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.
CNN: Poll: Presidential race in dead heat
A new poll released Wednesday indicates the presidential race is still locked up between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, less than four months before Election Day. According to a new CBS News/New York Times survey, Romney holds a slight edge over Obama, 47% to 46%. The margin falls well within the sampling error.
CNN: Washington state to become first to offer voter registration on Facebook
Washington will become the first state to offer voter registration via Facebook with a new application to be launched as soon as next week, according to a state election official. Once online, the app will be accessible on the secretary of state's Facebook page, said Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections for the state.
CNN: Troubled federal agency paid for cooking classes, hosted holiday video contest
Amid an ongoing congressional probe into the General Services Administration, a CNN investigation has uncovered more evidence of wasteful spending at the agency, including cooking classes for employees that cost as much as $3,350 per class. For years, the GSA paid to send employees to these cooking classes to build team spirit, part of a spending pattern that the agency now says was inappropriate.
CNN: Does big money spell big trouble in campaigns?
Political experts estimate $6 billion will be spent during the 2012 presidential elections — a large chunk of it via anonymous donors thanks to a Supreme Court ruling which allows unlimited corporate campaign donations. That's enough money to give 6/7ths of the world's population $1 each. Politicos and even comedians have made much ado about the influence of anonymous super rich donors and well heeled super PACs, groups that can raise money from a number of sources and spend unlimited amounts independent of and in support of political campaigns.
CNN: Scalia dismisses talk of internal court rancor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia downplayed reports of personal and ideological rifts stemming from the recent landmark health care reform ruling, telling CNN in an exclusive interview "it offends me" to hear criticism of his colleagues over how they ruled. The 76-year-old justice talked Wednesday with CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," and discussed a range of judicial topics - from the death penalty to abortion rights and the Bush v. Gore decision.
CNN: GAO investigators: Some student pilots in U.S. illegally
Some foreign students who enroll and graduate from U.S. flight schools are in the U.S. illegally, despite extensive post-9/11 efforts to vet student pilots, congressional investigators said Wednesday. Stephen Lord, an investigative chief with the Government Accountability Office, declined to say how many student pilots he found to be wrongly in the country, saying that the Transportation Security Administration had deemed the number to be "sensitive security information."
CNN: City of San Bernardino, California, to vote on filing for bankruptcy
The City Council of San Bernardino, California, is scheduled to vote late Wednesday on a resolution formally authorizing the filing of bankruptcy. The council, scheduled to meet at 5 p.m., is to consider first another resolution declaring a fiscal emergency. Last week, Interim City Manager Andrea Miller and Finance Director Jason Simpson issued a report stating that the city was facing insolvency and its expenditures are projected to exceed revenues by $45 million. The city's general fund reserves had been as high as $19 million in 2001 but are now depleted, the report said.
CNN: Iowa mom thinks missing girls may have been 'taken'
The mother of a missing Iowa girl thinks there is a chance she and her cousin were abducted and are not at the bottom of a lake where dogs have led searchers. "Because we haven't found them anywhere in the surrounding area, I feel like maybe they were taken," Misty Cook-Morrissey, mother of 10-year-old Lyric Cook, told CNN on Wednesday. Lyric and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins were last seen by their grandmother on Friday when they left on a bike ride.
CNN: Attack threatens Syrian president's grip on power
The brazen attack that killed several senior leaders of the Syrian government Wednesday represents a profound psychological blow that could loosen President Bashar al-Assad's grip on power, several experts said. The blast followed a sharp increase in fighting in Damascus in the past few days and marked the most significant attack on al-Assad's inner circle in 16 months of fighting that government opponents say has killed more than 16,000 people. It killed the country's defense minister, emboldened anti-government rebels and immediately raised questions about the stability of al-Assad's regime.
CNN: Bulgarian bus bombing the work of suicide bomber, minister says
A bombing on a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria was likely carried out by a suicide attacker, the nation's interior minister said Thursday. The attack occurred Wednesday in a parking lot outside Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. "From what we could see on the video cameras ... we identified a person who served as a suicide bomber in this terror attack," Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told Bulgarian National TV.
CNN: Purge of North Korean general still a mystery
North Korea's sudden dismissal of Ri Yong Ho from his post as army chief and from all his government posts caught many watchers of the secretive regime of Kim Jong Un by surprise and wondering what was going on. "To me, it's just another sign of how this transition is quite unstable, and we think it's six months since Kim Jong Il died, and we think everything is normal in North Korea – clearly it's not normal," said Victor Cha, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of a new book on the Kim regime.
CNN: Nazi war crimes suspect arrested in Hungary
An elderly man suspected of Nazi war crimes has been arrested in Hungary, prosecutors said Wednesday, after a worldwide Jewish rights organization discovered him living in Budapest. Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary is accused of sending more than 15,000 Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp in the spring of 1944, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said. The center considers him its most-wanted Nazi war criminal.
CNNMoney: More signs of a housing rebound
A recovery in new home construction appears to be underway, with significant increases in both housing starts and building permits last month, according to the Census Bureau. Housing starts rose 6.9% in June to a 760,000 annual rate, the highest level in four years. That's up an impressive 23.6% compared with a year earlier. Permits to build new homes fell slightly from revised May numbers to 755,000, but were up 19.3% compared with June 2011.
CNNMoney: Viacom says DirecTV talks have 'moved backwards'
More than one week into their cable blackout, the standoff between Viacom and DirecTV isn't showing any signs of thawing. The two sides are at an impasse, according to a scathing blog post Viacom fired off on Wednesday. "It's now clear that they have no intention of working with us to expedite a resolution," Viacom wrote about the discussions. "DirecTV has moved backwards significantly and created more obstacles to reaching an agreement."
CNNMoney: Geithner on Libor: U.S. was first to raise red flags
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended his 2008 response to the Libor-fixing scandal that continues to unfold, and stressed that more reforms and enforcement actions are on the way. "We acted very early in response to concerns that the processes that set [the Libor] rate was impaired and flawed and vulnerable to misrepresentation," said Geithner, speaking at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference in New York.
In case you missed it…
Wolf Blitzer talks about his interview with King Abdullah of Jordan.