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Today's news...


From NBC's Mark Murray
"Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, long said to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to them at a military hearing held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon yesterday," the New York Times says. "He also acknowledged full or partial responsibility for more than 30 other terror attacks or plots."

The House Appropriations Committee will today vote on a spending bill calling for the Iraq war to end by September 2008. Per the AP, "House Democrats confidently predicted they can pass [the] bill … even as their counterparts in the Senate struggle just to get their war debate off the ground."

As the Senate began debate over its own Iraq measure, the White House "immediately issued a veto threat, even though the measure is considered unlikely to win final passage. The administration's statement denounced the Democratic plan in forceful terms, declaring that it would 'embolden our enemies' and 'hobble American commanders in the field.'"

The Washington Post examines the Administration's inconsistent statements in the controversy over the fired US attorneys. "The conflict between documents released this week and previous administration statements is quickly becoming the central issue for lawmakers who are angry about the way Gonzales and his aides handled the coordinated firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year."

The Politico: "The furor over the replacement of eight federal prosecutors reveals how radically the Republican wipeout in November, coupled with a looming presidential election, have transformed Washington politics. Three new dynamics have given the scandal its punch and foreshadow a brutal political season: Democratic presidential candidates eager to confront the administration; congressional Democrats whose requests are now demands; and GOP presidential hopefuls reluctant to associate with -- much less defend -- a wounded president."

In an interview with the New York Times, Hillary Clinton said that if elected president, she would keep a reduced US presence in Iraq "to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military… In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of "bringing the troops home." 
The Los Angeles Times becomes the latest to delve into Barack Obama's childhood in Indonesia, reporting that his former Catholic and Muslim teachers and two childhood friends "say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both of the schools he attended. That registration meant that during the third and fourth grades, Obama learned about Islam for two hours each week in religion class." Obama's campaign responded "that the friends were recalling events 'that are 40 years old and subject to four decades of other information.' Obama's younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended the mosque only 'for big communal events,' not every Friday."

(We have to ask this question, though: Are the childhoods of presidential candidates fair game for investigative reports?)

As McCain begins his Straight Talk Express tour through Iowa today, the Washington Post asks if he can regain the magic from his 2000 bid. "As McCain departs today … he is hoping to regain the front-runner status that has slipped away from him and rekindle the insurgent spirit of his first presidential bid."

With Arnold Schwarzenegger poised to sign a bill into law today that would move California's primary up to February 5, 2008, the Wall Street Journal says the move "is likely to give Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger greater cachet on the national stage next year, particularly in influencing which Republican is nominated for president."

And The Politico adds that DNC chairman Howard Dean "has been meeting with world leaders to repair 'the extraordinary damage' that the Bush administration has done to America's image and to prepare the way for a new Democratic president."