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Obama dispatches first wave of rescue and relief operation to Haiti as Port-au-Prince lays in ruin. Plus: Colorado Democrats struggle.

Haiti: Much Of Port-au-Prince Reduced To Rubble

• "The capital of Haiti lay in ruins Wednesday, shattered by an earthquake it was not built to withstand," the Los Angeles Times reports. "With most international aid yet to arrive, bodies lined the streets, the injured gathered at hospitals devoid of doctors or functioning equipment, swaths of the city were reduced to rubble and even the presidential palace -- long a symbol of whatever stability the country could muster -- was damaged and sagging."

• "President Obama mobilized the U.S. government Wednesday for a massive rescue and relief operation in the devastated capital of Haiti, ordering swift military and diplomatic assistance and pledging an aggressive effort to save the lives of those caught in Tuesday's earthquake," the Washington Post reports.


• "A number of K Street interests have begun to switch gears to help Haiti recover from its catastrophic earthquake Tuesday," The Hill reports. "Unions, religious groups and even lobbyists working on trade agreements are now scrambling to find more foreign aid for Haiti."

• The Homeland Security Department "will halt the deportation of illegal Haitian immigrants in the wake of a devastating 7.0 earthquake in that country. But some lawmakers and immigration advocates are lobbying President Obama go further and grant Haitians in the U.S. a safe haven through a controversial emergency program," temporary protected status, reports.

Health Care: Obama To Press Top House Dems

• "Obama planned a trip to Capitol Hill" today "to urge rank-and-file House Democrats to yield on key issues still standing in the way of" passing health care reform, AP reports.


• Obama "spent several hours with congressional leaders Wednesday in a marathon negotiating session aimed at resolving outstanding differences between the House and Senate Democrats over health-care legislation and pushing his top domestic priority through to final passage," the Washington Post reports.

• "Should someone in Idaho or Nevada have significantly different health care coverage from someone in Massachusetts? That, essentially, is one of the biggest questions Congress will be wrestling with as it tries to meld House and Senate bills into a single law to revamp the nation's health care system," the New York Times reports.

• New assessments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that obesity levels are "leveling off or slowing across most of the population," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Energy & Environment: Chu, Orszag At Odds Over Yucca Funding

• "Energy Secretary Steven Chu and White House Budget Director Peter Orszag are wrestling over how quickly to slash funding for a proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in Nevada, a move long advocated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who faces a tough re-election campaign this year," the Wall Street Journal reports.


• "After a series of meetings" Wednesday "about the controversial Cape Wind energy project, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged that the nine-year permitting saga of the Nantucket Sound wind farm would be over by the end of April," the Boston Globe reports.

• "Obama was able to squeak out a 'robust' political climate change agreement in Copenhagen last month despite an unwieldy conference, the White House's No. 2 climate negotiator said" Wednesday, CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country's stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Wall Street Bankers Grilled On The Hill

• "Summoned to Capitol Hill to explain their companies' roles in the worst economic downturn since the Depression, leaders of four big Wall Street banks offered a largely clinical take on the financial crisis on Wednesday, pointing to lapses in risk management and government regulation but offering little sense of the turmoil's human toll," the New York Times reports.

• "House and Senate negotiators are considering applying for the first time the Medicare payroll tax to investment income as part of a compromise to pay for a health overhaul," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Politics: Dems' Hopes Of Dominance In Colorado Fade

• "It was less than 18 months ago that the Democratic Party declared" Colorado "its new base," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Now President Obama and his party's approval ratings in the West are lower than elsewhere in the country. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. abruptly announced last week that he would not seek reelection. The state's junior senator is, like Ritter, trailing badly in the polls."

• "Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell plans to announce that he will end his bid for California's governorship and will instead enter the U.S. Senate race to try to unseat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, according to one of his donors and others familiar with Mr. Campbell's decision," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "A little more than a week after Rep. Henry Brown's (R-S.C.) announcement that he will not seek re-election, several Republicans with political chops and recognizable surnames are poised to join an increasingly crowded primary," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

National Security: Collateral Damage In Afghanistan Increasing

• "The number of civilians killed by spiraling violence in Afghanistan hit a record high last year, although civilian deaths caused by U.S. and allied forces dropped by nearly a third, the United Nations said, indicating that coalition efforts to cut down on civilian casualties are having an impact on the battlefield," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Democratic lawmakers emerged from their first in-person administration briefing on the failed Christmas Day bombing saying security questions remain," The Hill reports.

• "Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, while refusing to talk about the FY11 defense budget, promised the Surface Navy Association" on Wednesday "that he is 'working to ensure that the surface Navy will have all the money it needs to fulfill its mission,' and meet its training and maintenance needs," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

World: Iran Approves Bill Cutting Energy And Food Subsidies

• "Iran's constitutional watchdog approved a contentious law that would sharply slash energy and food subsidies -- a move that could provoke more unrest in a country struggling under international sanctions, double-digit inflation and a government crackdown on the opposition," AP reports.

Transportation: DOT Reverses Bush-Era Transit Guidelines

• "The Obama administration will make it easier for cities and states to spend federal money on public transit projects, and particularly on the light-rail systems that have become popular in recent years, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday," the New York Times reports.

• "The Transportation Security Administration's plan to install body scanners at hundreds of security checkpoints still could leave many U.S. airports inadequately protected against terrorists carrying explosives, aviation experts say," USA Today reports.

Technology: Administration Not Taking Sides In Google-China Cyber Spat

• "U.S. government officials and business leaders were supportive but wary of taking sides in Google Inc.'s battle with China, a sign of the delicate tensions between the growing superpower and the West," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "The White House so far has left the administration response" to the Google-China Internet censorship fight "to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is scheduled to give an address on Internet freedom next week," The Hill reports.

• "The Obama administration has invited dozens of the nation's top executives to the White House" today "seeking tips on how the federal bureaucracy can become leaner and meaner," the Washington Post reports. "White House officials are hoping to use new technologies, such as the Web and text messaging, to make that" happen.

Roll Call (subscription) reports on the difficulties people are having finding information about procurement opportunities in the Senate through government Web sites.

Lobbying: Money Pouring Into Massachusetts For Senate Race

• "Outside interest groups are springing up on a daily basis to dump huge sums of money into the" Massachusetts "Senate race, funding negative television ads that seek to tip the race in its closing hours," the Boston Globe reports.

• "News conferences were scheduled and telephone briefings were penciled in, but Washington advocacy groups were disappointed yet again Wednesday: The Supreme Court did not issue its long-awaited decision on campaign finance laws," the Washington Post reports.

• "Google Inc.'s threat to pull out of China is the most visible reflection of U.S. companies' growing disillusionment with the country nine years after it joined the World Trade Organization, business groups said," Bloomberg News reports.

Commentary: Good For Google, Most Say

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Google's decision to buck China's censorship demands is widely praised but raises questions for other companies.

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