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EARLYBIRD

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Obama tries to win GOP support for stimulus bill, senators in both parties call for entitlement reform, Schwarzenegger looks to taxes to cure budget woes, jobs slashed in multiple sectors, Bagram prison poses problems similar to Guantanamo's.

• "Making his first forays on his pledge to boost U.S. leadership in the world, President Obama on Monday deployed a special envoy to the Middle East to work on the peace process and sought to claim to leadership on global warming by erasing Bush-era rules and pushing auto manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles," the Washington Times reports.

• "Obama on Monday night granted an Arabic-language television channel his first formal interview as president -- an unprecedented gesture that appeared aimed at offering the Muslim world a sharp contrast with his predecessor," the Financial Times reports. Obama "told the Al Arabiya television channel that his administration wanted listen to the Muslim world and re-examine America's 'preconceptions' towards the region."

 

• "Obama will meet with skeptical House and Senate Republicans" today "as he seeks to prevent partisanship from boiling over on the economic stimulus bill while GOP lawmakers lobby for major changes to the measure that is moving quickly through Congress," The Hill reports. "The outcome of the two separate meetings with chamber Republicans will be telling, because Obama is unlikely to revamp the legislation that is scheduled for a House floor vote on Wednesday."

• "Shortly after the workweek began, the tech-savvy Obama administration was hit with a mysterious 'server outage' that shut down all incoming and outgoing e-mail for more than eight hours, forcing aides to resort to old-fashioned phone calls and face-to-face conversation," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lawsuit by a Los Angeles man wrongfully convicted of murder and gave district attorneys a broad shield against being sued even if their management mistakes send an innocent person to prison," the Los Angeles Times reports.

 

• "Managers can't retaliate against employees who cooperate with internal investigations into workplace discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled Monday," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The unanimous opinion was the third decision in four years protecting employees who oppose race or sex discrimination at work."

Congress: Conrad And Gregg Call For Entitlement Reform

• "Approximately two-thirds of the spending and tax cuts contained in an economic stimulus package crafted by House Democrats would flow into the economy by the end of fiscal 2010, producing a 'noticeable impact on economic growth and employment,' congressional budget analysts said" Monday, the Washington Post reports.

• "Senators from both parties are pushing to add entitlement reform to the full plate of economic issues Congress takes on in coming months," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad [D-N.D.] and ranking member Judd Gregg [R-N.H.] will use a bipartisan Senate breakfast this morning to pitch their idea -- first offered in 2007 -- for a bipartisan fiscal task force to recommend overhauls to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."

• "By coincidence or design, most of the policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration charged with shaping legislation to address global warming come from California or the East Coast, regions that lead the country in environmental regulation and the push for renewable energy sources," the New York Times reports. "That is a problem, says a group of Democratic lawmakers from the Midwest and Plains States, which are heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing. The lawmakers have banded together to fight legislation they think might further damage their economies."

 

• "Congressional efforts to postpone next month's switch to digital television signals gained momentum Monday when the Senate passed legislation that would bump the transition from Feb. 17 to June 12," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. In the House, "Democrats back a four-month extension but Republicans remain adamantly opposed."

• "House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has subpoenaed Karl Rove, the former top political advisor to President George W. Bush, to question what Rove knows about 'politicization' of the Justice Department," the Politico reports. "The Senate Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed Rove during the last Congress, but relying on an executive privilege claim by Bush, Rove refused to appear."

• "Facing a surprisingly tough re-election challenge in the closing days of his 2008 campaign, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) called on a well-established network of his earmarking beneficiaries to bail him out," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "And the defense industry contractors, several of whom had pulled down millions of dollars in Murtha earmarks in the 2009 defense spending bill, responded by flooding his coffers with what amounted to rescue cash."

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• "Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.), a new Democratic member of the House ethics committee, gave back nearly $20,000 in donations he received from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is under investigation by the panel for an array of ethics charges," The Hill reports. "Welch received a total of $19,000 from Rangel's reelection committee and leadership political action committee over the last four years."

Iraq: Gates To Testify Before Congress

• "Congress is eager to hear from Defense Secretary Robert Gates how the Obama administration plans to salvage the war in Afghanistan and hold a relative peace in Iraq -- all the while reducing the stress on a force stretched thin by years of combat," AP reports.

• "Riven by sectarian violence that has lasted longer than in almost any other province in Iraq, Diyala is often described as a microcosm of the country: Shiites and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs, farmers and professors. All live in lethally close proximity," the New York Times reports. "Violence has diminished of late, in the face of nearly continuous security operations, but the tensions remain palpable," which makes "holding a fair election almost impossible."

