POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
March 23rd, 2011
05:28 AM ET
4 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, March 23, 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
For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: Obama hopes resurgent Libyan opposition can topple Gadhafi
President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed hope that Libya's opposition movement, given new protection by a U.S.-led military mission, can organize itself to revive broad enthusiasm for political change and oust Moammar Gadhafi from power. In a 13-minute interview with CNN's Spanish-language network, Obama said the immediate goal of the U.N.-sanctioned military mission that began Saturday was to prevent an onslaught of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi by Gadhafi's military. "Because the international community rallied, his troops have now pulled back from Benghazi," Obama said.

CNN: Santorum: Obama 'missed an opportunity' in Libya
Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania on Tuesday criticized President Obama's approach to the ongoing situation in Libya. Appearing on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," the potential 2012 candidate said Obama has been "disengaged" and should have acted earlier to institute a no-fly zone in the African country. "The president hesitated, not even hesitated, he did nothing. He sort of sat back, made no comment," Santorum said. "He really missed an opportunity to be a positive force."

CNN: Obama playing defense over Libya
In the end, President Barack Obama apparently decided that photos of himself touring historic remnants of a collapsed society might not be the best image for a commander in chief fending off charges even from Democrats that his Libya policy is in shambles. The controversy over the decision to use U.S. military force has gotten so intense that at a news conference here Tuesday, Obama calmly pushed back at his critics by declaring the effort to stem the humanitarian crisis in Libya has paid important dividends by avoiding a massacre of civilians. "We have already saved lives," Obama said at a joint news conference here with President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador.

CNN: Brown breaks with party on Planned Parenthood debate
Republican Sen. Scott Brown said Tuesday he disagrees with the Republican House effort to cut off support for Planned Parenthood as part of the ongoing budget negotiations. "I support family planning and health services for women. Given our severe budget problems, I don't believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts," the Massachusetts senator said in a statement. "However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate."

CNN: Dems 'drive' for GOP seats
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is pressing forward with its "Drive to 25" campaign to win 25 House seats in 2012. Tuesday the DCCC announced the release of newspaper ads, e-mail, and recorded phone call initiatives that hit House Republicans on Budget Chair Paul Ryan's aim to include cuts to entitlement programs in the budget coming from the majority party. The ad isolates ten House districts including Ryan, eight freshmen congressmen including Tea Party darlings Allen West of Florida as well as Wisconsin's Sean Duffy, and 21-term veteran Bill Young of Florida. The DCCC did not respond to requests on how large their ad buy is.

CNN: Gov. Jerry Brown tells California voters to 'make the hard choice'
Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown is calling for a special election on July 7th, where voters will decide between tax extensions or to double up on cuts in state services, in an effort to combat budget woes plaguing the state. Brown highlights California's budget quandary in a YouTube video, where he places responsibility in the hands of California voters. "In order to really put our books in balance we need to make drastic cuts" Brown said, adding that, "I don't want to do that, and I don't think it should be done to you without your voice," Brown said.

NATIONAL
For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: Soldier accused of killing Afghan citizens to stand trial
The trial of a soldier accused of killing Afghan citizens for sport is scheduled to begin Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Spc. Jeremy Morlock is charged with three counts of murder. He is accused of killing one Afghan civilian in January 2010 with a grenade and rifle; killing another in May 2010 in a similar manner; and shooting a third to death in February 2010. Morlock is one of two U.S. soldiers who are scheduled to be tried at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Pfc. Andrew Holmes, is also facing charges in the case but a start date for his court martial has not been publicly announced.

Los Angeles Times: Report faults Army in 2001 anthrax mailings
The Army scientist believed responsible for the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that killed five people and crippled mail delivery in parts of the country had exhibited alarming mental problems that military officials should have noticed and acted on long before he had a chance to strike, a panel of behavioral analysts has found. The anthrax attacks, the nation's worst bioterrorism event, "could have been anticipated — and prevented," the panel said. The analysts also concluded that confidential records documenting Bruce E. Ivins' psychiatric history offered "considerable additional circumstantial evidence" that he was indeed the anthrax killer. A copy of the panel's 285-page report was obtained by The Times.

Arizona Republic: Birthright citizenship ban could hamper U.S. military recruiting
Hundreds of thousands of children born to illegal immigrants every year would no longer be eligible to join the military if efforts to restrict birthright citizenship are successful. That has some immigration experts concerned that ending birthright citizenship could exacerbate chronic shortages of U.S. troops and hamper national security in the future. "What happens is, if you take all these people out of the (recruiting) pool, it's going to have a huge impact on the military," said Margaret Stock, a retired Army Reserves lieutenant colonel and immigration attorney in Anchorage, Alaska. She specializes in military cases and has testified before Congress on immigration issues related to the military.

Wall Street Journal: Public Employees Rush to Retire
Public employees are retiring at a quickening pace around the U.S., providing a mixed blessing for state and local governments seeking to save money. The retirements mean employers can shelve some planned layoffs. And some of the departing workers, generally more senior and higher paid, are being replaced by lower-paid employees with less-generous retirement benefits, government officials say. But the loss of veterans threatens to erode the quality of public services that make communities attractive, they say. The exodus of public employees is an unintended consequence of states' financial struggles. Some workers have been required to take unpaid furlough days, and many fear they'll lose benefits at the center of political battles.

