- 4 days before leaving WH, Bush directs Rove not to cooperate with Congress on any alleged misconduct during his administration.
"To my knowledge, these [letters] are unprecedented," said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in executive-privilege issues. "I'm aware of no sitting president that has tried to give an insurance policy to a former employee in regard to post-administration testimony." Shane likened the letter to Rove as an attempt to give his former aide a 'get-out-of-contempt-free card'."
Top story continues with Obama’s response.
- Clinton Lawyer On Bush's Exec Privilege Claim: "There's Only One President At A Time".
...Neil Eggleston, who specialized in executive privilege issues for President Clinton's White House ... told TPMmuckraker that, since President Obama has already issued an executive order that appears to take the view that a former president can't assert executive privilege, he's unlikely to back Bush's claim. And assuming things then wind up in court, Eggleston said he'd be very surprised if a court sided with Bush, ruling that executive privilege can be asserted retroactively.
"Remember what Obama kept saying during the transition: 'There's only one president at a time?'" asked Eggleston. "This is one where I think a court's going to decide there's only one president at a time."
- Obama may nix Rove’s "executive privilge": Congress delays Rove’s subpoena deadline:
The hold-off serves the interests of the White House. The Obama administration is scheduled to file a brief on February 18 in the ongoing court case over the House's subpoena of two other senior Bush White House aides, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten. At that time, it will likely indicate whether it intends to back President Bush's claim of retroactive executive privilege on behalf of his aides. So the committee's decision to agree to Luskin's request means the Obama administration has until then to formulate its position.
- Angry senator wants pay cap on Wall Street 'idiots'.
One day after President Barack Obama ripped Wall Street executives for their "shameful" decision to hand out $18 billion in bonuses in 2008, Congress may finally have had enough.
An angry U.S. senator introduced legislation Friday to cap compensation for employees of any company that accepts federal bailout money. Under the terms of a bill introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, no employee would be allowed to make more than the president of the United States.
Obama's current annual salary is $400,000.
"We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer," an enraged McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate. "They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses."
- Giuliani: Corporate plums help keep NYC afloat.
"If you somehow take that bonus out of the economy, it really will create unemployment," he said on CNN's "American Morning." "It means less spending in restaurants, less spending in department stores, so everything has an impact."
- NBC rejects anti-abortion Super Bowl ad portraying Obama as unborn child.
A Chicago-based Catholic organization says NBC-TV won't air an anti-abortion video during Sunday's Super Bowl that portrays President Obama as an unborn child.
...Brian Burch, president of Fidelis, said NBC originally responded to the group's desire to run the spot with a proposal for a package costing $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
Called "Imagine Spot 1," the ad opens with an ultrasound of a child in utero set to violin music.
After detailing the child's future as bleak, the voiceover announces the child will grow up to be the first African-American president of the United States as a photo of Obama flashes on the screen.
- State Dept. to Blackwater: You’re Fired -- $1.2 billion contract won’t be renewed because Iraq refused to license.
The move by the State Department follows the refusal of Iraqi officials to license Blackwater to operate in the country. Officials cited "lingering outrage" over the Sept. 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards that left 17 civilians dead.
Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. No charges were brought against the corporation.
- Leak of classified document about Afghan tactics to shoot drug traffickers without proof forces NATO to backtrack.
The proposal by General John Craddock was criticized by all political parties here for flouting international law and for altering NATO's mission in Afghanistan. Such an order, they said, would signal a major shift in how the alliance intends to deal with the Afghan insurgency and the opium trade that finances the Taliban and other groups fighting the 55,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
- Judge rejects Obama delay request for trial of al-Nashiri accused of planning USS Cole attack.
A military judge at the Guanatanamo Bay detention facility has rejected a request by US President Barack Obama to suspend the trial of a detainee.
The White House said it was consulting the Pentagon and justice department about its possible options.
Judge James Pohl said the request to halt the trial to allow a review by the new administration was "unpersuasive".
- Military Commissions Must Obey President’s Directive, Official Says.
Resolving the issue concerning Nashiri’s legal proceedings at Guantanamo, Morrell said, is a matter for the military commissions convening authority.
"But the bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has made it abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all [legal activity at Guantanamo] is on hiatus," Morrell said.
- Iraq embraces the election that will shape its future - Crucial test for Prime Minister Maliki and democracy as American forces begin withdrawal.
Campaign posters are pasted over the concrete blast walls across Iraq as parties urge followers to vote in today's provincial elections. They will determine the political landscape of Iraq as American troops withdraw.
The last provincial polls four years ago helped ignite the civil war between Sunni and Shia, because the once-dominant Sunni community felt marginalised. Today's ballot, followed by a parliamentary election later this year, will determine which parties will hold power in the Sunni and Shia communities.
