was fired Wednesday, delivered not by the administration, but by the man who presided over the collapse of America's Cold War rival. Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union when it fell apart in 1991, called on the U.S. to ratify an accord to ban all nuclear test blasts, saying it would strengthen U.S.-led efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.
The Hill: Out with the old, in with the new in the Senate in the 112th Congress
In a Congress dominated by complicated bills and wonky policy fights, perhaps the biggest challenge for members of the Senate was simply keeping straight the names of all their colleagues. The 111th Congress will go down as one of the most chaotic in Senate history because of the constant turnover in personnel. That influx of fresh faces means the 112th Congress will begin with a notably inexperienced group of senators.
Washington Post: Two new rules will give Constitution a starring role in GOP-controlled House
When Republicans take over the House next week, they will do something that apparently has never been done before in the chamber's 221-year history: They will read the Constitution aloud. And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the lawmaker who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation. Call it the tea party-ization of Congress.
Anchorage Daily News: Miller to announce plans by Friday
Republican Joe Miller plans to announce by Friday whether he'll continue his legal fight over the Alaska Senate race. Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto says Miller is weighing his options. A news conference is planned for Friday in Anchorage. Miller can appeal Tuesday's federal court decision. He also could protest the results of the election in state court. He has said he's willing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court but is taking legal steps one at a time.
CNN: O'Donnell slams criminal investigation as 'thug tactics'
Republican Christine O'Donnell, who lost her bid for U.S. Senate from Delaware, is lashing out at reports the Justice Department and FBI have launched a criminal investigation into possible misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses, calling any such probe "thug tactics." Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents have started the investigation, a source with knowledge of the probe confirmed to CNN.
CNN: Senate ethics panel dismisses complaint against Dodd
The Senate Ethics Committee has dismissed a complaint of alleged corruption by retiring Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, according to statements Wednesday from Dodd and the group the filed the complaint. Judicial Watch, which describes itself as a conservative public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, said it was notified on December 20 by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, known as the Ethics Committee, about the dismissal of its complaint.
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Washington Post: Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say
The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government's system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab's father had told U.S. officials of his son's radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person's name on the watch list. Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.
New York Daily News: MTA dropped ball, failed to enact highest level emergency protocol until storm was well underway
The MTA failed to follow its own emergency protocol before the blizzard that crippled large swaths of the subway system, the Daily News has learned. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority didn't declare its highest-level Winter Operations Plan 4 in effect until Sunday when the storm was underway, officials confirmed Wednesday.
USA Today: More U.S. cities dimming the lights
The push to turn down the lights in American cities is gaining broad support from several unlikely allies — from conservationists and builders to city planners and the military. Dark-sky legislation — laws requiring such measures as shielding outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution — has been embraced by about 300 counties, cities and towns. More than 50 state bills have been introduced in the past two years, and seven were enacted.
Washington Times: For disabled feds, workers' comp better than retirement
The Federal Employees' Compensation Act of 1916 was never intended to be a retirement plan, but critics say for thousands of government employees, that's just what it's become. That's because under the federal system, disabled employees unable to return to work get to choose between receiving higher-paying workers' compensation benefits or the lower-paying federal retirement plan. For most, the choice is clear.
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CNN: African leaders will try again to persuade Gbagbo to step down
The three leaders representing a West African bloc will return to Ivory Coast next Monday to again try to defuse an escalating political crisis sparked by self-declared President Lauren Gbagbo's refusal to cede power.
CNN: 4 men to be charged in 'terror plot' against Danish newspaper
Four men will be charged Thursday in connection with a terror plot against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the nation's authorities said. Three men arrested in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Wednesday after arriving from Sweden are believed to be "connected to international terrorists," Denmark's intelligence service said.
Washington Post: South Korea's Lee says talks imperative for North's denuclearization
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday described international talks as the necessary means of coaxing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, opening a narrow window for the resumption of long-dormant negotiations.
CNN: U.S. revokes Venezuelan ambassador's visa
The U.S. government has taken "reciprocal action" against Venezuela's rejection of the U.S. ambassador to Caracas by revoking the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington, a State Department official said Wednesday.
Los Angeles Times: Mexico army's failures hamper drug war
Four years and 50,000 troops into President Felipe Calderon's drug war, the fighting has exposed severe limitations in the Mexican army's ability to wage unconventional warfare, tarnished its proud reputation and left the U.S. pointedly criticizing the force as "virtually blind" on the ground.
CNN: Flood-ravaged Australia braces for more rising water
Parts of northeast Australia braced for more flooding Thursday, a day after the nation's prime minister promised aid to flood-ravaged towns, and half of the state of Queensland was declared a disaster zone. Emerald, an inland city of 15,000 residents, had essentially been isolated by flood waters and was accessible only by helicopter.
CNN: South Korea works to contain foot and mouth disease outbreak
South Korea raised its foot-and-mouth disease alert to its highest level on Wednesday in an effort to contain the disease that has rapidly spread across the country. More than 495,000 livestock have been culled - slaughtered - so far across 29 cities, with 60 confirmed cases of the disease so far, according to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Guardian: One in six people in the UK today will live to 100, study says
More than 10 million people in the UK, who are currently alive, are expected to live to more than 100, according to government figures. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) predicts the number of centenarians will rise steeply in the next 70 years, with 17% of the UK's current 62 million residents reaching that landmark age. …But increasing longevity is likely to put considerable pressure on pensions systems, as people face spending a growing proportion of their life in retirement.
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com
CNNMoney: Blizzard's cost to airlines may hit $150 million
The blizzard that wreaked havoc on the East Coast this week may cost airlines up to $150 million as planes sit idle following the cancellation of thousands of flights. For the airlines, the costs are adding up in several ways.
Bloomberg: Storm Delays Reveal Flip Side of Aviation's Drive for Efficiency
The U.S. aviation system’s struggles to recover from snowstorms that closed New York’s airports this week reflect the unintended consequences of airlines’ efforts to squeeze out costs. Flights are so full and scheduled so tightly that there is no room for quick recovery when airports are closed, industry analysts said. Stranded passengers’ complaints about confusion and lack of communication may prompt reviews by air carriers and regulators about what happened and how to best respond the next time poor weather coincides with a busy travel period.
CNNMoney: Dow posts 2-year high in quiet trading
Stocks crept to yet another two-year record in quiet trading Wednesday, as traders look to end the year on a high note. At the closing bell, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) was up 10 points, or 0.1%, at 11,585 - it's highest point in two years. The S&P 500 (SPX) rose 1 point, or 0.1%; and the Nasdaq (COMP) ticked up 4 points, or 0.2%.
Wall Street Journal: Banks Open Loan Spigot
Some big U.S. banks are starting to increase their lending to businesses as demand for loans rises and healthier banks seek to grab customers from weaker rivals. After declining steadily for most of the past two years, the amount of commercial and industrial loans held by commercial banks inched upward during the past two months, according to the Federal Reserve.
Wall Street Journal: Canada Slashes Business Levies
Canada is poised to cut its corporate-tax rate to 16.5% on Jan. 1, part of a decade-long campaign that some experts say is making the country one of the most cost-effective places to do business in the developed world. Canada's government says the cuts and other business-attracting measures should bring more investment to the country.
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