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EARLYBIRD

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Obama discusses health care in TV blitz, and Paterson refuses to drop out. Plus: Top Afghanistan commander requests more US troops.

White House: Obama Hits Airwaves To Defend Health Reform

• "President Barack Obama mounted a sustained push for healthcare reform in his Sunday media blitz, while seeking to cool the temperature of the national debate," The Hill reports. "Across five channels, the president explained and defended his effort in reforming healthcare, saying inaction would cost America much more in the long-term. But he also downplayed charges of racism directed at his opponents, even saying everyone was a patriot in one interview, and criticized the media for playing up the raucous debate."

• "Fresh off his trip to Iraq," Vice President Joe Biden "will wade deep into the health-care debate" this week, the Washington Post reports. "Biden is slated to give his 'first major health policy address' Tuesday to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and on Wednesday visits the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring."

 

• Obama "would not commit to cutting off federal funding for ACORN, as Congress did last week, and he had little desire to discuss the scandal-plagued non-profit community organization," Politico reports. "'Frankly, it's not really something I've followed closely,' Obama said in an interview on ABC's 'This Week,' aired Sunday. "'I didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.'"

• "After a frustrating week of shuttle diplomacy" in Jerusalem "in which the Obama administration failed to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to renew peace talks, leaders of the two sides are heading to the United States to make their cases again that the administration should push the other harder," the New York Times reports. Obama "will meet in New York on Tuesday with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, will also be in New York."

Politics: Paterson Still Planning To Run Again

• "Gov. David Paterson isn't scrapping his plans to run for the office he inherited 18 months ago, despite growing pressure from Washington and intervention by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has contacted the governor and the White House over his concern," AP reports. Paterson's decision comes despite "mounting pressure from Washington and within New York to drop out because of his low poll numbers and concerns from other Democrats that he might hurt their chances in 2010."

 

• "Mike Huckabee cruised to an easy victory in a presidential straw poll taken among attendees at a social conservative conference, beating a group of four other Republican contenders by an over two-to-one margin," Politico reports. "Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a 2008 presidential candidate, won with just over 28 percent of the 597 votes cast by attendees at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the runner-up, narrowly edging out Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and House Minority Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.)."

Health Care: Debate Moves To Finance Committee

• "The healthcare reform debate gets some markup treatment this week, as the Senate Finance Committee takes up Finance Chairman Max Baucus' long-awaited mark," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The Senate Finance Committee will begin its markup Tuesday, which is shaping up to take on a partisan tone despite several months of efforts by Baucus to reach out to Republicans ... Baucus said he hopes to wrap up the markup by the end of the week."

• "Congressional Republicans continued to hammer their message that" Obama's "health care reform plan is government takeover of health care," Politico reports. "'We can fix our current system. We can make it work better. We don't have to throw it away and have the big government plan that we see moving through the House. And if you look at what the president has been supporting, it's this big government plan,' said House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on NBC's 'Meet the Press.'"

• "It shouldn't shock anyone that the health care fight has boiled down to a clash over money -- or, more particularly, who pays for what?" Politico reports. "The problem is that Democrats don't see eye to eye on who'll foot the bill, setting up yet another battle inside the party over the final shape of the legislation."

 

National Security: Commander Says U.S. Needs More Troops

• "The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict 'will likely result in failure,' according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: 'Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.'"

• "The central figure in what authorities describe as a widening inquiry into a possible plot to detonate explosives in the United States had been trained in weapons and explosives in Pakistan and, according to court papers released Sunday, had made nine pages of handwritten notes on how to make and handle bombs," the New York Times reports.

World: Afghanistan Recount Watchdog OKs Faster Procedure

• "A U.N.-backed watchdog that has ordered a partial recount of Afghanistan's presidential election votes because of fraud allegations said" today "it will allow small samples of ballots to be inspected to speed up the process," Reuters reports. "The country has been in a state of political uncertainty since the August 20 poll, with accusations of widespread fraud delaying the announcement of a final result."

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• "Police in Pakistan are restricting the movement of an Islamic charity leader accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks," BBC News reports. "Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has also been barred from leading Eid prayers in Lahore, reports say. Mr Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India accuses of carrying out the attacks. Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Mr Saeed deny they are linked to the attacks."

