– According to the U.S.-led forces, this fighting season in Afghanistan distinguished itself as the first in five years where the insurgency there did not ramp up its number of attacks.
– Michael Leiter, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, warned yesterday that assessments that al Qaeda was on the verge of collapse lacked “accuracy and precision.”
– Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair strongly criticized the White House’s reliance on drone strikes and for backing away from efforts to integrate the intelligence community.
– An aid to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters that a meeting of Iraqi political leaders to discuss if U.S. troops should stay past the year-end deadline had been cancelled.
– Syrian activists are hoping to use the nightly festivities centered on Mosques during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to step up protesting activities.
– The U.N. Experts Group on Somalia and Eritrea released its report, which highlighted militant groups as the “single greatest obstacle to humanitarian assistance in Somalia,” where the U.N. recently declared a famine.
– African Union Forces say they’ve surrounded most of a large marketplace in Mogadishu where al-Shabab militants are blocking aid from reaching refugees.
– The death of Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Fattah Younis brings uncertainty for Benghazi, the defacto rebel capital, as residents worry that the a weakened rebel military might be left vulnerable to Muammar Qaddafi?s army.
Effects of Congress’ impasse over the debt ceiling are being felt in short-term credit markets, as big banks and companies yanked $37.5 billion out of money market funds that invest in U.S. Treasury debt and other safe securities. “It’s a big deal, no doubt about it,” said one market tracker. “If this were to continue for another week or two, it would be very disturbing.”
House conservatives are angry that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) included $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants. The conservatives wanted to see funding cut, while it was actually increased to allow the program to finance its maximum grants.
Tea Party leaders announced yesterday that they will target four GOP “Tea Party defectors” who declared yes-votes for Boehner’s debt plan. Tea Party Express, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Founding Fathers, and United West are targeting GOP Reps. James Lankford (OK), Allen West (FL), Mike Kelly (PA), and Bill Flores (TX) because they say a plan that does not enact great spending cuts or pass a balanced budget amendment enables a “debt ceiling giveaway.”
The News of the World, the scandal plagued British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, allegedly hacked the phone of a woman whose 8-year-old daughter was murdered by a repeat sex offender in 2000. Scotland Yard added the mother, Sarah Payne, to their list of probable victims Thursday. Payne’s charity, in a statement: “Today is a very dark day for us.”
A new poll finds that 40 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance during the debt-limit negotiations. While his overall approval rating is at 52 percent, Obama’s position in the debt deal edges out House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at 31 percent approval.
Yesterday House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) argued that President Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling as a last resortto prevent default. Hoyer joins a growing chorus of Democrats who are encouraging Obama to use the Constitution if negotiations in Congress fail. He told MSNBC it’s “better to take the action and find out later that perhaps he went beyond his authority but at least protected the credibility of the United States of America.”
The powerful seniors’ group AARP is endorsing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) deficit reduction plan over Speaker John Boenner’s (R-OH). In a letter, the group commends Reid’s decision to leave entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security intact and argues, “This plan would resolve the current debt ceiling crisis which has created great anxiety among our members.”
An AWOL soldier who allegedly had refused to fight in Afghanistan was arrested near Fort Hood in Texas, as authorities suspect he was plotting an attack on the base. Pfc. Naser J. Abdo may face federal charges after bomb-making materials were found in his hotel room.
And finally: Long-shot presidential candidate Gary Johnson is known for being fit — he’s triathlete who has climbed Mount Everest — and couldn’t help but take a pot shot at Newt Gingrich’s physique when asked who was the fittest candidate. Agreeing he was the fittest, Johnson asked, “Who else?? He quickly added, ?I?m sorry. I take that back. I forgot about Newt. What was I thinking??
by Stewart Boss
At a time when many conservative lawmakers are strongly opposing renewable energy and denying the science of climate change, it?s interesting that the Department of Defense ? the nation?s largest energy user, representing 80% of federal sector energy consumption ? remains fully committed to reducing energy consumption and developing renewable energy technologies.
Given the massive scope of these initiatives, perhaps no other federal agency is pushing toward a clean energy economy more decisively than the U.S. military.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between the DoD and the Department of Energy (DOE):
Energy efficiency can serve as a force multiplier, increasing the range and endurance of forces in the field while reducing the number of combat forces diverted to protect energy supply lines, as well as reducing long-term energy costs.
DoD is also increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve energy security and operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the DoD from energy price fluctuations. Solving military challenges through innovation has the potential to yield spin-off technologies that benefit the civilian community as well.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), E3G and Operation Free hosted a Hill briefing titled ?More Fight, Less Fuel? on Wednesday with top military and civilian experts to provide an in-depth analysis of the DoD’s ambitious goals.
Although the military is looking at how climate change could impact operations, the rationale for action has more to do with getting access to secure resources. Thomas Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, acknowledged the DoD?s position that climate change ?may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict,? but described the consideration of climate change as a ?second-order effect? of the military?s green energy innovation.
