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Morning Bulletin – Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Following his overseas trip last week and a fairly quiet Easter weekend, President Obama attempts to refocus on the economy at 11:30am ET where he'll deliver a "major address" at Georgetown University.

"The President will discuss how each step his administration has taken to confront this economic crisis fits within his broader vision of how we move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity," per the White House. "He'll also talk about the significant work that remains to be done to get the economy moving forward once again."

In attendance: Georgetown University students and faculty, as well as local and national labor, grassroots and political leaders.

"Aides billed the address as major but acknowledged that it was expected to contain no significant policy announcements," reports the Associated Press' Liz Sidoti.

"Rather, they said, the speech would outline the state of the economy when Obama took office in January, steps his administration has taken in its first three months, and what still needs to be done to right troubled sectors, including the housing, banking and financial industries. 'The president wants the opportunity to update the American people on where we are, what we have to do going forward, and lay out the steps that are being taken to help our economy recover,' said presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs.

"While Obama will enthusiastically recognize progress, Gibbs said, 'I think the president also understands that even as there are some promising statistics, whether it's housing or something like that, we still are likely to see many, many months of unemployment, where hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs.'"

A new Gallup poll shows "Over two-thirds of Americans -- 71% -- have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in President Obama to do or recommend the right thing for the economy, a much higher level of confidence than is given to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, or the Democratic or Republican leaders in Congress."

Meantime, a poll conducted for Public Strategies and Politico reveals "Trust in the U.S. government both to do what is to right and manage its finances responsibly has increased by six points from our initial survey in January, to 63% and 40%, respectively."

(AP)
ALMOST-SENATOR AL FRANKEN, D-MINN.: After a five month process that involved a contentious recount and deliberation by a three-judge panel in Minnesota, the panel declared Democrat and comedian Al Franken the winner of the U.S. Senate race there.

The attorney for Republican Norm Coleman indicated that they will appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, further delaying the actual seating of a senator. The state Supreme Court has already ruled that Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., cannot sign an election certificate until the appeals process is exhausted.

Coleman has 10 days to file his appeal. When he appeals, then the Supreme Court is expected to take a few weeks to render its decision. Most political observers in Minnesota expect the three-judge panel's ruling to hold, resulting in the official election certificate being signed for Franken and his swearing in Washington.

"[A]fter a seven-week trial, 1,717 exhibits, 142 witnesses and 19,181 pages of pleadings, motions and briefs, the trial court left little doubt about its decision," writes the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Rachel E. Stassen Berger.

"Point by point, the judges dissected Coleman's case in their 56-page decision Monday. Point by point, they dismissed it. The double-counting Coleman alleged existed during the recount? Unproven, the judges wrote. Coleman's objection to using an Election Day count in lieu of lost ballots from a Minneapolis precinct? Dismissed, the judges declared. His complaints that the state voter-registration system was not up-to-date and was flawed? No, they wrote, it's 'trustworthy.'

"And his conflicted claims about absentee ballots? Well, read on — because Coleman has vowed to continue fighting on that front. His entire case was dismissed 'with prejudice,' and Coleman was ordered to pay Franken's and the court's costs for the entire trial as well as Franken's costs and attorneys fees for three days' delay caused by Coleman attorneys' errors.

"The court's three judges, who were chosen by state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and had been appointed to their respective district courts by governors of three parties, were 'careful,' 'reasonable,' 'conservative' and 'measured' in their ruling, Rick Hasen, a Loyola Law School professor, wrote on his election law blog. 'It is the kind of opinion that is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal by either the Minnesota Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court,' wrote Hasen, who has followed Minnesota's Senate contest."

"The panel concluded that Franken, a DFLer, 'received the highest number of votes legally cast' in the election. Franken emerged from the trial with a 312-vote lead, the court ruled, and 'is therefore entitled to receive the certificate of election,'" reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Pat Doyle.

"In an interview earlier in the day, Coleman said he believes 'thousands' of rejected votes should have been counted. Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg said the ruling denies many valid votes by applying a stricter standard to determining eligible ballots than local officials applied during the recount. ...

