**President Obama is in Cairo, Egypt; delivered speech aimed at world's Muslims...
**Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor continues meeting with Senators; a new poll shows 55% of Americans approve of her nomination...
**The president outlines health care goals, calls for a bill on his desk by October...
5061351PRESIDENT'S OVERSEAS TRIP: In Cairo today, President Obama delivered his long-promised speech to the world's Muslims, calling for "common ground" and a "new beginning" to the relationship between Americans and the Muslim world, in an effort to change their view of the U.S., a view that has deteriorated since the 9/11 attacks.
"'We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate," Mr. Obama said in his 55-minute speech at Cairo University. "I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. ... America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition."
In trying to relate to Muslims, Mr. Obama not only used Muslim phrases ("I ... carry a greeting of peace ... assalaamu alaykum") but also talked of his personal experience with Islam ("As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk," he said).
But the president also wanted to assure Muslims that he didn't expect things to "change overnight" because of his speech.
He touched on five "issues": confronting violent extremism ("Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed."), the Israeli-Palestinian situation, nuclear proliferation, democracy and religious freedom.
How did his remarks play among Muslims?
"A spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, described Obama's speech as a 'good start,'" reports Al Jazeera English.
"'His call for stopping settlement and for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and his reference to the suffering of Palestinians ... is a clear message to Israel that a just peace is built on the foundations of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,' Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
"'President Obama's speech is a good start and an important step towards a new American policy,' he said. Ahmad Yousuf, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera that Obama's speech reminded him of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech'."
"Mahmoud Ramahi, a legislator from Abbas rival Hamas, offered qualified praise for the speech," reports the Associated Press' Marjorie Olster.
"'I have followed the speech closely. There are many positive points,' he said. 'There is a difference between his policy and Bush's policy. I see a change in the U.S. foreign policy discourse. But the problem is still on the ground. Would they achieve a Palestinian independent state? If he does that, that would be a relief and good for all parties.'"
"Baghdad resident Mithwan Hussein called Obama 'brave.' 'I think it's a good start and we hope he will open a new chapter with Islamic world and Arab Nation in particular,' he said.
"But not everyone was impressed. Wahyudin, the 57-year-old director of a hard-line Islamic boarding school in Jakarta, Indonesia, said 'I don't trust him.' He spoke as he watched the speech on television. 'He's just trying to apologize to Muslims because of what America - or really Bush - has done in the past,' said Wahyudin, who goes by one name. 'He's promising to be different. But that's all it is, a promise. We want action. We want to see an end to all intervention in Muslim countries. That's what we're fighting for.'"
Washington Post's Scott Wilson, "Obama Calls for New Beginning With World's Muslims"
New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Helene Cooper, "Obama Calls for Alliances With Muslims"
Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler, "Obama Aims to Repair Ties With Muslim World"
The Times' Zeleny also reports that the streets of Cairo were barren leading up to the president's speech.
"The streets leading into downtown were largely quiet and empty here on Thursday morning as President Obama landed in the Egyptian capital to deliver his address to the Muslim world. For the visit by the American president, many workers in this city on the Nile had been told to stay home. Even the sidewalks were closed to the people. Instead, they were lined by hundreds of uniformed soldiers – some dressed in black, others dressed in white – who had been standing in place for hours before Mr. Obama arrived from Saudi Arabia.
His foreign trip itinerary: today, meetings with President Hosni Mubarak, his speech and a visit to a mosque. Friday, he's in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a speech at the Buchenwald concentration camp and a visit with injured troops at Landstuhl medical center. On Saturday, he's in France for a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and D-Day commemoration in Normandy.
SOTOMAYOR: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor heads back to Capitol Hill today for another round of meetings with senators including: Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; John Cornyn, R-Tex.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Ted Kaufman, D-Del.; and Arlen Specter, D-Pa.
Meantime, her 2001 speech that's created so much controversy seemed to do just the opposite when she actually delivered it.
"Ms. Sotomayor's comment that she hoped a 'wise Latina' would usually reach a better judicial conclusion than a white male has prompted cries of racism from her detractors and calls from Republican senators for an explanation. To critics like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Ms. Sotomayor was clearly saying that members of one ethnic group make better judges than those of another. The remark didn't strike those in attendance as provocative," reports the Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid.
"'I don't remember those words, though I was there for the whole speech,' said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. 'My impression, and that of many others, was that it was a very straightforward talk.'
"On Wednesday, it emerged that Judge Sotomayor's 2001 speech closely mirrored one she gave seven years earlier at a panel on women in the judiciary. The 1994 speech contained a version of the controversial sentence, except she referred to women generally -- not just Latinas -- and elaborated that 'better will mean a more compassionate and caring conclusion.' ... 'I don't think anybody thought it was incendiary or inflammatory or anything like that,' said Rachel Moran, then a Berkeley law professor."
