CNN Washington AM Note
March 5th, 2013
05:11 AM ET
2 years ago

CNN Washington AM Note

NATIONAL STORIES:

CNN: Frosty swath brings snow from Dakota to D.C.

If you grab a sled in North Dakota Tuesday, you might be able to ride it through the upper Midwest all the way to the nation's capital. But it would be wiser to avoid road travel for a day or two. A corridor of winter weather is paving its way across the Ohio Valley, dumping heavy snow from Minneapolis and Chicago all the way to the District of Columbia and Baltimore, according to a National Weather Service bulletin Monday.

CNN: Manslaughter charges added in FAMU hazing death

Twelve former students now face manslaughter charges in the November 2011 hazing death of FloridaA&MUniversity drum major Robert Champion Jr., attorneys familiar with the case said Monday. Ten of them were previously charged with felony hazing resulting in death. They and two new defendants will now also be charged with manslaughter, said Craig Brown, the attorney for one of the students.

CNN: National Rifle Association to sponsor NASCAR race in Texas

The National Rifle Association will sponsor the NASCAR Sprint Cup event in Texas on April 13, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage announced Monday. The race will be called the NRA 500 and will be run during prime time.

CNN: Oberlin College cancels classes to address racial incidents

OberlinCollege in Ohio suspended classes Monday after a student reported seeing a person resembling a Ku Klux Klan member near the college's Afrikan Heritage House. The sighting of the person wearing a white hood and robe was reported early Monday morning and follows a string of recent hate incidents on Oberlin's campus that have ignited shock and confusion among the student body.

WHITE HOUSE:

WaPo: Obama’s second-term Cabinet to play bigger policy role

President Obama, facing a limited window of time to enact an ambitious second-term agenda, is rounding out his Cabinet with relative outsiders and empowering them with more policymaking responsibility than secretaries had during his first term. …The appointees and others named in recent weeks mark a departure for Obama, who stocked his first-term Cabinet with politicos but has recruited more business executives and other outsiders for his last four years.

SEE ALSO: CNN: Obama's new Cabinet picks face big challenges

Politico: Obama's Israel trip in jeopardy

Israelis have been waiting for more than four years for a visit from President Barack Obama —but if their leaders can’t agree soon on a government, they may have to wait even longer. Obama is expected to leave March 19 for his first-ever trip as president to Israel, with additional stops in the West Bank and Jordan. That’s just three days after the deadline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still struggling to meet to form a governing coalition after his Likud party won a narrowed plurality in Jan. 22 elections there.

WSJ: White House Calls for Cellphone 'Unlocking'

Americans should be able to take their used cellphones and tablets freely from one wireless carrier to another if they aren't under contract, the White House said Monday, offering the latest victory to Internet activists seeking to shape U.S. technology policy.

Christian Science Monitor: Does Keystone XL report let Obama off the hook on climate pledge?

A US State Department report released late last week that was noncommittal on the environmental impact of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is galvanizing opponents of the controversial project who say President Obama is backing away from his commitment to combat climate change. In the months leading up to a final decision in late summer, the pipeline’s opponents say they plan to use methods ranging from public hearings to civil disobedience to persuade his administration to stop the pipeline from moving forward.

WaPo: Obama to give commencement speeches at Naval Academy, Ohio State and Morehouse

President Obama plans to deliver commencement addresses this spring at three universities, including the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, the White House said Monday. Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers toss their hats following the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. Obama also will address graduates at The Ohio State University in Columbus and at  MorehouseCollege, the all-male historically black college in Atlanta.

CAPITOL HILL:

CNN: House GOP unveils bill to avoid shutdown, lessen pain for defense programs from forced spending cuts

House Republicans unveiled a government spending bill on Monday that keeps federal agencies funded through the end of September and attempts to remove the specter of a government shutdown. The GOP bill doesn't replace the forced spending cuts, but lessens the pain for the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These departments, which Republicans traditionally protect in budget fights, would not get extra money or escape the reductions included in so-called "sequester," but under the proposal drafted by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, they could shift money around to prioritize specific programs.

ALSO SEE: Roll Call: Murray Plans to Lead Democrats Into Budget Fray

Reuters: Budget crisis eases as Republicans seek to avoid shutdown

Tension over the fiscal crisis eased on Monday as President Barack Obama called more opposition lawmakers to find a way to stop $85 billion in damaging budget cuts and congressional Republicans announced a plan to prevent a government shutdown. Eager to resolve fiscal fights overshadowing his second term, the Democratic president called Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins and Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn after speaking to other Republican senators over the weekend. An aide to Collins, a moderate, told Reuters that the pair discussed the need for a bipartisan agreement on critical issues such as reining in the $16.7 trillion federal debt and dealing with the cuts, also known as sequestration.

