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October 2nd, 2011
04:56 AM ET

State of the Union Early Bird for October 2, 2011

(CNN)-It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your coffee.

On our radar this morning: The impact of Anwar al-Awlaki's death, and the 2012 campaign heats up.

Check out what we're reading, and make sure to watch our interview with Dick and Liz Cheney today at 9am/12pm ET.

PRESIDENT OBAMA

Obama Criticizes Republican Rivals in Speech to Gays

"I don't have to tell you there are those who don't want to just stand in our way, they want to turn the clock back, who want to return to the days when gay people couldn't serve the country openly, who reject the progress that we've made," Obama said.

AL QAEDA/NATIONAL SECURITY

Officials: Drone Likely Killed Underwear Bomb-Maker

A Saudi militant believed killed in the U.S. drone strike in Yemen constructed the bombs for some of al Qaeda's most notorious attempted attacks, including the underwear-borne explosives intended to a down a U.S. aircraft and a bomb carried by his own brother intended to assassinate a Saudi prince.

The death of Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri would make the Friday drone strikes on a convoy in the central deserts of Yemen one of the most effective single blows in the U.S. campaign to take out al Qaeda's top figures.

Yemeni al-Qaeda took a blow but remains a threat to U.S.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and terrorism expert, agreed that AQAP will likely remain focused on U.S. targets. He noted that the group’s commander, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was previously a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and embraced the former al-Qaeda chief’s focus on the United States and the West. “He was sitting with bin Laden on Sept. 11 when the World Trade Center came down,” Riedel said. “He’s as committed to attacking the United States as anyone else was.”

As the West Celebrates a Cleric’s Death, the Mideast Shrugs

“When the Obama administration and the U.S. media started focusing on him, that is when Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula pushed him to the fore,” Mr. Johnsen said, referring to the group’s Yemeni branch. “They were taking advantage of the free publicity, if you will. And any stature he has now in the Arab world is because of that.”

Idaho lab concentrates on cyber-security

More than 90% of U.S. infrastructure is in private hands, and except for nuclear power plants, no regulations govern how to secure systems against cyber-attacks. Companies aren't required to report attacks unless they compromise consumers' personal data and trigger state disclosure laws.

Many cyber-attacks go unreported, experts say, because companies fear the financial and public relations consequences of disclosure.

PAKISTAN

U.S. Sends Envoy to Pakistan After Tensions Over Tackling Militant Groups

The U.S. sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to the region as politicians in Islamabad rejected U.S. allegations their country is aiding guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan.

Talk to, not at, Pakistan

The recent accusations against us have been a serious setback to the war effort and our joint strategic interests. It is not as if Pakistanis will stop reclaiming our terrain, inch by inch, from the extremists, even without the United States. We are a tenacious people. We will not allow religion to become the trigger for terrorism or persecution.

But when we don’t strategize together, and when an ally is informed instead of consulted, we both suffer. The sooner we stop shooting verbal arrows at each other and coordinate our resources against the advancing flag of fanaticism, the sooner we can restore stability to the land for which so much of humanity continues to sacrifice.

RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Christie Team Assessing How Fast a 2012 Campaign Could Be Mounted

Chris Christie’s political advisers are working to determine whether they could move fast enough to set up effective political operations in Iowa and New Hampshire in the wake of a relentless courtship aimed at persuading Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, to plunge into the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to operatives briefed on the preparations.

Perry plays a bit of catch-up in New Hampshire

Whether Perry made headway during his two-day New Hampshire tour remains to be seen. He told one crowd that he is boning up on economic matters by consulting with former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and he was scheduled to work on debate preparation with policy experts on his drive to the Manchester airport Saturday afternoon.

Rick Perry suggests US military role in Mexico drug war

Seeking Taxes, Romney Went After Business

But just a few months after Mr. Romney took office in 2003, what he delivered seemed anything but friendly to the C.E.O. crowd: a bill to financial firms for what they saw as $110 million in new corporate taxes — and a promise of more to come.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Police: Hundreds of 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters get tickets

Exclusive: Democrats push tax hikes first in deficit talks

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