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U.S. offering jobs-for-guns program in Afghanistan, while the White House prepares for its first state dinner. Plus: Palin's approval numbers near Obama's.

White House: Obama Enlists Sesame Street In Education Push

• "To improve science and mathematics education for American children, the White House is recruiting Elmo and Big Bird, video game programmers and thousands of scientists," the New York Times reports. "President Obama will announce a campaign" today "to enlist companies and nonprofit groups to spend money, time and volunteer effort to encourage students, especially in middle and high school, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, officials say."

• The White House's "first state dinner Tuesday evening will be a test of how its promised outreach to the commoner will dovetail with an event that is, by definition, an opportunity for muckety-mucks, insiders, stuffed shirts and fancy pants to schmooze with the biggest VIP of them all," the Washington Post reports.


Health Care: Centrists Help Advance Debate, Then Dig In

• "Democrats had little time to savor their weekend Senate health-care victory, as two of the lawmakers who voted to move the debate forward Saturday night," Sens. Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "indicated Sunday that they will not vote to pass the package if it includes a government-run insurance program," the Washington Post reports.

• "Centrist Democrats acted appropriately in supporting a healthcare reform bill with a public option, senior Democrats Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Sunday on NBC's 'Meet The Press,' vowing a vigorous fight until the end of the coming debate," The Hill reports.

• "A leading Senate Democrat said" today that "his party is determined to push through a health care overhaul bill with or without Republican support because the 'system is broken,'" AP reports. "'We prefer to go at it with Republicans if we can reach compromises in some areas,' said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. 'But we're not going to not pass a bill.'"


• "Lawmakers broke along party lines on a new aspect of the health care debate Sunday as a former National Institutes of Health chief urged women to ignore guidelines that delay the start of breast cancer screenings," AP reports. "Republicans pointed to the guidelines as evidence the Democrats' proposals for a health care overhaul would yield limits on mammograms and a rationing of care. Democrats dismissed those worries and said Republicans were stoking fears without facts."

Energy & Environment: Hacked E-Mails Spark Debate

• "The scientific community is buzzing over thousands of emails and documents -- posted on the Internet last week after being hacked from a prominent climate-change research center -- that some say raise ethical questions about a group of scientists who contend humans are responsible for global warming," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The correspondence between dozens of climate-change researchers, including many in the U.S., illustrates bitter feelings among those who believe human activities cause global warming toward rivals who argue that the link between humans and climate change remains uncertain."

• "'Green energy' is proving to be no miracle solution to the nation's monumental unemployment problems, and it is doing little to help the economy emerge from its deepest recession in decades, economists say," the Washington Times reports.

• "Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated -- beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then," AP reports. "As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the once frozen summer sea ice of the Arctic. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before."


Economy: White House Weighs Jobs, Deficit

• "The White House is lukewarm about proposals by congressional Democrats to introduce broad legislation to create jobs, instead favoring targeted measures that would be less likely to inflate the deficit, administration officials said," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "African nations and domestic textile interests wasted no time slamming the first serious legislative attempt in the 111th Congress to overhaul U.S. trade preferences, while Bangladesh, a key player on the opposite side of the debate, was lukewarm," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Politics: Heated Primaries Trouble For Dems

• "In a handful of next year's most competitive Senate races -- and for a few of the Democratic Party's most precariously perched incumbents -- discordant Democratic primaries are already taking shape, complicating a midterm election landscape in which the party will be playing defense for the first time in four years," Politico reports.

• "Sarah Palin's poll numbers are strengthening," the Los Angeles Times reports. "And Barack Obama's are sliding. Guess what? They're about to meet in the 40's."

World: At Least 21 Killed In Philippines Election Violence

• "In one of the worst incidents of election-related violence in the Philippines in recent memory, a group of 36 people -- including lawyers and journalists -- were kidnapped by armed men" today, "and military officials said that 21 of them had been killed," the New York Times reports.

• "The death toll from Saturday's coal mine explosion in northeastern China has risen to 104, state media reported" this morning, "with four miners still trapped in the shaft more than a third of a mile underground," the Washington Post reports.

• "In recent months, the Ethiopian government began marketing abroad one of the hottest commodities in an increasingly crowded and hungry world: farmland," the Washington Post reports. "This impoverished and chronically food-insecure Horn of Africa nation is rapidly becoming one of the world's leading destinations for the booming business of land leasing, by which relatively rich countries and investment firms are securing 40-to-99-year contracts to farm vast tracts of land."

National Security: Calculating Cost Of Afghan Surge Proves Difficult

• "As President Obama measures the potential burden of a new war strategy in Afghanistan, his administration is struggling to come up with even the most dispassionate of predictions: the actual price tag for the anticipated buildup of troops," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "The Afghan government and the U.S. military have begun a fledgling drive to lure Taliban foot soldiers away from the battlefield by offering them job opportunities and protection, diplomats and military personnel familiar with the initiative say," the Times also reports.

• "A top U.S. official responded to Iran's commencement of large-scale war games today by urging the nation to return to the negotiating table," Politico reports. "The war games, which the semi-official IRNA news agency said would last through Thursday, are reportedly designed to simulate Iran's response to an air attack against its nuclear facilities, presumably by Israel."

Transportation: Budget Cuts Hit DMVs

• "Drivers are waiting in longer lines and paying higher fees for licenses and vehicle registrations as budget cuts force motor vehicle departments to close offices, furlough employees and scramble for revenue," USA Today reports. "At least nine states have furloughed DMV employees, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Others have frozen hiring, laid off workers or closed offices."

• "With fears brewing that the U.S. housing market is in for another dive, the automakers remain optimistic that the market -- and their pickup sales -- will continue to rebound," USA Today reports. "Pickup sales are closely tied to the housing market, says Mike DiGiovanni, GM's U.S. sales analyst. So as housing rebounds, so will sales of pickups. GM predicts housing starts -- the number of homes that builders start constructing -- will jump to an annual rate of 650,000 by the end of 2010, up from 450,000 in 2009."

Technology: China Criticizes U.S. Report On Cyber Attacks

• China today "accused a U.S. congressional advisory panel of bias for a report in which it said the Chinese government appeared increasingly to be piercing U.S. computer networks to gather useful data for its military," Reuters reports. "The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in its 2009 report to Congress released last week that there was growing evidence of Chinese state involvement in such activity."

Lobbying: Health Care Activity Balloons

• "Companies and groups hiring lobbying firms on health issues nearly doubled this year as special interests rushed to shape the massive revamp of the nation's health care system now in its final stretch before Congress," USA Today reports. "About 1,000 organizations have hired lobbyists since January, compared with 505 during the same period in 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of congressional records compiled by the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine."

• "Emboldened by their success in inserting restrictive abortion language into the House health care bill, Roman Catholic bishops say they've found a lobbying model that could provide them a louder voice in future policy debates," Politico reports. "Success in the House came after the church ran a classic lobbying operation: deploying paid staff to Capitol Hill, tapping influential bishops to make private appeals to key congressional leaders and distributing bulletin inserts to 19,000 parishes with easy instructions -- and sample wording -- for sending a message to local representatives."

• "As most of Washington continues to focus solely on the health care debate, Damon Wells may have the best seasonal gig in town -- chief lobbyist for the gobble lobby," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Wells, who has been at the National Turkey Federation for the past three years, serves as the Thanksgiving centerpiece's eyes, ears and biggest advocate on Capitol Hill."

Commentary: How To Win Votes On Health Care Reform

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the Wall Street Journal wonders what others will want for their votes on health care reform if Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is allowed to trade hers for millions in Medicaid subsidies.

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