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: Obama administration pushes dual-track policy in Libya
Despite having CIA agents on the ground and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's exit as stated policy, U.S. officials continue to say the NATO-led military mission in Libya is only for its authorized humanitarian purposes. The seeming discrepancy is part of a delicate diplomatic posture by the Obama administration on the complex overseas operation that involves a U.N. Security Council resolution, a multinational military force and the symbolism of presidential statements and actions. With the military mission shifting Thursday to a new phase of full NATO control after initial U.S. leadership, divisions among alliance partners and within Congress became more evident, exacerbated by the administration's differing military and political goals.
CNN: Feinstein: U.S. shouldn't arm rebels
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said Thursday that we should not arm rebels in Libya as "we got burned" in previous wars by doing so. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the California Democrat said, "We did in Afghanistan; we got burned by it. We did in Iraq; we got burned by it. In other words, those weapons cropped up later being used against us, and I don't think that's something we ought to do."
CNN: Israeli president to visit White House next week
As several of Israel's neighbors deal with tumult in the streets, the Jewish state's President Shimon Peres will visit President Barack Obama for the first time in nearly two years, a White House press release said. During a working lunch on April 5, the two leaders plan to discuss U.S.-Israeli security cooperation, recent developments across the Middle East, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and its neighbors, the White House said. The longstanding friendship between Israel and the United States has become strained since Obama took office in 2009, often regarding the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian-controlled territory annexed by Israel from Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967.
CNN: Tea Party puts pressure on Boehner
As Tea Party activists rallied outside the Capitol to urge House Speaker John Boehner not to compromise on government spending cuts, Boehner insisted he's continuing to fight for the House-passed spending cut bill, but he also warned those conservatives that there's a limit to what the Republican-led House can do. "We control one third of one half of the government here in Washington. We can't impose our will on another body. We can't impose our will on the Senate," Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference. "All we can do is to fight for all the spending cuts that we can get an agreement to and the spending limitations as well," Boehner added.
CNN: Republican senators push for balanced budget amendment
More than a dozen Republican senators announced Thursday they would push for a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to pass an annual balanced budget. "It's an historic day for the Republican Party. We all agree on something," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, joked, as he spoke about the proposed amendment that has the support of all 47 Republican senators. "A balanced budget amendment will make us do here what everybody has to do at home," Graham said during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Politico: GOP plans $1 trillion cut to Medicaid
House Republicans are planning to cut roughly $1 trillion over 10 years from Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, as part of their fiscal 2012 budget, which they will unveil early next month, according to several GOP sources. Though Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has yet to lock in his final numbers, he made clear to POLITICO in February that he intends to target Medicaid and Medicare for savings. While Medicaid is easiest to win consensus on, Medicare is the biggest debt driver. It’s not yet clear how much Ryan hopes to cut from Medicare, and he and GOP leaders have been reluctant to discuss their plans for the other entitlement behemoth: Social Security. But they’ve made clear that they don’t consider Social Security to be as pressing an issue as Medicare and Medicaid.
CNNMoney: GE chief defends company's zero tax bill
The chief of General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) on Thursday defended the conglomerate's zero tax rate in 2010, and called for reform of the U.S. tax code. In his first public speaking engagement since a barrage of criticism about not having to pay taxes in 2010, GE chief executive Jeff Immelt told the Economic Club in Washington that his company did nothing wrong. "At GE, we do like to keep our tax rate low, but we do it in a compliant way, and there are no exceptions," Immelt said. "Our tax rate will be much higher in 2011 as GE Capital recovers." But Immelt added that he, along with many other corporate leaders, wants the federal government to reform the U.S. tax code, which he called "old, complex and uncompetitive."
CNN: Gingrich's next deadline: May
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is setting one more deadline for making a decision about entering the 2012 presidential race. Gingrich said Thursday he plans to make a final decision about entering the presidential race in May. "We are trying to finish out the exploratory process, and I think by the first week of May we will have done that," Gingrich told reporters on Capitol Hill.
CNN: Barbour to seek funding for civil rights museum
Likely presidential candidate Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor who has faced charges of racial insensitivity in recent months, said Thursday he will seek funding from the Mississippi legislature for a civil rights museum in the state. In a statement issued Thursday, Barbour said he will formally ask for funding for two museums – one focusing on Mississippi's history and the other on civil rights – when the legislature returns to complete the budget. "These museums will enhance Mississippi's image and play a critical role in education and tourism," the Republican governor said in a statement.
CNN: Cain: Media afraid of a 'real black man'
Potential 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain said the media is afraid "a real black man might run against Barack Obama." At a Wednesday appearance in Florida, Cain said if he were elected president "you get a chance to be batting .500" with black presidents. "If you think about the first 43 presidents, they were all white. Were they all great? I think you have a few duds in that group," Cain said according to a video posted on Shark Tank, a local political site in the sunshine state. "So now you get a chance to be batting .500."
