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: Tempers flare as debt talks get tense at White House
A fifth session of talks in five days is set for Thursday to head off a possible government default. Wednesday's session ended on a tense note with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and President Barack Obama squaring off over the Republican's call for a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling.
CNNMoney: Debt ceiling: Moody's puts U.S. on notice
Moody's Investors Services said it had initiated the review because of "the rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 - something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt. …"Moody's considers the probability of a default on interest payments to be low but no longer to be de minimis," Moody's said in a statement.
CNN: Cantor rejects debt ceiling plan proposed by Senate Republicans
A day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a backup plan to raise the debt ceiling if a deficit reduction deal with Democrats can't be reached, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor torpedoed the proposal, saying it doesn't have any chance of passing in his chamber. "Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House of Representatives," Cantor, R-Virginia, said in a statement Wednesday.
Politico: GOP candidates quiet on debt ceiling
The Republican presidential candidates are largely silent on what to do on the debt deal — and when they do speak, they’re taking their cue from tea party members in Congress. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s taken the clearest position: she’s completely against it — unless the deal to raise the debt ceiling included a Republican fantasy of extreme cuts and President Barack Obama agreeing to repeal his own landmark healthcare law.
CNN: U.S. lawmakers urge feds to investigate Murdoch media company
The phone-hacking scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch's media empire intensified in the United States on Wednesday as three senators and a congressman urged federal authorities to investigate whether one of Murdoch's U.S.-based companies may have violated anti-bribery and other laws. A fourth senator told CNN he was considering launching his own investigation into the scandal.
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CNN: Heat will bake Southern, Midwest states right through the weekend
Searing temperatures kept a firm grip on more than a handful southern states Thursday as forecasters warned of new areas of excessive heat for the weekend. The number of states under heat advisories has diminished to seven. At its peak, the heat wave spread from the Plains to the Northeast, covering more than 20 states.
Los Angeles Times: U.S. foreclosure actions fall in June
The number of U.S. foreclosure actions by banks fell in June as investigations into repossession and mortgage servicing practices continued to slow the country's foreclosure machinery, a real estate firm reported. …Analysts attribute the annual declines to major banks slowing their processes as they try to negotiate a settlement with state and federal regulators over their repossession practices.
CNN: College documents: Loughner's outbursts 'intimidated' faculty
Some police reports and e-mails - among the thousands of pages of documents released this week by the Arizona community college where Jared Loughner was enrolled - show the alleged Tucson shooter repeatedly accusing his college of "scamming" him and claiming his freedom of speech was being stolen.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta’s testing scandal adds fuel to U.S. debate
Atlanta’s school cheating scandal, one of the largest in U.S. history, has launched a national discussion about whether the increased use of high-stakes tests to rate educators will trigger similar episodes in the years ahead. … This comes as Georgia and states across the country are working on new strategies to retain, pay and promote teachers and principals based — in large part — on how much growth students show on standardized tests.
New York Times: Amazon Takes On California
Amazon said this week that it would push a voter initiative in California that could eliminate sales tax for virtual sellers with only a modest physical presence in the state. Its move instantly escalated the company’s long-running battle with many states over collecting sales tax, taking the question directly to voters. And it has sharply intensified its dispute with physical retailers like Wal-Mart Stores and Target, which have vowed to fight the measure.
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CNN: Minister: No arrests, no claims of responsibility in Mumbai blasts
Indian officials have not singled out a group behind the deadly attacks that rocked Mumbai and no one has yet been arrested, India's home minister said Thursday. A day after the blasts, no group had claimed responsibility, Minister P. Chidambaram said. But "all groups hostile to India are suspects," he said. Officials, he added, are pursuing all leads and hope to offer updated information every two hours, he said.
CNNMoney: News Corp. drops bid for BSkyB
News Corp. - Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate - ended its $12.5 billion bid to purchase all of British Sky Broadcasting, following days of intense pressure from the British public and politicians over the company's growing phone hacking scandal. News Corp. said in a prepared statement that while "the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies ... it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate."
BBC: Italy set for senate vote on austerity budget
The Italian senate is set to vote on a tough austerity budget, which proposes cuts of 48bn euros ($67bn; £42bn) over three years. Italy wants to reduce one of the largest budget deficits in the eurozone and avoid any need for a bail-out. Correspondents say the budget is likely to be approved by the upper house, and then in the lower house on Friday.
CNN: Mexico changes constitution to combat human trafficking
President Felipe Calderon announced two of the changes - one that requires those accused of human trafficking to be imprisoned during trials, and one that guarantees anonymity of victims who denounce the crime. "It is important that they can give their testimony to the authorities and to society without being at risk," he said.
NPR: China Seeks To Carve Out A Space Of Its Own
Chairman Mao once said China would never be a great nation if it couldn't even shoot a potato into space. But in 2003, it became only the third country to send a man into orbit, and since then it's launched five more astronauts — or "taikonauts" as they've been christened here, showing how China is even trying to leave its own mark on space vocabulary. The country is now due to launch Tiangong-1, the first module of its own space station, possibly before the end of September this year.
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CNNMoney: Stocks snap 3-day losing streak
U.S. stocks fell from earlier highs but still managed to snap a three-session losing streak Wednesday after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the central bank remains ready to provide additional stimulus. … After months of adamantly denying another round of stimulus, the Fed chief opened the door a crack during his semi-annual address to Congress.
CNNMoney: PC sales continue slump amid iPad takeover
U.S. PC shipments fell 5.6%, compared to the same three-month period a year ago, according Gartner. …"Given the hype around media tablets such as the iPad, retailers were very conservative in placing orders for PCs," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Instead, they wanted to secure space for media tablets."
USA Today: Digital album sales soar, thanks to Adele, Eminem
Just one week after Eminem's Recovery became the first album to sell 1 million digital copies, Adele's 21 has surpassed the milestone and is now the biggest-selling digital album in history. …Overall, almost a third (32%) of the 155.5 million albums sold in the first half of 2011 were digital, according to a midyear report released last week by Nielsen SoundScan. That's up 19% from the same period in 2010, when 27% of 153.9 million album sales were digital.
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