POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 21, 2011
March 21st, 2011
04:40 AM ET
3 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 21, 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
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CNN: Obama works to shore up Arab support for Libyan airstrikes
President Obama and his national security team worked behind the scenes Sunday to try to shore up support within the Arab world for the military mission in Libya, with top White House aides reaching out to officials of the Arab League to insist the bombing does not exceed the scope of a U.N. mandate, according to senior administration officials. The senior officials described the Obama team's phone calls as making clear to the Arab League that bombing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses falls within the U.N. Security Council resolution's scope of imposing a no-fly zone and taking "all necessary measures" to stop the dictator from attacking civilians in his own country.

CNN: Obama barely mentions Libya as Boehner demands details
As the massive bombardment of Libya continued for a second day over 5,000 miles away from here, President Barack Obama delivered a speech that did not mention any specifics about the U.S. role in the military action despite Republican demands for him to better define the mission. "We’ve seen the people of Libya take a courageous stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own citizens," Obama said in a 25-minute address that only briefly mentioned Libya. "Across the region, we have seen young people rise up – a new generation demanding the right to determine their own future," added Obama. "From the beginning, we have made clear that the change they seek must be driven by their own people."

CNN: Graham: Time to ‘get rid’ of Gadhafi
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday condemned President Obama’s leadership over the situation in Libya, calling on the United States to “get rid of” Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. “We used to relish leading the free world, now it’s almost like leading the free world is an inconvenience,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think the president has caveated this way too much, it’s almost like it’s a nuisance.” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this is the “best chance to get rid of Gadhafi in my life.”

CNN: McCain: Obama waited too long in Libya
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona was critical of the president’s timetable for action in Libya, but said he is confident the American military will succeed. “He (President Obama) waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it. But now, it is what it is,” McCain said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” taped Friday. “We need now to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t – we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.”

CNN: Lugar questions U.S. involvement in Libya
Senator Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, on Sunday questioned the decision by the United States to pursue military action in Libya without clearly defined objectives, and expressed concern over the role of the U.S. in Libya's future. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "Where does our involvement stop? This is why, before it begins, we ought to have a plan and we ought to have outcomes defined as to why American forces, American money are going to be at stake."

CNN: Debate on U.S. nuclear energy heats up
American officials raised their own questions about the safety of nuclear power Sunday in light of the ongoing nuclear meltdown in Japan. Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a long-time critic of nuclear power, called for a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone regions. The situation in Japan “is calling into question the viability of nuclear power in the United States,” Markey said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We should just be humble in the face of Mother Nature.” Going forward, Markey said Congress should make it more difficult to pass loan guarantees for new nuclear plants in the United States.

CNN: Obama charms Brazilians during two-day visit, observers say
Brazil's cool and contentious relationship with the United States over trade and foreign policy has warmed a few degrees, analysts said Sunday, as President Barack Obama's visit appeared to charm officials and crowds during his two-day visit to South America's largest nation. Sustained applause echoed through Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Theatre as Obama spoke a few words in Portuguese, made allusions to Brazilian culture and drew parallels to U.S. history. "Our journeys began in similar ways," Obama said during the televised speech. "We became colonies claimed for distant crowns, but soon declared our independence. We welcomed waves of immigrants to our shores, and eventually cleansed the stain of slavery from our land," he said.

CNN: Obama addresses Iran youth, not leaders, in New Year message
President Barack Obama on Sunday used his annual commemoration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, to underscore his administration's repeated argument that the Iranian government is on the wrong side of the popular, pro-democracy movement sweeping across the region. "We all know that these movements for change are not unique to these last few months," stated Obama in a Sunday press release. "The same forces that swept across Tahrir Square were seen in Azadi Square in June of 2009."

CNN: Palin visits Israel as she mulls presidential run
Following in the footsteps of several other Republicans considering a presidential bid, Sarah Palin was in Jerusalem on Monday to meet with Israeli leaders. Other potential GOP candidates to visit Israel in recent months include Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, and Mike Huckabee. Palin is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with other politicians during her two-day visit, the Jerusalem Post reported. "As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel," Palin said in a message posted on her political action committee's website.

