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EARLYBIRD

Top News

WH considers suspending nuclear deal with Russia, party unity tops priority list as Dems kick off convention, tropical storm leaves trail of destruction in Fla., Fed debates future of Fannie & Freddie, Rice pushes Mideast peace in Israel.

• "The Bush administration is set to put a high-profile nuclear deal with Russia on hold, according to US diplomats," the Financial Times reports. "Officials expect Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, to recommend that George W. Bush, president, recall the civil nuclear co-operation agreement from Congress in the wake of Russia's conflict with Georgia."

• "Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test, according to an analysis of Justice Department data," the New York Times reports. "The analysis suggests that the effects of a patronage-style selection process for immigration judges -- used for three years before it was abandoned as illegal -- are still being felt by scores of immigrants whose fates are determined by the judges installed in that period."

 

• "The Defense Department is looking for an 'energetic and imaginative executive' to run its newly formed Defense Media Activity... which since its establishment in January combines formerly separate Pentagon media organizations, such as the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, and the Pentagon Channel on television," the Washington Post reports. "All told, the new chief would oversee 2,400 military, government and contract employees around the world, and a budget of more than $225 million."

• "The Army has accelerated purchasing a high-tech artillery shell that can be fired from as far away as 14 miles yet explode within 30 feet of its target to avoid civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army officials and analysts say," USA Today reports. "An urgent request from commanders in Iraq for more accurate artillery to reduce civilian deaths prompted the Army to speed production of the Excalibur shells, according to the Government Accountability Office."

Conventions: Dems Hope To Unify Clinton, Obama Camps

• "Democrats gathering" in Denver "for their nominating convention are significantly more nervous about Senator Barack Obama's prospects this fall than they were a month ago, and are urging him to use the next four days to address weaknesses in his candidacy and lingering party divisions from the primary fight," the New York Times reports.

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton, "hoping to unite the Democratic Party and cement her future in it, will gather her hard-won primary delegates Wednesday at a reception where she is expected to formally release them to" Obama," AP reports. "The high-profile gathering of political regulars who once fought against Sen. Obama serves a dual purpose for Sen. Clinton: show fellow Democrats that she can be a team player, and display her still-formidable political strengths for the future. Many of her supporters want her to run for president again."

• "As Democrats arrived" in Denver "Sunday for a convention intended to promote party unity, mistrust and resentments continued to boil among top associates of" Obama and Clinton, the Politico reports.

• "The goal for Michelle Obama during this week's Democratic convention is not all that different from her husband's: She has to define herself rather than let the caricature sketched by her critics settle in the mind of voters," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Her biggest opportunity will come today as she headlines the convention's opening night with a prime-time televised speech that will reach millions of viewers."

• "This could be the first Democratic Convention in 40 years without an appearance by" Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., "who has done more to rouse, amuse, tease and just plain fascinate these quadrennial gatherings than any living politician," USA Today reports. "Kennedy, whose immune system has been weakened by treatment for brain cancer, is scheduled to be honored in absentia" tonight "with a videotape and a speech by his niece, Caroline Kennedy."

 

• "In time-honored fashion, members of Congress attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver will find a social calendar crammed with glitzy parties and lavish entertainment, all courtesy of those tireless friends of the powerful: Washington lobbyists," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But wait a minute. Didn't a reform-minded Congress pass ethics rules intended to stop just this sort of thing?.... Indeed it did. But because of the way that Congress wrote the rules, many of the old practices may still continue with seemingly little more than cosmetic changes."

Iraq: Al-Maliki Seeking Changes To Security Deal

• "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is demanding changes to a draft deal on the status of US forces beyond this year, a key Shiite ally in the governing coalition said on Sunday," Agence France-Presse reports. "'There are points in the agreement that are still pending and they can't be approved without changes in order to preserve the complete sovereignty of Iraq,' the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) quoted Maliki as telling fellow Shiite politicians at a meeting on Saturday."