- Israeli group to help Palestinians sue over settlements.
An Israeli leftist advocacy group said Friday it was starting a campaign to help Palestinians sue the state of Israel for its use of their privately owned lands for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The campaign, by the Yesh Din organization, which fights for the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, follows the publication Friday in the Haaretz newspaper of classified government data regarding the extent of construction in officially recognized settlements that is illegal by Israeli standards.
Violations include private and public building carried out without appropriate permits or outside of approved plans, as well as the construction of whole neighborhoods on private Palestinian lands in blatant violation of Israeli policy and law.
- Zimbabweans celebrate as Morgan Tsvangirai joins Robert Mugabe's government.
Mr Tsvangirai will become prime minister, in accordance with a power-sharing deal signed last September, and the Movement for Democratic Change's two factions will hold 16 of the 31 cabinet posts. Many of Mr Tsvangirai's supporters are genuinely hopeful and a crowd gathered outside the MDC's Harare headquarters to cheer their leader.
Riot police soon arrived, but instead of wielding their truncheons, the officers grinned as the opposition supporters gave them an open-handed salute – the MDC's official symbol.
- Palestinians to get $20 million in US aid, but leadership in disarray.
Ask and ye shall receive – sort of. Yesterday, the United Nations appealed for $613 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Today in Jerusalem, President Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell said that the US would chip in $20 million.
But Mitchell, who is underscoring Obama’s commitment to restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during his tour of the region, has a far bigger problem on his plate: who will sit across from Israel in any future negotiations.
Israel’s preferred partner is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party. But unfortunately for Israel, its three-week offensive in Gaza seems to have undermined Fatah’s – and consequently Mr. Abbas’s – standing with Palestinians, according to the Jerusalem Pos
- The Financial Crisis Is Driving Hordes of Americans to Suicide: Pushed past their breaking points, people are robbing banks to pay the rent, setting homes on fire -- even taking their own lives.
The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.
- Volunteers fan out to count nation's homeless -- Census is expected to show substantial increase in people on the streets.
In the first major census of people living on the streets since the recession, thousands of volunteers across the United States are fanning out in the thick of night this week to count the most desperate members of their communities.
"I call it the double trouble," said Philip F. Mangano, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. "You would have to be naive to believe that the loss of over 850,000 homes and over two million jobs wouldn't have an impact."
- Homelessness surges as funding falters.
Shelters and related services for the homeless are facing funding shortfalls as the downturn takes its toll on state budgets and corporate donations. And while individual donors in many cases are keeping up gifts — or even digging a little deeper for charities that help with urgent needs like food and shelter — the service providers say they are faced with a rapidly growing demand from people losing jobs and homes in the economic crisis.
- Exxon Mobil shatters US record for annual profit.
Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, breaking its own record for a U.S. company, even as its fourth-quarter earnings fell 33 percent from a year ago.
- U.S. economy posts fastest decline in 26 years.
The U.S. economy shrank at its fastest pace in a quarter century from October through December, the government reported Friday, as consumer spending and business investment collapsed, signaling more economic contraction in the months ahead.
In the broadest official accounting of the toll of the credit crisis, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. While that was less than economists' expectations of a 5.5 percent slide, the decline would have been much steeper - more than 5 percent - if shipments of goods had fallen as sharply as orders.
- Criminal Investigation Launched in Salmonella Outbreak - Peanut Shipment From Plant Linked to Salmonella Was Rejected Before Health Scare.
The federal government has launched a criminal investigation into the Georgia peanut processing plant linked to a national salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 500 people and killed eight, officials said today.
The criminal probe will be carried out by the Food and Drug Administration's criminal division and the Department of Justice.
The FDA said there have been 28 new cases of salmonella-related illness diagnosed since last Sunday.
The investigation came after a fresh report surfaced about bad peanuts coming out of the Georgia plant before the health scare erupted. Today they FDA said it wasn't until that shipment was rejected that the FDA knew this plant was in the peanut butter business.
- Water Pushed to the Limit – World Water Protocol.
When it comes to water, "humanity does not have the full awareness of the danger it is facing and will only act under extreme circumstances. The bad news is that those extremes are drawing near," Manuel Baquedano, president of the Chilean non-governmental Institute of Political Ecology, told Tierramérica.
...At [upcoming world] conference, delegates will discuss the draft of the World Water Protocol, which they want included in the international negotiations of the treaty that is to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change in 2013.
- Air Force drops plan to make fuel from coal in Montana.
The Air Force on Thursday dropped plans to build a coal-to-liquid plant to produce fuel for its aircraft, a plan that would've reduced dependence on oil but ... Liquid fuel from coal produces more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as conventional petroleum-based fuel.
- Scientists hope satellites will solve riddle of missing CO2.
