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EARLYBIRD

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Pyongyang follows its nuclear test by firing missiles, and the Defense secretary warns that the Taliban has the momentum in Afghanistan. Plus: GOP sees hope in two Southern House races.

Supreme Court: Obama To Announce Nominee This Morning

• "President Obama has settled on his nominee for the Supreme Court, officials said" today, "and has scheduled an announcement for 10:15 a.m. at the White House," the New York Times reports.

• "It has been more than 40 years since a Democratic president appointed someone" to the Supreme Court "who truly excited the left, but Mr. Obama appears to be following President Bill Clinton's lead in choosing someone with more moderate sensibilities," the Times reports. "The president has narrowed his list to four, according to people close to the White House."

 

• "With the Senate preparing for the first Supreme Court confirmation of the Obama era, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is already trying to smooth the process, making peace offerings to ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and urging colleagues to avoid a partisan war," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

North Korea: Pyongyang Follows Nuke Test By Firing Missles

• "North Korea has fired two more missiles, hours after the UN Security Council unanimously condemned its nuclear test," BBC News reports. "The communist state fired two short-range missiles off an east coast base, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing an official. The move came as UN diplomats began work on a resolution to punish North Korea for its underground nuclear test."

• "Initial seismic readings from the underground blast in North Korea were consistent with a relatively small nuclear test, but it will be days or weeks before the United States and international organizations can determine whether it was a nuclear detonation and how successful it might have been," the New York Times reports.

 

• "Although Monday's detonation did not appear to be a significant technical advance over Pyongyang's first underground test three years ago, it has triggered a faster and more negative response from other countries, including China and Russia, North Korea's historical allies," the Washington Post reports. "The missile firings are adding to the tension."

National Security: Gates Warns Taliban Has The Momentum

• "American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves 'a perceptible shift in momentum,' Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country."

• "A dispute over a one-acre island in Lake Victoria that has fueled talk of war between Kenya and Uganda is but one instance of increasing conflict over shrinking water resources throughout Africa," the Washington Times reports. "Such conflicts pit ethnic groups, races and nations against one another and are likely to get worse, fueled by a toxic mix of climate change, environmental ruin, mounting droughts and famine."

• "President Nicolas Sarkozy formally opened France's first military base in the Gulf" today "and pushed ahead with talks to try to secure a lucrative fighter plane deal with the United Arab Emirates," Agence France-Presse reports. "Sarkozy, on the second day of a visit to the oil-rich Gulf state, also declared that France plans to submit proposals to world leaders at the G8 summit in July to try to end oil price volatility."

 

White House: Stage Set For Fight Over State Secrets

• Obama "vowed last week to rein in the use of a legal privilege that allows the administration to discard lawsuits that involve 'state secrets,' promising that a new policy is in the works that will quell criticism by civil libertarians," the Washington Post reports. "But hours after Obama's speech laid out a 'delicate balance' on national security, his Justice Department was criticized by a federal judge in California overseeing a case that has delved deeper than any other into one of the government's most highly classified data-gathering programs."

• "Obama used Memorial Day to call on the nation to give something back to the country to honor those who have 'made the ultimate sacrifice' and those who continue to serve in the military," The Hill reports.

Congress: North Carolina Senators Push For Alternative Tobacco Bill

• "The congressional drive to bring tobacco under Food & Drug Administration control -- given new life in the Senate last week -- is poised to approach the finish line in the Senate in June, but not without a bipartisan fight from North Carolina's two senators," The Hill reports. "Sens. Kay Hagan (D) and Richard Burr (R) plan to push a substitute bill that would put the controversial drug under the control of a newly created entity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead of the FDA."

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• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "in the past one of China's sharpest critics," today "promoted common ground with China in the fight to combat global warming," the Wall Street Journal reports. "'I think this climate crisis is game changing for the U.S.-China relationship. It is an opportunity we cannot miss,' Ms. Pelosi told the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, which brings together experts and businesses from both sides to come up with recommendations on climate-change policy."

Economy: GM Struggles To Avoid Bankruptcy

• "With GM rapidly burning through its cash reserves due to hefty losses amid an historic slump in auto sales, President Obama said the Treasury Department would give the automaker the cash it needs to continue operations on the condition that GM restructure its debt or file for bankruptcy by June 1," CNNMoney.com reports. "The automaker set a May 26 deadline for its bondholders to reach a restructuring agreement."

• "The Justice Department is increasing its prosecutions of alleged acts of foreign bribery by U.S. corporations, forcing them to take costly steps to defend against scrutiny," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The crackdown under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA -- a post-Watergate law largely dormant for decades -- now extends across five continents and penetrates entire industries, including energy and medical devices."

• "The Obama administration faces mounting pressure to wind back Buy American measures passed by Congress this year amid growing concerns that they hurt some US workers they were designed to help," the Financial Times reports. "The measures, which were in the $787bn US stimulus bill, require any project funded with stimulus money to use only US-made steel, iron and manufactured goods."

