Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Dec 19, 2011

  • A Ruler Who Turned North Korea Into a Nuclear State

    By David E. Sanger, New York Times

    Called the “Dear Leader” by his people, Kim Jong-il, the son of North Korea’s founder, presided with an iron hand over a country he kept on the edge of starvation and collapse, fostering perhaps the last personality cult in the Communist world even as he banished citizens deemed disloyal to gulags or sent assassins after defectors.
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  • Gingrich’s Time of Testing Arrives

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Newt Gingrich had planned a mostly quiet weekend, a short break from the rigors of the campaign trail after a busy week. Instead, he was on the phone all Saturday morning, holding a tele-town hall with Iowans and later a conference call with reporters. He apparently realized he cannot afford to rest when his candidacy is on the line.
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  • EPA Approves Sweeping Mercury Rules for Power Plants

    By Coral Davenport, National Journal

    Addressing a long-standing environmental problem with a major impact on public health, the Obama administration on Friday signed landmark regulations to control mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, sources familiar with the rulemaking have told National Journal. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil the rules early next week, the sources said. Signed by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Friday, the rules will result in the first federal controls on utility emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin linked to developmental disorders in fetuses and young children, lowered IQ rates in populations surrounding power plants, as well as blindness, deafness, and seizures.
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  • SEC Charges Six Former Fannie/Freddie Execs

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

    CNBC's Eamon Javers reports that the SEC is suing six Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives with securities fraud.

    Watch on CNBC

  • Kim Jong-il, North Korean Dictator, Dies

    By Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, New York Times

    Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader who realized his family’s dream of turning his starving, isolated country into a nuclear-weapons power even as it sank further into despotism, died on Saturday of a heart attack while traveling on his train, according to an announcement Monday by the country’s state-run media. Word of Kim’s death sent shock waves through North Korea’s Asia neighbors and reverberated around the world, reflecting the unpredictable outcome of an abrupt leadership change in one of the most opaque and repressive countries. North Korea is technically still at war with South Korea and the United States after nearly 60 years and has few friends besides China.
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  • Obama Professes Satisfaction With Payroll Tax Deal

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    President Obama triangulated, truncated and equivocated on his way to a pale compromise with lawmakers over the payroll tax. On Saturday, with Senate approval behind him and House action a question mark next week, he professed satisfaction with a result that will benefit 160 million Americans -- for eight weeks in 2012. "I'm glad that both parties in Congress came together," the president declared. "And I want to thank them for ensuring that as we head into the holidays, folks at home don't have to worry about their taxes going up."
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  • Cut - Obama Professes Satisfaction With Payroll Tax Deal

    By Alex
  • Gingrich and Romney Tack Right, but Leave a Path Back to the Middle

    By John Harwood, New York Times

    Through the long march of 2011 debates ending last week, Republican presidential candidates have leaned right — so far right, Democrats hope, that the ultimate nominee will fall next November. On Thursday night, in their final face-off before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich denounced President Obama as a “Saul Alinsky radical” while promising “very large changes” for Washington. Promoting his “conservative principles,” former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts slammed Mr. Obama as a “pretty please” appeaser of foreign tyrants who does not understand free enterprise.
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  • Out of Iraq: The Last Convoy

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    ABC's Martha Raddatz's final journey out of Iraq with the last troops to leave.

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    Watch on ABC News

  • Congressional Committees, RIP: 1789-2011

    By Stacy Kaper, Nancy Cook and Jim Tankersley, National Journal

    Committees don’t count in the House and Senate anymore. Almost all important pieces of legislation passed by the 112th Congress emerged not from the traditional process of committee members debating and marking up bills, but from backroom negotiations among party leaders. The latest examples are the compromises on extending the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits hashed out among congressional leaders this week. The declawing of committees and their chiefs, once seen as the most powerful men and women on Capitol Hill, is a direct result of the deadline-busting approach to lawmaking that has dominated this Congress.
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  • Comcast CEO Agrees to Fine for Failing to Report Stock Transaction

    By Pete Williams, NBC News

    The CEO of Comcast Corp., Brian Roberts, has agreed to pay a $500,000 civil fine to settle charges that he failed to notify the government of his acquisition of stock, according to documents filed Friday in a Washington, D.C., federal court. Both Roberts and federal regulators describe the violation as "inadvertent and technical."
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  • Jagged Maps Slice Up Old Alliances

    By Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

    Democratic Party officials in key states are fighting with leaders of one of their most dependable constituencies—African-American voters—as each tries to gain advantage from the redrawing of House district lines. In some of the disputes, black leaders find themselves allied with Republicans, a striking subplot to the once-a-decade redistricting process.
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  • Boehner: House Opposes Senate Payroll Tax Bill

    By Major Garrett and Katy O'Donnell, National Journal

    The Senate’s two-month payroll tax extension is dead on arrival in the House. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made that perfectly clear Sunday morning as he said that Congress will have to negotiate a deal closer to the House-passed one-year extension before members leave for the holidays. “Well, it’s pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill – it’s only for two months,” Boehner said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “If you talk to employers, they talk about the uncertainty. How can you do tax policy for two months?”
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  • An Elusive Victory in Iraq

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    With the final headlong withdrawal this month of U.S. troops from Iraq, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise to end the war. But was the nearly nine-year mission a success? Iraq is still struggling even to ensure its own security. Its air force has no jet fighters, and U.S. officials say it would be unable to detect incoming aircraft in time to stop them. The Iraqi army is improving, but its ability to mount complex operations remains weak. The Iraqis still have a long way to go on intelligence, training and logistics.
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  • House Balks at Payroll Tax Deal

    By Naftali Bendavid and Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal

    House Speaker John Boehner flatly ruled out approval of a Senate agreement to temporarily extend the payroll tax cut through February, leaving uncertain both the tax cut and other year-end business as Congress struggled to finish its work for 2011. Mr. Boehner said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that a two-month extension was a sign of congressional dysfunction. "How can you do tax policy for two months?" Mr. Boehner said. "We really do believe it's time for the Senate to work with the House to complete our business for the year. We've got two weeks to get this done."
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  • As Gingrich’s Star Rises, So Do His Party’s Concerns

    By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

    From the House that Newt Gingrich once ran through the Washington establishment to state capitals across the nation, some Republicans are going public with their concerns that Mr. Gingrich would be a weak general election candidate and a drag on the party’s fortunes if he won the presidential nomination. “Since we don’t know how he got here, I don’t know how he can be stopped,” said Ed Rogers, a longtime Washington lobbyist and party strategist who worked for the first President George Bush.
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Dec 16, 2011

  • Iowa Gov. Skeptical on Gingrich's Qualifications

    With John Dickerson, CBS News

    Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says he doesn't know whether frontrunner Newt Gingrich has the discipline and focus to be president. Scott Pelley discusses what this could mean for Gingrich with CBS News political director John Dickerson.


    Watch on CBS

  • GOP Field Slouches Toward Finish Line

    By John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin

    If the Republican presidential contest were following a classic script, by now we would be seeing signs of that mysterious process — one part reality, one part optical illusion — by which ordinary, hum-drum, life-size politicians manage to transform themselves into different characters. No longer just a bunch of schlumps on a stage, at least one or two candidates would suddenly seem somehow bigger to the eye, their voices more commanding, their claims of fitness for the planet’s most powerful job more plausible.
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  • Gingrich, Romney Ready for Iowa Sprint

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus crystalized the strengths and weaknesses of the chief contenders as perhaps no other event thus far. It reinforced the notion that this is a battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich unless one of the other five can make a dramatic late run.
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  • New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad. But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.
    Listen to Story on NPR