POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, January 17, 2011
January 17th, 2011
04:17 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, January 17, 2011

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.

WASHINGTON/POLITICAL
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Hospital: Giffords upgraded from critical to serious condition
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been upgraded from critical to serious condition, eight days after being shot through the brain at a public event. "The congresswoman continues to do well," University Medical Center in Tucson said Sunday in a statement. Giffords has been off the ventilator and breathing on her own, through a tracheotomy tube, since a surgical procedure on Saturday. A feeding tube was inserted as part of the same operation, which took place exactly one week after a bullet went in and out of her skull.

CNN: Democrats face tough fight on gun control after Tucson shootings
Bring back the ban on assault weapons, or tighten enforcement of existing gun control laws and regulations? Those were two options for strengthening gun control offered Sunday by Democrats in the wake of the Tucson, Arizona, shootings last week that killed six people and wounded 13, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The limited range of ideas showed the power of the pro-gun lobby in Washington, with Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York acknowledging that passing any gun control legislation was "hard."

CNN: Lawmakers: Close look needed at mental health issues
In the wake of the Arizona shooting, the co-founders of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus want to make sure those who suffer from mental illnesses are able to receive the help they want or need. Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano of California and Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, who founded the caucus in 2003, both acknowledged Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that more education and action is needed to improve the response to mental illness in the United States.

CNN: Coburn: Health care debate will continue
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn signaled Sunday that the debate over health care reform will continue in the Senate despite an obstacle-filled repeal process. The House is expected to vote to repeal the law this week, but similar legislation is unlikely to make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate or survive a presidential veto. However, a repeal vote fulfills a GOP campaign promise, allowing Republican legislators to publicly record their views and concerns. "I think we ought to try to repeal it, because we ought to build the basis that we've gone in the wrong direction to solve the real problems in health care," Coburn said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The fact is we're not through with the debate on health care in this country … My hope is that the debate will be good for us."

CNN: Top senators to sit together at State of the Union address
In a symbolic gesture toward more civil political discourse, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday they will sit together at the upcoming State of the Union address. Appearing on the NBC's "Meet the Press," Schumer and Coburn called for political debate based on issues and ideology, rather than motives and personal attacks, in the aftermath of the Tucson, Arizona, shootings last week that killed six people and critically injured Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Schumer acknowledged that sitting with Coburn for the president's annual speech to Congress would be symbolic, "but maybe it just sets a tone and everything gets a little bit more civil."

CNN: Day of service honors Martin Luther King Jr.
Events are scheduled around the United States to commemorate civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as the nation marks the 25th anniversary of a holiday in his honor. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama planned to mark the day by participating in a service project in Washington. "Martin Luther King, Jr. lived his life for others, dedicating his work to ensuring equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all," Obama said in a statement. "I encourage every American to observe this holiday in honor of Dr. King's selfless legacy by volunteering in their own communities and by dedicating time each day to bettering the lives of those around us."

CNN: Hu to lay out vision for U.S. relations
Chinese President Hu Jintao this week will lay out his vision for U.S.-Chinese relations based on strategic mutual trust, state-run media reports, amid recent hints of Washington's frustrations with Beijing. Hu is expected to lay out his blueprint during his three days in Washington, where he'll meet with President Barack Obama, top legislators and business executives, followed by a stop in Chicago. A report Sunday in Xinhua, China's official news agency, said that despite certain differences a constructive, comprehensive partnership between the powers could be mutually beneficial and help ensure stability in Asia and worldwide - points Hu will stress during time in the United States.

New York Times: Budget Worries Push Governors to Same Mind-Set
The dismal fiscal situation in many states is forcing governors, despite their party affiliation, toward a consensus on what medicine is needed going forward. The prescription? Slash spending. Avoid tax increases. Tear up regulations that might drive away business and jobs. Shrink government, even if that means tackling the thorny issues of public employees and their pensions. In years past, new governors have introduced themselves in inaugural remarks filled with cheery, soaring hopes; plans for expansions to education, health care and social services; and the outlines of new, ambitious local projects. But an examination of more than two dozen opening addresses of incoming governors in recent days shows that such upbeat visions were often eclipsed by worries about jobs, money and budget gaps.

NATIONAL
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Washington Post: Federal authorities plan to move trial of Tucson shooting suspect
Federal authorities are planning to move the trial of the alleged gunman in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson to San Diego because of extensive pretrial publicity in Arizona, federal law enforcement sources said Sunday night. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is charged in federal court in Arizona, but court officials plan to move the case out of the state within several weeks, the sources said. They cited publicity and the sensitivity of the case in Arizona, where one of those fatally shot was John M. Roll, the state's chief federal judge.

Houston Chronicle: Judicial emergency along the border
A skyrocketing number of immigration and drug cases along the U.S.-Mexico border and delays in nominating and confirming judges to fill vacancies are creating a judicial emergency in Texas and other Southwest states, federal officials say. "The caseload is enormous," said Chief District Judge Fred Biery of the San Antonio-based U.S. Western District of Texas. Some border courts are so burdened by the increase in cases that Chief Justice John Roberts said in an annual report on the judiciary that there is an "urgent need" to handle the problems. And the problem with the rising caseloads is compounded by vacancies. In Texas alone there are seven vacant U.S. judgeships – four that serve the border region in El Paso, San Antonio and Laredo.

