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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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Obama doesn't skirt abortion issue in speech at Notre Dame. Plus: Sri Lanka rebels admit defeat.

May 18, 2009

Congress: GOP Pressure On Pelosi Could Lead To 'Truth Commission'

• "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fight with the CIA has put" the California Democrat "in one of the toughest spots she's been in since she became speaker," The Hill reports. "But it may also have advanced her goal of creating a 'truth commission' to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation techniques and whether they amounted to illegal torture."

• "Republicans kept the pressure up on" Pelosi "on Sunday, with Republican House leader John Boehner [Ohio] saying she should prove her allegation that the CIA lied about waterboarding, or apologize to the nation's intelligence officials," The Hill reports. "But Boehner declined to agree with Republican former speaker Newt Gingrich, who has suggested a House investigation of Pelosi's assertion."

White House: Obama Talks About Abortion At Notre Dame

• "Amid a scattering of angry protests over his support for abortion rights, President Obama addressed the issue head-on Sunday at the University of Notre Dame, calling for 'open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words' in the pursuit of 'common ground.'" the Washington Post reports. "Obama appeared energized by the controversy over his appearance, and he addressed the debate over abortion with relish."

 

• "Obama today holds his first White House meeting with Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu," amid "predictions that the first Oval Office meeting between the two leaders would result in a noisy collision, as happened in 1996 when Netanyahu, in his previous term as prime minister, met with President Clinton," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But officials of both countries say that will not happen this time, in part because Netanyahu knows that Israelis want him to get along with the leaders of their nation's allies and protectors."

Politics: Democrats Plan A Head Start In Redistricting Fight

• "Republicans and Democrats are already organizing and strategizing for their decennial battle over Congressional redistricting," Roll Call reports. "Democrats thus far appear to have the upper hand over their GOP counterparts in terms of behind-the-scenes planning for the fight, perhaps a result of the fact that the party lost the overall battle in the last round of redistricting."

• "Haitian-American political activists believe they are on the verge of electing the first Haitian-American to Congress in Florida's Miami-based 17th District, which is home to the highest concentration of Haitians in the nation," Politico reports. "But they are also fearful that so many Haitian-American candidates will enter the open-seat race to succeed" Democrat Kendrick Meek "that the community's vote will splinter and a historic opportunity will be squandered."

Economy: Treasury Slowed By Vacancies

• While Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "has taken dramatic steps to address flashpoints in the economy, the work of carrying out those policies has bogged down because critical decisions about how to do so aren't being made, interviews with a broad range of federal officials show," the Washington Post reports. "Government officials, inside the Treasury and out, say the unresolved issues are piling up in part because of vacancies in the department's top ranks."

• "The Obama administration's budget chief said on Sunday there are signs that the free-fall in the economy seems to have halted," Reuters reports. "White House budget director Peter Orszag said on CNN's State of the Union" that "as the economy starts to recover the deficit will come down quickly."

• "The recession is altering local law enforcement in the U.S. by forcing some agencies to close precincts, merge with other departments or even shut down," USA Today reports. "Once largely spared from the deepest budget cuts, some police departments are struggling to provide basic services, police officials say."

National Security: Timeline Of Guantanamo Shutdown In Question

• "Several lawmakers cautioned Sunday against any artificial deadline on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and Republicans predicted that" Obama "would step back from his vow to close the facility by January," the Washington Times reports. "Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, said he opposes releasing detainees in his state and said the administration should not adhere to 'artificial deadlines.'"

• "Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan's nuclear program," the New York Times reports.

• "A series of cover sheets for intelligence reports written for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials during the early days of the war in Iraq in 2003 were adorned with biblical quotations, and appeared Sunday, six years later, on the Web site of GQ magazine," the New York Times reports. "The daily briefings were called the 'Worldwide Intelligence Update,' one of several intelligence reports compiled overnight and presented in a folder for Mr. Rumsfeld and other officials as they came to work."

World: Fighting In Sri Lanka May Be Over

• "Cornered into a tiny patch of jungle about the size of a football field, the Tamil Tiger rebels -- who once operated a shadow state complete with a law school, a tax system, a navy and even traffic police -- vowed Sunday to lay down their weapons for good, in a stunning and unprecedented admission of defeat in Asia's longest-running war," the Washington Post reports.

