CNN Washington AM Note
March 21st, 2013
05:43 AM ET
1 year ago

CNN Washington AM Note

BREAKING OVERNIGHT:

CNN: Rockets from Gaza hit Israeli city during Obama visit

Two rockets from Gaza slammed into southern Israel on Thursday morning, as U.S. President Barack Obama prepared to leave Jerusalem for Ramallah for meetings with top Palestinian Authority officials. One of the rockets landed in the courtyard of a house in the city of Sderot, but no casualties were reported, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

CNN: North Korea warns that U.S. bases in Guam, Japan are within range

The North Korean military issued a fresh burst of ominous rhetoric Thursday, warning that U.S. bases in Guam and Japan are within its "striking range." The statement from the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army, carried by the North's state-run news agency, follows the announcement by the United States this week that its B-52 bombers were making flights over South Korea as part of annual military exercises.

NATIONAL STORIES:

CNN: No soda ban here: Mississippi passes 'Anti-Bloomberg' bill

In Mississippi, you will never be denied a colossal soda or huge restaurant portion because of a city ordinance. Gov. Phil Bryant passed a law preventing counties, districts and towns from enacting rules that limit portion sizes. It's a response to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban the sale of large, sugary drinks in the city - a move that fizzled when a judge blocked the effort.

USA Today: Researchers tie Gulf War illness to brain damage

Researchers say they have found physical proof that Gulf War illness is caused by damage to the brain — and that proof may ultimately help civilians who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Using fMRI machines, the GeorgetownUniversity researchers were able to see anomalies in the bundle of nerve fibers that interpret pain signals in the brain in 31 Gulf War veterans. The research will be published Wednesday in PLOS ONE journal.

Bloomberg: Norovirus Spurs 1 Million Doctor Visits by U.S. Children

Norovirus, the most common cause of vomiting in young children, leads to more than 1 million medical visits costing $273 million each year in the U.S., according to a study that highlights the need for a vaccine to prevent it. By the time children are 5 years old, 1 in 278 in the U.S. will have been hospitalized for the vomiting and diarrhea bug, and 1 in 6 will be treated by a doctor or nurse for it, according to a report released yesterday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

NY Times: Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Acute Type of Leukemia

A treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer has, for the first time, produced remissions in adults with an acute leukemia that is usually lethal, researchers are reporting. In one patient who was severely ill, all traces of leukemia vanished in eight days.

CNN: Kids raised by gay couples benefit when parents marry, pediatricians say

Children raised by gay or lesbian couples benefit when their parents are allowed to marry, America’s top pediatrics group said Thursday in support of same-sex marriage. “If a child has two living and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interest of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so, irrespective of their sexual orientation,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement. Dr. Ellen Perrin, co-author of the policy statement, says marriage gives children of same-sex couples the same advantages of any married couple’s children.

CNN: Investigators search for car after Colorado prison chief shot dead at home

A man who dedicated his career to working in the prison system was gunned down in his Colorado home, and investigators are on a nonstop hunt for his killer. "Tom Clements was someone who worked in a cold, dark world with a remarkably open and generous heart," said an emotional Gov. John Hickenlooper. He appointed Clements in 2011 to lead Colorado's prisons after Clements spent decades working to improve Missouri's corrections system.

WHITE HOUSE:

CNN: After visit to Israel, Obama to meet Palestinian leader Abbas

It's just an 8-mile trip from Jerusalem to Ramallah, but what U.S. President Barack Obama hears from the Palestinian leader Thursday will be vastly different from his talks with the Israeli prime minister. Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are expected to discuss the contentious issues of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners. The trip comes on the heels of Obama's visit with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, where the two leaders reached common ground on issues such as Iran's nuclear progress and Israel's right to defend itself.

WATCH: VIDEO – Controversial new construction in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank is waiting for the green light. John King reports.