What?s abundantly clear is that the military?s commitment to clean energy innovation is motivated by a desire to save money and improve the DoD?s bottom line. Sherri Goodman, Executive Director of the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, said:
These programs, by and large, particularly the energy programs, are going to be saving the military departments money in a year of declining defense budgets, so it would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut too deeply.
In a White House blog post from July 15, Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, pointed out that ?a $1 rise in the price of a barrel of oil translates to approximately $130 million over the course of a year? at the DoD. And on Wednesday, Hicks quipped, ?The best kilowatt-hour is the one we don?t use,? as he emphasized that the military is counting on the ?stream of savings? from reduced energy use.
In the last year, the U.S. military has launched substantial and cost-effective initiatives to meet these energy challenges. And yet, despite strong objections from DoD, GOP House members recently voted to block funding for Section 526, which bans the federal procurement of alternative fuels with higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fossil fuels as part of extensive and bipartisan energy legislation that passed in 2007.
Earlier this week at Politico?s ?Energy & The Presidency? debate, Sen. John Barasso (R-WY) lamented ?the cost to the economy of subsidizing the green jobs at the expense of what I call the red, white and blue jobs.? Barasso has been a vocal critic of President Obama?s promotion of ?green jobs while penalizing red, white and blue energy sources? ? which to him means Big Oil and King Coal.
Later Wednesday, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) pushed back on Sen. Barasso?s dirty energy version of patriotism:
This could be our greatest legacy, not just for the military but for America in general, to find a way to be more energy self-reliant. I think green and clean, combined with traditional fossil fuels, is the new red, white, and blue. There?s nothing more patriotic that we could do than to ensure that we?re energy self-reliant going forward into the 21st century.
Conservatives opposing further investment in military development and deployment of clean and efficient energy technologies are, to borrow a phrase from Goodman, the definition of ?penny-wise and pound-foolish.?
Eager to score ideological victories by denouncing the reality of climate change and rejecting the existence of readily available climate solutions, Republicans aren?t grasping that cutting spending for an investment that would save energy and money over the long haul doesn?t equal ?fiscal conservatism.?
? Stewart Boss, intern with the Energy and Environment team at the Center for American Progress
EESI produced a great fact sheet for the event with an overview of the major initiatives of the DoD, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, as well as a summary of relevant federal legislation and executive orders and a map sampling of projects pertaining to efficiency and renewables at installations in the U.S. today. You can listen to the audio from the event here.
National Review’s immigration guy:
Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham are again scheming to pass an amnesty. Has South Carolina ever had a worse senator? Has any other state?
Seriously? South Carolina? How about John C Calhoun? Or, indeed, any random white supremacist like Burnet Rhett Maybank:
Although he was a New Dealer, Maybank’s eyes were lightly cysted with the Southern?and more precisely, the South Carolina?point of view, e.g., he fought for public housing for years, then early this year tried to kill the whole program when he realized that Negroes might be admitted to developments where whites would live.
Heaven forbid Lindsey Graham make it easier for people born in Mexico to live and work in peace in the United States.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) became the highest ranking current elected official yesterday to say that President Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment to invalidate the debt ceiling if Republicans continue to hold the nation’s economy hostage until it is too late. “Very frankly, if it came down to his looking default in the eye on Tuesday or taking this action, as President Clinton said, it would be better to take the action and find out later that perhaps he went beyond his authority but ? protected the creditworthiness of the United States of America.”
Echoing his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) teed off on House Republicans’ brinkmanship on the debt ceiling, saying intransigent GOP congressmen are willing to risk destroying the county’s economy to get what they want. Voinovich told Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson:
“They?re playing Russian roulette and all the chambers have a bullet.” [...] “They?re flamethrowers. ‘We’re going to get what we want or the country can go to hell.’”
I think at this point, there?s nothing that can pass the House of Representatives. … I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.
Even House Speaker John Bohener (R-OH) admitted that “a lot” of his caucus members are willing to unleash economic “chaos” to get their way on the debt ceiling.
