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EARLYBIRD

Top News

Souter may be leaving the Supreme Court, and the House passes credit card protection. Plus: Chrysler files for bankruptcy protection ahead of Fiat merger.

Politics: Justice Souter Reportedly Plans To Retire

• "Justice David H. Souter, the Republican-appointed New England jurist who has become a reliable member of the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, has told friends that he plans to retire, according to a government official," the Washington Post reports.

• "Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson formed an exploratory committee Thursday to seek the Republican nomination for the seat held by GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, setting off speculation that Bunning would not seek another term next year," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "But Grayson said he would not run if Bunning announced for another term and Bunning said, through an aide, 'I have every intention of running again.'"

 

• "Maine could be the next New England state to embrace same-sex marriage after the State Senate voted Thursday to legalize the practice," the New York Times reports. "The measure appears to have even broader support in the House of Representatives" and "Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, used to oppose same-sex marriage" but "he has said he is keeping an open mind."

Congress: Credit Card Reform Set In Motion

• "The House overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday to curb certain questionable credit card practices, placing additional pressure on Senate negotiators to strike a deal," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "By a 357-70 margin, the House approved legislation by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that would prohibit issuers from raising rates on existing balances retroactively, require a 45-day notice of any rate increase and ban billing on balances for days not included in the last billing cycle as a result of a grace period."

• "Senate Democrats handed President Obama a rare congressional setback Thursday by helping to scrap his plan to give bankruptcy judges the power to force banks to reduce mortgages payments for struggling homeowners," the Washington Times reports. "Critics said Mr. Obama failed to use any muscle to preserve the 'cram-down' provision, but the president's allies in the Democrat-led Congress blamed lobbying by the banking industry for killing the bill."

 

• "The Obama administration is risking provoking a war among House Democrats by backing a trade agreement with Panama, some lawmakers say, potentially spilling over to poison the rest of an ambitious domestic agenda,"CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

White House: Dunn Takes Over As Communications Director

• "Anita Dunn, a veteran Democratic strategist and top adviser on" Obama's "presidential campaign, will take over as White House communications director at least temporarily, according to sources familiar with the move," Politico reports. "The powerful post is being vacated by Ellen Moran this week, and Obama officials want to fill it quickly."

• "A former top Los Angeles federal prosecutor who was involved in a Clinton-era clemency controversy has been tapped to head an influential Department of Homeland Security immigration agency," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Alejandro Mayorkas is President Obama's pick to be director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which adjudicates a broad range of immigration and naturalization issues and oversees international adoptions, asylum, refugee status and foreign student authorization."

• "Newly uncovered documents reveal that President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked quietly in the late 1930s to find havens for European Jews, contradicting the view that he ignored their plight in the years leading up to the Holocaust," USA Today reports.

 

Economy: Chrysler Files For Bankruptcy Ahead Of Merger With Fiat

• "Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection on Thursday so it could pursue a lifesaving alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, in yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government," the New York Times reports.

• "Michigan lawmakers roundly criticized investment firms and hedge funds, who they blamed Thursday for forcing Chrysler LLC into bankruptcy," The Hill reports. "They said by holding out on a final deal, the firms, which held substantial elements of Chrysler's debt, kept the company from avoiding Chapter 11."

• "The Federal Reserve is preparing to announce new terms on one of its lending programs that officials hope will help revive the commercial-real-estate market, according to people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The program is the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, in which investors are given low-cost loans from the Fed and in turn use the money to buy securities backed by consumer debt."

• "Exxon Mobil Corp. is taking steps to preserve cash in the market downturn," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The extended global recession has dragged down oil and natural-gas prices from record levels last year, leading to a 58% drop in the global energy giant's first-quarter profit -- its worst performance since 2003."

National Security: Nearly 100 Detainees Could Be Headed To U.S.

• "As many as 100 detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could end up held without trial on American soil, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested Thursday, a situation that he acknowledged would create widespread if not unanimous opposition in Congress," the New York Times reports. "The estimate was the most specific yet from the Obama administration about how many of the 241 prisoners at Guantánamo could not be safely released, sent to other countries or appropriately tried in American courts."

• "The Senate Intelligence Committee will call a former FBI special agent to testify who has publicly disputed arguments that harsh interrogation tactics were the only way to get valuable information from a high-value terrorism suspect in 2002," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The testimony from Ali Soufan, who interrogated al-Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah using traditional methods, is part of the committee's continuing investigation into the CIA's so-called enhanced interrogation program."

