Wednesday, December 15, 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!

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens as Senate Minority Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (R) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill December 14, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Senate Republicans spoke to the media on various issues including the omnibus spending bill. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jumbo Spending Bill Stuffed With Earmarks: " Weeks after swearing off earmarks, many senators stand to gain tens of millions of dollars for pet projects in a massive spending bill that could be their last chance at the money before a more conservative Congress begins next month. The $1.2 trillion bill, released on Tuesday, includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion, an amount that many lawmakers decried as an irresponsible binge following a midterm election in which many voters demanded that the government cut spending." (WaPo)

'A Total Mess': "Republicans poring over a 1,924-page overarching spending bill proposed by Democrats to cover the rest of the fiscal year are threatening to grind the legislation to a halt, citing massive earmark spending, which, if passed, would be enacted into law without debate in the full Senate. . . . But the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he believes the legislation must pass." (Fox News)

Miller Appeals: "U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court after a lower court ruled against his challenge of write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Superior Court Judge William Carey last week ruled Miller, a Tea Party-supported Republican, offered no evidence to support his claim of election fraud, and said election officials used the correct standard when they accepted ballots where Murkowski's name was misspelled but a write-in vote for her was clearly intended." (UPI)

Tax Deal Is Shaping 2012 GOP Campaign: "The tax deal now before Congress has kicked off the first real debate of the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, with several prospective candidates heralding the package as a victory for taxpayers and others criticizing it as a costly stimulus bill in disguise. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have both come out sharply against the measure, which President Barack Obama hammered out last week with Senate Republican leaders. Both cite the deal's price tag, with Mr. Romney saying it will heap billions more onto the nation's debt load. Supporting the package are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom praise the deal as good for the economy and the only way to spare Americans the jolt of a sudden tax increase that otherwise would take effect on Jan. 1." (WSJ)

House Dems to Amend Estate Tax Deal? "As the Senate prepared Tuesday to push through a sweeping tax package negotiated by the White House and congressional Republicans, House leaders were looking to amend the measure to satisfy the concerns of angry liberals without unraveling the deal altogether." (WaPo)

Reid to Steal Senators' Christmas? " Senate majority leader Harry Reid wants to take up a slew of important issues after the tax deal is passed – from a $1.2 trillion budget bill to a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'" (CSM)

White House -- Ruling Won't Affect Obamacare Rollout: "'There's no practical impact at all as states move forward in implementing ... the law that Congress passed and the president signed,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said that, as expected, the department would appeal Monday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia. Hudson declared that a central provision of the law - the requirement for nearly everyone to carry health insurance - was unconstitutional." (AP)

Obama Planning Big Staff Makeover: "President Barack Obama has delayed the most significant staff shuffle of his presidency until after New Year’s — but the changes may be more sweeping than anticipated and could include the hiring of high-profile Democrats defeated in the midterms. . . .  Obama’s thinking on other specifics of his reconfigured West Wing — as well as a new campaign operation and Democratic National Committee structure — is largely unknown. But changes are expected across the administration, with familiar faces moving into new roles, both inside and outside the White House, and some unfamiliar ones joining the ranks." (Politico)

Keeping the Faith: "Bon Jovi joins a long list of big names, including eBay President and CEO John Donahoe and Starbucks Executive VP Paula Boggs, on the president’s newly formed White House Council for Community Solutions." (CNN)

Why Scott Brown Isn't As Vulnerable As Dems Think: "From his well-formed centrist brand, to his proven ability to raise money, to the lack of a well-funded Democratic challenger, it's becoming clear that Brown is no dead man walking in the halls of the Senate." (National Journal)

Holbrooke Last Remarks on Afghanistan Revisited: "It used to takes decades for legends about the supposed last words of famous people to seep into the culture and morph through constant repetition, until some enterprising scholar would look for hard evidence and soberly conclude that the well-known observation was most likely a myth or misunderstanding. In the case of Richard C. Holbrooke, the hard-charging diplomat who died on Monday, in the Internet age, that process took less than 24 hours." (NY Times)


The 20 CEOs Coming to Washington: "Twenty CEOs will meet with President Obama on Wednesday for a discussion that will cover trade, clean energy, the deficit and tax code reform. . . . The CEOs come from a wide range of industries, and the list includes a few surprises." (CNNMoney)

Fed Sticks to Bond-Buying Policy: "The Fed stuck to its policy of buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds and keeping short-term interest rates near zero amid signs that the recovery is gathering steam." (WSJ)
Senior Man/Wheelchair/Home Working At Computer