ALSO SEE: Jerusalem Post: Hundreds in Ramallah protest Obama's visit

CNN: Israeli minister says she hopes U.S. helps restart peace talks

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to return to Israel after President Barack Obama leaves and it is expected he will lay the groundwork to try to restart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday. "It's the beginning," Livni told CNN during an interview at her Tel Aviv home. A senior State Department official told CNN that Kerry would likely meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to review the results of Obama's trip and "discuss next steps on the key issues."

ALSO SEE: NYT: Document Shows Abbas’s Desire to Resume Israeli Talks

CNN: Biden plans to fight as gun provisions struggle in Senate

With Congress grappling over gun legislation, Vice President Joe Biden vowed to continue fighting for a ban on semi-automatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons, despite its bleak future on Capitol Hill. "I am still pushing that it pass," Biden said Wednesday on NPR. "We are still pushing that it pass."

Bloomberg: Obama Said to Consider Charlotte Mayor Foxx for DOT Post

President Barack Obama is considering Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx for secretary of transportation, according to two people familiar with the matter. Foxx, 41, is a Democrat and has been a proponent of street car and light-rail projects as mayor of the city, where the Democratic National Convention was held last year. He was first elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011.

CAPITOL HILL:

CNN: Senate approves spending measure, sends to House

The Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would fund the government through the end of September and avoid a partial federal shutdown as well as soften the blow of sweeping spending cuts. The measure, which passed the chamber in a 73-26 vote, now advances to the House of Representatives.

WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Wolf Blitzer talks to Rep. Paul Ryan about his balanced budget plan and health care.

WSJ: Democrat Seeks Panel on Bolstering Social Security

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said Wednesday he would ask lawmakers to create a commission to recommend ways to shore up the finances of Social Security. A commission would remove negotiations over the retirement program from the broader discussion in Congress of what changes to taxes, entitlement programs and other federal spending should be enacted to reduce the deficit. Separating Social Security from those emerging discussions could prove to be a contentious idea.

WaPo: Visas for high-skilled workers could double under bipartisan Senate plan

A Senate immigration plan would dramatically increase the number of high-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country and give permanent legal status to an unlimited number of students who earn graduate degrees from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering or math, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The agreement would be a major victory for the tech industry, which has backed an intense lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in recent months arguing that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies are having trouble finding qualified workers because of visa limits.

Roll Call: Lobbying Without a Trace

Nearly half of the lobbyists who were registered with Congress in 2011 and then went “inactive” in 2012 remained with the same employer, and many continued to influence public policy, according to a study released Wednesday. The finding by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics illustrates a factor behind the recent decline in federally reported lobbying fees and the number of active lobbyists on K Street: Professionals are taking on roles that leave no public trail because their activities fall outside the scope of disclosure laws.

CNN: Key House conservative backs possible path to citizenship

A top House conservative involved in bipartisan immigration negotiations said Wednesday that he supports a process that allows undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to ultimately become U.S. citizens. Idaho Rep Raul Labrador told reporters "What I think should happen is anyone who is here illegally can come out of the shadows, become legalized in some way, have some legal status, and that status could lead to legal permanent residency and citizenship eventually – but just the same as anybody else who falls into that category."

ALSO SEE: Politico: Evangelicals push immigration reform on the Hill

POLITICAL:

Politico: It's the Rubio and Rand Party, now

Want to know if Republicans finally back immigration reform, stand a chance of picking up Senate seats in the midterms, or get their act together by 2016? Instead of the GOP, watch the Rubio-Paul Party. Forget John Boehner. Ignore Karl Rove. The real action in the GOP is coming from the newest wing of the party, the one born in the spring of 2009 – the offspring of Tea Party activists that almost single-handedly propelled Republicans to control of the House.

Roll Call: NRCC Raises $14.4 Million at Annual March Dinner

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised a record $14.4 million off of its Wednesday evening fundraising dinner, according to a committee source. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker headlined the event, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan served as the chairman for the annual dinner for the committee’s top donors. Also at the dinner, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio praised former NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions’ work over the past two cycles to gain and hold the Republican House majority.

