The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
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CNN: Official: U.S., Egypt talk ways to 'move' political transition forward
As they talked publicly in generalities about a smooth transition to a new government in Egypt, U.S. officials have been working behind the scenes on ways to "move that process forward," a national security spokesman said. Top members of the Obama administration stated Thursday their desire for embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave office and for inclusive negotiations to begin immediately with his political opponents.
CNN: House GOP slashes billions, falls short of pledge
GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's committee released its official spending targets for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, indicating Republicans plan to cut $58 billion in non-security funding, but when their overall spending target is compared to current spending levels for that same time frame, the cuts amount to $32 billion.
CNNMoney: Bernanke urges Congress to act on debt
In a rare on-the-record appearance before reporters, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a dire warning to lawmakers: Raise the debt limit now. Speaking to a room full of reporters at the National Press Club Thursday, Bernanke said that without an increase in the debt limit, the United States could potentially default on its debt, an outcome he referred to as "catastrophic."
Denver Post: Earmark adieu leaves void
In their newfound love for fiscal responsibility, both parties in Congress and the White House have agreed that earmarks must go. What they do not know is how the federal streams of cash secured by members of Congress for pet district and state projects will be delivered.
Washington Post: Housing finance changes likely to mean less government backing for some buyers
The Obama administration is likely to recommend reducing the size of mortgages eligible for government backing, according to current and former officials, a move that could make getting a home loan in high-priced areas such as the Washington region more expensive. Administration officials, who are preparing a white paper on overhauling the nation's housing finance system, are looking at scaling back the support provided during the mortgage crisis to help the ailing real estate market.
Los Angeles Times: Obama administration offers states ideas on how to cut Medicaid
Facing a revolt from states confronted by huge budget shortfalls and tattered healthcare safety nets, the Obama administration is intensifying a drive to help state leaders wring savings from their Medicaid programs. On Thursday, in a move that reflected both the changing political landscape and the still-troubled economy, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to governors suggesting a range of cuts, including removal of some people from the program.
CNN: Democrats eager to talk of government shutdown
Senate Democratic leaders held a news conference Thursday to warn about the dangers of a Republican-forced government shutdown. But as one reporter aptly noted to the leaders, it is the Democrats talking most about shutting down the government.
Miami Herald: Florida rejects another $1 million grant
Using as ammunition a Florida judge's ruling this week that the federal healthcare law is unconstitutional, state officials are wasting no time stepping away from the controversial overhaul. Their latest move: rejecting a $1 million federal grant awarded to the Agency for Health Care Administration to plan a system required by the law where consumers can comparison shop for health plans. It's the second federal healthcare reform grant rejected by Florida this week.
Charlotte Observer: Inside the Democratic National Convention's $42 million wish list
A sign of Charlotte's commitment to landing the convention: Last year, in its bid, the host committee told national organizers that Time Warner Cable Arena's 17,000 seats are "theater-type, padded" and "Bobcat Blue." But if the Democrats didn't like the seats in the 6-year-old arena, the Charlotte host committee would, at its own cost, replace them.
CNN: House Republicans drop controversial 'forcible rape' language
Averting what would inevitably be a charged debate on the issue of rape, House Republicans Thursday dropped language from a new bill that allows for taxpayer-funded abortions only if a 'forcible rape' has occurred, a spokesperson for Rep. Chris Smith, the bill's sponsor, tells CNN.
CNN: Republican group hits back at Dem ads
The conservative group Crossroads GPS is going up with radio ads defending 19 congressmen who were the focus of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee efforts earlier this week.
Politico: McCain's endorsement: Don't hold your breath
John McCain seems to have had enough of presidential politics – for now, at least. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee says he has no plans on making an endorsement in what could be a crowded primary field in 2012.
Continue Reading “I think I’m staying out of this for the first time in many years,” McCain told POLITICO this week.
CNN: Romney doles out the cash
Former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's political action committee announced its first wave of 2011 candidate contributions on Thursday, totaling $129,500, according to a press release.
CNN: Palin declines CPAC invite – again
The annual Conservative Political Action Conference later this month will as usual feature a slate of Republican presidential hopefuls. But the news just may be who isn't there. Citing scheduling conflicts, Sarah Palin has declined to serve as the keynote speaker at the annual conference that has become a who's who of social conservatives and politicians seeking to curry favor with that influential wing of the GOP.
Palm Beach Post: Mark Foley slowly coming back into GOP fold
Former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Foley held pariah status with many in the GOP after he abruptly resigned in 2006 over sexually charged e-mails to male congressional pages. Many Republicans said Foley’s disgrace a few weeks before the midterm elections helped Democrats take control of the House and the Senate from the GOP that year. But Foley — who launched a talk radio show last year and recently flirted with entering the nonpartisan mayor’s race in West Palm Beach — is slowly regaining acceptance among Republicans.
Kansas City Star: Graves won’t seek U.S. Senate seat in Missouri
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri said Thursday that he would not run next year for the U.S. Senate. Graves, a Republican, said his career in the House holds too much promise. …Graves, 47, had been prominently mentioned as a potential GOP candidate with the experience and connections to make a competitive run for the seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill.
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Politico: Gabrielle Giffords's husband Mark Kelly will command final shuttle flight
Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will fly the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in April, according to a source familiar with the decision. Kelly and NASA are expected to make an announcement at a press conference Friday.
CNN: Report: FBI, Army failures preceded Fort Hood massacre
FBI and Army officials repeatedly ignored multiple warning signs that could have prevented the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, according to a long-awaited report released Thursday by two U.S. senators.
