POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, February 21, 2011
February 21st, 2011
04:18 AM ET
11 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, February 21, 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: Legislators hint at compromise on short-term spending extension
Leading Republicans and Democrats on Sunday signaled a desire for compromise on a short-term spending resolution to keep the government running while more substantive talks on budget cuts take place. On morning talk shows, members of both parties insisted that no one wants the government to shut down on March 4, when the current resolution authorizing government funding at last year's level runs out. The Republican-led House on Saturday passed a spending resolution for the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends September 30, that would cut $61 billion from current spending levels. Senate Democrats, who hold a slim majority in their chamber, say those cuts have no chance of passing. They want to negotiate more targeted reductions that allow for new investment in education, energy research and other areas championed by President Barack Obama.

CNN: Schumer: Republicans 'clamoring' for government shutdown
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York criticized Republican demands to cut spending in a short-term spending resolution that would continue funding the government while negotiations persist on a longer-term plan. Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Schumer said compromise is necessary to avoid a government shutdown that will be bad for everyone. "Here's the bottom line: we have said shutdown is off the table," Schumer said. "Speaker (John) Boehner, (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, other Republican leaders have not taken it off the table when asked and there are lots of people on the hard right clamoring for a shutdown."

Washington Post: What might happen if federal government shuts down again
If President Obama and congressional Republicans do not reach an agreement on how to fund the final seven months of the fiscal year, some military veterans might not receive benefits checks and other Americans would be unable to apply for Social Security. The State Department might not issue new passports, unemployment statistics would not publish as scheduled, museums and national parks would close, and worse – piles of elephant manure might pile up in a National Zoo parking lot because workers can't ship it away for composting. Budget disagreements between Bill Clinton and Republicans prompted these incidents in 1995 and 1996, as federal agencies halted operations and stopped paying workers. For more than 20 days, about 260,000 federal employees in the D.C. area stayed home, or reported for duty only to be sent packing hours later. Security guards roamed the halls forcing out workers who lingered, and some frustrated feds sought temporary jobs as bike messengers and servers at restaurants to pay holiday bills, according to Post reports from the time.

CNN: Debate over Wisconsin protests, in Washington
Congressmen weighed in on the ongoing strikes in Wisconsin Sunday, debating the appropriate involvement of national figures. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the president's recent remarks on the situation "inappropriate." "I think the president should be focusing on what we're doing in Washington," Graham said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "When the president talks about Wisconsin, I think that is really inappropriate." Last week President Obama said that the collective bargaining reform proposal seemed "like more of an assault more on unions."

CNN: Teachers debate returning to work after Wisconsin protests
After six days of protests that packed the state capitol, Wisconsin's major teachers' union called on members to start returning to work Monday but keep fighting a proposed rollback of union protections for public employees. "To educators whose contracts do not recognize Presidents' Day, we call on them to return to duty by day - and find ways to be vocal and visible after their workday is done," Mary Bell, president of the nearly 100,000-member Wisconsin Education Association Council, told members in a statement issued Sunday afternoon. "To those whose contracts recognize Presidents' Day as a holiday, we call on them to return to Madison."

Huffington Post: Diane Russell, Maine State Lawmaker, Heads To Wisconsin To Join Protests: 'It's A Class War'
The protests that erupted last week in Wisconsin have attracted attention not only across the United States, but even as far away as Egypt. One of those out-of-state observers, Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D), has decided that what is happening in Madison is so important - even to her own Northeastern state - that she has decided to pack up a vehicle and drive all the way out there with three of her friends to join the fight. "I wanted to be there to show solidarity," said Russell in an interview Sunday evening with The Huffington Post as she was driving through New Hampshire. "I'm coming because if the levees break in Madison, everyone gets flooded."