"But experts who read the panel's 68-page ruling say it effectively attacks some of the very arguments that Coleman would use on appeal. ... The judges said Coleman, trailing Franken by 225-votes after the recount, wanted the panel to ignore Minnesota election law and adopt a more lenient standard allowing illegal absentee ballots to be counted. The panel was blunt in how it dismissed Coleman claims. A cornerstone of his case was the argument that the judges should count absentee ballots they had deemed illegal during the trial because similar ones had been accepted on Election Day and during the recount."

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
CUBA: "White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said [Monday] that the United States is taking a 'series of steps' to 'bridge the gap between Cuban American families and provide increased flow of communication' between the United States and Cuba at his press briefing Monday afternoon," reports .

"The Obama administration, he said, will allow family members to make unlimited visits to their relatives in the country and to transfer money to them without restrictions. It is also easing other restrictions, such as limits on what can be sent to the country in packages.

"'The president has directed the secretaries of state, treasury and commerce to carry out the actions necessary to lift all restrictions on the ability of individuals to visit family members in Cuba and to send them remittances,' Gibbs said. He added that the president has 'further directed that steps be directed to enable the freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people.'"

The announcement didn't go over well with Florida's elected officials – Democrat and Republican alike.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., who's running for Senate, "said he will be among six members of Congress traveling with President Barack Obama on Air Force One this week to the Summit of the Americas -- though he disagrees with part of the administration's new Cuba policy," reports the Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard.

"At a Monday morning rally for his U.S. Senate campaign, Meek said he supports curbing the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to their relatives because the communist government takes a 20 percent cut. Later Monday, Obama announced that he would allow Cuban Americans to freely send cash to needy relatives, and he called on the Cuban government to confiscate less of the money.

"The announcement was timed to coincide with the summit that begins Friday in Trinidad. Meek said he was unaware that Obama had pledged during his campaign to lift the limits on remittances put in place under President George W. Bush. ''I want to talk to the president about the unlimited remittances, if that's what he said, because that could be counterproductive to our mission in Cuba to turn it toward democracy the way we'd like to see it,' he said. He later issued a statement that said free-flowing remittances would amount to 'further propping up a regime that suppresses human rights, freedoms and personal mobility. . . .

"To have remittances meant for family members in Cuba siphoned off by the regime in Havana would be a deep insult to Cuban Americans everywhere.' Republican Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami said in a statement that Obama made 'a serious mistake by unilaterally increasing Cuban-American travel and remittance dollars for the Cuban dictatorship.' Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston suggested doubling the $1,200 annual limit instead of lifting the cap. But other Democrats in Congress and the White House argue that the restrictions have failed to weaken the regime and instead hurt the Cuban people."

LATER THIS WEEK: Cuba is sure to be on the agenda as President Obama heads to Mexico Thursday to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon; over the weekend, he will attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

"Barack Obama slammed George W. Bush's policies in the Americas as negligent to friends, ineffective with adversaries and incapable of advancing U.S. interests. That was as a candidate. Now, as president, Obama has to keep his promise of revitalizing relations with the rest of the Western Hemisphere — not just to create a better mood, but to achieve real results," writes the Associated Press' Ben Feller.

"In previewing the trip, White House aides said they could not yet provide details about which leaders would be meeting one-on-one with Obama in Trinidad. They said Obama would be heading to the summit with concrete proposals but declined to name what they were. Instead, the White House spoke of priority themes: rallying support for bottom-up economic reforms, particularly those that help the "poorest of the poor"; working with other nations to expand renewable energy and reduce global warming; and improving public safety.

4938084"Shaking the global recession is the dominant topic on the agenda. The timing comes as many nations in the hemisphere have felt the crushing effects of an economic swoon after years of relative growth. Analysts say the summit is unlikely to yield any big breakthroughs but could set a new tone for relations, particularly given Obama's popularity in the region and his promises of multilateralism."

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva adds, "The Mexican visit is 'designed to send a very clear signal to our friends in Mexico City that we have a series of shared challenges as it relates to the economy, as it relates to security, insecurity, the threat of violence, and the impact of drug trafficking on both our countries,' says Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. ...