For years, scientists have been trying to solve what they call the "Mystery of the Missing Sinks.''
"Humans dump about 9 million tons of carbon daily into the atmosphere, but only half stays there,'' said David Crisp, principal investigator for NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory.
"We don't know where the other half is going,'' said Crisp, who's based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
To solve the mystery, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are sending up complementary scientific satellites.
The two spaceships will circle the Earth on overlapping paths, more than 400 miles high, analyzing plumes of CO2 rising and falling through the air. (CO2 contains two atoms of oxygen for every atom of carbon.)
- Obama task force to start on green jobs: Have an idea? The administration wants to hear from you.
President Barack Obama on Friday announced a task force that will work to boost the economic fortunes of American's faltering middle class, and its first order of business will be to find ways to create more green jobs.
... The president appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead the task force, which will hold monthly meetings, the first in Philadelphia on Feb. 27.
- NATO chief wants military in Arctic as it thaws.
An Arctic thaw will open up sea routes and competition for lucrative energy reserves in a multinational scramble sure to pose new security threats, NATO's chief said Thursday.
NATO commanders and lawmakers meeting in Iceland's capital said a military presence in the region will eventually be needed as standoffs between powerful nations unfold.
- The "bathtub effect" behind the human-amplified greenhouse effect.
[T]the buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases could leave a profound millenniums-long imprint on climate and sea levels, focuses on a characteristic of global warming that the public, and many policymakers, have not absorbed — at least according to John Sterman at M.I.T.
That characteristic is the "bathtub effect" behind the human-amplified greenhouse effect.
Basically, the atmosphere is like a bathtub with a partially opened drain. Carbon dioxide from burning fuels and forests is flowing in twice as fast as it is being absorbed by plants and the ocean, and some of those "sinks" are in fact getting saturated, it appears, meaning that the "drain" is clogging a bit.
In the climate system, Dr. Sterman says — echoing many climate scientists — it is a loud message that a prompt start is needed in curbing and then cutting emissions if you want to cut the chances of passing dangerous thresholds.
- Lenovo’s New Monitors Are Greenest Available.
Leonvo says the monitor uses a "Light Booster" technology, meaning it consumes up to 50% less power than conventional models. Specifically, the design has been changed to allow the LCD light to be used more efficiently therefore reducing the number of light tubes required to achieve the same levels of brightness.
Beyond its energy efficiency, the Thinkvision L2440p also boasts a 33% reduction in mercury content. It has a list of green certifications includingEPEAT Gold and GREENGUARD.
- Tropical Forests Fight for Survival.
Current rates of deforestation suggest there will hardly be any tropical forests left in 20 years. Sixty percent of the rainforests, which survived for 50 million consecutive years, are already gone.
However, some experts say widespread planting of previously logged forests offers hope for preserving some of the region's rich and unique biodiversity.
- Mexico City braces for water rationing.
Supplies will be cut or reduced to homes in many areas of the capital this weekend, making a scarce resource even scarcer. 'We are running out of water,' an official said.
Water management is one of the most daunting chronic problems, like trash disposal and traffic flow, plaguing sprawling cities across the world. Experts say Mexico has failed to take actions needed to upgrade aqueducts, pipes and treatment plants and has allowed construction projects in areas that should be used for catching runoff and replenishing aquifers.
- Rising acidity threatens oceans.
The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate change by absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally.
Civil Rights News
- Anti-gay marriage donors must be public.
A federal judge on Thursday denied a request to keep the names of donors to California’s anti-gay marriage initiative secret, saying the public has a right to know who’s giving money to state ballot measures.
Supporters of the initiative, which was approved by voters in November, had sought a preliminary injunction to hide the identities of those who contributed to their campaign.
...In his ruling from the bench, England said California’s campaign disclosure laws are intended to protect the public and are especially important during expensive initiative campaigns.
- Flipping finger to cop results in $225 penalty, classes for Somers 19-year-old:
Flipping the middle finger during a traffic stop ended up costing 19-year-old Richard Antonucci $225 and a court-ordered trip to anger-management classes.
Antonucci of Chambers Road in the Baldwin Place section of Somers, was stopped by a state trooper Dec. 20 after improperly fastening his seat belt, authorities said. The trooper ticketed him for the seat-belt violation as well as for not carrying his driver's license, also a violation.
As Antonucci was driving off, he stuck out his middle finger at the trooper, police said. Trooper Philip Nimphius stopped Antonucci a second time and charged him with disorderly conduct, a violation.
- Gorillas' tender moments captured by amateur photographer.
She recalled: "Being with the gorillas was incredibly peaceful.
"Even the occasional testosterone charge and chest beating from one of the Silverbacks didn't detract from the overall tranquillity and despite being with the families for an hour the time flew and was never long enough."