• "A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people celebrating the return of an Iraqi detainee from U.S. custody, Iraqi officials said Sunday night," the Washington Post reports. "The blast at a tribal feast in suburban Baghdad's Abu Ghraib area was one of the deadliest attacks in recent months" and "served as a grisly reminder of the carnage that insurgents can still inflict in Iraq even as violence reaches its lowest level since the war began."

• "About 1,000 anti-war activists marched peaceably through downtown Denver on the eve of the Democratic convention, waving signs and chanting, 'Stop the torture, stop the war. That's what we're fighting for,'" AP reports. "In a wheelchair leading the march was anti-war activist Ron Kovic, the paralyzed Vietnam veteran whose story was chronicled in the book and movie 'Born on the Fourth of July.'"

Nation: Fay Leaves Trail Of Destruction In Fla.

• "Tropical Storm Fay exited Florida Sunday after a weeklong rampage that killed 11 people and left in its wake a trail of destruction that forced a presidential disaster declaration and another round of evacuations from flooded areas," the Miami Herald reports. "President Bush declared Brevard, Monroe, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties disaster areas Sunday, opening the door for emergency funds to stream into the regions and help offset the cost of the storm to state and local coffers."

• "Three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans still needs the military to help keep some semblance of order in certain neighborhoods," the New York Times reports. "Violent crime has often overshadowed the city's baby steps toward recovery. This year alone, New Orleans has had at least 127 murders, a stunning statistic given that roughly a third of the city's population -- 454,000 before the hurricane -- has so far not returned."

• Golden Meadow, La. " is sinking fast along with the rest of the southeastern Louisiana coast into the gulf, still its lifeblood but now also its nemesis," the New York Times reports. "Coastal erosion is eating away at the culture, the livelihood and, quite tangibly, the land itself at the ravenous rate of 12 square miles to more than 20 square miles a year."

• "Salmon and gold mining. Both are, inarguably, very Alaskan. But on Tuesday, Alaskans will vote on a ballot measure that is being framed as a choice between the two industries and portrayed by both sides as striking at the heart of what it means to be Alaskan," the Washington Post reports. "The initiative was drafted to block the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive operation that would extract gold, copper and molybdenum from the tundra surrounding Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska, one of the world's most lucrative wild salmon fisheries."

• "This year, gasoline climbed over $4 a gallon, and the traffic death toll -- according to one study -- appears headed to the lowest levels since" President Kennedy "moved into the White House" in 1961, AP reports. "The number is being pulled down by a change in Americans' driving habits, which is fueled largely by record high gasoline prices, according to the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan."

Economy: Fed Debates Future Of Fannie & Freddie

• "Some of the nation's top economists figure the government's response to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has come to a critical turning point: They expect Treasury will be forced to inject funds into the two firms, but they're not sure whether pulling the trigger will be enough to bolster the sagging economy," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The woes of the two mortgage-lending giants were the talk of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's annual mountainside conference here in Jackson Hole, Wyo."

• "With the decline in oil prices, inflationary pressures are easing for the moment. The Federal Reserve's policy makers all acknowledge as much. But that has not halted their debate over whether to raise interest rates now to avoid higher inflation in the future," the New York Times reports.

• "More than a year into the credit crisis, the world's top central bankers admit they are still in the dark as to what its ultimate impact on the global economy will be," the Financial Times reports. "By the same token they are unsure to what extent weakening growth will help to ease high inflation."

• "American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in half a century, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that domestic gas fields were in irreversible decline," the New York Times reports. "The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America -- gas long believed to be out of reach."

• "Gas pumps, grocery stores, and now school cafeterias," the New York Times reports. "Prices on some school lunch lines are going up this fall as school officials, like many others, struggle to pay higher prices and delivery fees for staples like bread, milk, fresh fruit and vegetables."

• "Sales of existing houses in the U.S. probably rose in July from a 10-year low as declining prices helped stabilize demand, economists said before a report today. Resales gained 0.9 percent to a 4.91 million annual rate, according to the median forecast of 69 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Record foreclosures have pushed property values down even more, luring some bargain hunters into the market."