WaPo: Republican goal to balance budget could mean deep cuts to health programs

Anxiety is rising among House Republicans about a strategy of appeasement toward fiscal hard-liners that could require them to embrace not only the sequester but also sharp new cuts to federal health and retirement programs. Letting the sequester hit was just the first step in a pact forged in January between conservative leaders and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to keep the government open and the nation out of default. Now comes step 2: adopting a budget plan that would wipe out deficits entirely by 2023. The strategy runs counter to warnings from prominent Republicans such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal against becoming “the party of austerity.” Just as GOP lawmakers are tacitly endorsing sequester cuts to the Pentagon, long a sacred cow, they fear the balanced-budget goal will force them to abandon a campaign pledge not to reduce Medicare benefits for those who are now 55 and older.

ALSO SEE: Politico: Paul Ryan floating change to Medicare plan

The Hill: Credit rating agencies shrug off sequester, say more cuts needed

Credit rating agencies are shrugging off sequestration, saying the U.S. government will need to do more to reduce the deficit if it wants to prevent a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating. While the agencies say the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts represent at least a step towards deficit reduction, they argue much more is needed to prevent the United States from losing its “AAA” rating.

CNN: Bipartisan bill would punish gun trafficking

A new bill would make it harder for Mexican drug cartels to get their hands on guns sold in the United States and would punish those buying firearms or ammunition for criminals, according to senators from both parties, who proposed the legislation. It would also stem the flow of guns purchased legally in one state from getting into the hands of people in other states where they are not legally allowed to own them, according to a statement issued Monday by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who is one of the bill's authors. If voted into law, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, would slap anyone caught purchasing a firearm or ammunition with the intent of illegally transferring it to someone else with jail time and a large fine.

ABC News: Taxpayer Dollars Spent on Official Government Portraits

Long before cameras were invented, our founding fathers kept their images alive with painted portraits. Paintings of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are part of American history. But what began as official documentation of early leaders is now a formality, a tradition, a sign of prestige — and, some say, a burden on taxpayers. Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense argues that it’s time for a change.

POLITICAL:

CNN: Dominican woman says she was paid to say she had sex with U.S. senator

After asserting in a video that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez had paid her for sex, a Dominican woman now says she was paid to make those claims and has never met the New Jersey Democrat, a court document states. According to a notarized document, Nexis de los Santos Santana said she was filmed without her knowledge when she claimed to have had sex with Menendez. "I am the person in the video, that is me, and those are my words, but this statement is not true," Santana said. "I never agreed to be recorded." Menendez has vigorously defended himself against claims by unidentified accusers. In addition to criticism over accepting unreported plane flights and allegedly advocating on behalf of a business, he was accused of partying with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic - accusations he said were "unsubstantiated."

ALSO SEE: WaPo: Escort says Menendez prostitution claims were made up

ALSO SEE: Daily Caller: Washington Post report confuses one prostitute with another in bid to debunk Menendez allegations

Roll Call: Inside the NRSC's Comeback Strategy

The National Republican Senatorial Committee plans to expand its press operation to train campaigns earlier in the cycle on how to better handle the kind of candidate missteps that have plagued its party’s nominees. The goal? To avoid what’s become known in GOP circles as “Todd Akin moments.”

CNN: From Katrina to 9-11, Bush 41 opens up about his presidential son

After leaving office, President George H.W. Bush certainly had opinions about the challenges facing the nation and the politics that affected the public's perception of the White House. As a father, Bush kept his thoughts in check even when he believed the attacks were overtly personal and painted his son, President George W. Bush, in a wrong light. …These newly revealed observations by the 41st president about his son the 43rd president, are outlined in an updated book "All the Best, George Bush; My Life in Letters and Other Writings," set for release on Tuesday.