Boston Globe: Parole overhaul to burden prisons
Governor Deval Patrick’s dramatic shake-up of the Parole Board and proposed crackdown on habitual, violent criminals will probably aggravate overcrowding in a prison system that is nearly 40 percent over capacity, according to criminologists and advocates for inmates. Like many other states, Massachusetts has struggled to find room for its inmates, with the prison population more than tripling over the past two decades to well over 11,000. At a time when other financially strapped states are under federal court orders to free inmates to relieve overcrowding or trying alternatives to incarceration, criminologists and advocates say, the Patrick administration’s overhaul of the parole system seems likely to make prisons even more cramped.

CNN: 'Social Network' scores big at the Golden Globes
The film "The Social Network" took home four awards Sunday night, including best motion picture – drama, at the Golden Globes. The television series "Glee" also had a good night with three wins. Aaron Sorkin accepted the award for best screenplay -motion picture for "The Social Network," which also won the best director award for David Fincher and best original score for a motion picture for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The hit Fox series "Glee" won best television series – comedy or musical while cast members Jane Lynch won for best actress in a supporting role and Chris Colfer accepted the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television.

INTERNATIONAL
For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

CNN: 51 dead from flooding in the Philippines; 1.6 million affected
Some 51 people are dead in the Philippines after weeks of intense rain caused severe flooding across the Asian nation, the country's national disaster agency said early Monday. Rains continued to linger over much of the the island of Luzon, with land around the Visayan Sea and the eastern island of Mindanao also experiencing significant precipitation, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement. Those killed, ranging from ages 1 to 80, died from drowning, landslides or electrocution, according to the disaster agency.

CNN: New Tunisian government could be announced Monday
A new Tunisian government could be announced Monday, one day after the country's army clashed with armed gangs and remnants of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's personal guard. Tanks patrolled the streets of Tunis on Sunday, two days after enraged protesters caused Ben Ali to flee the country. Government troops appeared to be in control of the presidential palace in the seaside suburb of Carthage on Sunday evening, but sporadic gunfire continued around the neighborhood as night fell, said Mohamad Guiga, a nearby resident. "It is a battle zone," Guiga told CNN by telephone from his home, about 1 kilometer (half a mile) from the palace. "From time to time, we hear some shooting," he said. The sound is very clear, he added.

CNN: 'Baby Doc' Duvalier returns to Haiti in surprise move
Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Haiti's former dictator, returned unexpectedly Sunday to the country after some 25 years in exile, adding uncertainty into an already turbulent situation. He arrived in the Haitian capital as the nation is grappling with a political crisis, sparked by fraud allegations in a presidential election. It was not immediately clear why the former leader returned. Duvalier, wearing a dark suit and tie, greeted supporters at the busy Port-au-Prince airport. He was traveling with his wife.

Washington Post: Afghanistan's push to tax U.S. contractors could renew tensions
The Afghan government is ramping up efforts to tax U.S. contractors operating there – an effort that could raise millions for the cash-strapped government but could also provoke fresh confrontation with the United States, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. Taxation of U.S. government assistance is barred by U.S. law, as well as by a number of bilateral accords between Afghanistan and the United States. But the wording in the documents is vague, and the two governments disagree on what "tax-exempt" means.

New York Times: Politically Confident, Iran Cuts Subsidies on Prices
After months of false starts, dire warnings and political wrangling, Iran has embarked on a sweeping program of cuts in its costly and inefficient system of subsidies on fuel and other essential goods that has put a strain on state finances and held back economic progress for years. The government’s success in overcoming political obstacles to make the cuts and its willingness to risk social upheaval suggest that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have consolidated power after the internal fractures that followed his bitterly disputed re-election in 2009 — a development that some analysts believe could influence Iran’s position at nuclear talks in Istanbul this month.

BUSINESS
For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

Wall Street Journal: Productivity May Slow in 2011
Global economic productivity rallied strongly last year thanks to a notable economic recovery, but it is likely to flag in 2011 in advanced economies as employment catches up, the Conference Board said late Sunday. Euro-zone labor productivity may even outpace the U.S.'s this year, although that is likely to prove a temporary blip, Bart van Ark, the U.S.-based think tank's chief economist, said in an interview. Job losses in the U.S. have been more severe and an employment recovery will drag productivity growth down a bit, while European labor programs mean fewer jobs were lost but there is also "less scope" to allocate resources to more productive sectors, he said. Labor productivity growth in the U.S. jumped about 2.8% last year but should slow to around 1.1% in 2011, according to the Conference Board's estimates. Euro-zone labor productivity should slow to 1.3% this year from 1.7% last year.

In Case You Missed It

CNN's Sandra Endo checks in with Congress members heading back to work after the tragedy in Tucson.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/01/16/endo.congress.security.cnn

The co-chairs of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus discuss federal solutions to mental health issues.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/01/16/sotu.01.16.napolitano.murphy.cnn

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