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: Obama calls for united effort to secure America's prosperity
America is heading in the right direction and now needs to reshape some priorities to ensure future strength and stability, President Barack Obama told the nation Tuesday in his second State of the Union address. Sounding themes of optimism and pragmatism in his 61-minute speech, Obama called for increasing investments in key areas such as education and clean energy while freezing some government spending for five years in an attempt to address simultaneous needs for economic growth and fiscal balance. "We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time," Obama said to applause. "We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That's how our people will prosper. That's how we'll win the future."
CNNMoney: Republican response: "We must act now"
Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's resident budget wonk, slammed the economic policies of the Obama administration Tuesday night, and made the case that Republicans can do better. Ryan, a 40-year-old Wisconsin native, delivered the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, painting a stark picture of the challenges facing the nation. "Our nation is approaching a tipping point," Ryan warned. "We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century." And the reason for that, Ryan said, are the policies pursued by the Obama administration.
CNN: Bachmann delivers Tea Party response to State of the Union
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, chair of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, delivered a Tea Party-style, red-meat conservative rebuttal sharply criticizing President Barack Obama's State of the Union Tuesday. Bachmann's remarks followed the official Republican response to the president by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, but the Minnesota Republican told CNN after the address that the Tea Party Express invited her to give a response the State of the Union last month, and denied that her response was meant to compete with Ryan's.
CNN: Tea Party leader: Tea Party 'is not a wing of the Republican Party!'
Echoing comments from Rep. Michele Bachmann, the head of the Tea Party Express insists that the Minnesota Republican's response to the State of the Union is not meant to compete with the official Republican response from Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. But Express Chairman Amy Kremer also emphatically told CNN on Tuesday that "the peoples' voices" need to be heard – and that the Tea Party "is not a wing of the Republican Party!"
CNN: Obama to tour businesses day after speech
President Barack Obama and members of his Cabinet will tour several businesses Wednesday that the president says are investing in ways he mentioned in his State of the Union speech. Obama will head to Wisconsin, where he will tour power technology company Orion Energy Systems and visit with employees. "In 2004, Orion shifted their manufacturing operations to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where they now employ over 250 employees and anticipate growing to more than 300 employees by the end of 2011," the White House said in a statement. Obama will then tour Skana Aluminum Co., a company that plans to hire about 30 more employees this year. The president will also make a stop at Tower Tech Systems, a wind turbine tower manufacturer that started in 2003 and has grown to more than 300 employees, the White House said.
CNN: House GOP resolution pledges to cut government spending
Hours before the president was scheduled to give his State of the Union address, the new House Republican majority approved a resolution pledging to cut non-security federal spending to "2008 levels or less." GOP aides said that could mean about $60 billion in savings. The vote was largely along party lines, 256-165. Seventeen House Democrats voted with the Republicans on the measure. Democrats argued that the resolution gives unprecedented power to the new House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, because it lets him set the new government funding levels without any committee vote or other House action. They accused Republicans of putting politics ahead of policy by holding the vote on the same day that Ryan was scheduled to give the Republican response to the president's address.
CNN: WH 'strongly opposes' GOP bill to dismantle system of campaign financing
A Republican-backed bill to halt public financing of presidential campaigns and conventions is coming under fire from the White House. In a strongly worded statement, the Office of Management and Budget said the House bill, known as H.R. 359, would "expand the power of corporations and special interests in the nation's elections," and that it would "force candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues. The administration strongly opposes [the bill]." The current system was put in place in the wake of the Watergate scandal as a way to avoid private influence in the public process. It took the pressure off qualified presidential candidates by giving them the option of accepting matching funds and grants.
CNNMoney: TARP watchdog blasts Obama's foreclosure program
The Obama Administration's main foreclosure-prevention program continues to fall short, and last year's Wall Street reform act does not adequately address the threat that big financial firms pose to the broader economy, the top federal bailout watchdog said Tuesday. In a quarterly report released to Congress, Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said the program has been a success financially, but that programs "designed to help Main Street rather than Wall Street" have been failures.
CNN: Giffords' condition upgraded to good
Doctors for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords have upgraded her condition from serious to good, and said she may be transferred to a nearby rehabilitation hospital Wednesday morning. The announcement late Tuesday night came after her husband said she had watched an hour of television from her hospital bed. Her husband, Mark Kelly, called the development "'exciting,' " said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a friend of Giffords.
New York Times: N.R.A. Stymies Firearms Research, Scientists Say
In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference? The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there is a reason for that. Scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off money for such work. “We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was for about a decade the leading source of financing for firearms research.
CNN: Webb talks 2012
Should he decide to seek another term in 2012, Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb has ruled out the possibility of running as an independent. "I've been through a journey in my life on this. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's probably my role model. He was very comfortable serving in a Republican administration. I'm very proud to have served in the Reagan administration. But in terms of the political values – when they're implemented properly – the Democratic Party is the party that I identify with," Webb told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Tuesday. In the interview, which aired on Tuesday's "John King, USA," Webb expressed ambivalence about running again, but he was clear that he will make his decision by March 31st of this year.
Roll Call: Senate Rerun Victories Very Rare
Former Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) is running against history as he makes a bid for his old seat in 2012: Just one former Senator in the past 50 years was defeated after serving a full term and then elected again to the chamber. In total, 16 Senators have found their way back to the chamber after being defeated for re-election since the direct election of Senators was instituted in 1914, according to the Senate Historical Office. Two of those were defeated and re-elected more than once. Former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) was the last person to manage the unlikely feat, getting elected again in 1988 after a 1986 defeat.
