POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
February 16th, 2011
04:18 AM ET
12 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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.

For the latest political news: www.CNNPolitics.com

CNN: President has veto, will use
President Barack Obama issued a veto threat Tuesday, following the introduction of a controversial spending bill last week. The bill is a continuing resolution that would fund federal government for the rest of the fiscal year and includes $100 billion dollars in spending cuts promised by House Republicans. In a statement, the Obama administration affirmed that it is "committed to cutting spending and reducing the deficit so that current government spending does not add to the debt." But it also makes clear that it "does not support deep cuts that will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world," terms that sound familiar to those following the president's recent speeches.

CNNMoney: GOP disses Obama's 2012 budget
House Republicans hammered President Obama's 2012 proposed budget on Tuesday, telling Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that tax increases included in the plan are unacceptable. "Because they kill jobs, those tax increases are dead on arrival in this House," Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told Geithner, who was testifying before the Ways and Means Committee. President Obama, in defending his budget proposal earlier in the day, vowed that his proposal would slash deficits by $1.1 trillion over the next decade. Two-thirds of those deficit cuts would result from spending reductions, while a third would come from an increase in tax revenue, according to the White House.

CNN: Black Caucus chairman: if Obama were still a member, he would oppose his own budget
The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday that if President Obama were still part of the group of African American legislators he wouldn't like his own budget. "I think the proposed budget from the president is not the budget we would present," said Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver during a press conference on Capitol Hill about the president's budget and proposed GOP spending cuts. Pointing to another leader of the black caucus, Cleaver added, "if the president was still a member of the CBC, he would be standing next to Barbara Lee criticizing the budget that was presented today, and so we have an obligation do that, to oppose things that we think will impact negatively our constituents."

CNN: Hill Hallways: Another Arizonan for Kyl's seat?
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks told CNN he was "seriously considering" running for retiring Senator Jon Kyl's Senate seat. Asked if the decision by his House GOP colleague Rep. Jeff Flake to run would impact his decision on whether or not he would ultimately jump in the race, Franks responded, "Jeff is a decent man of the highest integrity." Franks then added, "of course" Flake's official announcement that's he's in would factor into his own decision on the race.

CNN: Barbour announces he won't denounce
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour refused Tuesday to denounce attempts to create a special license plate honoring a 19th-century Ku Klux Klan leader. "I don't go around denouncing people," Barbour told reporters Tuesday in Jackson, MS. When asked by a reporter what he thought about the KKK leader in a historical context, Barbour gave a terse response. "He's a historical figure," Barbour said.

CNN: Kaine to discuss possible Senate bid with Obama
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Tuesday he plans to talk with President Obama in the next day or two about a possible Senate bid in Virginia. Kaine told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he is "flattered" by speculation that he might run for the Senate seat, which will be open in 2012 following Sen. Jim Webb's announcement last week that he will retire after just one term. Webb's decision left Virginia Democrats scrambling to find a strong candidate to run in his place. Former Sen. George Allen is hoping to recapture his seat, which he lost to Webb in 2006, but must first survive a primary campaign against at least one conservative rival, Richmond-area Tea Party activist Jamie Radtke.

CNN: Bowen enters race for California's 36th district
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced via social media that she will run to replace outgoing U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman. Bowen released the following statement today: "Exciting news: I've decided to run for Congress in the 36th District! Thank you so much for your feedback and support over the last few days. But now we face a short-term sprint: While the date of the special election hasn't been set yet, it will be held in the next two to four months, so there isn't any time to waste. Can you make a contribution to help me get my campaign for Congress off to a fast start?" A Democrat, Bowen represented a large portion of Harman's district during the 14 years she spent in the California Legislature. Term limits will force Bowen out of her job in 2014.

CNN: John Kerry scheduled to be in Pakistan
Sen. John Kerry was scheduled to be in Pakistan on Wednesday "to reaffirm U.S. support for the strategic relationship between the two countries," U.S. officials said. Kerry, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was scheduled to arrive in Pakistan late Tuesday night. Kerry has been to Pakistan four times since becoming the chairman of the committee in early 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: United grounds its Boeing 757 fleet
United Airlines has grounded 96 Boeing 757 airliners for "unscheduled maintenance," an airline spokesman said Tuesday. The grounding meant that some of the airline's flights would be canceled or delayed Tuesday night and Wednesday, spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. "Specifically ... United is performing follow-up maintenance checks starting today to the air data computers on its 96 Boeing 757s," Johnson said. "All of the air data computers are fully functional. The checks are necessary as part of a modification process to the system."