Politico: NRA fundraising best in decade

The National Rifle Association’s fundraising pace continues to quicken amid fears of new restrictions on firearms, with the gun lobby’s political action committee posting its best single month of fundraising in over a decade. The group raised nearly $1.6 million in February, according to the latest FEC filings posted Tuesday night. February’s numbers follow on the heels of a $1.1 million haul in January. The NRA hasn’t posted such strong fundraising numbers since the height of the 2000 presidential campaign, when the committee raised $1.7 million in October.

NATIONAL SECURITY:

CNN: Saudi native charged in New York with fighting for al Qaeda

A Saudi native described by a federal law enforcement official as a "hardened" al Qaeda terrorist who targeted Americans in Afghanistan and North Africa is being held in New York, authorities revealed Wednesday. The official spoke on background to CNN. Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, known better to authorities by his nickname "Spin Ghul," will be taken to federal court in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon for a status hearing on a series of charges.

CNN: U.S. military considers its options in Syria

Seven months ago, President Barack Obama warned the use of chemical weapons in Syria could bring direct U.S. involvement in that country's raging civil war. While the administration's interest in U.S. military involvement in Syria remains low, planners still have been preparing for the possibility U.S. forces would have to step in and neutralize Syria's military or safeguard chemical weapons stockpiles. It's not a pretty picture, NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis said Tuesday, a day after unconfirmed reports emerged that chemical weapons may have been used.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Israeli minister: It's clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria

CNN: Military takeover of lethal drone operations under consideration

The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN. The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."

CNN: Guantanamo video device watches, but doesn't listen to privileged conversations

A photo of a listening device in a room where attorneys met with terror detainees at GuantanamoBay caused a stir this month, but a senior military official says it is a relic from the days when interrogations occurred in the facility. A military judge hearing the case against the September 11, 2001, terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others ordered the photo released earlier this month.

CNN: Drone use in U.S. may require new laws, Senate panel told

Drones both dazzled and worried senators at a hearing Wednesday about their use within the United States, and lawmakers and experts said that new legislation may be needed to protect the privacy and safety of citizens. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, held and studied a small plane weighing just 2 pounds before beginning the hearing. "I am convinced that the domestic use of drones to conduct surveillance and collect other information will have a broad and significant impact on the everyday lives of millions of Americans," said Leahy.

WaPo: Secret report raises alarms on intelligence blind spots because of AQ focus

A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flash points because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said. Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.), the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict.

CNN: Venezuela cutting off contact with U.S. diplomat, foreign minister says

Venezuela is cutting off contact with a top U.S. diplomat, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Wednesday that his country's representatives would no longer be talking about improving U.S.-Venezuela relations with Roberta Jacobson, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Bloomberg Businessweek: NATO's New Rules for Cyberwar

The Tallinn Manual, the first attempt to lay down international ground rules for cyberwar, was published this week under the direction of NATO’s think tank, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence. Written by more than 40 academics, lawyers, and experts from NATO countries, the 282-page manual defines under which conditions a country can respond to a hack attack with military force; which targets are off limits (schools, hospitals, and UN staff, for example); and guidance on proportionate response to digital attacks carried out by non-state entities. It also warns that cyberwar combatants can be tried for cyberwar crimes.

CNN: Marines killed in Nevada training explosion were all under age 26

They came from all across America: from Connecticut to Florida to Illinois, and many points in between. One had been in the Marines for nearly four and a half years, another for just a few months. Many served in Afghanistan, earning numerous honors before making it safely back home to the United States. On Wednesday, the military released the names of the seven Marines killed Monday night during a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in western Nevada.

AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:

Reuters: Boeing plans 787 battery test flights for end of week: sources

Boeing Co plans to conduct two flight tests of its revamped 787 battery system, possibly as soon as the end of the week, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The 787 flights, the first since February, would mark another step toward Boeing's recently announced goal of returning the grounded jet to service in a matter of weeks, not months.

REGIONAL HEADLINES:

Portland Press Herald: LePage seeks more federal funds for Medicaid

Gov. Paul LePage is telling the Obama administration that Maine will consider participating in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion if the federal government pays for affected recipients of the government-funded health insurance for 10 years. The proposal, outlined in a letter Monday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is effectively LePage's counter-proposal to the federal government, which hopes states will join the expansion effort under the health care law.