WaPo: Jeb Bush says he could, in fact, support a path to citizenship

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), who seemed to back off his previous support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants during an interview with NBC’s “Today Show” early Monday, said in a later interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd that he could support one under the right circumstances.  “I think we need comprehensive reform, and if there is a path to citizenship that has enough of a realization that we have to respect the rule of law, then so be it,” Bush said.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Jeb Bush opens up about White House bid

Politico: Ashley Judd target of GOP preemptive strike

She’s not even a candidate yet. But the GOP opposition research machine is already in full froth over what it views as perhaps the juiciest 2014 target: Ashley Judd, who is exploring a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans are homing in with glee on the actress and activist, picking apart her views and statements and compiling a thick compendium of speeches, writings and tweets. What they found: Judd may not have a legislative record, but she has left quite a paper trail.

BuzzFeed: Cory Booker To Push Back Against Attacks To Legacy In Newark

In his seventh State of the City address Tuesday evening, Cory Booker will make the case to Newark residents, and to political observers well outside the city limits, that his record as mayor — under increasing scrutiny as he considers a bid for national office — has been marked by success, grounded in hard data.

ALSO SEE: NYT: Speaking Fees Bring Booker $1 Million; He Says He ‘Kept Very Little of It, if Any’

NATIONAL SECURITY:

CNN: U.N. Security Council set to meet on North Korea

The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet Tuesday to consider a proposed resolution to authorize more sanctions against North Korea following the secretive regime's controversial nuclear test last month. Pyongyang said the underground nuclear blast it conducted on February 12 was more powerful than its two previous detonations and used a smaller, lighter device, suggesting advances in its weapons program. It was the first nuclear test the isolated state has carried out since its young leader, Kim Jong Un, inherited power in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, who made building up North Korea's military strength the focus of his 17-year rule.

NYT: U.S. Disavows 2 Drone Strikes Over Pakistan

When news of the two latest drone strikes emerged from Pakistan’s tribal belt in early February, it seemed to be business as usual by the C.I.A. Local and international media reports, citing unnamed Pakistani officials, carried typical details: swarms of American drones had swooped into remote areas, killing up to nine people, including two senior commanders of Al Qaeda. In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry lodged an official protest with the American Embassy. Yet there was one problem, according to three American officials with knowledge of the program: The United States did not carry out those attacks. “They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”

WaPo: Dam and other Afghanistan projects being scaled back as U.S. picks up pace of withdrawal

When U.S. Marines surged into southern Afghanistan in 2010, one of their top priorities was to secure a towering dam on the HelmandRiver so the U.S. Agency for International Development could begin a construction project to provide much-needed electricity to Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city. Simply reaching the outskirts of the Kajaki Dam was perilous. More than 50 American troops were killed in combat operations to evict the Taliban from areas along a 30-mile road leading to the structure. Now that Marines and Afghan soldiers have seized the dam and the surrounding areas, USAID has decided not to complete the most critical part of the $266 million project. Instead, the agency intends to hand over to the Afghan government the challenging task of installing a large hydropower turbine. The dam is one of many reconstruction projects, once deemed essential, that are being scaled back rapidly and redesigned in the waning days of America’s long war in Afghanistan as troop reductions, declining budgets and public fatigue force a realignment of priorities.

AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:

CNN: Passenger accidentally allowed on Atlanta airport tarmac

How did Shannon Reynolds make it through several layers of security unquestioned and end up on the tarmac at Hartsfield-JacksonAtlantaInternationalAirport? That's what Delta Air Lines, the Transportation Security Administration and the Atlanta Police Department are trying to figure out. Around 5 a.m. on February 23, Reynolds told CNN she was simply trying to park at an off-site parking lot in time to catch a flight on Spirit Airlines to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then on to Costa Rica.

CNN: Pilot reports spotting 'drone' over Brooklyn

Was there a drone flying over Brooklyn Monday afternoon? The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report from a pilot of an Alitalia passenger jet who says he saw an unmanned aircraft while landing at JohnF.KennedyAirport in New York.

Bloomberg: China Watching Sany U.S. Wind-Farm Case, Minister Chen Says

China is investigating and watching the progress of a case involving a Sany Group Co. affiliate which U.S. President Barack Obama barred from building a wind farm in Oregon, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said. Under Chinese regulations, the government has a duty to assist companies that have suffered damage if they request help, Chen said at the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. He didn’t specify whether Sany has sought assistance. Obama on Sept. 28 ordered Sany affiliate Ralls Corp. to divest all interest in the wind-farm project with locations near or within restricted Navy airspace, the first time in 22 years a president has blocked a transaction on grounds of national security. Ralls can continue arguing Obama should explain his order, even though it can’t challenge his authority to require a sale, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Feb. 22.

