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: Emotions fly at controversial hearing on Muslim Americans
A controversial congressional hearing Thursday on the radicalization of Muslim Americans touched on sensitive questions involving terrorism and tolerance a decade after the 9/11 attacks. At times emotional and theatrical, the four-hour session of the House Homeland Security Committee included calls from moderate Muslims for support in overcoming extremists seeking to indoctrinate their children, as well as protests from Democratic legislators who complained the hearing unfairly implicated all Muslims for the criminal acts of a small minority. In the end, committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York, said the hearing that generated widespread media coverage "actually went a lot easier than it could have." He blamed what he called the "mindless, baseless hysteria in the media" in preceding weeks for the controversy, and promised additional hearings in coming months, with the next perhaps focusing on the radicalization of Muslims in U.S. prisons.
CNN: Gadhafi likely to survive revolt, U.S. intelligence chief says
The United States plans to send "purely humanitarian" disaster relief teams into eastern Libya, where rebels battling longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi may be losing ground in that country's civil war, top U.S. officials said Thursday. White House National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon told reporters that the U.S. Agency for International Development teams will be sent into monitor the delivery of humanitarian aid and should not be viewed as a military operation. "It can in no way shape or form be seen as military intervention," Donilon said. The teams will assess that humanitarian aid is being delivered, he said, adding, "This is purely humanitarian to better assist in a humanitarian way the people of Libya." Donilon's announcement came as officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East are debating whether to aid rebel forces, who have been battling to topple Gadhafi since mid-February. But in a blunt assessment to Congress, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Gadhafi's advantage in military force makes him likely to survive the revolt.
CNN: Clapper stands by Libya remarks; GOP senator says he should resign
A spokeswoman for James Clapper said the embattled director of national intelligence stands by remarks he made Thursday "about the current military situation in Libya" that prompted a leading Republican senator to call for his resignation. The Obama administration also said Clapper still has its "full faith and confidence." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement criticizing Clapper's testimony, made during a committee hearing earlier in the day, that Moammar Gadhafi's regime would "prevail" over rebels seeking to oust the 68-year-old dictator from power in Libya. "His comments will make the situation more difficult for those opposing Gadhafi," said Graham, adding they undercut U.S. efforts and should not have been made in a public forum.
CNN: Wisconsin Assembly passes bill to curb collective bargaining
After weeks of demonstrations in the state capital, Wisconsin Republicans cleared a final hurdle to a controversial proposal on Thursday after the state's Assembly passed an amended version of a bill that would curtail the bargaining rights of most state workers. The vote was 53-42 in favor of the bill. "I applaud all members of the Assembly for showing up, debating the legislation and participating in democracy," Gov. Scott Walker said in a written statement. State Senate Republicans had approved the amended version Wednesday night, despite the absence of 14 Democratic senators who fled the state to prevent a necessary quorum of 20 votes. The amended bill stripped the spending components out of the original proposal, enabling lawmakers to pass the measure with fewer votes.
Politico: Rick Santorum could be unlikely Iowa force
He barely registers in most early polling. He was crushed at the polls five years ago when he sought reelection. He even acknowledges the widespread belief that he can’t possibly win the Republican presidential nomination. And yet Rick Santorum could alter the course of the Iowa caucuses. National Republicans may scoff at the notion that Santorum — whose Senate career ended in 2006 with an 18-point loss — could be a player, but he’s signed up strategists here who know the state well, and veteran Iowa activists think he could have an opening.
CNN: Pelosi 'pretty confident' that health care law will stay intact
Nearly a year after Congress passed health care reform and the President signed it into law House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she's "pretty confident" the law will stand. "I feel pretty confident about it, because this is a very balanced bill despite the misrepresentations that were made about it," Pelosi said when asked during a Capitol Hill news conference how confident she is that the law will stay intact. Pelosi's muted response to the question was in stark contrast to Democrats' celebratory mood just a year ago when they passed the bill.
CNN: Boehner: Obama causing energy costs to rise
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that the Obama administration is exacerbating rising energy costs and adding an extra financial burden to struggling American families and small businesses. "The Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower costs and create jobs in our country," Boehner said at a press conference announcing a House GOP initiative to push for more domestic energy production. "They've canceled new leases for exploration, jeopardized our nuclear energy industry, and imposed a de facto moratorium on future drilling in our country. They've even pushed a cap-and-trade energy tax that the president himself admitted would cause the price of energy to skyrocket," Boehner said.
CNN: Bad weather grounds Romney but doesn't prevent big endorsement
Bad weather prevented Mitt Romney from making it to Tallahassee, Florida Thursday, but it didn't prevent him from scoring an important endorsement. State Senator John Thrasher, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, says he's ready to throw his support to Romney if the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate makes another run for the White House, as expected. "If Governor Romney decides to run for President in 2012, I will absolutely be supporting him and helping him in Florida," Thrasher said in an email to the Florida Times-Union. "He would be a great GOP nominee."
CNN: Daniels explains call for social truce
In a new web video released Thursday potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels called his suggestion that potential Republican candidates declare a truce on social issues in the next election "a tactical suggestion." In an interview with "Uncommon Knowledge," a webcast in conjunction with the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, the Indiana governor said avoiding moral issues during the primaries would prevent the party from alienating voters: "all I was really saying was I don't want to lose one person."
