POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 28, 2011
March 28th, 2011
04:13 AM ET
12 years ago

POLITICAL HOT TOPICS: Monday, March 28, 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: Obama's Libya decision debated before speech to nation
Presidential leadership or kowtowing to allies? Abuse of power or decisive action in the face of imminent catastrophe? Supporters and critics used Sunday talk shows to debate President Barack Obama's Libya policy on Sunday, the day before the president addresses the nation on the issue. The speech Monday night follows calls from all quarters for Obama to clarify the reason he sent U.S. forces to head the U.N.-authorized military mission intended to prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from unleashing his military on his own people. Obama has said that U.S. policy is the ouster of Gadhafi. However, the mandate of the military coalition is only to enforce a no-fly zone and arms embargo in Libya while taking other necessary steps to protect civilians.

CNN: Lieberman: Libya mission sets precedent
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Sen. Joe Lieberman said if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacks his own people, an international coalition should intervene as they did in Libya. "If Assad does what Gadhafi was doing, which is to threaten and go house-to-house and kill anybody who's not on his side. There's a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya. And it's the right one," Lieberman, I-Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're not going to stand by and allow this Assad to slaughter his people like his father did years ago."

Wall Street Journal: Fiscal Showdown Looms in Capitol
The White House and Democratic lawmakers, with less than two weeks left to avoid a government shutdown, are assembling a proposal for roughly $20 billion in additional spending cuts that could soon be offered to Republicans, according to people close to the budget talks. That would come on top of $10 billion in cuts that Congress has already enacted and would represent a deeper reduction than the Obama administration and Senate Democrats had offered previously in negotiations. But it isn't clear that would be enough to satisfy Republicans, who initially sought $61 billion in spending cuts and face pressure from tea-party activists not to compromise.

CNN: Gingrich: I’m not a hypocrite
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he expects to be running for president within a month. “I think within a month, we’ll have that taken care of and we’ll be running,” Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s my hope that all of this will work out and I’ll be able to run.” Gingrich touted his “very good team” and the reception he has received during appearances in early presidential primary and caucus states.

The Hill: DHS officials to testify on FOIA process
The Republican chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will get his first crack this week at publicly grilling Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials about the agency’s FOIA process. Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) has doggedly sought to find out whether DHS allows political appointees to play a role in prioritizing or censoring information it is required to release under the agency’s Freedom of information Act (FOIA) guidelines. When Issa took over control of the committee in January, his first major request for documents was for DHS to turn over thousands of copies of records and emails between agency officials. But Issa was not satisfied with DHS’s response, and last month he subpoenaed two of the department’s career employees, forcing them to give transcribed interviews before the committee.

Los Angeles Times: Democrat urges investigation into federal security contractors
A Democratic congressman is seeking an investigation into whether government money was used by three security contractors involved in a proposal to track and harass liberal critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia plans to send letters Monday to the Defense and Justice departments, as well as the head of the intelligence community, requesting a review of the companies' federal contracts. All three firms are government contractors with security clearance.

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CNN: Bomb wounds man reaching for Sunday paper
A pipe bomb hidden inside a newspaper exploded when an elderly Vacaville, California, man picked up the paper near his doorstep Sunday morning, ATF spokesman Marc Willis said. The man, who suffered "certainly serious, but not life-threatening injuries," was airlifted to a hospital, Vacaville city spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said. Residents of a dozen neighboring homes were evacuated for several hours, but they were allowed to return home later Sunday afternoon, Mazzaferro said.

CNN: New York City to dispute census numbers
City officials will formally challenge the Census Bureau's data for New York City, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg said understated the number of residents in Brooklyn and Queens and overstated the number of vacant housing units in the city. Although New York was named the most populous city in the country with 8,175,133 residents, its meager 2.1% increase since 2000's census count left many elected officials skeptical that every New Yorker was accounted for. The Census Bureau reported that Brooklyn's population increased by just 1.6% and Queens grew by just 0.1%, gaining only 1,300 people since 2000.

