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EARLYBIRD

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U.S. dominance predicted to decline, GOP wants Rangel expelled from chairmanship, many in 'coalition of the willing' prepare to go home, federal budget deficit forecast to hit $500 billion, U.S. switches strategies in hunt for bin Laden.

• "An intelligence forecast being prepared for the next president on future global risks envisions a steady decline in U.S. dominance in the coming decades, as the world is reshaped by globalization, battered by climate change, and destabilized by regional upheavals over shortages of food, water and energy," the Washington Post reports. "The report, previewed in a speech by Thomas Fingar, the U.S. intelligence community's top analyst, also concludes that the one key area of continued U.S. superiority -- military power -- will 'be the least significant' asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because 'nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force.'"

• "President Bush says visiting with wounded troops makes real both the 'horrors of war' and soldiers' bravery," AP reports. "A visibly emotional Bush spoke after spending about an hour Tuesday in the hospital rooms of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the service's premier center for treating injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."

 

• "With only a few weeks left in the final legislative season of his administration, President Bush is determined not to go quietly into the night, ordering aides to try to salvage remnants of his once robust agenda on Capitol Hill," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The Bush administration needs an extra $400 million to complete its fence along the country's southwestern border, and government investigators say that may not even be enough to finish construction by the end of this year," AP reports.

• "Many of the nation's largest and most seriously deficient bridges aren't getting fixed because a federal program funding bridge repairs is unfocused and lacks sufficient standards, congressional investigators say," AP reports. "The Highway Bridge Program... has become so broad that 'nearly any bridge' is potentially eligible for federal aid, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report being released" today.

 

Congress: GOP Wants Rangel Out Of Chairmanship

• "Hoping to put the Democrats' 'culture of corruption' argument to work for themselves, House Republicans on Tuesday called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to remove Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) from his post as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee," the Politico reports. "Pelosi said she has no intention of forcing Rangel to step aside, and the chairman made it clear that he's not going anywhere on his own."

• Pelosi "indicated Tuesday that she is willing to give in at least partly to Republican demands for additional offshore oil drilling but exactly how much, where and at what price remains under discussion," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Pelosi told the Democratic Caucus that new drilling would be included in her comprehensive energy package later this week, alongside a group of tax breaks for renewable energy and an end to 'taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil.'"

• "Will Republicans shut down the government? That unanswered question underpins the entire energy debate playing out on the presidential campaign trail and in the halls of Congress this month," the Politico reports. "Republicans... are reluctant to pull the trigger on a potential political disaster but are keeping the option in their back pockets just in case Democrats don't go far enough, in their eyes, on domestic oil and gas drilling."

• "With the economy the No. 1 issue just eight weeks from Election Day, majority-party Democrats are trying to push a second stimulus package through Congress to follow the tax rebate checks sent out earlier this year," AP reports. "So far, Republicans aren't joining the march, echoing the reservations expressed by presidential nominee John McCain and the White House."

 

• "Lawmakers stepped up the pressure Tuesday on federal regulators to block the compensation packages of the departing chief executive officers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying they should not receive an estimated $24 million in compensation when the federal government had to bail out their companies," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., Tuesday wrote to James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates both government-sponsored enterprises, and asked him to reduce the compensation slated to be given to former Fannie CEO Daniel Mudd and former Freddie CEO Richard Syron."

• "Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has tucked language into the defense-spending bill that would delay closing Walter Reed Army Medical Center," The Hill reports. "Murtha's latest move to salvage the hospital could set the stage for a fight with the White House and individual senators over what is likely to be the only spending bill Congress takes up before President Bush leaves office."

• "Landmark legislation that would give U.S. health authorities the power to regulate the tobacco industry is unlikely to pass this year," AP reports. "The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill earlier this year, and a majority of senators... support the legislation. But" Bush "has threatened a veto, and the prospect of a drawn-out debate will probably keep the Senate from taking up the measure as it races through a tight schedule this month."

Iraq: Many Coalition Members Ready To Leave

• "President Bush boasts that he's bringing 8,000 troops home from Iraq by February. What he doesn't say is he'll leave office with more troops there than before last year's big military buildup and few options for shoring up the force in increasingly violent Afghanistan," AP reports.

• "The Coalition of the Willing appears to be going out of business," the Washington Post reports. "President Bush tucked a little extra news" Tuesday "into a speech largely devoted to informing the public that he plans to withdraw 8,000 more troops from Iraq: He also announced that most of the countries that have been partnering with the United States in Iraq over the past five years will be pulling their troops out as well."

• "Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the departing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that the country remains 'the central front' for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups but acknowledged that violence is rising in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- battlegrounds he will soon oversee as the next head of the U.S. military's Central Command," the Washington Post reports.

• "Iraqi lawmakers returned to Parliament on Tuesday after a month's recess facing a host of unresolved issues, including the passage of a crucial provincial election law," the New York Times reports. "The election law, which was stalled by bitter disputes in the last session, is seen as a vital step toward reintegrating Iraqi groups that had been underrepresented in the political process, primarily because they boycotted the vote in 2005."

Nation: Conviction In Civil-Rights-Era Killings Overturned

• "A US appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former Ku Klux Klansman jailed last year over the deaths of two black teenagers in Mississippi in 1964," BBC News reports. "James Ford Seale, 72, was serving three life terms on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy over the deaths," but "the court agreed with arguments by Mr Seale's lawyer that a legal time limit for prosecuting the case had lapsed."

• "Immigrants are getting priced out of citizenship because they can't afford higher application fees that kicked in last year, according to a report out today," USA Today reports. "Citizenship applications plummeted after the fee rose from $400 to $675 on July 30, 2007, says an analysis by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an immigrant advocacy group."

