Saturday, October 13, 2012

Botched in Benghazi

New evidence on the Libya debacle and false White House spin. 

Updated October 11, 2012, 1:21 p.m. ET

At Wednesday's House oversight hearings into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, Democrats protested loudly about a GOP political witch hunt. If only such alleged partisanship were always so educational. The Congressional investigation has in a few hours brought greater clarity about what happened before, during and after the events of 9/11/12 than the Obama Administration has provided in a month.

Among the revelations:
  • There was no public demonstration whatsoever against an anti-Islam video, or any other grievance, outside the consulate in Benghazi the night of the attack.
"There had been nothing unusual during the day at all outside [our emphasis]," a State Department official told reporters in a Tuesday night briefing hastily organized before the House committee session. Only at 9:40 p.m. on September 11 did a large pack of armed men storm the compound, firing guns and grenades and eventually setting buildings on fire. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered.

For more than a week afterwards, Obama Administration officials said the attacks were the result of a demonstration triggered by anger over a YouTube video, as were protests earlier in the day in Cairo.
"Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on September 16 on NBC's "Meet the Press." 

On Tuesday night, a State Department official said, "That was not our conclusion."
  • The frontal attack by an extremist militia group with links to al Qaeda was recognized as such by some Obama Administration officials within 24 hours. Testifying on Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guard Green Beret who commanded a 16-member security team in Tripoli, said the attacks were "instantly recognizable as a terrorist attack. . . . I almost expected it to come."
  • The State Department denied repeated requests to improve security at the Libyan mission. It kept the consulate in Benghazi open after Britain and the Red Cross had pulled out of the city after security deteriorated this year. No special security measures were in place for the anniversary of 9/11.
Lt. Col. Wood said he had argued to extend his team's tour in Libya but was pulled out in August. The State Department approved a 30% "danger pay" bonus for Americans working in Libya, but it turned down an Embassy request to keep a DC-3 plane in the country for security support. 

Eric Nordstrom, a State official who was the regional security officer in Libya until June, told the committee about a "complete and total absence of planning" for security. The U.S. was relying on a Libyan government that was "overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection," according to an October 1 memorandum written by Mr. Nordstrom.

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa has forced the Administration to start to answer for this stunning and deadly assault on U.S. sovereign soil in Libya, but a lot of questions demand further investigation.
Were warnings of an imminent threat ignored?
Was incompetence or a systemic failure to blame for the security lapse?
The most immediate question concerns the Administration's response, and this is where electoral politics deserves to come in. Ms. Rice has defended her false and misleading statements by saying she was reading off a script prepared by U.S. intelligence—apparently a script not shared with the State Department she formally reports to. 

It'd be instructive to know who provided her this script, and whether or not she spoke to White House political aide David Plouffe or the Chicago campaign office as she prepared for her Sunday TV show appearances on September 16.
It has been stated in several articles that what happens in the State Department does not always get to the White House or the President, until after the fact. The State Department has so many layers that sometimes even Hilary Clinton the Secretary of State does not know what is going on in her own Department. That was also brought out in the hearings.  WHAT'S UP.... WITH THAT? I am not on either side of this,  someone, some department failed in what they needed to do. The Pentagon did not offer extended security, the State Department did not agree to extending security forces, for what ever reason, the idea that the State Department would have to reimburse the Pentagon (in money, of course) for the hiring of those extra soldiers, to me seems ridiculous, our military should be used to secure our embassies, their staff from terrorist, militants, and rowdy citizens. Mr Issa and his committee is a little lopsided, is on a witch hunt, and has been on one since Obama has been elected in 20o8.
I listened to the hearing, and Mr Cummings stated that the democrats on the committee did not get all of the evidence that the republicans did. Now if that is true, that is illegal, and really partisan.  Which shows you what side of the isle this committee is really working, it is not bipartisan.  IS IT? 

