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: Doctor: Giffords may be showing 'glimmers of recognition'
Shot in the head less than a week ago, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues to make positive progress, her husband and doctors told CNN in exclusive interviews on Thursday. The chief of neurosurgery at Tucson's University Medical Center said that Giffords' eye movements suggest the congresswoman is experiencing "glimmers of recognition. That tracking of the eyes tells you a whole lot more, that she's aware of her surroundings to some extent," Dr. Michael Lemole told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. "She's trying to engage that reality."
The Hill: House Republicans begin annual retreat under tight security
Dozens of Capitol Hill policemen and Baltimore City police surrounded the Marriott Waterfront hotel as GOP House members arrived for their annual retreat on Thursday. The streets lining the Charm City hotel, located in the Inner Harbor, were congested with bumper-to-bumper Capitol Police cars, while plainclothes and uniformed cops manned the lobby. One GOP aide explained that an increase in security precautions was expected since Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) ascended to the Speaker’s chair and in the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
FOX News: Fears Over Arizona Shooting Have Congress Looking to Cash-Strapped Local Law Enforcement to Provide Extra Security
Members of Congress and other federal employees worried about their safety in the wake of the Arizona mass shooting can always request additional security detail from the U.S. Capitol Police or Marshals Service, but relying on local law enforcement may not be an option as cutbacks hit cash-strapped police forces. …A quarter of U.S. cities have reported cutting their public safety budgets in the past year, according to a report by the National League of Cities. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., represents Newark, which just cut 13 percent of its police force, or about 163 officers, to help close an $83 million budget deficit. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., represents Oakland, which last year slashed nearly 10 percent of its police force, or 80 officers, to help close a $31 million budget deficit.
CNN: House to resume health care repeal effort next week
After a weeklong pause in legislative business to honor the victims of the Arizona massacre, House Republicans intend to resume regular congressional business next week with a vote to repeal the health care law, a top GOP aide said Thursday. "Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new health care law and its affect on the ability to grow jobs in our country," said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia. The health care repeal vote had been scheduled for this week, but GOP leaders postponed it after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was wounded and six people were killed by a gunman Saturday.
Politico: House GOP tries to regain momentum
Their agenda remains ambitious, aggressive and utterly unchanged, but as House Republicans head back to work after a national pause for mourning, they’re trying to recapture their momentum while setting the right political tone. The spirit that accompanied the Jan. 5 coronation of the new GOP majority dissipated as Congress and the nation turned its attention to the mass shooting in Tucson that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) in critical condition. Republicans postponed everything for a week, and now they’re going to to re-launch a congressional agenda that’s largely aimed at dismantling the accomplishments of a president who just had one of his most unifying moments. Republicans are not changing a lick of substance. They’re just talking about it differently.
CNN: Bipartisan State of the Union seating gets traction
Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's idea of having members of both political parties sit next to each other at this year's State of the Union address is gaining traction – some positive and some negative. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Udall's "thoughtful suggestion" is worth "serious consideration. I spoke with Democratic Whip (Steny) Hoyer and Sen. (Mitch) McConnell about the proposal and we will discuss it further next week," Reid said in a statement. "After this tragedy, it's important for our country to see that we all stand together as Americans and this could be one way to demonstrate that."
Wall Street Journal: Next RNC Chief Has Tough Job
Republican leaders gather Friday to pick a new party chief amid hopes that fresh leadership might revitalize the GOP's flagship organization, the Republican National Committee, heading into the 2012 election. But evidence abounds that the RNC's varied woes run deeper than the troubled stewardship of its current chairman, Michael Steele. The organization fell short last year in many of the traditional ways it tries to boost GOP candidates, such as deploying its huge database to find Republican voters and unleashing its usual army of volunteers. It spent a minimal amount on television advertisements, and far less than in 2006, the prior midterm election, on aid to state parties and coordinated campaigns with candidates.
CNN: Thune heads to GOP conference
Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune accepted an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. Thune spokesman Kyle Downey said the senator turned down previous requests to appear because of scheduling conflicts. The state's junior senator is sometimes mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2012, and the high profile conference has become a national stage for presidential hopefuls.
CNN: Obama to meet with Pakistani president
U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Pakistani President Asif Zardari at the White House on Friday. "The two leaders will discuss aspects of the U.S. and Pakistan's strategic partnership, including our mutual commitment to economic reforms, support for democracy and good governance, and joint efforts to combat terrorism," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. Zardari is in Washington to attend a memorial service for diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who was Obama's envoy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Holbrooke died last month.
