Vogue’s controversial profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has been scrubbed from the Vogue website. The profile, “A Rose In The Desert,” described Asma al-Assad as “glamorous, young and very chic” and characterized her “central mission” as “to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls ‘active citizenship.’” The profile, which went to press as Assad’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, began a bloody crackdown on political opponents resulting in the death of about 9,000 Syrians, has been a source of embarassment for Vogue. The wives of Western U.N. ambassadors have pleaded with Asma al-Assad to persuade her husband to end the violence but so far that request has seemingly been ignored. The article can still be viewed on Presidentassad.net, a pro-Assad website maintained by a Syrian journalist.
– Vice President Biden in a speech later today is expected to challenge presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on foreign policy, saying the former Massachusetts governor would return the United States to “the past we have worked so hard to move beyond.”
– Iran’s envoy to Moscow, Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi, told Bloomberg yesterday that Iran is considering a Russian proposal under which it would halt the expansion of its uranium enrichment work and may allow stricter inspections of its nuclear facilities.
– The U.S. has begun launching drone “signature” strikes against suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen, a new authority approved by President Obama that permits the CIA and the military to launch strikes even when the identity of those who will be killed is unknown.
– A House subcommittee moved to restore funding for a second Virginia-class submarine the Navy struck from its FY2014 plans as part of Pentagon budget-cutting.
– Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been convicted by an international war crimes tribunal of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity through his arming of rebel groups in Sierra Leon in exchange for blood diamonds.
– Purged Chinese Communist Party leaders Bo Xilai wiretapped other top officials, including China’s leader Hu Jintao, a central factor in his eventual fall from grace as his wife came under the cloud of a murder investigation.
– Former Obama administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejoined his old colleagues from the Bush administration — former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley — at their business consulting firm.
Just 10 donors have been responsible for a third of all donations to Super PACs so far this cycle, the Center for Public Integrity reports — four are billionaires and most are Republicans.
Israel?s military chief said he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, “an assessment that contrasted with the gloomier statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pointed to differences over the Iran issue at the top levels of Israeli leadership.” Lt. Gen Benny Gantz, in an interview published yesterday, also said that international sanctions are “bearing fruit.”
Rupert Murdoch admitted to a lack of oversight, but denied any direct responsibility in the British phone hacking scandal at his tabloids. Murdoch said before Parliament yesterday that the scandal had cost him “hundreds of millions” of dollars to clean up.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes today. Taylor supported “a long campaign of terror, murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlistment of child soldiers” in neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war.
President Obama will hold his first official campaign events in Ohio and Virginia on May 5. So far, all the of the president’s speeches have have been considered “official,” though Republicans and some in the media have complained that he’s bending the definition by doing political activity during official visits.
With all of the attention that the Trayvon Martin story has received, one family in Georgia is wondering why the story of their son, Justin Patterson, who was shot and killed by a white neighbor, has not received the same kind of attention and scrutiny.
Family groups on both the right and left have come together to fight for the child tax credit, fearing Republican lawmakers will fail to preserve the full credit. Even the far-right Family Research Council “circulated a Tax Day petition that urged Congress to not only extend the credit but also expand it.”
The White House has given the CIA and the Pentagon “greater leeway to target suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen with drones, responding to worries a new haven is being established from which to mount attacks on the West.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has thrown his support to Mitt Romney, after his first choice (himself) and second choice (Newt Gingrich) did not work out. Perry recently demonstrated little confidence in Romney’s chances in November, saying he would give a “good examination” to a 2016 run.
And finally: This weekend is the annual White House Correspondents? Dinner and among the A-list movie stars and Grammy-winning musicians on the guest list is a dog. That’s right, in a move that some see as a reference to the last week’s “dog wars,” the conservative Washington Times newspaper has invited Uggie, the dog from ?The Artist.?
Under pressure from President Obama and Senate Democrats, House Republicans unveiled their plan to prevent a scheduled hike in interest rates on federal student loans Wednesday, but they probably won’t be counting on the support of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R).
At a debate over the weekend, Akin, who is running for Senate, said involving the government in the student loan process has given the government a “stage three cancer of socialism”:
AKIN: America has got the equivalent of the stage three cancer of socialism because the federal government is tampering in all kinds of stuff it has no business tampering in. So first, to answer your question precisely, what the Democrats get rid of the private student loans and take it all over by the government was wrong, it was a lousy bill, and that’s why I voted no. The government needs to get its nose out of the education business.
Akin isn’t the first Republican to come out against student loans recently, nor is he the first to make the false claim that the government “took over” the student loan process. The reform plan passed by Democrats as part of the health care overhaul did not take over the private student loan industry — as Akin surely knows, there is still a large private student loan industry. Instead, it removed banks from the process that was already managed by the federal government.
