Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Executive Action Report: 08/05/2009–08/11/2009

August 12, 2009

Wednesday, August 5

  • President Obama visited Indiana to highlight the progress of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Indiana has received $400 million in recovery fund grants.
  • Before leaving for Indiana, the President made a statement on the release of two journalists from North Korea. He thanked former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore for their efforts to secure the release of the journalists.
  • The Associated Press reports that the Department of Transportation has not provided data it has collected on the “Cash for Clunkers” program. The Associated Press requested the data last week in order to verify claims made by the administration about the program’s impact. The White House is asking Congress for an additional $2 billion in funding for the program.

Thursday, August 6

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Executive Action Report: 07/29/09 – 08/04/09

August 7, 2009

Wednesday, July 29

  • The United States and China concluded two days high level discussions on a range of topics, although little concrete results were revealed. China stated it would be sending a high ranking general to visit the United States, and welcomed the U.S. to do the same, although China warned the United States against repeating arms sales to Taiwan.
  • President Obama signed legislation renewing sanctions against the military regime of Myanmar, following Congress’ authorization last week.
  • President Obama held a town hall meeting intended to pitch his health care proposals to consumers. Telling stories from his campaign days, Obama attempted to clarify his proposals for a government run, public option for health care.
  • After extensive negotiations, the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of Conservative Democrats, and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives reached an agreement on health care legislation. The agreement will allow the bill to move forward, potentially to be voted on in September.
  • In a speech, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano outlined a new strategy to educate and incorporate the public as an asset in terrorism prevention.

 

Thursday, July 30

 

  • Despite efforts by the Obama administration to trim the Defense Department’s budget, the House of Representatives passed funding for various projects which the administration has threatened to veto, including an expensive new line of presidential helicopters.
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Professor Gates and Sgt. James Crowley over a glass of beer, at the much anticipated “beer summit.” The meeting was intended to calm inflamed tensions over the arrest of Professor Gates and President Obama’s comments.
  • The House of Representatives passed far-reaching legislation to reform food safety laws, empowering the FDA with new authority to issue recalls and requiring more stringent and frequent inspections of factories.
  • The over-whelmingly successful “Cash-for-Clunkers” program was almost suspended as funds were running out after only a few days. The program was intended to continue until September, however the program’s estimated maximum of 250,000 cars sold had already been reached.
  • The United States, through U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, signed a United Nations treaty protecting the rights of disabled persons, which had previously been rejected by the Bush administration. The Obama administration will present the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Friday, July 31

  • Two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, which brought to an end the deadliest month for American forces in the eight-year war. Casualities have spiked due to the Obama administration’s push into the southern provinces, held by the Taliban.
  • The new national Gross Domestic Product figures showed less loss than anticipated, greatly improved over the previous quarter, which has increased speculation over the decline and end of the recession.
  • The Obama administration was reviewing the “Cash for Clunkers” program, in hopes of extending it with additional funds. The program proved to be wildly popular and ran out of funds in only a week of operation. The House of Representatives later approved an additional two billion dollars for the depleted program.
  • Saudi Arabia rejected calls from the United States to lessen sanctions on Israel, in exchange for a freeze on Israeli settlements in Palestine, as a step towards peace negotiations. The prime minister rejected the Obama administration’s “incremental” approach, and claimed that the core issues must be dealt with first.
  • The House of Representatives voted to impose limitations on pay and bonuses for Wall Street executives, following disclosure of rampant bonuses given with taxpayer money.

Saturday, August 1

  • The White House promised to honor “Cash-for-Clunkers” auto sales through the weekend, despite depleted funds and waiting for a Senate vote to extend more money to the program.
  • An expected half a million unemployed will exhaust their government benefits by the end of September, and 1.5 million by the year’s end, according to a new report. 

