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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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Chinese hackers accessed WH network, leadership changes in store for Republicans, Philadelphia faces massive budget cuts, retail & unemployment numbers paint bleak economic picture, WH recommends growing Afghan army.

November 7, 2008

• "Chinese hackers have penetrated the White House computer network on multiple occasions, and obtained e-mails between government officials, a senior US official told the" Financial Times. "The cyber attackers managed to penetrate the White House system for brief periods that allowed them to steal information before US government experts each time patched the system."

• "The Bush administration has launched a major overhaul of the nation's immigration services agency," affecting "about 7 million applications each year for visas, citizenship and approval to work in the United States, officials announced" Thursday, the Washington Post reports. "If successful, the five-year, $500 million effort... could reduce backlogs and processing delays by at least 20 percent, and possibly more than 50 percent, people close to the project said."

• "The Bush administration will recommend that Congress give up the idea of a second nuclear waste dump, dropping a grand bargain struck in the 1980s, and instead vote to enlarge the repository now proposed in Nevada, the director of the Energy Department's civilian radioactive waste management program said on Thursday," the New York Times reports.

 

• "A Justice Department lawyer" on Thursday "urged a federal judge to continue the detention of six Algerians at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, contending they would 'take up arms' and attack Americans if released," the Washington Post reports. "The accusations came during the first habeas corpus hearing ever held for a Guantanamo prisoner, a landmark in the detainees' legal saga of more than six years."

• "A proposal to replace the cracked and weathered white marble monument that crowns the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery has stirred up a years-long controversy," Gannett News Service reports. "For years, Army officials have studied the idea of building a replica because of concerns that the damage, which is getting worse despite repairs, is distracting from the monument's solemn appearance."

Congress: Leadership Changes In Store For GOP

• "As the euphoria of the election gave way" Thursday "to more sobering evidence of decline in the global economy, Democrats moved swiftly to convert their mandate into an economic action plan that could include up to $100 billion in immediate stimulus spending and new tax cuts for the middle class early next year," the Washington Post reports.

• "House Republicans played musical chairs in their search for new leaders as conservatives outside of government promised to 'retake America,'" the Washington Times reports.

• "Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt stepped aside Thursday as his party's whip, closing the book on a decade in leadership that traced the arc of Republican dominance in Washington," the Politico reports.

• "Sen. Joe Lieberman's affiliation with Democrats was in question after a meeting Thursday with Majority Leader Harry Reid, steamed over the Connecticut independent's high-profile support of John McCain for president," AP reports. "Reid, in a sternly worded statement after the 45-minute meeting, said no official decisions have been made. But an aide to the Nevada Democrat said Reid was leaning toward removing Lieberman as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee."

• "South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is pushing his party's leadership to expel Sen. Ted Stevens from the Senate during this month's 'lame duck' session, according to people familiar with his plans," the Politico reports. "DeMint, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, is said to be angry with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for tolerating a convicted felon in the GOP caucus."

• "Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and his supporters launched their counteroffensive against the coup attempt of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) Thursday, disputing reports that Waxman has the votes to replace Dingell," The Hill reports. "'We have more than enough to block the claim that he has a majority of new members,' said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), one of the committee's co-chairs."

• "Vice President-elect Joe Biden leaves an open chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that could end up being filled by one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq war," The Hill reports. "Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), among the chamber's most liberal members, is the fourth Democrat in line on the committee, behind Biden, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.)."

Iraq: U.S. Election Changes Political Map

• "Barack Obama may have been elected only three days ago, but his victory is already beginning to shift the political ground in Iraq and the region," the New York Times reports.

• "Two days after the election... Iraq's chief spokesman said with unusual forcefulness Thursday that his government will continue to insist on a firm withdrawal date for U.S. troops, despite American demands that any pullout be subject to prevailing security conditions," the Washington Post reports. "Iraqi officials, who see President-elect Obama's views on the timing of a U.S. withdrawal as consonant with their own, appear to be leveraging his election to pressure the Bush administration to make last-minute concessions."

• "A joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Iraq's state-owned South Gas Co. could give Shell a 25-year monopoly on production and exports of natural gas in much of southern Iraq -- the biggest foreign role in Iraq's oil and gas sector in four decades. The planned venture, spelled out in a 16-page document obtained by United Press International, goes well beyond descriptions provided by Iraqi and Shell officials on Sept. 22, when they held a public signing ceremony in Baghdad."

Nation: Philadelphia Mayor Announces Drastic Budget Cuts

• "Federal prosecutors announced Thursday they will not bring criminal charges against Eliot Spitzer for his role in a prostitution scandal, removing a legal cloud that has surrounded the former" New York "governor since his epic downfall eight months ago," AP reports. "Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said that investigators found no evidence that Mr. Spitzer or his office misused public or campaign funds for prostitution."