• "A senior Iraqi customs official escaped a roadside bomb attack" today, "officials said, the latest in a spate of assassination attempts before provincial elections," AP reports. "The blast struck the convoy carrying police Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Attiyah, the director-general of Iraq's customs agency, as he was on his way to work in central Baghdad, officials said."

Nation: Schwarzenegger Looks To Taxes To Cure Budget Woes

• "Gov. Rod Blagojevich skipped the first day of his impeachment trial and instead spent Monday telling national TV audiences that he is innocent of corruption charges but 'the fix is in' for his conviction," USA Today reports.

• "In California," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "wants to help close a nearly $42 billion budget deficit by taxing rounds of golf, auto repairs, veterinary care, amusement park and sporting event admissions and appliance and furniture repairs," the Washington Times reports.

• "Medicare, with little public debate, has expanded its coverage of drugs for cancer treatments not approved by the Food and Drug Administration," the New York Times reports. "Cancer doctors had clamored for the changes, saying that some of these treatments, known as off-label uses, were essential if patients were to receive the most up-to-date care."

• "The dramatic spike in gas prices that began in 2005 sent Americans flocking to trains, buses and subways, a trend that appears to have held up even as gas prices have dipped," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But 2009 could be a year of crisis for the agencies that run them -- a time of more riders but much less money."

Economy: Jobs Slashed In Multiple Sectors

• "Timothy Geithner was sworn in as U.S. Treasury secretary" Monday, "putting him at the center of a global effort to arrest the financial crisis and end what is already the nation's longest recession in a quarter-century," Bloomberg News reports.

• "The nation's employers, including some of its largest and most sturdy, announced plans" Monday "to slash more than 55,000 jobs, a staggering one-day toll that highlighted how quickly layoffs are accelerating and how widely misery is spreading throughout the labor market," the Washington Post reports.

• "Governments are not doing enough to co-operate on rebuilding troubled financial systems and fiscal stimulus packages alone will not boost economic growth, according to the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said on Monday that pumping government money into the economy was not enough by itself. 'If you have fiscal stimulus without fixing the banking system, it will be like a sugar high,' he told the Financial Times."

• "Nearly half of the 233 police agencies surveyed since the collapse of the nation's financial markets link increases in criminal offenses to the faltering economy, a new review by a law enforcement research group shows," USA Today reports.

World: Bagram Prison Poses Problems Similar To Guantanamo's

• "European diplomats said Monday that they are willing to help the Obama administration empty the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but stopped short of making specific promises to give inmates new homes in Europe," the Washington Post reports.

• "For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," the New York Times reports. "But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan."

• "Armed private security companies are proliferating in Afghanistan -- hired in many cases to protect Afghan companies doing work for the U.S. And for the American forces who regularly encounter these armed men, it is perilously hard to discern their identities and their loyalties," the Wall Street Journal reports. "U.S. commanders and Afghan officials say there have been at least three significant firefights between American forces and Afghan guards in recent months, and a host of other violent incidents."

• "Palestinian militants killed one Israeli soldier and seriously wounded another in a cross border attack" today, "prompting an Israeli counter-strike that reportedly killed a Palestinian farmer," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The clash, near the central Gaza border crossing of Kissufim, is the most serious threat so far to the separate cease-fires declared by Israel and Hamas that have largely held since Jan. 18."

• "The State Department has decided to keep Iran's largest opposition group, Mujahedin e-Khalq, on its list of terrorist organizations, according to U.S. officials," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The decision, which could set up a legal battle in the U.S., came before the European Union on Monday removed Mujahedin e-Khalq, or the People's Mujahedin of Iran, from its own roster of terrorist groups."

• "Iceland's coalition government collapsed Monday, the first government to fall as a direct result of the global economic turmoil," the Washington Post reports. "Prime Minister Geir Haarde said he and his cabinet would resign immediately."

• "Islamist insurgents took over the city that houses Somalia's Parliament on Monday, just hours after Ethiopian troops withdrew and formally ended a failed two-year effort to defeat Islamist militants in the country," the New York Times reports. "Witnesses reached by telephone in the city of Baidoa... said that Islamist militias were patrolling the streets and that government offices in the city had been ransacked."

• "Countries struggling to secure credit have resorted to barter and secretive government-to-government deals to buy food, with some contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars," the Financial Times reports. "In a striking example of how the global financial crisis and high food prices have strained the finances of poor and middle-income nations, countries including Russia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Morocco say they have signed or are discussing inter-government and barter deals to import commodities from rice to vegetable oil."

Transition: Once More Into The Breach

• Obama and Vice President Biden are launching a new charm offensive today in an attempt to win over Republicans who are skeptical about the stimulus package. Read more in Lost In Transition, NationalJournal.com's blog on the changeover.

Commentary: An Environmentally Sound Day

• Editorial boards cheer the executive orders on energy and the environment that Obama signed Monday in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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