Roll Call: Loaning a Campaign Cash but Not Writing It Down
Members of Congress have discovered another way to err on their annual financial disclosure reports. More than a dozen Members have failed to disclose personal loans that they made to their campaigns — often omitting tens of thousands of dollars in assets from their reports in the process, a Roll Call analysis found. The review, which relied on campaign finance reports and financial disclosures filed with the House and Senate, included only current Members.

NATIONAL
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CNN: Hundreds protest miltary's treatment of WikiLeaks whistleblower
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the gates of Quantico Marine Base in Virginia Sunday to protest the treatment of Bradley Manning, who is being held at the base prison on charges that he released classified government documents to the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks. Among them were Daniel Ellsberg, the 1971 Pentagon Papers leaker and Retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, both of whom were arrested along with at least 31 other protesters, according to rally organizers. The 23-year-old Army private is accused of giving Wikileaks hundreds of thousands of classified military and State Department documents, and is awaiting a military decision on whether he will face a court martial.

USA Today: States rush to settle Medicaid bills
State governments are rushing to pay billions of dollars of medical bills before special federal assistance for Medicaid expires July 1. The hurry-up-and-pay effort will put an extra $1 billion or more into the pockets of financially struggling states — and increase the federal deficit by a similar amount. "States are paying bills as fast as they can," says Debra Miller, health care expert at the Council of State Governments. "It's kind of the opposite of what states traditionally do." To beat deadlines for reduced federal aid, states are writing checks swiftly, paying off backlogs of bills and asking hospitals and doctors to send in bills as fast as they can.

INTERNATIONAL
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CNN: Coalition targets Gadhafi compound
Airstrikes Sunday in the heart of Moammar Gadhafi's Tripoli compound had a military objective, but also no doubt brought a message of allied resolve to the Libyan leader's doorstep. A coalition military official confirmed to CNN that the compound was targeted because it contains capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces. The coalition's goal is to degrade Gadhafi's military capabilities. The official, who was not identified because of the sensitivity of the information, insisted that neither Gadhafi nor his residence was the intended target. The leader's whereabouts were not known.

CNN: Gates warns against widening Libya mission
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday the Libyan operation is off to "a strong and successful start" but he warned against widening the goals of the mission beyond what was spelled out in the United Nations Security Council resolution. He also brushed aside suggestions that there was a split inside the upper echelons of the Obama administration over whether to push forward with military action, saying there had been what he called unanimous agreement. "Whatever positions people took in that debate, and in that discussion, there was unanimous support for the approach the president had decided on," Gates said on board the plane taking him on a previously scheduled trip to Russia. The defense secretary delayed his trip by a day just after the start of the Libyan offensive.

CNN: Workers see some success at nuclear plant as cooling efforts continue
Crews resumed spraying water at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility early Monday, Kyodo News reported, one day after the Japanese government slapped restrictions on some food produced around the plant. Workers have begun to see some success in their battle to cool down the reactors, but Japanese officials said they may need to release additional radioactive gas into the air. The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said electricity was being supplied to a switchboard in reactor No. 2. But officials said they were monitoring reactor No. 3 to determine whether to release gas to reduce mounting pressure in the containment vessel - the steel and concrete shell that insulates radioactive material inside.

CNN: Japan restricts milk, vegetables produced near damaged nuclear plant
Japan slapped restrictions on some food produced in two provinces around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Sunday after high levels of radioactivity turned up in spinach and milk. However, Dr. James Cox, professor of radiation oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said the reported levels posed little or no health concerns. "The immediate risk in terms of health effects are probably nonexistent, and the long-term risk is very low," said Cox, a CNN consultant. Nonetheless, the Japanese government has banned the sale of raw milk from Fukushima Prefecture, where the Fukushima Daiichi plant is located, and prohibited the sale of spinach from neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture after finding levels of radioactive iodine and cesium higher than government standards, the country's Health Ministry reported. And officials in Fukushima halted the distribution of locally grown vegetables outside the prefecture.

