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February 5th, 2012
04:45 AM ET

State of the Union Early Bird for February 5, 2012

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

On our radar:  Mitt Romney wins handily in Nevada, but his opponents vow to carry on.

Check out what we're reading, and watch our interviews today with Governors Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and Martin O'Malley (D-MD) today at 9am/12pm ET.



Nevada caucuses 2012: 5 takeaways

Conservatives are still, as a group, resistant to Romney, and yet they can’t settle on a single option they want to rally behind. Santorum and Gingrich have, over the last two weeks, suggested that the other bow out in order for conservatives to get behind one person. But the hour is growing late for conservatives to make their voices heard, beyond a protest non-Romney vote, and with a specific candidate.

Gingrich Patron Could Have a Plan B: Romney

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino executive keeping Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes alive, has relayed assurances to Mitt Romney that he will provide even more generous support to his candidacy if he becomes the Republican nominee, several associates said in interviews here.

Gingrich campaign paid off some debts, still owes $600,000

Fundraising by the former House speaker’s campaign has stepped up markedly since then and Gingrich just last month cut by half the $1.2 million owed in October 2010. Still, several outstanding creditors remain.

At the end of last year, he owed a total of $1.19 million


Russia, China veto U.N. action on Syria; opposition group calls for strike

U.S. Ambassador Rice said the United States was "disgusted" at the veto by Russia and China.

Referring to Russia, she said, "This intransigence is even more shameful when you consider that one of these members continues to deliver weapons to Assad."


Afghan civilian deaths hit record high in 2011, U.N. report says

Last year was the deadliest for civilians in the decade-long U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, according to a U.N. report released Saturday.

The report said 3,021 civilians were killed in 2011, an 8 percent increase from 2010. It was the fifth consecutive year that the number of deaths has increased.

The conflict last year also had an unprecedented impact on refugees, forcing 185,632 Afghans from their homes in 2011, an increase of 45 percent from the previous year.

U.S. Plans Shift to Elite Units as It Winds Down in Afghanistan

The United States’ plan to wind down its combat role in Afghanistan a year earlier than expected relies on shifting responsibility to Special Operations forces that hunt insurgent leaders and train local troops, according to senior Pentagon officials and military officers. These forces could remain in the country well after the NATO mission ends in late 2014.

The United States has about 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, with 22,000 of them expected to leave by this fall. No schedule has been set for the pace of withdrawal for the 68,000 American troops who will remain, although some administration officials are advocating for Mr. Obama to order another reduction by the summer of 2013.

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