Sunday, August 2

  • On a tour of numerous nations in Africa, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is expected to announce increased civilian and military aid to the struggling nation of Somalia. Clinton will meet with the interim president of Somalia, which is intended to continue to show support for the beleagured government.
  • President Obama stated that the United States economy will take “many more months” before it clears the current recession. He warned that joblessness will continue to increase in the next weeks, and the current recession is worse than previously expected.
  • Showing the signs of the success of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, the Ford Motor Company posted its first monthly sales increase in two years.

Monday, August 3

  • President Obama and Congress engaged in discussions considering whether to enact economic sanctions against Iran if it fails to respond to the United States’ offer for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • President Obama hailed the passing of the first GI bill since 9/11 as an ‘investment.’ The bill will provide public funding for four years of public college for eligible veterans, which would include a stipend and money for books. The new plan offers $78 billion in benefits over the next ten years, making it the most comprehensive since the original GI bill signed by President Roosevelt.
  • In an interview with Al Qaeda’s media operation, Osama Bin-Laden’s deputy claimed a conditional truce offer remained on the table to the United States, provided it meets Al Qaeda’s demands. The demands include the withdrawal of all troops from Muslim lands and support from certain regimes.
  • Following Saudi Arabia, the country of Jordan also rejected calls from the United States to ease tensions between the countries and Israel by lessening sanctions and beginning a dialogue. Jordan sharply criticized the eviction of two Palestinian families in the increasingly controversial Israeli settlements.
  • The Obama administration renewed its campaign promise, stating there would no tax increases on those making less than $250,000, despite increased speculation over the cost of the administration’s health care proposals.

Tuesday, August 4

  • The new secretary general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen, called for an increased European presence in the war in Afghanistan, citing that it would achieve an ‘increased balance in the alliance.’
  • The Obama administration launched a new internet initiative to combat misplaced rumors about their health care proposals, creating a three minute video which discusses some of claimed misconceptions. The initiative continues the recent expansion of the debate beyond Washington, into the mainstream media through television and internet advertising.
  • Former President Bill Clinton negotiated the release of two American journalists who had been convicted in North Korea, and were serving sentences in prison. The trip was private and not an official dialogue between the two nations, however, former President Clinton delivered a message from President Obama for Kim Jong Il.

Executive Action Report: 07/22/2009–07/28/2009

July 29, 2009

Wednesday, July 22

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Executive Action Report: 07/15/09 – 07/21/09

July 27, 2009

Wednesday, July 15

  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted in favor of a health care bill containing a public health insurance option. The vote tally was 13-10, divided almost exactly down party lines.
  • The Obama administration reversed a Bush administration policy, allowing foreign female victims of domestic and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The administration revealed its position in a filing in an immigration appeals case, recommending asylum for a Mexican woman who suffered severe spousal abuse.
  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate in favor of the newly revised Real ID bill, that would require national standards, but lowers the burden placed on individual states. The legislation would be implemented by December 31, of this year, and would create national driver’s licenses that would be required for airplane travel.
  • Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke in a speech on his trip to China stated that the trade imbalance between China and the United States is not possible in the long term, urging the opening of Chinese markets. Also travelling in China, , Energy Secretary Steven Chu stressed, in a speech at Tsinghua University, the importance of stemming global warming and China’s growing role in making the problem worse.

Thursday, July 16

  • Returning after recovering from a broken arm and surgery, Hilary Clinton delivered a strongly worded speech on American diplomacy designed to reassert the State department after Clinton’s absence. Clinton harshly spoke out against the election backlash in Tehran.
  • The Department of Justice confirmed a suspected investigation has begun into various firms related to the derivatives industry. The investigation is specifically looking at clearinghouses of information and whether this information was improperly used for profit.
  • General McChrystal, the new commander in Afghanistan, warned of the difficulties the new push in the country present. He stated that the American drive into the south had encountered far less resistance than expected while the British advance to the north had encountered far more than anticipated. McChrystal also revealed he would recommend additional troops and training of Afghani police officers to assist.
  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the Army’s size will be increased by 22,000 troops, however that he would not seek additional funding from Congress in the 2009 or 2010 fiscal budget.
  • As a part of a growing conversation between the United States and China, Secretaries Chu and Locke ended their visit to China by announcing that the two countries had reached an agreement to jointly research the energy efficiency of buildings.
  • President Obama delivered a speech at the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, calling on black parents to encourage their children and for children not to use poverty as an excuse for bad grades.

