[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/25/art.palinbye0725.cnn.jpg caption="Palin recieved several gifts over the last year."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Alaska governor, Sarah Palin last year received a wide variety of unique gifts, according to a supplemental disclosure form submitted to the state government. They included a gun case embroidered with "Sarah" on it sent from Tennessee; a piece of glass elephant jewelry from a California woman, an embroidered cross-stitched blanket entitled "The Special Child" from a Texas woman; and a hand-painted plate with Palin's picture on from a stoneware studio in Kansas.
Palin is required to report all gifts she received by December 31, 2008 in a cumulative value exceeding $250 from a single source.
In the disclosure letter sent to the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Tuesday, her lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, says many gifts were deemed under that total. "Because it can be intrinsically difficult to place a monetary value on some gifts, particularly unique gifts that may be hand made, Governor Palin's disclosure errs on the side of disclosure, even if the value is unknown but could be greater than $250 but may in face be less."
A New Jersey woman sent 2 Army flags she personally made.
Also received by Palin: jewelry made from renewable materials, a piece of stained glass, a custom Bible hand bound in goatskin leather, more than two dozen books and some cds.
The gifts were either sent to her home, the Governor's mansion, her offices or her parents.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House officials are pouring cold water on North Korea's claim that it is "owed" direct talks with the Obama administration after a meeting Wednesday with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
Senior Obama administration officials said the six-party talks are still the proper venue for such a dialogue, and the officials stressed that Richardson was not negotiating on the president's behalf.
"Our policy toward North Korea remains today as it has been - calling for the complete de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said one of the senior administration officials. "We believe the six-party talks are the best forum for that. The bottom line is the ball is in North Korea's court."
The officials said North Korea can choose one of two paths, either continued provocation by testing missiles or a more peaceful road in which they live up to previous commitments.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.billhill20819.gi.jpg caption="The Clintons are reportedly headed to Bermuda this weekend."](CNN) - President Obama isn't the only member of his administration planning an island getaway this month.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated for a four-day stay in Bermuda this weekend with husband Bill, the Bermuda Sun reports.
According to the paper, it's the first trip back to the island for the famous political couple since a stay in the summer of 1979, before the birth of daughter Chelsea.
The Clintons had even sought to stay in the same cottage they did three decades ago, but the venue was unable to meet their needs.
The Clintons will instead stay at Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa, a facility where, according to the resort's Web site, room rates can run as high as nearly $2,000 a night.
SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) - North Korea believes it's owed bilateral talks with the United States after the communist government released two detained American journalists this month, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday after meeting with two North Korean diplomats.
"They feel, the North Koreans, that by giving us the two American journalists that they've made an important gesture," Richardson said on CNN's "Situation Room." "And now they're saying the ball's in our court."
The visit comes on the heels of a trip to the communist nation by former President Bill Clinton to gain the release of the two journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling. During the visit Clinton met with reclusive leader Kim Jong Il, whose government is under U.N. sanctions for its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program.
"They do feel they are owed a gesture on the U.S. part," Richardson said, adding, "I don't believe that should be the case because this was a
humanitarian gesture that needed to happen."
The North Korean diplomats felt Clinton's trip, while a humanitarian one, helped "thaw relations" and gave North Korea "international prestige,"
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/05/art.huckabee.gi.jpg caption="Huckabee is standing by his comments in Israel."](CNN) - Mike Huckabee, the former GOP presidential candidate who is thought to be eyeing a second run for the White House, is standing by his recent comments in Israel criticizing the White House's policy toward the country.
On a trip to the Israel earlier this week, the former Arkansas governor positioned himself in against the Obama administration's policy of asking Israel to halt construction of settlements in predominantly Arab neighborhoods including East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
"It concerns me when there are some in the United States who would want to tell Israel that it cannot allow people to live in their own country, wherever they want," Huckabee told reporters in comments that drew accusations he was criticizing American policy on foreign soil.
But in a posting on his political action committee's Web site Wednesday, Huckabee said he was merely traveling to Israel as a private citizen, and as such was free to speak his mind.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.deming0819.cnn.jpg caption="South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said Wednesday that 'there is no free lunch' when it comes to Democratic efforts on health care reform."]