Ms. Rice's Sunday story happened to fit the narrative offered by White House spokesman Jay Carney two days earlier that a rogue video had caused the anti-American demonstrations, which also fit the Obama campaign narrative that the President has made the U.S. more popular and that terrorism is on the wane in the world. A terror attack that killed Americans in Benghazi blows up that happy tale.

In a campaign speech Monday night, President Obama kept at it, saying that "al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more." The second half of the sentence is true. But the more we learn about what happened in Benghazi, the more the first sounds like fantasy, and the less Americans can trust this White House to tell them the truth.

106 U. S. Coal Plant Retirements Since 2010

 March 5, 2012 By Stephen Lacey
Last Wednesday was a big milestone for people who care about public health and a livable climate. Two utilities announced the planned closure of nine coal plants in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bringing total retirements (executed and planned) since January 2010 past the 100 mark to 106.

Two plants in Chicago owned by Midwest Generation, the Fisk Plant and the Crawford Plant, had been a key target for local activist groups. These two plants have been in operation since the early 1900′s and were last updated in the late 50′s and 60′s. Along with violating“grandfathered” (i.e. lax) air quality standards and causing hundreds of emergency room visits each year, the two plants represented the largest source of local greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.
Local and national activists groups, along with the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, put intense pressure on Midwest Generation to shut the plants down.
The second set of plant closures come from the wholesale power provider GenOn Energy, which said it will close 3,140 MW of aging plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. All of the plants are coal, except for one that is oil-fired. GenOn said new air quality regulations would make it difficult for the company to keep the plants operating.

A confluence of factors is making it very difficult for owners of coal plants — particularly old coal plants — to compete. A combination of high domestic coal prices, low natural gas prices, new air quality regulations, coordinated activist pressure, and cost-competitive renewables are making coal an increasingly bad choice for many power plant operators. Along with the 106 announced closures, 166 new plants have been defeated since 2002.
So just how much of an impact have these factors had on coal closures? Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign sent along these numbers:
  • 106 coal plants, 319 units
  • 42,895 MW (13% of fleet)
  • 150 million MWh (8% of fleet)
  • 162 million tons/year of CO2 (9% of fleet)
  • 921,417 tons/year of SO2 (16% of fleet)
  • Average age: 55 years old
  • (For plants with available data – Data from Clean Air Task Force): 2,042 pre-mature deaths, 3,229 heart attacks and 33,053 asthma attacks prevented each year (about 15% of total health impacts from fleet).  All together these plants retiring will save about $15.6 billion in health care costs.
So what’s going to happen to the lights when all that coal gets phased out? According to a group of forward-thinking power providers, there’s already enough unused combined cycle natural gas capacity installed to make up for over 100 GW of closures.
Of course, with questions about the life-cycle emissions of natural gas still unanswered, it remains to be seen how environmentally effective all that gas will be. But with record amounts of investment pouring into renewable and efficiency, and progressive utilities calling increasingly cost-competitive solar “the next big thing in the industry,” the forces are coming together to close the gap.
This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.
Coal power plant via shutterstock
Related posts:
  1. First US Coal Plant to Meet Lower EPA GHG Limits is Approved
  2. Utah Supreme Court Puts Kibosh on Coal Plant
  3. ADB Approves $135 million Loan For Cleaner Coal-fired Power Plant In China

Potential Coal Plant Retirements Under Emerging Environmental Regulations

President Obama Vows 'Determined' Performance at Second Debate

President Obama at Crossroads of Campaign
Obama Concedes 'Bad Night' at First Debate, Says Race 'Fundamentals' Unchanged 

President Obama on Wednesday said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he plans to more aggressively confront Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in their second debate next week, trying to allay concerns among supporters that a lackluster first debate performance may have cost him the race.
"Governor Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It's not the first time," Obama said in his first televised interview since the Denver debate on Oct. 3. Despite Romney's post-debate momentum and surge in the polls, the "fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed," he said.

"This was one event. We've got four weeks to go. Nobody is going to be fighting harder than I am," Obama told Sawyer, aiming to reassure his base. "What they need is to make sure they tune in on Tuesday next week."