 

Friday, July 17

  • The House Ways and Means Committee passed a version of the public option health care bill, one which is similar to that passed by the Senate health committee.
  • Treasury Secretary Geithner warded off fears of new waves of excessive bonuses on Wall Street by claiming that the economy was showing signs of improving and recovering. The speech came at the end of trip to France, England, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • The Treasury Department sent a proposed bill to Congress on executive compensation, which would require an annual non-binding shareholder vote on executive compensation and greater independence for boardroom compensation committees.
  • As part of a new ad campaign sponsored largely by pharmaceutical companies, Harry and Louise, the middle-aged couple from the anti-health care legislation ads of the 90’s, are back in new ads favoring the public option legislation proposed by the Obama administration.
  • The House Intelligence Committee opened an official investigation into whether the Bush administration violated the law over several classified programs, including CIA assasination teams.

 

Saturday, July 18

  • Secretary of State Clinton, a three-day trip to India, met with victims of the Mumbai terrorist attack and stressed the importance of increased support from India in fighting terrorism. The trip is designed to strengthen the relationship between the nations, and Clinton stated she has hopes the countries will agree upon a defense pact, which would allow the United States to monitor its technology, during her visit.
  • Obama’s chief economic adviser Larry Summers admitted in a speech that the current unemployment and joblessness numbers are higher than previous projections, but insisted the stimulus plan is on course and showing signs of success.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama announced the apportionment of $851 million in federal funding for health clinics in a speech, also emphasizing the need for setting a higher bar for nutrition standards and supporting the health care push.

 

Sunday, July 19

  • Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government that removed him from power have entered into negotiations to end the tense stand-off. The President of Costa Rica, acting as a mediator, has suggested a resolution which would allow Zelaya to return to power. No agreement was made after ten hours of negotiations. The defacto government ultimately rejected the mediator’s proposal
  • Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the Obama administration’s call for a halt to development in East Jerusalem, citing their sovereignty over the land.
  • The discussions of the summer meeting of the National Governor’s Association were directed primarily at the Obama administration’s health care efforts, with both parties concerned over the cost of the provisions being passed on the states. Democrats and Republicans expressed hesitation over the plan, weary of ”unfunded mandates.”
  •  Sonia Sotomayor’s, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, confirmation proceedings continued with senators sparring over the issue of race and her membership in a Puerto Rican defense organization. Senator Jeff Sessions remains antagonistic to Sotomayor’s nomination.

 

Monday, July 20

  • President Obama renewed his drive for health care legislation, stating that he continues  to maintain his optimistic timeline, but suggested, as Nancy Pelosi had previously, scaling back provisions for taxes to the wealthy.
  • Secretary of State Clinton in a speech urged a strong friendship between the United States and India, shortly after the Obama administration approved a tentative deal that would allow lucrative military arms sales from the U.S. to India. Appearing with Indian Foreign Minister Krishna, Clinton pledged that the United States would continue to engage India on a range of issues seeking cooperation.
  • Harvard Professor Henry Gates, a scholar of African-American history, was arrested in his home on charges of disorderly conduct by officers investigating a break-in.  Gates claims racism was involved, claiming that his door had been jammed and he forced it open to get inside his house.
  • On the anniversary of the first moon landing, President Obama met with the astronauts of Apollo 11 as a tribute to their accomplishments.

