POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
March 22nd, 2011
04:11 AM ET
11 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Tuesday, March 22, 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.

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CNN: Obama walks fine line on Gadhafi's future
President Barack Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi "needs to go," but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow mandate of just protecting innocent civilians. "Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi's people," Obama said at a news conference here. Obama alluded to the fact that U.N. Resolution 1973 passed on Thursday restricts the U.S. and its allies from seeking regime change and directly ousting Gadhafi from power. But, he noted, "Now, I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go."

CNN: Bipartisanship in Congress – Obama's Libya policy brings out critics on both sides
The military operation in Libya is resulting in something unusual in Congress these days: a bipartisan response of sharp criticism coming from both parties. On the left, President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, including Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, say the president is "stirring up a lot of controversy." "We're not coordinating with the rebels. Are we going to leave them surrounded, and with the mercy of Gadhafi? I've never seen anything so confused in my life," Norton told CNN.

CNN: Top Republican amps up Libya criticism
The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday criticized the mission underway in Libya saying "there are no guidelines for success." In an interview set to air Monday on CNN's "John King, USA," Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana said the operation has not been clearly defined. "I do not understand the mission because as far as I can tell in the United States there is no mission and there are no guidelines for success," Lugar told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. "That may well be true with our allies although conceivably they may have other missions in mind and simply try to get Security Council clearance to proceed."

CNN: Kucinich says Obama is committing 'impeachable offense'
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the seven-term liberal Democrat from Ohio who has twice run for the White House, says President Obama committed an "impeachable offense" in deciding to authorize U.S. airstrikes over Libya Saturday without the consent of Congress. "President Obama moved forward without Congress approving. He didn't have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that's got to be said," Kucinich told the web site Raw Story on Monday. "It's not even disputable, this isn't even a close question." "Such an action – that involves putting America's service men and women into harm's way, whether they're in the Air Force or the Navy – is a grave decision that cannot be made by the president alone," the Cleveland-area congressman added.

CNN: Pawlenty enters presidential sweepstakes
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty Monday became the first major Republican candidate to form a presidential exploratory committee – a step that allows him to officially start raising funds for a campaign and to take concrete steps towards mounting a run for the GOP nomination next year. In a highly produced video posted on his Facebook page that contained images of himself as well as patriotic symbols, Pawlenty said he had seen the effect of job loss personally during his youth and referenced some of the economic hardships his state and others have faced more recently. "Over the last year I have travelled to nearly every state in the country almost every state, and I know many Americans are feeling that way today. I know that feeling. I've lived it, but there is a brighter future for America," he said in the video.

CNN: Alaska GOP lawmaker seeks to curb collective bargaining rights
The growing push to restrict the collective bargaining rights of government employees has reached the far-flung state of Alaska. There, a Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation that would strip many public employees of the right to collectively bargain for hours, benefits and working conditions. State employees could still collectively bargain for wages under the legislation. The bill exempts firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians, who, according to Title 40 of the Alaska Statutes, are prohibited from going on strike.

CNN: McCaskill repays nearly $300,000 for unpaid taxes on plane
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, acknowledged Monday that she failed to pay nearly $300,000 in personal property taxes owed over the last four years for the partial ownership she and her husband have in a private plane. McCaskill, a vocal supporter of reform and transparency in the Senate, described the failure to pay taxes as unintentional and said she will sell the plane. "I take full responsibility for the mistake," she said in a conference call with reporters.

For the latest national news: www.CNN.com

CNN: Mental tests ordered for Arizona shooting suspect
A judge has ordered Jared Lee Loughner to undergo a mental evaluation at a specialized facility in Springfield, Missouri, as soon as possible to help determine if he is competent to stand trial, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson, Arizona. Loughner, an Arizona man, faces 49 counts - including murder and attempted murder - related to the January 8 mass shooting in a grocery store parking lot. Six people were killed in the shooting and 13 others were wounded, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Source of 30-mile oil spill in Gulf puzzles officials
Emulsified oil, oil mousse and tar balls from an unknown source were washing up on beaches from Grand Isle to West Timbalier Island along the Gulf of Mexico, a stretch of about 30 miles, and it was still heading west Monday afternoon, a Louisiana official said. The state is testing the material to see if it matches oil from last April's BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Oil spill response workers under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials were scrambling to block more of the material from coming ashore. ES&H Corp. has been hired to oversee the cleanup. "We are working with our state and local partners to mitigate any further environmental impact while continuing to facilitate the safe movement of marine traffic to the fullest extent possible," Capt. Jonathan Burton, the federal on-scene coordinator for the response, said in a news release late Monday.