Graham told reporters yesterday "that he would have great difficulty supporting her — and that he let her know it," reports Politico's Alex Isenstadt.
The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Gun-shy GOP urges attacks on nominee"
HEALTH CARE: "Democrats on Capitol Hill plan to introduce the first draft of legislation to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system next week," report the Hill's Jeffrey Young and J. Taylor Rushing.
"The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is nearly ready to unveil the bill that Democrats have been piecing together for months, two senior Democrats on the committee told reporters Wednesday. 'I think you'll be able to see it probably next week or so,' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
"'We're going to show you a bill that we'll go forward with -- with the full understanding that that's only one step in the process,' said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)."
"Kennedy and Baucus plan to introduce major healthcare bills over the next several weeks, as do senior House Democrats. At the same time, many Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the initiative, which they assert will increase government control of medicine," add the Los Angeles Times' Noam N. Levey.
"Obama and his chief lieutenants have emphasized the need to control costs in reaction to widespread public anxiety about rising healthcare bills -- as well as concerns among experts about the nation's skyrocketing healthcare tab, which this year will top $2.2 trillion. ... Though Obama has made a healthcare overhaul one of his top priorities, he has thus far largely avoided staking out firm positions on some of the most contentious issues, endorsing broader goals while letting senior Democrats write the specifics on Capitol Hill."
5058008"Obama outlined his goals in a letter to Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairmen of the two committees writing health care bills. It followed a meeting he held Tuesday with members of their committees, and amounted to a road map to keep Congress aligned with his goals. 'The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold,'" Obama wrote, reports the AP.
CONGRESSIONAL TRANSPARENCY: "The House will begin posting representatives' expense reports online, giving the public easy access to records of the millions of dollars lawmakers spend on staff and items such as catering, cars, computers and TVs," report the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Williamson, Louise Radnofsky and T.W. Farnam.
"Separately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) said Wednesday he would introduce a bill requiring the expense records be posted online in the Senate, as well. Such disclosures are 'something that we will take a look at,' said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) ordered the postings Wednesday. ...
"House and Senate lawmakers receive annual allowances of $1.3 million to $4.5 million to run their offices. All the expenditures reviewed by the Journal were legal, and the disclosures complied with congressional rules."
"New Hampshire is the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2010. Lynch signed the bills in a crowded Executive Council chamber less than 90 minutes after the House voted 198-176 to pass HB 73, the final piece of the marriage package. The bills allow any two adults to marry. They also bar lawsuits against religious groups and workers if they refuse to participate in gay weddings or celebrations that go against their faiths."
2012: "Little more than four months into President Obama's first term, potential Republican rivals have begun to stir, taking preliminary steps toward 2012 presidential campaigns aimed at rejuvenating a party that has found itself at its lowest point in a generation," reports the Washington Post's Dan Balz.
"Presidential activity is as much illusory as real at this point, as much an opportunity to feed blog speculation and cable conversation as a sign of actual preparations for a presidential campaign. But at a time when the Republican Party is on its back, out of power in Congress and shut out of the White House, the search for prominent and popular leaders is underway and no better vehicle exists than the long process of selecting the party's next presidential nominee."
PRESIDENT'S OVERSEAS TRIP:
Arab News' Ghazanfar Ali Khan, "Obama seeks closer Saudi ties"
Washington Post's Scott Wilson, "King Abdullah Greets Obama in Saudi Arabia"
NY Times' Michael Slackman, "Egyptians Crave Deeds More Than Words"
LA Times' Paul Richter and Richard Boudreaux, "Some in Congress uneasy with Obama's Mideast policy"
NY Times' Carl Hulse, "Balancing Act for Republican on Court Nominee"
Washington Post's Joe Stephens and Del Quentin Wilber, "Gritty First Job Shaped Nominee"
The Hill's Jared Allen, "Speaker issues ultimatum on climate"
2009 NY-23 Special Election: Watertown Daily Times' Marc Heller, "McHugh can aid would-be GOP successor"
2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Maria Glod and Rosalind S. Helderman on a "bogus claim" from Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, "In Politics, Fact, Fancy Can Blur in Keystroke"
2009 VA Governor: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Clinton returning to Va. for McAuliffe"
2010 MN Governor: Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kevin Duchschere, "Who's in and who's out for governor? Jockeying gets underway for 2010"
2010 CT Senate: Hartford Courant's Christopher Keating, "Greenwich Republican Tom Foley Running Vs. Sen. Chris Dodd"
2010 NV Senate: Las Vegas Review-Journal's Molly Ball, "Reid unveils Republican list of supporters"
2010 NY Senate: CQ Politics' Jonathan Allen and Emily Cadei, "New York Throwdown: Maloney to Challenge Gillibrand in Senate Primary"