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: McCain: Perils in Libya include al Qaeda
Republican Sen. John McCain warned of a stalemate in Libya that could lead to al Qaeda filling a leadership void in the African country. “If you have a stalemate, I think it's very possible that Al Qaeda could come in and take advantage of a stalemate situation,” McCain said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But right now it's not al Qaeda that motivated this and it's not al Qaeda that's running it.”
CNN: Graham: 'Cut the head of the snake off' in Libya
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has a recommendation to NATO and the Obama administration when it comes to their involvement in Libya: bomb Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's inner circle and remove him from power. "Go to Tripoli, start bombing Gadhafi's inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters in Tripoli," Graham said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think the focus should now be to cut the head of the snake off. That's the quickest way to end this."
CNN: Key senator: Revenue increase from tax reform is OK
A leading Senate conservative said Sunday he can accept tax reform that increases overall tax revenue as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma told the NBC program "Meet the Press" that if lowering tax rates and eliminating loopholes and deductions ended up bringing in more money to the U.S. government, "that would be fine with me." Asked about a pledge he signed previously against any kind of tax increase, Coburn said his more important pledge was to do what's best for the country. He also noted that political reality dictated the need for bipartisan support for any agreement to pass.
The Hill: Democrats, allies hope to flip the script on town-hall rage
If video of angry constituents haranguing members of Congress over healthcare reform captured the tone of that policy debate, Democrats and their allies hope that similar clips will emerge in 2011 to define the coming battle over Medicare and entitlement reform. Left-leaning groups pushed the idea last week that Americans all over the country are outraged at Republican legislators and have been confronting them at town halls to voice their opposition. In emails and press statements, Democratic organizations have trumpeted examples of town-hall meetings where Republican legislators were criticized by constituents.
CNN: Santorum admits Medicare 'mistake'
Potential 2012 candidate Rick Santorum called his Senate vote in 2003 to create the Medicare prescription drug benefit "a mistake." The former Republican senator from Pennsylvania said Republicans did "two things that were wrong" – providing a universal benefit and failing to fund the program. Although he said 15 percent of seniors were unable to receive prescription drugs at the time, the compromise between former President George W. Bush and the Democrats resulted in universal coverage, something with which he disagrees.
CNN: Bloomberg: Stop the birther talk
Republicans will suffer electorally if they continue to fan the flames of the so-called "birther" debate instead of focusing on the economy, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. "I think the Republicans are making a terrible mistake in making this a big issue," Bloomberg, an independent, said on "Fox News Sunday." "We have the deficit. We have the economy. Those are the things that the public cares about." "If the Republican Party doesn't start addressing that, they will lose and they deserve to," he added.
Los Angeles Times: Much corporate political spending stays hidden
Despite mounting calls for greater transparency, only a few of the country's 75 leading energy, healthcare and financial services corporations fully disclose political spending, according to a review of company records and state and federal campaign finance reports. While complying with legal requirements to report direct donations to candidates, the vast majority of these companies — many of which are seeking legislative favors from the new Congress — do not reveal information even to their shareholders about support for politically active trade associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
CNN: Obamas attend local church on Easter Sunday
President Barack Obama and his family attended the Easter Sunday service at Shiloh Baptist Church, which was founded by freed slaves in 1863. The first family entered the church to a standing ovation, then joined in singing with the choir, backed by a live band that included a guitar, keyboard and drums. Rev. Wallace Charles Smith welcomed the Obamas, noting the congregants pray for them every Sunday. At collection time, Obama and his daughters gave money in envelopes provided at their seats. The first family left after two hours, as the service approached its conclusion.
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CNN: Rep. Giffords cleared to attend shuttle launch
Astronaut Mark Kelly visits U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords twice a day, witnessing and aiding her recovery from a devastating bullet wound suffered nearly four months ago. Friday, the Arizona congresswoman will witness her husband's own inspiring moment: Commanding the space shuttle Endeavour on its last launch. Doctors have cleared Giffords, who was shot in the brain at a January 8 event in Tucson, to attend the scheduled launch in Florida, a source close to her said Sunday. The source told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that Giffords will be accompanied by a nurse. There will be no doctor or medical assistance on board.
