Congress is showering schools with $10 billion to bring back teachers who've been laid off. States are rushing to submit their applications to qualify for this unexpected summer windfall for school districts. The Education Department estimates the measure will save 160,000 jobs. The GOP says it's a gift to teachers' unions.
Rep. Charles Rangel regaled his colleagues in the House this week with his version of his ethics case. But Rangel's defense sidestepped many of the facts in the case, which in combination with another against Rep. Maxine Waters, is causing Democrats major headaches in this election season.
The story in GQ quotes an unnamed woman as saying during college, Rand and a friend once blindfolded her, tied her up, drove her to their house and tried to force her to smoke marijuana. The Republican Senate candidate denied the incident happened and said he hasn't ruled out a lawsuit against the magazine.
The president signed the measure into law just hours after the House passed it in a special one-day session during what would normally be the lawmakers' summer break. The bill aims to protect 300,000 teaching and other nonfederal government positions from budget cuts.
Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, 86, who was killed in a Monday night plane crash, wielded outsized clout in the Senate, usually on behalf of his vast state. Though infamous for his fiery temper and often cranky demeanor, Stevens was not strongly partisan: He was first and foremost an appropriator.
Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in a remote part of southern Alaska, served in the Senate longer than any Republican in history. During his four decades as a senator, he become known as "Uncle Ted" in Alaska for the work he did for the state.
The House of Representatives was supposed to be on break all this month, as lawmakers hit the streets in their home districts, campaigning for this fall's elections. But members have been summoned back for a one-day session, and the partisan campaign atmosphere is coming to the Capitol with them.
A runoff between two Republicans in Georgia's race for governor pits Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich against each other. Not literally, of course. But Palin is backing Karen Handel, while Gingrich is behind former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal. Palin and Gingrich are each considering a possible run for the presidency. If Gingrich is unable to beat back Palin in his home state, it could affect his decision on whether to run.
John Denham (Response, 4 August) makes a powerful case for opposition to the coalition's plebiscite on electoral reform, but the issue of the size of constituencies still has to be properly addressed. Like most MPs I hold regular advice surgeries – three a week in my case – and I see an average of 190 people each month. Of these the vast majority are not on the electoral register and would not even be counted when calculating the size of a constituency.
The reason for this is that the two main reasons for coming to see me are immigration and housing. In the case of the former they cannot vote as they have no settled status in the country, and in the case of the latter they cannot be registered if they are homeless. I have heard of MPs who refuse to see people who are not registered to vote but that seems to me to be a pretty shabby way of operating. I will, however, be penalised for my actions, as only those actually on the roll will count towards the new constituency and the very considerable number of people in addition to those mentioned above who are entitled to vote but, for a huge variety of reasons, resist registration will also remain uncounted.
I'm not looking for an urban exemption but for the coalition to look at the issue as it is, and not through the rosy prism of a settled Liberal Democrat/Tory constituency where housing is a problem of second homes, and immigration difficulties relate to the au pair's visa.
Steve Pound MP
Lab, Ealing North
President Obama has detected “rumblings” that global sanctions against Iran are slowly prodding the country to rethink its nuclear ambitions, though he conceded that Iran continues to pursue a fully-fledged nuclear weapons program.
Obama said this after dropping by a Roosevelt Room briefing that senior administration officials were holding for a small group of reporters and columnists yesterday. His attendance was not advertised. He stayed for about 20 minutes, and his remarks were on-the-record.
The session, as envisioned by his aides, was designed to convince his audience that Obama’s policy of engagement joined with sanctions is having the desired effect of isolating Iran from the international community even as the country’s pursuit of a bomb has not abated. Iranian proliferation will be a key topic of debate at next month’s United Nations General Assembly, and Israel continues to believe that nuclear proliferation in Iran is the singular existential threat to the Jewish state.
Acknowledging that it was difficult to divine the intentions of Iran’s senior leaders, most importantly the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, twice Obama spoke of Iranian nationalism as a potential motivator, one that he acknowledged he could not change. He spoke frankly about the delicate dance of diplomacy that persuaded China and Russia to support unusually punitive sanctions against Iran.