REGIONAL HEADLINES:

Baltimore Sun: Death penalty repeal effort survives in Senate

Efforts to end Maryland's death penalty moved forward late Monday as the Senate squashed attempts to retain the death penalty for what one senator called "the worst of the worst." Senators resumed an emotional debate they left off Friday evening, considering Monday whether to keep capital punishment for people convicted of murdering police officers or inmates who kill correctional officers. Both amendments, offered by Republicans in the Democrat-controlled chamber, failed by wide margins.

Denver Post: Colorado gun bills: Lawmakers spar for seven rounds of bills

Hundreds of Coloradans showed up at the state Capitol on Monday to cheer or jeer seven Democratic gun-control measures that senators debated late into the night. By late Monday, two Democrat-controlled Senate committees had passed all seven bills regarding stricter gun control.

Miami Herald: Garcia: Aid those who fled Chávez  

Cuban-American U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, announced Monday that when the immigration reform debate begins in the House he will present an amendment that would grant permanent residence to tens of thousands of undocumented Venezuelans living in the United States.

Des Moines Register: Gov. Branstad details proposed IowaCare replacement, alternative

Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday offered his alternative to expanded Medicaid health-care coverage for poor Iowans – a new program that he said would ensure coverage for all Iowans living under the poverty line but also require enrollees to contribute to the cost of their care. The new program would be known as the Healthy Iowa Plan and would replace the expiring IowaCare program that currently provides coverage on a limited basis to about 67,000 low-income Iowans.

Dallas Morning News: Rick Perry bars way to possible Texas deal with feds on Medicaid expansion

Some leading Republican lawmakers, while they dislike the federal health law’s call for states to expand Medicaid, would push harder for a deal to bring home some of the billions offered if they didn’t fear Gov. Rick Perry would undercut them. Perry adamantly opposes the Medicaid expansion and recently underscored his view that such a move could harm the state’s future solvency, even as some fellow Republican governors reversed course and urged their states to accept the federal money.

ALSO SEE: CNN: After Scott's endorsement, Medicaid expansion rejected by Florida House panel

NY Post: Classy Mike wants to fund own schools

Mayor Bloomberg is backing — and also wants to bankroll — the creation of four charter high schools, The Post has learned. The state Education Department has received applications to open the schools as part of the mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative, which is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. In an unusual arrangement, members of the Mayor’s Office and top deputies in the city Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness have been quietly working behind the scenes to design the schools — although charters are operated and managed independently from the city department.

Chicago Tribune: Evanston couple must give up Korean baby

An Evanston couple accused of circumventing South Korean adoption laws have lost their bid to keep a 9-month-old girl whom they've raised since shortly after her birth, with the baby scheduled to return to her native country Wednesday, officials have confirmed. Jinshil and Christopher Duquet have said they relied on bad legal advice and thought they were participating in a lawful private adoption of the baby, Sehwa, in June. But when Jinshil Duquet initially tried to enter the U.S. with the baby, authorities at O'Hare International Airport found she lacked the required paperwork for an adoption. After that, South Korean and U.S. officials intervened and fought in local and federal courts for the baby's return.

INTERNATIONAL:

CNN: Wen opens China's People's Congress with call to unite

In front of a packed Great Hall of the People, outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao delivered his last government work report as he opened the National People's Congress. During the coming days, the country's top officials will discuss national priorities for the years ahead, and formally appoint the president who'll oversee them. Four months after taking over as General Secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping will replace outgoing president Hu Jintao. Li Keqiang will become premier, replacing Wen Jiabao.

ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: China sets economic goals for 2013

CNN: 3 suspects face murder charges for attack in Kenya

Three members of the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatist group, are scheduled to appear on charges of murder in court in Kenya Tuesday in connection with a deadly attack, authorities said. In the attack, a group of heavily armed men ambushed a police post in the port city of Mombasa, killing at least 10 people, including two police officers Monday, officials said. The three suspects were to be charged with at least four murders, the state council of prosecution said.

CNN: Battling a new infection, Chavez has breathing problems

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is fighting a new infection, and his breathing problems have worsened, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said late Monday. "There is a worsening of the respiratory function, related to the state of his depressed immune system," Villegas said, reading an official statement on state-run VTV. He reported Chavez is battling a new and "severe" infection, stressing that his overall condition remains "very delicate." Chavez is undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments, he said.