• "A surprisingly strong showing by India's ruling Congress party gives a decisive mandate to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and raises hopes that an important engine of the developing world will continue on a path of economic reforms," the Wall Street Journal reports. "On Sunday, a day after securing the largest number of seats in Parliament of any single party, the Indian National Congress said it expects to present a new coalition government to India's president by midweek."

• "The International Criminal Court's pretrial judges have summoned three Sudanese rebel leaders to appear before the Hague-based tribunal to face charges of ordering a deadly attack against African Union peacekeepers in Darfur more than 18 months ago, according to sources close to the court," the Washington Post reports. "It is the first time that Darfur's rebels have been charged with war crimes since the court began investigating mass violence in that Sudanese region in 2005."

Technology: Nonprofit Grades Lawmaker Web Sites

• "Two years ago, most Members had lackluster Web sites that were hard to navigate, short on information and months out of date," Roll Call (subscription) reports. But as news media has spread on the Hill, have those "Web sites improved during the same time, and are they helpful to constituents? The nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation hopes to answer those questions by evaluating all 618 House and Senate Web sites, spending close to an hour on each one."

• "For decades, the nation's biggest antitrust cases have centered on technology companies," the New York Times reports. "Last week, the Obama administration declared a sharp break with the Bush years, vowing to toughen antitrust enforcement, especially for dominant companies.... In this new climate, the stakes appear to be highest for Google, the rising power of the Internet economy."

Lobbying: White House To Review Stimulus Restrictions

• "The 60-day review period for the Obama administration's new restrictions on lobbying federal agencies for stimulus funds ends Tuesday, but already there is concern that the White House will not address lobbyists' concerns that the rules are discriminatory," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "Six health care groups that pledged to cut the growth rate in health care spending restated their commitment Friday after some of their leaders suggested this week that the deal had been misinterpreted," Politico reports. "The statement followed news reports detailing doubts raised this week by the American Hospital Association and the Advanced Medical Technology Association about the agreement to trim $2 trillion from health care spending over the next decade."

Energy & Environment: Industry Warms To Obama Carbon Plan

• The Los Angeles Times reports on utilities' and manufacturers' support for an Obama administration plan that would "slap hefty fees" on carbon pollution. "A growing number of coal users have come to believe that, with the right tweaks, Obama's plan would not only help the environment but boost their profits."

• "House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman," D-Calif., "spent last week immersed in percentages -- should carbon emissions drop 20 percent or 17 percent by 2020," The Hill reports. "But starting Monday, the important number is 30 -- the number of votes he needs to get his cap-and-trade bill out of committee."

• "A breakthrough in the House has given a global climate change bill a jolt of momentum in that chamber, but it still may not be enough to break the logjam in the Senate," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Health Care: Baucus Proves Hard For Dems To Read

• "The fate of health care reform this year rests in the hands of a stoic Montana senator with a reputation for confounding his party and a zeal for bipartisanship that many in his caucus don't share," Politico reports. "To put it bluntly, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus makes the liberal wing of the Democratic Party nervous -- because they don't know which Baucus will show up in the clutch."

• "Last week, hundreds of nurses rallied on Capitol Hill, carrying signs and calling for health care reform legislation," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The California Nurses Association-National Nurses Organizing Committee and other nursing unions want lawmakers to pass legislation that would bring all Americans into a single-payer government system."

Transportation: Lawmakers Can't Resist Highway Requests

• "Several lawmakers who pledged to abstain from earmarks on appropriations bills will request projects in the highway bill, but they maintain they are staying true to their promise because the requests are not regular earmarks," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Unlike the annual appropriations spending bills, the highway reauthorization bill comes up for consideration only every five years, increasing the pressure on Members to reserve funds for their states."

• "America's auto titans are dismantling their global empires. But across the Pacific, it's as if the global economic forces that have pummeled Detroit never struck," the Washington Post reports. "Chinese auto sales are up, and this year China is projected to displace Japan as the world's largest car producer."

Commentary: Meeting Of The Wills

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, commentators discuss Obama's meeting with Israel's Netanyahu today, calling it a "real test of the wills."

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