CNN: Suspect in Colorado bomb case had been recently released from prison
The suspect believed to have placed a pipe bomb in a Colorado mall was released from a federal prison - where he served time for a bank robbery - exactly one week before the botched bombing, a federal law enforcement source told CNN Sunday. The FBI Denver Joint Terrorism Task Force identified the subject of a nationwide manhunt as Earl Albert Moore, 65. Authorities, who released more photos of the suspect, said he has an extensive criminal background and multiple recognizable tattoos. They also said he should be considered armed and dangerous.
CNN: Hot weather forecast for Texas as battle against wildfires continues
Scattered thunderstorms brought some relief to beleaguered Texas firefighters Sunday, but the first part of the week ahead is shaping up to be the kind of scorcher that has state officials worried. Critical fire weather is expected Monday and Tuesday as a low-pressure system propels the dryline eastward across the state, according to the Texas Forest Service. Temperatures will be in the 90s, relative humidity will be 10% or less in some areas and winds will gust up to 45 miles an hour. Forecasters say atmospheric instability can cause existing fires to become larger.
CNN: Air traffic resumes at tornado-hit St. Louis airport
Flights resumed Sunday at the main airport in St. Louis after a tornado struck, knocking out power, shattering windows and sending passengers scrambling for cover from falling debris. A handful of incoming flights touched down at Lambert-St. Louis Airport Saturday night for the first time after the powerful tornado hit Friday night. Airport spokesman Jeff Lea said Sunday morning that outgoing flights had resumed and were running on schedule. Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge told reporters the airport's goal was to reach 70% of operations Sunday, and "I think we're there."
Detroit News: Detroit overstaffed compared to other cities
Detroit's work force hasn't shrunk with its population, leaving the cash-strapped city with far more employees than most comparably sized cities. The 12,900 workers in the Bing budget proposed this month is much more than similar size Midwestern cities including Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, and double much more populous cities including San Jose, Calif. Bing has resisted calls for mass layoffs, saying Detroit's population exodus in the past 10 years was fueled in part by shrinking services. The mayor said he owes it to residents to focus on the city's long-term viability and fix structural changes like pension and medical costs that threaten to consume half the budget by 2015.
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CNN: Military documents reveal details about Guantanamo detainees, al Qaeda
Nearly 800 classified U.S. military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal extraordinary details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed at the U.S. Navy's detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The secret documents have been made available to several news organizations, including the New York Times and the Washington Post – and some have been published by WikiLeaks, an organization that facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information. …The documents shed light on the way detainees behaved while at Guantanamo, and on how they were assessed in terms of their danger to the United States. They are intelligence assessments of nearly every one of the 779 individuals who have been held at Guantanamo since 2002, according to the Post.
CNN: Hundreds of prisoners escape from Afghan jail, NATO says
More than 400 prisoners have escaped from a jail in the restive southern Afghan province of Kandahar, NATO said Monday. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they had facilitated the escape by digging a tunnel. "We are aware of it. The Taliban are claiming 541," according the spokesman's office for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which advised caution over the numbers. "Our reports suggest the number is closer to 470."
CNN: Pakistanis protest U.S. drone action
A Pakistani opposition leader on Sunday threatened to have supporters block NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and march to Islamabad if U.S. drone strikes in the country were not halted. Imran Khan, a famous former cricket player and the head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, or justice movement party, made the ultimatum at the end of a two-day sit-in in Peshawar in protest of the drone strikes, which he says have killed civilians. His pressure appeared to be aimed most directly at the Pakistani government, which is cooperating with the United States to allow the strikes.
BBC: Libya crisis: Nato strike hits Gaddafi compound
A Nato air strike on the Libyan capital Tripoli has badly damaged buildings in Col Muammar Gaddafi's compound. Reports said at least two powerful missiles struck the Libyan leader's sprawling Bab al-Azizia compound early on Monday. Three TV stations briefly went off the air following the explosions. The blasts were among the biggest to hit Tripoli so far, correspondents said. Nato is targeting Col Gaddafi's forces as he tries to quell a revolt. The BBC's Ian Pannell in Tripoli said the damaged buildings appeared to be the same ones that Col Gaddafi used to host a recent visit by an African Union peace mission.
CNN: Deaths continue to mount in Misrata
Amid reports that pro-government forces have withdrawn from the besieged Libyan port city of Misrata, at least 16 people were killed and 71 were wounded there Sunday, a doctor at a local hospital said early Monday. An eyewitness said pro-Gadhafi forces randomly and extensively shelled the city Sunday. The witness asked that his name not be used because of fears for his security. "There are explosions every five minutes," the witness said.