CNN: Rumsfeld: WMD issue was 'the big one' in Iraq invasion
If the Bush Administration had known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it probably wouldn't have decided to invade in 2003, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview broadcast Sunday. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" program, Rumsfeld noted there were multiple reasons for attacking Iraq and ousting Saddam Hussein from power. However, intelligence reports – now shown to have been false – that Iraq possessed so-called WMDs was the main reason for going in, Rumsfeld said. "No question it was the big one," he said. Asked if the United States would not have invaded if the administration didn't believe Iraq had the weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said: "I think that's probably right."

Washington Post: National Institute for Civil Discourse to open at University of Arizona
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush will serve as honorary chairmen of a new center at the University of Arizona that will focus on civility in political debate, university officials will announce Monday. The National Institute for Civil Discourse – a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy about civility in public discourse – will open Monday in Tucson. It was created in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings in the city where six people were killed and 13 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor and former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) will serve as honorary co-chairmen.

New York Times: U.S. Sets 21st-Century Goal: Building a Better Patent Office
President Obama, who emphasizes American innovation, says modernizing the federal Patent and Trademark Office is crucial to “winning the future.” So at a time when a quarter of patent applications come from California, and many of those from Silicon Valley, the patent office is opening its first satellite office — in Detroit. That is only one of the signs that have many critics saying that the office has its head firmly in the 20th century, if not the 19th. Only in the last three years has the office begun to accept a majority of its applications in digital form. Mr. Obama astonished a group of technology executives last year when he described how the office has to print some applications filed by computer and scan them into another, incompatible computer system.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

Sports Illustrated: Bayne, 20, claims Daytona 500
Trevor Bayne's victory in Sunday's Daytona 500 is a reward for his sacrifice and humility that he displayed throughout SpeedWeeks. That he won NASCAR's biggest race in his second Cup start is one of the biggest upsets in auto racing history. Bayne, who turned 20 on Saturday, became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, holding off Carl Edwards at the checkered flag to win a wild and controversial race. Bayne's victory gave the Wood Brothers their fifth Daytona 500 win, but the first since David Pearson in 1976. Bayne, who served as the second driver in a two-car tandem with Jeff Gordon in Thursday's qualifying race before crashing on the last lap, earned his win by being pushed across the finish line by Carl Edwards. "That's definitely not how we planned it," Bayne admitted. "I planned on winning the whole time, don't get me wrong. But I planned on pushing somebody until that last lap."

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

CNN: Gadhafi's son pitches reforms, warns of civil war if protests continue
Wedged between two countries where decades-long regimes toppled under relentless demonstrations, protesters in Libya hope to accomplish what Egypt and Tunisia has and oust their ruler of 42 years. But the country's fate hanged precariously Monday after the son of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi warned of a chaotic civil if citizens side with anti-government demonstrators. The unrest - spurred in part by demands for freedom and angst over high unemployment - has left at least 219 people dead since protests started six days ago, according to medical sources. Sporadic gunfire continued to ring out early Monday in parts of the North African nation, albeit a far cry from the tumult seen Sunday when the unrest came to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's doorstep in the capital Tripoli for the first time.

CNN: Security forces push back on Iranian protesters
Thousands of security officers cracked down on landmark sites in Iran's capital and other major cities Sunday, at times striking at throngs of protesters with batons and rushing others on motorcycles, witnesses said. A few plainclothes security agents stood in the middle of Tehran's Revolution Square, countering anti-government protesters with signs of their own in support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and chanting "I will give my life for the leader," an eyewitness told CNN. Hundreds of other security personnel cheered the group. Another witness said large crowds chanted "Death to the dictator" at the intersection of Gharib and Enghelab (revolution) avenues. Security forces on foot and motorcycles there beat several protesters with batons and detained at least four, the witness said.