Tuesday, July 21

  • In line with the Obama administration’s positions and following threats of a veto, the Senate voted to remove funding for seven F-22 jets from a spending bill, that will allow the administration more leeway in its defense budget.
  • The Obama administration proposed imposing requirements on disclosure and consultations for credit-rating companies, aiming to negate conflicts of interest and provide more information.
  • Pakistan voiced objections to the Obama administration’s renewed operations in Afghanistan, which they claim will push insurgents across the border into Pakistan. Pakistani officials made clear that India remains their primary concern and are open to dialogue with the Taliban. However, the U.S. special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, left for Afghanistan and Pakistan to deal with the displaced refugees caused by the renewed fighting.
  • Disorderly conduct charges were dropped against Harvard scholar Henry Gates, but he has demanded a personal apology from the arresting officer, Srg. Crowley.

Weekly Web Watch 07/13/09 – 07/19/09

July 19, 2009

The big story this week has been the Sotomayor confirmation hearing (or, possibly, the health care agenda).  While the remembered phrase from the hearing will likely be “wise Latina,” there have been several windows into Sonia Sotomayor’s views on executive power.  First was the declaration on June 10 by Vice President Joe Biden to law enforcement groups that Sotomayor has “got your back.”  This has been followed by Chuck Schumer’s declaration that Sotomayor rules in favor of the government 83% of the time, the median rate for judges.  Stephanie Mencimer says that the confirmation hearings have shown a Sotomayor who can be as “mean” as any white male judge.  Jacob Sullum, however, says that the judge’s record is far more mixed and cautions against drawing any sweeping conclusions.

It now appears to be the accepted wisdom that the secret CIA program disclosed by CIA Director Leon Panetta last week was, in fact, an assassination squad designed to locate and kill senior Al Qaeda leaders.  Andy McCarthy feels that the outrage is a dummy scandal drummed up by Democrats; Stephen Hayes and Bill Kristol agree.  Adam White says that disclosure of the program was not statutorily required.  Kenneth Anderson argues that the disclosure will make the administration clearly decide whether to prosecute actions against Al Qaeda under a self-defense rubric or one of “soft law.”  Stratfor notes that while the program was mostly rendered obsolete by the use of UAV strikes, there could still be a desire for a “boots-on-the-ground” program in the intelligence community.  Philip Giraldi’s sources tell him that the program went active once and nearly encountered catastrophe; he concludes that, given the difficulties in running an effective assassination squad, it’s best that the program was shelved.  Was this the secret assassination unit run by Dick Cheney that Sy Hersh reported on in March?  Michael Moynihan says no.  Hersh claims vindication.

What are our goals in Afghanistan?  Tom Friedman of the NYT hopes that we can bring cultural change to the region through schooling but notes that this is a different goal than the elimination of Al Qaeda.  Dave Schuler is sympathetic but notes that such a policy is likely to engender resistance among the Afghans.  Meanwhile, commanders in Afghanistan prefer to avoid the word “surge” to describe the “planned troop increase” because it suggests that the program will be temporary.  Gary Schmitt says that Obama is repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration when it comes to Afghanistan because the Afghani national institutions are not ready to stand on their own.  Rory Stewart sees the conflict more as a measure of American strengths than as a mortal struggle and recommends that the U.S. and the U.K. review whether resources are better spent in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

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Executive Action Report: 07/08/2009–07/14/2009

July 13, 2009

Wednesday, July 8

Thursday, July 9

  • House Intelligence Committee members have revealed that CIA Director Leon Panetta told the Committee that the CIA concealed “significant actions” from Congress from 2001 until 2009. The chairman of the committee concludes that the CIA gave misleading testimony on a number of occasions, and in one case “affirmatively lied” to the Committee. In light of this evidence, seven Democratic members of the Committee have issued a letter asking Mr. Panetta to correct his statement, made on May 15, that “it is not [the CIA's] policy or practice to mislead Congress.”
  • The Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Education attended a swine flu preparedness summit at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The summit focused on coordinating state efforts to prevent an increase in H1N1 flu cases this fall. President Obama participated by phone from the G-8 meeting in Italy. The Department of Health and Human Services is sponsoring a public service announcement contest, seeking to “tap into the nation’s creativity to help educate Americans about how to plan for and prevent the spread of the flu and the H1N1 virus.”
  • The White House announced that the President has nominated Philip Murphy to be ambassador to Germany. Mr. Murphy is a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was also an executive at Goldman Sachs, and was head of that company’s Frankfurt office from 1993 to 1997.

