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Morning Briefing: February 2, 2012

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"Morning Briefing: February 2, 2012"

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced yesterday that the U.S. and NATO plan to end the Afghanistan combat mission by the end of 2013. “Hopefully, by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise and assist role,” Panetta said, so that “2014 then becomes a year of consolidating the transition.”

Yesterday, President Obama unveiled his housing plan to help millions of homeowners refinance their mortgages by giving those who are up to date on mortgage payments a chance to refinance at lower rates, “even if they owe more money than their homes are worth.” The plan could help about 3.5 million homeowners and would cost between $5 and $10 billion.

Five GOP senators are trying to stop the automatic defense cuts triggered by the super committee’s failure to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. Their bill, to be released today, is expected to be similar to a proposal by House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), who introduced a bill to halt the first year of sequestration cuts by slashing federal jobs.

The hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers spread to News Corp’s flagship paper in the U.K., the Times of London, Thursday. A Labour Party MP disclosed that Scotland Yard had confirmed its investigation into a 2009 incident at the Times, when an employee allegedly “gained unauthorized access to an email account.”

A new poll in Nevada shows that Mitt Romney has a large lead in the state ahead of Saturday’s GOP caucuses. According to the poll conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV, 45 percent of likely caucusgoers support Romney. Newt Gingrich comes in second with 25 percent, Rick Santorum is third with 11 percent, and Ron Paul is fourth with 9 percent.

Donald Trump is expected to announce at a press conference today that he is endorsing Gingrich. The endorsement is surprising after Trump had been hinting about running as a third-party candidate.

While Mitt Romney’s campaign relied mostly on deep-pocketed donors giving large sums, once again small-dollar donors are propelling Barack Obama’s campaign. The president has raised more from small-dollar donors than Romney received from all of his contributors.

Presidential campaign-focused Super PACs raised $49 million through December 2011. To match that amount in individual donations, it would take 39,250 people each giving the legal maximum.

And finally: Snooki slammed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Twitter after he called her and her fellow “Jersey Shore” cast members “losers.” “No thanks,” Snooki wrote about the prospect of voting for him, though she voted Republican in 2008. “I’ll stick w Obama.” Meanwhile, Hoboken’s mayor has refused to allow the diminutive reality TV star to film a spin-off in her city.

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