The Obama administration has rejected the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that would stretch from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast. On Wednesday, President Obama said he was turning down TransCanada’s application for the pipeline because there was not enough time to review an alternate route that would avoid the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska. Obama had tried to delay a decision until next year, but Republicans responded by passing legislation forcing a decision by the end of February. Environmental groups have hailed the permit’s rejection, but it does not mark the end of the pipeline fight. TransCanada has already announced it will reapply for a permit based on a different route, and Obama said he was only making his decision based on time constraints, not on the pipeline’s "merits."
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney continues to face scrutiny over his vast personal fortune ahead of the South Carolina primary. ABC News has revealed Romney has hidden tens of millions of dollars in offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands. Romney is said to have invested more than $33 million in more than a dozen funds listed in the Caymans, while his former company, Bain Capital, holds 138 accounts there. Although Romney would still pay U.S. taxes on any investment income, the use of the tax havens would grant him other financial benefits including greater foreign investment.
Romney revealed this week he likely pays a 15 percent tax rate because the bulk of his income comes from investments, a lower rate than what most Americans pay on working wages. On Wednesday, Romney drew new criticism after insisting he will only release his tax records for the previous fiscal year, not the records for a number of years as presidential candidates usually do.
Mitt Romney: "Tradition has been the nominee releases his tax returns in tax season, in April, and I know that if I’m the nominee, people will want to see the most recent year and see what happened in the most recent year and what things are up to date, and so they’ll want to see the tax returns that come out in April. So, rather than sort of have multiple releases of tax returns, why, we’ll wait until tax returns for the recent year are completed and then release them."
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed out that Romney’s own father began the tradition of releasing multiple tax returns.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "Obviously, we think it’s a good tradition, and that’s why then-Senator Obama released his tax records going back, I think, six or seven years when he was a candidate for president in the 2008 election cycle. And I believe—you know, I think it was a tradition that was initiated by then-presidential candidate George Romney, back in 1968, who released 12 years of tax records in ’68, as I understand it."
Republican officials in Iowa are announcing the result of a recount today that has put Mitt Romney’s initial victory in doubt. A new tally now shows former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum in the lead with a 34-vote advantage.
A new study has identified 30 leading U.S. corporations who have spent more on lobbying Congress than they have on paying taxes. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the so-called "Dirty Thirty" paid no federal income taxes while spending more than $475 million on lobbying over a three-year period. Twenty-nine of the firms actually collected tax rebates, and 22 of the firms used offshore tax havens.
Aid groups says thousands of people have needlessly died in East Africa because of a slow international response to early signs of famine. In a new report, organizations including Oxfam and Save the Children say rich nations waited until a food shortage reached crisis levels despite warnings as early as August 2010. Up to 100,000 people are said to have died in the famine, mostly Somalis. Aid officials say they are now gearing up for a looming hunger crisis in West Africa.
The Israeli government appears to be easing off of recent threats to launch a military attack on Iran. On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said any decision to bomb Iran is "very far off." In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States remains prepared to take military action if Iran follows through on a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "We have continually maintained a strong presence in the region to make very clear that we are going to do everything possible to help secure the peace in that part of the world. And so, the answer to your question is that, you know, we obviously always continue to make preparations, to be prepared for any contingency, but we are not making any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation. Why? Because, frankly, we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now."
President Obama is reportedly considering nominating his former top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, to head the World Bank. Bloomberg News reports Summers has expressed interest in replacing Robert Zoellick when Zoellick’s term expires next year. Summers resigned as director of the White House National Economic Council in 2010. His key role under President Obama drew controversy because of Summers’s close ties to Wall Street and his backing of deregulatory polices during his previous White House stint with the Clinton administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an Alabama death row prisoner can have another chance to challenge his execution because of a filing mistake beyond his control. The prisoner, Cory Maples, had missed a key deadline due to a mix-up in the mail room of the law firm representing his case. The decision also enables Maples to challenge his sentence due to ineffective representation.
Victims of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. say the media giant has acknowledged a cover-up of its illegal activity through destroying evidence and lying to investigators. The admission was made as part of financial settlements between News Corp. and 19 victims. They include the actor Jude Law, who will reportedly receive $200,000.