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Weekly Web Watch 07/06/09 – 07/12/09

July 12, 2009

The Inspector Generals of Justice, Defense, CIA, NSA, and the Director of National Intelligence released their report on the “President’s Surveillance Program.”  This report was mandated by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.  Spencer Ackerman blogs his run through the report at the Washington Independent.  He highlights the finding that Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before Congress was misleading, but not intentionally so.  He also reports that the IGs determined that the majority of leads generated by the program had no connection to terrorism.  Andy McCarthy has his own rundown, which includes notes that two 9/11 hijackers would have been identified through the program and that Congressional leaders were briefed about the program.  The Washington Post keyed in on the report’s finding that only three lawyers at the Department of Justice were briefed on the program, noting that this structure allowed memos to evade “a rigorous peer review process.”  And Jack Balkin reminds readers that most of the activities in the report are now legal.  Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald is irritated by the restrictions placed on the IGs in producing their report.  And Ryan Singel warns that some criminal prosecutions might be tainted by information gained through the program but not shared with defense attorneys.

CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed that the CIA had actively concealed operations from Congress for years, including some outright lies.  Eli Lake reports that one concealed program might have involved assassination.  Later follow-ups suggest that former VP Dick Cheney might be behind the concealment.  Steven Taylor has this takeaway from the whole situation: “The broader problem here is that the current congressional oversight process over intelligence doesn’t work very well (if at all).”  Some Democrats agree and have sought to expand the number of congressmen that must be briefed on CIA activities; President Obama has pledged to veto any Intelligence Authorization bill that includes that requirement (see original link).  Interestingly, one of the more prominent bloggers brought into the Obama administration was Marty Lederman, who, last year, proposed a measure remarkably similar to Congress’s (it is doubtful that this issue will involve OLC, however, which is where Lederman is now working).

Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson claims that the executive can detain people it claims as national-security threats even if they are acquitted in a criminal trial.  Deborah Pearlstein claims that this is not as controversial as many have made it out to be, pointing out that prisoner-of-war detention has never been subject to the results of criminal trial.  Jonathan Turley, by contrast, sees this as the “retention and expansion of abusive Bush policies.”  And Michael Goldfarb, cheering the decision, calls the assertion of power “no different than it was under Bush.”

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a deal to reduce nuclear armaments in the two countries by a third.  Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger hopes that this is not the first step towards a nuclear-free world.  Dave Schuler has more from both sides.

Attorney General Eric Holder might appoint a prosecutor to investigate claims of torture and detainee abuse.  The Washington Post reports that such a prosecutor would only investigate claims against interrogators who went beyond legal authorizations offered by the DoJ.  Scott Horton claims, however, that the decision is not final and that the scope may include individuals who formulated “enhanced interrogation” procedures.  Glenn Greenwald claims that Horton is the only source peddling that line and offers his own thoughts on the proposal.

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Executive Action Report: 07/01/09 – 07/07/09

July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 1

  • The Obama administration announced it would end trade benefits in Bolivia, which could cost thousands of jobs in the export industry in Bolivia. The move has led to sharp criticism from President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who accused Obama of lying to South America.
  • As part of the Obama administration’s renewed push in Afghanistan, almost 4,000 marines moved into the Helmand River Valley, which is a crucial center of poppy production. The initiative seeks to cut off financing for the insurgency.
  • President Obama held a town hall meeting about his health care proposals, using the Congressional recess to tout his plan to cut costs and expand coverage.
  • Following a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court, Norm Coleman conceded to Al Franken after a protracted battle over election results, making Al Franken the new junior senator. Franken held a rally and thank-you for supporters at Minnesota’s Capitol building, promising not to “waste this chance.” The Democrats will now have reached the threshold of sixty votes, a filibuster proof majority, in the Senate.

