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: Wisconsin gov: Democratic senator's border meeting idea 'ridiculous'
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday dismissed as "ridiculous" a letter from a Democratic state Senate leader who suggested a meeting "near the Wisconsin-Illinois border" to discuss the state's budget impasse. Sen. Mark Miller sent the letter to Walker on Monday, offering a border summit as a way to resume stalled negotiations on the state's budget. Miller and 13 other Democratic senators left Wisconsin for Illinois on February 17 to prevent a vote on a budget plan that includes limits on public bargaining. But Walker said top Republican lawmakers and even members of his own staff have already met repeatedly with some of senators, including one meeting over hot chocolate at a McDonald's restaurant. Walker said the talks seemed to be making progress and the Democrats' return seemed imminent.
Indianapolis Star: Democrats may be out for the long haul
One House Democrat says his party will continue its standoff for "as long as it takes" to win concessions from Republicans on bills involving labor unions and public schools - even if it means a government shutdown this summer. Legislative leaders in both parties said they hope Indiana is not facing that sort of doomsday scenario. But no one seemed to have a plan yet on how to avoid it. Shrugging off the $250 per day fines being levied against them, Democrats began their third week at an Urbana, Ill., hotel Monday. Their goal: deny House Republicans the quorum of 67 lawmakers to do business in order to stop bills that would weaken collective bargaining and shift funds from public to private schools.
New York Times: Florida Republicans at Odds With Their Leader
Rick Scott, the conservative Republican billionaire who plucked the governor’s job from the party establishment in November with $73 million of his own money and the backing of the Tea Party, vowed during his campaign to run the troubled state like a corporate chief executive (which he was) and not a politician (which he proudly says he is not). And now it has become a problem, some of his fellow Republicans say. “The governor doesn’t understand there is a State Constitution and that we have three branches of government,” said State Senator Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey who upset Mr. Scott with rough handling of his staff during a testy committee hearing.
Washington Post: 'Gang of 6' senators launch public campaign to support deficit reduction
While Washington bickers noisily over cutting a small slice of the federal budget, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, launched a campaign Monday to convince the public that merely cutting spending will do little to tame the $14 trillion national debt. The nation will be "up the creek" economically, Warner told a crowd of more than 200 lobbyists and business leaders in Richmond, unless Congress and the White House come together in support of highly unpopular measures such as raising taxes and overhauling Social Security and Medicare. Even as congressional debate in recent years has been crippled by partisan rancor, Warner and Chambliss have entered quiet talks with four other senators from both parties in hopes of forging a compromise that could lead toward a more affordable government.
CNN: Obama orders resumption of military commissions at Guantanamo
President Barack Obama announced Monday that the United States will resume using military commissions to prosecute alleged terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility. In the announcement, the president said his administration remains committed to closing the controversial detention facility but will rescind its previous suspension on bringing new charges before military commissions. The commissions are military proceedings rather than trials in civilian courts. Obama also called for prosecuting Guantanamo detainees in U.S. criminal courts when appropriate, and issued an executive order calling for periodic reviews of suspects held under indefinite detention.
Washington Post: A successor to Gates is a quandary for Obama
On five occasions the past three weeks, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has tried to nail down his departure from the Pentagon by telling members of Congress in budget hearings and in speeches to cadets at West Point and the Air Force Academy that this would be his final appearance before them in his present role. President Obama and other senior officials have privately been pressing Gates to stay on – at least through the end of the first term – because no one else can guarantee implementation of the budget cuts and institutional changes that the defense secretary has set in motion. Gates, along with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been working and traveling at an extraordinary pace. "He is tired," a longtime Gates friend told me recently. In addition, he does not want to be an issue in next year's presidential campaign.
CNN: Handicappers: Ensign retirement doesn't alter state of race as of now
Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada's announcement Monday that he won't run for re-election next year is apparently not changing the political landscape, as of now. In the wake of Ensign's announcement, neither of two of the top non-partisan political handicappers are changing their rankings of the race for the now open Senate seat in Nevada. The two-term senator and one-time rising star in the Republican party admitted last June to an extramarital affair with Cindy Hampton, his onetime campaign treasurer. She is the wife of Doug Hampton, a former top aide to the senator. In a statement from Las Vegas Monday, Ensign said "I have learned through my mistake, there are consequences to sin."
