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Stevens convicted on seven felony counts, judge defines 'enemy combatant,' U.S. strike in Syria killed Iraqi al-Qaida operative, assassination plot against Obama foiled, U.S. mulls talks with Taliban.

• "A federal jury on Monday convicted U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens [R] on all seven counts of lying on his financial disclosures, a crippling blow not just to his election chances next week but to his legacy as Alaska's longest serving and most accomplished living politician," the Anchorage Daily News reports. "Stevens also risks jail time. The seven felonies each carry a penalty of five years in prison, though it's unlikely a significant prison sentence, if any, would be imposed on an 84-year-old."

• "Stevens gambled -- and lost," The Hill reports. "What led to [his] conviction was likely the biggest role-of-the-dice in the month-long trial: Stevens's decision to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and take the stand in his own defense."


• "There is no automatic Senate punishment for" Stevens, AP reports. "The most severe potential consequence is expulsion by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. That normally would follow an investigation by the Senate ethics committee."

• "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd [D-W.Va.] from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Democratic insiders tell Politico. Reid has not yet discussed his plans with Byrd. But in a recent closed-door meeting with his advisers in Las Vegas and a private conversation with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Reid has laid out a scenario that would have Inouye... taking over Byrd's chairmanship by the time the 111th Congress convenes in January."

• "Democratic leaders looked to bolster their case Monday for an economic stimulus package that they could push in a lame-duck session," The Hill reports. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) highlighted a conference call with top economists, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, in calling for a stimulus that she said should be modeled after a bill the House prepared in September."


• "Emboldened by their success last year in passing the largest ethics overhaul in decades," Roll Call (subscription) reports, government watchdog groups "have set their sights on what might be an even bigger legislative lift: reworking the presidential public finance system and implementing one at the Congressional level."

Washington: Judge Defines 'Enemy Combatant' Status

• "Al Qaeda or Taliban supporters who directly assisted in hostile acts against the United States or its allies can be held without charge as enemy combatants, a federal judge ruled Monday," AP reports. "The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon takes a first step toward resolving the fate of some of the hundreds of men detained as terrorism suspects -- many without charges for years -- at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

• "A military judge has ruled that defense lawyers can inspect the mysterious Camp 7 at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, puncturing the secrecy surrounding a facility where some of the major al-Qaeda suspects are being held," the Washington Post reports. "Defense lawyers said" Monday "that Judge Ralph H. Kohlmann, a Marine colonel, ruled that attorneys for Ramzi Binalshibh -- an alleged liaison between the Sept. 11 hijackers and al-Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan in the run-up to the 2001 attacks -- could visit Camp 7 and inspect the defendant's conditions of confinement as part of an inquiry into his mental health."

• "Fordham University's plan to give an award to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer has drawn criticism from alumni and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in New York over Breyer's support for abortion rights," AP reports. "Cardinal Edward M. Egan has spoken to leaders of the Catholic university in New York City to ensure that 'a mistake of this sort will not happen again,' said New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling."


• "About one out of seven female veterans of Afghanistan or Iraq who visit a Veterans Affairs center for medical care report being a victim of sexual assault or harassment during military duty, a study reports today," USA Today reports. "More than half of these women have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A similar proportion of male veterans with sexual traumas have PTSD, but fewer than one out of 100 men who had recent deployments say they were harassed or sexually assaulted in the military, the report says."

• "Drawn in by public demand and recent memories, young war veterans have become a growing, important part of the nation's political dynamic, many engaged for the first time," the New York Times reports.

Iraq: U.S. Strike In Syria Killed Iraqi Al Qaida Leader

• "A rare U.S. military strike into Syria on Sunday killed a senior al Qaeda leader who helped smuggle weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq, U.S. defense officials and military experts said Monday," the Washington Times reports. "The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, identified the victim as an Iraqi named Abu Ghadiya and said he had eluded U.S. forces for years."

• "A deal to authorize the presence of American forces in Iraq beyond 2008 is forcing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to choose between two influential powers in this country: the United States and Iran," the Washington Post reports. "U.S. officials had hoped Iraq would quickly approve the accord put before the cabinet this month, which would give 150,000 American troops legal authority to remain in Iraq after Dec. 31. But Iraqi political leaders have balked" and "Maliki has not openly supported the agreement forged by his negotiating team."

• "A new Iraqi military offensive is under way in" Mosul, a "still violent northern city, but the worry is not only the insurgents who remain strong here," the New York Times reports. "American commanders are increasingly concerned that Mosul could degenerate into a larger battleground over the fragile Iraqi state itself."

• "Tensions between Kurdistan and the central government of Iraq continued to bubble Monday," the Times also reports. "A parliamentary committee rejected a new draft of an oil law, and Kurdish politicians denounced the government's effort to create semi-tribal councils as a counterweight to Kurdish political power in Kirkuk."

Nation: Assassination Plot Against Obama Foiled

• "Investigators disrupted an improbable plan to assassinate Sen. Barack Obama and kill 102 other African Americans in a spree fueled by white supremacist ideology, officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said" Monday, the Washington Post reports. "Federal prosecutors in Jackson, Tenn., unsealed a criminal complaint charging two men with conspiracy, possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun and making threats against a presidential candidate."

• "The number of hate crimes involving race and religion declined in the United States last year, leading to a slight drop in the overall total, but incidents related to sexual orientation and ethnicity showed increases, according to federal statistics released" Monday, the Post also reports.

• "Former" Detroit "Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces a grim few months: 23 hours a day in a small cinderblock cell, with an hour out for recreation," AP reports. "Kilpatrick was due in court" today "to receive a 120-day sentence for lying about an affair with his chief of staff."