Tampa Bay Times: Senate Republicans pitch Medicaid expansion alternative

Top Senate Republicans, who last week said no to expanding Medicaid, want to instead use the $55 billion offered as part of President Barack Obama's health care law to funnel poor Floridians into subsidized, private health insurance. The plan, crafted by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would expand the state's Florida Healthy Kids program to cover qualifying adults 18 and older. People in the expanded plan would be required to pay small premiums and co-pays, and they would have access to health reimbursement accounts to help cover out-of-pocket expenses.

Arizona Republic: Arizona House holds 1st Medicaid expansion hearing

The first public airing of Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to expand Medicaid was a four-hour, wide-ranging, sometimes- vitriolic debate Wednesday that offered a preview into how nasty this year’s biggest legislative battle could become. The informational hearing before the House Appropriations Committee didn’t yield new information or formal action, but dozens of people testified about the perceived benefits and evils of expanding the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, under the federal health-care overhaul.

New Jersey Star-Leger: Christie undecided on ban of controversial 'gay conversion therapy'

Gov. Chris Christie said today he's undecided on whether the state should ban the controversial use of "gay conversion therapy," but the Republican governor still opposes same-sex marriage. Christie said that he only knows little about the method. California enacted a law prohibiting the practice, but a federal court has blocked its implementation. "I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," he said at a news conference at StoneHarborElementary School. "Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children. I don't — this is a general philosophy, not to his bill — generally philosophically, on bills that restrict parents ability to make decisions on how to care for their children, I'm generally a skeptic of those bills. Now, there can always be exceptions to those rules and this bill may be one of them."

Manchester Union Leader: House approves medical marijuana bill

After years of trying, proponents of medical marijuana received a boost Wednesday when the House voted overwhelmingly, 286-64, in support of establishing a New Hampshire program. House Bill 573 allows the terminally and chronically ill or those with deliberating conditions to use marijuana to help relieve their conditions.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Coca-Cola to lay off 750 in U.S., Canada

In an effort to streamline operations three years after absorbing thousands of employees from the purchase of its largest bottler, Coca-Cola plans to lay off around 750 people in the coming months across the country. About one-fourth of those cuts — 180 or so people — will be in Atlanta, the company said Wednesday.

Chicago Tribune: CPS to announce school closings; foes say they will target minorities

After months of hearings and debate, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration is ready to announce plans to close about 50 elementary schools, sources said, a number that quickly drew fire from aldermen and community leaders in the mostly African-American neighborhoods that will be hardest hit. "Rahm Emanuel, I've been a supporter of yours since day one, but you've done us wrong this time," said Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th. "He's forgetting about the people who helped put him in office." An announcement on school closings is expected Thursday.

INTERNATIONAL:

CNNMoney: Cyprus buys time to pursue bailout options

Banks in Cyprus will remain shut until early next week to prevent a catastrophic flight of capital after efforts by its leaders and European officials to come to terms on a bailout made little progress Wednesday. The Cypriot parliament blocked a €10 billion rescue plan by the European Union Tuesday by rejecting a tax on bank deposits that would have helped fund the rescue.

ALSO SEE: The Telegraph: British pensioners fear for savings as Cyprus proposes capital controls

Financial Times: Medvedev lambasts EU over Cyprus levy

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has lambasted the EU’s handling of the Cyprus debt crisis, comparing a plan for a levy on bank deposits to measures that hurt savers under the Soviet Union. However, Moscow has yet to offer any concrete help to the Cypriot government, which is anxiously seeking alternative ways to fund an international bailout after the island’s parliament voted against a bank deposit levy plan hatched with the eurozone.

WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Jim Boulden and Phil Black report on the Cypriot Finance Minister's trip to Moscow to ask for financial aid.

CNN: Hacking attack on South Korea traced to Chinese address, officials say

The suspected cyberattack targeting South Korean banks and broadcasters originated from an IP address in China, South Korean regulators said Thursday, heightening suspicions of North Korean involvement. The attack Wednesday damaged 32,000 computers and servers at media and financial companies, South Korea's Communications Commission said.

