Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Which is sort of the idea behind a new strategy for sharing the burden of fighting climate change. Take a look at the Reuters story on this here.Instead of the two-tier world envisioned by the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol — where developed countries have the lion’s share of responsibility for cutting emissions, while developing countries including China and India have few requirements — environmental strategists from Princeton, Harvard, the Netherlands and Italy say it might be better to track the wealthy, who live in every country.On the grounds that individual rich people emit more carbon dioxide than most other people, these strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming. Rich people in rich countries are likely to hit this cap sooner than rich people in poor countries, so rich countries are likely to have to do something about their emissions before poor countries do. But eventually, every country that emits more than its share will have to take action, under this scenario.At least one conservative blog has taken aim at this plan as a tax on the rich, but that’s not necessarily the idea, according to the study’s authors. They just want policy-makers to have this as an option to help persuade reluctant countries to join a global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions.This report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is meant to help climate diplomats figure out where to go after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. And if negotiators at this week’s climate meetings in Italy at the fringes of the Group of Eight industrialized nations take note, that would probably be fine with the study’s authors too.Photo credits:REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (Luxury yachts are moored in the port of Cannes May 11, 2009.)REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (Security guard stands next to one of Michael Jackson’s limousines on display in Beverly Hills, California April 13, 2009.)
Plenty of current and former U.S. senators had memorable professions before they got to Washington: country fiddler (Robert Byrd of West Virginia), astronaut (John Glenn of Ohio), jewelry-maker (Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado). But none were dogged by a satirical persona, as is already happening to newly-confirmed Democratic Senator-elect Al Franken of Minnesota.Franken, formerly a comedian and writer for “Saturday Night Live,” created the character Stuart Smalley, a cardigan-wearing self-help guru, often pictured gazing lovingly into a mirror and intoning, “I’m going to do a terrific show today! And I’m gonna help people! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”Stuart showed up in many Web headlines noting Franken’s victory in the Minnesota senate race over Republican Norm Coleman, especially those with a conservative bent.”No Joke! Stuart Smalley Headed to Senate” — www.thefoxnation.com“Stuart Smalley Goes To Washington! Al Franken Gives Dems Super-Majority” — www.werushdaily.com“Covering Al Franken: Stuart Smalley Saves The Senate!Commentary: Can Journalists Look Past The Goofy Persona Of The Politician?” — www.cbsnews.comSo we ask you: Is there any way Franken can shed the ghost of Smalley? Does he need to?Franken is lucky in at least one respect. The decision that cleared the way for him to take his Senate seat came during a quiet week in Washington. President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting on health care in the Virginia suburbs. The morning television shows focused — again, still — on Michael Jackson and preparations for a memorial service at his California estate, Neverland. The Mark Sanford saga continues, with sympathy running high for the South Carolina governor’s wife Jenny after Sanford described his Argentine inamorata as his soulmate.For more Reuters political coverage, click here.Photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Miller (Franken and his wife Franni in Minneapolis on June 30, 2009)
There’s a real school’s-out feeling around Washington today. Congress left town last week after the House voted for bill to curb climate change, and most lawmakers won’t be back until after the July 4 holiday weekend. The Supreme Court issues its last rulings of the term, with a full sheaf of decisions expected — but then the justices will be gone for the summer.President Barack Obama’s hosting Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at the White House, with a joint appearance in the afternoon. In addition to a full plate of U.S.-Colombian issues, the two leaders could address last weekend’s military coup in Honduras. Obama has already called for peaceful resolution of “tensions and disputes” but he may have more to say.Later in the day, Obama celebrates the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans at a White House reception. This community has criticized the president for what they see as foot-dragging on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and says states need not recognize gay marriages performed in another state — and the U.S. military’s Don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.On Capitol Hill, even though most members of Congress are back home, there’s one decision most will be interested in — a possible ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court on just who has won a hotly contested Senate seat: Republican Norm Coleman or Democrat Al Franken. If Franken is declared the winner, it would give Democrats a 60-vote majority, which means Republicans can’t delay legislation with a jaw-fest called a filibuster.Outside Washington, questions still swirl around the death of Michael Jackson, with lawyers, doctors, relatives and others opining on morning television about the circumstances of the pop star’s demise, and the fate of his three children.There was plenty of attention focused on an expected day of reckoning set for a New York City courtroom, too: the sentencing of Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. Legal experts suggest he’ll get a virtual life term.Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young. A cyclist rides past magnolias in bloom on Capitol Hill, March 3, 2009
He’s been preparing for this moment since long before he came to the White House, so President Barack Obama might wonder how his Cairo speech to the Muslim world went over. He wouldn’t have to wait long — within minutes after he ended his address, the reviews started flooding in.
