[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/02/27/obama.HIV.blood/art.obama.hiv.gi.jpg caption="Police say blood-stained letters were addressed to President Obama and top aide Rahm Emanuel."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An Ethiopian immigrant with a history of mental health problems is in custody after being accused of mailing a letter with HIV-tainted blood to Barack Obama when he was president-elect, according to court records.
Saad Bedrie Hussein told investigators that he is an admirer of Obama and that the letter - containing his photo, an admission ticket to Obama's election night victory party in Chicago's Grant Park and six index cards containing writing and reddish stains - was his way of seeking government help and tickets to Obama's inauguration.
Hussein, who has HIV, said he "purposely cut one of his fingers with a razor so he could bleed on the letter," according to an affidavit by Terry L. Cullivan, an investigator with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The letter, postmarked December 27 and written in an Ethiopian language, was addressed to Obama at the Illinois Department on Aging in Springfield, Illinois. When the letter was opened two days later, it was found to contain an orange powder, Cullivan said. A state employee then took the letter to another state office, resulting in a two-hour lockdown of the building, affecting more than 300 people, the affidavit says.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/27/iraq.dems/art.pelosi.gi.jpg caption="House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has questioned the need to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq until 2011."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Top Democrats have expressed concerned over President Obama's plan to draw down nearly two-thirds of U.S. forces in Iraq by August 2010, while some key Republicans are offering praise.
At issue: Obama plans to leave between 35,000 to 50,000 residual forces in the war-torn country, serving in a training or advisory role to the Iraqi military.
All U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, under an agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government last year. There are currently 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, recently cited concern that the residual force Obama is planning to leave in Iraq is too large.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/02/26/toning.obama.arms/art.jpg caption="Michelle Obama's appearances in sleeveless outfits have inspired some women to start toning their arms."]
(CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama has a fashion following, with blogs tracking her daily garment choices.
She's on the March cover of Vogue in a sleeveless silk sheath. Then there was the purple sleeveless Narciso Rodriguez she wore to the president's joint session of Congress on Tuesday. And she's on the cover of the latest People magazine in a lacy pink number, also without sleeves.
Those toned arms are becoming a trademark. And a source of inspiration for some women.
Rylan Duggan, a personal trainer who runs Go Sleeveless, a blog that instructs women how to tone up flabby arms and "eliminate bat wings," said that in addition to asking how to get "Madonna arms" or "Kelly Ripa arms," clients are now asking about getting "Obama arms."
"The Obama effect has been that women of all ages have been inspired to take responsibility for their health and their body," said Duggan. "As the first lady of the United States, at 44 years old, and with two young children, Mrs. Obama has shown the world that you are never too busy to take care of yourself and look good doing it too," he said.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/26/preston.accountability.now/art.moulitsas.cnn.jpg caption="DailyKos' Markos Moulitsas says his online community is wary of Democrats being corrupted by power."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Call it a shot fired across the bow, or simply a stern warning to congressional Democrats: Power corrupts, and we are watching your every move. And if we think you are no longer representing the interests of your constituents, we will try to defeat you next year.
A Republican threat? Good guess, but no.
This is what Democratic activists are telling lawmakers of their own party, and they have formed a political action committee to raise money and help galvanize support for Democratic primary challengers in 2010.
Accountability Now PAC formally launched Thursday, creating a potential headache for Democratic leaders who would rather spend time focused on expanding their congressional majorities next year rather than defending Democrats from fellow Democrats.
Markos Moulitsas, founder of the DailyKos political blog, said that people in his online community are wary that Democrats are in danger of being corrupted by the ways of Washington.
"They want to hold Democrats accountable, knowing that if we do not hold them accountable we are going to become just like the Republicans did: corrupt, out of touch with their constituents and out of power," Moulitsas said.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/27/art.palinwave0227.gi.jpg caption="Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin leads in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Friday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the the first unofficial ballots are cast in the next race for the White House, a new national survey of Republicans indicates that the GOP doesn't have a clear presidential frontrunner - but does have a clear gender gap.
