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Obama defends health care reform at town hall meeting, and South Carolina GOP leaders want Sanford gone. Plus: Massive Afghan offensive in progress.

Health Care: Obama Turns To Public On Reform

• "President Obama offered a wonkish defense of his embattled health-care reform effort during an hour-long town hall meeting in Northern Virginia" on Wednesday "that featured seven questions, including one sent via Twitter and several from a handpicked audience of supporters," the Washington Post reports. "With the president's health-care ambitions meeting a cool reception on Capitol Hill, the administration is increasingly seeking to pressure lawmakers with evidence of the public's desire for action as well as proof that the health-care industry is a stakeholder in -- not an opponent of -- the effort."

• "Determined to advance" Obama's "health care agenda, key Senate Democrats are calling for a government-run insurance option to compete with private plans, as well as a $750-per-worker annual fee on larger companies that do not offer coverage to employees," AP reports. "In a letter outlining the details, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said their revised plan would cost dramatically less than an earlier, incomplete proposal, and help show the way toward coverage for 97 percent of all Americans."


• "Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the go-to negotiator on a public insurance option for liberals," on Wednesday "all but abandoned other compromises and said he is asking senators to reconsider his proposal for a public option that he said would operate on a level playing field with private insurers," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "In a move welcomed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and sure to be cheered by House Democrats, the Medicare agency proposes altering the payment formula to exclude the cost of prescription drugs administered by doctors in their offices, such as those that must be injected," The Hill reports. "The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that such a change would cost the federal government $87.5 billion over 10 years."

White House: Obama Takes Hard Line On Missile Defense

• "The Obama White House on Wednesday adopted a hard line against negotiating away missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe and limiting NATO expansion in the former Soviet Union, just days ahead of a summit meeting in Moscow," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The hardened posture made it clear the Kremlin wouldn't make headway on two of its top priorities for the summit."


• "Obama has invited a group of business leaders to meet with him at the White House today," AP reports. "Some of their firms are large. Some are small. But they have in common that they've been able to create jobs despite the economic doldrums. Their meeting is private, but the president will be making a Rose Garden appearance afterward to talk about the innovations that have helped the companies succeed."

Politics: Sanford Pressured To Resign By Republicans

• "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford defied calls for his resignation" on Wednesday "from GOP leaders, insisting he will remain in office even as his political fortunes dimmed in the wake of his admission that he secretly traveled abroad to meet a mistress," the Washington Post reports. "Republican lawmakers in South Carolina who had supported the governor since he acknowledged the extramarital affair last week suddenly turned against him, saying the disclosures amounted to a distraction that would prevent him from effectively doing the state's business."

• "The jokes about Minnesota's prolonged recount can finally stop, just in time for Democrats to secure a reliable vote from a former funny man," AP reports. "Al Franken is on his way to Washington and the comedian-turned-senator-elect will bring with him a likely yes vote on key legislation, including two of" Obama's "top priorities -- health care and climate change."

• "In a rare intraparty squabble, House Republicans with jurisdiction over the 2010 Census criticized Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.," on Wednesday "for declaring she will not complete her census form next year because it violates her right to privacy," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.


• "Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., ended weeks of speculation" on Wednesday "with a spokesman announcing she will wage a primary challenge against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand next year," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports. "Confirmation of Maloney's intention to run came as a new poll showed New York Democrats divided between Gillibrand and Maloney at this early stage."

• Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Sanford are the "latest casualties" of the Republican House Class of 1994, Politico reports. "As it turns out, the pressures and demands of political life have inflicted devastating damage not only on the Ensign and Sanford families, but on the families of many of the 71 other freshmen who formed the vanguard of the Republican Revolution."

Economy: California To Issue Billions In IOUs

• "California's top accountant said the state would begin issuing IOUs to hundreds of thousands of creditors after lawmakers failed to meet its deadline this week to close a massive budget deficit," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "California Controller John Chiang said Wednesday he planned to send out $3.4 billion of IOUs in July to state contractors and local governments, as well as to residents expecting income-tax refunds, welfare grants and college scholarships."

• "An investigator at the Securities and Exchange Commission warned superiors as far back as 2004 about irregularities at Bernard L. Madoff's financial management firm, but she was told to focus on an unrelated matter, according to agency documents and sources familiar with the investigation," the Washington Post reports.

