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EARLYBIRD

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Talk of second stimulus and Obama's earmarks proposal receive negative reaction. Plus: European finance ministers speak out against U.S. economic advice.

Congress: Talk Of Second Stimulus Gets Negative Reaction

• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "said this week that she's keeping the door open for a second stimulus bill. She may be the only one," Politico reports. "An increasing number of economists are saying Congress will need to pump more money into the economy this year. But reaction on Capitol Hill has been almost uniformly negative -- and much of the blowback is coming from Democrats."

Politico reports on moderate Democrats' unease with the Employee Free Choice Act: "Caught between Big Business and Big Labor in the midst of a deepening recession," they're doing "anything they can do to buy some time while hoping that EFCA somehow goes away. Eleven Democratic senators and 22 Democratic House members who cosponsored the 2007 version of EFCA -- or 'card check,' as its opponents call it -- have steered clear of the version unveiled this week."

 

• "Democratic congressional leaders are encountering opposition from key Senate Democrats to the president's plan to put a price on carbon this year, and are considering bypassing normal Senate procedures to push through legislation," the Wall Street Journal reports.

White House: Obama's Earmark Proposal Deemed Ineffective

• "Obama's call to rein in the use of earmarks was met with derision" Wednesday, "even from some of his past reformer allies," the Washington Post reports. "A bipartisan collection of lawmakers said the proposals he offered... would do little to curb the practice and would do nothing to address the appearance of a connection between campaign contributions and spending programs ordered up by lawmakers."

• "The choices of Margaret A. Hamburg and Joshua Sharfstein to run the U.S. Food and Drug Administration puts the country's health regulation in the hands of two doctors with a history of guarding public safety, a duty the agency has been criticized for neglecting," Bloomberg News reports.

 

• "The Obama administration is planning to appoint a special envoy to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday. Two officials told the AP that veteran diplomat Daniel Fried will be named to the new post in a move intended to demonstrate the administration's seriousness in shutting down the controversial facility."

• "Obama invoked his grandmother, single mother and two young daughters on Wednesday in creating a White House panel to advise him on issues facing women and girls," AP reports. "Obama... signed an executive order creating an across-the-government council designed to help Cabinet agencies and departments collaborate on ways to make sure women were provided opportunities offered to men."

World: G-20 Leaders Buck U.S. Advice On Financial Crisis

• "With finance ministers from the" Group of 20 nations "preparing to address the global economic crisis at a summit this weekend in London, signs are emerging that the United States and Europe have different ideas about what constitutes the best tonic," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Obama on Wednesday again urged other countries to boost public spending as he is doing.... But many European leaders say they have stimulated their economies enough."

• Obama on Wednesday signed "a $410 billion spending bill that rolls back Bush administration restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting relatives -- effectively increasing allowable trips to once a year and spending to $179 a day," AP reports.

 

• Pakistan's "civilian government banned a national protest march and arrested hundreds of political workers on Wednesday, evoking for many Pakistanis the sweeping security restrictions of the military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf," the New York Times reports. "The unusually tough action... heightened the showdown between" President Asif Ali Zardari, unpopular widower of Benazir Bhutto, "and Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who surveys suggest is more popular among Pakistanis but whom Washington sees as less committed to quelling the insurgency in Pakistan."

National Security: North Korea To Launch Rocket

• "North Korea announced" today "that it will launch its newest rocket, which many outside the country suspect is a long-range missile that can hit the U.S. mainland, sometime from April 4 to 8, giving other countries three weeks to decide whether to shoot it down or deal with the trouble in another way," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "At noon Tuesday" in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, "there was the explosion. Gunfire followed, and 33 people were dead, pieces of their corpses mixing with stagnant water, trash and soggy scraps of food," the Washington Post reports. "In 2003, when America began its occupation, bombings with half the casualties of Tuesday's suggested the United States might not prevail. Today, when America and its Iraqi allies seem to be winning, the attack failed to make the front page of the government newspaper."

• "The White House said Wednesday that Obama had nominated Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, who served in Afghanistan twice, including an 18-month tour that ended in 2007 as commanding general, to be ambassador in Kabul, and Christopher Hill, a seasoned negotiator who led the U.S. team at nuclear disarmament talks during the Bush administration, to be ambassador in Baghdad," AP reports.

Politics: Moderate Senate Democrats Consider A 'Blue Dog' Group Of Their Own

• "The withdrawal of" Charles W. Freeman Jr. as the pick to chair the National Intelligence Council "after an online campaign to prevent him from taking office has ignited a debate over whether powerful pro-Israel lobbying interests are exercising outsize influence over who serves in the Obama administration," the Washington Post reports.

• "Following its early success in paring down the more than $900 billion economic stimulus bill to $787 billion, a group of 15 to 20" Senate "Democratic moderates plans to formally announce next week that it is aligning as a loose coalition or working group focused on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "While not identical to the long-established House Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, the group is eyeing a similar role."

