Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: What was the Nobel committee thinking?

OBAMA/Even before sunrise in Washington, tongues were wagging over the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s choice of President Barack Obama to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. And the big question — aside from whether a first-term president in his ninth month in office has done enough to deserve the award — was, what was the committee thinking?

We know what they say they were thinking. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “When we have a person whose ideals are so close to the ideals of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, we wanted to give whatever support we could to continued action in these fields.”

But if you read the official announcement, it sure sounds like it translates to: Obama isn’t George W. Bush.

There could be other considerations, of course. Perhaps the committee was still irked on Obama’s behalf about the public snub from Arizona State University, which invited the president to speak at commencement but didn’t give him an honorary degree because “his body of work is yet to come.” Obama joked about it when he gave the speech and the university eventually named a scholarship after him.

Or maybe they wanted to steal the thunder from NASA’s moon bomb project, which was ballyhooed by U.S. TV networks and shown live on the morning talk shows. If that’s the case, they needn’t have bothered. The NASA event was a bit of a damp squib, at least visually. If they find water at some point, that would be a different matter and the Nobel folks may have to consider the rocket scientists for a physics prize.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. Religious Left campaigns for climate change legislation

The U.S. "Religious Left" -- which has been active at the grassroots level to support President Barack Obama's drive for health care reform -- has now launched a campaign in support his other major domestic initiative: climate change legislation.

Faithful America, a coalition of progressive evangelical, Catholic, mainline Protestant and Jewish groups, unveiled a video on Thursday urging viewers to "TELL CONGRESS: STOP CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS EFFECTS." The campaign is called Day Six.

You can see the video below:


A climate bill aimed at reducing America's emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming is being crafted in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives earlier this year passed its own version.

The First Draft: Could Obama’s Olympic sprint be a preview of a Copenhagen climate trip?

THAILAND/OK, so President Barack Obama’s lightning jaunt to Copenhagen last week was less than successful. Even with Oprah along, the Cheerleader-in-Chief couldn’t clinch the deal for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. It happens.

But now that he knows the way to Denmark, might the American president consider arguing the U.S. case at international climate meetings in Copenhagen in December? The White House said he might, if other heads of state showed up.

“Right now you’ve got a meeting that’s set up for a level not at the head of state level,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One last week. “If it got switched, we would certainly look at coming.”

from Environment Forum:

Endangered yellow taxi? US climate bill could turn them green

The sweeping legislation unveiled in the U.S. Senate today aims to curb climate change, arguably one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken on this planet. But it's a bill that runs to more than 800 pages, and hidden in its folds is a provision that could turn a noted symbol of New York City -- the yellow taxicab -- green.

And it wouldn't just be in New York. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other major U.S. cities would be able to create taxi fleets made up entirely of hybrid vehicles under the proposed Green Taxis Act of 2009.

Offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who now fills Hillary Clinton's former seat in the Senate, the measure aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 296,000 tons in New York City alone, which its sponsors say would be like taking some 35,000 cars off the road and save drivers $4,500 annually in gas costs.

So what’s the carbon footprint of a motorcade?

World leaders in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly also bring motorcades, gridlock, and idling engines. GERMANY-AUTOSHOW/

So when White House reporters, also in New York following President Barack Obama around, got a briefing on U.N. climate change talks, the question had to be asked.

CBS’s Mark Knoller wondered about the carbon footprint of the summit: could the earnest statements on climate change be undermined by motorcades, gridlock, idling engines?

from Environment Forum:

The Case Of The Forged Letters – a cap-and-trade mystery

A half-dozen fake letters, signed by people who don't seem to exist and who work at made-up jobs, are causing a bit of buzz in the environmental world -- mostly because the letters urged a Virginia congressman to vote against a cap-and-trade system to curb climate change.

The Sierra Club calls it "dirty tricks." The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that the PR firm said to be behind the fake-letter lobbying effort has a history of working against climate legislation. Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs a House committee on energy independence and global warming, said the committee will investigate. The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville published a detailed story.

The congressman, Tom Perriello, voted for the cap-and-trade bill anyway. It passed by a slim margin and the Senate is expected to take up this matter in September.

Row over race hits climate change debate

The battle over climate change in the U.S. Senate spilled into another contentious arena of U.S. politics on Thursday: race relations.

At a hearing to discuss the economic impact of legislation to combat global warming, the head of an African-American business organization accused Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer of being “racial” and “condescending.”

During a tense exchange, Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce said he objected to Boxer bringing up other African-American groups as a contrast to the arguments he was making at the hearing.

The First Draft: Obama’s travels of no help at home

President Barack Obama remains hard at work at the summit of G8 wealthy industrialized nations in Italy on Thursday, while his top domestic initiatives stumble and misfire at home.

Obama’s top legislative priority, a massive overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, has lurched through weeks of intensive horse-trading and positioning on Capitol Hill, where five different committees in Congress are trying to fashion workable proposals that can win initial approval by the August recess.

That timeline appears to be slipping as the effort to attract Republican support, pare the bill’s price tag of at least $1 trillion and find ways to pay for it without broad tax increases has left even some Democrats restive.

The First Draft: Recess!

USA/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.

The First Draft: Block that metaphor

PEOPLE-JACKSON/Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett may no longer be with us, but Congress is still hanging around. Good thing, too, as they’ve got plenty of work to do.

The House of Representatives is poised to vote today on one of the most significant environmental bills in history. It could be a nail-biter as Democratic leaders are still scrambling to ensure they have enough votes to pass the measure, which aims to wean industry off of carbon-emitting fuels blamed for global warming.

After that it has to clear the Senate, where Republicans will have an easier time derailing it if they so desire.