Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic effort to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." On Tuesday, Democrats fell four votes shy of the sixty needed to advance a defense authorization bill that includes the ban’s repeal. Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas sided with Republicans in the 56-to-43 vote. The outcome also stalls a separate provision that would allow undocumented young people a chance at citizenship, called the DREAM Act. Senate Democrats say they expect another vote before the end of the year.
President Obama’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, is stepping down. On Tuesday, the White House said Summers will leave his post as director of the White House National Economic Council before the end of the year. Summers’s tenure at the NEC had marked a return to the White House following his stint as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton. His key role under President Obama has drawn controversy because of Summers’s close ties to Wall Street and his backing of deregulatory polices that helped cause the economic crisis. According to Bloomberg News, the White House is considering naming a "prominent corporate executive" to replace Summers in order to counter Wall Street criticism that the administration is "anti-business."
New details have emerged on the Obama administration’s internal divisions over the direction of the Afghan war. In a new book out next week, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward reports several top White House officials doubt Obama’s Afghan strategy will succeed. Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, and his special envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Hoolbrooke, are quoted in the book saying they don’t think the US strategy is tenable or matches Obama’s views. The doubts over Afghanistan have fueled personal attacks among White House officials. Vice President Joe Biden is quoted calling Holbrooke "the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met." Despite expanding the war earlier this year with an additional 30,000 troops, Obama is described as having initially pressed his advisers to devise a strategy that could avoid a major escalation. Obama is quoted saying he believes he has "two years with the public" to turn around the Afghan war and reportedly asked officials to devise an "exit strategy" if he doesn’t. The book’s other revelations include the disclosure the CIA has been operating a 3,000-strong Afghan paramilitary force known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams that have carried out covert operations inside Pakistan. Woodward also reports Obama has maintained or expanded fourteen intelligence orders issued under President Bush that provide the legal grounds for covert CIA operations worldwide. And Woodward cites US intelligence reports that claim Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been diagnosed as manic depressive.
In Afghanistan, the US-led NATO force is facing calls to release two Al Jazeera camera operators arrested this week. On Tuesday, Mohamed Nader was seized after NATO troops raided his home in southern Kandahar. Nader’s daughter recounted the arrest to Al Jazeera.
Daughter: "We heard gunfire in the middle of the night. We were petrified. We started screaming and calling for dad. When he went out to see what was happening, they beat him badly, and they took him with them."
Nader’s arrest comes two days after another Al Jazeera journalist, Rahmatullah Naikzad, was detained in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province under similar circumstances. In a statement, Al Jazeera called the NATO arrests "an attempt… to suppress [our] comprehensive coverage of the Afghan war."
At least twenty-eight people have reportedly been killed in three US drone attacks in the Pakistani region of South Waziristan. The deaths come amidst a record month for US drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed an estimated eighty people.
The Pakistani government continues to appeal for aid to address massive flooding that has displaced over ten million people. Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country faces a crisis of "biblical proportions."
Shah Mehmood Qureshi: "We face the most devastating monsoon floods in our history, a calamity of biblical proportions. One-fifth of our nation is submerged underwater. This is a land mass larger than Italy or the United Kingdom. This calamity has struck when the whole nation is united in fighting terrorism and extremism, not withstanding its enormous cost. Yet despite the double jeopardy of terrorism and floods, we are determined not only to survive, but to prosper."
At least ten people have been killed and dozens wounded in a bombing on a military parade in northwestern Iran. The parade was one of several being held in Iran today to mark the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
The attack comes after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the UN on Tuesday with a call for a new economic system. Ahmadinejad said capitalism is coming to an end.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "The third millennium should be the millennium with the pursuit of a new order based on pure and righteous governance all over the world and in the centers of power. Now that the discriminatory order of capitalism and hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and are getting close to their end, all-out participation in holding justice and prosperous interrelations is essential."
Ahmadinejad’s speech was disrupted after UN workers stopped providing English translation, blaming a technical glitch. He’s set to address the General Assembly again on Thursday.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, one Palestinian has been killed and five wounded in clashes with Israeli settlers. The fighting broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Israel has sought to demolish scores of Palestinian homes to build an archeological park.
In Canada, a leader of the June protests against the G20 summit in Toronto has been arrested for speaking at a public event on a college campus. Toronto police say Alex Hundert’s appearance on a panel violated one of his bail conditions that he not take part in a political rally. Hundert recently spoke out about his bail conditions in an interview with Submedia TV.
Alex Hundert: "No, I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t — on the one hand, I don’t think it’s — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with refusing to be silenced. I think that’s really important. But, I mean, it’s also being done under the conditions where I recognize what the police are doing, that there is no actual breach of my conditions. They’re trying to scare us. It’s standard harassment and intimidation. And again, that’s something that the police do all the time. The police are always intimidating and harassing people and their communities when people are, you know, saying things that the police don’t want them to say."
Hundert must remain in jail until his next bail hearing two weeks from today.
In related news, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit over the mass arrest of twenty-five protesters at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009. The suit says police illegally disrupted a peaceful gathering, arrested people who were trying to follow police orders, and used excessive force including the gratuitous firing of pepper spray and rubber bullets.
Former President Jimmy Carter is causing a stir after comparing his record since leaving office to that of other living former presidents. In an interview with NBC News, Carter said he has played a "superior" role.
Jimmy Carter: "I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents, primarily because of the activism and the injection of working of the Carter Center into international affairs and, to some degree, domestic affairs, on energy conservation, on environment and things of that kind. We’re right in the midst of the constant daily debate."
In a statement, Carter said he had misspoke, saying, "What I meant was, for 27 years the Carter Center has provided me with superior opportunities to do good." Carter made the comments as part of a media blitz to promote his latest book, a memoir of his presidential term. In a previous interview, Carter also criticized the late Senator Ted Kennedy for blocking his efforts to push through healthcare reform. Carter said Kennedy effectively thwarted healthcare reform as part of a personal effort to impede Carter’s political career.
And scientists are warning record-breaking temperatures this year are threatening the world’s coral reefs. According to the New York Times, coral reefs are experiencing widespread bleaching, or losing their color, as a means to survive. It’s only the second time in history the bleaching has occurred. An estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died in 1998, the hottest year on record. Scientists say the bleaching could herald a new round of widespread die-offs, endangering ecosystems and fisheries that supply food to millions of people.