Obama used a speech at the University of Iowa to mock Akin yesterday. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared these loans, I’m not kidding here, to a stage three cancer of socialism,” Obama said. “Stage three cancer? I don’t even know where to start. What do you mean? What are you talking about? C’mon. Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”
The Senate began debate on Wednesday to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act, a measure that prevents domestic violence and aids victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Earlier this year, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) led a Republican effort to block renewal of the Act because he objected to the bill’s protections for LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans, causing every single Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against its reauthorization. House Republicans have also refused to take up the measure earlier this year.
Now, the GOP is crafting watered-down proposals that specifically exclude LGBT people, Native Americans, immigrants, and others:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is preparing an alternative that would alter several Democratic provisions. Their alternative would cap visas available to legal and illegal immigrants who suffer abuse at 10,000 a year, compared to 15,000 proposed by the Democratic bill offered by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. It does not specify, as the Democratic bill does, that violence against gays, lesbians and transgenders are part of the act. The Leahy bill expands the authority of Native American officials to handle cases of abuse of Indian women by non-Indians. The Republican substitute permits tribal authorities to go to federal court for protective orders on behalf of abused Native American women.
The base Senate bill would reauthorize VAWA for five years with funding of $659.3 million a year, down $136.5 million a year from the last VAWA act, which expired several months ago. The money goes to such programs as legal assistance for victims, enforcement of protection orders, transitional housing aid and youth prevention programs.
Sponsors of the House bill, which is still being drafted, said it would be close to the Grassley-Hutchison approach. It was introduced by 12 GOP women lawmakers and three members of the Republican leadership, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has refused to say which version of the Violence Against Women Act he supports, but as Attorney General Eric Holder put it, ?For the life of me, I cannot begin to understand why this is something that is a debate within Congress.” ?It is inconceivable to me now that we are in the process of a debate about something that has proven so effective and is clearly so needed for the future. It must be passed, and it must be passed soon,? he added.
Research indicates that domestic violence among same-sex couples occurs at similar rates as domestic violence among straight couples. Unfortunately, domestic violence victims in same-sex relationships are not receiving the help they need due to the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, law enforcement?s failure to identity and properly handle domestic violence cases involving people of the same sex, and the shortage of resources available to victims of same-sex partner domestic abuse. A 2011 report from the National Anti-Violence Project, however, that rates of domestic abuse and violence have increased among couples in the LGBT community and that support and protections for survivors is low. Reported instances of domestic violence increased 38 percent from last year, including seven deaths, while over 44 percent of survivors were turned away from traditional shelters and over 54 percent who sought court orders for protection from abuse were denied.
Opposition is growing to Missouri’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as the state’s Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics joins a teachers’ group in opposing the measure. “This bill, which would prohibit any discussion of issues around sexual orientation in public schools, forbid teachers from addressing bullying based on sexual orientation, and likely ban gay-straight alliances, is clearly harmful to the best interests of the children of Missouri,” Dr. Stuart C. Sweet said. “All children and teenagers need to feel safe in their schools, and HB 2051 takes that assurance away from them. Rather, we would urge lawmakers to institute public policy that will help children feel safe in their schools and will ensure that their voice will always be heard.”
A round-up of the top climate and energy stories. Please post more links below.
At their annual retreat Tuesday morning, Aspen Chamber Resort Association board members voted 11-1 to cut ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of a disagreement over the national organization’s policy of disregarding man’s effect on climate change. [Aspen Times]
Climate change is one of the great challenges of this century, and the country needs a big, realistic debate about policy to address the threat. We encourage Mr. Obama to follow through on his words, giving the issue ? and truly serious ways to deal with it ? the prominence they deserve in this year?s election. [Washington Post Editorial]
Forecast the Facts, the activist group that first confronted GM about its support of climate change doubters the Heartland Institute, now plans to muster a public campaign targeting the Discovery Channel. The purpose: to get Discovery to acknowledge the scientific consensus on man-made climate change in its programming. [Los Angeles Times]
The Obama administration is expected to announce a broad plan on Thursday to foster development of the nation?s ?bioeconomy,? including the use of renewable resources and biological manufacturing methods. [New York Times]
The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has already been reported in France and Belgium and could be migrating north to southern England as winters become warmer and wetter. [The Telegraph]
It started quite calmly but ended with a near riot, as supporters and critics traded applause and insults. Donald Trump, ever the crowd-pleasing showman, the brusque, blunt wheel-dealer, had his wish. [Guardian]
More than twenty companies have signed a partnership agreement to turn the North Sea into a major renewable energy hub focusing on offshore wind power, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is to announce on Thursday. [Reuters]
News Flash! Stay up-to-date on the latest Daily Kos comic, follow on Twitter: @DailyKosComics
A little reminder for people who call gay equality rights "a pet issue."[...]