CNN: Illinois Supreme Court to hear Emanuel appeal
The Illinois Supreme Court will take up a ruling that would keep Rahm Emanuel off the Chicago mayoral ballot, and the court has agreed to a motion for an expedited ruling. There will be no oral arguments in the case; the justices will use briefs already filed to the appeals court. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a stay on Monday's appeals court ruling that held Emanuel was ineligible to be a mayoral candidate and ordered that any ballots printed include his name while the case is pending.
Politico: Newt Gingrich proposes abolishing EPA
Former House speaker and possible 2012 candidate Newt Gingrich called for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency in a Tuesday speech in Iowa. In an address at the Renewable Fuels Summit, Gingrich told attendees, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a key figure in the state’s first-in-nation Republican presidential caucuses, that the EPA should be replaced with a new “Environmental Solutions Agency.” The replacement agency “would encourage innovation, incentivize success and emphasize sound science and new technology over bureaucracy, regulation, litigation and restrictions on American energy,” according to materials provided by Gingrich aide Rick Tyler.
Newark Star-Ledger: Gov. Christie is appealing $271M bill from U.S. government for ARC tunnel
Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday he is appealing the $271 million bill from the federal government for work done on the canceled ARC commuter train tunnel to New York City. "We are not paying the money back," Christie said during his "Ask The Governor" segment on New Jersey 101.5. Tuesday was the deadline to respond to the Federal Transit Administration. Citing billions in projected cost overruns, Christie three months ago terminated the proposed $9.8 billion Access to the Region’s Core tunnel. The 9-mile-long tunnel beneath the Hudson River, from Secaucus to West 34th Street in Manhattan, was expected to double rail capacity in America’s busiest rail corridor.
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Los Angeles Times: 20 arrested in gun smuggling case
In a case aimed at stemming the flow of U.S. weapons to the Mexican drug war, federal authorities indicted 20 men Tuesday on charges of buying an estimated 700 weapons in Arizona and conspiring to transfer them across the border, chiefly to the Sinaloa drug cartel. The arrests, carried out by at least 100 federal agents, began early Tuesday, the latest crackdown targeting an international trafficking network that authorities say has seen as many as 60,000 weapons seized in Mexico and traced to U.S. sources. "The massive size of this operation sadly exemplifies the magnitude of the problem: Mexican drug lords go shopping for war weapons in Arizona," Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney in Arizona, said in a statement.
Houston Chronicle: Oil industry sees delays causing long-term harm
Delays in offshore drilling prompted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster could curb oil production over the next decade, according to an industry- sponsored report that predicts the slowdown jeopardizes as much as 680,000 barrels of oil equivalent each day in 2019. The study, produced by the energy research firm Wood Mackenzie for the American Petroleum Institute, also concludes that because of regulations imposed since last year's oil spill and delays in getting offshore drilling permits, a third of deep-water Gulf of Mexico fields could cost more to produce than they would generate in revenue.
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CNN: Guantanamo detainee sentenced to life for Africa bombings
A federal judge sentenced Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to life without parole on Tuesday for his role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, which left 224 people dead and thousands wounded. He is the first Guantanamo detainee tried in U.S. civilian court, having been convicted by a federal jury in November on a single conspiracy charge to destroy buildings and property at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. "Finally, 12 1/2 years after those devastating and despicable attacks, Ahmed Ghailani will pay for his crimes," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.
Washington Post: Number of U.S. casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan skyrocketed from 2009 to 2010
The number of U.S. troops killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan soared by 60 percent last year, while the number of those wounded almost tripled, new U.S. military statistics show. All told, 268 U.S. troops were killed by the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in 2010, about as many as in the three previous years combined, according to the figures, obtained by The Washington Post. More than 3,360 troops were injured, an increase of 178 percent over the year before. Military officials said an increase in attacks was expected, given the surge in U.S. and NATO troops, as well as the intensified combat. Even so, the spike comes despite a fresh wave of war-zone countermeasures, including mine-clearing machines, fertilizer-sniffing dogs and blimps with sophisticated spy cameras.
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CNNMoney: Google plans biggest hiring year in company history
Google is about to go on a hiring binge. The company said Tuesday that it plans to recruit a record number of new employees in 2011, as it pushes forward with an increasingly diverse product portfolio. Google said in a blog post that it expects to exceed its 2007 hiring record, when the company added more than 6,000 people to its ranks. Last year, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) grew by about 4,500 employees, which was its second-largest year for headcount growth.
CNNMoney: Toyota announces recalls involving more than 1.5 million vehicles
Toyota on Wednesday announced recalls involving more than 1.5 million vehicles worldwide, the company said. One recall involves about 1.2 million units of 16 models - including the Noah and other models - within Japan and 140,000 Avensis and Tourer models overseas because of faulty fuel pipes that could cause fuel leakage, according to the company. A separate recall involves 245,000 2006 through 2007 Lexus GS300/350 vehicles, 2006 through early 2009 Lexus IS250 vehicles and 2006 through early 2008 Lexus IS350 vehicles sold in the United States to inspect the fuel pressure sensor installation, according to a company statement.
In Case You Missed It
Pres. Obama addresses jobs, the budget, education, health care, and more in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin gives the Republican response to the 2011 State of the Union address.
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