CNN: Man attacks flight attendant on Alitalia plane
An apparently agitated passenger attacked a flight attendant on Alitalia Flight 329 from Paris to Rome late Sunday and asked that the flight be diverted to Tripoli, Libya, the airline said. Other flight attendants immobilized the attacker, Alitalia said, and the plane and its 131 passengers landed safely at Rome's Fiumicino airport, where the attacker was taken into police custody. The flight attendant was taken to the airport emergency room for a check-up, the airline said.
CNN: Witnesses: Major military operation underway in Syrian city
A major military operation was underway Monday in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, witnesses said. As the witness spoke, the sound of gunfire could be heard in the background, along with people screaming, "Allahu Akbar" - meaning "God is great." "There are around 3,000 soldiers in Daraa now. They are breaking into people's houses, firing randomly at houses," the witness said. "We were sleeping and not protesting." Another witness described an onslaught of tanks infiltrating the city.
CNN: Moroccan protesters reject king's draft constitution
Thousands of Moroccans held a peaceful demonstration nationwide Sunday, calling for a radical overhaul of the country's governance before a new constitution is unveiled in June by King Mohammed VI. The march was organized by the Facebook youth movement Fevrier 20. The group said its members would not accept the present draft constitution because it was written by the king's own people. It denounced his decision to refer the new constitution to a committee he appointed. King Mohammed announced last month he would give up some of his wide-scale powers and make the judiciary independent - the latter a particularly hot subject in Morocco.
CNN: Pope calls for peace around the world in Easter message
Pope Benedict XVI called for peace amid ongoing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and mentioned the plight of those in Japan during his annual Easter message Sunday. The pope singled out Libya, saying, "may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid." …The pope also urged the restoration of "peaceful coexistence" in Ivory Coast, where a long-running political stalemate led to violence that forced nearly a million people into the main city of Abidjan and left hundreds dead, according to aid groups.
CNN: Church officials: Chinese authorities block Easter service in Beijing
The site of a planned outdoor Easter service at one of China's largest independent "house" churches was eerily silent Sunday as police blocked more than 500 worshippers from leaving their homes and detained more than 36 for attempting to attend religious services in Beijing, church officials said. The gathering place for worshippers was empty as church-like bells sounded in northwest Beijing. Hundreds of uniformed and plain-clothed police officers swarmed the site of Shouwang Church and prevented CNN journalists from accessing the area. Worshippers spent several months preparing for the Easter service, according to members who spoke with CNN. Police on the scene told CNN they were stationed there for "security reasons."
CNN: Carter and 'The Elders' hope to bring Korea talks back on track
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as part a group of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, will travel to North Korea on Tuesday in hopes of restarting talks between the North and South. "At a time when official dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea appears to be at a standstill, we aim to see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues including denuclearization," Carter said Monday from Beijing, where he was meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and a Chinese expert on North Korea's nuclear situation.
CNN: Lawyer for American hikers says trial should proceed without Shourd
The trial for three American hikers charged with spying in Iran should proceed even if freed hiker Sarah Shourd fails to return for the next hearing, their attorney told CNN on Sunday. Masoud Shafii said the court told him the next hearing for Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer would be held May 11 at Branch 15 of the Revolution Court. The three were arrested in 2009 for allegedly entering Iran illegally while hiking in Iraq's Kurdistan region. They have been charged with spying.
CNN: Bahraini crown prince to skip royal wedding
Bahrain's Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has decided to decline an invitation to the royal wedding in London, citing the unrest in his country. Al-Khalifa wrote to Britain's Prince William to let him know that with "deep regret" he was declining his invitation. The decision was "left for as long as possible in the sincere hope that ongoing events - resulting from recent unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain - might have improved, leaving me able to join the celebrations of the House of Windsor and the family of Miss Middleton, without being overshadowed by issues in Bahrain," Al-Khalifa wrote.
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CNN: Gas prices rising more slowly, might have peaked
Gas prices jumped more than 11 cents over the past two weeks, but the pace of higher pump prices has slowed and they may have peaked, according to a survey published Sunday. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.88 in the United States, not including Alaska and Hawaii, the Lundberg Survey found. The previous survey three weeks ago found an average of $3.76. The average gallon is just 23 cents off the all-time high of $4.11 set in July 2008, but weakening demand for gasoline and a slower rate of rise in crude oil prices may keep it from hitting that mark, said publisher Trilby Lundberg.
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