Financial Times: Bank challenged for closing UN accounts
The Obama administration has been in talks with JPMorgan Chase over the diplomatic fallout from the US bank’s decision to close the accounts of foreign missions to the UN amid tighter rules to combat money-laundering and terrorism financing. Patrick Kennedy, the state department’s undersecretary for management, was in New York on Thursday to meet scores of mission chiefs affected by the decision, which the bank took for commercial reasons. He said Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, and Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, were taking a personal interest in the issue, which will leave many diplomatic missions without banking facilities from the end of March.
CNN: Bob Dole out of hospital
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is finally back on the mend after three stays in various hospitals after suffering from an infection that led to a fever. "I want my friends to know I've left Walter Reed Army Medical Center," Dole said in a prepared statement on Thursday. "I appreciate the great care I've received from the outstanding men and women at Walter Reed. I feel a whole lot better after being treated for a minor infection." Dole, who was the GOP nominee for president in 1996 and served 27 years as a senator from Kansas, was admitted to Walter Reed for an elevated temperature early last week.
CNN: JFK Library goes digital
To help mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, the United States' largest online digitized presidential archives were unveiled Thursday. At the beginning of the event at the National Archives in Washington, reporters were shown a portion of one of Kennedy's press conferences from the early 1960s in which he addressed the question of where and how his historical documents would be kept. "We will find it possible to reproduce the key documents, that they will be commonly available, I would hope, in Washington," Kennedy responded. Many original records, however, ended up being kept at the Kennedy Library in Boston, making them not accessible to historians who were unable to travel.
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CNN: Current wars deserve a general ranking with best from WWII, vets say
Members of the Senate and House armed services committees currently are talking to the Pentagon about the next round of hearings on Afghanistan, trying to coordinate sessions with the U.S. commander there, Gen. David Petraeus. When Petraeus, probably the best-known military man in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, returns to answer questions, the television lights will shine on the four stars he wears on each shoulder. Now a new debate is swirling in Washington, thanks to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal pushing for Petraeus to get a fifth star, like military giants of the past.
Wall Street Journal: New Hit to Strapped States
With the market for municipal bonds tumbling, cities, hospitals, schools and other public borrowers are scrambling to refinance tens of billions of dollars of debt this year, another sign that the once-safe market is under duress. The muni bond market was hit with the latest wave of bad news Thursday, prompting a selloff that sent the market to its lowest level since the financial crisis. A New Jersey agency was forced to cut the size of a bond issue by about 40% because of mediocre demand, and pay a higher rate than expected. And mutual fund giant Vanguard Group shelved plans for three new muni bond funds, citing market turmoil.
CNN: Backup shuttle commander named for wounded congresswoman's husband
NASA named a backup shuttle commander for astronaut Mark Kelly, who is the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and was scheduled to lead an April Endeavour space mission before his wife was shot. Kelly, a veteran shuttle astronaut, has been at his wife's hospital bedside, where she is recovering from last Saturday's assassination attempt at a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. He remains commander of the STS-134 shuttle mission, which is set for an April 19 launch, but astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander "to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams" while Kelly is away, NASA said Thursday.
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CNN: Thousands in peril in Brazil flooding
Thousands of families living on mountain slopes or on riverbanks face extreme risk of being washed away in the heavy rains and flooding that have killed nearly 500 people in Rio de Janeiro state, authorities said Thursday. Officials feared that many more were dead, buried in landslides or washed away by gushing waters. Mud rushed down hillsides and into towns and cities as murky brown rivers cut through lush landscape.
CNN: Gates: U.S. forces in Japan critical to Asia security
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that the presence of American forces in Japan is critical to meet security challenges in Asia amid the tension in the Korean Peninsula. "To deal with this century's critical challenges, critical component will remain the forward presence of U.S. military forces in Japan," Gates said during a speech at Keio University in Tokyo. "Without such a presence, North Korea military provocations could be more outrageous or worse. China might behave more assertively toward its neighbors." The relationship between Japan and the United States has been strained in recent years over relocation of U.S. forces from Okinawa, a southern Japanese island where most of the American forces are based. Gates' message has been to look beyond the single thorny issue of relocation to the larger issue of security in the region.
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New York Times: Report Says Excessive Risk Remains After Bank Bailout
Citigroup, the giant financial services company bailed out by the government in November 2008, is still too big to be allowed to fail, a situation that could make future bailouts of big banking companies a necessity, a report by a government watchdog said Thursday. The repo, issued by Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said that the government still had not developed objective criteria to measure the amount of systemic risk posed by giant financial companies. That, he said, “underscores a TARP legacy, the moral hazard associated with the continued existence of institutions that remain too big to fail.”
In Case You Missed It
The JFK Library goes online with the first digital presidential archive. CNN's Mary Snow has more.
A Russian journalist uses the Tucson shootings to question Robert Gibbs about U.S. gun laws. CNN's Kate Bolduan reports.
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