Politics: GOP Sees Hope In Two Southern House Races

• "Two recent developments in a pair of Alabama Congressional districts controlled by Democratic freshmen have state and national Republicans excited about the prospect of a double Republican pickup deep in the heart of Dixie," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "With GOP candidates now in both races, the party's efforts to capture those seats are officially under way."

• "Despite months of promising to target" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "for ousting in 2010, Republicans have yet to land a major candidate deemed capable of raising the money and enthusiasm needed to unseat a sitting majority leader," AP reports.

• "Predicting turnout for Virginia primaries has always been tricky, but never more so than this year -- the first with a contested party battle for governor in more than three decades, the first to follow a monumental year of politics that got millions of new voters involved, and the first after George W. Bush retired to Texas, taking with him a key motivation for Democratic Party engagement," the Washington Post reports.

"Through a series of conference calls and personal meetings, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is methodically working his way through the Pennsylvania Democratic Party organizational chart in an attempt to win over his new colleagues," Politico reports. "Since abandoning the GOP a little more than three weeks ago, the senator has been hard at work getting to know the local elected Democratic officials, county chairs and ward leaders who, until recently, have been diligently working to end his Senate career."

Technology: Obama Set To Create 'Cyber Czar' Post

• Obama "is expected to announce late this week that he will create a 'cyber czar,' a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation's government-run and private computer networks, according to people who have been briefed on the plan," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Obama administration has set off a gold rush to power new environmentally friendly cars," the Wall Street Journal reports. "In one of the government's biggest efforts at shaping industrial policy, the Energy Department has been soliciting applications for $2.4 billion in funding aimed at turning the U.S. into a battery-manufacturing powerhouse. At the deadline last week, the department said it had received 165 applications."

• "After coming up short in a first effort, a Democratic lawmaker has again introduced legislation that would roll back a ban on Internet gambling enacted when Republicans led Congress," the New York Times reports. "The legislation, introduced this month by Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, would allow the Treasury Department to license and regulate online gambling companies that serve American customers."

Lobbying: Gun Lobby Continues To Score Victories

• Obama "and his allies in Congress have given the gun lobby a string of victories -- from forgoing new gun laws to easing restrictions already on the books -- since Mr. Obama took office and Democrats assumed complete command of political power in Washington," the Washington Times reports. "Gun-control groups blame the Obama White House for the setbacks, saying the administration kept mum on firearms issues even when shooting incidents killed six at a North Carolina nursing home in March and left 13 dead at an upstate New York immigration center in April."

• "The White House has yet to nominate anyone for the top food safety slot at the Agriculture Department, but public health and consumer advocates have already started a quiet campaign against the job's frontrunner," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Michael Doyle, a professor at the University of Georgia and director of the school's Center for Food Safety, is certainly no registered lobbyist. But his critics charge that he's too cozy with the meat industry that he would be in charge of regulating as undersecretary for food safety at USDA."

• "A battle royal is brewing on Capitol Hill for an already bruised business community," Politico reports. "The Treasury Department this week is expected to unveil its plan for revamping the patchwork of agencies that oversee the financial industry. Judging from the talk of add-ons from Congress and even the White House, some business lobbyists figure the package might as well come with Santa wrapping, tinsel and lights."

Energy & Environment: Industries Push To Redefine 'Renewable'

• "The definition of renewable energy seems clear cut: The sun continues to shine, so solar energy is renewable. The wind continues to blow, so wind turbines churn out renewable power," the New York Times reports. "But industries are now pushing to have a growing number of other technologies categorized as renewable -- or at least as environmentally advantageous. They include nuclear power plants and the burning of garbage and even the waste from coal mines."

• "The pursuit of independence from imported oil has thwarted every president since Richard M. Nixon. But making that push while also seeking steep reductions in emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming significantly compounds the degree of difficulty," the New York Times reports. "In the six months before world leaders gather in" Copenhagen "to seek a deal on climate change," Obama "will face a true test of presidential grit as he tries to deliver on his call for transformational policies on energy and the environment."

• "After a politically messy few weeks that forced them to play defense, Democratic leaders will return to work next week hoping to shift attention back on their top priorities -- namely, a universal health care package and a climate change overhaul," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Health Care: FDA Pick Will Have To Give Up Holdings

• "The new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is among the wealthiest Obama administration appointees, with income of at least $10 million in 2008 thanks mostly to her husband, a hedge-fund executive, according to financial disclosure forms," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Margaret Hamburg and her husband, Peter Fitzhugh Brown, must divest themselves of several hedge-fund holdings as well as some of Mr. Brown's inherited drug-company stocks so Dr. Hamburg can take the post as the nation's top food and drug regulator."

• "Congress may be gone from Washington this week, but for lawmakers and advocates paying close attention to the health care reform debate, the Memorial Day recess is hardly a break," Politico reports. "Health care is expected to be front and center with constituents over the recess as House and Senate committees work to produce comprehensive overhaul bills by mid-June."

Commentary: Nuclear Options

• Commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section spar over how Obama should approach North Korea and criticize the administration for its nuclear policy so far.

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