Daily Digest: State of the Union, Lebanon, Pugs, some T-Paw cinema

Jessica Van Berkel

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address at 8 p.m. this evening will center on a five-year freeze on discretionary government spending. The President proposed a similar plan in last year’s address. The called-for freeze, intended to help curtail the government’s $14 trillion debt, would not include national security, a White House official said. It would also avoid cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the AP reported.

In delivering the address, Obama will face a divided nation. Politico’s got a six-part breakdown of what he must do to bring unity and up his odds of reelection. Topping the list: redefining the midterm elections, addressing and moving past the Tucson shooting and health care overhaul and offering a “broad-strokes” plan to increase jobs and decrease the deficit.

In an election marking the shift in political power in Lebanon, the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah chose Najib Miqati as the country’s new prime minister. The voting process ends today, but Miqati emerged as the winner yesterday – sparking chaos and revolt from opponents nationwide, The New York Times reported. In a country where rules were primarily set up by Sunni Muslim representatives, the new government pledged to be moderate and work with current state institutions in decision-making, according to the Times.

MinnPost has an in-depth analysis of a House bill to exempt nonprofit animal rescue shelters, hard hit by the economic downturn, from some sales taxes. The story focused on an unruly canine testimony in the House Taxes Committee today … only disappointment in the Minnesota Daily newsroom? Lack of pugs.

In other hard-hitting news, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a likely candidate for the 2012 presidential race, is following up the release of his book “Courage to Stand” with this unbelievably dramatic video clip: