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EARLYBIRD

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Statements Hamdan made under 'coercive' conditions thrown out, Iraqi government voices support for 2010 U.S. withdrawal deadline, FEMA faulted on disaster housing strategy, convicted Serb leader found after decade-long hunt.

• "President Bush gave U.S. Olympians a rousing White House send-off to next month's games in Beijing, urging them Monday to 'compete swifter, higher and stronger' but also be mindful they will be 'ambassadors of liberty' to the people of China and elsewhere," AP reports. "Bush is attending the opening ceremonies and the first few days of the Aug. 8-24 games."

• "Prosecutors in the trial of Osama bin Laden's former driver cannot use as evidence some statements the defendant gave interrogators because they were obtained under 'highly coercive' conditions while he was a captive in Afghanistan, a military judge ruled Monday evening," the Washington Post reports. "Some of" Salim Ahmed Hamdan's "allegedly incriminating admissions made up a key part of the prosecution's case against him."

 

• "More than six years after the Bush administration sent hundreds of foreign prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, the rules for deciding just who can be held and for how long remain unclear," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Comments Monday by the attorney general and congressional Democrats suggest such issues will not be resolved soon -- and not before a new administration takes power."

• "Democrats in Congress hope to ignite a drive to reverse the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy Wednesday with the first hearing on the subject since 1993, when President Clinton said gays could serve in uniform if they kept quiet about their sexual orientation," USA Today reports. "The hearing comes as the volunteer armed forces struggle to retain troops to fight two wars."

• "Soldiers who are physically or mentally ailing can wait two months to a year before the Army acts to medically discharge them or return them to their units, according to a House investigation," USA Today reports. "That's two or three times longer than the Army goal set last year."

 

• "Louisiana prosecutors asked the Supreme Court on Monday to reconsider its recent decision outlawing the death penalty for people convicted of raping children," AP reports. At issue is "the failure of anyone involved in the case, lawyers on both sides as well as the justices, to take account of a change in federal law in 2006 that authorized the death penalty for members of the military who are convicted of child rape."

Congress: Senate Showdown Set Over Gasoline Prices

• In the Senate, "Democrats and Republicans are clearly desperate to avoid the pummeling from voters if they go home for the August recess without having passed something addressing gas prices, but where they end up at the end of this week is anyone's guess," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The looming Sept. 30 expiration of the federal offshore drilling ban has Republicans eyeing a high-stakes showdown on their favorite issue a month before the elections," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "In the face of soaring gas prices and growing support among the public for expanded oil drilling, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have strenuously avoided votes on opening more land and sea for exploration," but "Congress would have to vote affirmatively to keep the offshore drilling ban in place."

• "Republican Senate leaders -- terrified by the prospect of losing five or more seats in November -- have freed their members to vote however they need to vote to get reelected, even if that means bucking the president or the party's leadership," the Politico reports. "On at least four votes over the past month -- Medicare, housing, the GI Bill and the Farm Bill -- Republican leaders haven't even bothered whipping members to toe the party line or back President Bush's veto threats."

 

AP reports on the Senate taking up "what is unofficially being called the 'Coburn Omnibus'... a package of about 40 bills that have in many cases been single-handedly stalled by one of the Senate's more conservative members, Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The package constitutes a showdown between Coburn, known for putting 'holds' on legislation to slow their passage, and" Reid, "who is increasingly frustrated by GOP delaying tactics."

• "A House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing today might turn up the heat on congressional leaders to include Medicaid relief for states in a second economic stimulus package taking shape," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Democrats have gotten a taste of the ethics woes that have battered the Republican Party for the past three years, but any public outrage has taken a backseat to pocketbook issues and will likely only affect individual races," The Hill reports. "This year, ethics scandals have generated fewer national headlines as the housing crisis and economy have rattled voters."

• ""Representatives of a 13-member American business delegation gathered Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to tout a two-day trade mission to Panama this week intended to help prod Congress into approving the long-stalled free trade agreement with the Central American nation," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "United States Capitol Police early" today "resolved a situation in the Hart Senate Office Building atrium area, where a man had been threatening for hours to plunge himself from the seventh floor," The Hill reports. "The unidentified man turned himself over to Capitol Police at approximately 2:00 am, according to police sources familiar with the event."

