Monday, December 13, 2010

WHILE AMERICA WAS SLEEPING I fixed a 'news breakfast' for you -- ready each weekday morning at 6am Eastern to satisfy your media craving [feature permalink here]. These must-reads will kick start your day!

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 12: Larry Myer of Minneapolis shovels out his driveway after a snow storm December 12, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A blizzard dumped more than 20 inches of snow in parts of the Midwest forcing the NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings to be postponed till Monday and will be played in Detroit's Ford Field. There were no injuries reported from the collapse of the dome. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

The Big Freeze: "Temperatures were forecast to drop below zero early today throughout the Dakotas and in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said. . . . Today, wind-whipped snow should be confined to the snowbelt regions of the Great Lakes, Appalachians and northern New England, according to The Weather Channel. An additional foot of snow is possible in the same areas of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio that were hammered last week. For most of the central and eastern USA, the intense cold and icy winds will dominate the weather for much of the week. The blast should be even colder than the one that slammed the East last week, according to the weather service." (USA Today)

Senate Nears Key Tax Deal Vote: "The Democratic-led Congress moved on Monday toward grudging approval of President Barack Obama's deal with Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans. Backers were expected to muster on Monday the needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to clear a procedural hurdle, before passage on Tuesday or Wednesday." (Reuters)

A Political Lift for Obama? "With the Senate poised to hold a key vote on Monday on the tax cut deal between President Obama and Republicans, the political jousting has focused on what the agreement does for the wealthy by extending all of the Bush-era tax rates, and for the unemployed, by continuing jobless aid.But a hefty portion of the $858 billion tax package will benefit middle- and upper-middle-income Americans — precisely the demographic that felt neglected the last two years as the White House and Congress focused on the major health care law and on helping the unemployed and people facing foreclosure." (NY Times)

Dems Try to Salvage Pride in Lame-Duck Session: "Having navigated the thickets of thickly drawn party lines on taxes, President Obama now must overcome a potent force inside his own Democratic Party: pride." (ABC)

Obama Launches Charm Offensive: "House Republicans don’t take power for another three weeks, but the White House is already engaged in a behind-the-scenes charm offensive designed to build relationships with incoming committee chairmen before they become powerful adversaries." (Politico)

Obama Faces Fight Over New START Ratification: "With only days left in the lame-duck Congress, President Obama is pushing hard to accomplish something never before done by a Democratic president: successfully get a nuclear arms-reduction treaty through the ratification process." (WaPo)

Steele On His Way Out? "Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is expected to announce his intentions about running for reelection to the top party post Monday evening. Several sources are reporting that he is expected to step down when his two-year term ends in January." (CSM)

Transfer Ban for Gitmo Detainees Tucked into Spending Bill: " The Senate is expected to consider a provision this week that would block the Obama administration from bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States for trial, including the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks." (WaPo)

Federal Judge to Rule on Obamacare: "A Virginia federal judge is expected to rule Monday on whether the Obama administration's health law violates the Constitution, opening a new stage in the administration's defense of its biggest legislative achievement. The ruling by District Judge Henry E. Hudson is perhaps the most significant so far among a slew of state-based legal challenges to the law, which also faces attack by newly resurgent Republicans in Congress. More than 20 federal lawsuits have been filed against the health overhaul since President Barack Obama signed it in March." (WSJ)

Madoff Lawsuits Moving Toward Court: "David J. Sheehan, the counsel for Irving H. Picard, the trustee charged with recovering the assets, said on Sunday that he expected that “hundreds” of those suits — many against individuals, some of them prominent — were likely to be settled in negotiations before or soon after they reach court in coming months. But the remainder were likely to be contested and would proceed to trial, he said. Mr. Sheehan said the death on Saturday of Mark Madoff, the older of Bernard Madoff’s two sons, would not affect the complaints against him, his brother, Andrew, and other relatives." (NY Times)

