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: Sources: Obama administration finalizing counter-terrorism strategy
The Obama administration is in the final stages of completing its first national counter-terrorism strategy, and public release could come within weeks, perhaps in a presidential speech, according to two sources. The sources, one of whom has firsthand knowledge, said the administration has completed interagency coordination of what will be President Barack Obama's opportunity to define his counter-terrorism vision and distinguish it from Bush administration policy in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
New York Times: U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes
The Obama administration has intensified the American covert war in Yemen, exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets, according to American officials. The acceleration of the American campaign in recent weeks comes amid a violent conflict in Yemen that has left the government in Sana, a United States ally, struggling to cling to power.
CNN: Career of dependability marks Panetta's path to Pentagon
Even by Washington's standards, Leon Panetta's resume portrays the ultimate insider - a smooth navigator of Congress, the federal budget, the White House and the CIA. He's worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents. …And now, after four decades of public service - and years after most people are long retired - the 72-year-old Panetta is taking on his most challenging job ever: secretary of defense, as the nation fights a grueling war in Afghanistan and extricates itself from Iraq, and as the Arab world is imploding.
CNN: Pressure increases for Weiner to resign
Fellow Democrats mounted increasing pressure Wednesday for Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign, a day after party leaders turned their backs on the liberal congressman embroiled in a "sexting" scandal. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Reps. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, Michael Michaud of Maine, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Larry Kissell of North Carolina and Joe Donnelly of Indiana joined a growing chorus of Democratic voices that have called for Weiner, D-New York, to step down over sexually tinged online communications with several women that he then lied about.
ABC News: ‘Grand Theft Nation': Ali Bongo Goes to the White House
The family that has ruled the African nation of Gabon for decades has been accused of taking bribes, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, and presiding over a system rife with corruption, but that hasn't stopped President Obama from inviting President Ali Bongo of Gabon to the White House Thursday. White House press secretary Jay Carney conceded to ABC News Wednesday that President Bongo has a "less than sterling" record, but said that it was "very important" for President Obama to grant Bongo the coveted Oval Office meeting anyway.
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CNN: Calmer winds may help firefighters battle Arizona blaze
Relentless winds that have driven an Arizona wildfire into the record books are expected to slow down Thursday, possibly giving firefighters a chance to reverse a defensive battle against the 10-day blaze. The National Weather Service has lifted the "red flag" fire alert for eastern Arizona and is forecasting winds of between 7 mph and 10 mph Thursday. That's less than a third as strong as the gusts that have doubled the size of the blaze in the past three days.
Wall Street Journal: Guns From U.S. Probe Surface in Mexico
An arsenal found in Mexico included at least five assault rifles that U.S authorities trace to a federal operation gone badly awry, according to government documents. The discovery appears to confirm for the first time fears cited by Republican lawmakers that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation called Fast and Furious failed to stop guns from ending up with drug gangs in Mexico.
CNN: Appeals court judges skeptical of government's health care case
A federal appeals court in Atlanta was openly skeptical Wednesday that the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama would survive constitutional scrutiny. A three-judge panel heard arguments in a massive lawsuit brought by Florida and 25 other states. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest of three similar federal panels across the country to hear challenges by states and private groups to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Washington Post: Report documents dramatic shift in immigrant workforce’s skill level
Highly skilled temporary and permanent immigrants in the United States now outnumber lower-skilled ones, marking a dramatic shift in the foreign-born workforce that could have profound political and economic implications in the national debate over immigration. This shift in America’s immigration population, based on census data, is summarized in a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution. It found that 30 percent of the country’s working-age immigrants, regardless of legal status, have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 28 percent lack a high school diploma.
CNN: Florida to charge welfare applicants to take drug test
Starting on July 1 in Florida, anyone who applies for welfare must first pass a drug test. …Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Republican-sponsored bill into law last week, adding Florida to a list of states trying to drug-test welfare recipients. Michigan passed a similar law that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found unconstitutional in 2003 since it violated the U.S. Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable search.
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CNN: International community, Libyan rebels prepare for post-Gadhafi world
An international coalition with the aim of building support for Libya's transitional government in a post-Moammar Gadhafi world was scheduled to meet Thursday, even as the leader vowed to fight to the death. The meeting comes as Gadhafi's forces launched a new attack against the rebel-held port city of Misrata, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the months-long civil war that has killed thousands of civilians.
CNN: Security Council mulls resolution condemning Syria
The four European members of the U.N. Security Council took the lead Wednesday in presenting a revamped resolution to the United Nations condemning Syria for its crackdown on peaceful anti-government demonstrators. …But gaining consensus may not be easy. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said several council members had raised the issue of Libya, where the effort by NATO forces to protect anti-government demonstrators appears caught in a stalemate.
New York Times: In Saudi Arabia, Royal Funds Buy Peace for Now
As one nation after another has battled uprisings across the Arab world, the one major country spared is also its richest — Saudi Arabia, where a fresh infusion of money has so far bought order. The kingdom is spending $130 billion to pump up salaries, build housing and finance religious organizations, among other outlays, effectively neutralizing most opposition. King Abdullah began wielding his checkbook right after leaders in Tunisia and Egypt fell, seeking to placate the public and reward a loyal religious establishment.
CNN: Key al Qaeda operative praises bin Laden in new video
A new video message was released Wednesday from key al Qaeda figure Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who was once second in command of the organization under Osama bin Laden. The message is the first released from al-Zawahiri since bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs at the beginning of May. The nearly half-hour video, displayed on several radical Islamist websites, includes a poem eulogizing bin Laden.
The Guardian: Russia defies growing consensus with declaration of 'total war on drugs'
Drug dealers are to be "treated like serial killers" and could be sent to forced labour camps under harsh laws being drawn up by Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament. Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the state duma, the lower house, said a "total war on drugs" was needed to stem a soaring abuse rate driven by the flow of Afghan heroin through central Asia to Europe. …The scale of the problem "threatens Russia's gene pool", he said. "We are standing on the edge of a precipice. Either we squash drug addiction or it will destroy us."
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CNNMoney: Debit card fee defeat for banks in Senate
Despite intense pressure from banks, the Senate failed Wednesday to delay rules capping fees that banks charge retailers to process debit card transactions by consumers. …The legislation would have pushed back by a year the July 21 deadline by which the Federal Reserve must cap so-called "interchange" or "swipe" fees at 12 cents per transaction, down from an average of 44 cents now. Such a move could cost the banking industry more than $13 billion.
Wall Street Journal: Eyes on Goldman-Libya Dealings
U.S. securities regulators are examining whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other financial firms might have violated bribery laws in dealings with Libya's sovereign-wealth fund, according to people familiar with the matter .Enforcement lawyers at the Securities and Exchange Commission are reviewing documents that detail the firms' relationships with the Libyan Investment Authority controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi, these people said.
CNNMoney: OPEC deadlocked on oil production hike
Oil prices breached the $100-a-barrel mark Wednesday after OPEC said it could not reach an agreement about raising crude production. U.S. crude jumped $1.65, or 1.7%, to settle at $100.74 a barrel. Oil prices were trading down about $1 just before the OPEC announcement. The price of brent crude – the European benchmark – rose 1.1% to $118.07 a barrel.
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