The Hill: Republican courts TV's Morning Joe for Florida Senate challenge
Republicans in Washington are trying to recruit Joe Scarborough to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told The Hill on Thursday that he has talked to Scarborough a couple times about a Senate bid. And he indicated he’s still working on persuading the MSNBC host to run for the upper chamber. “I’d be delighted to talk to him a third time,” Cornyn said.
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CNN: Army disciplines nine for not flagging Fort Hood suspect
The secretary of the U.S. Army has disciplined nine officers for failing to warn of problems with Maj. Nidal Hasan - accused of committing the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, shootings - before he was assigned to Fort Hood. Secretary John McHugh's move comes after the service reviewed the circumstances leading up to the Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 people were killed and 43 others were wounded. McHugh "initiated adverse administrative action against nine officers for administrative and leadership failures relating to the career" of Hasan, according to an Army statement released Thursday. The officers were not identified. The Army statement said the severity of the discipline varied depending on the actions of each officer.
Wall Street Journal: Families Slice Debt to Lowest in 6 Years
U.S. families—by defaulting on their loans and scrimping on expenses—shouldered a smaller debt burden in 2010 than at any point in the previous six years, putting them in position to start spending more. Total U.S. household debt, including mortgages and credit cards, fell for the second straight year in 2010 to $13.4 trillion, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. That came to 116% of disposable income, down from a peak debt burden of 130% in 2007, and the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2004. With the help of rising stock prices, the decrease in debts put average household net worth at $505,000 at the end of 2010, up 5.1% from 2009, though still well below a peak of $595,000 in the second quarter of 2007, before housing prices plunged.
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CNN: Massive 8.9 quake, tsunamis hit Japan
An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan on Friday, triggering tsunamis and sending a massive body of water filled with debris that included boats and houses inching toward highways. The epicenter was 373 kilometers (231 miles) away from the capital, Tokyo, the United States Geological Survey said. But residents there felt the tremors. The quake rattled buildings and toppled cars off bridges and into waters underneath. Waves of debris flowed like lava across farmland, pushing boats, houses and trailers toward highways. In Tokyo, crowds gathered in the streets and tried to reach relatives via cell phone.
CNN: Libyan government forces retake Zawiya
Libya's ragtag rebels in Zawiya succumbed Thursday to better armed and organized government soldiers after enduring a week of attacks that left the coastal city strewn with the debris of war. The city's main Martyrs' Square was littered with the bombed-out, scorched carcasses of army tanks and other military vehicles. Workers were sweeping up the evidence as supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi chanted slogans and waved green flags. “Today Zawiya, tomorrow Benghazi," ITV News' Bill Neely said a Gadhafi supporteer told him in a reference to Libya's main rebel-held city in the east.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Raid Kills Karzai Cousin
An American-led special forces team killed an older cousin of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday in a night raid that aggravates tensions between the Afghan leader and the U.S. over civilian deaths. Mr. Karzai's office criticized the assault and renewed a call for U.S. forces to end night raids, a sensitive issue in Afghanistan. "This case reaffirms the fact that night raids can be very devastating to the cause that we all jointly pursue," said Waheed Omar, Mr. Karzai's chief spokesman. The killing of Mr. Karzai's cousin came days after the U.S.-led military sparked an outcry with an errant airstrike in eastern Afghanistan that killed nine Afghan children cutting firewood. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a personal apology for the incident after an angry condemnation by Mr. Karzai.
New York Times: U.S. Removes Diplomat Over Comments Angering Japan
A top American diplomat, Kevin K. Maher, has been removed from his post after stirring outrage in Japan for reportedly belittling Okinawans, a State Department official said Thursday. The United States ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, flew to Okinawa on Thursday to apologize in person to the governor of the island, said the official, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell. Okinawa hosts about half of the 50,000 American military personnel in Japan. According to Japanese news reports, Mr. Maher told students at American University in Washington during a lecture in December that the Okinawans were “masters of manipulation and extortion.” Mr. Maher, who was head of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, has called the news reports inaccurate and incomplete.
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CNN: NFL owners, players face midnight deadline
NFL owners and the players union have until 11:59 p.m. ET Friday to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The parties have already extended the deadline for the talks twice. The most recent was a seven-day extension. Without a last-minute agreement or the extension of the deadline, the NFL Players Association could decertify on Friday - meaning it would stop being the collective bargaining agent for the players. By decertifying, the union would clear the way for the players to file an antitrust lawsuit if the owners lock out the players. All of that would mean the first NFL work stoppage since 1987 and the likelihood of months of labor and legal maneuvering for football fans already confused about how a $9 billion industry lacks enough money to satisfy everyone.
CNN: U.S. takes over three Tylenol plants
The government is taking over three Tylenol plants following a blizzard of drug recalls and a Food and Drug Administration criminal investigation into safety issues at the factories. The FDA and the Justice Department on Thursday took action against McNeil PPC and two of its executives - its vice president of quality and its vice president of operations for over-the-counter products - for failing to comply with federally-mandated manufacturing practice. McNeil, a division of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, Fortune 500), said it had agreed to put its plants - one in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, one in Fort Washington, Pa. and one in Lancaster, Pa., under FDA supervision. The agreement, known as a "consent decree," is subject to approval by a federal judge in Pennsylvania.
In Case You Missed It
Rep. Peter King talks with CNN after the first day of controversial hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community.
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