Iraq: Government Voices Support For 2010 U.S. Withdrawal

• "The U.S. troop 'surge' in Iraq that" Bush "ordered last year has ended after the last of five additional combat brigades left the country, a U.S. military spokesman said" today, Reuters reports. "The remaining troops from that brigade departed over the weekend, leaving just under 147,000 American soldiers in Iraq."

• "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama conferred with senior Iraqi leaders, U.S. officials and military commanders Monday, as a spokesman for the Iraqi government declared that it would like U.S. combat forces to complete their withdrawal by the end of 2010," the Washington Post reports. "The comments by spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh mark the second time in recent days that a senior Iraqi has endorsed a timetable for U.S. withdrawal that is roughly similar to the one advocated by Obama."

• "Obama travelled to Anbar province" today "to meet Sunni Arab tribal leaders whose decision to fight al Qaeda helped change the course of the conflict in Iraq" Reuters reports. "Obama held talks with tribal chiefs including Ahmed Abu Risha, head of the U.S.-backed Awakening Council."

• British Prime Minster "Gordon Brown will today hold back from giving an 'artificial timetable' for British troop withdrawal from Iraq in a Commons statement, but intends to leave the impression that progress is such that a withdrawal is possible within two years," the Guardian reports. "His Commons statement will come as a glowing report from the defence select committee, published today, claims 'a high degree of security has been restored in Basra', the centre of UK operations for the 4,000 British troops still in Iraq."

Nation: FEMA Faulted On Disaster Housing Strategy

• "A year overdue, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a draft disaster housing strategy Monday, which leaves it largely up to the next administration to figure out a way to avoid Hurricane Katrina-like problems that sent victims to toxic trailers," AP reports. "'What FEMA delivered today is a strategy without a plan,' said Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu [D], one of FEMA's strongest critics regarding disaster housing."

• "Federal officials vastly overestimated the value of hurricane relief supplies given away earlier this year," FEMA said Monday, CNN reports. "The General Services Administration, which manages federal property, over-counted cases of toilet paper, plastic sporks and other cutlery, by mistakenly counting a single item as being worth as much as multiple items contained in a package of goods. The original GSA estimate of $85 million should have been $18.5 million."

• "Across the country, women in their prime earning years, struggling with an unfriendly economy, are retreating from the work force, either permanently or for long stretches," the New York Times reports. "They had piled into jobs in growing numbers since the 1960s. But that stopped happening this decade, and as the nearly seven-year-old recovery gives way to hard times, the retreat is likely to accelerate."

• "Federal officials investigating a three-month-old salmonella outbreak have isolated the bacteria in a jalapeno pepper from a small distribution facility in McAllen, Tex., and" Monday "warned consumers nationwide to avoid eating raw jalapenos or products that contain them until more is known," the Washington Post reports. "Investigators found the contaminated jalapeno at Agricola Zaragosa in McAllen, after tracing back jalapenos eaten by restaurant patrons who got sick."

• "On Monday, Virginia took another step toward acknowledging its complicated past as a state that openly fought desegregation," the Washington Post reports. "State leaders unveiled a monument outside the Capitol that commemorates the late Barbara Johns and others who were at the forefront of the movement to end school segregation in the 1950s."

• "Tractor-trailer and bus drivers in the United States have suffered seizures, heart attacks or unconscious spells behind the wheel that led to deadly crashes on highways. Hundreds of thousands of drivers carry commercial licenses even though they also qualify for full federal disability payments, according to a new U.S. safety study obtained by The Associated Press."

Economy: Lawmakers Warm To Pay Caps For Fannie & Freddie Execs

• "As the dust settles on the latest bout of financial turmoil, the Federal Reserve appears to be focused on inflation rather than economic growth," the Financial Times reports. "This inflation bias comes in spite of the continuing troubles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, extreme volatility in bank stocks and the recent dip in the price of oil."