• "During the nearly six years that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri spent in isolation in a Navy brig as the last enemy combatant held on United States soil, he denied the government's charges that he was a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, his lawyers said," the New York Times reports. "But on Thursday, in a federal courtroom in Peoria, Ill., that denial fell apart when Mr. Marri reached a deal with the government to plead guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda."

World: U.S. Worries About Delay In Talks With Iran

• "The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about how long Iran may take to respond to its peace overture, and worried that delays will build pressure at home and abroad that could undermine the effort to overcome decades of antagonism through face-to-face talks," the Los Angeles Times reports. "In March, President Obama videotaped an appeal addressing Iranian leaders. But U.S. officials now worry that Tehran, currently engaged in a presidential election campaign, may not provide an answer until autumn or even the end of the year."

• "NATO has expelled two Russian diplomats from its headquarters in Brussels over accusations of espionage, officials said Thursday, threatening a new rift between the two sides just as relations were beginning to improve," the New York Times reports.

• "Taliban militants kidnapped 10 Pakistani paramilitaries in an attack on their headquarters" today "as Islamic militants fought back against an army offensive in the troubled northwest," Reuters reports.

Technology: White House Helping Craft Broadband Bill

• "The White House is playing a critical behind-the-scenes role in shaping a $7.2 billion loan-and-grant program aimed at spurring wider broadband Internet access, despite a congressional mandate that put the Agriculture and Commerce departments in charge of the economic stimulus effort," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The chairmen of the House and Senate committees that oversee homeland security plan to introduce legislation today that would expand the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect the country's electricity grid from cyber threats," Federal Computer Week reports. "The legislation would also require the Homeland Security Department to conduct ongoing assessments of cyber threats to the nation's critical electricity infrastructure and recommends corrective measures."

• "It's the most secure distribution version of Windows XP ever produced by Microsoft: More than 600 settings are locked down tight, and critical security patches can be installed in an average of 72 hours instead of 57 days," Wired reports. "The only problem is, you have to join the Air Force to get it."

Health Care: Administration Relying On Bush-Era Response Strategy

• "The Obama administration has relied on a Bush-era public health strategy aimed at coordinating its response across an array of government agencies in the week since the first reports of a swine flu outbreak emerged, officials say, as it attempts to balance safety concerns with a desire to prevent a panic," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Mexican ambassador to the United States said Thursday reports about the deadly H1N1 flu virus have dramatically overstated the disease's reach, and that just eight deaths can be definitively pinned on the virus," The Hill reports. "Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, addressing a luncheon sponsored by the Meridian International Group, said just 100 H1N1 virus cases have been confirmed in Mexico, far fewer than the nearly 2,000 press reports have indicated."

• "Health officials warned doctors and patients Thursday about potentially deadly risks of using the anti-wrinkle drug Botox and similar drugs for unapproved uses to treat certain types of muscle spasms," AP reports. "The Food and Drug Administration said Botox and two other injections carry risks of rare botulism symptoms, particularly when given to children to help relax uncontrollable muscle movements."

Energy & Environment: EPA Quickly Rolls Back Bush Policies

• "The Navajo Nation plans to earn $50 million annually by building a coal-fired power plant on its New Mexico reservation. But its plans hit a snag earlier this week, when the Environmental Protection Agency, citing air pollution concerns, moved to revoke a Bush administration permit and block the project," the Washington Times reports. "Similar 'green' reversals have grown commonplace at EPA, where Administrator Lisa Jackson has systematically upended the agency's pro-industry tendencies of the past eight years."

• "The Department of Energy late last week declared viable a contract with Vitol Holding BV -- a firm that has pleaded guilty in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal two years ago -- to fill the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve," the Wall Street Journal reports. "After a congressionally-requested probe of the contract... Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a letter that the deal to fill the petroleum reserve with 1 million barrels of crude was determined to be in the 'in the best interest of the government.'"

• "The Senate Thursday overwhelmingly confirmed Tom Strickland's nomination as assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, but Republican holds might delay the appointment of two of his fellow deputies at the department," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Transportation: House Leaders Agree On Reauthorization Guidelines

• "House Transportation and Infrastructure leaders have agreed on a set of principles for a six-year surface transportation bill and now are tasked with floating those ideas to fellow panelists and the White House," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Commentary: The Republicans' Path Forward

• Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section has words of criticism and advice for the GOP in the wake of Specter's switch.

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