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EARLYBIRD

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Stimulus bill awaits final action, package's effect on economy questioned, offshore drilling postponed, Panetta and Solis nominations advance, Pakistan acknowledges Mumbai attack was partially planned on its soil, Taliban attacks Kabul offices.

• "House and Senate leaders on Wednesday struck a deal on a $789 billion economic stimulus bill after little more than 24 hours of rapid-fire negotiations with the Obama administration, clearing the way for final Congressional action later this week," the New York Times reports.

• "Chief executives at eight banks and securities firms that have gotten $165 billion in federal aid were barraged by U.S. lawmakers, who showed little patience for a charm offensive aimed at defusing ire over pay and lending," the Wall Street Journal reports.

 

• "The Department of Energy's failure to give out $38.5 billion in energy project support is raising questions about whether the program can handle three times as much money in the pending stimulus package," the Washington Times reports. "Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, amended the stimulus plan, which cleared the Senate to add $90 billion in lending capacity for the program."

White House: Energy Secretary Calls For Nobel-Level Innovation

• "The Bush administration's controversial plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling was delayed at least six months by the Obama administration," USA Today reports. "Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested that some drilling will eventually be allowed. But he said the agency will give the public until Sept. 23 to comment, instead of the Bush administration's deadline of March 23."

• "Steven Chu, the new secretary of energy, said Wednesday that solving the world's energy and environment problems would require Nobel-level breakthroughs in three areas: electric batteries, solar power and the development of new crops that can be turned into fuel," the New York Times reports.

 

• "Rahm Emanuel may have moved his office down Pennsylvania Avenue, but to stand in the hallways of the Capitol lately, it seems he never left," The Hill reports. "And if anyone's fingerprints are on the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package being sorted out in Congress this week, they belong to Emanuel, the former Illinois House member who is now the White House chief of staff."

Politics: Panetta And Solis Advance; Lynn Confirmed

• "The Senate Wednesday confirmed William Lynn, a Raytheon executive and former company lobbyist, to be deputy Defense secretary by a 93-4 vote," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "At the same time, two Senate panels approved the nominations of Leon Panetta to head the CIA and Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., as Labor secretary, sending both appointments to the Senate floor for votes this month."

• "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi," D-Calif., "and other Democratic leaders are 'concerned' by a widening criminal probe that may involve Rep. John P. Murtha," D-Pa., "but sources close to the leadership say there's no move afoot to force him out as chairman of the powerful Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee," the Politico reports.

• "Considered one of the rising (and youngest) stars in the Republican party, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has just snared another coup. Republican leaders announced today that he's been selected to deliver the G.O.P.'s response to President Obama's speech before a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24," the New York Times reports.

 

Economy: Stimulus Won't Be Enough This Year, Survey Finds

• "The latest version of the economic-stimulus package is expected to provide less near-term support for the economy and make it less likely that the economy will pull itself out of recession before late this year," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The $789.5 billion deal, reached by House and Senate negotiators Wednesday, indicates the Obama administration was willing to reduce its goal of creating or saving four million jobs."

• President Obama's "stimulus plan will be insufficient to avert the biggest U.S. economic decline since 1946 as consumer spending posts its longest slide on record, according to a monthly Bloomberg News survey."

• "More than a quarter of people applying for" unemployment benefits "have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers," the Washington Post reports. "The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute."

World: Mumbai Attack Partly Planned In Pakistan, Government Says

• "Pakistan publicly acknowledged for the first time" today "that last year's attack on Mumbai was largely planned on its soil and that it had arrested most of the key plotters," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Space officials in Russia and the United States were" today "tracking hundreds of pieces of debris that were spewed into space when a U.S. satellite collided with a defunct Russian military satellite," Reuters reports. "The crash, which Russian officials said took place on Tuesday at about 1700 GMT above northern Siberia, is the first publicly known satellite collision and has raised concerns about the safety of the manned International Space Station."

National Security: Taliban Attacks Government Buildings In Kabul

• "Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen struck government buildings at three sites" in Kabul "on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 57," the New York Times reports. "It was a complex and closely coordinated attack that demonstrated the ease with which the insurgents could penetrate even... Afghanistan's heavily fortified capital."

• "The Obama administration sent two top officials to Moscow on Wednesday in a determined effort to retain access to a key military base in Central Asia and the first major test of the new administration's relations with Russia," the Washington Times reports.

• "The Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico is missing 67 computers, including 13 that were lost or stolen in the past year. Officials say no classified information has been lost," AP reports. "Thirteen of the missing computers were lost or stolen in the past 12 months, including three computers that were taken from a scientist's home in Santa Fe, on Jan. 16, and a Blackberry belonging to another employee was lost 'in a sensitive foreign country.'"

Commentary: Banking On Tougher Hearings

• One commentator criticizes lawmakers for not being tougher on bank CEOs while another envisions what it would be like if Congress faced questioning on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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