"If you have a bad game you just move on, you look forward to the next one, and it makes you that much more determined," he said, comparing the political face-off to a sports game.
Asked by Sawyer whether it's possible that his poor showing had handed Romney the election, Obama replied, "no."
"You're going to win?" she asked. "Yes," Obama said. "You want it more than the first time?" she pressed, noting that some Democrats have questioned whether he remains sufficiently passionate and relentless. "Absolutely," he said.
Polls show Obama's lead against Romney nationally and in several key swing states has significantly narrowed -- and in some cases been eclipsed -- following last week's debate. Obama and Romney are tied with 48 percent each in the latest national Gallup tracking poll, conducted Oct. 3 through Oct. 9. It has a margin of error of two percentage points.
In the interview, Obama was reluctant to analyze the debate preparations that led to this moment, but he acknowledged that he has since studied a split-screen recording of his debate with Romney and talked it over with his wife Michelle Obama.
"Michelle is always my best adviser, my toughest critic," Mr. Obama said. "We've been married 20 years. We've gone through all kinds of ups and downs. And I think that's true of the American people as well. And I think what folks ultimately have focused on is…those lasting principles, those foundational principles that make this moment so important."

A Tougher Approach
The president signaled that he is preparing to more aggressively counter Romney's "sales pitch" at their next encounter, a town hall style meeting at Hofstra University in New York on Oct. 16.
"What he spent most of his time doing [in Denver] was hiding the ideas that he's been running on for the last year and that the American people had essentially rejected," Obama said in the interview. "And so they desperately tried to cover up what exactly they've been proposing."
"There's no doubt that it is on me to make sure that the American people understand that – in crystal-clear fashion" that what Romney is proposing is not new, he added. 

Over the past few weeks, Romney has appeared to be trying to moderate his positions on key issues, including taxes, immigration, health care and abortion, forcing Obama to abruptly change his strategy after months of telling voters they should take Romney at his word. 

The president cited Romney's comments on abortion in an interview Tuesday with the Des Moines Register as one example of his challenger trying to "hide" his real views. 

"Four weeks before an election, he is trying to cloud the question" on abortion rights, Obama said, "because he understands that most women think they can make their own health care decisions." 

Romney told the paper that "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." The comment appeared to be a marked shift for the GOP candidate who has campaigned as an anti-abortion rights candidate.
"His attempt to try to keep that under wraps until after the election, that's not going to work," Obama said. "Because, you know, the American people need to understand what it is that we stand for."
Romney tried to clarify his abortion stance at an Ohio rally on Thursday, telling supporters there that, "I'm a pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president." 

Obama claimed his "consistency" on the issues, including abortion rights, is one of the top selling points of his campaign. "People will know where I stand, what I believe, what I'm fighting for," he said. "And that's part of leadership."

PHOTO: President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC, in the Blue Room of the White House on Oct. 10, 2012.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC, in the Blue Room of the White House on Oct. 10, 2012.

Advice for Vice President Biden
Before the president again takes a debate stage, his Number Two – Vice President Joe Biden – will square off with Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday in Danville, Ky. 

"I think Joe just needs to be Joe," Obama said when asked what advice he'd give his running mate. 

"Congressman Ryan is a smart and effective speaker, but his ideas are the wrong ones," he said. 

"Joe understands what it means to scrap and knows what it's like to see his dad lose a job and understands what it's like to get incredible opportunities because we live in this incredible country of ours," he continued. "And when that heart and that story comes out, he's incredibly effective. "

Libya Investigation
Meanwhile in Washington, lawmakers were opening hearings into the violent terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the Obama administration's mixed messages about what happened there. Some Republicans have accused the White House of orchestrating a cover-up for political gain, a charge administration officials flatly deny. 

"This has all been well-documented and recorded: As information came in, information was put out," Obama explained of the shifting narrative. 