CNN: Iraqi official: 48 Syrians killed in attack in western Iraq

Some 48 Syrians, most of them soldiers, and nine Iraqi soldiers were killed Monday in an attack near the western Iraqi town of Ar Rutbah, an official said, raising concerns that Syria's civil war could spill over into Iraq. The Syrian soldiers' convoy was ambushed by gunmen using roadside bombs and machine guns.

Reuters: Syrian rebels report capture of provincial capital

Syrian opposition fighters captured the northeastern city of Raqqa on Monday and crowds toppled a statue of President Bashar al-Assad's father, opposition sources and residents said.

CNN: Malaysia launches attack on Filipino intruders in Borneo

Malaysian security forces on Tuesday began attacking a group of armed men from the Philippines who had clashed with police after staking a claim to a remote part of the island of Borneo, authorities said. The group of Filipino men, believed to number between 100 and 300, arrived three weeks ago on the east coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah, on Borneo, demanding to be recognized as representatives of a sultanate that used to rule the area.

CNN: Cardinals meet for second day ahead of vote on new pope

Catholic cardinals are meeting for a second day Tuesday at the Vatican, as they prepare to set a timetable for selecting a new pope. More cardinals are arriving Tuesday morning so there should be fewer than eight cardinal-electors still to come, according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica. The cardinal-electors, those aged under 80 who are eligible to vote for the new pontiff, are thought to number 115 in total.

WATCH: VIDEO – Cardinals gather in Rome as some have been accused of abuse and covering up abuse.

WSJ: Money-Laundering Suspicion Stalls Europe's Latest Bailout

Cyprus's newly elected government is bargaining for a €17 billion bailout from its euro-zone peers. But the little island won't get a cent until it wrestles with a long-standing issue: money laundering. Cyprus's reputation as a transit point for shady cash, and its unusual connections to Russia, are making many of its would-be rescuers nervous.

Bloomberg: EU Opens Way for Easier Budgets After Austerity Backlash

European finance ministers opened the way for looser budget policies after a backlash against austerity thrust Italy into political limbo and shattered months of relative stability in European markets. Italy’s deadlocked election, France’s refusal to make deeper budget cuts and protests against the shrinking of the welfare state across southern Europe escalated the rebellion against the German-led prescription for fighting the debt crisis. Economic strains “may also justify in a certain number of cases reviewing deadlines for the correction of excessive deficits,” European Union Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters late yesterday after a meeting of euro- area finance ministers in Brussels.

BUSINESS:

Financial Times: FSA crackdown on cash for CEO access

The Financial Services Authority is preparing to crack down on asset managers using investors’ money to pay for access to chief executives after discovering that some are spending “tens of millions of pounds” a year on corporate access. Ed Harley, head of asset management supervision at the FSA, raised the prospect of multimillion-pound fines for fund managers found to be in breach of its rules.

NYT: Banks Find More Wrongful Foreclosures Among Military Members

The nation’s biggest banks wrongfully foreclosed on more than 700 military members during the housing crisis and seized homes from roughly two dozen other borrowers who were current on their mortgage payments, findings that eclipse earlier estimates of the improper evictions. Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo uncovered the foreclosures while analyzing mortgages as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement deal with federal authorities, according to people with direct knowledge of the findings. In January, regulators ordered the banks to identify military members and other borrowers who were evicted in violation of federal law.

NYT: A Stealth Tax Subsidy for Business Faces New Scrutiny

The last time the nation’s tax code was overhauled, in 1986, Congress tried to end a big corporate giveaway. But this valuable perk — the ability to finance a variety of business projects cheaply with bonds that are exempt from federal taxes — has not only endured, it has grown, in what amounts to a stealth subsidy for private enterprise.

WSJ: Fannie, Freddie to Create Joint Firm

The regulator overseeing Fannie Mae FNMA -0.68% and Freddie Mac FMCC +1.37% announced Monday one of the most concrete efforts to date for building a new infrastructure that could ultimately replace the government-controlled mortgage companies.

Reuters: Exclusive: Goldman finds new way to do buyouts in face of Volcker

Goldman Sachs Group Inc is trying to find ways to keep investing in the profitable, albeit risky, business of buying and selling companies without crossing a rule that will restrict private equity investing, three sources familiar with the new business said over the past week. The Volcker rule – named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law – is expected to limit bank investments in private equity funds, but not necessarily private equity-style investments outside of a formal fund structure. The rule's main goal is to prevent federally insured banks from gambling in the markets or taking on too much risk with hedge funds and private-equity funds.


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