Holbrooke Still in Critical Condition: "Even if the surgery has stabilized Holbrooke's condition, recovery is likely to be lengthy." (AP)


Economists Predict Growth in 2011: "Economists have grown more optimistic about the outlook for U.S. growth next year-" (WSJ)

Germany Signals Support for Euro-Zone: "In a shift of tone that may signal more commitment to keep the euro zone in one piece, Germany’s finance minister ruled out the possibility that any country would ever be ejected from the European monetary union, and said calls to restore the Deutsche mark were 'unrealistic nostalgia.' The comments by Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, may indicate that Europe’s biggest economy is becoming more willing to finance measures ensuring that countries like Greece and Ireland do not default on their debt." (NY Times)

Cuomo to Push for a Cap on Property Taxes: "Three New York governors have tried, and failed, to limit local taxes, which are among the highest in the nation and a primary reason suburbanites and upstate residents say the state has become unaffordable. But with the Senate all but certain to be controlled by the Republicans and voters in a tax-rebellion mood, Mr. Cuomo may be facing a more favorable political climate for a cap." (NY Times)


Wikileaks -- Israeli Attack on Iran May Lead to Nuclear War: "Australian intelligence agencies feared that Israel will attack Iran, leading to nuclear war, according to US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks on Monday." (JPost)

Rival to Launch Today: "Arguing that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has 'weakened the organization,' a newly organized rival to the website known for leaking official secrets says it will launch Monday. The founders of say they are former WikiLeaks members unhappy with the way WikiLeaks is being run under Assange." (CNN)

Assange's Old Online Dating Profile Found: "The folks at Reddit have uncovered what appears to be WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's OKCupid dating profile." (NY Mag)

No Nukes for Clapton: "One of the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks reveals that North Korean officials suggested the U.S. government make arrangements for rock icon Eric Clapton to perform in Pyongyang as a way of building 'good will' between the countries." (CNN)

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Stockholm Car Bomb: "An Islamist website called Shoumoukh al-Islam published a photograph of the man it said was the attacker. 'It is our brother, mujahid Taymour Abdel Wahab, who carried out the martyrdom operation in Stockholm,' it said. The photograph showed a man in dark glasses and Western clothes." (France 24)

UK Link? "British police are searching a property in southeast England amid reports that a man linked to bomb blasts in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, used to live in the country. . . . The search came as press reports suggested that a man who had studied and lived in Luton, north of London, was behind Saturday's blasts." (Al Jazeera)

Audio of Threat Released: "The Stockholm bomber sent a chilling audio recording in English shortly before two bombs went off warning his actions would 'speak for themselves'." (Daily Telegraph)

North Korea Threatens South Korea With Nuclear War: "North Korea warned Monday that US-South Korean cooperation could bring a nuclear war to the region, as the South began artillery drills amid lingering tension nearly three weeks after the North's deadly shelling of a South Korean island. The South's naval live-fire drills are scheduled to run Monday through Friday at 27 sites." (AP)

South Korea to Stage Big Air Raid Drill: "South Korea will stage a major civil defence drill this week against mock attacks by North Korean aircraft amid continuing high tensions after the North's bombardment last month, officials said Monday. The drill will take place at 2:00 pm (0500 GMT) on Wednesday, with a dozen South Korean fighter jets flying across the country to simulate air strikes, the National Emergency Management Agency said. 'Along with air raid sirens, people will be asked to run into some 25,000 state-managed shelters or other civilian underground facilities,' agency official Yoo Byung-Koo said." (AFP)


Tiny Numbers, Letters Discovered in the Eyes of the Mona Lisa: "Intrigue is usually focused on her enigmatic smile. But the Mona Lisa was at the centre of a new mystery yesterday after art detectives took a fresh look at the masterpiece – and noticed something in her eyes. Hidden in the dark paint of her pupils are tiny letters and numbers, placed there by the artist Leonardo da Vinci and revealed only now thanks to high-­magnification techniques."