• "Texas authorities waited warily, and wearily, as Hurricane Ike hit Cuba with deadly force Tuesday and took aim at the state's coast -- but with a path so uncertain, it was hard to tell where to brace for the coming hit," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "The owner and managers of the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant were charged Tuesday with more than 9,000 misdemeanors alleging child labor law violations," AP reports. "They're accused of hiring minors and, in some cases, having children younger than 16 handle dangerous equipment such as circular saws, meat grinders and power shears."

• "A former judge and a former district attorney in Texas broke a lengthy silence and admitted under oath that they had engaged in a years-long sexual relationship but still participated in the trial of a man who was convicted of a 1989 double murder and sentenced to death, according to documents filed Tuesday," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Charles Dean Hood had been scheduled to die June 17, but the death warrant ran out while defense attorneys and prosecutors wrangled over the controversial allegations."

Economy: Budget Deficit May Hit $500 Billion

• "A weak economy and a sharp increase in government spending will drive the federal budget deficit to a near-record $407 billion when the budget year ends later this month, and the next president is likely to face a shortfall in January of well over $500 billion, congressional budget analysts said" Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. "A deficit of that magnitude could severely constrain the next administration's agenda."

• "Faced with slumping energy demand from weakening industrialized economies, OPEC oil ministers said last night that petroleum markets are 'oversupplied' and vowed to stick to self-imposed quotas that could carve 520,000 barrels a day out of world production," the Washington Post reports. "Prices had started to ease to levels last seen in early April, far below July peaks but still higher than they have ever been before this year."

• "Only days after the Bush administration assumed control of the nation's two largest mortgage finance companies, Wall Street was gripped by fears that another big financial institution, the investment bank Lehman Brothers, might founder -- and that this time, the government might not come to the rescue," the New York Times reports.

• "The suspension of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as private enterprises means the federal government can no longer require them to spend shareholders' money on affordable-housing programs," the Washington Post reports. "Now the government must decide how much of its own money to spend."

• "The U.S. economy continues to be marked by weak housing and labor-market conditions, according to the latest data, suggesting economic performance will be sluggish at best through the end of the year," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Pending home sales, which look at the number of contracts signed, dropped 3.2% in July, reversing gains from the month before, according to the National Association of Realtors."

• "Is the Justice Department preparing to challenge a high-profile advertising partnership between Google and Yahoo? That was the question being debated from Washington to Silicon Valley on Tuesday, after the Justice Department, which has been reviewing the partnership for several weeks, hired Sanford M. Litvack, a veteran antitrust lawyer, to help assess the evidence gathered by its lawyers," the New York Times reports.

World: U.S. Switches Strategies In Hunt For Bin Laden

• "Frustrated by repeated dead ends in the search for Osama bin Laden, U.S. and Pakistani officials said they are questioning long-held assumptions about their strategy and are shifting tactics to intensify the use of the unmanned but lethal Predator drone spy plane in the mountains of western Pakistan," the Washington Post reports. "The number of Hellfire missile attacks by Predators in Pakistan has more than tripled, with 11 strikes reported by Pakistani officials this year, compared with three in 2007."

• "Asif Ali Zardari was sworn in as Pakistan's president Tuesday, and within hours he appeared with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, pledging to work with him to resolve long-standing tensions between their countries and fight the rising Taliban insurgency on both sides of their border," the Washington Post reports.

• "Two top al-Qaida operatives were among four foreign militants killed in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's northwest, intelligence officials said" today, AP reports. "One allegedly was in charge of the terror network's activities in Pakistan's tribal regions, semiautonomous areas that the U.S. fears have become a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters involved in attacks on American and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan."

• "The regional power struggle prompted by the crisis in Georgia intensified Tuesday when Moscow said it would keep thousands of Russian troops in the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the European Union promised deeper ties with Ukraine," the New York Times reports.

• "Turning a deaf ear to Russia's complaints, the Bush administration is moving to rebuild Georgia's military while asserting it will not let Russia divide Europe again," AP reports. "The Pentagon will send an assessment team to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, later in the week to help figure out Georgia's 'legitimate needs' as a way of showing U.S. support for the country's security," Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman said Tuesday.

• "Reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is gravely ill pose new uncertainties about the direction of the nuclear-armed, isolated nation, but could also be a ploy to get attention, U.S. officials and North Korea specialists said Tuesday," the Washington Times reports.

• "The governing party in oil-rich Angola won a landslide victory in the country's first elections in 16 years, official results show, prompting a remarkable concession of defeat by the leading opposition party, which just six years ago was the government's enemy in a brutal 27-year civil war," the New York Times reports.

• "Israel's envoy to the United States urged Russia on Tuesday not to sell advanced weapons to Iran and Syria despite Moscow's anger over Israeli military cooperation with Georgia," the Washington Times reports. "Ambassador Sallai Meridor also said that the main reason his government began indirect talks with Syria earlier this year was to 'bring about a strategic repositioning' in the region by breaking up Damascus' alliance with Iran."

• "Not even Hurricane Ike, a storm that laid waste to a swath of the Caribbean, has been able to cast aside the hostile stalemate between the U.S. and Cuba's authoritarian regime," the Chicago Tribune reports. The hurricane has spurred "debate in the U.S. government and the Cuban exile community over how to assist Cuban victims."

Campaigns: Palin Power

• Some polls indicate that running mate Sarah Palin may be boosting McCain among a wide cross-section of women. Earlybird's Campaign News section has details.

Commentary: Misfiring On D.C. Gun Rights?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards slam Congress for "reckless" legislation that would "eviscerate gun controls" in the District.

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