American Workforce Grayer than Ever: "The portion of people ages 16-24 in the labor market is at the lowest level since the government began keeping track in 1948, falling from 66% in 2000 to 55% this year. There are 17 million in that age group who are employed, the fewest since 1971 when the population was much smaller. By contrast, people in their 50s, 60s or 70s are staying employed longer than at any time on record. For example, 55% of people ages 60 to 64 were in the labor market during the first 11 months of 2010, up from 47% for the same period in 2000." (USA Today)

Russia, China Phasing Out Dollar in Int'l Trade: "On Wednesday, a Moscow securities exchange is scheduled to open direct trading between the Chinese currency, the renminbi, and the Russian ruble. If the market develops, it could eventually cut the dollar out of a portion of Russian and Chinese trade. Although China’s business with Russia is only a sliver of what it does with the United States, there is room to grow: Russia is the world’s largest energy exporting nation, and China a big consumer as the world’s second-largest economy, behind the United States. And yet when a railroad tanker of Russian oil crosses the border into China, the transaction is settled in dollars. The new currency exchange is meant to start changing that." (NY Times)

Moody's Threatens Spain Downgrade: "Ratings agency Moody's put Spain on review for a possible downgrade on Wednesday, highlighting concerns over a looming funding crunch next year and prompting the euro and bank shares to slide." (Reuters)

... And S&P Warns on Belgium: "Europe's debt woes have moved closer to the core of monetary union after Standard & Poor's threatened to downgrade Belgium over the failure of Flemings and Walloons to form a government. " (Daily Telegraph)


Wikileaks Founder Still in Jail as Sweden Appeals Bail Decision: "Sweden has decided to contest the granting of bail to Assange, who is being held pending an extradition hearing, on the grounds that no conditions imposed by a judge could guarantee that he would not flee" (Guardian)

USAF Blocks Sites Who Posted the Secret Cables: " When Air Force personnel on the service’s computer network try to view the Web sites of The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Spanish newspaper El País and the French newspaper Le Monde, as well as other sites that posted full confidential cables, the screen says “Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored,” according to an Air Force official whose access was blocked and who shared the screen warning with The Times. Violators are warned that they face punishment if they try to view classified material from unauthorized Web sites." (NY Times)

Where's the Money? "A mutiny within WikiLeaks has former associates of leaker-in-chief Julian Assange charging that he's turned the web site into a cult of personality, and asking what has happened to the money." (ABC)

Classified Reports Counter Optimism on Afghan War: "The intelligence assessments contend that large swaths of the country remain at risk of falling to the Taliban and that Pakistan still supports militants, officials say." (LA Times)

Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens at Mosque in South Iran: "IRNA said the attacker struck outside Imam Hussein Mosque in the city of Chahbahar near the border with Pakistan on Wednesday. Dozens were also injured. The bombing appeared to target a group mourning Ashoura, which marks the 7th century death of the grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad." (Newser)

Dozens of Asylum Seekers Die in Boat Accident in Australia: "A wooden boat packed with around 70 asylum seekers smashed apart on jagged rocks in heavy seas off an Australian island Wednesday, flinging screaming women and children into churning whitewater and killing at least 27 people." (CBS)

Stuxnet Set Back Iran's Nuclear Program by 2 Years: "'It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,' [top German computer consultant] Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. 'This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.'" (JPost)

Silvio Not Booted From the Island: "Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly survived a confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday as demonstrators opposed to his rule clashed with police in street protests that essentially closed the center of Rome.  The 314 to 311 vote in the lower house of Parliament will allow Berlusconi to continue dominating the nation's politics but leave him struggling to govern with a slim majority. At the same time, it dealt a blow to opposition leaders and Berlusconi's ambitious former allies, who had considered it their best chance yet to remove the 74-year-old media mogul from power." (WaPo)

Bill 'Valium' Richardson on Mission to North Korea: "Mr Richardson, who has been to Pyongyang several times in recent years, said he hoped to persuade the North Koreans to 'calm down a bit'." (BBC)

Kosovo PM Head of Human Organ Ring: "Kosovo's prime minister is the head of a "mafia-like" Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe inquiry report on organised crime. Hashim Thaçi is identified as the boss of a network that began operating criminal rackets in the runup to the 1999 Kosovo war, and has held powerful sway over the country's government since." (Guardian)

Cuba Denies Exit Visa for Fariñas: "The Cuban authorities have refused an exit visa for a leading Cuban dissident to travel to France to receive the EU's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. " (BBC)

Tech, Science

First Person Cured from HIV? "Researchers in Germany are reporting that they may have cured a man of HIV infection. If true, that would represent a scientific advance . . . But AIDS researchers predicted the report will have little impact on practice." (CNN)

There Is Such a Thing as Beauty Sleep: "Researchers claim getting eight hours a night really does make you appear more attractive."