"The information may not have always been right the first time. And as soon as it turns out that we have a fuller picture of what happened, then that was disclosed," he said. "But the bottom line is that my job is to let everybody know I want to know what happened, I want us to get the folks who did it, and I want us to figure out what are the lessons learned and ask the tough questions to make sure it doesn't happen again." 

The president said he supports a swift, ongoing investigation – "in consultation with Congress" – following the facts, wherever they lead.

"These are people that I know," Obama said of the U.S. diplomatic corps serving at outposts sometimes under hazardous or dangerous conditions. "This is something that everybody in this administration takes completely seriously."

Robin Roberts' Journey: 'Home Sweet Home'


Robin Roberts' MDS Treatment Update: Leaving Hospital

Home Sweet Home.  That has never had quite so much meaning before.
After exactly one month in the hospital dreaming of this day, I am finally home. My sisters Sally-Ann and Dorothy were here to help me make the transition.  I’ll be adding that to the long list of things for which I am grateful.  Least of all, my new and improved bone marrow thanks to Sally-Ann. My doctors tell me her cells are making themselves right at home and with the grace of God, I pray that they will continue to do so.
(Credit: Memorial Sloan-Kettering)This doesn’t mean that my journey is over.  Far from it.  I am considered 21 days old. That's how long it has been since my transplant. Remember when you brought your baby home for the first time? Your precious bundle didn't leave the house much and you were careful that anyone who came in contact with your child was healthy. So I will still be resting away from GMAuntil I'm given the all clear, but sleeping in my own bed again feels like a big victory.  My doctors will be monitoring me closely and I will still be at the hospital regularly to make sure we’re on the right track.  I cannot thank my amazing medical team enough. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for how they treat all their patients with such passion and compassion.
(Photo Courtesy: Robin Roberts)Most of all, I know it is your prayers and warm thoughts that have gotten me this far.  I truly feel them each and every day.  I humbly ask that you please continue to send them until you see me back at the GMA anchor desk and I promise to send them right back at ya.
Each day I get stronger and stronger.  I am fond of saying, “This Too Shall Pass.”  And even in some dark moments, of which there are still a few, I now see that light at the end of the tunnel.  This too really shall pass.
Light love power presence… and blessings to you all, XO

CLICK HERE to Follow Robin’s Journey
To find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit from the Be the Match Registry, click HERE.


Arctic Battle: Oil Drilling Still Faces Environmental Concerns

Shell Oil Hopes to Strike it Rich, Greenpeace Hopes To Stop Them
The bottom of the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's north shore, is one of the most hotly contested places under the sea.

It is here that Shell Oil, Co., is looking for oil and Greenpeace is trying to stop them.

The oil giant has spent years and billions of dollars jockeying to be first to strike and the payoff stands to be enormous. The ocean floor inside the Arctic Circle may hold a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil, enough to drastically reduce the United States' dependency on foreign supplies.

Shell has promised to drill safely and responsibly, developing new technologies to reduce drilling noise, and dedicating a fleet of vessels ready to respond to a spill in 60 minutes, 24 hours a day.

But that's not how Greenpeace sees it. The environmental activists made famous for chaining themselves to things are now trying a different approach: going after Shell with science. That's where Greenpeace activist and marine biologist John Hocevar and the organization's Arctic floating research hub, a former Russian Army fireship Greenpeace dubbed the Esperanza, came in.
Life on board is what you might expect: tofu for lunch, a very serious recycling program, and an eclectic crew from all over the world who dedicate their lives to the cause.

"Nightline" was given the rare opportunity to go on a research dive with Hocevar in a two-person submarine deep below the Chuckchi Sea, one of the most remote oceans on Earth. It is a dive no one outside of the military had attempted before.

About 200 feet down, the world outside of the submarine is murky, so thick with plankton and sea worms, it's difficult to see. Slowly, Arctic life revealed itself and a sea bed covered in thousands of star fish, the occasional crab and other unworldly creatures appeared.

"We are right in the midst of Shell's proposed drill sites," Hocevar said.