The Washington Post said Obama did well, but basically, talk’s cheap: “Perhaps today’s words, from the son of a Muslim, will be viewed as a welcome olive branch. But it’s still just a speech. And even stirring words can’t paper over the seemingly intractable differences in the Mideast.”
Within minutes of President Barack Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia today, a recording by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was played on Al Jazeera television. U.S. television networks showed Air Force One landing in Riyadh and the first images of Obama greeting Saudi King Abdullah, the audio recording from bin Laden took aim. The militant leader accused the Obama administration of “planting seeds for hatred and revenge.”
It was a rough beginning to what could be a challenging visit to the Middle East and Europe by Obama. He spends tonight at the Saudi monarch’s farm, then flies to Cairo tomorrow for a much-previewed address to the Muslim world. He then travels to Germany and finally to France to commemorate D-Day, returning to Washington on Saturday.
If you want to send a message, the old Hollywood saying goes, call Western Union. But environmental activists chose a different medium to get through to climate change negotiators: they put their bodies on the line — in this case, the Alaskan tundra — to spell out “Save The Arctic” and sketch the outline of a caribou.
Members of the Gwich’in Nation gathered last weekend near Arctic Village, Alaska, to send what they called a “Message from the North” to environmental diplomats gathering this week in Bonn, Germany.
Now that Congress is back from its week-long Memorial Day recess, it’s time for the U.S. top brass to hit the road. President Barack Obama heads to the Middle East today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Honduras, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in China and U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke promises a visit to Pakistan this week.
Closer to home, Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor starts making the rounds on Capitol Hill in advance of her confirmation hearings. Meantime, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal faces questions at his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. McChrystal’s nominated to be the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Even though it was expected, it was still a jolt: GM declared bankruptcy this morning, the third-largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history and the biggest ever in U.S. manufacturing.
Unthinkable a decade ago, now General Motors is yet another casualty of the cratered U.S. economy, with taxpayers putting up $30 billion for a 60 percent stake in the company. The GM filing followed just hours after a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of virtually all of automaker Chrysler’s assets to a group led by Italy’s Fiat SpA.
With Congress gone this week and President Barack Obama out of town for most of today, Washington turns to its two traditional inside-the-Beltway sporting events: handicapping a Supreme Court nominee’s chances of confirmation, and watching the nerve-wracking finals of the National Spelling Bee.
Sonia Sotomayor, picked by Obama on Tuesday, is already being praised in an ad by liberal groups and vilified as a racist by conservatives, including radio talk jock Rush Limbaugh, whom the White House has tried to style as the de facto head of the Republican Party. Obama himself stumped for his choice on a Western swing yesterday to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the spotlight today, and it doesn’t sound pleasant. It’s an elaborate case of he-said-she-said, but this version features Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, versus the Central Intelligence Agency in a dispute over what she knew, and when she knew it, about harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects.
It all came to a head at a Capitol Hill news conference on Thursday, where Pelosi accused the CIA of “misleading the Congress” about whether these so-called “enhanced” techniques had been used. But the CIA said last week that Pelosi had been told in September 2002 about the simulated drowning known as waterboarding. Pelosi said she only heard then about legal opinions administration that would have allowed these techniques, not that they had been used.