• "Iran's supreme leader on Sunday blasted U.S. plans to overhaul the setup for a missile defense shield in Europe, calling the Obama administration's intentions 'anti-Iranian,' state-run media reported," CNN reports. "Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called Western concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions -- which Tehran says are only for energy purposes -- 'purely a fabrication by the United States,' according to the Islamic Republic News Agency."

Economy: House Panel Wants BOA Merger Information

• "For months, Bank of America has been trying to keep secret its legal conversations at the end of last year about its coming merger with Merrill Lynch. So far, it has succeeded, mainly by arguing that those conversations should remain confidential because they are protected by attorney-client privilege," the New York Times reports. "But now, the bank is facing questions from a House panel, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns, has told the bank that it cannot use attorney-client privilege when dealing with Congress."

• "A backlash is brewing on Capitol Hill against banks that charge large fees for overdrafts without asking or telling customers, the latest sign that the financial crisis is shifting the balance of power from banks toward borrowers," the Washington Post reports. "Banks struggling to survive have become increasingly reliant on the fees, which could total $38.5 billion this year. But congressional Democrats, who pushed through new restrictions on credit cards this spring, now are promising a crackdown on overdraft fees, using words like 'criminal' and 'rip-off' to describe the practice of letting people overspend and then charging them fees without warning."

• "The debate over revamping the nation's financial regulatory system will pick up steam next week when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner heads to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before House lawmakers," The Hill reports. Financial Services Chair Barney Frank (D-Mass.) "has laid out a series of 11 hearings on new financial regulations this fall, and he aims to hold the first mark up hearing by mid-October."

Energy & Environment: Europe Says U.S. Lacks Political Will

• "As world leaders gather in New York for the highest-level conference yet on climate change, European leaders are expressing growing unease about the United States' stance in international talks aimed at reaching a global agreement in Copenhagen in December," the New York Times reports. "Officials of several European countries have cited what they see as a lack of political will on the part of the United States to adequately address climate change. The American reluctance to accept any agreement that would require legally binding and internationally enforceable targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could doom the Copenhagen session, they said."

• "In an effort to resuscitate some version of the House climate change bill in the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman is trying to get Republicans and moderate Democrats on board by adding money for coal power and nuclear plants -- changes that would infuriate many of the bill's liberal supporters,"Politico reports. "'I don't think we're going to [pass a bill] without bipartisan support,' Lieberman told POLITICO last week. 'And without a nuclear title that's stronger than in the House climate change legislation, we're not going to be able to get enough votes to pass climate change.'"

• "Four drafty buildings had been fixtures of the Energy Department complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for more than half a century...The project was counted among the department's "green" successes -- until auditors discovered that the buildings had been torn down several years ago, and the government had paid $850,000 for energy savings at facilities that no longer existed," the Washington Post reports. "The audit findings show the potential for waste and abuse at a time when the department is poised to launch billions of dollars more in stimulus spending on an unprecedented welter of green projects across the country."

Technology: Feds Support Web Traffic Equality

• "The U.S. government plans to propose broad new rules Monday that would force Internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally, seeking to give consumers greater freedom to use their computers or cellphones to enjoy videos, music and other legal services that hog bandwidth," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The move would make good on a campaign promise to Silicon Valley supporters like Google Inc. from President Barack Obama, but will trigger a battle with phone and cable companies like AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., which don't want the government telling them how to run their networks."

• "Google Inc., authors and publishers who spent more than two years negotiating a sweeping digital-books settlement are hashing out what changes they are willing to make to the agreement following the Justice Department's objections, outlined on Friday," the Wall Street Journal reports. "'We are considering the points raised by the department and look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue,' said Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in a joint statement late Friday."

Lobbying & Advocacy: Move By Frank Rallies Activists

• "Watchdog groups are seizing on the recent edict by" Rep. Barney Frank "to extend the one-year lobbying ban for a former top staffer as a way to push Congress to revise lobbying rules to expand the cooling-off period for Members of Congress and senior staffers headed to K Street," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Commentary: The Iran Problem Looms

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, experts advise on the right path forward for missile defense and countering Iran's nuclear program.

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