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'American Crossroads' and its affiliates say they've raised $17.6 million, while RNC struggles with cash disadvantage. Plus: Iran announces new drone.

Congress: Armey Supports Ryan, Chides GOP

• "Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to balance the budget lacked 'courage' and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Armey's comments on NBC's 'Meet the Press' came just moments after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sidestepped a question about Ryan's plan, which looks to balance the budget by reinventing slimmer versions of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the tax code."

• "McConnell on Sunday renewed his calls to exempt tax cuts from efforts to reduce the federal deficit while mostly sidestepping questions about offsetting the lost revenue," National Journal reports. "Pressed on the cost of renewing the so-called Bush tax cuts, McConnell reiterated his assertion, supported by few independent economists, that rescinding tax cuts for top earners would not generate revenue."


White House: Lack Of Convictions?

• "In interviews, a variety of political activists, operatives and commentators from across" the Democratic Party's "ideological spectrum presented similar descriptions of" President Obama's "predicament: By declining to speak clearly and often about his larger philosophy -- and insisting that his actions are guided not by ideology but a results-oriented 'pragmatism' -- he has bred confusion and disappointment among his allies, and left his agenda and motives vulnerable to distortion by his enemies," Politico reports.

• "The more common vacations became after World War II -- a tradition for the working class and the wealthy alike -- the more criticism presidents have faced for taking them. So as President Obama and his family enjoy their second annual August vacation at an isolated farm on Martha's Vineyard, defensiveness is again part of the baggage," the New York Times reports.

• "When Camille Johnston steps down as First Lady Michelle Obama's communications director later this week, she'll leave behind a high bar for her replacement to reach," Politico reports. "Aides say they are in the process of interviewing both outside and internal candidates to fill the position, but acknowledge there is no rush to make a hire before Johnston's August 27 departure date."


Politics: Rove's Group Raises Big Money

• "A political outfit conceived by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie pulled in more than $2 million from deep-pocketed conservatives and corporations last month... according to financial reports filed recently with the Federal Election Commission," Politico reports. "But the FEC reports reveal only half of the effort being waged under the American Crossroads umbrella, which includes the Crossroads PAC and a newer, stealthier group called American Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, or GPS. Together they have raised $17.6 million through mid-August, spokesman Jonathan Collegio told the Associated Press."

• "The Republican National Committee's $5.3 million war chest for the final stretch of the midterm election campaign --- which is half the amount of its Democratic counterpart --- is causing anxiety among some GOP operatives," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The RNC says it has spent heavily on races that have helped revive the party's fortunes after election routs in 2006 and 2008" and "it expects" fundraising "to pick up as the election nears."

• "Facing intense competition for the moderate Republicans and independents who could be the keys to victory in one of the nation's most evenly divided states," Marco Rubio "is trying to show that he is more than just an insurgent protest candidate -- and he is breaking with some Tea Party orthodoxy in the process," the New York Times reports. "Rubio spends less and less time trying to tap into the discontent that has been at the forefront of the midterm elections. A wiser course for Republicans, he said, is offering an alternative, not simply being the angry opposition."

Economy: Credit-Card Rates Soar

• "New credit-card rules that took effect Sunday limit banks' ability to charge penalty fees," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "They come on top of rule changes earlier this year restricting issuers' ability to adjust rates on the fly. Issuers responded by pushing card rates to their highest level in nine years."


• "Housing will eventually recover... but many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg," the New York Times reports. Economists predict that "a home will return the money an owner puts in each month, but will not multiply the investment."

• "South Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo... has assumed the unusual role of a foreign official promoting U.S. jobs," the Washington Post reports. "With the Obama administration pledging a major new push to ratify the agreement, Han has gone on the stump in cities such as Montgomery, Ala., Peoria, Ill., and Detroit to build American support for free trade and allay concerns that his country is trying to snatch U.S. manufacturing jobs."

• "The government is investigating at least 20 car dealerships it claims violated the rules of last year's cash-for-clunkers program," USA Today reports. "Government auditors say up to $94 million in rebates may be ineligible because they lack the proper documentation," and "nine dealers have paid a total of $71,500 in fines."

