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China rebuffs the U.S. on Internet freedom and reports a fourth-quarter surge in its economy. Plus: Support grows for a scaled-back health care reform bill.

White House: Obama Takes Stand On Banking Limits

• "The tougher approach to financial regulation that President Obama outlined on Thursday reflected a changed political climate, the rebound in big banks' fortunes after their taxpayer bailout and a shift in power within the administration away from those who had been seen as most sympathetic to Wall Street," the New York Times reports.

• "Obama is telling voters in Ohio, already wracked by high unemployment, that investments in clean-energy technologies will help boost the nation's economy," AP reports.


• "Congressional Democrats -- stunned out of silence by Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts -- say they're done swallowing their anger with" Obama "and ready to go public with their gripes," Politico reports.

Lobbying: SCOTUS Hands K Street A Victory

• "A divided Supreme Court on Thursday swept aside decades of legislative restrictions on the role of corporations in political campaigns, ruling that companies can dip into their treasuries to spend as much as they want to support or oppose individual candidates," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Supreme Court has handed a new weapon to lobbyists. If you vote wrong, a lobbyist can now tell any elected official that my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election," the New York Times reports.


• "Democratic leaders will push legislation to limit the impact of Thursday's Supreme Court decision that lifted restrictions on corporate spending in politics, The Hill reports.

• "Viewers in media markets nationwide are already well familiar with being bombarded with ads either supporting or criticizing candidates for Congress and the White House in the months before an election. But that could be nothing compared with what today's landmark Supreme Court campaign-finance decision appears to invite, experts say," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Politics: Virginia Governor Will Respond To State Of The Union

• "National Republicans searching for a way to maintain their recent winning streak have tapped Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to deliver his party's high-profile response to President Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday," the Washington Post reports.

• "Confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman" Ben Bernanke "for a second term, while still expected soon, has hit complications as Democrats, unsettled by the loss of their 60th vote, try to tap into broad voter anger over Wall Street and the economic slump," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.


Health Care: Scaled-Back Bill Garners Support

• "The idea of a scaled-back healthcare overhaul that would reach across party lines gained steam Thursday as Democrats wrestled with how to best complete what has been their top agenda item amid the fallout from" Brown's victory, CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Congressional Democrats said they were focusing on toughening regulations on the health-insurance industry in a bid to assemble a scaled-down, more populist health-care bill after the party's defeat in Massachusetts," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday eliminated the most obvious avenue for completing health-care reform, saying the House will not embrace the version of the legislation already approved by the Senate," the Washington Post reports.

• "A majority of Americans say" Obama "and congressional Democrats should suspend work on the health care bill that has been on the verge of passage and consider alternatives that would draw more Republican support, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds," USA Today reports.

Congress: Harkin To Introduce Bill Weakening Filibuster

• "Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) soon intends to introduce legislation that would take away the minority's power to filibuster legislation," The Hill reports.

• "For all of the excitement surrounding" Brown's "election, the senator-elect's arrival at the Capitol on Thursday was hardly a 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' moment," Politico reports. "Brown didn't rail against the party in power or promise to kill health care reform or predict a new Republican majority come November. He stepped gingerly out of an SUV and walked up to a throng of reporters who asked him... how it felt to be in Washington."

Economy: China Reports A Fourth-Quarter Surge

• "The Chinese economy grew by stunning 10.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009, which may see it replacing Japan as the second largest economy in the world," the Economic Times reports.

• "More than 40 U.S. homebuilders have teamed up with private equity firms to acquire and complete unfinished subdivisions as banks cut construction lending," Bloomberg News reports.

World: China Rebukes U.S. Over Internet Freedom

• "China's Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Thursday call for broad Internet freedom, saying that the United States should 'cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China,'" the Washington Post reports.

• "Haiti has approved plans for more than a dozen sprawling tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince, the first step in an epic relocation effort that could reshape the country as up to one million people displaced by the earthquake find new places to live," the New York Times reports.

National Security: WH To Increase Request For Afghan Military

• "President Obama is preparing to ask Congress for another $14.2 billion to grow, train and equip the Afghan National Security Forces for the remainder of this fiscal year and in FY11," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "In nearly a decade of rebuilding its terror network here, al Qaeda has put down deep roots, a move that is now complicating U.S.-backed efforts to battle the group," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Two Algerians held at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba have been transferred to their native country, the US Justice Department has announced," BBC News reports.

Energy & Environment: EPA Resolution Could Affect Climate Debate

• "While a resolution introduced Thursday by Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski," R-Alaska, to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions "stands little chance of becoming law, it might affect Democratic leaders' strategy on climate legislation this year," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "are original co-sponsors of Murkowski's resolution of disapproval, which has 35 Republicans on board as well," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "Republican senators" on Thursday "pressed Energy Secretary Steven Chu to speed up his department's nuclear energy program," reports.

• "Temperatures in the decade that ended in 2009 were the warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, NASA said, backing up data from the U.K. Met Office and the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization," Bloomberg News reports.

Transportation: Napolitano Defends Airport Body Scanners

• "U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sought Thursday to allay concerns in some European Union countries over the use of body scanners in airports to thwart terrorists, saying that as the technology develops the devices will be less intrusive," AP reports.

• "Federal investigators said Thursday that railway companies should have to install and monitor audio and video recorders in locomotive cabs to help discourage the kind of distractions blamed in a head-on collision that killed 25 people in suburban Los Angeles in 2008," AP reports.

• "Toyota Motor Corp. launched a major new recall Thursday, saying a mechanical problem could cause the gas pedals to stick and cause unwanted acceleration in 2.3 million of its vehicles, including recent models of its popular Camry and Corolla sedans," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Technology: House Panel Approves Broadband Spectrum Bill

• "Legislation designed to avert a looming communications spectrum crisis that could derail the FCC's ambitious plan for nationwide broadband connectivity received swift approval" Thursday "by a House panel," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "The Senate Rules and Administration Committee has reached an agreement with Facebook that will enable Senators to set up an 'official' Facebook page that follows the chamber's rules," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The Obama administration" today "is posting to the Internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments, on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services," AP reports.

Commentary: Justices Called Activists In Decision

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, columnists warn that a Supreme Court decision opens the floodgates of corporate dollars, and Stuart Taylor Jr. links Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to judicial activism.

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