USA Today: 20,000 military members, vets faced foreclosure in 2010
More than 20,000 veterans, active-duty troops and reservists who took out special government-backed mortgages lost their homes last year — the highest number since 2003.The rate of foreclosure filings in 2010 among 163 Zip codes located near military bases rose 32% over 2008, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure research firm. This compares with a 2010 increase in foreclosures filings nationally of 23% over 2008.
Christian Science Monitor: America's power grid too vulnerable to cyberattack, US report finds
America's power grid remains vulnerable to cyberattack, a result of sluggish implementation of weak computer security standards and insufficient federal oversight, says a tough new report from the US Department of Energy Inspector General.
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CNN: Mass protests planned for Friday as Mubarak holds on
One week ago, angry, disenfranchised and energized Egyptians emerged from Friday prayers, took to the streets and chanted, "Freedom!" "We want (Mubarak) to leave," said one 19-year-old man hours after the intense day of protests. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not gone, but his days are numbered. The leader agreed Tuesday to not seek re-election in September. He told ABC News Thursday he would like to step down right away, but cannot because he does not want to risk plunging his nation into chaos.
CNN: News coverage curbed as journalists are targeted in Cairo
Journalists attempting to cover unprecedented unrest in Egypt reported being beaten, arrested and harassed by security forces and police for a second day Thursday, leading to sharply limited television coverage of the protests.
CNN: Protests continue to ripple across Mideast, North Africa
Protests in Egypt have dominated international headlines of late, but signs of unrest are prevalent in several countries throughout the Middle East and Africa. Emboldened by an uprising in Tunisia, which saw the nation's president of almost a quarter century flee to Saudi Arabia, protesters have staged similar demonstrations from Lebanon to Yemen to Algeria.
Wall Street Journal: Israel Presses West on Peace Pact
Unnerved by the quickening collapse of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime, Israel is pressing the U.S. and other Western leaders to demand that any successor in Egypt preserve that country's peace accord with the Jewish state.
The Guardian: Pro-Mugabe militias blamed as Zimbabwe violence erupts
Violence has surged in Zimbabwe with reports of mob attacks, death threats, politically motivated arrests and at least one shooting ahead of possible elections, civil rights groups claim. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims youth militias loyal to Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party are "running amok" in poor townships, and accuses the police of siding with the offenders.
Washington Post: Haiti panel announces candidates for runoff presidential election
Many Haitians sighed with relief Thursday after election officials announced that former first lady Mirlande Manigat will face Michel Martelly, a carnival singer known as Sweet Micky, in a runoff presidential election next month. The long-delayed decision by Haiti's electoral council pushed government-backed candidate Jude Celestin out of the running. Celestin, a previously unknown bureaucrat who ran the state road-building agency, was the handpicked successor of sitting President Rene Preval, whose response to last year's disastrous earthquake and management of the slow recovery effort have disappointed many Haitians.
Daily Telegraph: WikiLeaks cables: MI6 warns of new suicide bomb wave
British-born radicals who undergo terrorist training and become “suicide operatives” will leave the authorities “hard pressed” to prevent an attack, according to a top counterterrorism official at the Secret Intelligence Service. The problem of home-grown terrorists is officially expected to blight Britain for years to come and “will not go away anytime soon”.
The Guardian: Greece pushes on reform as crucial EU summit to take place on Friday
Greece's beleaguered government, which as been buffeted by a barrage of strikes, faces one of its toughest tests yet as it prepares to pass reforms seen as pivotal to the country's economic recovery. Ahead of Friday's crucial EU summit, George Papandreou, the prime minister, has come under increasing pressure from unions and the professions. Both groups are vowing to step up their protests against the unprecedented efforts to liberalise the economy.
CNN: Prime Minister Thein Sein is Myanmar's new president
Myanmar's parliament elected Prime Minister Thein Sein to be the country's new president Friday. Tin Myint Oo and Sai Muak Kham will serve as vice presidents of Union Parliament. Myanmar convened its first parliament in more than two decades on Monday in the capital, Naypyidaw.
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Bloomberg: Egyptian Riots Add Pressure on OPEC With $100 Oil
OPEC is under pressure from consumers to boost supply as most of the world’s benchmark crudes surpass $100 a barrel amid political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. Oil prices are high enough to “derail” the global economic recovery, Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency said this week. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said last week prices nearer $75 would be “appropriate.” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has already raised output.
CNNMoney: Lawsuit: JPMorgan was warned on Madoff
JPMorgan Chase executives suspected that Bernard Madoff's investment strategy was actually a Ponzi scheme years prior to its collapse, but did nothing to stop it, according to the court-appointed trustee trying to recove assets stolen by Madoff.
Wall Street Journal: China Eyes U.S. Defense Contracts
The maker of China's new stealth fighter jet has teamed up with a tiny, unprofitable California company to try to launch bids for U.S. defense contracts, possibly including one to supply Chinese helicopters to replace the aging Marine One fleet used by the president, according to people involved in the partnership. Any Chinese bids for this or another contract under discussion would be certain to meet intense political resistance and would appear to have very little chance of success given mounting U.S. concern about China's military power and long-term strategic goals, and the often-prohibitive opposition in the past to Chinese attempts to enter other strategic U.S. sectors, such as energy and telecommunications.
Anchorage Daily News: Shell delays Alaska offshore exploration
Shell announced Thursday that it will again postpone its Arctic drilling program, this time to at least 2012, blaming "process" delays in obtaining an air pollution permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Peter Slaiby, Shell Alaska's vice president, said at a news conference in Anchorage that the decision to forgo exploratory drilling off Alaska's Arctic coast this summer means a loss of about 800 jobs.
In Case You Missed It
Sen. John McCain tells CNN's John King that a speedy transfer of power will help reduce violence in Egypt
CNN's Mary Snow looks at some of the economic factors behind unrest in Egypt.
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