Tag Archive: The White House


Palestine wins UNESCO seat

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/palestine-wins-unesco-seat-143002573.html

 

Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians’ bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.

 

The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid, while 107 countries–including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia–voted in favor. Fourteen nations–including the United Kingdom and Italy–abstained.

Washington, which called the UNESCO vote “premature” Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization’s budget.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.  “This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations.”

Palestine’s successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.

Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority–a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

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White House defends legality of Libya mission

Jay Carneyhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110615/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_us_libya

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press        Julie Pace, Associated Press–    10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The White House says the cost of U.S. military involvement and humanitarian assistance in Libya is about $800 million as of early June.

Officials estimate the U.S. will spend about $1.1 billion in Libya through the beginning of September.

The administration included those cost estimates in a report on the Libya mission sent to Congress on Wednesday. The report is in response to a House resolution that chastised Obama for failing to provide Congress enough information on the scope and cost of U.S. military campaign in Libya.

The White House also says in the report that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military involvement in Libya even without authorization from Congress.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Pushing back against congressional criticism, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a detailed, 30-page report being sent to Congress, the administration argues that the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

The administration’s defense of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remained to be seen whether the administration’s reasoning would be enough to quell congressional criticism. House and Senate leaders grew frustrated Wednesday when the White House briefed reporters on the report well before sending it to Congress.

Obama did not seek congressional consent before ordering U.S. airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces nearly three months ago. Despite that, the White House has maintained that the president is not in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.

However, senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.

While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. The U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.

The White House and Capitol Hill have been at odds throughout much of the three-month campaign over whether the administration has fully consulted Congress on the mission. Congressional leaders and key committee members were only summoned to the White House the day before Obama ordered air strikes against Gadhafi’s forces. Several lawmakers attended in person, others by phone as Congress had just begun a weeklong break.

Obama aides insist they have briefed Congress extensively throughout, citing more than 30 briefings with lawmakers and their staff, and 10 hearings where administration officials have testified on Libya.

The White House has called the House resolution chiding Obama, as well as a similar resolution in the Senate, unhelpful and unnecessary. The administration much prefers a resolution sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would signal support for the Libya operation.

However, the fate of that measure is in limbo as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed plans to discuss so lawmakers could review the House report.

A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers also sued Obama on Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Gadhafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110516/ap_on_sc/us_space_shuttle

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn, Ap Aerospace Writer 30 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Endeavour blasted off on NASA’s next-to-last shuttle flight, thundering through clouds into orbit Monday morning as the mission commander’s wounded wife, Gabrielle Giffords, watched along with an exhilarated crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

NASA is winding down its 30-year-old shuttle program before embarking on something new. The event generated the kind of excitement seldom seen on Florida’s Space Coast on such a grand scale — despite a delay of more than two weeks from the original launch date because of an electrical problem.

The shuttle quickly disappeared into the clouds.

“That was four seconds of cool,” said Manny Kariotakis, who was visiting from Montreal. The 50-year-old got goosebumps watching the liftoff with thousands along Highway 1 in Titusville.

Just before launching, commander Mark Kelly thanked all the who put hands “on this incredible ship.”

“It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop,” said Kelly, who also thanked “all of the millions watching today.”

Remarkably, Giffords made a return visit to see Kelly off. She is still undergoing rehabilitation in a Houston hospital to recover from a gunshot wound to the head in an assassination attempt little more than four months ago.

The Arizona congresswoman was shielded from the cameras on launch day, as were the families of the other five astronauts. All watched the liftoff in private.

Giffords has kept out of the public eye since the Jan. 8 shooting that wounded her and killed six in Tucson, Ariz.

She and Kelly said their goodbyes, face to face on Sunday.

With Kelly at the helm, Endeavour and its experienced crew of five Americans and an Italian are headed for the International Space Station. They will arrive at the orbiting outpost Wednesday, delivering a $2 billion magnetic instrument that will seek out antimatter and dark energy in the universe.