• "Americans who lack health insurance will spend about $30 billion out of pocket on medical care this year, but others -- mainly the government -- will end up covering another $56 billion in costs, according to a new study," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The tab to cover all the uninsured would be $208.6 billion -- $122.6 billion more than this year's projected total -- mainly because people with insurance tend to use more health-care services, the study found."

China: World Wonders What's Next For China

• "The 2008 Summer Olympics closed Sunday night in a display of tightly scripted merriment and lavish fireworks, a final burst of pomp ending 17 days of sports and celebration that Chinese authorities organized with flawless precision and an unbending security clampdown," the Washington Post reports. "In its scope and its splendor, the pageant" of the closing ceremony "proved yet again that China's Communist Party, while clinging to its Leninist political system, has accumulated the wealth and know-how to pull off a glittering Olympics worthy of a world power."

• "The elaborate closing ceremony that ended the Olympic Games on Sunday also ended nearly a decade in which the ruling Communist Party had made the Games an organizing principle in national life," the New York Times reports. "But a new, post-Olympic era has begun. The question now is whether a deepening self-confidence arising from the Olympic experience will lead China to further its engagement with the world and pursue deeper political reform, or whether the success of the Games and the muted Western response to repression will convince leaders that their current model is working."

• "Eight Americans jailed for holding peaceful protests were deported Sunday during the Olympics closing ceremony, the U.S. Embassy said," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The action came just hours after the embassy urged their release and expressed disappointment that the Games had not brought greater tolerance and openness to China."

World: Rice Pushes Middle East Peace In Israel

• "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the Mideast this week amid dwindling hopes for securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by a year-end target," AP reports. "She left Washington Sunday night on her seventh trip to the region since President George W. Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert set the goal at a U.S.-hosted peace conference last November."

• "Nearly 200 Palestinian prisoners freed" today "by Israel walked into Palestinian-controlled territory to cheers and applause, just hours before" Rice "was due to arrive," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Israel said the release is a gesture meant to bolster moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and give a boost to the slow-moving peace talks with the moderate Palestinian leader."

• "President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia said Sunday that he planned to rebuild his country's shattered army, and that even after its decisive defeat in the war for control of one of Georgia's two separatist enclaves he would continue to pursue a policy of uniting both under the Georgian flag," the New York Times reports. "Also on Sunday, France called an emergency summit meeting of the European Union for next Monday to discuss 'the future of relations with Russia' and aid to Georgia, according to a statement from the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy."

• "A U.S. Navy warship carrying humanitarian aid anchored at the Georgian port of Batumi on Sunday, sending a strong signal of support to an embattled ally as Russian forces built up around two separatist regions," AP reports. "Ahead of the USS McFaul's arrival, a top Russian general suggested that the presence of U.S. and other NATO ships in the Black Sea would worsen tensions already at a post-Cold War low."

• "Pakistan's ruling coalition government looked on the verge of splitting" today "over disputes about the judiciary and who should be the next president, as militant violence and economic problems mounted," Reuters reports. "The coalition, formed after former president Pervez Musharraf's allies lost a February parliamentary election, has looked increasingly precarious since Musharraf resigned a week ago."

• "Zimbabwean police arrested two opposition MPs as they arrived for the swearing in of the country's new parliament" today, "raising fears that President Robert Mugabe's regime is seeking to restore its majority in the legislature by force," the Financial Times reports.

• "Conventional wisdom long held that Somalia was so inhospitable that even Al Qaeda gave up trying to gain a foothold amid feuding clans, erratic warlords and a wily population hardened by years of anarchy," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Now, in the wake of an aggressive U.S. counter-terrorism program that has alienated many Somalis, there are signs that Al Qaeda may have its best chance in years to win over Islamic hard-liners in the Horn of Africa nation."

Commentary: Go, Joe!

• In today's Pundits and Editorials section, the chattering class sizes up the Democratic ticket and weighs in on what his vice presidential pick says about the way Barack Obama would run the country if elected.

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