“The economic impact of severe weather events is only projected to grow,” Senator Dick Durbin said at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and Government, which he chairs. “We are not prepared. Our weather events are getting worse, catastrophic in fact.” [Reuters]
Unrelenting rain pounding Seoul, South Korea, and the southern part of the country is causing historic flooding and extensive landslides, killing at least 57 people, including 13 university students killed by a landslide while doing volunteer work. [SkyNews; Chosun Ibo]
North Korea‘s state media issued almost real-time updates of the havoc wreaked by the flooding from July 12 to 17, but it has fallen silent since. [Chosun Ibo]
The 2007 wildfire on the North Slope of the Alaska’s Brooks Mountain Range released 20 times more carbon to the atmosphere than what is annually lost from undisturbed tundra. [Science Daily]
As much of Texas suffers through one of its worst droughts, many rain-starved Texans are doing something they thought they would never do — looking forward to the arrival of a tropical storm. [Reuters]
What is almost certain to become the warmest July on record in Philadelphia already has been blamed for at least 25 deaths in the region, including six announced Wednesday. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
The death toll in St. Louis from the heat wave is has reached 13 victims, pending confirmation of two suspected cases. [STLToday]
Overnight storms dumped a record amount of rain on parts of the Midwest, including more than 10 inches falling on Dubuque, Iowa, prompting fears of more Mississippi River flooding. [Reuters]
Yesterday, NARAL Pro-Choice America released the first of what would be several reports analyzing how the potential GOP presidential candidates threaten women’s access to reproductive services. As Julie Rovner notes, “For the first time, many, if not most of the candidates have come out not just for the defunding of Planned Parenthood (which is at least arguably about abortion). Some have also voted against ? and spoken out against ? any kind of federal funding for contraception,” which the overwhelming majority of women support (and many) rely on. Below is a small compilation of their records:
– MICHELE BACHMANN: Bachmann has cast 12 ?anti-choice? votes during her time in Congress: the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, prohibiting the District of Columbia from using local revenue to provide abortion services for low income women, and blocked the Food and Drug Administration from using funds for testing, approving or regulating the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone. In the Minnesota state Senate in 2001, she co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to block public funding of any organization associated with an organization that provides, counsels or refers for abortion.
– RICK SANTORUM: As a member of the House of Representatives, Santorum cast 27 ?anti-choice? votes on reproductive-rights related issues; in the Senate he cast 72 out of 74 ?anti-choice? votes. “He has voted for ‘personhood’ rights of an embryo, in favor of the Federal Abortion Ban and in favor of two Supreme Court and six lower court justice nominees with outspoken anti-abortion rights positions.”
– MITT ROMNEY: Romney’s record is mixed, as the former Massachusetts governor has shifted to his current anti-aboriton position. “In 2005 he vetoed a measure that would have increased access to emergency contraception by allowing pharmacists to dispense the pill without a prescription. From 1998 to 2006, the state used ‘abstinence-only’ funds for public service announcements, not classroom courses.”
– TIM PAWLENTY: While in Congress, “Pawlenty co-sponsored a bill that criminalized some abortion services and carried a 15-year prison sentence for doctors. As governor, he signed into law a measure that prohibits organizations receiving state funds from referring women for abortion services.” He has also signed several pro-choice measures, including “a bill ensuring access to emergency contraception for rape victims, a bill improving access to family-planning services for low-income women and a bill expanding Medicaid to cover more pregnant low-income women in Minnesota.”
– JON HUNTSMAN: As governor, “Huntsman signed into law measures that established a state fund to defend abortion restrictions in court, criminalized some abortion services and required minors seeking abortions to notify their parents even if they come from purportedly ‘violent, abusive, or neglectful homes.’” Huntsman also enacted pro-choice reforms: “a bill that promotes sexually transmitted disease prevention by establishing a public education campaign and a bill that ensures that sexual assault victims receive information on and access to emergency contraception.”
It’s grimly hilarious and depressing that, just as House Republicans are using the debt ceiling fight to go after Pell Grants, the need-based college assistance program, they also decided to use this moment of national tension to try to cut $10.6 million out of the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. This is rearranging deck chairs on the Titantic, but with extreme malice. Fortunately, 55 Republicans stood up and voted with all of their Democratic colleagues to preserve the funding. I’m obviously supportive of public funding for the arts. But I’m also just depressed by these public displays of unseriousness and pettiness. $10.6 million in cuts will not save the nation, but it would halt a lot of revenue- and salary-generating projects.
Monica Potts writes that a Utah lawsuit alleging that the state’s anti-bigamy law is unconstitutional “is a nightmare for liberals and conservatives alike.” For conservatives, it’s clear. But what’s liberals’ problem? Well, we allegedly “fear that by basing his case on Lawrence, Brown gives fodder to conservatives who argued that gay marriage would open the door to polygamy.”
The more I think about this the more I think there’s actually less at stake than it first seems. Marriage is a special kind of legal category, one that has traditionally only been open to heterosexual couples. The demand for marriage equality is essentially the demand that that exact same legal status be open to gay couples. But it’s just not possible for polygamists to be granted “equality” in that sense. Marriage as a legal status is a relationship between two people. A state could create a legal status for more than two adults to form a household together, but it would certainly half to be a different kind of thing. But just because we might not want to create a legal polygamy category doesn’t mean that we need to ban polygamy. After all, there’s something just profoundly weird about the idea of making polygamy illegal. It’s not illegal to have an affair. It’s not illegal to have an open relationship. It’s not illegal to live in a house with more than one woman. Even in states that don’t recognize same sex marriages, it’s not illegal for a gay couple to have a marriage ceremony and start referring to themselves as married. Almost every possible set of household arrangements is legal, except for a person to refer to himself as “married” to more than one person simultaneously. Why do that? We could just…not do it without creating any recognized legal category for polygamists.