Up to 45,000 guests jammed into NASA’s launch site, and thousands packed area roads and towns to see Endeavour soar one last time. Only one shuttle flight remains.

VIPs included Apollo 11’s Michael Collins and four other members of Congress.

Advance estimates had put Monday’s crowd at 500,000, more than the number that saw Discovery’s final hurrah in February. Across the Indian River in Titusville, though, the number of spectators appeared to be down compared with Endeavour’s previous launch attempt on a Friday afternoon.

Titusville Assistant Police Chief John Lau guessed the crowd at between 350,000 and 400,000.

“I don’t know if it was the early morning or what,” Lau said.

Electrical trouble grounded the shuttle on April 29, disappointing the hordes of visitors, including President Barack Obama and his family. Repairs over the past two weeks took care of the problem.

“God Speed Endeavour We’re ready for you!” space station resident Ronald Garan Jr. said in a Twitter update. At launch, the space station was 220 miles high, just southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Kelly almost didn’t make the flight.

The 47-year-old Navy captain took a leave from training to be by his wife’s side after she was wounded, and it seemed unlikely he would stay with the flight. But Giffords improved and was moved from the hospital in her hometown of Tucson to Houston where Kelly lives and does astronaut training. Her days were filled with rehab work, and he yearned to see the shuttle mission through. A month after the shooting, he announced he would fly.

“Everybody felt that this was the right thing for me to do,” he said at the time. He added that his wife “is a big supporter of my career, a big supporter of NASA.”

He rejoined his crew in February, still managing to see his wife across town every morning and evening.

Giffords’ visit to Kennedy Space Center — the third time she’s seen her husband soar into space — ratcheted up the excitement level for what already was a big event, said launch officials.

Kelly’s identical twin, Scott, who’s also an astronaut, witnessed the launch with his two teenage nieces, Mark’s daughters from a previous marriage.

This is the 25th and final flight of Endeavour, the baby of NASA’s shuttle fleet. It was built to replace Challenger, destroyed during liftoff 25 years ago this past January, and made its maiden journey six years later to capture and repair a stranded satellite. That first flight ended 19 years ago Monday.

Endeavour carried the first Hubble Space Telescope repair team, which famously restored the observatory’s vision in 1993, and the first American piece of the space station in 1998.

It will end its days at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

As of Monday, Endeavour had logged more than 116 million miles, circled Earth some 4,500 times, spent 283 days in space and carried 170 people, including the last two people to fly a space shuttle for the first time. American Mike Fincke and Italian Roberto Vittori are making their first flight on a shuttle although they’ve been to the space station twice, ferried their by Russian Soyuz rockets.

Fincke will team up with Andrew Feustel and Gregory Chamitoff for four spacewalks during the 16-day mission. It will be the last spacewalks conducted by a shuttle crew.

NASA’s last shuttle flight, by Atlantis, is targeted for July. After that, Atlantis will remain at Kennedy, where it will go on display at the visitor complex. Discovery will head to the Smithsonian Institution’s hangar outside Washington.

American astronauts, meanwhile, will continue to hitch rides to the space station on Russian Soyuz rockets. Private companies hope to pick up the slack, but that’s still years away.

Once Atlantis flies, it will be three years — at best — before Americans are launched again from U.S. soil. Some NASA observers fear it could be a full decade.

The White House wants NASA focusing on eventual expeditions to asteroids and Mars, unfeasible as long as the shuttles are flying given budget constraints.

Ohioan Stan Oliver made a last-minute trip for the launch. The assisted-living residence manager got a ticket to Tampa and then drove Sunday night to Titusville, where he slept in his car.

“This is a once in a lifetime event,” said Oliver, 41, who lives near Dayton. “It was worth it. The roar was intense. I’m glad I came.”

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AP writers Seth Borenstein and Mike Schneider in Titusville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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