• "Bank examiners from the Federal Reserve and the Comptroller of the Currency are inspecting the books of the nation's two largest mortgage finance companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the Bush administration prods Congress to approve a plan that would enable it to inject billions of dollars into the companies," the New York Times reports.

• "Democrats and Republicans queasy about a federal rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are coalescing around the idea of letting the government slap limits on the multimillion-dollar pay packages of their executives," AP reports. "Key lawmakers -- puzzling over how to explain to constituents why they voted to bail out the troubled government-sponsored firms -- see new curbs on compensation for the top officers as a crucial measure to cut down on the cringe factor."

• "The Ford Motor Company, which devoted itself for nearly 20 years to putting millions of Americans into big pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, is about to drastically alter its focus to building more small cars," the New York Times reports. "The struggling automaker, reacting to what it sees as a rapid and permanent shift in consumer tastes brought on by high gas prices, plans to unveil its new direction on Thursday, when it will report quarterly earnings."

• "Yahoo bought some breathing space on Monday in its long struggle to remain independent, agreeing a ceasefire with Carl Icahn in return for giving up three board seats to the activist investor," the Financial Times reports. "However, some investors and analysts warned that the pact would not put an end to the bruising battle with Microsoft that has transfixed the consumer internet business for much of this year."

• "T. Boone Pickens has played a lot of odd roles over the years.... But perhaps the strangest role the 80-year-old, Oklahoma-born Pickens has fashioned for himself is his current one: the billionaire speculator as energy wise man," and "an oil-and-gas magnate as champion of wind power," the Washington Post reports.

World: Convicted Serb Leader Found After Decade-Long Hunt

• "Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader indicted by a U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, was captured in Serbia on Monday," the Washington Post reports. "The arrest ends a decade-long manhunt that had repeatedly frustrated his Western pursuers and left festering one of the most murderous chapters in Europe's post-World War II history."

• "When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets her North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun, in Singapore this week, it will be the first substantive high-level meeting between Washington and the North since Madeleine K. Albright visited North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, during the waning months of the Clinton administration," the New York Times reports.

• "Rice accused Iran on Monday of not being serious at weekend talks about its disputed nuclear program despite the presence of a senior U.S. diplomat, and warned it may soon face new sanctions," AP reports. "In her first public comments since Saturday's meeting in Switzerland, Rice said Iran had given the run-around to envoys from the U.S. and five other world powers."

• "Negotiators from Zimbabwe's opposition and ruling party were due to hold a first round of talks in South Africa" today "aimed at putting an end to the country's months-long political crisis," Agence France-Presse reports. "A day after veteran President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a deal agreeing on the framework of the talks, their representatives were expected in the capital Pretoria under mediation overseen by South African leader Thabo Mbeki."

• "Russia is showing its irritation with U.S. intervention in its back yard by selling more weapons to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez," the Washington Times reports. "Mr. Chavez is to arrive in Moscow" today "with a reported billion-dollar shopping list of armaments, including submarines and helicopters."

• "A former member of the first family of oil-rich Kazakhstan is accusing its authoritarian ruler of extensive corruption, potentially complicating U.S. efforts to improve relations with the strategically important Central Asian state. From a hiding place in Europe, the former son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev asserted in interviews with The Wall Street Journal (subscription) that Mr. Nazarbayev has diverted billions of dollars in state assets and long taken commissions from companies doing business in his mineral-rich land."

• "The Indian parliament will hold a vote of confidence in the Congress party-led government that could decide the fate of a nuclear deal with the US," BBC News reports. "It comes after the government's left-wing allies withdrew their support in protest against the controversial civilian nuclear accord."

• "Strong suggestions by the United States that it could resort to unilateral intervention against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan are generating increasing anxiety in the Pakistani press and among government officials, who warn that such an action could backfire," the New York Times reports.

Campaigns: Obama Overseas

• Obama pressed his plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2010 as his trip to the Middle East and Europe continued Monday. Earlybird's Campaign News section has details.

Commentary: Game Plans Galore

• Commentators offer advice to Obama and John McCain as to what their next course of action should be in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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