• "Even before early voting began in most states in the fall, a small group of Republican lawmakers and strategists started plotting what was originally cast as a five-year effort to rebuild the GOP," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The group meets semi-regularly. It's led by Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California," and "part of their mission is figuring out how to eventually get the GOP back in control of the House."

Economy: Unemployment Continues To Rise

• "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner" Wednesday "unveiled a sweeping plan that calls on the United States and other nations to offer billions more to bail out economies in crisis and prods a reluctant Europe to prop up the reeling world economy with more aggressive government spending," the Washington Post reports. "But the campaign is triggering controversy on both sides of the Atlantic."

• "U.S. unemployment will approach 10 percent as the country endures its worst recession since World War Two, leaving more than 13 million Americans jobless, according to a Reuters poll of economists. The economy will level out in the third quarter, the results showed, but the poll painted a bleaker picture than a survey conducted just a month ago."

• "Bernard Madoff, facing a lifelong sentence for the largest Ponzi scheme in history, didn't agree to a plea deal with prosecutors because of their demand that he admit to a conspiracy... said people familiar with the matter," Bloomberg News reports. "Madoff, 70, will plead guilty today to all 11 counts he faces without any promise of leniency or anything else in return. He could receive 150 years in prison at sentencing on charges including fraud, perjury and money laundering."

Technology: Silicon Valley Pushes For Patent Reform

• With Obama "in the White House, tech companies have more hope they'll win this year's fight over patent reform," The Hill reports. "Tech companies have been pushing for a revamp of the nation's patent laws for several years. Lobbyists for Silicon Valley argue that their companies have seen their innovations bogged down in expensive, frivolous lawsuits that take their scientists and engineers away from the lab too often."

• Obama "said Wednesday that NASA was an agency afflicted by 'a sense of drift' and that it needed a "mission that is appropriate for the 21st century," the Los Angeles Times reports. "During an interview, Obama said the first priority of a new agency administrator -- whom he promised to appoint soon -- would be 'to think through what NASA's core mission is and what the next great adventures and discoveries are under the NASA banner.'"

• "The Associated Press brought a copyright lawsuit Wednesday, alleging that Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey used 'computerized paint by the numbers' and 'copy-and-paste style' to create the highly recognized 'Hope' image of" Obama, Wired reports.

Energy: Democrats Squabble Over Cap-And-Trade

• "Energy Secretary Steven Chu sought to reassure skeptical senators about the administration's position on nuclear power, indicating he may support expanding a loan guarantee program the industry says is needed for its revival," The Hill reports.

• "The Bush administration's decision to halt production of an experimental power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions underground may have set back 'clean coal' technology in the United States by as much as a decade, according to a congressional report released at a hearing" Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.

Health Care: Congress Weighs Taxing Health Benefits

• Obama "intends to nominate Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner, to lead the Food and Drug Administration, sidestepping a battle between drug safety advocates and the drug industry, people briefed on the decision said," the New York Times reports.

• With Obama's "plan to tax the rich to pay for health care facing deep skepticism on Capitol Hill, key lawmakers are pressing a different way to raise money: taxing the health benefits workers receive from their employers," the Washington Post reports.

• "A new study from the Food and Drug Administration appears to back up claims that a smoking-cessation drug used by service members and veterans may put them at risk for suicidal thoughts," Army Times reports.

Lobbying: LGBT Lobby Gears Up

• "With Democrats in charge of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, this really ought to be a no-brainer: Should GlaxoSmithKline put a Democrat or a Republican in charge of its Washington lobbying shop?" Politico asks. "But, as obvious as the answer may be, the drug maker is wrestling with the choice -- and it sheds light on what seems to be an industry-wide partisan disconnect."

• "As the House LGBT Equality Caucus readies itself for an aggressive legislative agenda, a group of lobbyists has organized Q Street, an association devoted to establishing a network of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lobbyists and those working for LGBT equality," Roll Call reports.

Transportation: Auto Czar On Unfamiliar Ground

• "Under the federal stimulus package intended to improve the nation's infrastructure, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority was set to dole out roughly $215 million in sums of at least $500,000 each to the county's 88 cities to get their projects moving," the New York Times reports. "Many cities on the list, however, did not have qualifying projects because they are too small or cannot move as quickly as the stimulus law stipulated. So the transit agency encouraged the cities to do with the stimulus money what they often do with other money -- swap it with other cities at a discounted rate."

• "A couple of months ago, Steven Rattner knew little about the U.S. auto industry," the Washington Post reports. "But that didn't prevent" Obama "from recruiting him to solve one of the most vexing problems of the financial crisis -- how to avert a catastrophic collapse of Chrysler and General Motors."

Commentary: Freeman's Withdrawal Incites Debate

• Who is responsible for Freeman's withdrawal as National Intelligence Council chairman? And why did the administration pick him in the first place? Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section has opinion on these questions and more.

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