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

CNN: U.S. says Gadhafi's drive halted, but future of Libyan mission unclear
An international mission to weaken the force of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has stopped the ruler's momentum, a U.S. official said. But criticism and questions about the operation persist, with no clear answer on who will take over command of the military operation and what the end game will be. Missiles and anti-aircraft fire pierced through the sky in Tripoli before dawn Tuesday - the fourth day of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the multinational effort to protect civilians from attack by pro-Gadhafi forces. The United States fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya in the past 12 hours, a military spokeswoman said early Tuesday morning. A total of 159 Tomahawks have been fired by the United States and the United Kingdom since the mission - called Operation Odyssey Dawn - began Saturday.

CNN: Putin and Medvedev spar over Libya
In a rare public spat, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev criticized his political mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for Putin's comments over the use of force against Libya. It all started Monday, when Putin visited the town of Votkinsk, where a large defense plant that produces missiles (including nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles) is located. Criticizing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya and military action to back it up, Putin called it "obviously incomplete and flawed." …On Thursday, acting on instructions from Medvedev, Russia abstained from the U.N. Security Council resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but did not veto it, something that Putin obviously thought should have happened.

Wall Street Journal: After Flood, Deaths Overpower Ritual
Improvised morgues across tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan are overwhelmed by an accumulation of the dead, forcing Japanese to consider a practice that hasn't been widespread for decades: burial. Nowhere, perhaps, is Japan's vein of conformity as apparent as it is in death: 99.9% of Japanese who passed away in fiscal 2009 were cremated, according to the country's health ministry. But the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan's people, its industries and its environment have also eroded the certainty of how many thousands of Japanese will be laid to rest. In the worst-hit areas, local crematoriums can't incinerate the deceased fast enough to keep up with new arrivals. There isn't enough kerosene to burn the bodies, or dry ice to preserve them. As the government's official toll of the dead and missing has exceeded 21,000 people, governments of coastal villages are running out of time.

CNN: Smoke spews from 2 reactors at stricken Japanese nuclear plant
What appeared to be smoke was rising Tuesday from two adjacent reactors in the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a nuclear safety official said. Smoke spewed Monday from the same reactors, setbacks that came despite fervent efforts to prevent the further release of radioactive materials at the stricken facility. Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said smoke was rising from the plant's No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. It was not immediately clear why.

CNN: U.S. military considering mandatory evacuations in Yokosuka
The U.S. military is considering the mandatory evacuation of thousands of American troops and their families in Japan out of concern over rising radiation levels, a senior defense official tells CNN. The official, who did not want to be on the record talking about ongoing deliberations, says there are no discussions to evacuate all U.S. troops across the country. The talks have focused exclusively on U.S. troops in Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo, the official said. Yokosuka is home to America's largest naval base in Japan. The military is monitoring radiation levels on a constant basis.

CNN: Yemen leader, top general discuss transition of power
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a top military general are discussing a deal for a peaceful transition of power that would allow Saleh to stay in place for the rest of the year, a Yemeni official and senior U.S. official said Monday. The discussions come amid cracks in support for Saleh's 32-year rule after weeks of anti-government protests. Three top generals declared their support for the protests Monday, including Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, the man now discussing the deal with Saleh. Al-Ahmar, who belongs to an important tribe whose backing is significant for Saleh, also said he will order his troops to protect civilians demonstrating against the president.

BBC: Karzai to name areas for pullout of Nato troops
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is due to name five or six areas of the country which will pass from control by foreign troops into Afghan hands. The areas could account for about a fifth of the Afghan population. One of the cities expected to be handed over is Lashkar Gah, the capital of the troubled Helmand province. The handover is seen as a critical step in a transition of power, taking place before foreign troops end combat operations at the end of 2014. Despite rising casualty numbers, the surge of extra American troops and tens of thousands of new Afghan police and soldiers has improved security in a number of areas in the country.

For the latest business news: www.CNNMoney.com

USA Today: AT&T bid sparks fear of higher prices for T-Mobile customers
AT&T's (T) agreement to buy T-Mobile for $39 billion is generating speculation that prices for wireless phone service will rise for some, as the number of big wireless providers shrinks from four to three. T-Mobile customers appear most vulnerable. The service generally charges less than AT&T does. That probably will change if the deal goes through, says Mark Beccue of ABI Research. The companies say it could take a year for the acquisition to pass muster with federal regulators and lawmakers.Yet, there's no consensus on whether officials will agree to the deal. The Justice Department must decide whether it will make the wireless market uncompetitive, potentially resulting in higher prices and fewer choices. The Federal Communications Commission must determine whether an AT&T alliance with T-Mobile would serve the public interest.

In Case You Missed It

CNN's Dana Bash reports many in Congress are responding with criticism and concern to U.S. action in Libya this weekend.

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