• California "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R] has set Nov. 5 -- the day after next week's election -- as the start of an emergency legislative session to address the state budget deficit, which has swelled by several billion dollars in recent weeks," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Schwarzenegger said this year's deficit will be 'much more' than the $3 billion that state officials projected two weeks ago."

• "Law enforcement officers across the country have rescued 47 children from sexual exploitation and arrested scores of people on prostitution charges since Thursday, federal officials said Monday," the Washington Times reports. "A nationwide law enforcement sweep... partnered FBI agents with officers from 93 state and local law enforcement agencies in 27 cities from Boston to Anchorage, Alaska."

• "Georgia's top court ruled Monday that a provision in the state's strict new sex-offender law is unconstitutional because it fails to tell homeless offenders how they can comply with the law," AP reports. "The law is designed to keep sex offenders away from children by monitoring how close they live to schools, parks and other spots where children gather. But critics say it unfairly subjects homeless offenders to a life sentence if they fail to register a home address."

• "Seven killer whales from the endangered population in Washington's Puget Sound are missing and presumed dead in the most significant die-off of one of the icons of the Pacific Northwest in nearly a decade," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Scientists tracking the black-and-white orcas... said there were signs the whales may have starved to death, though whether that was because of insufficient food or disease that made them unable to eat is unknown."

Economy: WH Considers Including Auto Companies In Bailout

• "Central banks around the world are moving to further slash interest rates as they seek to contain the damage from the bursting of the biggest credit bubble in history," the Washington Post reports. "The Federal Reserve is poised to cut its benchmark rate for the second time in two weeks at a pivotal meeting in Washington on Wednesday, and the European Central Bank" on Monday "suggested that it would do the same next week."

• "The Bush administration is in negotiations to broaden its $700 billion financial rescue plan to include U.S. auto companies, potentially opening the door to an array of industries to seek federal aid," the Post also reports. "Detroit's Big Three are eligible for aid under a broad interpretation of the law that authorized the $700 billion financial rescue, Treasury Department officials said" Monday. "But they declined to discuss the details of any assistance."

• "The Treasury Department's plan to begin buying bad loans and other troubled assets has been complicated by delays in hiring financial firms to oversee the $700 billion program," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Several hurdles have arisen, including concern over the fees the government will pay asset managers."

• "U.S. life insurers are in talks with the government for potential investments as companies jockey for the remaining $90 billion of the $250 billion set aside to prop up ailing financial companies," Bloomberg News reports. "The Treasury has been 'asking us how we can fit into the program,' said Jack Dolan, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.- based American Council of Life Insurers, declining to name companies that may participate."

• "Lower home prices are luring some buyers back into the U.S. housing market, but foreclosures and a weakening economy are likely to keep downward pressure on prices for at least another year, economists say. A quarterly Wall Street Journal survey of housing data in 28 major metro areas shows that the glut of unsold homes listed for sale is shrinking in most of them."

World: U.S. Mulls Talks With The Taliban

• "With unusual unanimity, French political leaders across the spectrum expressed relief Monday that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was cleared of abusing his power in a sexual dalliance with a married subordinate," the Washington Post reports. They feared "French national honor might be stained had Strauss-Kahn been forced to resign... after only one year on the job -- and during an acute financial crisis in whose resolution the IMF and Strauss-Kahn have important roles to play."

• "The U.S. is actively considering talks with elements of the Taliban, the armed Islamist group that once ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al Qaeda, in a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Senior White House and military officials believe that engaging some levels of the Taliban -- while excluding top leaders -- could help reverse a pronounced downward spiral in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan."

• "Hundreds of furious protesters hurled rocks at a United Nations compound in eastern Congo on Monday in frustration that peacekeepers had not halted the rebel advance through the countryside, while the Spanish general leading the peacekeeping mission abruptly resigned," the New York Times reports. A Unicef spokesman said "heavy fighting... was spawning a vast wave of internally displaced people, with tens of thousands evacuating several battle zones, often for the second or third time in recent months."

• "Five Chinese oil workers kidnapped in central Sudan nine days ago have been shot dead, Sudan's Foreign Ministry said," Bloomberg News reports. "The five were among nine employees of China National Petroleum Corp. who were abducted on Oct. 18 while working at the Heglig oil field in South Kordofan state, Ali Sadig, a ministry spokesman, said."

• "In what could be one of Mexico's worst cases of drug-related corruption in a decade, Mexican officials alleged that a drug cartel infiltrated the highest levels of Mexico's attorney general's office, paying people there as much as $450,000 a month to get sensitive information about antidrug activities," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico's western Sinaloa state, may even have placed a mole inside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City who fed the drug lords information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration."

• "Ukraine's feuding president and prime minister welcomed a proposed emergency bailout by the International Monetary Fund on Monday, but a fresh round of finger-pointing by their aides left it unclear whether the two could agree on legislation needed to win the $16.5 billion loan," the Washington Post reports.

• "President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia on Monday dismissed his prime minister, in the first significant shake-up of his government since the Russia-Georgia war nearly three months ago," the New York Times reports. "The departing prime minister, Lado Gurgenidze, 37, had been in his position for less than a year."

Campaigns: Pollsters Capitalize On Seesaw Race

• Some of the biggest winners this election season have been polling Web sites, which have seen traffic surge as politicos flock online for fresh data on the horse race. Earlybird's Campaign News section has more.

Commentary: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Sen. Stevens

• While recognizing the Alaska senator's good qualities, commentators agree that Stevens' guilty verdict is justified In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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