“Changing their calculus,” the president said of Iran, “is very difficult, even though this is painful for them and we are beginning to see rumblings in Iran that they are surprised by how successful we’ve been. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t working actively to get around it. But the costs of the sanctions are going to be higher than Iran would have anticipated six months ago, even three months ago.”
“It may be that their ideological commitment to nuclear weapons is such that they’re not making a simple cost-benefit analysis on this issue,” Obama said. If Iran’s “national pride” drives their policy, “then they will bear the costs of that.” The president said he would use “all options available to us to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region and to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran” — the euphemism for military strikes.
A few days ago, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said on state television that he was ready to meet Obama “face to face” in a televised debate: “man-to-man — free and in the presence of media — to put
the issues of the world on the table.” Obama said he’d be willing to consider bilateral meetings so long as allies were on board and nuclear issues were front and center. On Tuesday, Iran’s foreign minister called for “transparent” discussions between the two nations.
Obama’s theory of the case for preventing Iran’s proliferation arises from two central premises. One, by engaging Iran, the United States would no longer be seen as the aggressor. “It wasn’t initiated because we were naive about it,” Obama said. “It was to send a message to the world community that if they were acting in a reasonable way, we were prepared to work with them.”
Secondly, the U.S. would isolate Iran by making the concept of nonproliferation “an international norm and value.” That gives the United States “the moral high ground when we argue that Iran, too, has to meet its international obligations.” China and Russia, which had developed significant economic and political ties to Iran, had to be convinced that it was in their long-term interests to dissolve those ties given evidence that Iran was proliferating. Obama wanted to give the two countries a better offer: “Leverage,” he said.
For economic sanctions, leveraging Russia “was the only way that we could ever get China to go along with the same thing.” The resulting sanctions “are as tough as anything that’s even been in place,” Obama said, noting that the European Union and the U.S. had layered sanctions on top of what the United Nations decided earlier this year to impose. Iran has a way out, he said. There is a “clear path.”
Obama said this even as administration officials fanned out across the world in an effort to build support for U.S., EU, and UN sanctions, and a day after the U.S. government imposed its first penalties on companies that did business with Iran under the new sanctions regime.
A procession of senior administration officials decoded some of the president’s careful language.
The sanctions were designed to exploit Iran’s over-reliance on its paramilitary force, the IRGC, for ways to evade the sanctions, and to prevent its oil industry from obtaining the foreign investment necessary for development. A U.S. official said that Iran was recently forced to abandon an effort to develop an oil field because the IRGC didn’t have the expertise and the country could find no subcontractors who were willing to risk the penalties imposed by the sanctions.
“By continuing to expose their evasions and deceptions, we create the dynamic of a private sector reticence to do business with them,” another official said, as well as disquiet within Iran’s business community and its middle class.
Iran is not enriching enough uranium to produce a bomb; its centrifuges were outdated and its efforts to obtain newer ones are crimped because of the sanctions. An official said that the U.S. believes that Iran is at least a year away from having enough fissile material to explode a nuclear weapon: “Given the technical problems they’re running into, I think we have time to play out the diplomatic strategy that the president laid out, both engagement and pressure.”
The administration believes that Russia was persuaded to change its posture on sanctions in part because Iranian officials lied to Russian officials about the extent of their program. “The Russians were surprised by the Qum disclosure,” an official said, referring to the secret uranium enrichment plant that had been discovered by Western intelligence agencies. Iran “invested several years of efforts in building the Qum facility. Interestingly, after it was exposed, they’re not even moving quickly to finish it.”
Haley, a state assemblywoman, leads Sheheen, a state senator, by 49 percent to 35 percent with 4 percent preferring some other candidate and 12 percent undecided. In late June, she had led by 52 percent to 40 percent with 3 percent preferring another candidate and 5 percent undecided.
Haley is better known statewide at this point than Sheheen, thanks to the attention received by the GOP primary race. Only 9 percent say they don't know enough about her to be sure of their opinion compared to 17 percent for Sheheen.
Of those who do have an opinion, 66 percent see Haley favorably compared to 25 percent who do not. Forty-nine percent regard Sheheen favorably while 34 percent do not.
Haley is benefiting from a much stronger level of support from voters in her own party compared to Sheheen. She gets 82 percent Republican backing while Sheheen gets 68 percent of Democrats. Sixteen percent of Democrats are undecided compared to only 6 percent of Republicans.
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