Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, passed away yesterday at the age of 69 following emergency surgery. Obama called him “a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected,” and Vice President Biden said, “America lost one of its greatest warriors for peace.” Holbrooke’s final words reportedly carried this admonition: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
One year after Obama announced the 30,000 troop surge, the White House will release the much-awaited progress report on the Afghanistan War Thursday. The president will hold a “final strategy session” with military and diplomatic officials today before the report is released nationwide, but according to the White House, Obama “feels confident we’re on the right track.”
The ratings agency Moody’s warned that the U.S. “will put its top level credit rating at risk if Congress extends a sweeping package of tax cuts and unemployment spending.” “Unless there are offsetting measures, the package will be credit negative for the US and increase the likelihood of a negative outlook on the US government’s AAA rating during the next two years,” said Moody’s Steven Hess.
Lawrence Summers, the departing White House economic advisor, said yesterday during his final major address that the federal government must increase spending on highways and other infrastructure, and that Americans’ impulse to save money means the federal government needs to spend more to stimulate economic growth.
“In the face of overwhelming criticism,” RNC Chairman Michael Steele announced last night that he will run for another term. “Yes, I have stumbled along the way,” the gaffe-prone Steele told Republican officials on a conference call, but he vowed, “No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda.”
Republicans sharply criticized President Obama and Democrats last year for hashing out parts of the health care reform bill “behind closed doors,” but they see no problem with the tax cut compromise worked out in secret over the past couple weeks, Politico reports. “I didn’t see anything where they sat down with an individual senator and said, ‘Hey, what do you need to support this?’” explained Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
This week, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abruptly sacked Manouchehr Mottaki, the country’s foreign minister and Ahmadinejad’s chief diplomat since 2005. Analysts said the dismissal signals “a further tightening of Ahmadinejad’s direct influence on foreign affairs” and comes as Ahmadinejad “is increasingly wresting power from Iran’s parliament.”
Yesterday, three gay service members discharged under the DADT policy filed a federal lawsuit seeking reinstatement into the military. The non-partisan Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is representing the soldiers, said the lawsuit puts “Congress on notice that a cadre of service members and our national legal team stand ready to litigate strategically” if Congress fails to repeal DADT.
And finally: Disgraced former GOP lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff has finished his stint working at a Baltimore pizza parlor, after completing his sentence under home confinement. The pizza joint’s owner told the AP “that he enjoyed his time working with Abramoff and the former lobbyist was very helpful. Abramoff worked on marketing and customer outreach for the pizza shop” and may continue to “stop by occasionally” to lend a hand.
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