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A federal appeals court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from the country’s largest polluters. An industry group called the Coalition for Responsible Regulation had filed lawsuits challenging the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon emissions from vehicles and industrial pollution from new power plants. The lawsuits questioned the EPA’s guiding basis that greenhouse gases can “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” The three-judge panel also upheld the Obama administration’s inaugural car and fuel economy standards, which aim to cut new car pollution in half and double fuel efficiency by 2025. In a statement, the group Earthjustice said: “We hope this decision reinforces the EPA’s resolve to move forward with standards to rein-in carbon pollution and other harmful gases from new and existing sources.”
The Obama administration has granted TransCanada permission to build part of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands through Texas. TransCanada said Tuesday it was still awaiting permits from two other districts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but hoped to begin construction on the pipeline later this summer. President Obama had rejected initial plans for the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year but later pledged to fast-track approval of the southern portion stretching from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. On Tuesday, activists delivered well over 100,000 signatures calling on Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson to stop the pipeline’s approval. Activists have also pledged a series of nonviolent direct actions against the project this summer, saying the pipeline would poison local communities and destroy the environment.
At least five people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan. Unnamed officials say the victims were militants, but the Obama administration’s criteria are so expansive they could include any adult male in a war zone — unless proven otherwise after death.
More than 100 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday as President Bashar al-Assad warned the country is in the midst of an all-out war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 68 civilians, 41 soldiers and seven rebel fighters were killed in nationwide violence. Assad issued his warning while meeting with new cabinet members.
President Bashar al-Assad: “As I said in my speech in parliament, we are living in a state of real war from all angles. When we live in such a situation, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war.”
The top United Nations investigator for Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, is warning human rights violations by both sides of the Syria conflict are increasing. In a new report, Pinheiro said both government forces and rebels have committed extrajudicial killings and torture and that sectarian killings are now becoming a growing reality. The fighting is quickly descending on the capital Damascus. On Tuesday, rebels broke into a pro-government Syria television station near Damascus, killing three people.
Tensions are also on the rise with Syria’s neighbor, Turkey, following Syria’s downing of a Turkish fighter jet. On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged the plane had briefly violated Syrian airspace but called the shooting “a hostile and heinous attack.” Turkey says the plane entered Syrian airspace by mistake, but there has been speculation it may have been on a spying mission. In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance fully supports Turkey in its standoff with Syria.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security and human life.”
In Sudan, protests against austerity measures and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir are continuing amid an ongoing crackdown by government forces. Protests against government austerity and rising food prices began earlier this month with student demonstrations at Khartoum University but have since spread across the country and led to calls for an end to Bashir’s 23-year regime. In a report Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Sudan is using the protests as an excuse to crack down on dissent by arresting scores of protesters, journalists and opposition members, beating people, and firing rubber bullets and live ammunition on demonstrations.
Senate leaders say they have reached a bipartisan deal to avoid a doubling of low-interest rates on federally subsidized student loans. The rates were reduced to 3.4 percent in 2007 but were set to double for new loans on July 1 unless Congress intervenes. Under the agreement, federal subsidized student loan rates would stay at 3.4 percent for another year, with funding come from increased premiums on federal pension insurance. In a concession to Republicans, part-time students would now see limits on the number of years they can receive subsidized loans.
Two veteran lawmakers held on to their seats Tuesday in primary votes. Six-term Republican Senator Orrin Hatch fended off a Tea Party challenger in Utah to seek re-election in November. And in New York, 22-term Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel defeated his challengers to seek another term.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into donations made to tax-exempt groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that may have been illegally funneled into lobbying and political efforts. Unlike so-called super PACs, tax-exempt groups like the Chamber do not need to disclose their donors, despite heavy involvement in political campaigns. On Tuesday, Schneiderman issued a subpoena to executives at a Chamber of Commerce-linked foundation that may have illegally funneled millions of dollars for the Chamber’s political and lobbying activities. The probe marks the first in years to examine tax-exempt groups, which are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this election year on advertisements attacking political candidates.
Colorado’s devastating wildfire grew worse on Tuesday as record heat continued to hamper efforts to contain the blaze. Another 32,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes as the fire spread. It is said to be the worst wildfire in Colorado state history. Colorado Springs Fire Chief Randy Royal said the dry weather conditions are the worst he has ever witnessed.
Randy Royal: “In the 26 years I’ve been here, this is probably the worst weather conditions that I’ve seen. Very dry. We haven’t had any moisture for a long time. The hundred-degree temperatures that we have are record temperatures for the Colorado Springs area. So all those coming together are kind of the perfect storm to make this a bad, bad fire.”
The city of Stockton, California, is set to become the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy. On Tuesday, Stockton officials said talks with creditors have broken down at the end of a three-month deadline for a deal to be reached. The city has a long-term debt of $700 million and has already laid off many workers, including a quarter of its police force. City attorneys could file for Chapter 9 protection as early as today.
New figures show 130 members of Congress have financial ties to hundreds of millions of dollars in stock in companies lobbying on measures that came before their committees. According to the Washington Post and Open Secrets, the lawmakers traded up to $218 million in 323 companies registered to lobby on bills that came before Congress.
A separate investigative report from the Washington Post shows 34 members of Congress made major changes to their financial holdings after speaking with top administration officials during the peak of the financial crisis. In January 2008, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner moved up to $100,000 from a mutual fund into a safer investment the day before the Bush administration unveiled a $150 million stimulus package.
The University of Virginia has reinstated ousted president Teresa Sullivan less than three weeks after forcing her to step down. On Tuesday, the U-Va. governing board reversed its opposition to Sullivan following a lengthy uproar from students and faculty. Sullivan’s firing had been seen as an attack on academic freedom, with corporate-tied board members leading the push for her removal. Sullivan drew opposition from the board and the school’s rector, Helen Dragas, over her apparent reservations about cutting programs’ budgets and her emphasis on consensus building versus imposing top-down change. But her firing sparked outrage from students and faculty, leading to protests, walkouts and threats of resignations. The reversal of her ouster has been called an unprecedented development in higher education. The uproar has forced the resignation of the school’s vice rector, Mark Kington, who played a key role in Sullivan’s ouster. Rector Dragas is also facing calls to step down, but she insists she will remain in her post.
The filmmaker and essayist Nora Ephron has died at the age of 71. The writer of a number of successful romantic comedies, including “When Harry Met Sally,” Ephron was seen as a pioneer for women in film.