WASHINGTON Nov 15 Strange characters, quirky storylines and weird happenings out in Alaska.
Anyone hoping for a remake of Northern Exposure would have been disappointed by Sarah Palin's Alaska, her new television series that aired last night and delivered a much straighter diet of "family adventure" and "flippin' fun."
The reality show, which drew a record five million viewers to TLC, showed the human side of a politician who is among the most polarizing in American politics today. It is the kind of positive media exposure money can't buy, and got everyone talking again this morning about whether the former vice presidential nominee will run for the top job in 2012.
Washington Extra is not taking a position on that question. But after watching some of the shots of Alaska, I know where we are planning our next family vacation in 2011.
Finally, since this is Palin's day, more congratulations are in order. Her very own word, refudiate, was awarded 2010 word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary today and came in fourth in a similar list compiled by the Global Language Monitor.
But a shout-out for the DC area too. Snowpocalypse (together with Snowmaggedon), our very own winter blizzard, was listed in a respectable seventh place in the Global Language Monitor list.
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Here are our top stories:
Europe is next test for weakened Obama
If President Obama is not yet convinced that his international star power has faded, his next round of transatlantic summitry should clear up any lingering doubts. His challenge is to reassure European partners that, despite political weakness at home and embarrassing setbacks abroad, he remains committed to better cooperation on issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the fight against trade protectionism. [nN15213101]
Veteran US congressman walks out of ethics trial
Charles Rangel, a former chief tax writer for Congress, abruptly walked out of his own ethics trial, saying he needed more time to get a new lawyer. [nN15270530]
Obama sees prospect of deals on tax cuts, START
President Obama is hopeful of working out a deal with Republicans over tax cuts and of winning ratification of a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia. On his way back from Asia, Obama looked ahead to a dinner he will host on Thursday with leaders of both parties and said he believed opposition Republicans would "engage constructively." [nN14213068]
Liberals in U.S. Congress press on tax cuts
Liberals in the House of Representatives pressed their case against extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, seeking a meeting with Nancy Pelosi on the issue. [nN15260505]
Will Palin TV show translate into presidential run?
Sarah Palin's new television series showing her fishing for Alaskan salmon and scaling a glacier is the kind of free media exposure most politicians can only dream about. Will her reality TV show translate into a Republican presidential campaign? Or will it expose her as a publicity hound lacking presidential gravitas? [nN15265623]
Retail sales jump, signal pick-up in growth
Retail sales posted their strongest gain in seven months during October, adding to signs the economy was regaining strength after hitting a soft patch in the summer. The generally upbeat report from the Commerce Department was tempered somewhat by news that a manufacturing gauge in New York state fell this month to its lowest level since April 2009. [nN15239736]
US eyes government spectrum for wireless devices
The Commerce Department recommended that some airwaves used by federal agencies be freed up to address the burgeoning use of wireless devices. [nN15107455]
In switch, top Senate Republican backs earmark ban
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would join his fellow Republicans in opposing earmarks, bowing to pressure from Tea Party activists who see the special project funding as a prime example of out-of-control government spending. [nN15275415]
Senate urged to quickly ratify New START treaty
Top officials pressed the Senate to ratify the New START nuclear treaty by year's end, saying failure to act would leave Washington with dangerously little information about the state of Russia's atomic weapons. [nN15257308]
What we are blogging:
Jindal's not running for president, but ...
First, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says he isn't running for president. Then out comes his prescription for righting the national economy. Political oracle Karl Rove has anointed Jindal as one of 10 potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012.