Read The Full Article:
This week, as the general election campaign ?ramps up? for the umpteenth time, President Barack Obama has been conspicuous about talking to the young folks of America. He?s gone where they congregate?college campuses to talk about student loans and on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to slow jam the news and stand next to ?The Roots,? absorbing their cool by osmosis.
In the last presidential election, young Americans ate up the heaping spoonfuls of hope served to them by the Obama campaign?66 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for him, while John McCain got only 32 percent of the same demographic. By comparison, in 2004, 54 percent of the same age group went for John Kerry, 45 percent for George W. Bush.
But the youth of 2012 are a bit more pessimistic than they were in 2008. According to a poll released late last week, 61 percent of college-age Millennials (the futuristic-sounding name given to the generation born in the late 1980s and early 1990s) are registered to vote, but only 46 percent say that they will likely do so in November. By way of comparison, in 2008, 58.5 percent of the same age group was registered to vote, and 48 percent of them actually did.
All of this begs the question: Why are young people less amped about this election than the last one? Four years ago, the kids were running around in Shepard Fairey shirts, taking semesters off college to live in the sticks and work at campaign offices in battleground states. Everyone was talking politics, but most especially the ?apathetic youth,? as the high-waisted pants-wearing crowd might call them. It wasn?t necessarily high-level policy talk that dominated conversation as $2 beer tabs popped, but rather discussions of the emotional ephemera of politics, the kind of stuff that really makes elections go round. In the fall of 2008, the known world was crashing in around our heads and the national authority figures who could usually muster a comforting lie were alarmingly honest about the dire state of affairs. Is it any wonder that younger voters clung to the easy mythology of Obama? He swaggered onto stages and gave such soaring speeches that one half expected him to announce that Earth had just been saved from an annihilating asteroid. Plus, he was genuinely smart?a quality that comforted people at a time when most stood confounded by the bleak web of financial ruin ensnaring the country. He was the president Millennials grew up watching in movies.
But 2012 is an election with entirely different DNA. A candidate who waxed hopeful on the stump this year would be ridiculed as woefully out of touch, and American youth don?t have quite as many stars in their eyes this year. A survey of Millennials released yesterday by the Kennedy School?s Institute of Politics shows that only one in five 18- to 29-year-olds think that the country is headed in the right direction. If the end of the Bush era in 2008 felt like a new chapter in the chronicle of American history, then the 2012 election is a mere paragraph break, a battle fought by two establishment candidates in a country that feels about as good about itself as Joan Rivers sans makeup.
As if to italicize our lack of progress over the last four years, the issues that have dominated the race thus far are ones that younger voters assumed had already been dealt with. Turns out that we?re not beyond attempts at fear mongering and shaming when it comes to basic issues of women?s health and sexuality, and Trayvon Martin is yet another reminder that we are far from being a post-racial society. But it?s class and economic disappointment that sticks most in the craw. The promised reform of the financial sector hasn?t come to fruition, and while talking about gross income disparity is a start, it remains a basic fact of American life?one that doesn?t seem like it?s heading anywhere any time soon.
If there is any single factor to explain the apathetic feelings towards voting held by American young people, it is the Occupy Wall Street Movement, that amoeba of direct democracy that enraptured the country. This assertion of agency by ordinary Americans is what inspires most right now?a motley crew comprising everyone from union workers to hippies. If Obama occupied the hopeful zeitgeist of four years ago, then it is Occupy that is doing so this year. We certainly didn?t tune in for the cohesive political message. Sloganeering?even of the hopeful, innovative variety?isn?t what people seem to be looking for this year. Turns out, if you camp out and break laws (peacefully), people actually listen to what you have to say?the number of times income inequality issues were mentioned in media stories skyrocketed following the Occupy protests, and politicians scrambled to overhaul their rhetoric.
The institution-less nature of the Occupy beast has something to do with the likely voting numbers of young people. Millennials don?t necessarily see institutions?government, financial or otherwise?as the best or most reliable vehicles for change, so why get all hot and bothered about a candidate or even an election? We?re witnessing a rise in cynicism?the earnestness that was so in vogue among American youth four years ago has calcified. The politicians aren?t messianic figures of change this time around. They?re just politicians, some good, some bad, all a little pre-packaged, a little sanitized.
Don?t call it apathy; the kids are just growing up.