Twenty-nine percent of Republicans questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they are most likely to support Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. Right behind the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and well within the poll's 4.5 percent sampling error, is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Twenty-six percent of those questioned say they are most likely backing the former, and possibly future, Republican presidential candidate.
Twenty-one percent of Republicans polled say they most likely would support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another GOP hopeful from the last campaign who may put his hat into the ring again.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/27/art.thoughtful.obama.gi.jpg caption=" Join the conversation on Jack's blog."]
President Obama is a preacher of doom and gloom when it comes to the economy, according to Dick Morris. He writes the president is making the crisis worse. “Instead of being a firewall, reassuring Main Street even as Wall Street crashed, he has become a conduit of panic, spreading the mood of desperation from the stock exchange floor to kitchen tables across the world,” said Morris.
Morris describes Mr. Obama as a “global Paul Revere” and says every time he speaks, he sends markets down and stocks crashing, and that the president doesn’t seem to get the fact that the rest of the world takes its cues from him.
Dick Morris thinks the president is talking this way in order to keep people in a state of panic so he can pass through his agenda — from spending bills to tax increases to government regulations. He believes the longer the economy continues to deteriorate – the more difficult it will be to pass the blame off on President Bush.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/27/art.bocu0227.gi.jpg caption="For the second time in as many days, a prominent Republican has likened Pres. Obama's policies to socialism."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Another prominent Republican told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that the president’s spending plans are pushing the country to the brink of socialism.
Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the only member of the senate to earn a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union, called President Obama “the world’s best salesman of socialism” on Friday in describing his prime time speech earlier this week.
DeMint, a fierce opponent of government expansion, told the CPAC crowd that conservatives might have to “take to the streets to stop America’s slide into socialism.”
His remarks comes a day after Mike Huckabee told the conference of conservative activists that “the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born” with the president’s stimulus package.
“Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” Huckabee said of the government bailing out financial institutions.
His delivery of the GOP response to President Obama’s congressional address may have gotten some mixed reviews, but Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is considered a “rising star” by many in the Republican Party. CNN's John Lisk and CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley give a little Politics 101 on what it takes to achieve that status.
To subscribe to the Political Notebook podcast go to http://www.cnn.com/podcast
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/27/obama.troops/art.obama.troops.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama talks about his Iraq War withdrawal plan at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on Friday."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama said Friday he plans to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.
Between 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, he said. They would be withdrawn gradually until all U.S. forces are out of Iraq by December 31, 2011 - the deadline set under an agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government last year.
"Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama said in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
"By any measure, this has already been a long war," Obama said. It is time to "bring our troops home with the honor they have earned."
Obama's trip to Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base, was his first trip to a military base since being sworn in.
Administration officials, who briefed reporters on the plan, said the remaining troops would take on advisory roles in training and equipping Iraqi forces, supporting civilian operations in Iraq and conducting targeted counterterrorism missions, which would include some combat.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/27/art.rush0227.gi.jpg caption="Rush Limbaugh is featured along with several Republican leaders in Congress in a new ad out Friday paid for by two liberal groups."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new ad out Friday argues that the Republican leadership in Congress is following Rush Limbaugh’s lead.
Entitled “No,” the 30-second television spot, highlights Republican opposition to the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package.
“So who are Republican leaders listening to?,” an announcer asks before the ad cuts abruptly to footage of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh saying “I want him [Obama] to fail.”
“No,” is paid for by Americans United for Change and AFSCME, two groups that supported Obama during the general election and who are advocating for his agenda now that he’s in the Oval Office. The ad airs Friday through early next week on national cable and in the Washington area, according to a statement by Americans United for Change announcing the ad.
Limbaugh is set to speak Saturday in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists.
Updated Noon with RNC response: “The Democrats are running a permanent campaign rather than doing the bipartisan work of governing," Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said in an e-mail to CNN. "These ads are part of the Democrats’ larger strategy to do something, anything to try to take the focus of their massive spending binge," Conant added.