CNN: Car bomb in Pakistan kills 12, injures 32

A car bomb exploded Thursday at a camp targeting internally displaced people from northwestern Pakistan, killing 12 people and injuring 32 others, police said. The Jalozai camp is located about 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside of Peshawar and houses people fleeing from the country's volatile tribal region. Authorities estimate the car contained 30-35 kilograms (66-77 lbs) of explosive material.

NYT: Villagers Take On Taliban in Their Heartland

An uprising against the Taliban that began last month in this southern Afghan village has now spread through dozens of others, according to residents and Afghan and American officials, in the most significant popular turning against the Islamist insurgents in recent years. Since early February, when villagers joined with police forces to begin ousting Taliban fighters from this region of rich vineyards and orchards southwest of KandaharCity, hundreds of residents have rallied to support the government. Nearly 100 village elders vowed at a public meeting Monday to keep the Taliban out as the new fighting season sets in, and Afghan flags are flying from rooftops in the villages, residents said.

WSJ: Stagnant Japan Rolls Dice on New Era of Easy Money

Japan's new central bank governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, begins work Thursday on a feat no one before has managed: reversing nearly two decades of falling prices to lift wages and profits in the world's third largest economy. Mr. Kuroda's predecessor, Masaaki Shirakawa, is among those who say it can't be done, at least not with the tools at hand. Using central-bank policies to boost stagnant prices is like "punching air," Mr. Shirakawa told parliament on Friday.

CNN: Gillard retains Australian leadership after challenge flop

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has survived another attempt to oust her from the job after no challengers emerged to vie for the leadership of the governing party and the country. In a short statement after the vote, Gillard said she accepted the support of her colleagues "with a sense of deep humility and a sense of resolve."

BUSINESS:

CNNMoney: Federal Reserve sees slow recovery for years to come

The Federal Reserve trimmed its forecast for economic growth in 2013, but said Wednesday that it's a bit more optimistic that the unemployment rate will decline.

The Fed expects the U.S. economy to grow between 2.3% and 2.8% this year, slightly weaker than its prior estimate.

AFP: Web revolution awaits Google chief in Myanmar

For years Myanmar's paranoid junta blocked websites such as Gmail and YouTube. However, when Google chairman Eric Schmidt visits this week, he will find a small but flourishing Internet community. Long cut off from the rest of the world by sanctions and repressive laws imposed by the generals who ruled it for decades, Myanmar still has poor Internet penetration - and connections are painfully slow. But those who do manage to surf the net have witnessed a dramatic transformation, with once-blocked exile media websites such as the Democratic Voice of Burma now accessible along with social networking sites, which have become wildly popular, particularly among young Burmese.

Reuters: Bankers get one last bonus season before EU cap on payouts

Bankers in Europe will have one final bonus season before they are barred from awarding themselves payouts worth more than their salary, EU lawmakers agreed on Wednesday, paving the way for the first cap of its kind globally. The cap is designed to address public anger at a bonus-driven culture many European politicians believe encouraged the risk-taking that led to the near-collapse of some of the region's biggest banks.

CNNMoney: Freddie Mac failing homeowners, watchdog says

Freddie Mac and its regulator are not doing a good enough job bird-dogging complaints by homeowners about the companies handling their mortgages, a federal oversight official said Thursday. The mortgage giant's eight largest mortgage servicers resolved more than 25,500 "escalated" complaints from homeowners between October 2011 and November 2012, but failed to take care of 21% of them within the required 30-day window, according to a report from the inspector general overseeing the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

CNN: Top solar panel maker goes bankrupt

Suntech Power Holdings, which was until recently the world's largest producer of solar panels, has said its main subsidiary in China is bankrupt, in a further stark illustration of the declining fortunes of the global solar industry. Suntech's Wuxi subsidiary is the first big Chinese solar group to declare insolvency and the world's biggest such bankruptcy, following a string of failed western solar companies including Q-Cells in Germany and Solyndra in the US.


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