• "Short on sleep but with a long to-do list, President Obama walked into the Oval Office at 8:35 a.m. Wednesday for 10 contemplative minutes alone. Then the change began," USA Today reports. "Hours after his whirlwind tour of 10 Inaugural Balls that ended early Wednesday, Obama jumped into Middle East diplomacy, prepared an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for terror suspects within a year and pressed his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq."
• "New lobbying and records rules issued by President Obama" Wednesday "appear to go beyond changes implemented by previous presidents, and could usher in an era of openness in federal government, according to ethics experts and open-government advocates," the Washington Post reports.
• "Obama is expected to sign executive orders" today "directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said," the New York Times reports. "The orders, which would be the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, would rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects."
• "With a short memo on Inauguration Day, President Obama blocked plans to loosen some air quality standards and to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But he did not stop several other controversial, late-term environmental regulations issued by the Bush administration -- at least not yet."
• "Obama took the oath of office a second time Wednesday night during a private ceremony at the White House one day after the flubbing of the oath on Inauguration Day," the Washington Times reports. "Chief Justice John Roberts made a secret trip to the White House and, wearing his robe, readministered the oath to Mr. Obama."
• "If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past," the Washington Post reports. "Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy" Wednesday, "encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts."
• "U.S. spy agencies' sensitive data should soon be linked by Google-like search systems, nearly five years after the intelligence community was rebuked by the 9/11 Commission for failing to 'connect the dots' and detect the attack," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has launched a sweeping technology program to knit together the thousands of databases across all 16 spy agencies."
• "When he vowed in his Inaugural Address to 'restore science to its rightful place,' President Obama signaled an end to eight years of stark tension between science and government," the New York Times reports. "But many of the Bush administration's restrictions on science, like those governing stem cell research, will take time to be removed."
• "The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 Wednesday that students who are sexually harassed may sue under a federal statute covering schools and a broader civil rights law," USA Today reports. "The decision, which clears up a conflict among lower courts, revives a lawsuit brought by the parents of a Massachusetts kindergartener who said a third-grade boy repeatedly harassed her on the school bus."
• "While city officials breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after an Inauguration Day free of major chaos or arrests, Capitol Hill buzzed over reports that thousands of ticketed guests were shut out of the ceremonies," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Several Members -- upset about complaints from constituents -- demanded an explanation for why the Secret Service turned away so many legitimate ticket-holders."
Congress: Kennedy Withdraws Name For N.Y. Senate Seat
• "Racing against time and a growing banking crisis, President Obama's economic recovery plan cleared its first hurdle in the House Wednesday night even as Democrats struggled to forge a fragile bipartisan majority in the all important Senate Finance Committee," the Politico reports. "On a 35-22 vote, the House Appropriations Committee approved its portion of the massive $825 billion two year package, and both the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees are slated to act" today.
• "K Street lobbyists expect a bonanza this year because of the aggressive agenda of President Obama and congressional Democrats," The Hill reports. "'Big government is back,' said Mark Ruge, who heads the policy group at K&L Gates. 'It's going to be a very, very active Congress.'"
• "Caroline Kennedy, daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy and scion to the political dynasty, withdrew her name from the list of contenders for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, hours after Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state late Wednesday," the Washington Post reports.
• "House Republicans on Wednesday sought to implement a strategy designed to weaken Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) by painting her as an obstacle to" Obama's "bipartisan agenda," Roll Call reports. "Republicans, fighting with a minority of just 177, spent the day after Obama's star-studded inauguration attacking House Democrats for excluding them from early negotiations on a massive economic stimulus plan."
• "House Appropriations Chairman David Obey set off a firestorm recently by including report language for the House economic stimulus package that implied that $1 billion to fund research to compare the effectiveness of medical treatments would keep patients from more-expensive medications and procedures -- and even staffers who crafted the bill language are fuming over the report," the CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.
• "Sen. Mike Enzi, who told The Hill that he was pissed when he was passed over for a Finance Committee seat in the 110th Congress, on Wednesday received a slot on the coveted panel. The Wyoming Republican nabbed one of two open seats on the panel that became available when Finance Committee members Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and John Sununu (R-N.H.) lost their reelection battles in November."
• "Democrats tried Wednesday to paint comedian Al Franken as the inevitable winner of Minnesota's protracted Senate race," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "But GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, who held the seat before the election and whose legal challenges left the state with just one senator, was also in Washington, working out of his own office, attending the Republican luncheon and telling reporters, 'I'm hopeful I'll be back here.'"
• "Some Republicans are privately urging Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to step down at the end of his term amid growing concerns that he can't win reelection in 2010," the Politico reports. "According to two GOP sources, leading Republican fundraisers in Kentucky are hesitant to raise money for Bunning and have told him he should not seek a third term."
• "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [D-Mass.] was released from the hospital and doing well Wednesday after suffering a seizure during an inaugural luncheon," AP reports. "Kennedy's office confirmed that the senator left Washington Hospital Center, where he stayed overnight for observation, and was resting at home."
Iraq: Obama Tasks His Team With Ending War
• "Obama gave his national security team on Wednesday a new mission to end the war in Iraq, nearly six years after United States-led forces invaded, but he held off ordering a troop withdrawal right away to hear concerns and options from his military commanders," the New York Times reports. "On his first full day in office, Mr. Obama summoned senior civilian and uniformed officials to the White House to begin fulfilling his campaign promise to pull combat forces out of Iraq in 16 months."
• "Iraqi politicians campaigning for seats in the Jan. 31 provincial elections have promoted themselves vigorously and engaged voters on both global and grass-roots issues," the Washington Post reports. "This brand of retail politics marks a dramatic shift from campaigns conducted in 2005, the last time Iraq held elections nationwide."