USA Today: Nixon library now tells full Watergate story
Two decades after his presidential library opened to the public, and almost 37 years after he left office, Richard Nixon's museum is taking a clear-eyed view of the scandal that forced him from the White House. The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum opened its long-awaited Watergate Gallery on Thursday, replacing a version of history written and financed by Nixon's friends that dismissed the scandal as a political coup by Democrats. The $500,000 remaking of the Watergate section of the museum by the National Archives, which took control of the Nixon library and museum in 2007, has interactive exhibits and displays describing the scandal and cover-up that led to the president's resignation and criminal convictions of aides.
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CNN: CDC records rise in birth rate for women over 40
The birth rate for women over 40 in the United States rose between 2007 and 2009. Among every other age group, however, the birth rate fell during the same period, according to a report released by the Centers Disease for Control and Prevention. According to the study, women between 40 and 44 experienced a 6% increase in birth rate during the time period. There were 9.5 births for every thousand women in that age group in 2007, 10.1 births per thousand in 2009. Younger mothers had more babies per thousand women during the time period, however, birth rates declined for every age group under 40, according to the study released Thursday.
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CNN: Gadhafi exile option poses many legal, political problems
There is a growing focus among the international coalition on the "end game" in Libya, and whether one option would be to persuade Moammar Gadhafi to step down and go into exile. But there are mixed signals from the allies about whether that's feasible or desirable. And there's another obstacle: the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the request of the UN Security Council into alleged "crimes against humanity" by the Libyan leader. Last week, the chief prosecutor at the court said he was 100% certain that his investigation would lead to charges against Gadhafi and members of his inner circle. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he was investigating six incidents of violence against civilians in February and was trying to establish who was responsible.
CNN: Official: Tens of thousands of evacuees can't head home for months
Tens of thousands evacuated from around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant may not be allowed home for months, a Japanese minister said Friday, with no end in sight for the nuclear crisis as fresh concerns mount about alarming radiation levels in beef, seawater and groundwater. While he didn't set a firm timetable, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said people who'd lived within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the nuclear facility would not return home permanently in "a matter of days or weeks. It will be longer than that." "The evacuation period is going to be longer than we wanted it to be," Edano said. "We first need to regain control of the nuclear power plant."
CNN: Ouattara spokesman: Supporters attack Gbagbo home, seize state-run TV
Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president of Ivory Coast, attacked the residence of disputed incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and took control of state-run TV early Friday morning, a spokesman for Ouattara told CNN. Gbagbo's residence is near the state-run television station taken over by Ouattara forces in the early morning hours Friday, said Patrick Achi, the Ouattara spokesman. Gbagbo apparently was not there. The takeover occured less than three hours after a Gbagbo spokesman appeared on the same network declaring that Gbagbo had no intention of leaving the presidential palace, according to a witness who saw the broadcast. The presidential palace is not Gbagbo's personal residence and is located elsewhere.
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USA Today: CEO pay soars while workers' pay stalls
CEOs didn’t have to cry poor for long. The heads of the nation’s top companies got the biggest raises in recent memory last year after taking a hiatus during the recession. At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives’ compensation started working its way back to prerecession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found.
New York Times: Report Criticizes High Pay at Fannie and Freddie
Regulators have approved generous executive compensation at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-backed mortgage finance giants, with little scrutiny or analysis, according to a report published Thursday by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The companies, whose fates are to be decided by Congress this year, paid a combined $17 million to their chief executives in 2009 and 2010, the two full years when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were wards of the state, the report found. The top six executives at the companies received $35.4 million over the two years. Since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over in September 2008, the companies’ mounting mortgage losses have required a $153 billion infusion from taxpayers. Total losses may reach $363 billion through 2013, according to government estimates.
Wall Street Journal: Subprime Bonds Are Back
Subprime and other residential mortgage bonds that helped trigger the financial crisis are back in vogue with long-term investors, in the latest sign that American credit markets are healing after the worst downturn in a generation. The prices on a representative slice of the subprime bond market have doubled from 30 cents on the dollar at the low point of the crisis to roughly 60 cents today. Their comeback underscores how investors have regained the courage to take on more risk as the economy recovers, pushing up the prices of a broad swath of riskier assets, from commodities to junk bonds to stocks.
CNN: Hershey's raises prices nearly 10%
The Hershey Company says it is raising wholesale prices by 9.7% on most of its candy products. The maker of Reese's, Kit Kat, Hershey's Kisses and Twizzlers cited increased costs for raw materials, fuel, utilities and transportation. It was not clear whether customers would see the price changes before Easter, a big season for chocolate sales. CNN left a message with Hershey's Wednesday but received no immediate response.
In Case You Missed It
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says U.S. action in Libya transferred to NATO in 12 days.
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