Washington Extra – Fall and rise

June 16, 2011

That’s not hot air emanating from the Capitol today, it’s the huge sigh of relief from the Democratic leadership that Congressman Anthony Weiner decided to resign.

And gone with him are the difficult decisions about whether to strip him of committees or think up other pressure tactics to end the weeks-long distraction.

“Congressman Weiner exercised poor judgment in his actions and poor judgment in his reaction to the revelations. Today, he made the right judgment in resigning,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

On the other side of the world (we think that’s where he is, but we really don’t know) Ayman al-Zawahri got promoted to head of al Qaeda.

The U.S. government acted all nonchalant about the successor to Osama bin Laden. “Frankly, it barely matters who runs al Qaeda because al Qaeda is a bankrupt ideology,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

OK then. But there’s still a $25 million reward out for him.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

U.S. government in cyber fight but can’t keep up

The Pentagon is about to roll out an expanded effort to safeguard its contractors from hackers and is building a virtual firing range in cyberspace to test new technologies, according to officials, as a recent wave of cyber attacks boosts concerns about vulnerability to digital warfare. The twin efforts show how President Obama’s administration is racing on multiple fronts to plug the holes in cyber defenses. Notwithstanding the military’s efforts, however, the overall gap appears to be widening.

For more of this special report by Phil Stewart, Diane Bartz, Jim Wolf and Jeff Mason, read here.

Old worm won’t die after 2008 attack on US military

Three years after what the Pentagon called the most significant breach of military networks ever, new versions of the malware blamed for the attack are still roiling networks. The malware “agent.btz” infiltrated the computer systems of the U.S. Central Command in 2008. But new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Jim Wolf, read here.

Obama hears from Petraeus on Afghan troop options

The top commander in Afghanistan laid out several options for President Obama to reduce the number of troops there, the White House said, signaling a plan would be announced soon. General Petraeus presented recommendations to national security advisers on Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “They discussed a range of options. As I think the general has said in the past publicly, this was a question of options plural and not option. That conversation will continue,” Carney said.

For more of this story by Laura MacInnis and Missy Ryan, read here.

US Senate votes to end $6 bln in ethanol subsidies

The Senate voted to wipe out billions of dollars in support for the ethanol industry. The Senate approved an amendment to end the 45-cent-a-gallon subsidy the government gives refiners and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil and other countries. The amendment will be tacked on to an underlying economic development bill, which faces a difficult time passing the Senate.

For more of this story by Tom Doggett, read here.

US regional factories sputter, rays of hope in jobs

A gauge of regional manufacturing activity slumped to a near two-year low in June, suggesting factories were faltering, overshadowing better than expected readings on the labor and housing markets. While the mixed reports were more confirmation the economy continued to sputter in the second quarter, they also offered evidence that the recovery was on course to regain momentum.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Boehner warns U.S. Congress could cut Libya funds

House Speaker John Boehner warned Congress could cut funding for military involvement in Libya, ratcheting up tension over the NATO-led air war. As criticism builds of the military intervention and the Obama administration’s refusal to ask Congress for consent, Boehner said the White House must better clarify the legal basis for the mission by Friday or lawmakers could take action.

For more of this story by Susan Cornwell, read here.

House Democrats push for vote on China currency

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives said they would try to force a vote on a China currency bill that House members overwhelmingly approved last year but that died in the Senate. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said party members were circulating a “discharge petition” to force Republicans to bring the bill to pressure China to let its currency rise faster in value to the floor. That would require 218 signatures.

For more of this story by Donna Smith and Doug Palmer, read here.

Biden group looks for common ground in debt talks

Negotiators trying to tame the United States’ spiraling debt could get a better sense on Thursday of whether they can reach their goal of trillions of dollars in budget savings. Vice President Joe Biden and top Democratic and Republican lawmakers were to meet in the Capitol to assess their progress.

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

From elsewhere…

Amid lewd photo scandal, Weiner resigns

Representative Anthony Weiner, snared in a humiliating flap for sending lewd photos to women online, resigned, ending a weeks-long scandal that made fellow Democrats cringe. “I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district had elected me to do — to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it,” Weiner told reporters.

For more of this story, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton (Weiner announces he will resign)

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