• "The governor of Nineveh province, a man who drives around with hand grenades in the cup holders of his SUV, is proud that he survived his term. He can't point to much else as a legacy," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Fair or not, Gov. Duraid Kashmoula is a symbol of all that has gone wrong here in Mosul."
• "A senior leader in one of the main Sunni Arab parties participating in the coming provincial elections survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday in Baghdad that left four people dead and 10 others wounded, according to his party and a security official," the New York Times reports.
Nation: Immigration Supporters Demand End To Raids
• "The advent of the Obama administration is rousing enthusiasm among" abortion rights "supporters and deep anxiety among opponents as both sides mark" today's "anniversary of Roe v. Wade," AP reports.
• "Several hundred immigrant supporters and religious leaders from across the country marched to the Southwest Washington headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency" Wednesday, "strumming guitars, beating drums and waving colorful homemade banners exhorting President Obama to halt immigration raids and promote legislation offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship," the Washington Post reports.
• Obama "has pledged to 'wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost,' but many in the field warn that rushing the process of digitizing patients' records could lead to wasteful spending," the Wall Street Journal reports.
• "Officials in 25 to 30 states are considering rural school cuts, said Marty Strange, policy director for the nonprofit Rural School and Community Trust," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The one-teacher school is in particular danger. In 2005-06, the most recent year for which data are available, only 335 remained, Strange said."
• "The latest round in a long-running battle over how evolution should be taught in Texas schools began in earnest Wednesday as the State Board of Education heard impassioned testimony from scientists and social conservatives on revising the science curriculum," the New York Times reports. "The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation's biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material."
• "Americans are living nearly three years longer than they were only two decades ago, and they owe up to five months of that longevity to cleaner skies, a study shows," USA Today reports. "'It is a good-news story,' says Brigham Young University's C. Arden Pope, author of the study in today's New England Journal of Medicine, which included 51 metro areas in the USA and more than 200 countries."
Economy: Geithner Floats 'Bad Bank' Strategy
• "Timothy Geithner, President Obama's pick to head the Treasury Department, said Wednesday that the administration is considering setting up a 'bad bank' to purchase toxic loans from troubled banks in a new program that could cost taxpayers $3 trillion to $4 trillion," the Washington Times reports.
• As Obama's "team sets about revising the $700 billion TARP program, following last week's release of the second half of the money, among the issues it faces is widespread dissatisfaction with way the program has been implemented," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Bankers, regulators and politicians complain of a secretive and opaque process for deciding which banks get cash and which don't."
• "At least 30 banks since 2000 have escaped federal regulatory action by walking away from their federal regulators and moving under state supervision, taking advantage of a long-standing system that allows banks to choose between federal and state oversight, according to a Washington Post review of government records. The moves, known as charter conversions, highlight the tremendous leverage that banks hold in their relationships with government supervisors."
• "Medicaid rolls are surging, by unprecedented rates in some states, as the recession tightens its grip on the economy and Americans lose their employer-sponsored health coverage along with their jobs," the New York Times reports. "In a number of states, Medicaid populations grew by 5 percent to 10 percent in the last 12 months and, in many, the growth rate was at least double what it had been in the previous year."
• "China's government said the economy expanded 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008 from a year earlier, confirming a dramatic slowdown that has cut growth rates in the world's third-largest economy nearly in half in a single year," the Wall Street Journal reports.
World: Obama Faces Tough Choices On Gaza
• "With the rule of Hamas in Gaza apparently unchallenged and its popularity growing in the West Bank, the new Obama administration faces an immediate policy choice: support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam," the New York Times reports.
• "Beneath the semi-desert scrub of olive groves and cactus trees traversing Egypt's border with Gaza lies a warren of crudely dug tunnels that may determine whether the cease-fires ending the 22-day war between Israel and Hamas will last," the Chicago Tribune reports. "Israel invaded Gaza partly to put an end to a flow of rockets and other weapons it says are smuggled through the tunnels and says its bombing raids destroyed 80 percent of them. But on Wednesday, smugglers on both sides said that at least some of the tunnels are operating again, just three days after hostilities came to an end."
• "Israel's Gaza offensive has created fractures in the Israeli-Turkish alliance and deepened ties between Ankara and Tehran in what analysts fear could be the start of a major realignment in the region," the Washington Times reports. "'This will seriously damage Turkish-U.S. relations on a long-term basis,' said Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer and author of books on Iran and Turkey."
• "The Taliban are everywhere the soldiers are not, the saying goes in the southern part of" Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. "And that is a lot of places."
• "The departure of the last Ethiopian tanks from Somalia's capital is ushering in a new phase of conflict in a nation known for clan warfare: a battle for power among militias flying Islamist banners," the Washington Post reports. "In some ways, the situation in Somalia, where people have long practiced a moderate and mostly apolitical form of Islam, has circled back to where it was when the Ethiopians invaded two years ago."
• "A Chinese court condemned two men to death" today "and handed a life term to a former dairy boss in the first sentences for those involved in the country's contaminated milk scandal," AP reports.
Transition: Ticket Controversies Still Smoldering
• Plenty of inauguration revelers are still annoyed about their experience Tuesday, from victims of the Purple Tunnel of Doom to Youth Ball attendees who were shut out of the main ballroom. Read more in Lost In Transition, NationalJournal.com's blog on the changeover.
Commentary: Grappling with Gitmo
• Closing the prison facility at Guantanamo will be the easy part, editorialists argue in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.
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