• "Despite the tough economic times and increased scrutiny from Washington," banks "are keeping most fees at record highs, and are eking out slight increases on others like overdraft charges -- a step they rarely took during past recessions," the New York Times reports. "The result? Americans are paying more to save and spend their money."

Energy & Environment: Obama Faces Uphill Battle At G-8 Summit

• Obama, "buoyed by a domestic victory on climate policy, faces his first foreign test on the issue next week at a forum that could boost the chances of reaching a U.N. global warming pact this year," Reuters reports.

• "Republicans have begun firing away in advertisements at potentially vulnerable Democrats who last week voted in favor of the climate change bill, singling out Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat from Virginia," the New York Times reports.

• "Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been admitted to a hospital in Southern California, but his staff says there is no indication of a serious ailment," the Wall Street Journal reports.

World: Pressure Mounts On Interim Honduran Rulers

• "Ramping up pressure on Honduras' interim rulers, the Organization of American States threatened Wednesday to suspend the nation's membership if ousted President Manuel Zelaya was not returned to power within 72 hours," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The move prompted Zelaya to announce he would delay plans to return to Honduras until the weekend."

• "As Argentina struggled Wednesday to control a fast-spreading outbreak of swine flu, some health officials criticized the government's decision to go ahead with national congressional elections last weekend," the New York Times reports. "The officials said they had wanted to declare a state of emergency last week and delay the elections as part of a move to stop public gatherings and to shift the country's attention to the epidemic. Several of the officials, including some who advised the government on the outbreak, said publicly that the country's former health minister, Graciela Ocana, who resigned on Monday, had recommended postponing the vote."

• "A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act," BBC News reports. "The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an 'unnatural offence.' Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence."

National Security: Massive Military Effort Under Way In Afghanistan

• "Almost 4,000 United States Marines, backed by helicopter gunships, pushed into the volatile Helmand River valley in southwestern Afghanistan" this "morning to try to take back the region from Taliban fighters whose control of poppy harvests and opium smuggling in Helmand provides major financing for the Afghan insurgency," the New York Times reports. "Pakistan, meanwhile, said it deployed troops to a stretch of its largely porous and mountainous 1,600-mile border with Afghanistan to seal off a potential escape route for insurgents fleeing the American advance, The Associated Press reported."

• "Insurgents have captured an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. military spokeswoman," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the soldier has been missing since Tuesday and that the military was using 'all our resources to find him and provide for his safe return.' The soldier wasn't taking part in the major military operation launched in the southern Taliban stronghold of the Helmand River Valley."

• "Saddam Hussein told an FBI interviewer before he was hanged that he allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction because he was worried about appearing weak to Iran, according to declassified accounts of the interviews released yesterday. The former Iraqi president also denounced Osama bin Laden as 'a zealot' and said he had no dealings with al-Qaeda," the Washington Post reports.

Technology: Officials Promote $4 Billion For Broadband Expansion

• Vice President Joe Biden, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski "kicked off the Obama administration's 'Rural Tour'" Wednesday "in northwest Pennsylvania, touting the availability of $4 billion in economic stimulus loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "Federal lawmakers want to know what's going to happen to the sensitive data of more than 150,000 travelers left stranded after the country's leading airport secruity fast-lane company ceased operation last week," Wired reports.

• "Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Homeland Security Department is saving money by recycling software, consolidating contracts and pursuing other cost-cutting measures," Federal Computer Week reports. "For example, the Coast Guard saved $1.7 million by consolidating 10 support contracts into three, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials expect to save $130,000 by replacing on-site management training with teleconferences, according to a news release issued June 26."

Transportation: Shipping Industry Targeted For Emissions Reductions

• "Targeting one of the biggest sources of air pollution, federal and state regulators moved forward Wednesday with plans to slash emissions from big diesel-powered ships entering U.S. coastal areas," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• Obama "is pushing ahead with plans to shore up dwindling federal reserves for highway construction and establish a government-run bank to pay for future transportation projects," Reuters reports.

Commentary: SCOTUS Goes To People's Court

• A variety of recent Supreme Court rulings get an airing in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section as commentators take up affirmative action, strip search in schools and bank regulation.

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