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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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President Obama talks democracy in China, and Russia pledges more support on Iran nuclear standoff. Plus: Wrangling over U.S. bases in Japan far from over.

November 16, 2009

White House: Obama Bristles At Afghanistan Grilling

• "President Barack Obama made no effort to conceal his irritation when his press corps used the first question of his maiden Far East trip to ask what was taking him so long on Afghanistan," Politico reports.

• "Speaking to a selected group of Chinese students at the beginning of his first visit to China, Mr. Obama said that the free flow of information makes societies stronger and holds political leaders accountable," the Wall Street Journal reports. "People in positions of power may bristle at criticism, he said, but open criticism 'makes our democracy stronger, and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear.'"

Health Care: Catholic Swing Voters At Stake In Abortion Debate

• "By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation," Politico reports. "Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010."

 

• The "question of access to care for some immigrants, and who should pay for it, could well become one of the most contentious sticking points in the coming weeks as members of Congress sit down to reconcile the health-care bill passed by the House on Saturday with the yet-to-emerge Senate version," the Washington Post reports.

• "Even as drug makers promise to support Washington's health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation's drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years," the New York Times reports. "Critics say the industry is trying to establish a higher price base before Congress passes legislation that tries to curb drug spending in coming years."

Politics: Legislative Load Turns Into Fundraising Frenzy

• "With health care, regulatory reform and climate change rumbling through Congress, candidates and campaign committees for both parties see an irresistible opportunity to cash in ahead of the pivotal 2010 midterm elections," Politico reports. "Scores of fundraisers by candidates in both parties are tailored specifically to the issues dominating action on the Hill -- a public policy discussion that happens far away from the general public."

• "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is witnessing a sharp downturn in his political fortunes, imperiling his standing as the presumptive next senator from Florida and leaving Washington and Tallahassee wondering if the seemingly invincible Republican has lost his way," Politico also reports.

World: Israel Warns Palestine On Independence

• "Israel warned the Palestinians" today "that declaring a state without concluding a peace agreement would lead to Israeli counter-measures that could include annexation of more of the occupied West Bank," Reuters reports.

National Security: U.S., Russia Draw Closer on Iran Question

• "Presenting a united front on Iran's nuclear energy program, President Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev warned Sunday that they were losing patience with Tehran and wouldn't wait much longer for it to accept a proposal to resolve the dispute," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to expand and reorient its fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, warning that failing to do so would undercut the new strategy and troop increase for Afghanistan that President Obama is preparing to approve, American officials say," the New York Times reports.

• "The wrestling match between the United States and Japan over the location of the U.S. Marine air station in Okinawa is far from over -- despite President Obama's chummy visit here with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama," the Washington Post reports.

Energy & Environment: U.S.-Chinese Emissions Key To Interim Climate Agreement

• "The scaled-back climate strategy endorsed Sunday in Singapore by" Obama "and other leaders could put pressure on the United States and China to resolve the biggest stumbling block to an agreement -- how much they will cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the next decade," the Washington Post reports. "Neither the United States nor China -- which together account for roughly 40 percent of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions -- has outlined specific climate targets for 2020, a key sticking point for the negotiations."

• "This weekend in Singapore, Mr. Obama was forced to acknowledge that a comprehensive climate deal was beyond reach this year," the New York Times reports in a news analysis. "Instead, he and other world leaders agreed that they would work toward a more modest interim agreement with a promise to renew work toward a binding treaty next year."

• "Shortly after Democrats took office last January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed the Senate would pass climate change legislation before the start of the international climate talks in Copenhagen," Politico reports. "But less than a month before the eyes of the world turn to Denmark, it's clear that there's no chance a bill will get through the Senate by then -- a domestic policy failure that leaves the U.S. with a weakened hand as it seeks to negotiate a global warming treaty with the rest of the world."

Economy: GM To Begin Repaying Debt Early

• "General Motors, which emerged from a government-ordered bankruptcy restructuring earlier this year, will begin paying back its debt to the United States and Canadian governments earlier than expected, a person with direct knowledge of G.M.'s plans said Sunday night," the New York Times reports. "The company, which received $50 billion in government financing to avoid collapse, will make its first payment of $1.2 billion toward $6.7 billion of senior debt at the end of December."

• "A year ago, the financial system was tottering and government officials arranged a $2.3 billion emergency cash infusion into CIT Group, a troubled lender to small businesses," the Washington Post reports. "Today, CIT is in bankruptcy court, and the taxpayers' investment is on the brink of being wiped out. It would be the largest loss so far from the government's massive rescue of the financial system, but it isn't likely to be the last."

• "Retail sales in the U.S. probably rebounded in October, easing concern households will curtail spending once government incentives fade, economists said before a report today," Bloomberg News reports. "Purchases rose 0.9 percent, according to the median estimate of 66 economists in a Bloomberg News survey, after falling in September after the expiration of the 'cash for clunkers' automobile rebate program. Excluding autos, sales probably rose 0.4 percent, the third straight increase."

Transportation: Government Seeks To Enforce Safety On Transit Systems

• "Citing an increase in the number of subway and light-rail crashes and resulting passenger injuries, the Obama administration will push for legislation that would allow the federal government to set and enforce safety standards on the nation's transit systems, officials said on Sunday," the New York Times reports.

Technology: GOP Lawmakers Raise Privacy Issues Over Screening Device

• "Several Republican lawmakers are worried about the privacy issues of a screening technology being developed by the government that combines a video game balancing device with thermal, ocular, respiratory, and cardiac monitors," The Hill reports. "The technology is being developed by the Homeland Security department (DHS) and if approved could be used to spot potentially threatening people at airports, sports games, and border crossing areas."

• Critics say that the "extraneous fees and red tape" that one small technology communications company is facing "are indicative of a larger set of flaws with the broadband stimulus program, which has drawn close scrutiny from Congress," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Lobbying: Major Groups Miss Campaign Finance Deadline

• "Apparent computer glitches and confusion over new reporting rules for political action committees have ensnared some of the nation's biggest lobbying organizations, which missed a campaign finance deadline by more than seven months," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Under new rules enacted by the Federal Election Commission this year, PACs are required to report before the end of March whether they are controlled by an entity that is registered to lobby."

• "The House Financial Services Committee next week is set to debate the highly contentious issue of whether the government should have the power to break up large financial firms even if they're not about to fail," The Hill reports. "Lobbyists for big banks are anxious about language still being drafted by Reps. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that would give new powers to the government to break up big firms and separate their different types of commercial and investment banking business."

• "Supporters of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba have made more than $10 million in campaign contributions since the 2004 election cycle," The Hill reports. "Pro-embargo donors are also continuing to funnel more and more funds to Democrats, according to a report released" today "by Public Campaign, a watchdog group that supports public financing of election campaigns."

• "Facing the possibility of a $27 billion pollution judgment against it in an Ecuadorean court, Chevron launched an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign to try to prevent the judgment as well as reverse a deeply damaging story line," Politico reports.

Commentary: Down With China As Economic Partner?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Obama's to-do list in China is only getting longer, and one column wonders if it's time to slay the economic partnership altogether.

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