While on the dive, Hocevar discovered a tiny coral, just one of the many examples environmentalists say offer insights into what fragile, new life might be at stake.

"We're rushing ahead to allow drilling in the Arctic and we don't even know what's down here," Hocevar said.

While Greenpeace continues its fight, Shell has found other support in some unlikely corners, such as Bob Reiss, an environmental journalist and the author of the "The Eskimo and the Oil Man," who supports limited exploratory drilling in the Arctic.

"Are Americans going to buy the same amount of oil whether or not it comes from Russia or if it comes from Alaska? Yeah. So what's the downside of not taking out this oil?" he said.

Reiss said that Shell has more than cooperated to find solutions to environmental concerns.

"Shell bent over backwards over the last five years to compromise here," he said. "Their safety system has been called the gold standard by William Reilly of the Deepwater Horizon Commission. So I think if a company does bend over backwards, they ought to be rewarded for it."

That reward came this summer from the Obama administration, which gave Shell the green light to drill 1,400 feet below the surface of the Chuckchi Sea.

Shell declined "Nightline's" request for an interview, but said in a statement: "The debate on whether to evaluate Arctic energy resources is over. We are now focused on safe execution."

But Greenpeace refuses to back down, and the threat of a spill in the Arctic's pristine setting fuels their mission to stop oil drilling.

"In this remote, unforgiving environment, we all know it would be impossible to clean up an oil spill," said Greenpeace activist Jackie Dragon. "We can't risk it."

Reiss admitted than an oil spill in this part of the world, or in any part, could be catastrophic.

"The question is legislating perfection," he said. "Do you stop any kind of development because a spill could occur or do you have systems and back-up systems and other back-up systems to deal with a spill, which Shell does, and then allow it to proceed."

Local Eskimo communities whose culture and livelihood depend on a thriving Arctic are torn because for them, this debate is about survival. Steve Omittuk, the mayor of Point Hope, Alaska, located near the most northern part of the state, said the town has concerns for the animals and the ecosystem.
"If [the animals] are gone, our way of life is gone, the people who have been here for thousands of years is gone," Omittuk said. "The Arctic is so delicate, the system so sensitive."

But at the same time, Omittuk acknowledged that the town also needs jobs and drilling would provide them.

"It's hard for the people," he said. "They need money, they need income, they need our economy to come up, but we need our way of life also. It's a tough battle to choose."

Shell has already begun preliminary drilling and next year looks set to be full steam ahead.

Welcome to E3: Economy, Energy and the Environment

E3 is an initiative designed to help you thrive in a new business era focused on sustainability and, working together, to promote sustainable manufacturing and economic growth throughout the United States.

Published on Sep 21, 2012 by 
E3 is a framework through which local communities connect local manufacturers with best technical assistance available. Each community is supported by coalition of federal agencies that have joined forces to form E3. E3 combines the strengths of federal, state, and local resources to promote sustainable manufacturing and economic growth throughout the United States. Communities use E3 to help boost local economies to achieve their unique sustainability goals and priorities. E3 directly helps manufacturers reduce costs, cut wastes, and be more competitive.

For more information about E3, go to
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About E3

The topic of sustainability often centers on the triple bottom line of economic considerations, social responsibility and the environment. In these challenging times, more and more manufacturers are adopting sustainability into their overall business strategies. They understand how sustainable business practices reduce waste, improve the efficiency of their operations and position their firms to be more competitive in the global marketplace.
Small to medium sized manufacturers, however, often lack information to integrate practical, sustainable approaches in their operations. In 2009, the federal government created a framework called E3: Economy, Energy and the Environment to help bridge that gap.
E3 brings together federal agencies, states and local communities for a broad discussion on how to connect respective programs to deliver responsive, coordinated solutions in a manufacturing environment. The E3 Framework facilitates collaboration among groups with common interests and a common agenda. This framework focuses on strengthening small to medium sized American manufacturers, which represent the largest proportion of the manufacturing sector. State and local communities use the E3 framework to help boost local economies to achieve their sustainability goals.