Thursday, July 2

  • The Obama administration has begun to enforce its new approach to immigration regulation, targeting businesses that hire illegal immigrants, rather than the immigrants themselves. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent hundreds of notices announcing audits and civil fines to businesses, including American Apparel, a clothing brand.
  • Democratic leadership in the Senate unveiled a newly revised health care plan, which would require employers to offer benefits or pay fees and create a public health insurance option. The new plan includes budget analysis and would allow both houses of the Congress to begin the process of passing separate bills.
  • The Labor Department issued its report on unemployment, which showed sobering numbers on the economy.  The unemployment rate has risen to 9.5%, while the economy lost a total of 467,000 jobs in June alone.
  • CIA officers appeared before a grand jury as part of an eighteen month investigation into the destruction of videotapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda operatives. Although the Obama administration has vowed not to pursue criminal action against the CIA for its interrogation methods under the Bush administration, the CIA still faces investigation from John Durham, a special prosecutor appointed in January of 2008.
  • The Obama administration issued sanctions to two financial firms that are linked to North Korea’s weapons industry.  The new sanctions are designed to bring financial pressure on the weapons exporting practices of North Korea.

Friday, July 3

  • The Russian government has agreed to allow the United States to use Russian airspace for the renewed initiative in Afghanistan, as part of “pushing the reset button” on relations between the two nations.
  • The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, extended an invitation to President Obama to visit Syria. The invitation is largely considered a major step in relations between the United States and Syria following a new effort by the United States to reopen diplomacy.
  • After a long election process, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency has chosen Yukiya Amano to head its organization. Amano is believed to support the United States’ stance on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.
  • Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, former Republican vice-presidential candidate, unexpectedly announced her resignation. It is uncertain what her future political aspirations are.
  • Vice President Biden spoke to Iraqi leaders urging them to work on reconciling political strife within the country and promised the United States would remain committed. However, he warned of the consequences of sectarian violence.

Saturday, July 4

  • Vice President Biden spent the Fourth of July visited the troops in July, meeting especcially with his son Beau Biden, a captain in the Army Reserve.
  • The Organization of American States (OAS) voted to suspend Honduras for its coup, which ousted President Zelaya to Costa Rica. The interim Honduran government had already stated its intention to resign, rather than cede to demands to reinstate Zelaya. The OAS stopped short of leveling sanctions.

Sunday, July 5

  • Before leaving for Russia to meet with President Medvedev, President Obama questioned the motives behind a much publicized trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an opposition leader. Obama publicly called on Medvedev to uphold his campaign promise of integrity.
  • Honduran President Zelaya ended a day-long stand off at an airport after an attempted return to power. Zelaya entered Honduran airspace without permission and flew in circles above an airport while soldiers and police blockaded the runway, using tear gar and bullets to disperse supporters who came to demonstrate.
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden, in separate interviews, restated their commitment to engaging in diplomatic negotiations with the Iranian leadership, despite critical language following the Iranian election.
  • A decision from the United States Bankruptcy Court has cleared the path for General Motors to restructure by selling many of its assets to a government owned company. A member of the Obama administration testified on behalf of GM’s plan, which is supported by the administration.

Monday, July 6

  • George Mitchell, Obama’s Middle East Envoy, met with Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, in London to attempt to reconcile difference over the settlements in the West Bank. Obama has publicly called on Israel to cease allowing settlements in Palestinian territory, while Israel has refused to consider pulling its support.
  • As part of a larger plan to overhaul the health care system, it was reported that the Obama administration and major hospital associations are nearing a $150 billion agreement to cut costs for a public health insurance program.
  • Ousted Honduran President Zelaya met with Secretary of State Clinton, while officials representing the new interim government arrived in Washington, DC to meet with Obama administration and Congressional members. Both sides attempted to change the United States’ non-partisan stance towards the situation.