CNN: Protesters gather near Yemeni university
Hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered Sunday near a university at the Yemeni capital for a 10th consecutive day, witnesses said. Some of them chanted, "First Mubarak, now Ali," referring to Hosni Mubarak, who recently resigned as president of Egypt after nearly 30 years in power, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "It's amazing. It's a very peaceful atmosphere," said Atiaf Alwazir, an online activist. Eyewitnesses estimated the crowd of about a thousand, mostly students. People seemed in high spirits, witnesses said.

CNN: U.N. Secretary-General discusses protests with regional leaders
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has been in "continuous contact" with regional leaders in northern Africa and the Middle East, his office said. Ban has been deeply concerned by escalating violence and bloodshed during pro-reform demonstrations, according to a statement from his office released Sunday night "This is the time for broad-based dialogue and for genuine social and political reform," the office said. Ban has also spoken with world leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amr Moussa; and Catherine Ashton, the representative for foreign affairs and security for the European Union.

CNN: United States' top military officer visits Gulf region
The United States' top-ranking military officer arrived in the Middle East on Sunday for talks with military and civilian leaders in a region where popular uprisings and political turmoil have captured world attention for weeks. U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. He also plans a short visit to Djibouti, according to a statement released by his office. The weeklong visit is the second for Mullen since February 12, when he made a weekend visit to Jordan after that country's King Adbullah II swore in a new government amid a wave of protest that has swept the Middle East and North Africa since a Tunisian man killed himself two months ago in protest of high unemployment.

Washington Post: Afghan officials allege that 65 civilians were killed in U.S. military operation
Afghan government officials alleged Sunday that a U.S. military operation in the remote mountains of northeastern Afghanistan killed 65 innocent people, including 22 women and more than 30 children, the most serious allegation of civilian casualties in months. The governor of Konar province, Fazlullah Wahidi, said that NATO forces launched the operation four days ago in the Ghaziabad district, a desolate area near the province's northern border with Pakistan, where a lethal mix of insurgent groups operate. "According to locals in the area, American helicopters have been constantly bombing the village and have caused tremendous civilian casualties," Wahidi said in an interview. He said he received his information from residents "trapped" in the village.

Los Angeles Times: Anti-Semitism flares in Greece
Nearly 70 years later, Athens, one of the last European capitals to commemorate those who perished at the hands of Nazi forces, finally has a Holocaust memorial. But since its dedication in May, synagogues have been targeted, Jewish cemeteries desecrated, Holocaust monuments elsewhere in Greece vandalized and the Jewish Museum of Greece, in the capital, defaced with swastikas. What's more, an alarming chunk of Athenians in November supported the election of a neo-Nazi candidate to the capital's city council. The ocher-colored marble sculpture in the shape of a broken-up Star of David, its triangular tips dismembered, points toward the 29 Greek cities from which at least 60,000 Jews were gathered and deported to the Auschwitz and Treblinka extermination camps between 1943 and 1944.

The Guardian: Drink deaths: failure to act will cost an extra 250,000 lives by 2031, say doctors
Up to 250,000 people could die because of alcohol over the next 20 years unless ministers take strong action to tackle Britain's chronic drink problems, leading doctors are warning. The prediction comes in edition of the Lancet medical journal by three senior experts on alcohol, two of whom are advising the coalition on how to reduce drink-related harm. In a scathing critique of the government's approach to alcohol, the trio accuse ministers of pursuing policies that will make no difference to the soaring rates of drink-related liver disease. Ministers, including the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, are "too close" to the drinks industry and too reluctant to take effective steps, they say.

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CNN: Despite oversupply, U.S. gas prices leap
Gasoline prices have jumped another nickel, to 55 cents a gallon more than a year ago, according to a study published Sunday. The average price for a gallon of regular is $3.18, the Lundberg Survey found. That's up 5 cents from two weeks ago, publisher Trilby Lundberg said. "That is a significant bite for motorists considering the continued deep unemployment," Lundberg said. And it comes amid a "very wide and deep glut of gasoline supply," she added. The spike is partly due to events in the Middle East and north Africa, Lundberg said.

In Case You Missed It

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