Washington Post: FBI probing package with explosives left at Detroit federal building for 3 weeks
The FBI is investigating a suspicious package containing explosives left unattended by security guards for three weeks inside a 26-story federal building in Detroit, according to law enforcement officials. The package, containing “explosive components,” is at the FBI crime lab in Quantico for further testing as a federal investigation continues, according to FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtol. …A law enforcement source said a private security guard brought the suspicious package into the building, where it remained, unopened and unscreened, for about three weeks. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said guards thought the package might have belonged to someone on a construction crew working outside the building.

CNN: Report: Fewer U.S. high schools are 'dropout factories'
Some of the worst high schools in the United States are getting better, according to a study released Tuesday. Quoting numbers from the Department of Education, the report says that the number of "dropout factories" or high schools that graduated 60% or fewer of their students in four years, decreased by 112 between 2008 and 2009. That still leaves more than 1,600 schools in the nation meeting "dropout factory" criteria, according to the "Building a Grad Nation" report, but it states, "it is noteworthy that urban and rural schools that had proven to be the most challenging to reform are showing, at least in some locales, signs of forward movement."

INTERNATIONAL
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CNN: U.S. aviators rescued; Gadhafi remains defiant
As Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi crowed, "I do not scare," the United States Tuesday got back two crew members whose F-15E fighter jet malfunctioned and said it will be able to hand over command of the coalition that has hammered loyalist military positions over four days. Meanwhile, fighting raged in Misrata, east of the capital, where a witness claimed Gadhafi has placed snipers on the tops of buildings. Also Tuesday, the commander of U.S. Naval forces in Europe and Africa said multinational air strikes would continue until Gadhafi complies with a United Nations mandate to stop attacking civilians.

CNN: Questions over next steps strain a coalition barely formed
With the no-fly zone now in place in the skies over parts of Libya, the hastily-assembled coalition of nations enforcing it is straining under decisions about next steps, and who should be in the lead. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy to review the situation in Libya, with the White House reporting they "agreed on the means of using NATO's command structures to support the coalition" but giving no immediate details. Obama also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to a Downing Street spokesman who said the two leaders agreed "that NATO should play a key role in the command structure going forward, and that these arrangements now needed to be finalized."

CNN: Vegetables near stricken plant test high for radiation
Japan's Health Ministry reported Tuesday finding radioactive materials at levels "drastically exceeding legal limits" in 11 types of vegetable grown in Fukushima Prefecture, including broccoli and cabbage, according to Kyodo News Agency. None of the vegetables has been shipped since Monday, it said. The news agency, citing the ministry, said, "If a person eats 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of the vegetable with the largest detected amount of radioactive materials for about 10 days, it would be equal to ingesting half the amount of radiation a person typically receives from the natural environment in a year.

CNN: FDA: Some foods from four Japanese prefectures can't enter U.S.
In the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster, all milk, milk products, fresh vegetables and fruit from one of four prefectures closest to the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will be prevented from entering the United States, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday. All other food products produced or manufactured in one of those prefectures - Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma - will be diverted for testing, the spokesperson said. Food products from other parts of Japan will be tested as resources allow, but the FDA's main focus is food from these four areas, the spokesperson said.

CNN: Tests detect radiation above limits for infants in Tokyo water
As workers continued efforts to cool down fuel rods at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Wednesday, Tokyo government officials advised residents to stop giving tap water to infants after tests detected higher levels of radioactive iodine. Tests found iodine levels exceeding government standards for infants at a purification plant supplying Tokyo and some surrounding cities, officials said.

CNN: Groups report gunfire, explosion at mosque in southern Syria
Violence flared in the southern city of Daraa as Syrian security forces opened fire into a crowd of demonstrators in front of mosque early Wednesday, witnesses said. Reports from human rights and advocacy groups said up to six people were killed and a number of others wounded in the incident. An eyewitness who did not want his named used for safety reasons said security forces shot into the crowd in front of the Al Omari Mosque before daybreak. He also said he heard an explosion. Syrian state TV, however, said armed groups had attacked security forces, killing a doctor, a medical assistant and an ambulance driver.

CNN: Castro says he resigned as Communist Party chief 5 years ago
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro said Tuesday he resigned as the head of the Communist Party five years ago and has never tried to resume the post - one that he was thought to still hold. It was the first time that the 84-year-old leader of Cuba's revolution stated so directly that he no longer heads up the party he founded. "Without hesitation, I resigned all of my state and political positions, including that of the First Secretary of the Party, when I fell ill and I never tried to exercise them again after the proclamation of July 31, 2006," he wrote in an essay published in Cuban state media.

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

CNN: Egyptian stock market to open after nearly 2-month break
The Egyptian stock market is scheduled to resume trading Wednesday after being closed for nearly two months. Mohamed Abd el Salam, who is the chairman of Ministry for Clearing and Settlement, will serve as chairman of the exchange for 6 months, a government statement said this week. The markets have been closed since January 27. A political uprising that began two days earlier resulted in the eventual overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak. On Saturday, Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional amendments that pave the way for parliamentary elections in June.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/23/egypt.stock.market/index.html

In Case You Missed It

Dana Bash looks at the political and budgetary costs of a no fly zone in Libya.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2011/03/22/bash.cost.nofly.zone.cnn

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