Tuesday, July 7

  • President Obama met with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin of Russia to reconcile their differences, renewing a commitment to share information and build a center dedicated to missile detection. However, this center has been agreed to by multiple presidents and has yet to be built. Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister warned that if the United States continues its commitment to a missile defense program could jeopardize the renewed relations between the two nations.
  • Ousted Honduran President Zelaya and his replacement, Roberto Micheletti, agreed to negotiations to end the stand off. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton continued the United States’ stance against the coup.

Executive Action Report: 06/24/2009 – 06/30/2009

July 1, 2009

Wednesday, June 24

  • The White House announced that President Obama intends to send an ambassador to Syria. The post has been vacant since 2005 when President Bush withdrew the ambassador in response to the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the decision to send an ambassador was the result of the President’s broader policy of engagement with the Middle East, and not in response to any positive developments within Syria.
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced plans to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. More than sixteen million students use the form to apply for government-backed education loans. The changes would reduce the number of screens necessary to complete the online form and allow a new web application to automatically complete parts of the form based on information individuals had already submitted to the IRS. The administration also plans to ask Congress to pass legislation that would remove more than half of the financial questions from the form.
  • President Obama extended economic sanctions on North Korea. The President used his powers under § 1622(d) of the National Emergencies Act to extend the restrictions on property dealings, which would have expired on June 26. In a letter to Congress, President Obama cited the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and the continuing national security threat posed by North Korea as justification for his action.

Thursday, June 25

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Weekly Web Watch 06/22/09 – 06/28/09

June 28, 2009

The Washington Post reports that the White House is producing an executive order that would allow the president to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely.  Such an order could use language from Bush administration memos.  Josh Gerstein reports a moderate denial of the story from the White House.  Hilzoy goes through the entire report and winds up opposed to the proposal.  Meanwhile, one town in Montana and one in Michigan both begin lobbying to house any relocated detainees.  Senators from those states are unhappy with this idea.

Deborah Pearlstein reads the war funding bill and speculates about the future of Guantanamo.  She lists various challenges that could be raised against Congress’s attempt to prevent detainees from being transferred into the United States, but doesn’t see much chance of those theories being upheld in court. Meanwhile, Ben Smith reports on speculation that the detainees transferred to Bermuda may have been sent there in exchange for a promise to give more leeway to offshore banks.

Candidate Obama promised to display all bills for five days before signing them.  President Obama’s record on that promise has, so far, been underwhelming.  The White House has now clarified the policy, stating that they will post the bills sooner, possibly before they are passed by Congress.  Jonathan Adler argues that this is part of a larger issue in Washington, noting that few, if any, members of Congress read the climate-change bill passed on Friday.

The Supreme Court tackled the thorny problem of whether school administrators may strip-search students when looking for drugs.  The court’s opinion held, 8-1, that the search violated the Fourth Amendment but, 7-2, that the school official sued was entitled to qualified immunity against the violation.  Ed Whelan has the rundown.  Patrick at Popehat summarizes the decision as “No justice for Savannah Redding, but at least they can’t do it to your kids.”  Publius at Obsidian Wings has a more upbeat take, arguing that qualified immunity is necessary for the protection of constitutional rights.

At his first daytime press conference, Obama called on Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post to deliver the first question.  As it turns out, the administration had spoken with Pitney about this idea beforehand (though they did not specify the exact question to be asked).  Michael Calderone has some thoughts and the video.  Marcy Wheeler thinks that this is a non-issue and an innovative way for the White House to get questions from Iran.  Julian Sanchez doesn’t argue with that, but does have concerns about the White House coordinating questions with the press corps.

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