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Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has offered what he calls a “last-choice” option in the impasse over raising the federal debt limit. McConnell’s proposal would require President Obama to seek congressional approval for increasing the debt ceiling by up to $2.5 trillion in three installments. For each request, Obama would have to propose an equal amount in spending cuts to balance out the funds he would be seeking. Administration officials and Democratic leaders say they will review McConnell’s plan. But the proposal faces its toughest challenge in the House, where Republicans say they will not approve any plan that does not impose massive spending cuts.
McConnell’s surprise proposal came just hours after he told the Senate chamber he does not foresee a debt deal so long as President Obama is in office.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “I hope the economists are wrong and that our economy will continue to grow over the next year and a half to buy us time to tackle the problems we face. But after years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office a real solution is probably unobtainable.”
McConnell’s apparent change of heart may have been influenced by corporate pressure. On Tuesday, a coalition of business executives and lobbyists issued a statement imploring lawmakers to strike a deal on raising the debt ceiling or risk harming the U.S. economy. The signatories included hundreds of top executives and groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Business Roundtable President John Engler said, “The business community in large numbers is saying to our leaders in Washington, 'Do your job.'”
The Libyan government is warning it faces a major water shortage if NATO continues to block delivery of needed supplies. Libyan Agricultural Minister Abdul Majeed Al Gaoud said water production has dropped to nearly one-fourth of its levels before the NATO bombing campaign.
Abdul Majeed Al Gaoud: “Out of two million cubic meters a day, the production is only, more or less, about 450,000. Because we were depending since few months, since the main networks have been cut, we were depending just on our power plant in Sariyah. Out of the six turbines in Sariyah power plant, only one right now is working, not because we don’t want to switch on the other five, because the other five needs maintenance, needs spare parts.”
NATO has announced it will continue bombing Libya during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if the Gaddafi regime carries on with attacks. NATO spokesperson Mike Bracken was asked about the bombing with Ramadan approaching next month.
Mike Bracken: “We need to wait and see whether the Gaddafi forces continue to shell and inflict harm on the people of Libya. If they do and we believe that there is risk to the lives of the Libyan people, to the men, women and children could be slaughtered or attacked, then I think it would be highly appropriate for the protection of those lives to continue. And NATO would use the mandate that it has to protect those lives.”
The United Nations’ top official on torture has expressed new concern over the Obama administration’s thwarting of his effort to meet with alleged U.S. military whistleblower Army Private Bradley Manning. In a statement released by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Juan Mendez says: “I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.” Manning was transferred from a prison at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in April. It is widely believed he suffered extreme and unusual confinement in Virgina, including denial of exercise, social interaction, sunlight, and at times forced nudity.
More than 100 environmental activists rallied at the office of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Tuesday protesting a number of carbon-intensive projects throughout the state. The activists called on Schweitzer to halt construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline and end Exxon Mobil megaload shipments bound for the Alberta Tar Sands. Five people were arrested and charged with trespassing and obstruction after they locked their arms in a mock pipeline made of PVC pipe and took up position in a hallway.
Peter Dolan: “I am from Montana. I grew up 60 miles away in Great Falls. And I cherish Montana. I cherish the beauty here. And I know that a lot of people from all of the country think of this as being like God’s country. And it really is like a unique place. And Governor Schweitzer is catering to Big Oil, allowing for bigger and bigger pipelines that are jeopardizing that.” (video courtesy of Murphy Woodhouse)
Gov. Schweitzer eventually agreed to speak to the protesters but refused their calls to renounce support for the Keystone pipeline. The action follows the rupturing of an Exxon Mobil pipeline near Montana’s Yellowstone River earlier this month, leaking as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil.
The British government has joined efforts to block Rupert Murdoch’s bid for broadcaster BSkyB, dashing his hopes of a rapid expansion in television as the scandal over phone-hacking by one of his newspapers grows. The British parliament is expected to pass a non-binding measure pressuring Murdoch to withdraw his takeover attempt. Labour leader Ed Miliband said British lawmakers are responding to public outcry.
Ed Miliband: “This is an opportunity for the House of Commons to show it understands the depth of public concern, it understands the scale of outrage there is, and it understands the fundamental point that we cannot have Rupert Murdoch expand his reach in British broadcasting while these investigations—while these allegations are still being investigated and as they come out.”
Murdoch is now facing pressure in the United States, with calls for investigations of his media conglomerate for possible prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The International Monetary Fund is calling on Italy to adopt a new round of austerity measures in the face of a mounting debt crisis. Italy is expected to become the next European country to seek a bailout from international lenders, following Ireland, Greece and Portugal.
In election news, the Democratic Party has announced President Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised a combined $86 million between April and June, far surpassing a $60 million target. The amount was nearly triple Obama’s personal fundraising record for the same quarter.
Democrats have held on to a House seat in southern California after a bitterly contested race. Democrat Janice Hahn bested Republican Craig Huey for the seat previously held by former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.
The United States has deported a Guatemalan man believed to have been involved in a 1982 massacre that killed 162 people. Pedro Pimentel Rios is accused of murder and human rights abuses for his alleged participation in the Las Dos Erres massacre. A former member of Guatemala’s notorious U.S.-backed special forces, Pimentel Rios is believed to have taken part in killing scores of Guatemalan villagers, including women and children who were strangled, beaten with sledgehammers, and thrown down a well. Pimentel Rios is the fourth former Guatemalan death squad member living in the United States to be linked to the massacre and subsequently targeted for deportation.