Health Care: WH Awaits Insurance Rules

• "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could find herself pitted between top Democrats on Capitol Hill and state insurance commissioners over a key section of the health care overhaul," Politico reports. "Sebelius is waiting for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to suggest rules surrounding how much insurance companies must spend on medical costs versus administrative expenses or profits. The report, expected in weeks, isn't likely to be as strict on insurers as top Democrats have hoped."

• "The Obama administration is rewriting new rules on medical privacy after an outpouring of criticism from consumer groups and members of Congress who say the rules do not adequately protect the rights of patients," the New York Times reports. "The rules specify when doctors, hospitals and insurers must tell patients about the improper use or disclosure of information in their medical records. Such breaches appear to have become more frequent, with the growing use of health information technology, social media and the Internet."

• "A key member of Congress plans to send a letter to federal regulators" today "seeking a detailed explanation of what they knew about the activities of an Iowa egg producer at the center of a salmonella outbreak and massive egg recall," the Washington Post reports. "Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration and Agriculture Department about Austin 'Jack' DeCoster, who owns Wright County Egg."

• "Insurance agents and brokers, afraid of being rendered irrelevant in the post-health reform world of simplified insurance shopping, are fighting for their very survival," The Hill reports. "The agents want lawmakers' and regulators' support in getting the Obama administration to recognize their role in the federal insurance Web portal, which lets consumers compare coverage options online."

Energy & Environment: BP Account Kicks In

• "A $20 billion compensation fund for economic victims of the BP Gulf oil spill opens for business" today "amid accusations that the rules established by its administrator are unfair," Reuters reports. "Kenneth Feinberg who will run the fund said those who sustained financial loss because of the spill could claim for damages and he promised claimants more generous treatment than they would get if they sued the energy giant for damages."

• "A federal investigative panel will begin its next round of hearings" today "into the Deepwater Horizon disaster and call witnesses who can address alleged shortcuts in the drilling of the BP oil well, problems with the failed blowout preventer and the confused scene after an explosion on the rig," the Washington Post reports. "After challenges to the investigative board's authority and competence, the hearings are shaping up as a test of the panel as well as the parties under investigation."

• "Utilities across the country are building dozens of old-style coal plants that will cement the industry's standing as the largest industrial source of climate-changing gases for years to come," the Washington Post reports. "An Associated Press examination of Energy Department records and information provided by utilities and trade groups shows that more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction."

Technology: Minorities See Broadband As Real Issue

• "In every major category, from job opportunities to acquiring health information, more African-American and Hispanic adults regard lack of broadband access as 'a major disadvantage' than whites do," according to a recent Pew poll examined by the New York Times. "Nearly half of African-Americans believe expanding broadband access should be a top government priority, compared with just under two-fifths of whites."

• "Plans to update Australia's broadband infrastructure are shaping up as a potential swing issue as the country faces its first hung parliament in 70 years," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Broadband has been a hot political topic in Australia since before the 2007 federal election, with current Internet speeds lagging well behind those available in many other advanced nations; that is particularly the case for regional and rural areas."

National Security: Karzai Admits Helping Aide

• "Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted Sunday to intervening on behalf of one of his top aides imprisoned on corruption charges," reports the Washington Post, which had originally reported on Thursday "that Karzai secured the release of the aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi... A Karzai adviser initially denied the president's involvement."

• "Seven months" after "the arrest of" Abdul Ghani Baradar, "the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar," Pakistani officials "say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan," the New York Times reports. "In the weeks after Mr. Baradar's capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end."

World: Iranians Tout Drone Bomber

• "Defying mounting international pressure over its military ambitions, Iran on Sunday unveiled what it said was its latest battlefield advance -- an armed aerial drone -- a day after initiating the start-up of its first nuclear power plant," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "A mob of Rwandan rebels gang-raped at least 150 women last month during a weekend raid on a community of villages in eastern Congo, United Nations and other humanitarian officials said Sunday," the New York Times reports. "The United Nations blamed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or F.D.L.R., for the attack," which officials said "was unusual because of the large number of victims and the fact that they were raped by more than one attacker simultaneously."

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