"And all 34 of the nations with democratically elected governments in the hemisphere will attend the summit in Trinidad, the fifth such Americas summit since 1994. That basically means all but Cuba."

RIP HARRY KALAS: The 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies scrapped their victory lap at the White House today after their longtime announcer, Harry Kalas, died in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park in Washington yesterday as he readied for the Phillies-Nationals game. Not only was he the voice of the Phillies for almost 40 years, but sports fans around the country know his dulcet tones as one of the longtime narrators for NFL Films, a voice as recognizable as his late Philly counterpart on those football documentaries, John "The Voice of God" Facenda.

ALSO TODAY: President Obama will be showing off his family's new Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, later this afternoon. CBS News' Nancy Cordes took a look at presidential pets.

And CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller has an "interview" with Bo.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits the Department of Homeland Security where she'll speak to employees at 11am ET.

ECONOMY / BAILOUTS

Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon, "Bank Vet Pegged to Run Bailout"

Politico's Eamon Javers, "TARP II: more questions than answers"

Bloomberg News' Linda Sandler, Rebecca Christie and Jeff Green, "Obama Auto Team Considers Swapping Loans to GM for Equity Stake"

PIRATES

Wall Street Journal's Chip Cummins and John W. Miller, "Rescue at Sea Sparks Calls for Firepower"

NY Times' Peter Baker, "Obama Signals More Active Response to Piracy"

CBS News' Andrew Cohen, "A Pirate Looks at Trial"

Washington Post's Stephanie McCrummen, "Plane of U.S. Lawmaker Fired Upon"

Newark Star-Ledger's Ralph R. Ortega and Rudy Larini, "N.J. Congressman Donald Payne speaks after attack in Mogadishu"

FOREIGN POLICY

NY Times' David E. Sanger, "U.S. May Drop Key Condition for Talks With Iran"

Bloomberg News' Bill Varner, "UN Vows Push on North Korea Sanctions for Rocket Test"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Associated Press' Erica Werner, "Sebelius lowballed donations from abortion doctor": "President Barack Obama's health secretary nominee got nearly three times as much political money from a controversial abortion doctor as she told senators. The Health and Human Services Department said Monday that the omission was an oversight that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius would correct."

NY Times' Julia Preston and Steve Greenhouse, "In Shift, Labor Groups Reach Accord on Immigration"

Wall Street Journal's Mark Peters, "White House Seeks Bill on Climate by December"

NY-20 SPECIAL ELECTION

Poughkeepsie Journal, "Jenny Lee-Adrian, "Murphy retains 20-vote lead over Tedisco"

FUTURE RACES

2009 NYC Mayor: NY Times' Clyde Haberman, "Mayor Gets the G.O.P. to Let Him In"

2009 VA Governor: NY Times' David W. Chen, "Bloomberg Goes Campaigning in Virginia"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Theresa Vargas and Anita Kumar, "TV Ad Evokes Va. Tech to Challenge McDonnell on Gun Sales"

2010 MN Governor: St. Paul Pioneer Press' Jason Hoppin, "Marty makes another run for governor"

2010 TN Governor: The Tennessean's Chas Sisk, "Harold Ford Jr. won't run for governor"

2010 KY Senate: Associated Press' Roger Alford, "Chandler, Luallen skip Ky. Race for Bunning's seat"

2010 PA Senate: Washington Post's Perry Bacon Jr.," Specter's Stimulus Vote Looms Large in Race"

2010 PA Senate: The Bulletin's Chris Friend, "Toomey Closer To US Senate Run"

Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "GOP withering away in California heat?"

ETC.

NY Times' Susan Saulny and Christopher Drew, "Investigators Take Closer Look at Rep. Jackson in Blagojevich Case"

Associated Press' Mark Theissen, "Alaska Democrats blast Palin for traveling during session"

Politico's Patrick O'Connor and Mike Allen, "GOP scrambles to show it has ideas"

USA Today's Dan Vergano, "Al Gore on board for $20M stem cell venture"

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