CNN: GOP contenders make early pitch to Iowa evangelicals
There was no "truce" in Iowa on Monday night. While the national political debate continues to swirl around the state of the economic recovery, five Republicans with their eyes on the White House spent the evening in a Des Moines suburb pitching themselves to the evangelical Christians who dominate the Hawkeye State's crucial first-in-the-nation caucuses. The potential candidates made their appeals at a forum sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, the first major Iowa gathering of the 2012 election cycle. The organization seeks to promote "high moral values" and "Christian principles" in public life.
CNN: Trump hits back, slams Sen. Lamar Alexander
Donald Trump said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander should “stop trying to get free publicity on the back of Donald Trump” on Monday, a day after the Tennessee senator told CNN that Trump has "absolutely no chance of winning" a presidential race. “Sen. Lamar Alexander, who I do not know and have heard very little about over the years, perhaps because of a certain ineffectiveness, has recently stolen my line, word for word, about [Texas Rep.] Ron Paul, by stating that ‘Donald Trump has absolutely no chance of winning’ in a Presidential contest,” Trump said in a statement.
Roll Call: Huntsman Is ‘Not Considered a Conservative’
“I think he should run as a Democrat.” Though not unanimous, this view of Jon Huntsman offered by Utah tea party activist Darcy Van Orden runs deep in Beehive State conservative circles and could represent Huntsman’s single biggest barrier to winning the Republican presidential nomination. Interviews with more than a half-dozen Utah conservatives, including one Republican consultant, two GOP state legislators and three tea party activists, reveal Huntsman as an intelligent, gifted politician with extraordinary charisma who fell out of favor with his party’s base for a perception that he drifted to the left on key fiscal and social issues.
CNN: Source: Obama to nominate Locke as U.S. Ambassador to China
President Barack Obama will nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the next U.S. ambassador to China to succeed Jon Huntsman, who will step down on April 30, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Monday. Locke is a former two-term governor of Washington and the first Chinese-American to be commerce secretary, according to the Commerce Department website.
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Should the USDA make Dietary Guidelines while it promotes meat and dairy industry?
We say "milk," "meat," "cheese" and "ice cream." The U.S. Department of Agriculture seems to prefer the term "saturated fat." And therein lies a big problem, says a complaint filed in February by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit organization says the Dietary Guidelines released Jan. 31 make it clearer than ever that the USDA's responsibility for promoting agricultural interests puts it at inherent odds with its job of safeguarding Americans' health.
CNN: Florida congressman sued for alleged sexual harassment
The conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch filed suit Monday against Florida Democratic congressman Alcee Hastings, accusing him of sexually harassing a onetime female staffer during an assignment to Vienna, Austria. The civil case filed at U.S. District Court in Washington is on behalf of Winsome Packer, who not only alleges the congressman sexually harassed her but claims that her affiliation with the Republican Party was used against her when Hastings retaliated following her complaints.
National Journal: Dole: Give Last WWI Vet Buckles the Capitol Rotunda Honors
In life, he was an unassuming West Virginia farmer. But in death, Frank Buckles, the last remaining American veteran of World War I, has acquired a powerful advocate. Bob Dole, the former Senate Republican leader and one-time GOP presidential nominee, said Monday that Buckles' remains should lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. "It's the end of an era, so to speak," Dole told National Journal. "It was a war that changed the world, in effect, and it should be recognized. I hope and I think it is going to happen."
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CNN: Feds try to force Arizona shooting suspect to give writing sample
Federal prosecutors are pushing to force the Arizona man accused of fatally gunning down six people and wounding 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, to submit a handwriting sample - a request that he, thus far, has refused. A motion was filed Monday, out of the office of U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Arizona, asking the court to compel Jared Lee Loughner to write out something so authorities can view his writing style. The government wants the sample to compare with handwritten notes found in Loughner's residence that include mentions of Giffords "as well as references to guns and bullets," according to a court document. It says he has resisted such requests to date, "arguing that the court lacks authority" to force him to provide a sample.
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CNN: Gadhafi launches airstrikes as civil war rages in Libya
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi took aim at the rebel-controlled town of Ras Lanuf Monday, launching aerial strikes as part of an assault aimed at crushing the uprising against him. At the end of the third week of unrest - protests began February 15 - Gadhafi's aerial forces targeted the main road heading into the oil town after launching another air strike earlier, five kilometers southeast of the city. In what has turned into a civil war, members of the opposition fired anti-aircraft guns toward Gadhafi's planes.