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint on Wednesday urged opponents of health care reform to stand up to the White House and "stop them cold" before they can pass a government-run health insurance option.
"The only compromise they're interested in is what type of government run type of plan," the conservative Republican said of the Obama administration. "What we know we have to do is stop them cold with a government plan so that they'll sit down and talk with the American people about how to get Americans insured."
DeMint made the comments while speaking to reporters after holding a town hall meeting in Myrtle Beach, where the senator was on friendly turf as he laid out his critique of the reform plans currently being worked out in the House and Senate. More than 400 people jammed into a Brazilian steakhouse to see the senator, and most cheered him on as he pummeled the president's plans.
Citing a CNN poll released earlier this month, DeMint said that more than 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health care. That same poll found that about half of Americans favor the President's health care reform agenda.
He said a government-run plan would drive private insurers out of business and reduce the quality of care and access around the country. One his primary concerns, shared by many in the crowd, was the cost of the Democratic plan. He said the president has been on a liberal "rampage" since taking office in January.
"There is no free lunch here," DeMint said. "These big promises are false promises."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.cardin0819.gi.jpg caption="The nephew of Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin has apologized for using resources of the Baltimore City Police Department as part of a marriage proposal."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Ben Cardin's nephew apologized Wednesday for going a bit, well, overboard, for proposing to future wife with a staged police search on his boat in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
On August 7, Jon S. Cardin, a Maryland delegate, reportedly organized a boat ride with some friends and his now fiancee in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. With a helicopter hovering overhead and marine police searching the boat, Cardin popped the question.
Cardin said said he had asked the police to do the "routine five-minute safety check." He said he will contact the Baltimore City Police Department and reimburse them for any costs incurred.
"During the evening, I was focused on making my fiancee's night perfect," Cardin said in a statement posted on his Web site. "In retrospect I should have considered that city resources would be involved and used better judgment to put a stop to it."
She said yes.
(CNN)–The statement: Cindy of Covington, Georgia, asked CNN: "Why doesn't the government make mandatory prices for doctors and their services? That is the problem! They all charge outrageous prices and they vary from place to place. Will that change under the new plan?"
The facts: President Barack Obama and health reformers in Congress are trying to influence how prices get set by creating a government-run public insurance option that would compete with private plans in a so-called Health Insurance Exchange. They say private doctors, private hospitals, and private insurers will be free to set their own prices.
The public insurance option would be a government-funded, government-run health care program similar to Medicare - the government health insurance program for people age 65 and older - and doctor participation in the plan would be voluntary.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.obama.0819.gi.jpg caption="Three new national polls released over the past 24 hours indicate that just over half of all Americans approve of how President Obama's handling his job."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three new national polls released over the past 24 hours indicate that just over half of all Americans approve of how President Obama's handling his job.
Fifty-one percent of people questioned in an NBC News survey released Tuesday night, in a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday morning, and in the Gallup daily tracking poll released Wednesday afternoon approve of how Obama is handling his duties in the White House.
The president's disapproval rating stands at 37 percent in the Pew poll, 40 percent in the NBC News survey and 41 percent in the Gallup daily tracking poll, and
The 51 percent approval rating is down from an average of 54 percent at the end of July in a CNN Poll of Polls and down from an average of 61 percent in a CNN Poll of Polls from late June. The CNN Poll of Polls is an average of the most recent national surveys.
The Gallup daily tracking poll was conducted August 16-18, with approximately 1,600 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.grassley.jpg caption=" Join the conversation on Jack's blog."]
President Obama and the Democrats may end up going it alone when it comes to health care reform. Democrats say they now see little chance of getting Republican support - and point to lawmakers like Senator Charles Grassley, who they say aren’t serious about striking a deal.
The administration says it had hoped to get bipartisan backing - but it's looking less likely. Instead, they would have to get moderate and conservative Democrats on board.
Party leaders in the Senate may wind up using a tactic where they only need 51-votes to pass a health care bill… instead of 60. One Republican warns if the Democrats go this route - it would be "like a declaration of war."
Going it alone has pros and cons for the Democrats… It could mean crafting the bill they really want. For example, the public option, which the White House appeared to be abandoning this week, would likely be back on the table.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here