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Obama to visit troops at Texas base before tonight's Oval Office address. Plus: Boehner calls GOP House majority an 'uphill climb.'

Congress: Ethics Investigators Probe Use of Travel Funds

• "Congressional investigators are questioning a half-dozen lawmakers for possibly misspending government funds meant to pay for overseas travel, according to people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) confirmed Monday that the Office of Congressional Ethics has closed its inquiry into fundraisers held around the 2009 financial reform vote, and it recommended the House ethics committee not pursue the matter," Roll Call (subscription) reports.


White House: Obama To Visit Texas Troops Before Oval Office Address

• "President Obama heads to Fort Bliss in Texas today to thank troops for their service before addressing the nation from the Oval Office tonight about the end of combat operations in Iraq," USA Today reports.

• "President Obama is promoting the decision to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq" today "as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to draw the war to a close," the Washington Post reports. "But some of the president's detractors are using the same moment to question the wisdom of doing so -- noting that Iraq is still afflicted with violence and has yet to form a government."

• "Amid the latest signs of a sluggish recovery from the deep recession," President Obama "chastised Republicans for holding up legislation that would restore funding for certain federally backed loans to small businesses and provide other relief," the Los Angeles Times reports.


Politics: Boehner Tempers GOP Expectations For November

• "House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Republicans still face an 'uphill climb' to take back the House, even as his party took its widest-ever lead in a key poll," The Hill reports.

• "Some of the Democratic Party's most endangered lawmakers are taking steps to distance themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an attempt to inoculate themselves from charges that they are beholden to the unpopular House leader and supportive of the ambitious national Democratic agenda," Politico reports.

• "Democratic senators are donating generously to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid but his biggest contributor is the one who often gives him a serious case of heartburn -- Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.)," The Hill reports.

Economy: Auto Sales Boost Consumer Spending in July

• "The Commerce Department said Monday that consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July, boosted by new-car sales, which sold at an annual rate of 11.6 million, compared with 11.2 million in June," the Washington Post reports. "But auto industry experts and Washington area dealers interviewed said that a variety of factors, including a rise in fleet sales and unusually low financing rates, may have dressed up July's car sales."


Energy & Environment: EPA, DOT Propose Letter Grades For Fuel Economy

• "The government proposed labeling each new passenger vehicle with a letter grade from A to D based on its fuel efficiency and emissions, part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to promote electric cars and other advanced-technology vehicles," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "After years of legal entanglements arising from environmental messes and increased scrutiny of banks that finance the dirtiest industries, several large commercial lenders are taking a stand on industry practices that they regard as risky to their reputations and bottom lines," the New York Times reports.

• "An independent investigation called for 'fundamental reform' at the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saying the organization's 2007 report played down uncertainty about some aspects of global warming," the Wall Street Journal reports.

National Security: U.S. Details New North Korea Sanctions

• "The Obama administration outlined new financial sanctions on North Korea aimed at further choking off Pyongyang's arms trade and the illicit businesses funding dictator Kim Jong Il's government," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, has completed work on new guidelines for turning some security duties over to Afghan forces in the months ahead, calling for American and allied troops to step back gradually from areas as they are pacified rather than handing off the task all at once to local units, according to senior NATO and Pentagon officials," the New York Times reports.

• "Two Yemeni men arriving in Amsterdam on a flight from Chicago were arrested Monday on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack after peculiar items turned up in their luggage, Dutch officials said," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "As preparations intensify for a Palestinian-Israeli summit meeting in Washington on Thursday, the crude outlines of a Palestinian state are emerging in the West Bank, with increasingly reliable security forces, a more disciplined government and a growing sense among ordinary citizens that they can count on basic services," the New York Times reports.

Health Care: Administration To Distribute Funds for Retiree Benefits

• "Almost 2,000 employers and unions will be eligible to submit retirees' medical bills for reimbursement by a $5 billion federal fund, the Obama administration will disclose" today, "suggesting the fund will be spread widely but thinly," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "Federal officials investigating conditions at the two Iowa mega-farms whose products have been at the center of the biggest egg recall in U.S. history found filthy conditions, including chickens and rodents crawling up massive manure piles and flies and maggots 'too numerous to count,'" the Los Angeles Times reports.

Technology: Cold War Export Rules To Get Overhaul

• "The Obama administration is overhauling the decades-old rules for the export of sensitive military and other technology, jettisoning what industry groups criticize as an antiquated 'Cold War' set of regulations for a more streamlined approach," the Washington Post reports.

• "Technology and telecommunications companies could soon get access to unused TV airwaves, allowing them to introduce new wireless gadgets and services, under rules that Federal Communications Commission officials are close to putting into final form," the Wall Street Journal reports.

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