• "Saying the city was confronted by an economic crisis of 'incredible proportions,'" Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter "unveiled a financial rescue plan" Thursday "that drastically trims services, delays tax breaks, and reduces the city payroll," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "The mayor will share the pain as well, cutting his own $186,000 salary by 10 percent. His senior aides, including the police and fire commissioners, will also see pay reductions and be among 2,000 exempt employees who face mandatory unpaid furloughs."

• "Any notion that Tuesday's election represented a liberal juggernaut must overcome a detail from the voting booths of California: The same voters who turned out strongest for" Obama "also drove a stake through the heart of same-sex marriage," the Washington Post reports. "Seven in 10 African Americans who went to the polls voted yes on Proposition 8, the ballot measure overruling a state Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage."

• "Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Retail And Unemployment Numbers Paint Bleak Picture

• "The political world shifted on Tuesday, but the change did little to ease the anxiety on Wall Street," the New York Times reports. "Despite stabilization in the credit markets and lower interest rates around the globe, the last two days were the worst in the American stock market since 1987."

• "Hedge funds are selling billions of dollars of securities to meet demands for cash from their investors and their lenders, contributing to the stock market's nearly 10% drop over the past two days," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "Obama may find out today just how big an economic mess he will inherit. The Labor Department will probably report that the jobless rate climbed to a five-year high of 6.3 percent in October, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Payrolls shrank by 200,000 workers, the biggest decline since the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, according to the economists."

• Retailers "had limped through the summer and early fall, hoping for better times even as sales growth slowed to a crawl and consumers hid their wallets," the Washington Post reports. "But new data released" Thursday "show that retail sales actually dropped in October, making it the worst performance for that month in decades, according to one analysis."

• "The federal government is preparing to take tens of billions of dollars in ownership stakes in an array of companies outside the banking sector, dramatically widening the scope of the Treasury Department's rescue effort beyond the $250 billion set aside for traditional financial firms, government and industry officials said," the Post reports. "Treasury officials are finalizing the new program, which could ultimately involve hundreds of billions of the $700 billion rescue package, though the initiative is unlikely to be announced until the end of next week at the earliest."

• "Nineteen banks taking taxpayer money from the Treasury Department have spent $32.4 million lobbying the federal government during the first nine months of this year, their lobbying disclosure reports show," USA Today reports. "Combined, the Treasury is investing in the banks $159 billion from the $700 billion financial rescue package approved by Congress last month. None of the banks has indicated it plans to stop lobbying."

World: WH Recommends Growing Afghan Army

• "The Bush administration, in the midst of a wide review of its war strategy in Afghanistan, is likely to recommend soon to the incoming Obama administration that the U.S. push for further expansion of the Afghan army as the surest path to an eventual U.S. withdrawal, The Associated Press has learned.... The White House wants to produce a kind of road map for the next administration, not just in terms of military effort but also in other areas such as integrating U.S. and international civilian and military aid."

• "As Afghan officials reported more civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes on Thursday, witnesses to a strike that apparently hit a wedding party on Monday said the civilian death toll could be more than double the 40 reported so far by Afghan officials," th New York Times reports. "On Thursday, American officials offered their first account of the events, saying that insurgents had prevented civilians from fleeing the area, trapping them in a firefight pitting coalition and Afghan Army forces against the militants who had ambushed those forces."

• Iranian "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has congratulated President-elect Barack Obama on his victory, the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to an American counterpart," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Bush administration conceded Thursday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by a year-end deadline is no longer possible," AP reports.

• "More than 70 Saudis spent Thursday without food or water to protest the detention without trial of at least 11 dissidents," the Washington Post reports. "Organizers of the kingdom's first hunger strike say the participants include lawyers, journalists, students and families of the detained dissidents. They are observing the two-day strike in their homes in several cities to circumvent a ban on assembly."

• "Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression," the New York Times reports. "Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia's inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm."

• "The world might face a repeat of this year's food crisis as the credit crunch encroaches on the agricultural market, leading farmers to cut their planting because of falling prices and lack of finance to buy fertilisers, the United Nations warned on Thursday," the Financial Times reports.

• "Facing international criticism over human rights abuses, China is preparing a national 'action plan' on such issues as torture and freedom of speech, but critics Thursday were skeptical that the move would bring much change," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Beijing's announcement comes three months before the United Nations Human Rights Council is to review the status of rights programs in the communist nation."

Transition: Economic Mess Won't Wait

• President-elect Obama and President Bush alike are moving quickly on key issues. Read more in Lost In Transition, NationalJournal.com's new blog about the changeover.

Campaigns: Turnout Gains Are Small

• Despite record early-voting turnout and a vaunted Obama get-out-the-vote machine, turnout in this year's election only edged up about 1 percent. Earlybird's Campaign News section has more.

Commentary: Sizing Up Emanuel

• Commentators both approve of and hesitate over Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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