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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it is "unlikely" the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Russia will be resolved in the next 24 hours so the two world powers will instead issue a joint statement agreeing to continue the expiring nuclear arms START treaty until the new agreement is inked.

Gibbs said President Obama spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and they agreed on the statement, which the Kremlin has already sent out a day early.

The treaty expires Dec. 5 and the statement agrees to keep with what is in place now for an indefinite period.

Gibbs declined to discuss the sticking points but said he believes they can "work through" them and come to a new agreement.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today's unemployment figures are the best released in the last 22 months.

"The numbers today show that we continue to make much needed progress in getting this economy going again," Gibbs told reporters in his morning gaggle. "We are clearly moving in the right direction."

He said there will still be "bumps" ahead and credited the $787 billion economic stimulus plan with improvements to the unemployment statistics. Gibbs said President Obama is "pleased" the jobless claims were lower than expected but added that Obama believes any jobless claims are "too many."

Conservative and moderate Democrats met with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) last night to discuss possible changes to the Senate health care bill, including the potential need for a public option compromise.

Attending the meeting were key health care swing votes Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and a number of freshman Democrats, including Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Begich (D-AK).

The meeting resulted in few revelations, or major developments--"Generally speaking I didn't hear anything that changes my mind," Lieberman told reporters. But afterwards, I asked Landrieu whether she's concerned that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)--a public option stalwart--might not be willing to compromise on the public option any further.

"Senator Brown knows what we know, that we've just got to try to find a way forward, and we're going to continue to work with him," Landrieu said. "He's put in a tremendous amount of time and effort."

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Senate Majority Leader is already facing an uphill climb as he attempts force health care reform through an irascible Senate in Washington. But a new poll shows that fight could be nothing compared to what he faces back home in Nevada. In a new Mason-Dixon poll of Nevada voters out today, Reid has just a 38% approval rating -- and is losing in a hypothetical matchup with both of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination.

It's not news that Reid is facing a tough reelection battle. But the new poll today shows he's made very little progress in regaining the trust of his constituents after weeks of trying.

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Last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at what she called the "sobering" issue of private contractors in Afghanistan, who, according to the military's latest figures, number 104,100.

As we've reported, the contractors do the logistical and security work that make the war possible, and most of them are in fact Afghan nationals.

Here's the Maddow segment, which also touches on the recent controversy over ArmorGroup security contractors in Kabul doing Vodka shots out of a ... well, human luge. Watch the segment below (or click here if the embed isn't working):

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The RNC issued the following press release regarding the November unemployment numbers 8:30 a.m. Friday. Here's the full text:

"Yesterday, President Obama hosted a 'jobs summit' at the White House in an attempt to convince the media and the American public that his administration is concerned with unemployment. Unfortunately this so-called 'jobs summit' was not about creating jobs - it was about creating a distraction to hide the fact that President Obama has managed to create more bureaucracy in Washington than jobs for American families. More than 11,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of November, meaning more than 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs since the stimulus passed, and the national unemployment rate remains in double digits. If President Obama is truly interested in job creation, then he should stop campaigning for reelection, stop pushing 'Stimulus II,' and start working with Republicans on common-sense conservative solutions."

Sarah Palin has now endorsed the Birther cause, telling a right-wing radio host that "the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue" -- and she even seemed to suggest that that the McCain campaign should have gone there last year.

Radio talker Rusty Humphries gave Palin questions submitted by his listeners, including this one: "Would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran?"

"Um, I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that," said Palin. "I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think enough members of the electorate still want answers."

Palin implied that the McCain campaign should have used this issue in 2008, discussing her long-standing complaint that the campaign didn't go hard enough on Obama: "I think it's a fair question, just like I think past associations, past voting records, all of that is fair game. You know, I gotta tell you, too, I think our campaign, the McCain-Palin campaign, didn't do a good enough job in that area."

Palin has done a pseudo-backtrack in her Facebook account, denying that she in any way called on Obama to produce his birth certificate or suggested he wasn't born in the United States -- which would seem to contradict the plain text of what she said in the interview:

Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I've pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point - not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews - have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

Hillary Clinton: People Weary Of War, 'But We Cannot Ignore Reality' Speaking at NATO headquarters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the necessity of continuing the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. "Today, our people are weary of war. But we cannot ignore reality," said Clinton. "The extremists continue to target innocent people and sow destruction across continents. From the remote mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, they plot future attacks. As Secretary General Rasmussen said earlier this week, `This is our fight, together.' And we must finish it together."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will depart the White House at 9:15 a.m. ET and Andrews Air Force Base at 9:30 a.m. ET, arriving at 10:20 a.m. ET in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He will tour the Allentown Metal Works at 10:50 a.m. ET, delivering remarks and holding a discussion on the economy at 11:50 a.m. ET. He will depart Allentown at 4:05 p.m. ET, and will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:50 p.m. ET, and back at the White House at 5:05 p.m. ET.

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New reports for the final weeks of the Virginia governor's race show the Republican Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell dramatically outspent Democratic State Sen. Creigh Deeds before crushing him in a landslide.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group that posted all the data covering from Oct. 22 to Nov. 26, Deeds spent $1.8 million while McDonnell spent $3.8 million.

Deeds had $91,590 in his campaign account as of Nov. 26 and McDonnell had nearly $600,000 left in his account.

More detail from the Washington Post here.

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