CNN: NATO starts 24/7 surveillance of Libya
NATO has launched around-the-clock surveillance flights of Libya as it considers various options for dealing with escalating violence in the war-torn country, America's ambassador to the organization told reporters Monday. Representatives of key Western powers also highlighted the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone in Libya - part of growing campaign to break strongman Moammar Gadhafi's grip on power.
CNN: Blast at refueling station kills at least 13 in Pakistan
At least 13 people were killed and 35 others wounded when a bomb went off at a compressed natural gas station in Pakistan's Punjab province Tuesday, officials said. An explosive device was planted at the pump in Faisalabad, said City Commissioner Tahir Hussain. And when it went off, it triggered a second explosion in the gas station, he said. The station is located close to several government buildings, he said. Hussain put the death toll at 13 and the number of wounded at 35. Officials fear the numbers may rise.
CNN: 23 oil workers kidnapped in Colombia
Troops are searching for 23 oil workers kidnapped by armed men in eastern Colombia, the country's army said in a statement. The kidnapping was reported around 4 p.m. Monday in Colombia's Vichada province, the army said. Authorities said it appeared those responsible were members of the FARC leftist guerrilla group. Army officials said the victims were working for Canada-based Talisman Energy. In a statement released late Monday, Talisman confirmed that 22 employees of seismic contractor South American Exploration were kidnapped. The workers were Colombian nationals, "and most are members of the indigenous communities of the area," Talisman's statement said.
The Guardian: Police chiefs: we will lose 28,000 staff
Police chiefs have privately told ministers that a total of 28,000 jobs will be lost from the 43 forces in England and Wales because of government funding cuts, the Guardian has learned. The confidential calculation from the Association of Chief Police Officers is the most authoritative so far about the effects on police numbers caused by a 20% reduction in government grants, and the first from police chiefs to be made public. It predicts the number of officers will fall by 12,000, while civilian staff will have to be cut by 16,000, several sources say.
CNN: Source: Former Mexican police chief is in the U.S.
Marisol Valles Garcia, the former police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Mexico, who took office when she was just 20 years old, is in the United States, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement told CNN Monday. "Marisol Valles Garcia is in the United States and she will have the opportunity to present the facts of her case before an impartial immigration judge. Absent a signed privacy waiver, there are no additional details," the official said. Authorities in the municipality of Praxedis last week denied published reports that she was in the United States and would seek asylum.
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CNNMoney: Oil and gold: Rally won't last
Oil above $100! Gold hitting new records! Don't fear the headlines. Most market experts think oil and gold prices will settle down as the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East region subsides. In fact, a majority of investment strategists and money managers are leaving their year-end forecasts unchanged, according to an exclusive CNNMoney survey. On average, experts expect gold and oil prices to edge up about 4% by the end of 2011. That would put oil at around $95 a barrel and gold just under $1,500 an ounce by the end of the year. Crude prices started the year around $91 a barrel, while gold was at $1,420.
Financial Times: OPEC rushes to raise oil output
Influential members of Opec, the oil cartel, are joining Saudi Arabia in raising output to cool soaring prices and allay fears of a supply crunch in the west. The behind-the-scenes move by Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria reflects growing unease among Opec members over the threat to the global economic recovery from crude's runaway rise amid the worsening crisis in Libya.
CNNMoney: Startup rate at 15-year high
Necessity is the mother of invention: In this economy, if you can't find a job, make one. That seems to be the strategy of many people lately: The percent of Americans starting businesses in 2010 and 2009 was the highest in 15 years, according to a report from the Kauffman Foundation released Monday. Last year, 340 of every 100,000 adults launched a business each month, creating 565,000 startups monthly, the report found. That was the same percentage as 2009, when 558,000 new businesses a month were created. Continued high unemployment as a result of the Great Recession is driving the trend, according to Kauffman.
CNNMoney: Subway beats McDonald's to become top restaurant chain
Move over, Mickey D's, and bring Ronald McDonald with you - there's a new fast food king in town. Subway has surpassed McDonald's to become the world's largest restaurant chain in terms of units, the sandwich company confirmed Monday. Subway had 33,749 restaurants around the globe at the end of 2010, said company spokesman Les Winograd. McDonald's had 32,737 at year end, according to a February regulatory filing from the burger giant. "Last year was actually pretty average for us, growth-wise," Winograd said. "We aim to open between 1,000 and 2,000 locations globally each year."
In Case You Missed It
Republican Sen. Richard Lugar tells CNN's John King why he believes the U.S. shouldn't intervene in Libya.
Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson spoke to Wolf Blitzer about increasing fuel prices.
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