CNN: 10 miners killed in Pakistan blast
At least 10 miners were killed by a methane gas explosion in a coal mine in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Sunday, a government official told CNN. Another 40 are missing, possibly dead, said Muhammad Iftikhar, the chief inspector of mines. "It is yet to be confirmed whether the remaining miners are dead or alive," he said. "I fear that they might be dead considering the depth of the mine."

CNN: Bahrain's King: Foreign plot to destabilize country foiled
Bahrain has foiled a foreign plot to destabilize it, the country's king said Sunday. King Hamad said the plot had been in the making for more than two decades - but did not name a country that he believed was trying to carry it out. Bahrain's Sunni Muslim monarchy has long suspected Iran of attempting to foment unrest among the island's majority-Shiite population. Relations have been tense in recent weeks as anti-government protesters have taken to the streets of Manama and Iran has condemned Bahrain's violent crackdown.

CNN: Egyptians approve constitutional changes, clearing way for elections
Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional amendments that pave the way for parliamentary elections in June, according to the head of the judicial committee overseeing the referendum. "We are proud of the Egyptian people for deciding their own destiny," Judge Mahmoud Atiya said Sunday. "We assure the world that the March 19 referendum was fair and transparent at all stages." Of the 18,366,764 ballots cast Saturday, there were 14,192,577 "yes" votes and 4,174,187 "no" votes, Atiya said.

CNN: Haitians pick president amid uncertainty, turmoil
Voting in the second round of Haiti's presidential runoff was mostly calm Sunday, although two shooting deaths were linked to election violence, according to the head of Haiti's national police. Some irregularities and shortages of election materials were resolved and voters were given an extra hour to cast ballots, the electoral council said. A police officer was arrested in Port-de-Paix Sunday morning because he was telling people how to vote, according to Mario Andresol, the head of the national police. Andresol offered no detail on the shootings that he said were election related.

Seattle Times: Der Spiegel publishes photos of U.S. soldiers with slain Afghan
The German news organization Der Spiegel has published three photos depicting disturbing images taken by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that the Army had sought to keep secret during prosecution of a war-crimes case at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. One shows two Afghans who appear to be dead, leaned up against a post. The other two photos show two soldiers, who are accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in January 2010, kneeling next to the body of the slain man, who is stretched out prone on the sand and grass.

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

CNNMoney: Oil jumps $2 as Libya crisis escalates
Oil prices jumped more than $2 a barrel in electronic trading Sunday following escalating violence in Libya, where the military called for an immediate cease-fire after allied forces fired on Libyan defense sites. "It seems like things have stepped up and that means more uncertainty," said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst with Cameron Hanover. "Every incident that you have expands [uncertainty]." The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, for April delivery gained $1.95 to $103.02 a barrel. The more active May contract jumped $2.08 to $103.93 a barrel.

CNNMoney: Gas prices climb nearly 7 cents a gallon
Gas prices have jumped nearly seven cents a gallon over the past two weeks, reaching a level more than 75 cents higher than they were a year ago, according to a survey published Sunday. The average price for a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.57, the Lundberg Survey found. That's 6.65 cents higher than the price the same survey found two weeks earlier. The latest spike suggests that the dramatic price increases are slowing down, said publisher Trilby Lundberg. Between February 18 and March 4, the survey had found an increase of about 33 cents. That hike corresponded to an increase in crude oil prices amid unrest in more than a dozen countries in the Middle East and north Africa, six of which are OPEC members, Lundberg said.

CNN: AT&T acquires T-Mobile USA in $39 billion deal
AT&T will acquire T-Mobile USA from telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom for an estimated $39 billion in cash and stocks, the companies said in a joint release Sunday. The acquisition will expand AT&T's 4G network 1.2 million square miles and will be accessible to an additional 46.5 million Americans, the statement said. AT&T also expects to gain enough cell towers to increase its network density by 30%. "This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation's future," AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said in a statement.

In Case You Missed It

CNN's Jill Dougherty reports on the crucial role Hillary Clinton plays in shaping U.S. policy on the Libyan crisis.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/20/pkg.dougherty.libya.diplomacy.cnn

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