CNN: Computer spanks humans on Day 2 of 'Jeopardy!'
So far, it's elementary for Watson. Despite blowing a Final Jeopardy! question about airports, IBM's computer dismantled its human rivals during Tuesday night's special edition of the "Jeopardy!" game show. Watson finished the first game of a two-game match with $35,734 in winnings, far ahead of runner-up Brad Rutter, who earned $10,000. Ken Jennings trailed with $4,800. Watson, represented on the set by a black, tablet-like avatar, got 13 questions right before one of his flesh-and-blood challengers (Jennings) answered correctly. The computer nailed answers on an impressive variety of topics, ranging from architecture to biological science to classical music to "Saturday Night Live."

For the latest international news: http://edition.cnn.com

CNN: Bahrain protesters make camp beneath capital landmark
Thousands of activists camped out at the foot of a Bahraini landmark early Wednesday after the Persian Gulf state's king pledged to consider reforms and investigate the killings of two demonstrators during protests this week. Police were nowhere in sight as about 3,000 people laid out blankets and pitched tents in Manama's Pearl Roundabout, where a massive pearl sits at the apex of a circle of inward-sweeping arches. Police gave the area a wide berth, apparently allowing protesters to vent their anger before Wednesday's funeral for one of the dead, said Mansoor Al-Jamri, editor of the newspaper Al Wasat.

CNN: CBS correspondent assaulted in Egypt
A CBS correspondent was brutally attacked Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square after the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the network said in a statement released Tuesday. Lara Logan, 39, was covering celebrations for a "60 Minutes" story, the network said, when a frenzied mob of about 200 people surrounded her, her crew and their security team. Separated from the others in the chaos, Logan was surrounded, beaten and sexually assaulted, the statement said. A group of women and about 20 Egyptian soldiers intervened to rescue the correspondent, the network said.

CNN: Slain ICE agent identified; another agent wounded in Mexico
Gunmen opened fire on two U.S. immigration agents in Mexico on Tuesday, killing one and injuring the other, officials said. The two agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were attacked Tuesday afternoon while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey. One of the agents was gravely wounded and died later Tuesday. He was identified as Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata. Zapata "lost his life in service to our country," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement to employees.

Financial Times: World Bank: Chronic hunger to affect 1 billion
The number of chronically hungry people is approaching 1bn, the level last seen during the 2007-08 food crisis, in the clearest sign yet of the humanitarian impact of rising agricultural commodities prices in poor countries. Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said on Tuesday that the rise in food prices had already pushed an additional 44m people into extreme poverty, which is closely associated with hunger. The rate of the increase suggests the number of undernourished people, which the UN said last year was 925m, will now hit 1bn by the end of this year as the effect of spiralling prices filters through.

Los Angeles Times: Afghan plan poses threat to women's shelters
One is a barely pubescent girl, forced to wed a much older man to pay a family debt. Another is a scarred and bruised mother of four, so traumatized by her husband's beatings that she trembles whenever anyone speaks to her. A third is a spirited young woman marked for death by her brothers and father when she tried to run away with the man she wanted to marry. All found sanctuary at a shelter in the Afghan capital run by a privately funded women's group. But this fragile haven and others like it are threatened by a plan, laid out publicly Tuesday for the first time by the administration of President Hamid Karzai, to bring all such facilities under strict government control. Women's groups and their supporters say making the shelters answerable to the state in every aspect of their day-to-day operations would have a catastrophic effect on their ability to protect women and girls fleeing forced marriage or abuse, and put rape victims at risk of being killed by relatives for the sake of family "honor."

Wall Street Journal: Grand Jury Investigates Karzai Brother
A U.S. federal grand jury is investigating allegations that Mahmood Karzai, a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, engaged in racketeering, extortion and tax evasion while amassing a small business empire in Afghanistan. U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington said a grand jury in the Southern District of New York is hearing evidence against Mahmood Karzai, offering the strongest indication to date that federal authorities are pushing ahead with an investigation that risks worsening already fragile relations between the U.S. and President Karzai's government.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

CNNMoney: Insurer medical costs falling – 1st time in 10 years
For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. health insurance industry is expected to report a decline in medical expenses, according to a new report by Weiss Ratings. Weiss, an independent provider of insurance company ratings, based its findings on a study of 852 health insurers. The study showed that medical costs fell 1.6% in the first nine months of 2010. For all of 2010, Weiss estimates that insurers' medical expenses,will fall 3% less 'reinsurance costs' bought by health insurers to limit risk.

Wall Street Journal: Banks Push Home Buyers to Put Down More Cash
The down payments demanded by banks to buy homes have ballooned since the housing bust, forcing many people to rethink what they can afford and potentially shrinking the pool of eligible buyers. Last week, the Obama administration called for gradually raising down payments to a minimum of 10% on conventional loans, meaning those that can be bought or guaranteed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And mortgage data show that private lenders are already pushing sharply higher the required down payments, mainly to mitigate their risk as home prices continue to fall.

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