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CNN: Rebels gain ground as airstrikes continue in Libya
Libyan opposition fighters marched west Sunday, seizing control of two key cities, CNN observed, and gaining ground as coalition airstrikes continued to pound the North African nation. Rebel forces told CNN that forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pulled back from Ras Lanuf. A CNN crew in the city witnessed damaged vehicles on the outskirts of the town, though the town appeared to have avoided major destruction. There were some homes that appeared burned, and others had gaping holes. The damage looked to be from fighting when Gadhafi's forces had originally pushed the rebels out. There were no clashes reported Sunday, rebels said. Rebels also appeared to have taken control of the key oil town of Brega, a CNN team on the scene observed.

CNN: NATO approves expanded role in Libya
NATO's North Atlantic Council on Sunday approved an operations plan that will shift the entire Libyan military mission to alliance command, officials said, easing the burden on the United States and its allies to protect civilians in the war-torn country. NATO ambassadors unanimously approved a so-called "no-fly plus" plan that will put the alliance in charge of protecting civilians as well as enforcing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. "Our goal is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from the Gadhafi regime," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. resolution. Nothing more, nothing less."

CNN: Expert: Japan nuclear plant owner warned of tsunami threat
A seismic researcher told CNN Sunday that he warned the owner of the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant two years ago that the facility could be vulnerable to a tsunami. The owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, appeared to ignore the warning, said seismologist Yukinobu Okamura. TEPCO has not responded to Okamura's allegation. Okamura heads Japan's Active Fault & Earthquake Center. He said he told members of a TEPCO safety committee two years ago that data collected from layers of earth show that in the year 869 a massive tsunami devastated where the plant now is. The six-unit Fukushima Daiichi plant is located about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

CNN: Suicide attack kills at least 13 in Afghanistan
A suicide bombing on a school in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 13 people and wounded 56 others, NATO officials said Monday. The Afghan interior ministry described a similar attack that killed 20 construction workers and wounded 56 others. It was not immediately clear if NATO's International Security Assistance Force and Afghan officials were talking about the same incident.

CNN: Yemen battles al Qaeda as president clings to power
Fighting between Yemeni security forces and members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has left people on both sides dead over the past two days, Yemeni security forces said. The reports came as President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been fighting to hold onto power, arguing that he is best equipped to lead the fight against Islamists. Three "al Qaeda terrorists were killed" and six others were arrested in Lawdar district, Yemen's official news agency Saba reported Saturday. On Sunday, seven Yemeni soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula attacked them in Mareb, two security officials said. The attack took place at a military checkpoint a mile north of the government complex in Mareb province, east of the capital, Sanaa.

CNN: Carter coming back to Cuba, raising expectations
When Jimmy Carter arrived on his last visit to Cuba in 2002, Fidel Castro himself was on the tarmac to greet the former U.S. president. He became the only American leader - in or out of office - to visit this island since Castro's 1959 revolution. On Monday, Carter will be back on a private mission at the invitation of the Cuban government. He will meet with the new president, Raul Castro, and other officials to talk about bilateral ties. The trip has sparked speculation that Carter could try to secure the early release of American contractor Alan Gross, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for "subversive" work providing illegal internet access to Cuban groups.

CNN: Amnesty International: Executions worldwide drop 25%
Thirty one countries have abolished the death penalty but China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Yemen remain amongst the most frequent executioners, according to a new report from Amnesty International released Monday. The human rights organization officially recorded at least 527 executions in 2010, down from at least 714 in 2009. The leading regions for executions, according to Amnesty, are Asia and the Middle East, with eight of the top 10 nations from those areas. "While executions may be on the decline, a number of countries continue to pass death sentences for drug-related offenses, economic crimes, sexual relations between consenting adults and blasphemy - violating international human rights law forbidding the use of the death penalty except for the most serious crimes," said Salil Shetty, the group's secretary general.

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Wall Street Journal: U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web
As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites. McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee's Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region.

Detroit Free Press: Sales of fuel-efficient autos stall despite high gas prices
Automakers are spending more than $50 billion to meet the government's 2016 fuel economy law, but consumers aren't buying enough of the fuel-efficient vehicles necessary to allow automakers to achieve the required 35.5 miles-per-gallon average. Despite rising gas prices and new electric cars and hybrids, the fuel economy of Americans' new vehicles stagnated last year. The 2010 average of all new vehicles actually slipped to 22.2 m.p.g. from 22.3 m.p.g., according to a report from Ward's Automotive Reports that examined calendar-year sales.

In Case You Missed It

CNN's Candy Crowley talks to two former intelligence officials about the task of removing Moammar Gadhafi from power.

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